Monday, December 24, 2012


This is a very, very rough overview of gnomes in my campaign. I wrote it for one of the perennial "gnomes have no identity" threads on EN World. There's a single sentence summary of changelings tucked in here; I've meant for them to be a player race for decades, but the concept didn't gel until recently. Suffice to say, changelings are pretty screwed up.

Here's a slightly more exhaustive rundown of gnomes in my campaign. I feel this presentation is true to the spirit of gnomes as presented in most of D&D, but have their own identity separate from elves, dwarves, and halflings.

Gnomes live in the wild border lands, in hills and moors and woodlands. They are highly valued by adventurers and other who sojourn into the wild places, for a gnomish village is often the closest and safest refuge to a dungeon or ruin. In the summer months most gnomes live in small family steadings, or warrens, scattered throughout their domain, and in the winter they gather in large winterhalls dug below the roots of the deep forest. The winterhalls are where gnomes keep their records, libraries, and schools, and the most accomplished gnomish spellcasters remain in residence here throughout the year.

Gnomes are independent, preferring their own rulers to those of other races, and both adaptable and militant when necessary, able to field short-bow and hand-axe wielding guerrilla fighters as well as companies of crossbowmen and pikemen. Their proficiency in digging and tunneling allows them to quickly seed a battlefield with pits, spikes, ditches, and ramparts, as well as sap fortifications and enemy emplacements.

They are clever, careful, and cunning, fond of puzzles, riddles, and esoteric lore. They consider themselves guardians of knowledge the other races have forgotten, and are driven by a sometimes almost pathological need to "know more". In a well-balanced gnome (and most are) this drive manifests itself as a constant curiosity and inquiry into the world, and is lightened by a childlike sense of levity and joy. They do not hoard the knowledge, but simply seek experience for its own sake. Gnomes who become bards or minstrels do so to travel and interact with people, and satisfy their curiosity that way.

It is not difficult, however, for a gnome to become consumed by their thirst for knowledge. This doesn't usually manifest as cackling, handwringing evil so much as a cold amorality; nothing matters except their obsession. Some, like the spriggan or fhmor, manifest this through greed or hoarding; others with intricate deceptions and manipulations. The svartneblin are among these; their cities contain illusions so deep not even they know what is real, and interaction between individuals is so rare and so clouded they kidnap human children to serve them and supplement their numbers, returning and abandoning them to the upper world when they reach adulthood, prematurely wizened and bent, with senses honed by years in a glamoured underworld, and utterly overwhelmed in the sunlight.

Metagame notes:
  • I haven't used halflings in my campaigns for years, finding them unheroic and frankly rather boring. I'm reconsidering that decision, but halflings would be rebranded as domovii and described as something like "humanity's familiars", a quasi-fey race that lives in symbosis with humans. In any case, I see the similarities between halflings and gnomes as pretty much height and nothing else. 
  • I find tinker gnomes grating. Really, really, grating. 
  • Kender are twits. Gnomes aren't twits. They are curious, even recklessly curious, but they're not fearless, they're not stupid, and they have a plan. 
  • Gnomes as fey is fine, and mine are mostly there, but it's not enough to just say that they are fey. What does that mean? How does "being fey" manifest? 
  • I find it both amusing and depressing that so many people accuse gnomes of being weak imitations of elves and dwarves, as if not being copied from Middle-Earth somehow makes them less original.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Articles never written, circa 1996

In the past week I've finished grad school, had a minor medical procedure (totally routine), my daughter turned 6, and am desperately trying to find time to put up the Christmas tree which is living on our front porch. In a bucket. Tomorrow I drive 8-hours round-trip to pick up my Mom and bring her back here.

I will sleep so hard in January....

Anyways, back in ye goode olde days of TSR and AOL, we'd write up "articles" and post them in TSR's file library to share.  I wrote several, and outlined a rather ambitious series of articles.  Of the list below, from April, 1996, I actually wrote & released the Halfling Warden, the Githtorai, the Illithid, and the Wizard's Collections 1-3.

Assassin -- A revised assassin for the 2nd edition AD&D game...complete with kits: blooders, bone men, burkers, executioners, glassmen, hawks, quicks, and scrags!
Fili -- A master bard and true jack-of-all-trades, the fili combines warrior, wizard, thief, and druid into one (play-tested) character!
Halfling Warden -- A halfling "paladin"/defender, this file includes 16 (or so) new and rewritten priest spells for use by wardens, halfling clerics, and other priest characters.
Mage-Smith -- Part mage, part warrior, the mage-smith is an artificer and creator of the highest caliber, able to fashion magical items of nearly any sort.
Monk -- Life, beliefs, philosophy, and kits.

The Complete Book of Half-Humans: Half-elves, half-orcs, half-ogres, half-goblins, tieflings, aasimar, alu-fiends & cambions, half-fairys, half-dryads, half-satyrs, half-drow, half-aquatic elves, half-dwarves, and more.
The Githtorai -- The last race of the gith-kin, the enigmatic hunter-killers of the UnderDark...the only race less trustworthy than the drow...the githtorai (coming soon to a really nasty, despicable area near you).  [githtor.txt]
The Host of the Sidhe: Asgard, Vanaheim, & Jotunheim -- The races of aesir, jotunkin, and vanir in the realm of Faerie!  Details on relations between the vanir & the Fair Folk, the troldfolk & the jotun, and the aesir & fir bolgs.
The Host of the Sidhe: Dwarves & Gnomes -- Dwarves in Faerie; wood gnomes and stone gnomes; the gifts of Faerie.
The Host of the Sidhe: The Fair Folk -- The four races of Sìdhe: sidhe, gruagach, sithkin, and pooka.  Notes on Sidhe magic and the realm of Faerie.
The Host of the Sidhe: The Giantkin -- Fir bolgs and formors in Faerie, and other giantish races.
The Host of the Sidhe: The Outcasts -- Changelings, shadow elves, and humans in the realm of the Host.
The Host of the Sidhe: The Troldfolk -- Three new PC races: bridge trolls, trollborn, and trow; and a new troll "monster", stone trolls.
The Illithid -- One of the nastiest, most despciable, revolting villainous races can now be a PC!  Don't you just want to cheer? [illithi.txt]

            The Wizard's Collections:
Wizard's First Collection: Notes from Raliard the Mage -- A hodge-podge of thoughts and ideas from 5 years of DMing and 10 years goofing around with AD&D, Wizard's First Collection includes a revised reincarnation table, 3 new wizard kits, and details on a unique magical weapon. [wizcol1.txt]
Wizard's Second Collection: More Notes from Raliard the Mage -- Includes 3 new (and well-received) spells: Lesser Spellease, Dragonbond, & Spellease, revised experience table, and information on a new player character race, the wrowl. [wizcol2.txt]
Wizard's Third Collection: Notes from Tuernathen the Deceased -- The UnderDark edition in this fine series of stuff from my hard drive...thoughts on the magical radiation and special abilities; two new underdark PC races:mreen and tarikik; Gereint the Dark, his Holding, and pages from his Grimoire. [wizcol3.txt]
Wizard's Fourth Collection: Raliard's Chapbook  (chapbook: a small book containing ballads, poems, tales, or tracts.  Webster's 9th New Collegiate Dictionary) -- Information on the Order of Seven, various characters from the True World, Campaign Notes, and perhaps a tale or two, and some other neat stuff.  (No poetry though.) [wizcol4.txt]
Wizard's Fifth Collection: Welan's Workbook -- Mage-smith kits, enchantments, and magical items.  Welan Artorius, an NPC mage-smith.  Moulder dwarves, a new player race.
Wizard's Sixth Collection: Observations of Raliard the Mage -- Revised Ranger and Druid classes.  Magical items, kits, & Campaign Notes.
Wizard's Seventh Collection: Notes on the NewLands -- Detailing the NewLands campaign setting, including history & culture; races & classes; and new kits.
Wizard's Ultimate Collection (One?) -- Wizard's Collection 1-4,  mage-smith & halfling warden classes, illithid & githtorai races (with S&P info).

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Please Hold ... Someone Will Be With You Shortly

I'm about two weeks away from graduating with a MLA (masters in landscape architecture).  It's been a rather long road (and a long story that I'm not going to detail; suffice to say nothing dramatic happened - it's just long).

I'm also a very distracted person, and having two (or three) new followers makes me want to post something to entertain them, but I can't afford to take the time.  But it weighs on me.  So this is my compromise.  I'll tell myself I'm posting something real, but I'll just list a bunch of stuff I might write about later.  Feel free to leave a comment if something sounds particularly interesting, or you want to make a special request.

  • Notable Priests of the Shadowend (the notable spellcasters post was really wizard-heavy).
  • Magical Societies & Orders
  • Non-Magical Societies & Orders
  • Map sketches n' stuff
  • New/expanded info on the Dalerain, Typhos, & the Envidier.  (explanation here: I see the campaign from a sort of "middle" viewpoint - neither ground level nor "creator deity".  The gods are a soap opera of characters, and their interactions often serve as catalysts and actors in campaigns I run.  So, I  like detailing them.  It's my thing.)
  • more adventure hooks.  I've got this theory that everything ought to have an adventure hook or two.
  • translate some stuff into Swords & Wizardry.  I had a brain surge a few nights ago and ended up scribbling down ideas for merging my nascent RPG-clone (everyone has one) back into S&W (where it started anyhow).
  • Winter stuff.  Because it's winter.  And Joukahainen, the frost giant sorcerer scion of Cheneitha, is totally kick-ass, if I could just finish a decent write-up of him.
  • Unearth some 2e stuff and post that.  And maybe update that to S&W, or downdate, or whatever.
  • More geography.  Because I love geography.
  • Some kind of riffing about what lies beyond the Shadowend.  Years ago I adopted the idea of putting all the cool stuff on the map where I would use it, rather than off the map where I wouldn't.  As a result, the areas beyond the map have actually become less detailed over time, as the Shadowend keeps dragging them down dark alleys and  taking their stuff.  But there are still ideas that don't fit on the map, and they lend some context to the Shadowend, which is really sort of a backwater.
  • The Fallen.  Because I like them.  And because they're blatant ripoffs of Glen Cook's Taken.
  • The Shimmering Plain.  Because I myself know nothing about it, and that fascinates me.
  • More "monsters from the tome of horrors and where they live", except now I've got the ToH COMPLETE, so this project could go on for -years-.
  • Races.  I always do troldfolk, because the writeup hasn't changed in about 12 years, and I think I did leshii, but firjotun and talvijotun and them-all could still use a moment in the sun.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Maps & Mapping

Periodically I redo my campaign map.  I'm never 100% satisfied with it, and I like to tweak it to reflect things I've discovered every few years.  These "discoveries" are usually things within the Shadowend itself that either are or aren't working for me.  The last iteration of the map, done back in 2007, featured a lot of little kinglets and principalities around the Greenwater.  Some of these work for me, some don't.  Dore, which is a rather significant part of that map, didn't exist in previous versions.  Dore definitely works.  Utgard, on the other hand, works, but does not work well.

If you haven't seen the map, click here.

One of the "meta-mapping" strategies I used was dividing the map into four quadrants - The Near North, Utgard, the Woodmarches, and the Hundred Kingdoms.  This gives me different zones of culture, society, and adventure-type.  I'm satisfied with that, but the exact nature of the zones hasn't gelled quite right.

So, eventually there will be a new map.  The biggest change will be in Utgard, which will flip from the eastern (right) side to the western (left).  The water will push towards the center of the map, particularly in the north. Dwarves and giants will be the powers there, with isolated settlements, wild forests, and many small hill and mountain outcroppings.  Gaidrilar will be the only significant human city in the region.  The feeling here is perpetual, untamed wilderness, with Scandinavian/Slavic flavor.

The Near North will remain much the same, except further east. I may try to open it up a little and give it more of an "open plains" feel, but it's a tricky balance.  I want to establish a clear wild border between Dore and Larenyss that can spawn real threats to the two realms, but still leave routes of travel between them.  Kaulderzhun and Coldstone will probably remain in the Near North, though there's a good argument for moving Coldstone with Utgard.  This is your "bastion against the orcish hordes" and "the last kingdom of the High Race of Man".  I will probably tweak Keldru and Kameurgard - possibly eliminating (for now) the former and making the latter more "viking" (more fjords!).

Larenyss is going to shift to a stronger north-south orientation and encompass the Greenwater Vale, making it the real core of the region.  Asavar is going to go away again, Guanes will revert to a barony or somesuch, ditto Kestrellar and probably Shalaen (which might just go away).  Roen's status is uncertain.  Arramor will remain as a foil to Larenyss.  The Grey Hills and Dwarfmoor will shrink - they take up just too damned much space right now.  The Glimmering/Glittering/Shimmering Plain is very much staying.  Ditto Everglass, which I've perpetually put off detailing out of fear of screwing it up.  Most of my campaigns have centered here, so there are more fiddly little bits to consider.  The conflict between the fey Queen Aliana and her successors is unresolved, and that needs to be reflected in the political landscape.  This is very much the area of the feudal Middle Ages and  fairy tales.

The Hundred Kingdoms is probably the biggest unresolved point.  It's meant to be a squabbling place of tiny, tiny little independent principalities, but it's not really exciting me at the moment.  It's also the link to the "outer world" and sees itself as the bastion of civilization, whatever that means, but civilization is not all that enthralling to me.  There is also a strong possibility that the "greater" civilization has pretty much fallen completely apart (whatever a post-apocalyptic medieval fantasy world looks like, that could be it), leaving the Hundred Kingdoms really and truly as one of the bastions of civilization.  This might partially be a matter of scale - one of the things I want in a new map is smaller mountains, and that would give me more delicacy in political boundaries.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Dalerain VII: The Winter Queen

Winter Queen, Lady of Ice, Frost Maiden
Power of the Dalerain
Major AoC: Cold, Frost, Ice, Winter
Minor AoC: Frost, Death by Cold, Stagnation, or Being Trapped.
Symbol: A snowflake, a snowy owl.
Allies: None
Enemies: Brigit, Umoth
Avatar: Cleric 12 / Fighter 11 / Wizard 12

Cheneitha appears as a young woman of medium height, with silver-white hair and pale, almost colorless, blue eyes, clad in a robe of white fur and a gown of white silk. In combat she wears crystalline scale mail and helm and carries a spear of ice called Frausein, or Littlefrost. She is vain, and often wears pale or colorless jewels, and enjoys these as gifts. 

In a few rare myths, Cheneitha is represented as as a sister to Brigit, or Alaron and Eial, but tempted away from them and into Kajalla's influence. At one point she was part of a trinity of goddess, including Kajalla the Crone and Malis the False; her place in recent centuries has been overtaken by Yilwyn, the Bleak Maiden. She rarely deals with the Crone anymore, but any rumors of her desire to reconcile with her sister(s) are swiftly extinguished by her priesthood and probably untrue.

Cheneitha is worshiped by ice elementalists and those seeking to keep things as they are; she is appeased by nearly everyone. She is generous with those who please her, but fickle in her attentions; those who are not vigilant find her whims have turned against them. Her priests are solitary between themselves, preferring to surround themselves with minions and cohorts rather than rivals. They hope to win their goddess’s favor by eliminating warmth and the heat of change from the world, and bring unchanging cold. They often use undead in these tasks, and some see undeath as the ultimate existence, stagnant and cold.

Cheneitha is rare among the Dalerain in her rulership of a material realm, the High Ice. This desolate, glacial land has slowly expanded its reach over the centuries, and now covers almost everything beyond the Kameurhorns. Her interest in the High Ice has waned as its influence has grown, and the goals of the High Ice, whatever they may be, are increasingly determined by a shadowy power or powers embedded in the deepest ice.

Winterlady /Winterlord (3e)
Domains: Battle, Cold, Summoning, Water
Skills: Intuit Direction, Wilderness Lore
Favored Weapon: Spear.
Bonuses: +2 class bonus to Intuit Direction and Wilderness Lore checks in winter or arctic conditions.

The image is by Harald Siepermann; original is here .  I probably shouldn't use it, since I didn't ask permission, but the Dulac Snow Queen is so...staring. 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Artifacts & Items of Power

Culm: A medium shield crafted all of iron, Culm bears no emblem.  Any attempt to paint or inscribe an emblem on the shield is destroyed the first time the shield is wielded in combat.
When Culm blocks a blow in combat, the shield reverberates and booms like thunder.  The wielder and anyone standing behind him are immune to the effects of these cacophony; those in front are not so lucky.
If the wielder strikes Culm with his weapon, or beats on it like a drum,  Culm sends forth low, rolling peals of thunder capable of instilling a potent magical fear in the enemy and sending them fleeing.  If Culm is struck by an opponent, the thunder is far more potent.  The weapon which struck the shield is often destroyed, and the weapon's wielder is wounded and deafened by the noise.  Those in the area of Culm also suffer injury, and may be struck deaf as well. 

Iedain, Crown of Songs: This fabled headpiece resembles no conventional crown.  Said to be formed of songs made solid, the Crown of Songs appears as a band of shimmering light, broken by 9 evenly-spaced transparent crystals.  A 10th crystal hangs over the bearer's head, and lines of magical force link it to the 9 crystals about the band.  The Crown grants the ability to sing without flaw or imperfection, and that singing can charm women and men, bring the beasts of field and forest, and even bind the emotionless creatures of the elements to the bearer's will.  The Crown of Songs is said to be a seductive artifact, however, and those careless with it may find themselves to sing more and more frequently as they grow to love their own voice above anything, until they eventually waste away, unable to stop singing for a moment.
Iedain may also be recognized by the soft and gentle murmur of voices that surround it; these voices are soothing in the extreme, and if the Crown is masterless, the voices often bring an enchanted sleep on those who encounter it, leaving them easy prey for less intelligent and susceptible predators.
Tetallia Silver-Tongued was the last known bearer of the Crown of Songs; she frequented the Hollow Land hunting linwurms in the Kameurhorns until her death in an unknown lair.

Telsingem: A longspear with an distinctive curved blade, Telsingem was crafted by a faerilven runesmith over a thousand years ago.  The shaft is of a dark brown wood as hard as iron; the blade is iron intermingled with mithril, streams of brown in a gleaming silver surface.
Telsingem has long circulated in the Reachlands.  It is was last in the possession of Kurmolt of Kurmolt’s Band, a mercenary/adventuring company that disappeared in the Woodmarches a decade ago.
       Telsingem is a +2 longspear that grants the wielder a +5 circumstance bonus to Balance, Jump, and Tumble checks when in hand.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Tefplanz Expanded

Tefplanz:This fertile floodplain is the exclusive domain of Innergild. Canals and dikes crisscross the landscape, controlling flooding and turning the marshy land into arable fields. The border between the Tefplanz and the Middurplanz is heavily fortified and humanoid threats are rare, but ankheg attacks are increasing.

Law and order in the Tefplanz is ostensibly under the control of the Council of Innergild, but in truth the council has ceded control to the local rulers of each settlement, with no central oversight.  The Doredain heritage of the natives make them basically law-abiding and peaceful (if somewhat xenophobic), but there are many opportunities for graft and low-level corruption.  The Tefplanzers consider themselves bound by a common culture and against a common foe (everything east and north of the Middurplanz), but each town and village manages its own affairs.  The Rytteren patrol the roads under the badge of Innergild, but their mercenary status and foreign origins have prevent them from establishing effective relations with local authorities.

Sign of the Three Pigs: This massive, sprawling hostel lies on the Cilnoc-Narnigar road a short distance from the Middurplanz border, and is well known as a place of rest, refuge, and information. The owner, Odlef der Groot, brews his own ale, and has won numerous brewing competitions.

Unbeknownst to anyone in the Tefplanz, Odlef had a relatively successful (he didn't die) first career as a sellsword, looting and pillaging his way across foreign lands for coin before opting for anonymity and the quiet life back in his homeland.  One result of this earlier profession, however, were several half-orc children.  Their mother, also a mercenary, died several years ago, but the children have grown up big, strong, brutal, and nasty.  At least two of them can pass for human, and they have located Odlef and hatched a plan to blackmail him at best, or rob and kill him at worse.  Odlef's new (human) family will die in either case.  The half-orcs don't really have deep personal grudges against Odlef, but they feel like they should make the motions of avenging their mother ( they're not sure for what exactly, but it sounds good and humanish); they have enough evidence to make things hard for Odlef; and it seems like a easy way to make some coin.

The Spectre of Ylg Bridge: The road from the Tefplanz to Narnigar is one of the most heavily traveled routes in the Near North, and the bridge here undergoes regular repairs to the damage from winter ice and spring floods.  A death or two is not unknown during these repairs (victims lost to the river are referred to as Ylg's Toll), and this last year was no exception.  Two laborers were dragged into the river and lost when a load of stone came loose.  Rites were said, and work continued as usual and without disturbance.

Oda Floriswif was widow of one of the workers.  A naturally spiteful and angry woman, she grew bitter, vile, and vengeful after the death of her husband, and followed him into death only a few months later.  The cause of her passing is likely natural (she was well into middle age), but those who knew her attribute it to a personality overflowing with bile and venom.  Ironically, her husband, whose corpse is entombed in mud at the bottom of the Ylg,  beneath the stone block that swept him off the bridge to his death, rests peacefully.  Oda, laid with full rites in sanctified ground, has just returned as a spectre.

Oda's haunting ground extends slightly beyond the bridge on either side.  She killed both of the bridge keepers on the first night of her return, and several more since then. The bridge has become slippery and treacherous even during daylight hours, and animals refuse to cross it.  Traffic has shriveled as a result, and tolls have declined.  The only way to appease Oda is to exhume Floris's corpse from the river and inter it beside her, along with a payment of at least several hundred gold pieces (Oda thinks the weregild she received after Floris's death was woefully, insultingly insufficient, and her opinion of what is "rightfully hers" has only risen over time.) The money must be publicly acknowledged as hers, and laid in her grave, in common coinage (no jewels, fancy figurines, or other object d'art; Oda was a simple, albeit greedy, woman, and retains that simplicity in undeath).  The public acknowledgement is as important to Oda as the payment itself.

Several factors make the matter even more complicated:
- The ferrymen who operate near the bridge are not exactly upset about the dramatic increase in their business.  They won't openly admit to supporting the spectre, but they're not above a little sabotage to keep the bridge closed, and adventurers venturing underwater are obvious targets.
- Scrags, nixies, and a number of other aquatic monsters frequently travel along the Ylg.
- Oda's gravebound weregild will be a rich and easy target for thieves.  Oda, in her typically perverse and misanthropic manner, will announce the loss of her weregild by haunting and killing on the bridge, leaving the thief to make his escape.
- And finally, there might be some real truth to the mention of Ylg's Toll.  It's considered nothing more than an idle saying, and no one gives it much thought, but the consequences of taking Floris's body back from the river could be far worse than a single spectre, and far broader in scope.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Notable Spellcasters

Alnin Stoneshield
A member of House Aeliden, Alnin Stoneshield was a powerful ha’ilven spellsword, with compelling good looks and a easygoing manner. He researched many battle-magics, both offensive and protective (most notably stoneshield), and died well into old age, battling a great linnorm in the Kameurhorns.

Today a name of terror and fright-tales, Azekor was a ha’ilven wizard in the last years of Sieriven. A pupil of the wizard/priest Beirhn Rosemantle, Azequor rejected her gentle teachings later in his life, striving to accumulate power in a mad drive that culminated in his transformation to lichdom. His skeletal form dwells somewhere in the fastness of the High Hills, using his minions and servants to continue gathering magical items and spells.

Erabor the Caller
Architect of the Endless Dungeon, Erabor the Caller is a whimsical archmage. Perpetually young in appearance, though of uncommonly tall height, he studied attractive magic (drawing monsters and adventurers both to his home) and planar effects. Erabor disappeared nearly a century ago, and is thought to have settled in a demiplane from which he keeps tabs on his former home, keeping it supplied with monsters and treasure both, and viewing the resultant mayhem for his amusement.

Gereint the Dark
An apprentice of the Ninestars Council, Gereint eschewed their company for a solitary existence of research. Meglomania and paranoia led him to hide many caches of magic items (mostly scrolls and potions) in various “safeholes” around the Shadowend, often in a secure portion of an occupied dungeon. He disappeared nearly three centuries ago, along with his tower and the nearby village he ruled, but legends maintain he simply transported himself and his subjects to a secure realm in the Dark Below.

Gray Dashain
Once an apprentice of Erabor the Caller, Gray Dashain specialized in summoning, binding, and compelling outsiders. Despite the obvious dangers, Dashain lived into his twilight years before disappearing from his secluded tower. Various whispers and rumors over the years suggest he is not dead, but imprisoned on another plane, perhaps by a powerful devil or genie lord.

One of the most gifted students of the Moonstone Guild, Menioth is the foremost expert on the Positive Material Plane and its attendent energies. She rarely adventures, preferring to “field-test” her spells through allied wizards. With straw-colored hair, fair eyes, and unlined skin, Menioth appears much younger than her fifty-six years, a possible side-effect of her long exposure to positive energy.

Raliard the Spellsage
More famous than powerful, Raliard makes his living uncovering caches of magic and spelllore. A skillful diviner, Raliard’s command of magic continually uncovers new treasures for him, and warns him against those who would take it. The secrets the Spellsage uncovers invariably makes their way into common practice as he sells or barters away his findings. He lives in the small village of Tenmensport, but is more often found on the high plains of the Tehmar.

A member of the Fallen, Whisper helped rule the Dread Queen’s empire for half a century before being captured and bound into slumber for seven-hundred years. Freed only recently, the diminutive, leather-wrapped wizard has wasted no time exerting his subtle influence across the Hundred Kingdoms once again. His knowledge of lost and hidden spellcaches provided a quick and solid base of power, and this hidden knowledge has been slowly leaking out as Whisper takes apprentices.

Monday, June 4, 2012

I've been working on random generators over at Abulafia, specifically random class generators. I've largely done the combat class and spellcasting class generators, and will work on the skillful class generator next week.  There's a fine line between too detailed and too generic, but I think it's working out.  Here's a sample of the random combat class:

Name: Moon Striker, Redserpent rager, Ice Striker
Class Themes: Feudal, Primal
Key Abilities: Charisma, Strength
Weapons: swords, swords, swords
Armor: any armor, any shield
Hit Dice: d8 (d6+1)
Special Features: (skill ability), companion (magical beast), attack bonus with clubs, maces, minor spellcasting ability (abjuration), attack bonus against giants

First off, the Feudal/Primal themes make me think Viking.  Charisma and Strength?  A jarl, or leader.  Clearly good with swords; a melee combatant.  Hit points are low.  The companion magical beast is very interesting; the attack bonuses could be changed to sword bonuses, minor abjuration ability could be protective magics, and the attack bonus against giants goes right along with the whole Viking concept.  We'll lose the unallocated skill ability (haven't created that chart yet), up the hit points to d10, and we're pretty close to Beowulf.  I like it.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Spent too much time today playing with the New Monster Name Generator at Abulafia today.  Made a few changes, and added lots of entries.  I think it's got a higher percentage of "good" names now, but still needs work.  (I'm not convinced the thing is wholly random; certain words come up fairly often, ie: waif).
Twenty random monster names:
crocodilewaif, wyrdcrocodile spellcaster, iron marauder, goblinbeast, ethereal icebull, dragonshambler mutant, brass drake, beastwaif ravager, devilclaw, mithril auroch, lion wanderer, icehawk, boundash beetle, mechanical bonespider, glassrat hunter, crocodiledrinker demon, vampiric deathsteel drake, psychic icthyoram, sanguine battlestorm, psychic boundworm
And twenty more: 
direhorn hunter, frostcopper bear, ramforged, bullclaw hunter, necro assassin, steel defender, houndgazer mystic, crab raider, sun hunter, leechant mutant, steel lion, frost bull, spiderfrog philosopher, ethereal stonehound, bronze boar, battlemangler, hawkwaif, insectwolf, goblinstalker, gibbering necrodrinker
And the last twenty for now: 
ratrat raider, sunbeast wanderer, bearcat leader, emeraldivory disciple, sanguine cyberiron goblin, horseshredder warforged, devilstone demon, rage mystic, worm skeleton, deathpig spellcaster, frosthawk leader, axehaunt, auroch tyrant, oak thug, insectleech, ivoryrat soldier, cybersteel cat, spirithaunt, spearoak wanderer, mechanical whitecrystal bat

I particularly like the dragonshambler mutant, brass drake, devilclaw, psychic icthyoram, direhorn hunter, houndgazer mystic, spiderfrog philosopher, ratrat raider, sunbeast wanderer, devilstone demon, axehaunt.

And the best: the terrifying deathpig spellcaster.

Monday, April 23, 2012


Brilliant Pattern

Illusion (Pattern) [Mind-Affecting]
Level: Sor/Wiz 1
Components: V, S, M
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: Close (25 ft. + 5 ft./ 2 levels)
Effect: Dazzling lights in a 15 ft. radius spread
Duration: Concentration
Saving Throw: Will negates
Spell Resistance: Yes
                This spell creates a brilliant white pattern, dazzling creatures within it.  Affected creatures are dazzled (-1 to attack rolls) for as long as they are within the pattern, and for 1d4 rounds after the spell ends or they leave the area of effect.
                Material Component: A pinch of powdered glass.

Churning Pattern

Illusion (Pattern) [Mind-Affecting]
Level: Sor/Wiz 3
Components: V, S, M
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: Close (25 ft. + 5 ft. / 2 levels)
Effect: Colorful lights with a 15 ft. radius spread
Duration: Concentration + 2 rounds
Saving Throw: Will negates
Spell Resistance: Yes
                A glowing, twisting pattern of green, yellow, and purple colors nauseates those within it.  Living creatures caught within a churning pattern are nauseated (Will negates), making them unable to attack, cast spells, concentrate on spells, or do anything else requiring attention.  The only action an affected character can take is a single move (or move-equivalent action) per turn.  The nauseating effects last for as long as the character is in the churning pattern and for 2d4 rounds afterwards; characters are then fatigued for 1d4 rounds, making them unable to run or charge, and suffering a –2 penalty to Strength and Dexterity.  Victims do not become exhausted from this spell.
                Material Component: A glowworm, which is used to trace a pattern in the air, and then eaten by the caster.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Measureless Maze - Level One (Revised)

The only changes here are to the lower left corner of the map, the "Great Stair" section.  The number of ways into the section (at least from this level) has been chopped down, and a large stairway has been added.

There are four major sections to this level.  Starting at top left and going clockwise, they are "Thieves Chambers", "The Dust & The Damp", "The Tubs", and "The Great Stair".  I haven't gotten much past that for details, but I do have some general concepts.

"Thieves Chambers", obviously, is under the control of a minor band of thieves.  Guild is probably too high of an aspiration for them.  They access their section via the ladder, and make sure to leave the door to the well-room (1-12) closed and locked.  They've had some bad experiences, so as a general rule stay to rooms 1-8 through 1-15.  They know about the secret door to room 1-1, but none of the rest, and leave the door to room 1-7 locked.

"The Dust and the Damp" lacks any kind of organized control.  Rats and one or two mindless sort of monsters are the likely threats here.  A giant raccoon has established a lair in 1-33, coming and going via the stream (which flows into the dungeon at this point). 

"The Tubs" are also undetermined.  Water-based monsters are likely.  At least one of the pools (the smallest one) possesses a magical "heating element" that warms the water, a la Roman baths (a hypocaust would be neat, but a bugger to map unless I switch to a 1-square = 1 foot scale, and it would then be a bugger for the adventurers.  Unless they used reduce person...)  Rooms 1-47 & 1-48 will have something going on.  Passage 1-49 is accessed by climbing the wall from the waterfall to the passage opening; a short distance, but not something the PCs are going to do easily.  This will be generally true of aerie levels.

"The Great Stair" is probably a goblin-held section.  Their warren spans several levels.  The great stair itself drops to level 3.
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Monday, March 19, 2012

Measureless Maze - Level One

Level One
 Primary entry level of the Measureless Maze, via the stairs at top center.  Secondary entrances are via the ladder at top left, and the stream at top right.  Exits are top left (down a level), bottom left (down a level), bottom left (up a level), top/mid right (the room with the small pool; probably up a level, though it'd be a hard climb up a waterfall), bottom right (up a level), and bottom (access via the Shaft to several other levels).

Now that I look at this, actually, I'm going to close off a few corridors and add another set of stairs.  I'll leave this version up, though.
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Saturday, March 10, 2012

Megadungeon Musings, part 1

The subject of megadungeons is a perennial one, and events of the past few days have got me thinking about them again.  I've designed dungeons; I've designed large dungeons; but I've never designed a full-on megadungeon.  It's an intriguing exercise.

The two basic rules I'll follow are: 1) a minimum of 12 levels, not including sub-levels, demi-levels, quasi-levels, or any other sort of "not-a-full-on-level" that you want to name, and 2) no overarching theme or villain.  The most powerful monsters will be near the "bottom", but they won't control the entire dungeon.  Different factions will control different areas, with different goals.

I will map by hand, but I will also experiment with other formats, primarily sketch-up, to generate simple 3D visuals.

Preliminary features & details include the following:
  • a gigantic vertical crevice or shaft, which provides the central focus of the dungeon.  The shaft has been closed over at certain points, so one cannot simply rappel from the first level to the 12th, but the shaft does span a number of levels, and not all of the closures are well maintained.  The shaft is large enough to allow fliers room to maneuver, and has links to the outside at its very highest reach.
  • A pride of manticores controls the first 3 levels of the shaft.  The third level has a solid stone floor covering the shaft, and it is not apparent from above that the shaft continues below.
  • The first level intersects the shaft roughly halfway between the "floor" and the highest visible point of the shaft.  Above the first level are the "Aerie Levels", a number of sub-levels that are mostly inaccessible except from the shaft.  Some also feature outdoor connections (onto a cliff-face or the like).
  • At least the upper levels of the dungeon are within a mountain or other elevated terrain feature, rather than wholly below ground.  This allows some of the Aerie levels to include watchtowers or the like.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Dungeons of the Shadowend

  • Bone Castle: Few specifics are known about this necromantic edifice in the Bone Forest.  A few particularly foolhardy individuals claim to have entered the castle and met its skeletal lord, but to no particular end.  The relationship between Bone Castle and the Castle of the Stag is unclear, although everyone seems to feel one exists.
  • Broken Tower: An ancient ruin of the Dwarfmoors which marks the entrance to an underground labyrinth said to lead (though only after a great distance), to the dwarven greathall of Hearthhome.  Not a few adventuring parties have thought to quietly plunder the dwarves treasure (for surely they have much), and lost their lives beneath the Broken Tower searching for the elusive passage.
  • Castle of the Stag: Built by the elven lord Dualin in the Bone Forest (aka the Corpse-Wood), the Castle of the Stag fell into ruin after his death.
  • Deephalls:  Underlying the Hundred Kingdoms, Larenyss, and much of the Shadowend Forest, the Deephalls are less dungeon than enviroment.  The three regions of the Deephalls were once one, separated when the sidhe cracked the earth.  The hallmark of the Deephalls are the arrow-straight tunnels, eighty feet wide and forty feet high, that run for hundreds of miles beneath the earth.
  • Dungeon of Stones: A fallen gnomish winterhall, the Dungeon of Stones was overthrown by fell creatures ruled by an elemental earth power. No sign of that ruler is visible, but it's creations and bound minions still guard treasures from across the planes.  Located in the Turont Hills immediately north of the Eldewood, where the north branch of the Eldeflow emerges from underneath the earth.
  • Endless Dungeon: Once a wizard's retreat, the corridors and caverns of the Endless Dungeon shift, open, and close apparently at random, revealing pristine chambers or arcane workshops filled with enchanted items and magical lore.  The entrance is less easily found from inside, it's said.  The Endless Dungeon is marked by an empty tower, which sits at the southern tip of the High Hills, east of the ruins of Osar.
  • Greenbind Castle: This ancient overgrown keep in the Moonwood is rumored to still conceal at least one vault full of weapons enchanted against lycanthropes.
  • Hall of Roses: The remains of a bardic college; what is left is filled with riddles, tricks, and traps designed by the elves to test an aspirant's knowledge of faerilven lore and legend.  The fallen Hall of Roses sits north of the Hags Mere, under the shadow of Alorm Peak in the High Hills.
  • Hill of the Three Kings:  Actually three large barrow mounds, the Hill of the Three Kings are feared and avoided by all wise folk of the Shadowend.  The resting places of three brothers, the barrows each open once a year, one a night for three nights, and the hellish undead within ride forth for one night of terror and murder.  Many heros have tried to end the rampages of the three kings, but none have succeeded for more than a year.
  • Kaerzin Mus: Castle Mouse overlooks the River Yls near Barvanigar and is kept in good repair by the orcs and brigands of the area.  Tunnels and caverns in the bluff below Kaerzin Mus reportedly include passages below the river and possibly into Barvanigar itself, a serious threat to the security of the town.
  • Kaerzin Torn: Between the Gonenfall Forest and the Shrouded Peaks, Hill Castle was one of the anchors of Dorandin defense.  The fortress eventually fell to a monstrous horde of orcs, ogres, and giants, but none of Kaerzin Torn’s notable treasures or weapons have ever been recovered or even seen in the centuries since then. Much of the fortress was destroyed, but the central keep and curtain walls still stand.
  • Knighting Well: Of unknown origin; the Knights of the Oak (an order now largely extinct) utilized the outermost areas as a testing ground of a candidate's worthiness; legend says a great temptress makes her home here; undoubtedly she has accumulated much magical treasure over the centuries.  The Knighting Well lies in the flat forestland halfway between the Greenflow and the Eldewood.
  • Legionaire’s Tomb:  The fabled resting place of the first Amerite legion in the Hundred Kingdoms, the Legionaire’s Tomb is a much sought-after legend.
  • Measureless Maze:  This vast dungeon complex beneath the Shalanwode was excavated centuries ago by the archmage Kulan Unculear.
  • Temple of the Rats: A stronghold of the Rat Cult, the Temple has been razed and rebuilt more times than can be counted.  Rumor suggests the Cult is struggling to gain a foothold once more, and that they've stockpiled gold, gems, and jewels to fund their efforts.  Closest to Shalanholt and civilization, the Temple of Rats lies on the swampy shores of Hags Mere, where the ratmen may seek fell allies.
  • Undercity of Shalanholt:  Of unknown orign, the Undercity of Shalanholt was excavated from the bedrock beneath Shalanholt.  Streets, buildings, alleys, and fountains are all found in this abandoned settlement, all shaped to human size and fashion.  The archmage Kulan Uncùlear is sometimes found here.
  • Vanishing Dungeon: The stronghold of an evil cult dedicated to four dark deities, the Vanishing Dungeon manifests periodically on the Material Plane, disgorging evil when it does.
  • Volgabaern Warren: Once the gnome winterhall Cynwualf, now a goblin stronghold in the White Hills.
  • Well of Swords: The former stronghold of a powerful runesmith, who may have survived into undeath -- survivors report a great number of mechanical and magical traps, all in good repair.  They also recovered a great number of fine magical & masterwork weapons.  The Well of Swords lies due west of Shalanholt, just beyond the western tip of Hags Mere.

Unnamed or Undescribed Dungeons:

  • Chelaim Tower
  • Haunting Halls of the Herald-Lords
  • Keep of Wyrms
  • Silent Halls
  • Sinking Tower of Dremdolain
  • Tower Ain
  • Tower of Cthros March
  • Whispering Well
  • the great funerary maze of the archmage Isadollin, famous for her staff of power won from a great red wyrm.
  • a series of crypts used by the Autumn Kings, who ruled a small but rich kingdom for several centuries.
  • the final foul resting place of a high priest of Nevias, who terrorized the populace as a vampire after his first death, and whose malignant spirit was finally imprisoned by Biedon Houl, Clerist Arcanist of Ados, at the cost of his own life.
  • an ancient dwarven hold beneath Kiend Peak, in the High Hills, now the home of a powerful tribe of fire giants.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


The Shalanwode is a crossroads in the Shadowend, a thickly forested highland travelled regularly by orcs, goblins, giants, elves, and other creatures of the Shadowend and Utgard.  The Wiernaug tribesmen have their oldest settlements here, tiny hidden hamlets which have never fallen under the rule of any outside law or king.

Elves, goblins, and giants are also frequently found here, as the elves travel from the Winding Halls and points east to Shalaen and the Reachlands, and the goblins journey from the mountains of Sarn to the High Hills and Utgard.  Monstrous and dire animals of all kinds may be found in the Shalanwode and its environs, including dire wolves, boar, and elk, owlbears, and harrow hounds.

The Shalanwode was never cleared, and few dungeons or ruins of interest are known.  The natural inhabitants of the area discouraged many people from seeking refuge here, but a few powerful factions established strongholds before falling with the rest of the Woodmarches.  A splinter cult dedicated to Nevias, Ragavar, Urjin, and Kajalla founded several fortified temples in the Shalanwode before being eradicated four centuries ago; the most powerful of these temples is known as the Vanishing Dungeon, as it shifts to the Prime Material from a sealed demi-plane at widely spaced intervals.  Other dungeons include the Tower Ain, an ancient elven watchtower currently held by a faerilven archmage, and the Measureless Maze, a vast dungeon complex excavated beneath the Shalanwode by a powerful lich centuries ago.