The Evil DM

The Evil DM
The Evil DM

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Year of Gaming on Google+ Hangouts

I started gaming using Google+ Hangouts a year ago. I started playing Dungeon’s and Dragons in 1975. My first rulebooks says they were the third printing. I played the Original Dungeon’s and Dragons, then first, second, and third edition. I then took a long sabbatical away from tabletop gaming. A year ago, I decided to buy the fourth edition and start playing online.

Previously, I only used pencil and paper while gaming. I have notebooks full of adventures and ideas. Previously, when running a game, I had to improvise. I have always used my own world and rarely used pre-created modules. I outlined possible quests but I never knew which direction the party would take.

Gaming using Dungeon’s and Dragons Fourth Edition on Google+ Hangout was a massive change. I could comfortably sit at my computer. I have two monitors. One monitor is dedicated to the hangout the other is my Dungeon Master only screen. I can screen share and show the party maps, notes, and other information.

One weakness of Google+ Hangouts is screen sharing. I used ReadyTalk, GoToMeeting, Lync, and Skype for meetings with people around the world. None make screen sharing particularly easy. The recent changes to Google+ Hangouts make it much harder to turn screen sharing off. Occasionally the group gets to see some things I had not intended to share. I have to learn be more diligent when using screen sharing.

One significant difference between tabletop gaming and gaming online is the commitment of the players. With weekly tabletop gaming sessions, players usually show up for the game. Online gaming is different. Over the past year, almost fifty people joined the game. The dropout rate is high.

When I started my online campaign, I introduced the history of the world and campaign. With the high turnover rate, I have to give a quick introduction almost every game. This takes away from my initial goal of setting a particular mood and style for the game.

The games I run have mature elements. I have a difficult time separating slaughtering intelligent creatures from other themes like sex, lies, crime, and drugs. Where do the young monsters come from? In my world, you do not get baby kobolds unless a male and female kobold mate. I rarely gamed with minors in the past. With online games, I often do not realize the player is “under age”. Google+ Hangouts do not allow minors to join a session set up to automatically record to YouTube.

Overall, it has been a fun year. I enjoyed the comfort of not packing up all my books and notes. Online gaming allows the luxury of providing my own refreshments. I encourage gamers to try Google+ Hangouts for gaming.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Logic Puzzles as Plots

Dell Magazines publishes Original Logic Problems. I occasionally pick up a copy. I enjoy logic problems. Logic problems can form the basis of a set of quests in a role-playing game. Will the players solve the problem? The players could just walk away and follow other quests. Which path will the players follow?
I am about to find out. I created a logic problem for the party to solve. This should take several sessions. The party learns the basic setup of the problem, but not all of the clues. In order to learn the remaining clues the party needs to contact other non-player characters. The NPCs will not give up their clues without the party completing some quests. The side quests provide the hack-and-slash to sate the party’s bloodlust.
Assembling all the clues does not automatically solve the quest. The party must determine the solution using inductive and deductive reasoning skills.
The party is looking for the Hut of Iroine. Solving the logic problem is a way to obtain a map leading them to the Hut of Iroine. Below are the initial clues the party receives.
  • Chinyere is the Apothecary in Appary. She inherited the shop from Siminas.
  • Unfortunately, Siminas did not give Chinyere all his recipes before he died.
  • Siminas previously treated four of the villagers: Nani, Akil, Wilkes, and Thorsten.
  • Each villager had a different affliction.
  • Chinyere will provide a detailed map to the Hut of Iroine if the party specified the affliction Siminas cured for each villager, what herb Siminas used, and where to find the herb.
  • The cure for each affliction is a different rare herb.
  • Each herb grows in a different location.
  • Strox is the name of one of the afflictions.
  • Hissing Barley is the name of one of the herbs.
  • One of the locations is the Western Crag.
  • Do not treat Blue Eye Chills with Blood Radish.
  • Blood Radish does not grow in Crone’s Bog.
  • Crone’s Bog is where the herb to treat Scarlet Flue grows.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

An Encounter with a Crime Scene Investigator

Pilar pondered the missive concerning the two bodies found missing their heads. The details matched the current situation. The body without a head. No blood. No signs of struggle. Nothing out of place or missing, except for the head.

Amron, a local merchant, found the body. He was visiting Lotorga to buy some herbs. Pilar thought to himself, “Herbs, I bet I know what kind of herbs he wanted.” Lotorga was a local druid specializing in providing the locals with their herbs of choice. The questioning of Amron provided nothing.

Someone or something took Lotorga’s head. Pilar knew the odds pointed to someone outside the community. The community would not have put up with a headhunter or worse. Now it was Pilar’s problem.
Pilar knew there were around a dozen small farms between here and Lotorga’s tent. There were another dozen farms between Lotorga’s tent and the crossroads. It was going to be a long day.

Questioning each farmer provided no new clues. Lotorga’s head did not just up and walk away, unless something weird was at work. Pilar was tired and cold. It was dark. Up ahead he could see a campfire. He told the troops to wait while he approached the fire.

Pilar asked, “Mind if I warm myself by your fire?” He looked over the group. A rather odd collection. The dwarf stood out. He was wearing full plate armor and carrying a large axe. An axe like that could easily cut off a head. Pilar asked, “Ever cut off any heads with that axe?”

The response shocked Pilar. A normal person would say, “Of course not, the axe is for defense only.” Only a fool would boast to a constable about the number of heads they cut off. Well the dwarf appeared to be a fool, telling how he had cut many heads off. “Why did you cut Lotorga’s head off?” Instead of saying, he did not, the dwarf replied, “I didn’t know their names.”

Fortunately, Seglia arrived. He sent the group off to the Sanctuary of Innocence. Pilar thought, innocent my eye. They are about as innocent as a fox in a hen house. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Cursed Sword of Zahair

Zahair rode his mighty steed into the small town. Why would a master sword smith live in a dump like this? He was about to turn around and go back to civilization when he saw her. Her flaxen hair sparkled in the light as the gathered cuttings from the herb garden. Zahair thought maybe this dump was not so bad after all as the young vixen headed into the inn.

Zahair tied his horse up and entered the inn his quest for a new sword almost forgotten. The beer was sour and the food mediocre but flavor full due to the fresh herbs. Zahair rented a room for a week. The inn keeper was grateful for the business, but wary of the way the tall, handsome warrior eyed his young daughter, Alicia.

Zahair learned from the inn keeper that Nelo, a master sword smith, lived a few houses south of the inn. As Alicia cleared his dishes he whispered, "Meet me in my room tonight." Flattered but frightened the young maiden whispered, "No!" Almost running she fled into the kitchen with the dishes.

The next morning, Zahair walked into the sword smith’s shop. Zahair explained to the master he wanted a new magical sword. He wanted an elaborate long sword with gold filigree encrusted with jewels engraved with runes of power. The negotiation between Zahair and Nelo extended throughout the day. As the sun set, the two came to an agreement. Nelo said it would take two weeks to complete the sword. Zahair paid Nelo and provided the gold and jewels for the sword.

Drinking the sour beer Zahair plotted his seduction of the young maid, Alicia. The small town had little to hold the interest of the worldly Zahair except for prospect of seducing a young maiden. Over the days that followed Zahair used his days romancing Alicia. Zahair became the town entertainer as he told exorbitant stories of his exploits. Zahair watched Alicia fascination with his tales of adventure. Each night he whispered to Alicia, "Meet me tonight." Each time Alicia whispered back "No". But her protests became less and less emphatic. Finally Alicia gave in to the hansom warrior.

Nelo noticed the attention Zahair was giving Alicia. He naively thought Zahair would make a good husband for Alicia though he was worried about the tall tales Zahair was spinning. As Nelo finished casting the sword a crying Alicia entered his shop. She told her friend after spending several nights in Zahair’s bed, he was now bored with her and looking forward to the day when he would get his sword and leave this boring town.

Nelo comforted the distraught young woman. He assured her that Zahair would pay for his sins. Nelo used his skills to add filigree using a combination of copper and silver instead of gold. He encrusted the sword with semi-precious stones and glass. Using all his powers he engraved powerful runes the sword. The runes said, "Liars believe their own lies". The cursed sword made anyone who wielded it become obsessed with keeping the sword. The sword empowered the owner to spin fanciful tales of high adventure which the owner completely believed. The person wielding the sword becomes oblivious to their wounds until they are almost dead but the person will do everything in their power to keep the sword.

With great fanfare Nelo presented the cursed sword to Zahair who graciously accepted it. The spells enthralled the handsome warrior. Zahair loved his new sword. As Zahair sheathed the cursed sword Nelo asked, "Do you love Alicia?" Zahair replied, "She was fun for a couple of days. Love? She is just a stupid small town girl. What is there to love?" Zahair smiled and said, "I hope you enjoy your new sword. By the way, did you know there is a nearby ruin recently overrun by goblins?" Zahair’s smiled, "The perfect place to try out my new sword." Zahair smiled as the handsome young warrior rode off to his doom.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Palace of Th’ Shoiz Shai Zhai

Palace of Th’ Shoiz Shai Zhai

The palace is a massive fortress built on the side of rock outcropping. The outer walls are in ruins and are now overgrown rubble. There are many dead trees in the area. The few trees that are not dead are sickly looking with twisted limbs and few leaves. Th' Shoiz Shai Zhai is the name of the elven bride of the great Paladin, Suakim. Kheyl is the dwarven name of the rock.

Dwarven Ancient History

The great dwarven lord Thirrim knew the mountain held vast fortunes in gold and gems. He built a vast fortress to guard the entrance to the mines below. In his arrogance, lord Thirrim thought he could avoid the ancient evil trapped in the rocks below. As the mine progressed and the fortress grew lord Thirrim became enamored of looking at the powerful evil force to prove his might and power over it.

Over the decades that followed the evil power slowly exerted more and more influence over the dwarven lord Thirrim. The lord did everything in his power to protect his young daughter Tola from the evil buried deep underground. Lord Thirrim did not know the ancient evil had already corrupted his daughter.

The daughter grew. Day by day, Tola become more and more evil. Lord Thirrim continually made excuses for his daughter saying she was young and foolish and did not know what she was doing. Lord Thirrim convinced himself that his daughter was just a misunderstood youth, and not the evil witch she had become.

The daughter married a young dwarven noble, Jalair. Five days after the marriage the young husband pleads with the lord to annul the marriage. When Thirrim asked Jalair why, the young man’s only reply is, “she is evil.” Lord Thirrim refuses the young man’s plea.

A week later, Jalair dies suddenly. Some say it was suicide. Others say it was murder. Still others say he died of a broken heart. However, the short marriage is fruitful. The young bride is pregnant. Months later, she brings forth a son. Lord Thirrim is overjoyed. The lord spends much of his time paying with his new grandson named after his grandfather, Thirrim son of Jalair.

The mother sacrifices the child on his first birthday by cutting off his head in a ceremony to empower the ancient evil. Lord Thirrim walks into the ceremony just as the knife slices though the young boy’s throat. Lord Thirrim finally realizes that his daughter is a monster. Taking his massive battle-axe, he hacks his daughter to pieces.

Grief stricken with the loss of his grandson and covered in the blood of his daughter he has slain, the lord realizes his arrogance in allowing the evil forces to grow. Lord Thirrim turns his attention to the ancient evil. With all his might, Thirrim tries to destroy this ancient evil. He fails. However, he strikes a grievous blow. In retaliation, the ancient evil causes a massive earthquake, which causes the mighty fortress to crack and crumble. Lord Thirrim dies in the earthquake. The entrances to the mines collapse, trapping the dwarves below. The sacrifice of the infant empowers the ancient evil to turn the trapped dwarves into undead creatures.

Ages pass.

Humans take the lands surrounding Kheyl from the dwarves during the battle of Prant.

Ages pass.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Luriumer, the Seventh

He handed his bloody dagger to Skahn knowing the lieutenant would have someone else clean and sharpen the blade. With the screams of the boy he just skinned ringing in his head the general sat down in his chair. He drank deeply from the mug of dark, bitter ale. The taste of the ale matched the general’s mood. Boys! The only opponent with the courage to face him are young, stupid boys.

He wiped the blood off his hands and took another drink. He wondered how his grandchildren were doing. The boy tonight was younger than his namesake grandson, Luriumer, IX, the ninth in a long line of soldiers of the Khan. He longed to be back lying in the sun on the shores of Lake Suppopri with his long-suffering wife, Maeve. He missed the comfort of her body next to his.

The Plains of Lethe were the crowning achievement of his career. The forces of Greth were men, at least. He was proud to dance the dance of death with Inanna that day on the Plains of Lethe. The army of Greth deserved to die. The soldiers of the Khan were soldiers for life. The forces of Greth were only men in armor holding weapons, not soldiers. But at least they were not boys!

The tanner would soon add another skin to his collection. He remembered the first man to feel his blade. They caught that bastard in the act of raping a young girl who could not have been more than five years old. He was proud when the lieutenant gave him the honor of skinning the rapist. He wanted that sick bastard to suffer. He managed to get most of the skin off before the rapist died. It was hard to remember, but it was not until his fourth or fifth time before he could remove all the skin and keep them alive, at least for a while. He remembered his pride of skinning the rapist lasted only a few short minutes. Then the lieutenant told him what he had to do next. They had no healers or healing potions. The poor girl was in agony from the abuse from the rapist. She would live her last few hours in terrible pain. His efforts to comfort the poor young girl increased her terror. The touch of a man terrified the girl. He managed to calm her. He remembered her sobs as he held her. He was quick. The blade slipped between her ribs and up through her heart in one quick motion. His action was merciful. The accusing look from the girl’s eyes as she died in his arms haunted him for days. Killing the boys was another act of mercy that would haunt him. He wanted to kill the parents of the boys. The boys should have been home in bed not out trying to assassinate someone. He hated the cloak-and-dagger attacks. He was a soldier, not a baby sitter. He longed for a good sword fight. Now he needed to look under every rock for an assassin. Boys! What next? Does he need someone to search the bottom of the latrine before he can take a shit?

He took another drink of ale. The death of a few boys was better than slaughtering another small town full of cowardly civilians.

He hoped the rumors were false and there was nothing here. The commanders of the Greth army were not just incompetent, they were amazingly stupid and naive. Broficult held the proof the commanders of the Greth army tried to use the Gimp’s staff during the battle on the Plains of Lethe. He knew they were desperate. But using an artifact from one of the Assimilated Ones was insane. The signs were there for everyone to see. It was obvious Bryce the Wizard lost his mind because of the staff. Only an artifact from one of the Assimilated causes that type of madness. Someone took all of Bryce’s notes and library. That was another thing to worry about. Bryce mumbled something about using the power of the Blind Seer to make an Eye to find the staff.

He took another deep drink of the bitter ale. Greth used powers from two of the Assimilated Ones: the Blind Seer and the Gimp. What next? Where they stupid enough to try and raise and free the Assimilator himself? Every child in the Khanate learn the story of the Assimilator. The Assimilator viewed the Khanate as beasts, so he created beasts to destroy the Khanate. The Assimilator created and unleased the Tronlth to destroy the tribes of the Khanate. The Tronlth nearly succeeded. The binding of the Assimilator and the Assimilated Ones allowed the Khanate to domesticate the Tronlth. Tronlth now provide milk, cheese, meat, and leather. The Assimilator made the Tronlth almost immune to magic. Few spells affect a Tronlth. Now the Tronlth are the symbol of the power of the Khanate.

Luriumer emptied the mug. It was going to be a long day. Getting rid of Thapent can wait. He needed to warn the Rabshaka (Commander of the Marazzar army) that Greth dug up the Gimps staff. Retrieving the staff had to weaken the spells binding the Assimilated Ones. He shuddered at the thought of the Gimp getting free.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Adding Role Playing to Melee

Consider the following scenario where the party opens the door into a room full of armed men performing some sort of initiation. The paragraphs following provide two different approaches to the melee.

Standard Melee

Fighter number three swings at the character with his sword.

Role Playing Melee

Mathcoel steps forward his iridescent blue eyes focused on the infidel that dared to defile the sacred initiation rite. As he swings his sword he screams, “Your ears will make my collection twenty-five!”

Lunsle, the fighter next to Mathcoel, grunts, “Mat, you can’t count number twelve because he died from being on fire.”

Mathcoel makes another swing and says, “Tell the dead I can’t count them.”

Combat is Personal

In a swords and sorcery game combat is personal. The combatants are usually only a few feet apart at most. You can see the eyes of your opponent. You can smell the perspiration in the air. A swing blunted by shield or armor produces the ringing sound of metal on metal. A blade cutting through flesh produces a muffled sound often followed by the groans from the victim.

A game master should name each and every intelligent opponent. The non-player characters should talk between themselves.

Mathcoel says, “Fighting is thirty work. I am going to enjoy drinking wine out of the cup made from this one’s head.”

Lunsle says, “That won’t make much of a cup after I split that skull with my axe.”

Melee Provides Opportunities to Advance the Plot

Chatter between the combatants provides the opportunity to introduce new non-player characters, weapons, equipment, and monsters.

Bompide shouts, “Ethy break off. Run back and tell the Croaker we need his help some of us are hurt. Tell Girey to bring the Optile.”

Ethy backs out of combat, gulps and asks, “The Optile?”

Bompide says, “Yes, the Optile. I think we need it to finish off these defilers.”

The party know if Ethy gets away in a few rounds something nasty is going to come to the aid of the non-player characters. Chatter provides opportunity to slip in clues to major plot points. For example, introducing the party to behind-the-scenes character they have not yet heard of.

Lunsle says, “I am going to gouge the eyes out of this one then skull-fuck him as an offering to the Blind Seer.”

Standard Melee is Boring

With a complex gaming system like D&D 4E combat takes a long time. The adventure should keep all the player alert and involved.

Bompide says, “Lunsle use your bow and put an arrow through both eyes of the big one in the back, he is casting spells.”

In almost every case, the non-player characters know the location better than the player characters. Use that knowledge.

Bompide says, “Ethy tell Girey they came in the back door of the initiation room. Send a squad to come in from behind. Make sure Girey takes out their healers and spell casters first.”

Let the Party Know the Score

Most of the time the party should win. Otherwise no one will want to play the game. Most of the time there is a point where it is obvious who will win of the melee.

Mathcoel clutches at the wound in his side and says, “Lunsle, tell Maura and Vara I loved them.”

Lunsle says, “The next time I fuck them I will tell them you were thinking of them when you died.”

Mathcoel gurgles blood and as he dies says, “Lunsle you’re a bastard!”

As Lunsle crumples to the floor he replies, “That is what my father always said.”

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Sale of the Captives

Sale of the Captives

Thapent asks, "Where did these come from?"

Bompide says, "They barged into an initiation and killed one of my men."

Thapent looks over the tiefling and dwarf and says, "She lost her tail. Hmm, didn'’t we hear the Marazzer had a reward for a tiefling without a tail?"

Bompide replied, "It was something like a thousand gold."

Thapent thinks for a minute and says, "You can always buy other subjects. Sell them to the Marazzer."

Bompide asks, "She might not make the trip."

Thapent says, "Well heal them first. Convince the Marazzer to pay you for the cost of bringing them in all healed."

Bompide asks, "What about her tail?"

Thapent says, "If the Marazzer don’t kill her it will eventually grow back. But don’t heal her tail. That is how they will recognize her."

Bompide asks, "Put the dead bodies in the barrels?"

Thapent says, "Of course, we need to replace the barrel they stole."

Peloponnesian War as a Pattern

Peloponnesian War as a Pattern

I patterned the war between Marazzer and Greth on the Peloponnesian War. At the very start of the campaign all the young men and women in Greth answered the call to duty to fight the invading forces of Marazzer. This is similar to the massive expeditionary force Athens sent to attack Syracuse in 415 BC with similar results. The Spartan army completely destroyed the Athenian force in 413 BC. In the World of Tiglath, I sped up the process by having the Marazzer use blitzkrieg tactics by employing their Tronlth.

The campaign emphasizes the social impacts on the world. One of my courses in collage studied the play Lysistrata (in the original Greek) by Aristophanes. The backdrop of the play is most of the young men in Athens died in the disastrous Sicilian Expedition. According to Wikipedia, approximately 14% of the population of the Soviet Union died in World War II. The defeat of Athens in the Sicilian Expedition disaster was smaller in number but much larger in percentage. In the World of Tiglath, there are few survivors from the forces of Greth. The forces of Marazzer took very few prisoners. I patterned Marazzer after the ancient Assyrians who flayed their captives and nailed their skins to the wall of the city. Marazzer flayed the few soldiers of Greth that surrendered.

What does this all mean for the players in the campaign?

All the characters are young. The only non-player characters the same age are from Marazzer or deserters. The party cannot blend in. They stand out because of their age. A common question from non-player characters is, “Were you at the battle on the Plains of Lethe?” The Plains of Lethe is the site of a major battle on the Peninsula of Pinge. The plains of Lethe are about one hundred miles North-East of Hosiger. The follow up question is always, “Did you know my son (or daughter)? Is he (she) still alive?”

This means all the non-player characters have built in prejudice about the players. Initially they want to know if the player characters have any news about members of their family. Then they wonder how are the player characters alive and their loved-ones dead or missing. The only other people the same age as the player characters are the soldiers of Marazzer. The average merchant is going to be wary because he thinks the characters are either deserters or informants from Marazzer or something worse.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

The Theogony of Tiglath

The Theogony of Tiglath

Thepeh the God of the Void sprang into being from nothingness.

Origin of the Elemental Gods

Thepeh being both male and female mated with itself and brought forth the five elemental gods.
  • Tabon the goddess of Air
  • Dokic the goddess of Fire
  • Runan the goddess of Earth
  • Honici the goddess of Water
  • Cutal the god of Aether

Tabon the goddess of Air

Since the wind blows in all directions, Tabon is associated with all the cardinal directions. Her temples are always cylindrical to reduce the air resistance. She is a well-endowed female with emerald green eyes and long, flowing blue hair. Her worshipers gather the blowing leaves of autumn as a sacrifice. During the spring and winter worshipers rip the heads and wings off of small birds as a sacrifice. Tabon is represented by the Queen piece in Teneth.

Dokic the goddess of Fire

Dokic is the goddess of fire and smithing. Her name means "She-Who-Shapes-The-Sacred-Land". She is a squat, red-skinned woman with purple eyes and short gray hair. She wears crystalline armor made of ruby. Her worshipers strive for a fine reputation for quality, craftsmanship, and functionality. Worshipers sacrifice sheep, goats, and cattle. The worshippers keep that meat for themselves and burn the bones wrapped in fat as an offering. Dokic is represented by the Bishop piece in Teneth.

Runan the goddess of Earth

Runan is the supernatural force of Earth. She is associated with dragons, cattle, magic, musicians, and trickery. She is a dark-skinned woman with yellow eyes. She wears a set of armor made of gold. Runan punishes oath-breakers. She feasts on the buried. Runan is represented by the Rook piece in Teneth.

Honici the goddess of Water

She is the goddess of water, rivers, seas, streams, storms, baptism, and midwifes. Her name means literally means "she of the jade colored skirt". She appears as a blue skinned woman with dark blue hair and eyes wearing an ornate green or jade colored skirt. She always carries a trident. After cutting the umbilical cord, the midwife would wash the new baby with customary greeting to the goddess Honici. Four days after the birth, the child was given a second bath and a name. She is known for her carefree nature and generosity. Worshippers generously give to all beggars. Honici is represented by the Knight piece in Teneth.

Cutal the god of Aether

He is the life-spark of all creatures and is the material that fills the region of the universe above the terrestrial sphere. Aether is responsible for all terrestrial creatures. Cutal masturbated and from his seed sprang humans, elves, dwarves, and all the other races. He always wears a blue toga and a blue pointy hat. He carries an ivory staff. Cutal is represented by the King piece in Teneth.

Destruction of the Void

The five elemental gods were appalled at the ugliness of their parent. The five conspired to destroy Thepeh rather than allow the birth of any more gods. While Thepeh was busy in a masturbatory self-impregnation the elemental gods used their power to rip their parent apart. Each of the elemental gods then consumed a portion of their father/mother. In the frenzy the elemental gods overlooked three pieces of their mother/father. From those pieces grew the gods of Death, Hate, and Vermin.

The Hidden Gods

Prior to birthing the five elemental gods, Thepeh gave birth to at least two offspring. For unknown reasons, Thepeh banished the first generation of gods. Cymag, one of the first generation gods, managed to escape from banishment after the destruction of Thepeh. No one knows the fate of the other first generation gods.

Cymag the god of Chaos

The evil emotions of every living being sustains Cymag. He is monomaniacal and completely single-minded in seeking the destruction of the elemental gods. Cymag has the body of a cobra with a leach like head. Surrounding his mouth are long tentacles.

The Spawned Gods

The elemental gods, Tabon, Dokic, Runan, Honici, and Cutal, ripped their parent Thepeh apart and devoured it. The fragments of Thepeh grew into the gods of Death, Hate, and Vermin.

Sytizi the god of Death

Sytizi is responsible for sickness in the world. He requires sacrifices of skulls. He catches dead bodies and takes them away to this lower world and then makes them his slaves. Any person who has ill-treated their parents, ascetics, holy persons, or elders appears before Sytizi for judgment. Sytizi makes drinking cups from the skulls of the unworthy which he uses to drink their blood. He appears as a skeleton in bone armor wielding two swords.

Lamuwa the goddess of Hate

She is hate, strife, and discord personified. Lamuwa stands on the center of beached vessels or battlefields and screams! The screams harden the hearts of the soldiers removing any thought of mercy. They no longer remember their fathers or their wives and children with the screams of Lamuwa ringing in their ears. Some describe her as “Strife insatiable.” Her anger is never satisfied. Lamuwa looks like a large humanoid bird.

Hysex the goddess of Vermin

Hysex controls the vermin in the world, rodents, insects, snakes, and creeping things. She has a grey reptilian body with goat like legs and the face of an insect. She carries a huge sword.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Tiefling Tail with Turnips

Ger gingerly approached Offal’s tent. His name was not really Offal, it was Offell, but everyone in the regiment called him Offal. Offal was not human. The regimental histories first mentioned Offal nearly one hundred years ago. Offal crafted the regiment’s ceremonial drinking cups from the skulls of the defeated enemies. A humanoid creature emerged from the tent. Ancient intricately carved black leather armor enveloped the boney frame. The dark armor provided a stark contrast to the pale variegated gray dry wrinkled skin.

Offal smiled showing jagged greenish teeth and said, “There is a spring in your step, Ger. Did you get some tail?”

A slight blush crossed Ger’s face as he replied, “In more ways than one.” Ger handed Offal a blood soaked rough canvas bag.

Offal opened the bag and pulled out a long, bloody tail. He carefully examined the tail and asked, “Tiefling?”

Ger nodded yes.

Offal brought the tail up to holes in his face that served as a nose, sniffed deeply, and said, “Young, female Tiefling.”

Ger smiled and replied, “That is why I have a spring in my step.”

Offal said, “I will give you twenty gold for it.”

Ger said, “No. I want it as a trophy.”

“Ah. I understand. That will cost you.”

“How much?” Ger asked.

Offal said, “I can tan the skin and stuff that for ten. If you want the bones as a periapt that will cost you another three hundred.”

Ger muttered, “I ain’t no officer. Can’t afford more than fifty.”

“Make it fifty-five, and I get to keep the meat.”

Inwardly Ger shuddered at the thought of Offal and the meat of the Tiefling. Ger said, “All I gots is fifty-three.”

Offal hefted the tail and said, “Must be a good ten pounds of meat.” He licked the bloody cut end of the tail. Licking his cracked lips with a purplish black tongue Offal said, “Ok, fifty-three it is.”

Ger handed Offal a small bag of coins.

Offal said, “Give me a couple of weeks.”

Ger left quickly.

Offal retrieved his finest scalpel. He honed the scalpel on an oilstone. Offal was careful to make sure no one saw the lubricant for the oil stone. He doubted the regiment would allow anyone to live who created oil by extracting it from the bodies of human babies. It only took a couple of drops to hone the scalpel.

Offal used the scalpel to remove the skin from the tail. Ger held the regimental record for skinning prisoners. Offal never entered the skinning competitions. He knew his decades of experience, speed, and skill would frighten the regiment and end his meal ticket.

Offal boned the tail putting all the bones in a large bowl. He took the bowl of bones over to a rack of amphora. He placed the bones in the bottom of an empty amphora. Offal pulled on a pair of heavy leather gloves before opening one of the sealed amphora. Carrion beetles normally ate dead flesh. Offal had scars on his hands proving the beetles could not tell he was alive. The confusion of the beetles was justified. Offal opened the amphora. He scooped up handfuls of detritus rich with beetles to cover the bones. Offal knew the beetles would expertly clean the bones of any remaining meat and connective tissue.

Offal now turned his attention to the meat. He dug through his pantry selecting some small turnips. He skewered the meat alternating chunks of the Tiefling with the small turnips. Offal liked his meat bloody rare and hot with burnt edges. The crisp texture of the turnips gave contrast to the tender meat. Offal reminisced, it was almost fifty years since his last taste of Tiefling flesh. Tiefling was sweeter and less gamey than Elf. Offal licked his dry, cracked lips enjoying the smooth texture of the meat. He savored the taste. The Marazzer provided ample human flesh. They gave Offal the bodies of the ones they skinned. In contrast, Tiefling was a special treat. Wistfully Offal hopefully thought about eating the heart and liver of the female Tiefling that provided the meat for the evening feast. He hoped Ger would soon bring him the rest of the Tiefling.

Over the next few days Offal tanned the skin and stuffed it with straw and cotton. He carefully pulled the cleaned bones from the amphora. Using gold and silver wire he wound the bones into a spiral pattern with the largest bones on the outer edge. He created the charm using arcane spells and infernal potions.

When complete, Offal admired his work. This was not the most powerful artifact Offal created over his decades but it was the most impressive he had made in years.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Finding a Map

In a previous adventure, the party joined up with Simon the merchant taking a load of fine wine to Hosigar. Accompanying Simon were his two hired mercenary guards: Curcio and Powa. The caravan made arrived after dark at Hosigar and found the gates of the city closed. Simon the merchant suggested the party stay at the Full Barrel Inn. The inn keeper, Nudar, welcomed the party and showed them to their rooms.

The party, desperate for coin, asks the customers in the Full Barrel Inn for leads for work. They learn the Ruffy is might have a job for some adventurers. The party also hears that Inoxim has some “questionable” work they might be interested in.

The party retires for the evening. Nudar, the inn keeper, gives everyone a warning, “Keep the windows closed to keep out the creatures from the swamp.” Nudar suggested it was safer to use the chamber pots and not visit the outhouse after dark.

Loud voices from downstairs awaken the party. Simon is frantic. Curcio and Powa left in the middle of the night and are missing. Simon entrusted his Letter of Introduction to the two mercenaries for safekeeping. Now the two are gone. Simon offers the party a reward to recover his Letter of Introduction.

The party heads off toward the swamp to the North-West. They see the circling buzzards which leads them to the bodies of the dead mercenaries. The mercenaries fought off several Stirges but in the end the Stirges won and sucked them dry. On the bodies the party finds Simon’s Letter of Introduction. They also find a hand-drawn map on a wax tablet with some instructions. The instructions read, “Give the small jewelry box to Kelash at the Three Eye Tavern. Do not open the jewelry box! The contents are dangerous. Kelash will give you 500 gold when you deliver the unopened jewelry box.”

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

How Small Details Affect the Big Picture

Many fantasy campaigns have a static world. Nothing significant changes in the world around the characters. I like to thrust the characters into situations where the world significantly changes. For example, in my World of Tiglath campaign the entire government organization changed almost overnight.

Characters must make new connections to the world. Who they connect with and what they do in the world has consequences. This requires defining the relationships between the non-player characters. The Game Master should lay out the network of relationships from the lowly fence all the way to the ruler. This way, when the players sell a little bobble that has some importance to a high level official there is a network diagram showing how the official will learn of the transaction. In the movie The Usual Suspects, Kobayashi tells each character how they unwittingly stole from Keyser Soze. The Game Master should plan for that type of scene. The Game Master should keep track of everything the player characters do. That way, several gaming sessions later the Game Master can ask the player, “Do you remember when you sold that strange looking piece of amber to the fence, Spezoil?” Then when the player character is confronted by an official who pulls out the piece of amber and says, “You sold this to my informant, Spezoil. How did this come into your possession?”

The news is full of stories how people come to power and fall out of power because of personal indiscretions. When the players find some minor trinket they have no idea the trinket could have a political history that could cause political upset. In the book Johnny Tremain the main plot revolves around a silver cup engraved with the Lyte’s coat of arms. Game Masters should learn to steal good plot points. The party recovers some loot including an engraved silver cup. Houses can rise or fall depending on which fence gets the silver cup.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Political Intrigue vs. Melee

One of my favorite movies is Lion in Winter. There is very little action in this film. Instead there is a lot of dialog and political intrigue. Mandatory action scenes where the party must kill or be killed often bog down the session. The Lion in Winter contains threats of violence and schemes but no killing. Some of the most enjoyable gaming session I have played and run have little or no action. I remember one long gaming session where the players debated for three hours what they wanted to do. It was a wonderful opportunity as a game master to write down all the wild ideas the players came up with.

I love a gaming session where neither the players nor game master need to pick up a pair of dice or consult a rule book. The goal of role playing should be role playing not rolling dice. I find political intrigue a powerful asset in the game master’s kit.

The party wanders into a small village. One of the members of the party is a third level cleric. The village cleric (note there is only one) is only second level. The village cleric is immediately concerned the player character is after his or her job.

The village constable only want to keep the peace. He is concerned the party might cause trouble with all their weapons and equipment.

One prominent member of the town is worried the new-comers might bring in subversive ideas. He/she feels the village must protect the children from the corrupting influence of outsiders.

The key is to let the party in on the intrigue. In the scenario where the village cleric is concerned about his/her job you could have a young boy/girl approach the party and ask, “Can I be your altar boy when you take over the Sanctuary?”

Again there is no need for melee. The village cleric may even try to bribe the party to leave. This provides an opportunity for part to gain treasure or information without swinging a sword or rolling dice.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Equipment as Works of Art

Today we take mass production for granted. You go to a big-box store and buy a rope out of a bin. There are tens of thousands of identical ropes. Most fantasy settings are not set in an industrialize world. That means each rope was made by hand. In a world of handmade stuff it was common for a craftsman to sign their creation. For example, the rope maker could use a few specially colored threads in the weave that made all the ropes they made unique form all the other ropes. Samurai swords often have a signature on their tang identifying the maker.

A World Builder can use this to make each and every item in their world unique. A character goes to a merchant to buy a rope. The merchant says, “I have two ropes for sale. One from the famed rope maker Connehorn for 52 gold, or one from the lesser known Reanderei for 50 gold.” Five Guys Burgers and Fries uses this very idea in their stores when they write on the chalk board what farm grew the potatoes they used for their fries.

This opens up new adventures. The party tries to sell a sword they took off of some monster. The merchant says, “The famed smith Mance forged this sword four centuries ago, where did you get this?”

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Ideas behind the Formation of the World of the Tiglath

In Gordon R. Dickson’s book Way of the Pilgrim, the Aalaag conquer the Earth. The Aalaag have better weapons and armor than humans. I wanted to have a fantasy setting with that same feel. The Assyrians were a powerful Bronze Age empire known for their military capabilities and cruelties.

I used these ideas as I designed the World of Tiglath. The differences affect every part of life. For example, the standard flint and steel that most characters have does not exist. Starting a fire is much harder. Non-player characters will always have someone responsible for maintaining the hearth and keeping the home fires burning because if the fire goes out it is not a simple matter to restart it.

Paper does not exist. Writing is done using a stylus onto either wax or clay tablets. Wax is cheap and can easily be erased, changed, repurposed, or destroyed. Clay tablets dry quickly but become permanent. Firing the clay turns the tablet into ceramic.

Saddles do not exist. Carts and chariots are used. All of these things significantly change the way the fantasy campaign feels. Because this setting is semi-historical there are lots of resources available for research.

World of Tiglath in 200 Words or Less

The World of Tiglath campaign is set in the Bronze Age like the move 300. Your world has been turned upside down by the invading armies of the Khanate of Marazzer. You were drafted to protect your country. The invading army marched in, killed you king, and took over the entire country before you could even join the fighting. Everywhere you go you find entire garrisons of soldiers slaughtered and a cruel new government in place. The invading army uses Tronlth as beasts of burden. Before today you had never even seen the strange animal that appears to be a cross between a rhinoceros and a triceratops. The soldiers of Marazzer have armor stronger than anything you have ever seen. Their weapons are shaper and more deadly. With brutal efficiency governors, mayors, and police chiefs in every town were rounded up and publically tortured to death. You and your party are on the run. You managed to avoid the being slaughtered. You are far from home in a land that is not familiar. You don’t know who you can trust. Are you prepared for the challenges in the World of Tiglath?

Saturday, February 9, 2013

First Adventure

Rough Introduction

A few weeks ago a chariot came into town announcing was invading once again. The King Ander proclaimed an order all the young and able-bodied assemble for training. You said goodbye to your parents and marched off to boot camp.

You never made it to boot camp. Your trainers were frantic and terrified. The armies of Marazzer had taken the capital and killed King Ander.

You were marched off to a training camp in the middle of the night. The next day you were ordered to stand guard and watch the north and eastern trails into the camp. Another group was to watch the western trail.

You were very tired after the long march. Despite your best efforts you fell to sleep early in the morning. No one came to relive you at dawn like they said they would. You stayed at your post until noon. You had not had dinner the night before. Your wine-skin was now empty. You were hungry, thirty, and tired. You slowly walked back to the clearing.

The characters wandered back to a scene of destruction. Everyone in the camp was killed. There were signs of large beasts in the camp leaving large circular footprints. The party gathers up some equipment and follows the large circular tracks heading west toward the shore. They notice a trail of blood mixed with the tracks.

As they follow the track the party comes upon the carcass of large, dead animal. They later learn the beast is called a Tronlth. Tronlth are large four legged animals that look like a cross between a rhinoceros and a triceratops. Tronlth have a large bony frill and three horns on a four-legged body. Tronlth are warm blooded mammals. In addition to the horns they have a set of small spines along the back. An adult Tronlth stands about five feet tall, 60”. The Tronlth had been speared and cut deeply along its side leaving the blood trail.

The party sees a small boy playing on the shore. They hail the boy. The boy runs away to the north. The party scampers after the boy and finally catch him. The boy is terrified and describes how his father was killed by the bad men. The bad men had their big monster with horns step on the boy’s father. The party tries to comfort the small boy.

A member of the party lights a torch and goes out into the water to see if he can catch some fish for dinner. He encounters something dark in the water but it swims away.

The torch attracts the attention of a patrol boat. The patrol boat lands two squads. Each squad has six men and a Tronlth. The party attacks the first squad and kills two men. The Tronlth has a pair of side-car baskets where a rider can stand. The leader of the first squad puts the character party to sleep.

That was the end of the first adventure.