Saturday, August 9, 2014

1d13 things to Start or Change your 13th Age Campaign

1d13 events to start or drastically alter your 13th Age Campaign.

1.       12 Golden barges of tremendous size with red sails anchor at Santa Cora, the people from the ships spend their gold freely and speak of their religion ‘The Church of the Unified Monotheism’. They seek audience with the Priestess but quarrel with her when she refuses to acknowledge that monotheism is the only valid religion, with all other gods and goddess aspects and agents of their one true deity. Without warning, the monotheists besiege the city. Their golden ships lift out of the water, their golden masts and red sails forming great wings, from which they rain down divine retribution upon the unbelievers.

2.       A storm hundreds of miles across rages on the Sea of Monsters, at its heart a tornado 600’ in diameter destroys everything it touches. As it approaches the coast it is kept at bay by the powers of the Arch-Mage, and the storm shatters against his wards. As the days pass the wards weaken eventually succumbing to the power of the storm. Many were evacuated and much of the Dragon Empire survived, but the capitol has been lost and the Dragon Emperor was wounded, and now seeks seclusion while he heals.

3.       The Lich King quits, through his emissaries he contacts the Dragon Emperor and informs the empire that he will abandon his claim of dominion over the empire if he is permitted to claim the role as chief arch-mage and purveyor over all arcane defenses and research. In addition the Lich King offers to grant the Dragon Emperor immortality. Hearing that the Dragon Emperor is considering the deal, the Arch-Mage leaves his official holdings to wage a war of subterfuge against the Lich King.

4.       The Red Dragon returns erupting from a mountain. The volcanic activity after this escape blocks the sun from the north plunging it into a perpetual night. The lands in all other directions receive little sun, the temperatures plunge by 10 degrees. The lack of direct sun causes crops to fail and famine spreads across the land.

5.       The Crusader begins a new offensive against the Diabolist. To bolster his forces he offers elite training to any that would seek it at CASTLE PERILOUS. Those who go in return changed. Many appear normal, but for their unrelenting fealty to the Crusader but others… they hide their arms and faces. Rumors abound that the hidden feature are for the best lest people see the maddening disfigurements they bear. Those of a learned nature imply that those poor souls bear the fractures of demons and that their minds have been touched by that wickedness, some even portent that they have the immortality of a fiend wine a bit of their mind inhabits the maelstrom of the abyss.

6.       A new Gold Dragon is born. While those would ordinarily be a heralded event, some claim it is a sign that the Great Gold Wrym has died in the Abyss and this is the Wyrm reincarnated. Without the Great Gold Wyrm’s intervention to keep the demons at bay the Diabolist’s influence increases. Her schemes hamper the Crusader and throw him off the hell holes he has conquered allowing new forms of chaos to rage across the land.

7.       The statue of the first dwarf, said to bow only before the Dwarf King or Queen, has become active. For the first time in two Ages it has sought out an individual and bowed before him signaling a divine change in the leadership of the Dwarfs. Stranger still the statue of the first dwarf has found and prostrated itself before the Orc Lord.

8.       While staring across the vastness of space and learning the deeper truths of magic and the arcane world, the Arch-Mage realizes that he now understands the secrets of ruling his people to create Utopia. To achieve his goals he retreats to one of his flying realms. While he finishes the preparations to bring about a new Utopia under his rule, the customary rituals that keep the Lich King bound are not renewed, nor are the rituals that redirect the lay lines to keep the sea of storms pacified. Meanwhile the oracles for when to plant and harvest have been made by less skillful magi resulting in famine as farmers plant before the frosts are finished and reap after the dry season has already begun.

9.       In the center of the Dragon Empire a new Hell Hole has opened up with signs several others are about to open up. The creation of a new Hell Hole has caused waves of fear and panic rippling throughout the Empire, sparking new rumors that the Diabolist has begun a new offensive while gaining greater powers of control over fiendish minions. While these new openings are of her creation, it from a ritual gone awry, they are opening too fast for her to control causing her dominion over fiends to weaken while other summoners find they can bind ever more power fiends to their will without risking nearly as much of their souls in the bargain.

10.   A new wave of Living Dungeons surge forth to the surface. Lands once peaceful are plagued by the beasts that vomit forth from these dark vaults. People from all over look to the Dwarf Lord, to learn why so many Living Dungeons reached the surface. But, no messages are returned. Rumors begin to spread that the Dwarf King and his court have been consumed by a terrible dungeon and the creatures it birthed.

11.   The dead in heavily forested areas have begun to rise from their graves. While many believe this to be a plot of the Lich King and both the Dragon Emperor and the Arch-Mage hire bands of adventurers to reinforce the grave-wards said to keep the dead in place. But all is in vain, as these are not traditional undead. Instead the High Druid has found a new strain of fungus that will reanimate the dead and given time even infect the living as this plague spreads so too will nature while humanity’s oppression of nature will be forced to an end.

12.   One morning everyone awakes to find that it is midday, as time passes the sun does not waver in the sky staying always in the middle of the sky. Astrologers are perplexed by this endless day. Even the Archmage is uncertain as to why the Sun is not chased across the sky, unless the moon were unable to do so. Rumors swirl and many, especially in the underworld speculate that the moon was stolen by the Prince of Shadows. Unwittingly his grandest heist has ruined his domain of darkness.

13.   The Elf Queen accepts a rare invitation to travel to a Winter Court of the fairies. While she is away the fey Duke Urien sits the throne, declaring himself the Elf King; inciting a civil war throughout the Elven Court. The Dark Elves near universally support Urien. Several of the other courtiers remain silent to ensure they are not executed by Urien’s exuberant Loyalty Squads. While others declare for their queen. The bloodshed and mistrust running through the Eleven Court bleeds through to the world creating greater mistrust between the fey and even resurfacing old rivalries which threaten to unbalance the greater peace of civilization.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Awesome Gamer Day: Map

For “Awesome Gamer Day” I offer a map. This area will likely be called Tul’Aren in my campaign. A land covered in with thick jungles, wide grassy planes, and steep mountains, curiously cut off from the ocean by an unnatural blasted desert wasteland.

Created by Matt Maranda with Hexographer Pro.

Feel free to use this map in your home games and expect to see me flesh it out more. If people would like a version with hex numbers let me know in the comments.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Fantasy in the Blasted Future

In my last post I talked about setting a "Lamentations of the Flame Princess" game in the future after a catastrophic event. But my description did not go into any detail about what cultures and nations might look like in that world. So here I am writing to further broaden the way different parts of the world devolved yet still mimic the reality that had once been.
Kandah - The cold heavily forested planes of Kandah contain many small remote villages. Hunters, loggers and farmers eke out a meager existence living in constant fear of the long dark nights. To the West as the hardwood forests climb great mountains the villages become larger and farther apart, here miners explore the bones of the earth, wresting riches from the old mines of ages past now the home to thriving colonies of beasts that would be best left undisturbed in their holes. The riches of mining towns make them hubs for foreigners as well as the people from the woods. Moving further north brings travelers to a harsh arctic waste. Few beyond the tribes that live there have returned from those frozen lands and those that do have merely explored its frozen eastern coasts. The treasures and relics that might still exist preserved in that frozen wasteland will make legends of those strong enough to succeed.
Swerzirlind - This land is nestled in and around steep mountains. These mountains serve to insulate the land from predations of the outside world but they they also divide it. This has caused two major factions to vie for power over the people and trades routes. They are the Cantonians and the Zureich, although many other small groups can be found living in remote villages hoping to remain unnoticed by the conscriptors of forces larger than themselves. The largest faction are the agnostic Cantonians, followers of the crown Prince Haldritch Zwingli, who control the trade routes and given recent trouble with religious fanatics have taken to eradicating all organized religion. These actions fueled the ire and ranks of the opposed Zureich. Once just a free city in the heart of Swerzirlind it has become the epicenter for the Church of Monotheism. The Zureich defend their faith militantly with non-believers, unwilling to convert, being executed without need for cause. Other prominent groups vehemently against the dominant factions include Monotheists of the Later Prophets, Monotheists of the First Church, and Monotheists of the Free Orders.
Ghula - Walled holdfasts stand atop natural and manmade hills bastions of safety poking out above the Black Forests of Ghula. These holds frequently war with each other keeping trade and communication across long distances to minimum. While some semblance of a once unified Ghulian people might exist in the language and engineering, each village is a stylized subculture with their own unique take own what it means to be Shulian creating a morass of taboos and etiquettes difficult to master and easy to cross. Blood cults, headhunters seeking to honor or trap the spirit of their enemy to prevent retribution from beyond the grave, and ritualized necrophilia before the deceased are interred are additional horrors villages might have in store for explorers. As if the villages weren't dangerous enough, the untrod paths in the black forests hide worse degenerates and beasts too wicked to be exposed to the light of day.
The Divided Isles of Welschlen - The major island of Welschlen as well as the smaller islands and newly founded island colonies are united under one king, the recently coroneted Kyor of Rutland. But King Kyor does not sit the thrown unchallenged. The Green Isle is fomenting a new bid for freedom. It has rebelled several times throughout the years creating generations of mistrust, harsh laws, and even famines all to keep the people week and subjugated to the Welshlen throne.  Yet these are not the only troubles on the Green Isle, creatures of fairy also lay claim to the islands and they too have gained a strong foothold on the Green Isle and are branching out to the others. Kyor’s predecessors would have cut down such insurrection quickly with iron and fire but the Welschlen squabble internally over who should have been lord. Many support Kyor and his house under the banner of the White Lilly others disenfranchised or slighted by Kyor’s lineage have begun flocking to House Whelles of the Red Carnation. Weakening the will of both houses to remain at war with one another are the savage raiders from the North and West. They strike the Isles without mercy and with the fastest, lightest, and shallowest ships known.
Ravenna – The Empire of Ravenna, is a corrupt nation, any kind of vice can be bought or sold here. The empire has been held together and expanded by generations of strong Emperors and a pragmatic approach to the absorption of cultures and religions. But while every religion is theoretically equal two religions have greater standings with the nobility the Arcane Cult of Ottovacarian Divinity and the Devoted of the Quicksilver Blade. The Arcane Cult of Ottovacarian Divinity are the only wizards tolerated within Ravenna and their religious and arcane magic has been honed to help detect and defeat threats to Ravenna and her rulers. This protection has naturally secured their prominence, protection, and wealth. The Devoted of the Quicksilver Blade are an order of militants that worship and train for war. This makes their devotees the best trained and single minded forces in the empire. Many of in the warrior class are lay adherents, paying for services and advanced training in combat arts. This makes them first in line for promotion and elite duties. It is also rumored that the Devoted have stockpiled and understand the use of weapons from before the fall of civilization and rise of Ravenna.
Sajavedra   – A war torn barely legendary land. Jungles and abandoned rice fields dot the landscape. Meanwhile energies of a war, incomprehensible to the people surviving in the Sajavedra today, leech into these same fields and jungles warping flora and fauna alike. As this blasted and town landscape loses its connection to the world that was petty ancient gods of the land are awakening. Their sleep disturbed by the changes happening around them and the lack of propitiations offered up to them.
Although none of these regions specifically mentions the ruins of fallen civilizations, I've intentionally left that out. What technology or ruins are left is up to the game and much easier to sprinkle into things. But cultures based on history and places takes a little more planning and inspiration which is all I can hope to achieve with this post.

My inspiration for the places and cultures are from many varied sources. Kandah was inspired by Hiero’s Journey as well as the ‘Brave New World’ campaign/adventure. Swerzirlind is Switzerland with a dash of the reformation and theories that Knights Templar hid there to avoid persecution, now after the fall of civilization they return to rebuild civilization under their view after thousands of years.  Welschlen should obviously be the British Isles during the War of the Roses with added rebellion and mythic fey from Ireland. Ghula is Gaul at the peak of the Celtic civilizations. Ravenna was once the seat of the Roman Empire and this is its rebirth. While the Sajavedra if taken whole cloth from Kenneth Hite's Qelong adventure.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A Campaign Idea for Lamentations of the Flame Princess

James Raggi the creator of Lamentations has vacillated on the subject of “should a referee use the earth or a new world while running Lamentations of the Flame Princess”. While it has been my experience that most DMs choose to use a fantasy world; there was, especially in the early days of the hobby and the fantasy that inspired it, a tendency to use modern human transported to the fantasy world which was populated by characters out of our world’s myths, legends, and sometimes history.

The argument James makes against using the earth is “People know too much [about history] and not enough about it.” This quote appears in the ‘Referee’ guide from the ‘Lamentations of the Flame Princess: Grindhouse Edition’ of the book. It goes on to explain which some people will know a lot about certain subsets of world history and others will be fairly ignorant of it. Both groups will often have their sense of immersion disrupted and that can be distracting from the game.

While the argument for using the earth is “Remember LotFP is a horrific game, and to make the unearthly elements stand out as particularly unnatural and awful a more mundane setting is required.” which is from the ‘Better than any Man’ the 2013 Free RPG Day adventure. This approach does work well which is why most horror stories take place in and around our world. \

Although both sides have merit there is a third option which is to create take either a character from the modern or historical world and drop them into a world of myth and legend similar to but different from the actual historical world. This allows for them to encounter strange things but still meet people who are "normal" and better yet their basic assumptions of the world's history can still be satisfied while allowing for differences and inconsistencies from the actual past because of "magic"

However, my favorite option which I believe can provide a referee with the benefits of both the freedom of a made-up world wit the implied understanding and 'reality' of the historical world. Set the game in the future 200+ years after a catastrophic event. During that time civilizations fell but people tried to rebuild in the memory of what was. However, these memories can be tarnished or for the good of the appearance of unity and normality dark and terrible things can lurk under the surface. Some communities can be nice and helpful having suffered less while other greedy and savage all the while trying to live up to the glory of the past. This approach to world building was inspired by Jack Vance's "Dying Earth" series and Clark Ashton Smith's "Zothique" cycle. Both however, are set after the world has aged to near extinction and the sun burns a harsh red. The other half of my inspiration came from an unlikely source, the old 'Thundar the Barbarian' with it's humanity crushed under the boot of powerful magicians crossing the line between science and magic, strange beasts and accepted humanoids, it hinted at a darker world ripe to inspire adventures appropriate for LotFP.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

A Norse Mythic Campaign Setting

I’ve recently started readin “The Norse Myths: Introduced and Retold” by Kevin Crossley-Holland. In it he discusses the 9 worlds of the Norse mythology. The highest two are Asgard and Vanaheim the worlds of Aesir and Vanir the gods of Norse Myth. Alfheim is the realm of the “Light Elves” those creatures that are not gods but still powerful spirits willing to help man.  Midguard the world of mortals. Two worlds for the homes of Dwarves and Dark Elves Nidavellir and Svartalfheim, notably all the Dwarves are greedy self centered troublemakers most Elves also seem to fall into the Dark Elf territory making them nearly indifferent from the Dwarves. The Giants lay claim to Jutunheim these are beings as powerful as the gods but set on the disruption of the order of things and cause chaos and strife, they seek to see the world changed and if that means burning it down first then that is what they will do. The underworld is is Hel/Niflheim this is where the majority of the dead go guarded over by mighty beasts those deemed particularly troubles are punished in the torments of Hel. The final world in Muspellheim the land of fire, it is from here that, Surt will rise and with his burning sword will bring about, the ultimate destruction of worlds and it will come in blood and fire.

This alone would make a fantastic RPG campaign setting and certainly has been used more than once. However, having recently read several stories with a strong Sci-Fi element like the “Dying Earth” stories by Jack Vance this got me thinking. What if...

What if the worlds as described above were actual worlds? This number of nine world parallels our own solar system. The Sun would be Muspelhiem. Mercury and the Dwarf Planets of Pluto and Eiris would be Hel and Niefhelm split apart. I would keep the 8 planets that we have today and cast each as a Norse world inhabitable by humans but strange and with unique properties like those found in Burrough’s “Mars” stories and similar pulp Sci-Fi. The gods and Giants would be destructive and powerful aliens making and breaking deals with humanity as a proxy in their stalled war. The other races like the Elves and Dwarves might lack the ability to easily cross worlds. Those found on “Earth” would be lost colonies from the other worlds. Perhaps they are only able to travel in one direction or only travel during certain conjunctions of the worlds. Magic would likely be interacting with old technological bits or performing acts that trigger still operating systems placed by a lost civilization or the gods and giants.

I doubt I would reveal intricate details like gods and giants are really technologically advanced aliens to the players at the start of the game. Having them discover this and put such might powers to use for either law or chaos. Will they take part in causing Ragnarok or preventing it from occurring? I also suspect a campaign would need to alter the Norse Dwarves and Elves, not use those names for those creatures and instead find new terms, turning the traditional PC races of Dwarf and Elf into something more in line with the Norse, or my personal favorite make the PC available race human only.