Monday, March 30, 2015

Designing a campaign world - part 1

One of the most rewarding parts of TTRPGing is Worldbuilding. Designing a campaign world is truly one of the most unique things about the hobby. Its a chemistry not unlike love - when you meet that perfect person for you and the sparks fly... well you don't need me to tell you that the sum is often more than the whole of its parts.

The same thing is very true with original worlds. When allowed to grow and expand through the interaction of 2 or more like-minded individuals, you can get something with a life of its own. So how do you plant that first seed, so it can flourish and grow?

Back in the dawn of the hobby (for me at least, talking about the late 70's here), those seed/ideas came from the books I hungrily devoured. Often DAW "Yellow Spine" books which were so cheap and fascinating at my local used bookstore.

Nowadays, however, my continued voracious appetite for cheap, plentiful pulp fantasy is enabled by my Kindle and the "evil empire" of Amazon, and additional inspiration is available a click of a button away on the now-everpresent internet.

Having read a few desert themed pulps recently, and having binge watched a series of documentaries about ancient Assyria, the Hittites, and Babylon, I thought it would be fun to make my first 5E campaign setting, I named it "Atheon", with an ancient Eastern Mediterranean flavor, blended with magic and perhaps some Dying Earth-style Sci-fantasy. Flying ships hovering over ziggurats while assassins battle tech-warlocks on the steps? Yes please!

Here's some google images I saved for inspiration:

Characters are important too, of course:

Coming up in part 2, I'll discuss one of my favorite parts of campaign settings - Religion!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

WotRP - Exploring Your Own Red Planet

Its your Red Planet
One of the most important sections of the Warriors of the Red Planet is the "Playing the Game" section, starting on page 39. This is where we can delve into the heart of Sword & Planet gaming - the world you're gaming in. Rules for characters and combat are all well and good, but what often makes a campaign unique is its environment. A good table top RPG takes place predominantly in what we like to call the "Theater of the Mind", and years later, when you're bragging about the exploits of your 9th level Mentalist, its the images your GM evokes during play that make the adventures memorable.

A Weird & Wild Ride
Warriors of the Red Planet divides its attention into 3 primary locales: the Wilderness, the Underworld, and Urban Settings. In most Sword & Planet settings, the vast, untamed wilderness serves sort of the same purpose the Oceans serve in more traditional, Medieval Europe type games - its a vast emptiness, best traversed in ships (the aerial sort, in our case), with wild ports of call to stop in at, strange islands of vegetation and isolated enclaves, and beneath it all a dark Underworld of mystery and deadly hazards.

Warriors of the Red Planet encourages GMs to let the players stop and smell the roses at bit - not every interesting aspect of an adventure happens at the end of a sword. Make a big deal out the of the landmarks and oddities of the alien environment. Over there are towering spears of Violet crystal, their razor-sharp tips poking nearly a mile into the sky. Over here is the domed edifice of a lost civilization, its ancient machinery still sending throbs through the bedrock of the desolate wastelands.

When the Well is Dry
While plenty of inspiration for your Red Planet is to be found in the books of authors like Burroughs, Kline, and Moorcock, the true joy of Sword & Planet gaming is coming up with a world of your own. And for those times when the creative juice just aren't flowing the way you'd like them to, WotRP is packed with page after page of random tables to get your creative fires lit. From random encounter tables featuring more than 100 new monsters, to tables allowing you to generate names, ruins, adventure hooks, monuments, artifacts of Weird Science, flora, relics, settlements, vehicles, buildings, and the straight-up "unexplainable".

My Red Planet
For my own corner of the Red Planet, I came up with the Cerulean Rift - a mile-deep, two-hundred mile long rift in the surface of the planet. Getting there takes some doing - either hire or buy some expensive airship transportation, or risk the long and costly overland journey. The Rift itself is a microcosm of what the Red Planet used to be before its rise and fall - humid jungles, seeping swamps, and deadly cave complexes. It has its share of lost cities, wondrous ruins, and hidden treasures, and even its own fragile political structure. Built into the cliffs at one point, overlooking the rift floor, is a noble city - Thorium, capital of Nar Harak, the Red Warlord. From Thorium, adventurers can indulge in political intrigue, mount expeditions into the untamed wilderness of the rift floor, or venture into the unmapped mazes of the Underworld.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Warriors of the Red Planet - Have you slain a Banth today?

In case you don't already know, Warriors of the Red Planet is available over at Lulu now to fill your craving for Sword & Planet adventure with old-school D&D-inspired rules!

Special thanks to my paintbrush-wielding partner Thomas Denmark for getting this up and out there while I was otherwise occupied with RL business.

As always, check back here and over on the "official" WotRP site for additional material, art, and news.

And, please, let us know what you think about the game - there are some plans yet to be revealed for this labor of love, and It'd be great to have the gaming community's input!

PS, there's a nice little review here.

Friday, March 20, 2015

New 5E Sorcerous Origin - The Tainted Soul

While I like most of the class options in the 5E PHB, I felt like the available flavors of Sorcerer were a bit unappealing, especially from an old-schooler's perspective. With that in mind, I came up with the Tainted Soul, a Sorcerer option designed to evoke the type of Sorcerer one might come across in a Conan story, or perhaps a Frazetta painting.

Tainted Soul
Something unnatural happened to you - maybe your mother was exposed to foul sorcery while you were still in the womb, maybe as a youth you snuck a peek at a forbidden tome and were forever changed, or maybe you were cursed for some great sin you committed. In any event, your soul is now tainted with the stain of dark magic; whether you use this power for good or evil is up to you.

Twisted Visage
You are physically marked by your magic - perhaps with something ugly, like a cloven hoof or night-black horns, perhaps something beguiling like softly glowing eyes or unearthly beauty. While this sets you apart from most mortals, it does have its advantages - apply double your Proficiency bonus to your choice of Intimidation or Persuasion.

Ritual Caster
Unlike most Sorcerers, you are not shy of dusty tomes or ritual magic. You have the ability to use Ritual magic from the Sorcerer or Wizard spell lists, and start with a ritual book containing two such spells.

Hypnotic Presence
Starting at 6th level, you can exert your superior presence to bend the will of lesser mortals. Once per short rest, one creature within 60 feet of you that can see you must succeed on a Charisma saving throw or suffer the effects of the charm person spell. At 10th level and above, your control is even greater, and your target must save or suffer the effects of a dominate person spell.

Unnatural Vigor
Starting at 14th level, your body has become so thoroughly tainted by sorcery that it is nearly impossible to kill you. Once per long rest, when you are reduced to 0 hit points, you may use your reaction to immediately regain half of your maximum hit points, rounded up.

Demonic Servant
Starting a 18th level, you may call up a being from the netherworld to act as your servant, protector, and familiar. This servant takes the form of a demon, devil, fey, or undead of your choice of not greater than CR9. If this servant is destroyed, you must wait one week before summoning another.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Random Table: 100 Market Stalls

Winding bazaars and markets filled with colorful stalls stocked with exotic goods are a fantasy staple. But what are today's stalls offering? Roll (d100) on the table below to find out:

100 Market Stalls (d100)
01.  Exotic parrots with rainbow plumage
02. Charms against possession and enchantment
03. Narwhal-horn scrimshaw
04. Purple Worm-tooth daggers
05. Fine parchment, inks, & quills
06. Obnoxiously loud ornamental dogs
07. Old Greba's Spell Component & Herb Emporium
08. Dragonfruit (a popular aphrodesiac)
09. Troot's "Knock-Knee" Brandy
10. Fine scarves and shawls
11. Holter's Roots, Tubers, and Grubs
12. Oak-handled umbrellas and sunshades
13. Lens Grinder - Bronze-rimmed reading glasses
14. Hot spiced meat pies
15. Pet lemurs and a variety of ornamental leashes
16. Firewood and charcoal
17. Handmade silver-wire hairnets & necklaces
18. Fried onions & mushrooms
19. Candied confections
20. Risque night attire
21. Rare books, scrolls, & tomes
22. Handcarved blackwood statuettes
23. Caricature artist
24. Ceramic pottery
25. Love potions (1 in 20 actually works!)
26. Fresh vegetables of gigantic size
27. Fine leather belts, straps, gloves, & boots
28. Iron cookware
29. Fine sheathes for blades of all sizes
30. Grilled insects on sticks
31. Rolula the Fortune Teller & Card Reader
32. Gungi's Ale Stall - Halfpints, pints, & litres available
33. Gnarlwood flutes & whistles
34. Fresh fruits from the fabled shouthern jungles
35. Scribing & Messenger service
36. Dulok the moneychanger and his intimidating bodyguards
37. Fine portraits & landscapes
38. Rare maps of locales near & far
39. Smoked giant hornfish
40. Fine shoes & slippers for courtiers
41. Well-crafted and colorful glassware
42. Freshly skinned rabbits
43. Finely woven baskets and hats
44. Pumpkins, Gourds, and Squash
45. Berries, Grapes, and Cherries
46. Saddles, tack, harness, and saddlebags
47. Priest pontificating about the End Days to any who'll listen
48. Nine different varieties of Bay Leaf
49. Fiery spices from across the great ocean
50. Needles & Pins, 99 different colors of thread
51. Leather jackets
52. Leather boots & shoes
53. Hot peppers & sauces
54. Fresh flowers, available in arrangements
55. Piping hot spiced cider
56. Potatoes, available in 10 or 25 lb sacks
57. Nice porcelain chamber pots & ewers
58. Caged geese, plump & raucous
59. Pintillican's Gauranteed Fever-Cures
60. Strings, cat-gut or wire for stringed instruments
61. Drums & drumheads
62. Fine attire for dwarfs, halflings & other folk of small stature
63. Chalk & slates of all sizes
64. Multi-colored rugs
65. Backpacks, pouches, & sacks
66. Candied chestnuts
67. Fine wines by the bottle or cask
68. Underclothes of Distinction
69. Masonry Tools
70. Ingots of various rare metals
71. Finely crafted hourglasses
72. Bolts of silk from the unapproachable East
73. Hats of all shapes & sizes
74. Rotten eggs & vegetables for sale to throw at undesirables
75. Poetry by commission
76. Puppets & Marionettes
77. A pair of surly looking goblins offering to darn socks
78. Bird feathers & plumage of all sizes & colors
79. A sergeant of the Black Iron Mercenary Company soliciting recruits
80. Bells, bells, and more bells. And a group of children who won't leave them alone.
81. Ornate birdcages
82. Massage for a gold piece
83. Fine cloaks & capes
84. Delicious smelling freshly baked bread
85. Dried meats & fruits
86. Tinterboxes & Torches
87. Beritte the Curse-Tamer
88. Ceramic mugs & goblets
89. Weird & Wonderful porcelain masks
90. Golben the Ogler
91. Sugar cane and molasses
92. Rare Tea of Altered Consciousness
93. A mud-caked orphan girl trying to sell from a litter of kittens
94. Bags of barley, wheat, and rye
95. Wooden contraptions of uncertain purpose
96. Hommaquill Whitebeard, Seer of Heroes
97. Hot apple & gooseberry pies
98. Fine rapiers with intricate basket-hilts
99. Model ships and gliders
00. A dubious-looking trader trying to sell (for an extravagant sum) what he claims to be a pseudodragon egg


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