31 December 2022

Year In Review 2022

We come to the end of the year and looking back 2022 was a pretty good year for gaming - faded a little off 2021 in pure hours but got almost the same number of sessions (59 vs 62) and got lot more different things done including the launch of another campaign and spun up a third.

On running things, got in 26 sessions, over half of them on the Ducal House (3.5e) campaign, the rest 50/50 between the Planescape Splinters (5e) one-shots and the Spelljammer (5e) campaign.

Ducal House (3.5e) - home campaign slowed way down due to scheduling but still ground through some high heroism, got in hex-crawling and labyrinth bashing, old school dealings with petty gods and giants and it is about to enter year 4 with momentum which is nice. Players are still keen as evidenced by the below piece of character art gifted by the bard to the cleric.

Planescape: Splinters (5e) was a series of one-shots on different plans (Mechanus, theBeastlands, Acheron) - usually got 2 sessions with different groups for each plane, much hilarity in how differently things go for the different tables, great to get back on the planes, lessons learned for me in session control time and setting up one-shots

I have to give a grudging star to Spelljammer 5e here because despite my serious gripes about the set, it is also the only WotC release that got a bunch of the old warriors to pull down their swords off the wall and commit to a campaign even before the book dropped - and we managed to follow through *and* after a 2-shot mini-game we've sustained that into running the campaign that came in the box. I've put in a bunch of elbow grease to throw a world I'm happy with around the set pieces from the campaign but the combo seems to be working well.

28 December 2022

Actual Test: Downtime as Worldbuilding

In the back of the Downtime in Zyan zine, after the downtime actions, we get 10 prompts for prepping your campaign to help "develop your setting, create your starting community, and stock your map with sites of exploration and treasure that encourage the use of downtime activities." I reviewed Downtime in Zyan previously and decided to test out this workflow as a world-building tool.

The prompts, or steps to run through, are:
1. Institutions operating in the starting community where play begins.
2. Master artisans that currently reside there.
3. A rival adventuring party.
4. A secret location where spiritual exercises can be performed.
5. A secret location with a trove of otherwise inaccessible and valuable information.
6. A secret location where special revelry can be engaged in.
7. Some legendary institutions, now gone.
8. Some prolific master craftsmen of the distant past.
9. A tragically lost magical book.
10. A remarkable material that could be used to fashion splendid artifacts.

Downtime in Zyan, showing cover art by Evlyn Moreau

26 December 2022

Shiny TTRPG links #100

100 links round-ups! I hope everyone is having a relaxing vacation period, certainly the run up was productive for many! More can be found on the previous list found here. The original inspiration for all of this - weaver.skepti.ch End of Week links. You can find even more links on the weekly blogroll on r/OSR or the RPG Blog Carnival or a roundup of non-blog news on Third Kingdom Games roundup.

Friend of the blog Joy and Forgetfulness speaks in Review: The Wargaming Compendium by Henry Hyde

Traverse Fantasy has crunched some numbers in OSR Rules Families

Weaver.skepti.ch shares the Initiation Maze

The Wandering Gamist proposes Bug-Orcs

Welcome to the Deathtrap gives us Developing A World Through Encounter Tables

Sundered Shields and Silver Shillings gives us More Cheap Tricks

I Cast Light! asks BLOG!: Good God! What Is It Good For?

A Slow Circle has some good thinking in Bridging the Player Information Gap

24 December 2022

Actual Test: Deck Of Worlds

I need to build out the surrounds about my starter town - and what just arrives in the door? The Story Engine and The Deck of Worlds. I set the Story Engine aside for now because the Deck of Worlds was exactly what I needed to shake some life into a regional hex-crawl. I got this from a kickstarter where it scratched two itches, that of dabbling novelist and also of dungeonmaster. The sub-title across the front of the box says 'the deck of endless world building' and I can see this getting a lot of use if it works.

The box comes with an 8-page booklet, 6-pages are the instructions - how the deck works, creating microsettings, interpretting a microsetting, creating a world map, building nuanced worlds, multiplayer rules and how to combine with the Story Engine deck. My campaign is manifesting as a zoom down into a region, based around a tavern in a fly-speck town. I have a global scale map, but I need to build out a region, so we are going to try about half of these.

Besides the instructions we get 6 stacks of cards - Regions, Landmarks, Namesakes, Origins, Attributes and Advents. Each deck is square with nice, non-specific art - not as clearly fantasy-land as the Izirions West Marches Location Deck - but it is supposed to be more universal than that. RPGs are just one subset of users.

The process from the instructions is to:
1. Draw a Region to establish terrain type
2. Draw a Landmark and tuck it beneath the region so one of the two options is showing to give a point of interest
3. Draw a Namesake and place it so either the region or landmark is named with one of the four options to create in-world names
4. Draw an Origin card and tuck it under the region or landmark to leave one of the four options showing and detail the history of the location
5. Draw an Attribute and do similar to give the present day features
6. Draw an Advent card and place it the same way to finish with 'gunpowder' - crisis points or looming change

21 December 2022

Review: Spelljammer: Adventures in Space (5e)

tl:dr; evocative art returns to a great aesthetic but no rules support for building campaigns.

I had this on order, got it as soon as it came out and have commented on some aspects already - particularly thoughts at the time of the Spelljammer announcement where I thought 'with all these ship minis, there must be some ship combat system, right?' and then as the first previews hit the web on How Much Flying Ship Combat System Is Enough? I also managed to table test the combat rules before I got to finalising this.

At this point I feel a bit monkeys-pawed. I said 'hey, for an RPG sourcebook, all you really need is evocative art and you can pretty much cook up everything else from there'. Yes. Well.

20 December 2022

Shiny TTRPG links #99

Gloriously free from work for the year - have trawled the interwebs for delightful links. More can be found on the previous list found here. The original inspiration for all of this - weaver.skepti.ch End of Week links. You can find even more links on the weekly blogroll on r/OSR or the RPG Blog Carnival or a roundup of non-blog news on Third Kingdom Games roundup.

This week we get an awesome haul of dungeon building tricks and techniques on the back of #dungeon23:
A thread from @yungdumbitch on More #Dungeon23 reading
@DuvelmanDice tweets #Dungeon23 Resources Vault
Hexed Press prepares Dungeon23 Helper
Sersa Victory gives us Cyclic Dungeon Generation
Swamp of Monsters! shares how i did my megadungeon
macchiato master compiles dungeon23 tools - dungeon23
All Dead Generations shares DUNGEON23 WORKSHEETS
Monsters and Manuals gives us On Dungeon23 and the Correct Way to Write Dungeon Room Descriptions
Archons March On gives us The Osprey's Bastards, and Scourge-Flutes - Notes for Dungeon 2023

Weaver.skepti.ch adjusts hidden depth tables in Tasking 24 or 12

Prismatic Wasteland continues Hexcrawl Checklist: Part Two

Dangerously Rare Elixirs And Decoctions proposes D20 "Alternatives to scrolls"

Bat in the Attic masterclass continues in A Fantasy Sandbox in Detail Part XXIII

Le Chaudron Chromatique gives us Lot of stuff!

17 December 2022

Culture of the insectfolk - Beetlescale

Inspired by images of little ants riding on big ants and tarantulas keeping tiny frogs, what does it look like when you get creatures operating on such different scales, they can climb on top of one another (and have sufficiently relaxed concepts of personal space as to be happy to do this)?

Conceptually, think about keeping racoons and the racoons having pets themselves, everyone carving out their own niche. The biggest creatures live in the spaces, the mid size creatures can share those spaces, around the edges, under the tables, up on the shelves and so on - and the smallest creatures can live in the walls and ceilings, maybe interacting with the mid-size creatures but being careful around the largest creatures who could hurt them without noticing

So - cultural aspects of the insectfolk:
- Things and space are fleeting, give generously
- Know one another by their deeds, accept all who join the great work
- Work hard to be lazy

14 December 2022

What fraction of us are DMs

Reading the articles around the WotC announcement of the plans to milk us all for every penny we are worth (Dungeons & Dragons executives think “the brand is really under monetised”) - one of the things they said was 'DM's are 20% of the customers' - and I wondered if we see that anywhere in our various surveys?

At its most basic, 1-in-5 DM's implies a standard table size of DM-plus-four-players - and I think there are more of us running for bigger tables than that.

Pulling together some surveys which say how many folk people play with, we get signs that many people are playing on bigger tables - except for the MegaDM survey, more than 50% of players are at tables of 5+. Even the MegaDM survey has 45% of tables larger than 4 players. There is the question about people playing at different tables of different sizes but since the question asked is 'how many do you play with' let us suppose that people have more or less responded with the typical number for their overall experience.

12 December 2022

Shiny TTRPG links #98

A lot of interesting thoughts in threads this week. More can be found on the previous list found here. The original inspiration for all of this - weaver.skepti.ch End of Week links. You can find even more links on the weekly blogroll on r/OSR or the RPG Blog Carnival or a roundup of non-blog news on Third Kingdom Games roundup.

Methods & Madness shares Railroading paradoxes (plus: diegetic RR, meta-RR, ticking bombs, good and bad RR, deus ex machina, etc.)

Caltrops for Breakfast shares Reaction Rolls Aren’t All About You

dragons.ie shares Diegetic Mechanics in TTRPGs

#Dungeon23 gather momentum:

Win Conditions proposes #Dungeon23

Mazirian's Garden chimes in DUNGEON23

Welcome to the Deathtrap offers the alternatives Hex23

Goblin Archives tweets a thread on megadungeon resources

@perplexingruins tweets D88 + 8 morphs

Tower of the Archmage also weighs in on #Dungeon23

10 December 2022

Setting up for Session Minus One

Setting up a new campaign, it will be remote and with a bunch of folk wrangled together by the bard - a half dozen folk I have never met before. I've got an idea for the campaign but my first area for focus is the session minus one or 'do I want to play with these people, do they want to be in a game I am proposing to DM.' Assuming the answer is yes, we will proceed straight to Session Zero - but the question must be asked first.

This is on my mind as I was subjected to a particularly hectoring pre-game brief recently that made me want to get up from the table and walk just then. Much of it was good in concept but the delivery annoyed me because it took those good ideas and then gave reasons for them that were absolutely not what I would say. To stay and agree to go along with these table rules (reasonable ones) because you were subscribing to some very specific socio-political views not even from the country we were sitting in. Yes I think these tools are good to use. No, I do not agree with certain takes on why we should use them - but let us not mention that and just use the tools.

I have worked a day job where 'safety first' was a mantra, I've done the pre-job briefings, and if you want people to take them seriously, you have to tailor them to the hazards folk are likely to face in that current situation. Devoting time and energy to hazards which do not apply at that job site just make the briefing hot air and people switch off. Part of setting up to make sure a thing gets done right is by pitching your brief at the right level; some things can be just a confirmatory check - we do not have such hazards present here, right? - and then move on. Other things need to be talked out in detail to establish just how we want to approach a matter and making sure that everyone is on the same page. This balance needs to be gotten right so that people present understand that the person going through the topic has paid attention and is not just rote-reading a list they got.

Anyway - I am trying to take this bad feeling onboard and figure out how to set out some table rules, more popularly called safety tools, that will work to get a bunch of strangers playing together with the minimum of friction, maximum of fun - and without fumbling it and having them never darken my table again. As put by the MCDM team - "ways to formalize the process of getting everyone at the table on the same page about the topics and themes you’ll be exploring as you play."

Broadly this breaks down to:
- What is the game we want to play? Spanning from things people do not want to have in through to atmosphere, activities in focus, ruleset.
- How are we going to play together? Includes the nuts-and-bolts logistics but also some ground rules for communication, especially if people do not know one-another already
- Feedback loops to enhance the positive.

07 December 2022

Getting More Gaming In

So 2022 has turned out to be an unexpectedly active year - an overall downtick on hours after 2021's banner year but still a lot more gaming than I might have thought.

I've been running three games - continuing the Ducal House 3.5e home campaign that has been running since 2020 and starting up a series of planar one-shots (5e Planescape: Splinters of Hope) and a 2-shot-turned-into-campaign 5e Spelljammer game (Interstellar Whaling becoming The King Beyond The Clouds).

I got to play a bunch of things too
- lots of hours onto finishing out the Out of the Abyss campaign
- started playing through Tyranny of Dragons
- played some old-school Scarlet Heroes sessions
- attended my local Adventurers League for a few sessions twixt lockdowns
- played in the Empyrean Dynasty online FKR game

05 December 2022

Shiny TTRPG links #97

Back at base, trawling through the backlog of shiny TTRPG things from the past fortnight. More can be found on the previous list found here. The original inspiration for all of this - weaver.skepti.ch End of Week links. You can find even more links on the weekly blogroll on r/OSR or the RPG Blog Carnival or a roundup of non-blog news on Third Kingdom Games roundup.

Eldritch Fields writes Subterranean Gate: the scariest thing in Heroes III and something I'd like to see more of in hexcrawls

A Slow Circle continues Social Interaction 2: Examples from D&D, Naturalistic Interaction Mechanics, Ability Checks & Reaction Rolls

Cavegirl tweets A thread on making classic D&D races properly weird

David J Prokopetz posts further thoughts on making D&D folk really distinct

What a Horrible Night to Have a Curse... discusses The 5E to OSR Pipeline

Methods & Madness writes The B/X paradox (also: the AD&D paradox, minimum viable D&D)

Barking Alien gives us RPG Reconnect Via RPG Connect

d4 Caltrops shares d100 - Five Hundred Names for Dolmenwood Games

Monsters and Manuals writes on The Phenomenology of Death in D&D

Deeper in the Game gives us Maps for Play 2 – The Ring Map Layout

03 December 2022

Campaign spin up IV: letting the map speak

Spinning up a new campaign for the new year I'm folding together two things - a high concept, top-down approach and a geography-is-destiny map-led bottom-up blocking in of details.

Conceptually this is a Brancalonia re-skin (using E6) with lots of animal-lings mixed in, using the southern hemisphere of my home-campaigns world.

In execution this is going to be something like a West Marches campaign in that I want a pool of drop-in, drop-out players with it being relatively resilient to missing players. It will be online as one of the big hooks was to cater to a distant DM-less group of players who reached out to me.

I've skimmed over the implications of geography for this world before and now we go deep into the western edge of the primary trading ocean. Historically this was all once the domain of sea-faring elves, who came, conquered, and raised up the animals to become animal-lings long ago. The elves have since left and our play space is the decaying remains of that empire and the cities within it.

The sketched in workflow I have is:
Work out the cities of the south and ports in communication - cities with the port tag in any of the neighbouring kingdoms plus any large river ports I can spot
See who the likely active factions are in a similar way, then decide their attitudes and major players
Salt in some rumoured dungeons and treasures (likely to be abandoned elf-holds or ruined towns)
Try the 'Downtime in Zyan' generator to layer in some individual-level detail.
Come up with a rumour or two per city based on what it is known for

30 November 2022

Closing a old gaming loop

Space allowed recovery of my old Spelljammer folder; cover is one of the divider art pieces that came with Monstrous Compendium Spelljammer Appendix and the spine logo I think was cut out of the cover. It was never actually got to contain a Spelljammer campaign back in the 2e days, it held notes for my sprawling teen AD&D campaign, the Monstrous Compendium pages and miscellanea - until now!

I now have managed to get this relic to my current abode and have now got notes from my 2-shot and what is looking like a remixed Light of Xaryxis campaign.

The original campaign I recall wanting to run was centered around a crashed Gnomish sidewheeler that the adventurers would stumble upon, be fascinated by and then boot-strap their way to the stars from there. Bless my innocence at planning the meat of the campaign to occur only after so many dominoes had fallen the right way. Needless to say, never happened and I had nothing on the cards for after they got space-borne beyond thinking Spelljamming was intrinsically cool. Looking back I would have planted some hooks that needed the players to get up to Wildspace to deal with them, then maybe they would have gone with wizards or pegasi or something but at least it would have been directionally correct.

I did manage a minor cameo for a Mindspider in a planar one-shot I wrote as a convention game in college - they had a rebadged Mindspider as some sort of Tso plane-jammer for a raid on Gehenna. I cannot recall what they were even doing there - the scenario was called Mockingbat Keep, it was infested with Varangoin and they needed to deal with those. It worked well enough in the ship served as a point to HALO jump off, using potions of feather-fall - but that was the extent of my Spelljamming for a good long while.

Flyers made an appearance as *anti*-Spelljammer defences in Hikuru - a world that had been oppressed by elves needed means to stave off the Elven Imperial Navy and ended up with large warriors mounted on over-bred wyverns. Not much for off-planet force projection but good for dominating the local skies.

Finally Spelljammer 5e comes around ignites interest in my ancestral gaming group - coupled with all our comfort with remote play a window of opportunity opens and I have managed to stuff through a 2-shot concept test - the Interstellar Whaling game fed by my Gygax-75 run - which proved such a success we are continuing with the same game.

It is a very nice prospect to have a decent shot at filling out this old folder with game notes, I am glad I hung on to it all these years. Much of the content is being generated digitally for maps which is a note if I want anyone to get anything from pulling it down off a shelf in the future - printouts will have to get included or none of it will make sense. We discussed player note taking around the table of a thanks-giving gathering and how hard it would be to draw sense from the average gamers notes - similarly for a DM's notes I fear - so this time I am going to try and give my future self a chance and be more organised.

28 November 2022

Shiny TTRPG links #96

Only some high-lights inbetween time on the road. More can be found on the previous list found here. The original inspiration for all of this - weaver.skepti.ch End of Week links. You can find even more links on the weekly blogroll on r/OSR or the RPG Blog Carnival or a roundup of non-blog news on Third Kingdom Games roundup.

Talaraska gives us Odd Loot Items

Tales of the Lunar Lands shares Gods of the Lunar Lands

Scriptorium Ludi writes Deeds not Words

Weaver.skepti.ch gives us Orcs of the North

Rise Up Comus joins RPG Blogs as Fantasy Taverns

Gundobad Games writes On Running Very Different Types of Games

liches get stitches gives us Ichi Plains Region: Uncompahgre Basin

A Knight at the Opera shares Dragons of the Great Game

The Wyrd Lands gives us Building Wyrd Beasts: Trolls

Spriggan's Den opines The common narrative of OSR gaming is all wrong!

26 November 2022

Domain-level dirty tricks (part 2 - tactical)

Returning to our extracts from an old Birthright game I was involved in, playing the communist goblins of the Bluepeaks islands. Writing this up as a drop-in realm for anyone who might need a competent ally or a dangerously persistent foe - although these tactical ideas could probably suit many smaller scale foes as their 'grand plans' also.

Recalling the realm concept was of goblins having a vision and realising their ill-treatment at the hands of the world, then setting out on a hallucinogenic fueled messianic conversion spree and finding welcoming ears in the scattered minions of a recently deceased dark wizard.

The dark wizards old citadel became a Wizards Academy - the Labyrinth - and was a research powerhouse on the general theme of what can be done with shard-crystals - the crystallisation of magic and its use in various kinds of techno-arcanic lunacy. Large quantities its fairly harmless and inert - i.e. a shardstone vein would sit quietly under a village without having much effect beyond causing a fair few seers and two headed calfs - but broken down to crystals its causes mutations, nightmares, trees to walk, poisons wells, and if you go as far as powdering it, its explosive, unstable, addictive, and when snorted, spiked or smoked gives you incredible power - which you either use or it melts your brain.

In-game this was Birthrights meigbheal being used as these wicked crystals which went into both chargable magical items (straight lifts from Eberron Dragonshard) and into crazy Skaven and Cryx tech - Warpfire throwers, Jezzails and Deathjacks.
- Weaponry – Jezzails with shardcraft bullet, shardfire throwers, shardlightning casters, poison wind globes, explosives, incendiaries
- Artifice – mimirs, navigation arrays, scrying devices – mostly derivatives of well known things except that they would use shard-crystals as fuel and be inert without – real ‘Skaventech’ feel
- Breeding – using shardcraft to develop means to improve beings – would be reflected in ‘grafts’ both surgical and mutated – brains in jars to create rudimentary ‘computers’
- Augmentation – developing a subtler level of use of shardcraft – ingestion focussed. This would be the combat drugs, shardsnuff for magic enhancement
- Winnowing – magical plagues, shard-dust poison gasses
- Eternity Project – retaining the skills and knowledge of the talented through soulcapture

Essentially, the Bluepeaks were very conscious of being very small and very few, so anything that could fight and die in our place, from bacterium up to Helljacks, all to the good.

Below are some of the direct action concepts prepared against the day of need:

23 November 2022

Capsule Reviews #5: TTRPG Tsundoku

Inspired by Jeff Grubbs Game Tsundoku blogpost I want to take a glance over my TTRPG book Tsundoku - the books that have piled up.

Actively intended for review (notes in partially complete state)

21 November 2022

Shiny TTRPG links #95

Short set this week as I travel. More can be found on the previous list found here. The original inspiration for all of this - weaver.skepti.ch End of Week links. You can find even more links on the weekly blogroll on r/OSR or the RPG Blog Carnival or a roundup of non-blog news on Third Kingdom Games roundup.

Tales of the Lunar Lands gives us More Amusing Historicisms

Gorgon Bones shares Between the Serpents of Smoke & Steel - Setting Primer

Eldritch Fields presents Quick Equipment Packs

Whose Measure God Could Not Take gives us Nine Horse Wizard Spells

CROSS PLANES writes Dungeon Mastering 101: Its okay to not be okay

Leicester's Ramble gives us Appendix N vs Appendix N

The World of PhilosopherZeus writes Folklore in RPGs

Underground Adventures shares Thoughts about Hits in Diceless Combat

A Knight at the Opera declares Enough Dweeb Adventures

Grand Commodore gives us Butterflyman Raiding Party

Monsters and Manuals writes How Creativity Works, or 'The September Kingdom'

Traverse Fantasy shares FMC Alpha Errata

Scriptorium Ludi gives us Preliminary Review: MCDM’s Kingdoms & Warfare

19 November 2022

Domain-level dirty tricks (part 1 - strategic)

Extracted from an old Birthright game I was involved in, playing the communist goblins of the Bluepeaks islands. Writing this up as a drop-in realm for anyone who might need a competent ally or a dangerously persistent foe.

Realm concept was based around some goblins having a vision and realising their ill-treatment at the hands of the world was bullshit. They set out on a hallucinogenic fueled messianic conversion spree and found fertile soil in the realm of a dark wizard who had recently been killed leaving the shattered remnants of their minions behind and open to new ideas for self-governance.

The Bluepeaks were well aware they were starting well behind all the major realms on the power curve and could expect neither charity or mercy when their attention finally fell on these upstart gobbos so survival and the carrying of their Vision past any battlefield defeat, were the doctrines of the realm.

Major realm projects

16 November 2022

Review: The Folio - Roslof Campaign

One of two sets of adventures that represent my personal tide-line for collection - the Art of the Genres 'The Folio' series has long caught my eye as some extremely pretty content. I have resisted through multiple kickstarter campaigns as already what I have nudges SABLE - that knitters metric of "stash acquired beyond life expectancy" - at this point I am planning to hand my collection down to the next generation. However! I managed to get my hands on some of the Folio series - the Roslof Campaign - in a recent bundle and got to have a look.

Covers of Folio's 1-6 by Jim Roslof & Travis Hanson, Jim Holloway, Todd Lockwood, Daniel Horne, Jeff Dee, David Martin

There is a common structure to all these - nice art work, with a declared mission statement of recreating the old school feel of "adventure through the eyes of artists like Jeff Dee, Erol Otus, Bill Willingham, and Jim Roslof" and giving a framework for running your own sandbox like such classics as The Village of Hommlet and Keep on the Borderlands. I see a lot of the same artists that used to appear in Dragon magazine in the 90s and it definitely brings back that feel for me. Apart from the art we get double-column writing on most pages, mostly good editing with a few typos here and there. Everything is statted for 1e and 5e. We also get some nice maps - both in old school white-on-blue which is fine and also great 3D isometric maps.

Going through the actual content of each of the sections, what do we get?

14 November 2022

Shiny TTRPG links #94

Interesting links from the start of November. More can be found on the previous list found here. The original inspiration for all of this - weaver.skepti.ch End of Week links. You can find even more links on the weekly blogroll on r/OSR or the RPG Blog Carnival or a roundup of non-blog news on Third Kingdom Games roundup.

Traverse Fantasy launches the retro-ist of retro-clones in FMC is Out!!!

The Alexandrian gives us Pointcrawls

Mindstorm shares The Pirate Crew

homunculus-argument talks writes worldbuilding

What's On Your Mind Then? gives us Making Cultures, Not Races

Sly Flourish shares Reach Satisfying Campaign Conclusions

Revenant's Quill reports on Den of Wolves Megagame

Gorgon Bones shares How I got into the OSR

Weaver.skepti.ch writes Sprezzatura

Idiom Drottning gives us The Good and Bad of Random

12 November 2022

Attitudes of Upper Planar denizens

Continuing thoughts on how to make the inhabitants of neighbouring planes feel distinct, following a prompting comment from the Lower Planes post. Setting up for a new Planescape campaign I was putting some thought into how to make the inhabitants of the Lower Planes feel different one from the other. There is already a good distinctiveness between the terrains of the different levels of the different planes and while it is fine if the many celestials feel similar wherever you run into them the general inhabitants of the planes should have something to differentiate them.

For the upper planes the challenge is slightly different in that you are probably not here to just murder the locals so that means there is no adventure to be had, right? Well, probably not but you do need to work a little harder to set up adventures that make sense. Following on from our previous example, each of the upper planes should best typify some virtue though none of these will be exclusive to that plane.

The key point of upper planes is concern for and helping others - not the selfishness of the lower planes - and a high trust of each other. This may not extend to outsiders but amongst one another the denizens of the upper planes are living in a high-trust society. For outsiders there can be problems - Mount Celestia is unclimbable by those who do not abide by its strictures - but assuming that the locals spend most of their time interacting with each other, these aspects will govern their outlook and attitudes.

This means that whenever outsiders get roped in, it has to be some problem that either slipped under the radar of the locals, is something so weird that they cannot deal with or is something that the locals do not recognise as a problem. This last is especially high risk as this has a high risk of the adventuring interlopers slotting into the role of extraplanar reavers and drawing a robust response with every local turning against them.

Going plane by plane
Arcadia - a place of harmony and service of the greater good. Everyone is working in their assigned way for the greater good of all. The Needs of the Many are held as a cardinal virtue. The system is held as good because good people are working within the system. Ones role is strictly delineated and life is highly predictable and this is all held as good.
Mount Celestia - someone has to do it, that someone is us. The beacon of justice tempered by mercy, Celestians see their way as the best way, good and ordered, and if anyone else thinks differently they are wrong (mistaken in the case of other good entities, dangerous or maliciously wrong in the case of others). The team works, with the rules adjusted where the letter would violate the spirit. Most engaged with the rest of the outer planes, certainly in awareness, though the sheer scale of the task of bringing justice to the multiverse has led to a tendency for the perfect to become the enemy of the good and what actions happen not making all that much of a dent.
Bytopia - doing what you can so that all may have what they need, indulging in the pleasure of an honest days work for a just reward. Work in good cheer, help from the neighbours and everyone pitching in are the hallmarks of Bytopia. Can also manifest in a slightly Pleasantville style approach of everyone making assumptions that you will fall in with their plans. At its best, all for one and one for all, with people helping selflessly to overcome your problems. The proactive problem solving can come across as intrusive to outsiders.
Elysium - where rest has been earned and one need only have faith that all will be well. The denizens here lived a good life and have come to their reward in the hereafter. The attitude here is acknowledging your concern but seeing it as just another cycle. They fought their demons in their time, all this has been seen before. Can come across as complacent or patronising because your urgent concerns are tiny against eternity. The local celestial guardians, the Guardinals, are likely to firmly send you away if you disturb the locals earned peace too much. Everyone should care, but because this is a balance point it can stall into 'be at peace' without any impetus to act.
Beastlands - harmony with nature. The locals attitude is take only what you need, leave as light a trace as you can, be generous with what you have, welcome the stranger. The rules are the changing of the seasons, the cycles of life. The locals will be happy to host you, to welcome the respectful to their campfires but they will be hard to persuade that the frantic flailings of most civilizations are worth concern. The great cycle of nature will turn and all will return to the wilderness in good time.
Arborea - following your heart, where passions reign. The locals are ruled by passions greater than themselves, joys, sorrows, they wear their hearts on their sleeves and act upon it. Fast friends but also demanding. Words are not as important as people but balancing the needs and wants of many people absorbs a great deal of energy. At best this is spontaneous, joyful living, however everyone can be individually well intentioned but the result can be a mess that noone wanted, so getting anything done can involving going around in circles and a lot of cat herding.
Ysgard - freedom and courage are held highly. They welcome any to their hearth but respect must be earned to get beyond the feast-and-tales level. The telling of tales is held in high regard, but of the valour of heroes not the bloody grind of the uncaring battlefield. Fighting the good fight is the highest virtue; with a strong bias to action and seizing the day to live gloriously. Quickest to action, trusting in their prowess and courage to win the day, trying to plan with Ysgardians is like trying to restrain an avalanche.

Thinking up scenarios to showcase a planes aspects and the attitudes of the inhabitants we could suggest some of the following:

Arcadia - the plane of harmony, participating in the great good could have some kind of puzzle about figuring out how to get to where you need to go by learning timetables and patterns - a maze but in time - where the hazards are all delays. Something akin to around the world in 80 days?

Mount Celestia - the Bastion of Justice - here you will have to contend with navigating the heavy-handed locals who will want to know what you are up to, where you are going and why they should let you do anything on their plane. Expect to have to convince a number of powerful entities and frame all your actions in how they contribute to furthering Law and Good in the multiverse.

Bytopia - land of collective endeavour and freedom of opportunity - noone is an island, so expect the locals to help, even without you asking. The challenge becomes managing the locals all getting involved - if you are here to take something, you may need to trade or earn your right to take it after they help you get it.

Elysium - here the challenge is getting somewhere without getting mired in the many, many momentum sinks. Do not eat of the lotus, nor join the meditation circle, nor take the offers to lay down your cares. You have a mission! Like threading your way through a maze of traps but these traps are unending hospitality and the loss of all impetus.

Beastlands - here hunter becomes the hunted. Stalk a predator on their own terrain, or traverse the hunting grounds of something big to get where you need to go. An example I ran can be found here.

Arborea - expect a quest in the Olympic tradition, something involving conquering difficult odds. You may be able to get help to come along with you but the great deeds will need to be yours. Expect the opposition to be those roused to passions and acting counter to you - for love, glory, the best of reasons. A quick calm chat would probably solve things but this will be moving far too fast already.

Ysgard - quests and raids, with honor at stake. You will need to prove your worthiness for passage or assistance and expect the locals to be very territorial. After all, any Ysgardian that falls in battle wakes again at the following dawn - death here holds no fear for them, so violence often wins out over patience.

09 November 2022

Review: Downtime in Zyan

tl:dr; handy downtime systems, modular enough to fit both old-school train-to-level tables and any others that just want to make time between active adventures valuable

Through Ultans Door describes the dream-city of Immortal Zyan - collectively one of the classic zines of the OSR. I talked about issues #1 and #2 and issue #3 before - today we look at the newly arrived Downtime in Zyan - Actvities Between Adventures.

photo of newly arrived Downtime in Zyan, showing cover art by Evlyn Moreau

07 November 2022

Shiny TTRPG links #93

Links that caught my eye as I traversed the web this week. More can be found on the previous list found here. The original inspiration for all of this - weaver.skepti.ch End of Week links. You can find even more links on the weekly blogroll on r/OSR or the RPG Blog Carnival or a roundup of non-blog news on Third Kingdom Games roundup.

Whose Measure God Could Not Take proposes Reviewvember 2022


Archons March On gives us Some More Animal Name Monsters - But From French This Time

GROGNARDIA argues The Real Adventure Was the Random Encounters We Had Along the Way

Weaver.skepti.ch proposes a nice alternative frame in Qualifying Advantage

Methods & Madness gives us Sandbox quest, part I and Part II

Daily Adventure Prompts gives us Drafting the Adventure: Dungeons, An Introduction.

Welcome to the Deathtrap gives us What's in a Label?

Spriggan's Den has a view on future sourcebooks in Unforgotten Realms

Graphite Prime gives us On 2nd Edition...

Methods & Madness gives us My favorite B/X house rules / changes / bits from other editions [2022]

05 November 2022

Actual Test: 5e Spelljammer: Adventures in Space (Fantasy Space Combat Rules Part 6)

Tl;dr: if you want actual guidance on running fantasy flying ship combat, you need to look elsewhere.

Our previous effort tested two magazine-published sets of rules for fighting magical flying ships - the 3e adaptation Shadow of the Spider Moon and the 5e Aces High aerial combat rules from Arcadia #3 published by MCDM as well as the original AD&D Spelljammer and the to-be-published OD&D compatible Calidar and the gridless, Theater of the Mind house ruleset for the Spelljamming focused 'Tales from the Glass Guarded World' podcast.

Between running Spelljammer Academy at my local Adventurers League and an online 2-shot mini-campaign - the Interstellar Whaling mentioned on previous posts - I have gotten an unexpected amount of opportunities to test out the new 5e Spelljammer rules - and so how do they stack up? Certainly the sessions themselves were fun but this was no thanks to what came in the 5e Spelljammer: Adventures in Space books. As predicted, I got jack all in terms of mechanics or guidelines on how to run a decent flying ship combat session so while it worked pretty well at the table, it was only because I finessed across a lot of gaps.

02 November 2022

d20 Plot hooks drawn from PCs' noble house (GLoGtober #8)

Since I forgot to start at the start of October, I am running my GLoGtober out a week to catch the two posting slots I should have filled in the month itself. We return to the prompt from the list on GLoGtober '22: Under New Management from Phlox to talk about "Plot hooks drawn from PCs' families"

This is a list of hooks launched, resolved or ignored from running a noble house campaign. The house, the PC's family, has proved a rich vein of hooks - from the fun and frivolous to the worrisome. The mixing of family with rulership and personal possession of ancient halls and mysterious depths gives great fodder for adventure.

d10 Bigger, worrisome hooks
1. - grandfather the Duke seeks a battlefield death to speed them on their way to the afterlife. They are seriously ill but have been granted a short renewal of vitality and have embarked on an epic quest with it. The quest must succeed but noone but the Duke wants them to die doing it.
2. - After the Dukes death a successor must be chosen from his children. Their are a number of candidates, a number of whom have times to different PCs.
3. - A cousin wants to come on adventurers but is sadly out of their depth. They are partially shielded by a relatively competent retinue of companions but still have ambitions well above their capabilities and will need this to be demonstrated before they can be dissuaded from their ambitions. Doing this without getting them killed will be a challenge.
4. - A brother to a PC has turned up at the winter court with a princess of a cadet line of the royal house leading to significant concern from the representative of the royal house as to whether the most powerful duchy in the realm was seeking to align with a rival line to the crown and 'adjust' succession or even the current occupant of the throne.
5. - An ancient ancestor has had a vision and needs to be escorted to a place. They have significant oracular talents but are also fragile and have spent over a century in a monastery and have no independent survival skills.
6. - The family is in dissarray about what to do with the many challenges facing the court while no strong leader sits on the throne. Someone needs to investigate what is critical and then persuade their aunts and uncles as to what to do.
7. - An upcoming wedding has dragged the political concerns from the home realm of the 'in-law-to-be' to the PC's realm. Expect conspiracies, spies, shapeshifters and magical shenanigans.
8. - A guest to the great house has vanished and some of the older house staff think they may have somehow activited great-grandmothers extra-dimensional closet which access the fae realms, she being a fey. Someone has to figure out how they used to work and fish out the guest.
9. - An aunt writes, that her court has fallen to some manner of curse. She thinks it may be related to a great dragon that has started lairing in the nearby mountains and is malignly influencing all the dragon-blooded folk of the court but she needs trusted outsiders to help deal with it.
10. - Two senior members of the house have gone out of contact in the border war along the north. It is the depth of winter but someone needs to go find them or at least take charge of the forces in the north until they can be found.

Expanding to minor concerns:

31 October 2022

Shiny TTRPG links #92

Delightful links for your amusement. More can be found on the previous list found here. The original inspiration for all of this - weaver.skepti.ch End of Week links. You can find even more links on the weekly blogroll on r/OSR or the RPG Blog Carnival or a roundup of non-blog news on Third Kingdom Games roundup.

of Dice and Dragons announces the ending of an era in Sunsetting the RPG Blog Alliance. Anyone with the know-how and capacity to pick this up would be doing us all a great service.

A Knight at the Opera writes You Suck at Keeping your One-Offs as One-Offs

A Slow Circle discusses Art and Inspiration in RPGs

From Kuroth's Quill on making undead scarier in October in Greyhawk: Things that Go Bump in the Night

Spooky Rusty writes i review 'liminal high school' and interview the author evlyn moreau

From the Sorcerer's Skull gives us Astral Space, The Final Frontier

Rotten Pulp presents This Haunted Land - Languages

Pointless Monument launches their blog with Minimum Viable Worldbuilding - The Rule of 5

We have collectively decided that our hex-crawling practices need revising - Prismatic Wasteland gives us Hexcrawl Checklist: Part One and Silverarm writes Down With The 6 Mile Hex! A Modest Proposal

Weaver.skepti.ch writes on Vision Quests

29 October 2022

d10 Esoterica of the Menagerie world (GLoGtober #7)

Taking a prompt from the list on GLoGtober '22: Under New Management we discuss "Cycles of violence" from a promptlist by CatDragon

Taking our definition as "things understood by or meant for a select few; recondite matters or items." we get Esoterica of the Menagerie world.

Types of strange and restricted knowledge begin with those close to the sources of power.

Individual wizards in their towers have been following the ancient traditional ways of knowledge hoarding and apprenticeship. These are at one time both the most known and hardest to access pools of knowledge - what wizard knows what, which one would be willing to speak?

Next are the sages, both individually and collective, who are more open to talking but more limited in what any one of them can speak to. They can direct you to others who can help but you may need to travel a lot

The temples of Ioun would be what most common folk would think of as the place they were most likely to get an answer to their obscure question. In the greater cities, extensive basement and sub-basement sprawl house many diligent and specialist acolytes who tend the collected knowledge of obscure and ancient topics and can answer questions, usually after some waiting

Any number of cults, craft guilds and other associations may keep their own histories and secrets in either written or oral form, passed to initiates. The difficulty in knowing who might know what and getting them to reveal what they know makes this a rarely followed path.

Libraries of certain noble houses can be useful - some are little more than records of their lineage and the affirming histories of the house, just a room of sooks testifying to their legitimacy, but others contain the passing curiousities of members of the house and can be deep and extensive gatherings of lore on a topic

Personal memories of long lived races, stories passed on from a millenia old sire to a now millenia old adult can reach deeply into the past and be vivid witness to obscure deeds - provided you can find the ancient being and persuade them to talk

Oracles, seers and other visionaries can sometimes be persuaded to turn their third-sight to the distant past, but depending on the topic and the things being scryed upon they may refuse.

Once past these many sources of 'living' history - active collections or experts - one must consult the silent voices of the past in records and remnants. Some of these may be found in fragments in certain collections and most of these are known as places to seek answers but none are freely available and must be sought out at hazard.
1. Rubbings of the great carvings of the dwarves, on the drop doors on the under-roads. Acquired at great effort by venturing into the underroads, braving the long-haul underground and the beasts that dwell there.
2. The Tomes of the Masters of Mazgil Furnace. A dwarf translated set of qualith tomes. Most useful for their faithful recreation of the qualith borders to the pages, offering a rosetta-stone for qualith to dwarf. Together the whole collection covers all the strategic and operational practicalities of launching interplanar incursions
3. Clawstones - to the passing eye looking like caverns clawed out of the rock - many originally were - but over the long ages of their use, the wider entryways bear the scratched in testimony of many inhabitants. The tale of rise and fall of ancient groupings can be read in the shift in claw styles, the obliteration of old patterns and the gradually lowering of the marks upon the walls
4. Scentposts - some of the oldest remaining traces of life here, these magically retained scent markers can yield tales to appropriately sensitive animal-lings. Most often placed as wardings and warnings over entombed horrors.
5. Writings of Conchordia - great scrolls of the Titans, natural philosophy from a time when the laws of nature were being set. Invaluable to conjurers or others seeking to alter natural forms. Presumed to be locked in the libraries of the lost city.
6. The long chant of the Kings of the North. In its entirety speaks of the laws, knowledge and vanquished foes of the Kings in the North. Practically, this sung saga is a map to many barrows and hidden places across the frozen North and within the southern dominions they once conquered. The difficulty comes in being present when a skald sings the chant and getting away again with the knowledge
7. Sentinels - long slumbering ancients, at the threshold of life and death, contactible with those magics that can speak with the dead but more lucid having never passed beyond the veil. Never attempt to wake them or they will perish
8. The Compact of the Princes - the great treaty dividing up the south after the withdrawal of the Elves over the water, said to contain the most accurate maps in existence, detailing many now lost locations
9. Records of the Elven Imperial colonies. Legendary tomes that are alleged to explain why the elves came to this continent when it was a wilderness and left it populated with multitudes of animal-lings.
10. Hive Vaults - in certain places there remain a few abandoned hives of abeils, wasp-folk and others. Like a zoetrope, spinning reveals the knowledge carved upon the walls, but it is the viewer that must spin, in the manner of the hive dance. It is said that the revelations of the dance fade from the mind once one stops, it is said that some dance themselves to exhaustion and death trying to hold onto whatever it was they saw.

26 October 2022

d14 small gods of the animal-lings (GLoGtober #6)

Taking a prompt from the list on GLoGtober '22: Under New Managementfrom a promptlist by Archon's Court we take "Small Gods"

We have all our greater gods concerned with big thematic worries, what about the specific concerns of animal-lings?
- they have different senses - smell, whiskers, thermal pits, sharper hearing
- they have different body shapes - chitin, fur, feathers, claws, fangs
- they operate in different habitats - burrows, tree hollows, hives

All this suggest that even where humanoid gods are dominant, there will be things that slip beneath their gaze, and there the small gods of the animal-lings still find their place.

Small Gods of the Animal-lings

1. God of clear noses and sharp snuffling - most often invoked against colds, noted in the designs embroidered on traditional sharp-herb pouches and carved on snuff-boxes
2. The gentle wind that eases tracking - invoked with a handful of grass or dust tossed to find the wind direction
3. The shifting wind that eases hunting - invoked in a paused moment of twitching whiskers and ears to detect the wind direction before setting out on a task
4. The hardener of chitin - typically invoked in the production of home-cooked waxes and polishes, recipes said to be passed down from a long gone clergy. To diligently polish ones scales, shell or exoskeleton is to worship.
5. The sharpest fang - most often marked on the scratching-pillars of old animal-ling inns, where sharpening your claws before leaving is traditional. Invoked before strenuous physical activity of any sort, sometimes found in older blacksmiths or on the entrance to mines. Rarely the original panther-like icon is still visible if the pillar is tall enough.
6. The deepest burrow - god of comfortable lairs, easily found - invoked with thanks when bundled up cosily, whether under blankets or before a fire, that you might give such thanks again soon
7. He who shields from sight (camoflage) - invoked with optical illusion carvings, left in plain sight but rarely noticed. The inverse will have a ring of eight eyes on it
8. The judge of stillness (both predators and prey) - mostly likely to be observed in a tavern game where both parties hold a brimming short glass of strong spirits and the first to cause a ripple or their spirit to spill loses. Invoked with the holding of breath and the paying of absolute attention to ones surroundings. Often paid homage by duelling schools.
9. The great acorn - found bounty, foraging - one of the more commonly invoked minor gods - "By the great acorn what luck!" and "acorn blessed" are common phrases
10. The hum of harmony (hive-god) - smooths bonds between companions, typically invoked with a shared low hum. Strongly present in hinterland work-chants and a common thread through deep-woods folk song.
11. The slumberer - invoked to find food, for deep sleep and for survival in the cold. Often marked by apples, honey, nuts or other tree-found food left in a cave or nook.
12. The calling lord - long distance travel, seasonal migrations, finding yourself in the right place at the right time. Watches over the venturesome, invoked in that first leap from a height before your wings fill with air.
13. God of Strong Ivory - of pacts that bind, things that stand the test of time. Found as deeply worn ivory amulets, passed from generation to generation, helps those who help themselves.
14. The Giving Mud - most alive of these petty gods, The Queen of Swamps and Rivers is gifted offerings by fishers and river travellers, that she may take this and no more. Rarely invoked by searchers in the wilderness near rivers, lakes and wet terrain of all sorts.

Locals will often add major local nature spirits to their personal mix of respected supernatural entities, such as dryads of old woods, lake and waterfall spirits, mountain spirits and even including particularly old dragons.

24 October 2022

Shiny TTRPG links #91

Delightful links for your amusement. More can be found on the previous list found here. The original inspiration for all of this - weaver.skepti.ch End of Week links. You can find even more links on the weekly blogroll on r/OSR or a roundup of non-blog news on Third Kingdom Games roundup.

False Machine proposes a reality without Microchips in Cars, Chips and Rings

Whose Measure God Could Not Take writes Violence as an Escalating Threat

Paper Elemental gives us Teeth are Magic Crystals.

The Nothic's Eye shares Small Gods of the Old Forest

Reckless Dweomer proposes Eight Schools for Wizards

Craggenloch Tribune writes up Dreadful Sorcery - Notes on a surprisingly successful magic system (OSR

The Breakfast Ossuary gives us Zero to Complete Dungeon Generation, Waffle-Style

The Best Placeholder Name shares Offerings to the please the gods

Attronarch's Athenaeum compiles a great Dragon Magazine reading list

Age of Dusk concludes their competition with Announcing the Victors of the 2022 No Artpunk Competition

The Other Side blog looks at Monster Manual Minis, Set A-C

Nameless Designer launches Heroes of Adventure

22 October 2022

d12 post-apocalyptic worlds (GLoGtober #5)

Another prompt from GLoGtober '22: Under New Management this time from a list by semiurge: "Post-apocalyptic - except the apocalypse wasn’t one of the usual suspects."

Worlds or whole systems where it has all gone horribly wrong for some reason or another. Perhaps you are arriving to one of these by portal, by astral travel, by Spelljammer, by climbing Yggdrassil, however you get there you find a place in very bad shape - not just a broken world but a whole devastated system. Whatever went wrong here scorched the planet and reached out to ruin the moons, nearby planets, sometimes the sun that once shone here. What exactly went wrong?

Post apocalypse crystal spheres - use for Spelljammer or planeswalking
1. The dead hive - here there was an ant-like hive, they consumed everything, built great structures, hive rings that orbitted worlds, hives that floated above their worlds, then all dissappeared from mysterious causes - a plague? A great migration? Few remains of the dead can be found, far, far less than there ought to be for the scale of the works. The entire place is composed of deserted hives - the seas and continents of the planets were covered over, great hive creatures to travel between worlds tumble dead and dry in space, huge chitinous hive structures stand empty. Here all that remain, the last non-hive remnants, survive by cannibalising the hive elements
2. Dead sun: (d6: 1 - recently, worlds still in the process of dying, 2-3 - near past, worlds mostly dead but still some life in underdark or roaming undead, 4-6 - long dead, only wildspace fauna to be found) caused by (d6: 1. Aboleths, 2. Vampires, 3. Mindflayers, 4. Wizards, 5. A minor godling, 6. A sun-eating artefact engine). The sun-killers are still about, ruling the ruin of their successful plots
3. Ex-bloodwar battlefield - some unfortunate quirk of the bloodwar led what was supposed to have been a back-water sphere turning into an all-out blood-war free for all as demon lords and infernal generals poured troops in to try and dislodge the others before they could consolidate. By the time the infernals saw the losses outweigh the potential gains in their bleak mathematics, the habitable worlds were devastated, their populations slaughtered and the worlds themselves wrecked. The demon lords turned on each other after the infernals left until even they realised there was nothing worth fighting over left. Now the entire sphere is a wrecked battlefield littered with abandoned weapons and un-discharged magics. Mutation, corruption and toxicity abound - life persists but only in competition with the most tenacious of fiendish scavengers.
4. Discarded by genies - the currents of the deep ethereal made this place easily accessible to the princes of the elemental planes - for a while. The currents shifted, the genies left, and their servants mostly did not survive long without them. There are some few pockets where servants of the genii have scratched together enough to survive but mostly this is a place of magestic ruins. Much has been stripped away but caches of treasures are squirrelled away in now-dead communities of servitors. Fine gems, gold and decorative magic items lie heaped and ignored while dwellers here seek desperately for anything to help them survive.
5. Godspasm - a local rapture or ragnarok type event happened - all the sentients departed, whisked away to the realms of their gods to be judged in the afterlife. Only a few constructs and undead remain on a series of re-wilding planets. Treasures and hazards abound as nature reclaims everything.
6. Witchlight marauder waste - victim of the Unhuman War, the large planets were attacked with witchlight marauders that devoured all life upon them, then died. All organic matter is gone, but cities and constructs, though damaged remain. Harsh and inhospitable worlds with dead biospheres and slowly dwindling atmospheres can yield treasures for those willing to brave the conditions.
7. Runaway magical event - some terrible curse of magical accident has dessicated this sphere. Oceans have dwindled to thick brines at the bottom of their seabeds. Desert fauna are now all that remains, clinging to the places where the last wisps of moisture can be found. Water slowly dissappears from sealed vessels as the residual effects of the curse play out.
8. Magewar - territorial wizards gained more and more power and fought amongst themselves. All suffered as grass while those elephants fought in their floating towers above. Now the towers patrol continent sized swathes of territory or orbit claimed moons, watching over devastated wildernesses. It is not clear if any of the tower-inhabitants still survive. Nomadic communities and those hidden from sight of the sky survive and scurry through the necessities of survival when the towers are out of sight.
9. Post-magewar servitor independence - here the mages built legions of servitors not towers, and those constructs slaughtered their way to a victory so profound even the mages were killed. Now these intelligent weapons struggle to adapt to their new dominion. Some fight each other, others wait in dormancy for new challenges, still others attempt to maintain what parts of their old culture they can in the otherwise shattered and empty farms and cities of the lands that built them.
10. Vengeance of the seas - the seas rose and smote the land, surging to great heights of flooding caused by (d4: 1. Kuo-Toa, 2. Sahuagin, 3. A god of the seas at the urging of a vanished land-bound people, 4. Aboleths, 5. A portal to the plane of water, 6. something enormous falling from the heavens into the ocean). All within reach of water was washed away, cities, navies, nations, peoples. Now the waters have receded but the terrified remains of land dwellers huddle on the high grounds, with only the desperate or brave venturing down towards the shores.
11. Volcanic winter - elementals fought (or continue to fight) and volcanos sprung up spewing ash and molten rock where there had been no mountains before. The darkness came abruptly and with it cold and famine. Now the volcanos continue to rage and the remnants of the population seek shelter and survival however they can under a sky that never brightens more than twilight
12. The civilised zombie apocalypse - the sun guttered, a plot by vampires or illithids or who knows anymore. But as all vegetation perished and ecosystems collapsed, necromancers of the dying surface civilisations staged a fight-back and liches, wights and other powerful undead raised hordes of skeletons and zombies to fight back and won. Now the sun still stands dark and the nations of this place go about an eerie mockery of their old ways. Ore is mined, goods are created, trade goes on under a guttering sun. The locals are open to vistors, if somewhat intimidating and viciously factional amongst themselves

19 October 2022

d12 alchemical reagents to harvest from the dead (GLoGtober 4)

This time we take a prompt from the GLoGtober '22: Under New Management promptlist by metalsnail and we discuss "crafting or alchemy."

Here we talk about the alchemical properties of the physical residue of souls and how they react with magic. Imagine them like heavy metals, accreting in the bones, or like prions contaminating the meat. Imagine them like the seeds of crystallisation, attracting more like it where one first forms.

Soulstuff, left alone in a respectably buried dead will eventually sublime away. It can be sustained by the memories of the living who recall the deceased and persist for a while.

Magic attracts magic, the workings of the divine or infernal draws the soul-stuff of their worshipers, the influence of the outer planes remains where connections were made and severed. Plants too can soak up this influence. In the living, we see all this in the abilities of sorcerers and wizards, in the heritage of tieflings and genasi, in the miracles wrought by clerics and paladins and these traces do not vanish when any of them die.

Battlefields, sacrificial cults, disasters and other events creating large amounts of the dead in a short time can give rise to more potent varieties of these residues, ones which draw more and more energies to themselves. Crystallised energies to be harvested from these sites by the desperate or foolhardy. Highly magical creatures like mindflayers and such that had little interaction with the natural world typically contain little but magedust. For very large or long-lived magical creatures such as dragons or giants there are often large enough to seed ironsoul crystals just with their own corpse but also recalled by enough that those crystals will grow.

Ghouls become prey to powerful wizards and cults who seek them for the concentration of energies they gain from devouring corpses. Ghouls learn to avoid battlefields.

Unscrupulous magic users and cultists use all these substances in rituals to harvest the power within. Those with a high tolerance for risk are also known to ingest them to boost spell-casting abilities substantially. This is an especially terrible idea with any type of banestone which can lead to immediate and permanent posession.

Elemental varieties of banestone are greatly prized for their ease of working and the powerful, pure effects that can be achieved.

Magical beasts need to consume soul-stuff as part of their diet which drives many of their traits perceived as monstrous - they hunt and consume sentients and will delve into tombs and catacombs looking for the recently dead if they must. A bear may dwell in the woods and be content with deer and honey but a manticore, while it will eat those things, needs the nutritional inputs of hunting people. Sufficiently aware that it could pay homage to the gods appears to be the lower threshold for what will serve. The ancient tradition of dragons seeking virgin sacrifices is indeed because they taste different. The prevalence of monsters around old battlefields and wizards towers is also because of this, although magical beasts that sate themselves with warpflint licks because stranger and even more dangerous.

d12 crystallised residues of the dead
1. Soul-stuff - miniscule amounts that can be processed out of any given corpse. Varies with the type of creature, from rich and crude for near sapient animals through to highly tuned for those steeped in a particular faith. Weakened by contact with outer planes that align with the owner
2. Heartsdrop – the crystallised proto-soul stuff found in things that perished through petrification or in magical isolation and where their energies fossilised within their frame
3. Magedust - the soulstuff of a sufficiently powerful mage becomes blasted through with magic so often it becomes something else. For a wizard left unsuitably buried, the magedust will absorb leylines, nearby spell-casting and other magical sources and spread like a lichen. Incredibly valuable as a magical reagent but left untended can lead to dangerous magical amplification effects in the vicinity - causing mutations, weakening the veil between worlds and attracting monsters
4. Corpseflowers - fungal blooms that only fruit when sprouted on certain dead - incredibly sensitve to alignment and soul energies and so come in a wide variety.
5. Angels Tears – similar to Banestone but only found where connections directly to divine realms have been formed or where particularly powerful agents of the divine have perished or exercised their powers
6. Banestone - when extra-planar creatures transit between worlds the tracks of their passing can seed this substance, typically attuned to the creatures home plane. Fed with emotions appropriate to their originators they can absorb soul energies and become conduits for divine and arcane power. Known for its darker variety as these are the ones that are most often seeded and grow catastrophically on battlefields.
7. Veilrent – residue formed over prolonged forced contact between planes, summonings, portals or similar. Typically seeded by dust tracked in through portals from other places then drawing more to it.
8. Gatebloom – also known as faeirie circles plants steeped in the energies of nearby planes that reflect the nature of those planes. Very diffuse compared to other substances
9. Martyrs blood – where a great deal of soul-stuff is created in a short time in a place aligned to a divine entity, it can run together and congeal into this stuff Most typically from horrific acts of mass slaying but occasionally through willing sacrifice
10. Ironsoul crystals - so named because they are most often found mixed with chainmail on battlefields where many corpses are thrown together. Here the violently attuned soul-stuff of the many battle-dead can accrete together and eventually begin to absorb energies from the environment. A bad sign - bodies where all the soul-dust has left are prone to arise as the restless dead
11. Warpflint - a variety of ironsoul crystals where magic has been used in mass slayings causing accretions of soulstuff and magical energies. Dangerous and unstable, sufficient that it can be used raw as an explosive
12. Goblin Fruits – similar to ironsoul but where the energies accrete in local large plants – leading to puissant fruit and seeds that are highly prized among fey