Tuesday, March 11, 2014

World Building in 30 Days - 10 Weather Related Plot Devices

The title of this exercise is labeled as the Physical Planet but I don't think that is the real aim here. The real goal is to develop ten ways in which the weather can be utilized as a character or plot device to drive the story forward. I have used this to great effect in the past, but one must be careful to not remove player agency here. Set up the scenario and let the players come up with their own solutions.

The Exercise

What role do you anticipate weather playing in your story? Do you have a lot of travel that you want to complicate with bad storms? Are you going to snow in your mighty heroes? Will there be a mighty battle, determined by sudden flooding? You actually don't need to know right now. Your exerise for today is to jot down ten plot devices that relate to weather, and what you think they do to the story (for example: a snow-in can turn the mood very claustrophobic... or very intimate).

1) A Fey Crossing allows a magical storm to blanket the area. The source of the storm could be a magical object, magical creature or the Frost Queen herself. Players can seek the source of the winter storm to end the blight, seek shelter and find other dangers doing the same, or be driven to a villains home.

2) Unseasonably warm temperatures have brought about a drought. Food and water are scarce. Raiders attack villages seeking resources. Wells are drying up. Martial law is declared. Water merchants inflate prices. Magical cooling and water creation become powerful spells. Guards can be bribed for water shares.

3) A caravan needs guarding but when the PCs hire on to the job they are stuck in the pass due to an avalanche, mudslide etc. The party must survive and fend off the monsters not effected by the weather.

4) A tsunami uncovers a long lost dungeon on a nearby island. Two nations claim ownership. Will the party unearth long lost magic for themselves or one of the nations?

5) Sky worshipping giants gather nearby. The tribes' shaman fore tells a lightning storm as a signal for war.

6) Rumors tell of a ghost ship with frayed sails and crewed by the undead sighted during squalls off the coast. When a princess disappears, can the party survive the weather?

7) A flood washes out the main bridge on a prominent trade route. The owners of the bridge refuse to rebuild and perishable goods need to be delivered to the lands beyond.

8) A small village is unaffected by the severe weather in the area. Refugees from a neighboring village seek shelter but an old feud prevents the refugees from being allowed in. Who sill the PCs side with?

9) Several weeks of rain have left travel a difficult prospect. The party can risk it losing equipment and time slogging along the road or hole up in a village/town etc. The village is plagued by witches, vampires, demons etc. Will the party face down the trouble or brave the roads?

10) An earthquake frees a trapped evil. Milk spoils, crops wither, and livestock dies. The local populace begs the PCs for aid.

Some useful tools

Plot Device Generator

Donjon's Weather Generator

Spreadsheet Customizable Weather


World Building in 30 Days - Climate and Variety


Red - Tropical - Brazil, Southern India, Korea, Vietnam

Hot and Wet Year Round, Monsoons

In Ea-Reth the region of Omarond is Tropical.


Green - Humid Sub Tropic - South Eastern US, China

Dry cool but not cold winter, hot summer with high rainfall

Ea-Reth Western Yathe, Central Northern Ovelesk


Yellow - Humid Continental - Eastern US, Eastern Europe

Cold Winter, hot summer, precipitation year round

Ea-reth Eastern Yathe, Central Southern Ovelesk


Marine Coast - Seattle, UK, Western Europe

Warm not hot summers, cool not cold summers, evenly distributed precipitation


Orange - Arid - Sahara, SW US, Western Australia, Mongolia

Extremely hot summers, winter night time temperatures below freezing, less than 25 cm of water annual

Ea-reth - Yathe, Mud Plains, Gehenna, Plains of Ash - Northern Ovelesk, Southern Ovelesk


Orange, Arid adjacent - Semi-Arid - Colorado, Kansas, African Steppe, Austraila Outback

Hot and Dry Summers, Cold and Dry Winters, less water than will evaporate normally




Purple on Gray - Tundra - North Pole

One month of snow melting temps, but remains mostly frozen the rest of the year


Purple - Sub-Arctic - Canada, Siberia

Long cold winters, short cool summers, snow melts after winter ends


Gray - Ice cap - Antarctica, South Pole, extreme North Pole

Cold year round, constant or near constant ice cap


World Building in 30 days - Magic - Sources

Following up on the Will & Word Magic article we talk about our third source, Inherrent Magic.

Inherent Magic

  • Sorcery
  • Blood Magic - Tor Siri
  • Creatures of Magic - Pey, Pey-Tanni

Inherrent magic is the special abilities a creature is born with. Trolls and Werewolves have regenitive properties. Vampires shape shift, have powerful gazes, call animals, etc. This magic is in the very fabric of their DNA (and no they are not measurable midicholriens, don't make me slap you). Every creature is tied to the weave, but some creatures are more. The Tor Siri harm and slaughter vampires to perform dark rituals. The older the vampire, the more powerful the spell.


All magical creatures. Ie Unicorns, Dragons, Vampires, Pey, Pey-tanni, If I look under any D&D creature description and see spell like ability, then this creature is drawing it from here. Gawds get their magic from here and Will magic (Belief). True Sorcerers ie Wild Magic Sorcerers, Elemental Sorcerers, Dragonblood Sorcerers also get their power here. Any magic or ritual that slays one of these creature that power also comes from here.

How? Mechanics

These creatures are either pure creatures from before the Weave, crossbred creatures from the Pey, or creatures that were infused by the Weave during one of the Sunderings. Most of these were formed like the Vampyre and Dragons, via the dark workings of Gerand.

Pros: This source of power cannot be cut off by many means that the other Sources can.

Cons: This source is only as powerful as the being using it.

Origins of the idea: Greek Myth (Demi-gods, Satyr, Fauns, Nymphs etc)

Examples in Gaming: D&D Sorcerer

Example in Media: Dune (Breeding to produce Paul Muad’dib), Meredith Gentry novels by Laurell K Hamilton (Hands of Power, Fey Creatures)


World Building in 30 Days - Seelian Coil

I woke up this morning, my first thought was about my wife. The next was the groan when realizing I need to get my tired butt outta bed to go into work. I quickly pushed that aside and Seelian Coil popped into the vacancy. They don’t call him the grandfather of magic for no reason. In Ovelesk no other single individual has come close to having as much impact on magic as he has.


Seelian was born late in the Second Age. The world he was born into was beholden to the Gawds. They controlled the Towers and with it the Weave. The Towers were anchored to the Weave. Any localized spell or magic was routed thru them. The Gawds weren’t kindly benevolent rulers. Calling them tyrants doesn’t go far enough. The Gawds were the supreme powers of the Second Age. The scattered mortal races were little more than play things. Gerand and his lieutenants had created countless abominations from them. To the Gawds they were little more than cannon fodder in a series of unending wars. With the Umbla banished any petty insult was answered with a new creation or an army of thousands marched off to die. The Ancient Ones quickly forgot any ties they might have once had to each other. They became separate races with separate traditions and ideals. The Gawds, especially Gerand, manipulated the races themselves. Much like he had done with the Yae, betrayal and internal conflict was used to weaken the races support of each other. The dwarven clan of Goblata sold its kin into slavery. Giants conquered and enslaved dozens of races. The Kinslayer Wars were set off by lies whispered from the dark. Dragons, werewolves and vampires were created. Men and the Kinder sailed west to avoid all of this.


Seelian was born On Northern Ovelesk in the western lands of King Marson. The sea king had led his people across the Great Sea seeking shelter from the constant warfare. On Ovelesk magic was wilder and less tamed. The distant reach of the Towers meant that magic was governed less directly. Seelian studied it in its raw form and wrote his magical treatises. Funded by Marson he constructed the first Citadel of magic near the capitol city of Torvin. Seelian’s fame brought apprentices from far and wide to study with him. The prosperity of Marson and his allies quickly established a series of city-states reminiscent of earth’s Greeks. As the allies gained power and wealth more people found time to pursue leisure activities. Soon Seelian had more students wanting to attend than his school could support. He chose four of his apprentices and sent them to the most potent of the Marson’s allies to establish Citadels. Seelian chose locales that mirrored the locations of the Towers on Yathe. At each cardinal point of Ovelesk a site was chosen for its Weave Foci and defensibility. The Citadels were widely publicized as homages to man’s homeland. In truth Seelian had been fashioning huge lodestones and imbuing them with magic. He utilized different magic types to counteract the Towers strengths and weaknesses.


Citadel of Stone > Tower of Eglain

Citadel of the Mists > Tower of Karnin

Citadel at Killian > Tower of Run Imar

Citadel at Odanis > Tower of Rom Shar

Citadel of Arland> Tower of Tal Aer


We’ll talk more about lodestones in a future article. Seelian’s actions were a calculated response to the power of the Gawds. Kylia Humstock, the eldest of Master Coil’s apprentices, said it best in her treatise:


Seelian in meddling with the balance of the Five Towers in effect placed his hand on the rod of magic and bent it beyond the point of shattering. The effect was that he came away holding two halves of magic. Seelian, in his shortsightedness, failed to see the shards that would be strewn upon the floor.

-Kylia Humstock, Treatise on the Dangers of Power

The Breaking, an end of the age


The event had cataclysmic effects all over Ea-Reth. The Leyline that ran between Odanis and Arland also ran along a fault line. The strain triggered the fault. The earth opened up. The continent broke in twain. Arland and its Citadel plummeted beneath the sea. Odanis was spared by a mere thousand feet. For weeks the sea rushed to fill the void. The sound like a great gargling monster. The Gargle Canal now separated North and Southern Ovelesk.


South of Yathe the war of the Pey and the Torrians was brought to an abrupt halt when the southern half of Yathe and most of its habitants vanished. All that remained was Torroskar, home of the Torrians. The Lake of Fire disappeared and the Imar, a chasm of fire running from the volcanic mountain chain in Omarond to the Lake, poured into the void. In the West the sea poured into the same. The two mixed and intermingled for the next six hundred years. Torroskar, once a series of natural pinnacles and cliff side dwellings, became an isolated island chain. Tal Aer plummeted beneath the waves. The Gawds likewise vanished. The Towers now empty vestiges of a bygone age. Their effect on evolution stopped.


The Gawds found that there magic was reduced. Those Pey that survived the transition to their new homes, found that much of their power was gone. The Umbla laughed at the new comers to their plane. Will, Word and Birth were no longer enough. With no direct tie to the Weave the Gawds could not access the power they once took for granted. They now had to earn the way the Umbla had during their exile. They needed the believe of mortal followers. The Gawds found they were locked out of the mortal plane, unable to manifest or directly impacted the world.


Magic Users too found that the very nature of magic had shifted. Spells that once worked now failed. Magic Users that could draw directly from the Weave found that their efforts were hampered. To regain their power two new disciplines arose. Subtle magic was adopted by a group that found that by meditation and supplication to the Gawds/Pey/Umbla they could use some spells. During the Third Age clerical orders sprang up across Ovelesk and Yathe dedicated to these Deities. Their use of curative magic became beneficial to the populace and temples were erected and believe spread increasing their power. Vulgar magic was adopt by another large group that found that study of the world, leylines and its inhabitants produced ways to activate spells. Magi became a grouped of learned scholars. Their efforts oft proved powerful and shocking displays of might. The people turned on them, so they hid away in the Citadels and other strongholds of power becoming secluded and suspicious. The Gray Council turned from sharing knowledge to hoarding it. Likewise, the old ties to the Alia Tai were renewed.


As the new age marched on, new methods were invented and other groups arose. The Amon Ka, trapped powerful demons and devils to gain power. The Amon Sil, brokered deals with old Fey spirits gaining their own brand of power. The Tor Siri found that the undead, particularly Vampyre, contained a powerful source of magic. They joined the Council and strengthened it.

Monday, March 10, 2014

FPR - In Which Kiri Splits the Party

This weeks Family Play Report comes a little late. My cousin plays Kiri the Elven Thief. I named her Kiri for the blog my players don't get to pick names until third level. My cousin has never played D&D before. She is not much of a gamer, or a geek but she's smart. We can fix the rest.

The Hangover, Ea-Reth style


This week the party took advantage of Jeff Rients Carousing Rules from the Miscellaneum of Cinder. I read the old rules and as a result gave out more XP than was strictly appropriate per the rules, however the risk vs. reward was equivalent so... next time I am implementing the save vs. poison and will have to work on expanding the table to 100 entries.

The rules as written

  • 1) Player rolls 1d6 (1d8 town, 1d10 city) and a save/less than level
  • 2) Player expends 1d6 x 100 gp (150 gp town, 250 gp city), if gp exceeds PCs wealth debt is owed to an unsavory NPC
  • 3) Player gains XP = GP
  • 4) if the value of the die is less than PCs level or the save is failed then roll a d20 on Jeff's table depending which version of the rules are used

4 of my 7 players partook, with Joel the Knave, Francine the Thief and Kristoph of Tyr abstaining. Now the results:

  • Kiri and Nathalie both rolled a 15 they are wanted by the guards for a money laundering scheme they are implicated in
  • Geoff the Chaotic rolled a 14, he is now a member of secret society, that he can't remember the pass phrases or signs for
  • Ara of Yero rolled an 18 falling head over heels in love with the parties henchman Fred the Ranger. The dwarf must have been attracted to his Bluto style beard... Luckily Fred is single at the moment

All the participating players except for the Cleric are now dirt broke.

The party gathered their wits. The wanted disguising themselves to sneak out of town. They used their map to locate the Azure River, the burnt out city and the two mountain peaks. They forded a river, climbed the narrow path and reached the cliff top. Two lonely buildings stood there, no sign of the Keep they expected. The party camped and awaited sunrise. I missed a choice opportunity to have Fred approach Ara on his watch. In the morning the party entered the dungeon via the slate staircase carefully avoiding the oak stairs.

In the Dungeon

The players slew

  • A Giant Ant (Warrior) - finding a scaled corpse with a necromantic medallion in its belly
  • 9 Giant Rats - guarding 7 stone urns with assorted dangerous goods and 1500 in sp
  • 2 zombies from a room full of shriekers

Kiri the Elves Solo Journey

Kiri and Geoff entered a room with two sofas, an ottoman, and two moth eaten tapestries. Kiri moved about the room poking the walls, while Geoff rubbed his aching feet and sat on the ottoman. After a few minutes a rumbling began beneath the room. Geoff, whose player is an experienced 3E and 4E player, decided to bolt for the archway where the rest of the party huddled. Kiri elected to keep pressing the limestone bricks behind the tapestries. The party was shocked to see the entire room descend taking Kiri with it, elevator style.

Kiri now on a different level, sets about mapping and cautiously exploring. She narrowly avoids a confrontation with three undead. Making her way deeper into the dungeon she hears the clack, clack of approaching toe nails on stone. She quickly makes her way back to hide behind a statue of Seelian Coil. The harpy catches scent of her elven blood and taunts, "Come out my pretty, it has been so long since I have had Fey blood!" As the harpy passes by Kiri springs from her hiding place and takes half the beasts life. Kiri takes two more swings unable to connect. A claw attack causes minor wounds 1 of her 3 HP. Kiri shakes off the charm spell before it can take hold and flees toward the elevator room. She rounds a corner, douses her lantern and stands stock still vanishing as only an OSR thief can. The harpy runs by, Kiri following it down the hall silently. The harpy is searching behind the sofas when the Thief's blade erupts from her chest. Kiri catches her breath and the room ascends to the upper level of the dungeon whence it came.

Kiri finds the party just as Ara deftly smashes a zombies head in. Her mace serving her better than Turn Undead.

We ended there.

Falling Behind - My Failings as a 4E DM

This is a ramble.

I set myself a goal. I made it a week and now I find it slipping through my fingers. Why is that? I am taking a hard look at myself. I work 60 hours a week. I am running an OSR campaign. I write, badly. I paint. I am raising five children. A few years ago I ran two campaigns with four children, a less busy job and started this blog and ran my forums. If I could do it then why am I struggling today?

My 4E campaigns ended two years ago. I called it quits after spotty attendance. Why did I have spotty attendance? I started focusing on combat and story and not on player agency. My first campaign with this group was all about player agency. I would throw out scenarios, missions, events to see what the players would do. Once they made choices I would interpret those choices thru the lens of the world and react. The players loved it. They rose to the challenges. I loved the stories that came about. 4E was really hard to challenge the players, we had a few character deaths along the way and one near TPK. For the most part every PC that started the campaign finished at level 30.

The second go round was less effective. I now believe players were getting bored with 4E. The long combats take there toll. I stopped the campaign in the high 20's, tired of the epic slog fest and crazy prep work. The end of the campaign nearly destroyed the world and I felt the story had run its course. I thought I was tired of magic items, broken characters and the players' lack of desire to set their own goals. Really, I was writing a novel and they were just playing the battles I dictated and adding flavor to the heroic characters. They were improv actors with me directing. I hated it.

My solution was to create a sandbox environment with short quests. I based it around Frandor's Keep but ran in 4E. The campaign was fun, but the long tactical nature of 4E hadn't gone away. I used two hit minions to speed it up but it still didn't fix the issue. We could only get thru a few encounters. The second problem soon reared its head. In creating short quests I hadn't restored enough player agency. Instead of choosing their fate, I had dictated the PCs remain near the Keep and take quests from a list I prepared each week. This was to let me do prep work I told myself. Additionally, I offered the chance for PCs to roll play on the forums with each other and the NPCs. This worked well and sparked some enthusiasm until work forced me to go out of town for several months. I tried to keep up from the hotel, but long hours and an odd schedule made play by post difficult. Following on the heels of that we discovered my youngest son is severely autistic. We tried to play for several more months but as he grew older and stronger it became more difficult. My game grew infrequent and so did players attendance. Rather than let it die, I called for a hiatus. The hiatus was supposed to be temporary. It died. Two years went by. I lost touch with most of those folks. I miss the game, I miss them. I found Hack&Slash. I went aha!

Today, my youngest is taller and wider than this older brother. He has never said a word in his life. I remember the terrible twos from my other children's childhood. Imagine that going on for four years with a child of 100 lbs. It's not the ideal environment to play D&D. Luckily, my family is very understanding. My wife especially. We have always gamed together. We played 3.5 and 4E together. She is running a halfling thief now. Mostly she is chasing the young one about, taking him for rides, and occasionally adding her gaming experience to the plans of the players. Without her the game, my blog and my job wouldn't be possible. OSR is fast combat. Thanks to a lot of folks on the web, I now run a game chalk full of player agency.

I still haven't answered the question have I? Why I am falling behind? Here it is, I look at my posts and say they're not good enough. I have stopped writing eight posts now. They are sitting there glaring back at me, accusing me. Writing the First Age material I pulled an old draft of my novel. Re-reading bits of it, I noticed how much better I think and see the world and how horribly I portray that when I put pen to paper. It's all so clear in my head. I can think about two subjects at once and see the connections but when I try to explain that connection it falls apart. Why? Because I know the world. I don't need to explain A and B to make the A&B connection make sense. The interesting bit is the A&B connection. Well I hope it is. I had been dragging my heels this week because I feared none of this was interesting to anyone but me. Then I got the two comments on my blog. Someone is reading. Those 8000 visits aren't just friends and family. That is surprisingly invigorating. I feel driven to catch up. Watch out world!

What keeps you writing? What keeps you going when your players play with their phones while your talking? How do you deal with the groans when you mention adventure hook?