Monday, February 28, 2011

The Old-school Gamer Zodiac

For centuries, old-school gamers have been born under certain astrological signs that may dictate their nature and effect their fortunes. What sign are you?

1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999
Able to see many possibilities at once, you are fascinated by the world around you. You tend to be a bit controlling at times, and seldom have lasting friendships. You are a natural businessman! Try a little gentle humor to save those disintegrating friendships. You are most compatible with Green Slimes and Ettins, and should avoid Wyverns at all costs.

Displacer Beast
1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000
You are quick witted and physically active, and never seem to stay in one place for long. Versatile under stress, you nonetheless resent intrusion into your private space. You may form long lasting friendships with Froghemoths, but relationships with Blink Dogs are doomed to failure.

Green Slime
1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001
Despite a tendency to blend into the background during social occasions, you are nonetheless able to command the rapt attention of your audience when you drop in unexpectedly. You can be clingy and acerbic, but you have more than enough personality to go around. Flumphs will be devoted to you for life, but Beholders will only break your heart.

Slithering Tracker
1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002
You are known as a faithful friend and follower, and will never give up on your heart's desire. While sometimes you may feel unappreciated, it is only because you have a tendency to avoid drawing attention to yourself. Gelatinous Cubes may attract you , but avoid them: they are jealous! Stick with Wyverns, they are flighty, but fun.

Gelatinous Cube
1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003
You are determined and focused, but tend to carry around alot of baggage. Somewhat of a neat freak, you take pride in keeping a tidy home, and woe to anyone who crosses you! You love Slithering Trackers, but Ropers are nothing but trouble.

1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004
Cheerful and proud, you nonetheless have a somewhat bi-polar disposition. Despite that, your will is strong, and you batter away at obstacles with unusual strength! You can be warm and cuddly when the mood strikes, but seldom let that get in the way of your appetites. Ropers fascinate you, but Displacer Beasts are better companions.

1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005
You have a big personality and capacity for fun that leaves others in awe. When sunk in a depression, the arrival of unexpected friends will find you ready and waiting to greet them with a big smile! You form long-lasting relationships with Ropers and Green Slimes, but Flumphs set you on edge.

Flail Snail
1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006
You're no fool, and even the strongest personality in unlikely to get you out of your shell. Resilient and resistant, you are willing to try the same thing many times until you get them right. You despise inactivity, and are always in motion. You are hopelessly enamored with Ettins,
but Gelatinous Cubes will never let you down.

Blink Dog
1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007
You have a reputation for being capricious, here one day and gone the next, but are always surrounded by friends despite this. You are always able to get out of a bind, and have no problem getting others to listen to you. Avoid Displacer Beasts, their nice words are only lip service. Choose Ettins instead: they are more likely to throw you a bone!

1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008
Light-hearted and touchy-feely, you are a committed social butterfly. Pay no attention to those who consider you useless, they are only envious of your capacity to give and receive affection. Ropers are warm friends and Slithering Trackers will never let you out of their sight, but Wyverns may leave you feeling deflated.

1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009
Tough and thick-skinned, you have a tendency for getting right to the point. Don't let your natural emotional coldness get in the way of meeting new friends - together you can achieve greater heights! You have a strong nesting instinct, and love to bring new acquaintances home to meet the kids. Slithering Trackers may seem into you, but they are seldom looking for commitment; stick with Green Slimes, and they will stick with you.

1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010
You love to multi-task, but have a tendency to grow roots too easily. Let your friends come to you - you have a reputation for trying too hard, so give prospective mates a little breathing room, they'll appreciate you for it. Your emotional needs have gotten you into some sticky situations in the past - try welcoming new experience with open arms and you will be rewarded. Flumphs and Froghemoths will stay true, but Beholders will only use you and throw you away.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Oh, Yeah!

This should absolutely be the inspiration for your next several sessions.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

What's "powerful" in your campaign?

Just curious about your opinions/experiences on this: what is "powerful" in your campaign (in terms of character level) and why?

Do the top PCs and "movers and shakers" in your campaign average 4-6th level? 9-12th? 20th level? 36th level? Why?

And what sort of magical gewgaws are they carrying around by this point?

And what sort of opponents are they regularly facing off against by that level?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

AD&D - that Look!

For the most part, I can let the pictures here do the talking. Out of all the editions or variations of the game, AD&D seems, in my opinion at least, to have the most iconic art and feel of them all. When I think of D&D in terms of visuals, nothing comes to mind as quickly as the art of these books and modules, as well as the layout, font, and other elements. As much as an artist like Alan Lee can be said to have captured the essence of the Lord of the Rings, so too did Trampier, Sutherland, and Otus capture the essence of D&D. Environments are dark and forbidding. The characters depicted are thin, dirty, and leering, a far cry from the more commercial "heroic" depictions of later editions. No giant swords and spiky armor here, the weapons depicted are realistic, and all the more dangerous looking for it. Dragons are snaky and clever-looking, a far cry from the winged brontosauruses of later editions.

I may be making a completely wrong assumption here, but the art of 1E feels like it was created by artists who actually played the game and presented those experiences and atmosphere in paint and pencil, as opposed to artists who received strict "art direction" motivated by marketing and commercialized ideas of what fantasy is supposedly all about. Every so often, new product comes out that deliberately emulates that original style of art and layout, and there will inevitably be a few voices criticizing them as derivative and unoriginal. But to me, this is what "D&D looks like". I don't want my D&D to look like Warhammer, or Cyberpunk, or the Belgariad, or so on. My D&D is gritty, dark, greedy, weird, and scabrous. The oldest 1E pieces present that in artistic form better than anything else. Matter of fact, I think that very first image up there, the Trampier piece with the treasure chest, pretty much sums everything up nicely.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

AD&D - is Advanced!

As the Monster Manual would be the first of the "Advanced" books, it would also be the first look at the "Advanced" rules, and the text seems to back up the moniker. Monsters that appeared in the LBB's as a brief paragraph of evocative text and a couple of essential numerical particulars (HD, AC, and not much else), would reappear in this new hardcover tome with several paragraphs of text, a long list of "statistics", and often a piece of representative black & white art, usually by Trampier or Sutherland (more about this art later).

Lets look at the Ixitxachitl (don't you love saying that name? Yeah, I can't pronounce it either), a monster that debuted in Arneson's "Supplement II: Blackmoor". As it appears in that book, the monster gets a brief line of numbers on a spare-looking chart (#, AC, move, HD, % in lair, and treasure type) and four sentences of descriptive text later in the chapter. In the Monster Manual, we get two substantive paragraphs about the creature, an illustration, and the following statistics:

Frequency: very rare
Appearing: 10-100
Armor Class: 6
Move: 12"
Hit Dice: 1+1
% In Lair: 60%
No. of Attacks: 1
Damage/Attack: 3-12
Special Attacks: Evil Clerical Spells
Special Defences: Nil
Magic Resistance: Standard
Intelligence: Average to High
Alignment: Chaotic Evil
Size: M
Psionic Ability: Nil
Attack/Defense Modes: Nil

To anyone converting straight to AD&D from OD&D, this must have raised eyebrows at first: "Magic Resistance?", "Chaotic Evil?", "Psionic Ability!?". Once you were familiar with the new format, you could tell a lot of information about a creature at a glance that you previously had to guess at, assume, or wing. What's it look like? How big is it? How smart is it? What happens when I cast spells at it? Now, I happen to like all the guessing, assuming, and winging that comes with OD&D, I see it as a beneficial side-effect that allows me to inject a little freshness into stuff that might conceivably be perceived as old hat after 35 or so years. But after a publishing history of just 5 years, this codification must have been welcomed with open arms by many. This would have eliminated a lot of the guesswork I can imagine many folks new to running the game may have found a bit frustrating.

A whole new suite of monster rules was being introduced to the game, right there on page 5. If you're able, take a look at that page, and the top third of page 6. You have a whole bunch of stuff explained there that would become pretty much standard for the next 30 years. Of course, this way of fine-detailing a monster would be taken to new heights as each new edition arrived, peaking in 3E, wherein each monster often had a full page or three of statistics and details, full-color art, and potentially 20-30 pages of combat rules, feats, and conditions to refer to to fully understand every nuance of the creature and its abilities in and out of combat.

Moving on to the PHB: upon opening this book you get 8 pages of introductory text with an exaustive table of contents and then you're right into the first new stuff: Character Abilities. Simple stuff we take for granted nowadays like a Strength bonus to-hit or Dex bonus to AC, was not always so straightforward. OD&D was a bit vague about this stuff, and further supplements would further muddy the waters (and even the modern interpretations of these still seem to evoke a bit of confusion: see the message boards for Swords & Wizardry). B/X moved ability scores into a simpler format: a 13 was a +1 bonus, for instance, whether you were talking AC or to-hit, or damage, or hit points, or Dex, or Str, or Cleric, or Thief, or so on. AD&D moved it in the other direction, introducing a suite of exceptions, particulars, and clarifications to each individual ability, often dependent on class.

AD&D also moved the bonuses for these scores to the higher end of the score range. A 13, which got you a +1 to-hit and damage in B/X, got you squat in AD&D; you needed a 17, a much rarer ability score (see the no-doubt peyote-fueled bell-curve and mathematical discourse on DMG pg10) to get that +1 to-hit and damage. This new element of D&D would help add yet another new element: min-maxing! You usually needed higher scores to even play one of the nifty new classes AD&D offered like the Assassin, Monk, or Ranger. And, no one wanted a sucky fighter with no bonuses to hit, or a thief with no bonus to AC, or so on. So, a way had be invented to provide players with a means of getting higher ability scores. Interestingly, the "need" to min-max must have been apparent very early on, as Gygax takes time to introduce ways of getting those higher ability scores (DMG pg11), stating "it is important to allow participants to generate a viable character of the race and profession which he or she desires". Note the word "viable", which means "doesn't suck".

The methods given to produce a character with abilities that are awesome!, ahem, viable, include rolling 3d6 six times for each ability and picking the best result, as well as the now-ubiquitous method of rolling 4d6 and picking the best three dice, then arranging the scores with the abilities of your choice. This would be taken to the next level with the Unearthed Arcana book, which provide a list, by class, of how many d6's to roll for each ability to get the scores you wanted. By 3E, you could just pretty much just write down whatever scores you wanted, as the point-buy system was introduced to D&D.

And here we have one of the fundamental changes I was referring to last post (you thought it was going to be just a numbers thing, didn't you?): for the first time, with AD&D, players began to come to the table with a character "concept" before rolling the first d6. Before AD&D the dice fell as they would: maybe you got a 7 strength and a 16 wisdom, and no matter how much you might've felt like running a super-strong Gilgamesh-type hero, you were stuck with either a weak fighter or a decent cleric. Now you could roll strength six times and unless you were pretty unlucky, you were going to get something you wanted. Of course, as I recall, few DMs were having any of this nonsense - I remember plenty of AD&D games where the ability score rolls were ordered to fall where they may! But just like a lot of those simplified combat rules we were carrying over from the early boxed versions of the game, this was an idiosyncrasy, not something the AD&D rules supported, encouraged, or even really allowed.

There's no method of rolling ability scores provided in the PHB. There are four specific methods in the DMG, and none of them are "roll 3d6 in order", this traditional method gets only a passing mention.

AD&D allowing players to come to the table with a character concept already fully-formed would really become, though it was a gradual change over decades, one of of the biggest dividing lines between "old-school" and "new-school" RPGs. Old school games tend to favor player skill over rules mastery or character strength: for an old-school player, it's fun to both accept the challenge of random generation (perhaps getting that Cleric mentioned above) and to masterfully play and develop that "accidental" character into something legendary. To beat the odds. Across later editions, the paradigm would slowly shift to deciding what sort of 20th level character you want (perhaps envisioning that Gilgamesh-type hero, brooding on his throne late in life), and selecting the appropriate ability scores, skills, feats, and magical equipment to bring that concept to fruition. To eliminate the odds altogether, through rules mastery. Both types of play have their merits and their proponents: AD&D seems to have facilitated both, perhaps it is both the first and last edition to do so.

More to come...

Friday, February 18, 2011

Thursday, February 17, 2011

AD&D continued - Rules, Rules, Rules.

Ok, so what did you find?

Here's what I found (just flipping to random pages and reading the first paragraph my eyes were drawn to):

"Unless otherwise stated, the effects of a potion will last for 4 complete turns plus 1-4 additional turns (d4). If half a potion is quaffed, the effects will last one-half as long in some cases. Potions will take effect 2-5 segments after they are imbibed." (DMG 125)

Now, I think I knew some of that, but I definitely don't remember ever using the whole "potions will take effect 2-5 segments after they are imbibed" part. As a matter of fact, the more I read, the more I see the emphasis on segments in many of the combat rules and situational modifiers. A segment is a somewhat chimeric increment of a combat round. Ostensibly, there are 10, but there can possibly be more (especially is speed factors are being used), and what you can do in a segment seems to change according to circumstances: as above waiting 2-5 segments for that healing potion to kick in, or as in surprise getting what would normally be one or two rounds worth of spells and attacks off. This is the kind of thing I pretty much ignored way back when, btw!

Lets move along to another page.

"Ships Burning Time of Uncontrolled Fires" (DMG 55)

Whoa. Now there's something I wouldn't have even thought to look for. And this from a DM who is responsible for a great many of the sunken ships dotting the murky bed of the Roglaroon Estuary. I remember vaguely scanning over some of the other ship combat rules in this section of the DMG, but again, how long it takes for a small merchant ship to burn away to chunks of flotsam is something I would normally just wing. By the way, its 2-8 turns, if you're curious. Which is far longer than I ever gave PCs to abandon ship!

Moving along to the PHB:

"Italics indicate weapon capable of dismounting a rider on a score equal to or greater than the "to-hit" score." (PHB 38)

I don't think I've ever noticed this detail, but I could be wrong. I don't remember as a player or DM ever seeing one of these weapons in use for the purpose of dismounting a mounted opponent.

But now that I am very much aware of this, I think the local orcs may be getting some new equipment...

Obviously I could go on like that for pages (and I could think of a worse weekly blog feature than "obscure AD&D random rule of the week"), but I think you get the point. And those three, at least, illustrate pretty well how all this stuff has been used at my table and others of my experience: some of it ignored in favor of "winging it", some undiscovered to this day, some tucked away into a back pocket to surprise players with later, and some deliberately excluded or vetoed.

As a matter of fact, its very easy to get the impression that most of the stuff in the AD&D books was from one of three sources: the basic game (OD&D), Chainmail esoterica that was left out of OD&D and someone thought would be a good idea to re-include, and third: every single houserule, exception, detail, and conditional modifier Gary remembered to write down during the apparent 80 or so hours a week he was DMing his campaigns back then.

Very few fundamental changes were made to the game's "core" rules, which is likely why OD&D, B/X, and AD&D stuff is so cross-compatible, and certainly why it was so easy to just ignore a good portion of the new stuff and keep running combat, surprise, movement, time, and other elements just the way we had always done with the various early boxed sets.

But that's not to say there were no fundamental changes. There certainly were, and we'll take a look at them next, as well as draw some conclusions about how they affected where the game was headed after AD&D...

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

AD&D continued - a Natural Progression

Rediscovering AD&D, if I can call it that, seems like a very natural progression, all things considered. Remembering back to the early years of the hobby, it was typically after a couple of years of B/X, Holmes, or OD&D that myself and the other gamers/groups I knew in the early 80's to had gotten comfortable enough with their games and campaigns that it was time to start branching out a bit, adding a bit more complexity and detail to the game as the ongoing campaigns themselves matured and became more complex through actual play. It was not an uncommon sight at all to see someone lugging around their B/X books (perhaps all cut up into a three-ring binder!) along with maybe a digest sized Gods, Demigods & Heroes, and a new hardcover tome: the Monster Manual. Up in the left hand corner of this durable-looking hardcover was a yellow banner that was soon to become ubiquitous proudly proclaiming "Advanced Dungeons & Dragons".

Well now!

Published in 1977, it was nonetheless rare on tables, at least in my experience, until '81 or so. Getting one back then was an almost pilgrimage-like ritual: one could not simply pick one up at JC Pennys like you could when you wanted a Modvay boxed set, you had to actually go to a hobby shop, or other store (in my case it was the local corner hardware store!) that went through the trouble of stocking the more "serious" gaming products. Visiting the racks to get that first Monster Manual was opening up a whole new world for gamers and DM's whose previous experience had been limited to whatever could fit into a shallow purple box! Here now was a whole new world of options - the new "Advanced" player's handbook was likely sitting there as well, along with tempting boxes of Grenadier miniatures, Arduin Grimoires, and shrink-wrapped bundles of Judges Guild supplements stuffed with seductive brown maps! Sure this stuff had all been there for a few years, but me and my friends in our tweens had no idea! The older guys, who met in libraries, VFW halls, and church basements to push ever-so-interesting stacks of counters around vast hex-maps of europe knew all about all that stuff already, but they didn't know much about us: the legions of middle-schoolers, our voices just starting to crack and deepen as we bragged about our x-wing fighters, girls, and gathered around whatever isolated table or stairwell we could find to explore the Keep on the Borderlands or the Isle of Dread.

Over the next couple of years those shallow purple boxes would be replaced by milk crates and backpacks brimming with new stuff! you remembered all the cool stuff you saw on the Monster Manual shopping pilgrimage, and as soon as you could successfully bug your moms out of a few more bucks you were back for more. New, more detailed monsters made appearances at the table. Then new classes, spells, and equipment. Rules? Who really noticed? The new DMG, published in 1979 but again not becoming a regular sight for a couple of years, was sacred and off-limits, and that's where most of the rules were. This was a huge difference from later editions, wherein most of the rules would appear in the Players Handbooks, and the "flavor" be resigned to the DMG, a change that I cannot help but think led to a big loss of the magic and wonder of the game, perhaps a big part of that indefinable sense of difference that has driven so many away from contemporary editions and into the Old School Renaissance or Original Edition gaming.

Which brings me back to that feeling of Natural Progression. I think its fair to say that until lately the retroclone movement has put a lot of emphasis on recreating OD&D and B/X. Sure, OSRIC is arguably the "first", but was per its creator intended to facilitate new AD&D releases, not "replace" the original books. But after a couple of years of that OD&D and B/X emphasis (which compellingly, seems to parallel the early 80's experience) there seems to be a growing interest in adding more "AD&Dish" elements to the game. Witness Labyrinth Lord's Advanced Edition Companion and the new Swords & Wizardry Complete, both of which add many of AD&D's iconic classes, monsters, and spells, to the already familiar "basic" rules structures. Or even taking AD&D a step further as with the forthcoming "Adventures Dark & Deep". And all the while, thriving AD&D communities and discussions have been plugging merrily along, varyingly supportive or derisive of the retroclones' popularity, at lively online inns like Dragonsfoot and Knights & Knaves Alehouse.

And if you are curious to explore or rediscover AD&D, like I am, man, what a rewarding treasure chest awaits! Its gaming archaeology at its finest! Go on, grab the 1E PHB or DMG if you have it handy, flip to a random page or two, and see if something there, some idiosyncratic rule or evocative bit of flavor, some italicized bit of small print, doesn't surprise you. Go ahead, I'll wait.

More to follow...

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Thoughts of AD&D

As enamored as I am of the marvelous array of recent Retros, I can't help (more and more lately) but miss the big boy of my misspent youth, AD&D (1E). Despite all it's sometimes inscrutable and conflicting rules, there remains nonetheless an undeniable baroque charm about the whole glorious mess. Certainly, some of that is the rose-colored glasses of nostalgia, which I will freely admit (despite it being not particularly "trendy" to admit), but its just a damn good game, which should be obvious as, anecdotally at least, it would seem to have the largest uninterrupted following. That is to say, more people have been playing AD&D 1E since it first came out and simply never stopped (despite the release of several editions, and versions of editions, since) playing and still play, than any other older edition. OD&D, B/X, and Rules Cyclopedia certainly have their followings, but I can't find much evidence that there are large uninterrupted followings.

And those clunky 1E rules? Who really noticed them, back in say, 1985 or so? You just played around them, or ignored them, or in my case at least, had no idea you weren't really using a lot of those rules to begin with: it seems to me a lot of us were really using B/X combat rules, with a lot of weird stuff from Dragon magazine thrown in for good measure. AD&D, in actual practice, to me and I suspect many others, was three very cool books full of stuff to tack on to the B/X basic core structure we had already pretty much subsumed from those first few introductory games. Sure, we adopted the new ability score bonuses (more about those later), but we had to figure out ways to min-max our ability generation a bit better to accommodate that - and lo and behold the DMG gave us several ways to do so! That's just one example of how AD&D may have introduced some, shall we say, less efficient ways of doing things, but seemed to recognize that and provide some rules-relief (though perhaps buried in the middle of an unrelated paragraph on aerial combat rules somewhere in the DMG!).

Perhaps I'm not being clear here; its not particularly easy to put into words, but I'll try and sum it up if you'll forgive some generalization: AD&D, when broken into little pieces, has some almost unforgivably bizarre idiosyncrasies. But when taken as the sum of its parts, its really an admirable achievement, and highly unlikely ever to be repeated, or reproduced.

Lets take an in-depth look at the system, piece by piece, and the differences between it and the earlier (and later) versions of the game.

More to follow...

Sunday, February 13, 2011


Yep, another year older today. Thanks to all of you out there for helping to continue enjoying a hobby that never fails to make one feel younger!

Like Fu Manchu, I shall now begin to put the fiendish pieces of my diabolical plan in place to concoct the Elixer Vitae!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Megadungeon Monsters

A grede is a foul spirit that lurks in the deep, dusty halls where the lines between Megadungeon and Mythic Underworld are the most blurred. Near-invisible save for a slight wavy texture in the air, like the air over bricks on a hot day, the grede lies in wait for a passing party of adventurers, and then picks the weakest-looking member to try and possess (typically a torch-bearer or some-such). Over the following days, the grede will use its possessed victim to steal from one party member or another when the opportunity arises. The stolen goods are then placed among the possessions of another party member. The grede feeds off emotions of anger, passion, and conflict over material wealth, and will do its best to procure such a meal, tending the ever-more-hostile emotions of the party as a gardener tends his garden.
A bodiless grede is harmless, and cannot be harmed, but may possess an individual in 1 round that fails its saving throw. A grede-possessed victim is unnaturally strong, and will radiate both magic and evil if detections are used. A grede may be forced out of a victim with remove curse or other such magic.
Grede (in possessed body) HD6+6; AC6[13]; dmg1d6+3; Save: F6; Special: Possession.

Gray Gorger
The Gray Gorger appears, at first, as a slim grey humanoid with joint-less, flexible arms and legs, an eyeless white face with flaring nostrils and gaping mouth, and a single glowing tentacle sprouting from its forehead. Anyone looking at the tentacle must save or be hypnotized, and stand still staring at it. The Gorger feeds on any carrion or meat it can find, including hypnotized victims, and shoves them, whole, into its jawless mouth. Each meal makes the Gorger bigger and bigger. If seriously threatened, it will vomit out the contents of its swollen guts in a 30' cone, causing anyone struck by the noxious mess to save or be rendered helpless and reeling by nausea. Victims swallowed by the Gorger take 2d8hp dmg per round.
Gray Gorger HD8; AC4[15]; dmg 1d6/1d6; Save F8; Special: hypnotism, swallow, vomit.

Blind Tinker
The Blind Tinker appears as a milky-eyed, frail-looking, gollum-like creature that carries around a massive pack of debris and bric-a-brac on its back. The Tinker collects whatever castoff junk it can find around the dungeon, repairs it, and sells it. It has a 35% chance of carrying around items lost by deceased player characters. It has a 25% chance of having any item on the standard equipment list in the PHB, and the Tinker charges 2x the normal cost. It will also repair items for 10% of their worth. If threatened, the Tinker possesses 3 or 4 bottles that, if broken, release poisonous fumes into the air that act as Stinking Cloud and Sleep (save vs. each), and will flee while the party is incapacitated.
Blind Tinker HD3+3; AC9[10]; dmg 1d4; Save C3; Special: gas bottles.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Omegea Atlas - Prinsepia 9

Travel far in the northern lands of Omegea, across the barren tundras and endless ice-crystal forests, until you come to the Obsidian Plain. There, in the center of all those miles of cracked, nuclear glass rises a domed city of gothic spires of black iron, massive statues wreathed in gauzy gowns of rust, soaring bridges, and yawning portals leading to vast underground galleries and railways. Above it all, floating in and out of massive windows in the milky green glass of the great dome, lurk the massive airships of the Royal Navy.

This is Prinsepia 9, greatest city of the North. Ruled for a hundred generations by the iron-fisted Toklemoria family, a rule enforced by twin hammers: the military might of the Royal Navy, and the sorcerous power of the Circle of Thirteen Quantum Uncertainties. The members of the Toklemoria family live for centuries, their lifespans unnaturally lengthened by the alchemical ministrations of the Medikos Guild.

Below the iron spires are winding, gaslit streets and alleys filled with folk in their garb of savage Gruruk-fur and jeweled weapon harness. Most favor shaved heads and eyes darkened with kohl. The gentlemen of Prinsepia 9 typically arm themselves with short swords and irradium pistols, and wear rings filled with narcotic dusts of various hues, flavors, and effects to ingest when the melancholy of the mundane threatens them with boredom. Also to be found in the streets are foreigners and lesser castes from Prinsepia 9's many subject cities, such as Arigend 4 and Palmuria 12.

Technology is the god of Prinsepia 9. Out on the tundras are many archaeological excavations undertaken by those bold enough to risk the hazards of the wastes for the possibility of the next big find, and all the financial reward that comes with it. Each unearthed secret of the ancients adds to the prestige and power of the city. Beneath the city's own subterranean galleries lie deeper chambers as yet unexplored, many crawling with the hungry spawn of earlier ages.

At the center of the city, rising out of and above the great dome, is the Observatory, a massive tower topped with an array of lenses and arcane sensors used to track the motions of the stars, which the folk of Prinsepia 9 believe influences their futures, personalities, and daily lives.


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