Saturday, November 10, 2018

Wilderlands: Down and Out at the Tanglebones Tavern

After much shifting around with my home group, I'm running a Wilderlands campaign for them set in and around the City State of the Invincible Overlord using 5e.  Here's a recap of the first two sessions.

The party consists of...
James as Tancred the Half Giant (stats as Goliath, Fighter 1 though not present for the first session)
KC as Namira (Altanian Celistial Warlock 1 and disciple of Mycr)
JP as Paelias Diamonddew (Northern Elf Ranger 1)
and Chris as Cyrus (Viridian Fighter 1)

During the second session Chris named the group the Fumbling Four, but that won't make sense until Tancred shows up.


Paelias, Cyrus, and Namira had spent the last days of the Month of the Silent Scream in the Tanglebones Tavern listening for rumors that might lead to adventure.  After dismissing a few as too base (they party's overall alignment tends towards Good), they elected to help out the Overlord's Light Cavalry.  It seems that patrols in the Dearthwood were being attacked by strange, flying snakes whose venom was especially potent.  This had crippled many of the cavalrymen and meant that long stretches of the southern road were patrolled.  Paelias thought he could lead the party to the most likely source of these creatures, and together they would destroy the nest.

Once they exited the tavern they were accosted by a pair of buskers in corpse paint.  These street musicians were armed and seemed unhappy with the obvious goody-two-shoes aspect of the party.  Namira was able to talk them down before a fight ensued, but the buskers promised violence if ever they were seen on slash street again.  After detouring around a procession dedicated to the god of Gargoyles, which featured the enormous god himself, they found themselves forced to pay a small tax and declare their loyalty to the Overlord before they could exit the city.


Once in the Dearthwood Paelias decided to lead the group towards a ridgeline that is some miles into the forest.  It was here he believed the flying snakes would have their home.  On the way they passed by a large cenote with some sort of strange activity.  Scouting ahead, Paelias found it was a flock of pegasi who fled at his arrival.  Travelling onward they were able to avoid an ambush by orcs and were able to set up camp without attracting any more of the vicious savages.  In the cold light of dusk the Cyrus spied some small shapes flying over a nearby hill, confirming Paelias's suspicions.

The next morning Paelias made for the hill to scout it alone.  As he approached he narrowly avoided a number of arrows from an unknown source.  He returned to the group confirming both the presence of flying snakes and informing them of intelligent opposition.  The three of them decided to investigate from another angle, with Cyrus this time a little ahead of the party.  He noted that the structure on top of the hill, though apparently natural, was made by some intelligent hand and included a number of arrow slits.  It also had a door set in the side that could be approached from an angle that would leave someone looking out of the arrow slits blind to the oncoming assailant.

Cautiously passing beyond the door, they found a hallway ending in a T section.  Here they heard a subtle hissing from below and deduced the location of a pit trap filled with (conventional) snakes.  Jumping over they made there way to what seemed to be a catacomb shelf.  Testing it with a handaxe, Cyrus discovered a blade trap.  This they avoided but soon they found themselves in a room filled with flying snakes (and their nests).  As warned, these creatures had very potent venom and Paelias suffered ill-wounds and was only saved by Namira's magical healing.  Having been beaten back, Cyrus decided to cut an arrowslit of his own in the door.  Unfortunately, the noise attracted a number of (conventional) snakes whose posion, while less potent, again caused Paelias to collapse.  Deciding the task of killing the snakes was a bit too difficult, they fled.


On the way back they fell in with a small troop of the Overlord's Light Cavalry and were escorted back to the city.  They made friends with one of them (who was on his last patrol ever, since he was leaving the Overlord's service) and spent a week in the city with him participating in pit fights and gambling at the Tanglebones Tavern.  Cyrus acquitted himself well in the pit fights, as did Namira who fought masked so as to hide her identity.  Paelias, perhaps still sick from the venom, contented himself to bet on the matches but lost his money.

Tancred the Half-Giant, for that was the former soldier's name, was initially interested in ridding the Dearthwood of the flying snakes, but upon hearing of the potency of the snakes' venom, the Fumbling Four elected instead to seek new rumors.  They heard the angry sermon of a priest of Tsathoggus outside the tavern.  The priest, it seems, had gone into the Mermist Marsh but had been chased out by "degenerates" and "inbreds" who worshiped the Toad, a rival to Tsathoggus in batrachian mastery.  He offered a blessing from Tsathoggus for any who would go into the swamp and murder the "bumpkins."  Namira was uneasy about working for a false god, but admitted that killing the followers of another false god was perhaps a net good.


They left the Tanglebones Tavern in the first week of the Month of the Sky Woman, but despite the cold of that season they were beset by a group of giant wasps.  These they slew, but Tancred was bemused and wondered aloud at the source of such creatures.  Namira insisted that the City State was filled with strange wonders, but Tancred had never heard of giant wasps in his days of soldiering.  Paelias believed he remembered hearing there was a bounty on destroying a wasps nests on a nearby street.  Deciding adventure in the city was better than paying the tax to leave, they set about climbing nearby buildings.

Well, Tancred, Cyrus, and Paelias climbed nearby buildings.  Namira made her way to a street near the Temple of the Gargoyle where she could find a small shop selling candles and oil.  She purchased oil for the potential burning of the nest while the other three tried to locate it.  Tancred saw it aways off on the same building complex that housed the chandler.  As he approached, the wasps that were near the nest (Paelias guessed most were out hunting and wouldn't return until dusk) became agitated.  Tancred felled one with a thrown handaxe and its corpse landed in front of Namira as she was exiting the shop.  Realizing battle was in progress, she began to climb up to aid her comrades.

This combat was easier since there were a smaller number of wasps around the nest, and soon the party had hacked the nest out from under the joined roofs where the wasps had built it.  Tancred kicked it down but unfortunately he happened to hit an apprentice of the Thieves' Guild who was exiting a tavern below.  Ignoring the apprentice's curses, the party took the nest to try to find someone who would pay the bounty they had heard about.

Tancred guessed it would be a nearby tax collector (who happened to be a troll), and the troll seemed very happy to have a giant wasps nests but he and his guards informed the party there had been no bounty.  Paelias, it was revealed, had misremembered.

They decided to take the rest of the day easy and leave at dawn the next day.  Unfortunately, this meant they were crushed by incoming traffic on Regal Street when they meant to leave because of those who lived outside the city coming in for work.  Eventually they made their way to a ferry station that could take them into Mermist Marsh.


Their trip into the marsh was slow going, and only on the second day were they far enough away that the City State had disappeared into the green line of the Dearthwood on the horizon.  Soon after its disappearance they saw a large, black pyramid sticking out of the marsh grass.  It seemed that the base of the pyramid was made out of a shiny, black stone while the upper bit was a dull basalt.  The basalt section also seemed to have collapsed inwardly, giving the pyramid a strange shape.

Once again Paelias acted as a scout, though this time he was more successful than previous attempts.  He noted both a large, double-doored main entrance and a smaller side entrance.  Deciding it was usually a bad plan to go through the main entrance, Paelias snuck aways into the side entrance to see what they might find.  He soon found himself surrounded by bullywugs, but thanks to his aptitude for stealth did not alert them.  He returned and informed the party.

Tancred kicked the side door entrance in and the Fumbling Four began killing the bullywugs.  The bullywugs, it seems, had been preparing for an outing out of the pyramid and had been interrupted such that they could not take advantage of the armor they were attempting to put on.  When only one bullywug was left, it attempted to jump away and flee but Tancred was able to pin him to the door using his throwing axe.  Exploring in the direction he was going to flee to, the party found that they were in a kitchen/dining complex.  They soon found that bullywugs shit where they eat.

Beyond this complex they found what appeared to be a large tomb chamber.  On the wall was a stone panel with an inscription in ancient Orichalcan.  Namira was able to puzzle out its rough meaning - which one player rendered in the groups session log as "Two Mummies Suck Forever."  Cyrus chiseled the panel off the wall, hoping to find an Orichalcan antiques collector back in the City State.  We agreed to pick up here next time (which should be today) rather than have a week of downtime because we got started late during the last session.


Friday, October 12, 2018

OSR Guide For The Perplexed Questionnaire

Zak posted these and I thought I'd answer them.

1. article or blog entry that exemplifies the best of the Old School Renaissance for me:  
Alas, I cannot give the perfect answer to that because it would've been on one of Huge Ruined Scott's blogs that he has destroyed and are now lost to time.  A close second, however, is the Dismal Depths from Sham's Grog and Blog. The way he was able to pack so much flavor into those one line monster statblocks and the way it feels weird but still obviously inspired by the fantasy that inspired D&D is just great.  It was the first thing I saw that made me want to do megadungeons, which anyone who has read this blog knows is a passion of mine.

2. My favorite piece of OSR wisdom/advice/snark: 
Just because a rule is old or out of fashion doesn't mean its bad.

3. Best OSR module/supplement:
The Tome of Adventure Design is the one I use the most by far.  It requires a certain level of interpretation if you're not running a fairly Pulp Fantasy game, but even for something like Nightwick it's extremely useful.

4. My favorite house rule (by someone else): 
Using Whitebox/OD&D number of hit die to determine bonus to hit. I learned that one from Antion but I think he may have gotten it from somewhere else.

5. How I found out about the OSR: 
I was running a Wilderlands game using 4e and was trying to find resources for the setting when I stumbled upon Huge Ruined Scott's Wilderlands OD&D blog. 

6. My favorite OSR online resource/toy:
Dave's Mapper.

7. Best place to talk to other OSR gamers: 
the Nightwick game hangout at 3am Monday morning.

8. Other places I might be found hanging out talking games: G+?  
I guess that's going away though.  

9. My awesome, pithy OSR take nobody appreciates enough: 
All D&D prep is hack work.

10. My favorite non-OSR RPG
Delta Green.

11. Why I like OSR stuff: 
The big thing is that its simple while allowing for a great deal of creativity on the part of the referee.  I also tend to like the pieces of inspiration OSR people look to better than the mainstream fanatasy RPG crowd's love of epic fantasy.

12. Two other cool OSR things you should know about that I haven’t named yet:
I'm going to imagine anyone reading this is familiar with Grognardia, but I want to particularly call out his Dwimmermount session reports as a powerful inspiration on me.

Robert Parker's post on "campaign frames" is a must read for anyone working on rpg stuff, OSR or otherwise.

13. If I could read but one other RPG blog but my own it would be: 
So many of the ones I used to read don't update anymore that it's kind of hard to answer.

14. A game thing I made that I like quite a lot is: 
Nightwick Abbey, but that's not really in a form y'all can look at yet so instead I'll say the What the Hell is Wrong with this Guy hireling table.

15. I'm currently running/playing: 
I'm running a Wilderlands game in person on Saturdays and my long running Nightwick Abbey campaign online on Sunday nights. 

I'm playing in Huth's Zothesque game and a 5e thing Cole runs that I don't think has a name.

16. I don't care whether you use ascending or descending AC because:  
Actually I prefer you use ascending AC because I am young by grognard standards.

17. The OSRest picture I could post on short notice:


Thursday, October 11, 2018

Wilderlands History Corrected (Now with Dates!)

A note on the dating: the Wilderlands of Swords & Devilry uses a version of the Corrected Commoners Calendar (or at least a calendar by that name) but the designation BCCC is "BEFORE Corrected Commoners Calendar."  Though this is the origin of the acronym, the actual 1 CCC date is the purported date of the founding of the Orichalcan Empire.  The calendar was only adopted c. 4000 CCC.



"Pre-History" - Time of the Uttermost War.  Check is only possible with access to extremely ancient sources.  D30.
40,000 BCCC - The Galactic Federation establishes a colony on Ghenvek IV.  The planet has conditions similar to Earth during an ice age with most of the planet being cold but the equatorial zone still being tropical.
37,000 BCCC - The Markabs go to war with the Galactic Federation and attack Ghenvek IV.  This is one of the two events referred to as the Uttermost War.

30,000 BCCC- The Uttermost War ends with both the Federation and the Markabs having to abandon Ghenvek IV, however they leave a number of colonists. The colonists descend into barbarism and forget their technological past.  


Demon Empire - Domination by "Demons," the alien colonists of the Markab Empire. DC 30.
24,000 BCCC - The Markab Colonists dominate the area of the Wilderlands during a period known as the Demon Empire.

20,000 BCCC - The slave races of the Demon Empire discover advanced AIs and both magical and technological artifacts.  These manifest themselves as the gods of the Wilderlands and attain actual metaphysical status due to their newfound worshipers.

15,000 BCCC - The slave races and their gods overthrow the Demon Empire.


Elder Races - Time of the Progenetors of the modern races. DC 30 non-elves, DC 25 for elves.
8,000 BCCC - The kingdoms of the Grey Elves and the Reptillons are established.

1,500 BCCC - The Gods give the peoples of the Wilderlands a prophecy that Men will one day dominate the world.  The Reptillons attempt to create their own race of Men (the First Men - Dragonborn) in an attempt to frustrate the prophecy.  

1,000 BCCC - The Grey Elves experiment with ways to expand their magical power using strange biotechnological implements from before the Uttermost War.  Their experiments bring ruin to their civilization. Man arrives under mysterious circumstances (created by Grey Elves?) and destroys the Reptillon civilization.


Ancient History - Time of the Orichalcan Empire and the early years of Kelnore. DC 25.
1 CCC - Men establish the Orichalcan Empire on the Pazidan Peninsula.
1500 CCC - Orichalcan Empire becomes decadant and weak. Ghinorians from the southern parts of the Wilderlands invade the Orichalcan Empire, destroying it.

2000 CCC - Ghinorians set up colonies across the Wilderlands, most notably in Kelnore (now Tarantis) which becomes their capital.  Strangely, they do not settle in the lands of the old Orichalcan Empire. At some point around this time the old Orichalcans split into the civilized Alryans and the barbaric Altanians.  More mystically powerful examples of the “true” line exist in isolated groups.



Imperial History - Birth and Height of Viridistan. DC 20.
2500 CCC - During the height of Kelnore, a strange magical occurrence awakens the god Armadad Bog in the Trident Gulf.  He creates the first True Viridians

2601 CCC - 3000 CCC - The Viridians conquer the much of the Western Wilderlands, isolating the Ghinoran city of Damkina and subjugating the area north of Lenap.

3000 CCC - The Alryans refound a city on the site of the old Orichalcan Empire.

3500 CCC - Tharabians migrate from somewhere north of the Wilderlands, settling in the northern part of the Pazidan Peninsula and east of the Viridian Empire.

3600 CCC - The Tharabians capture the Alryan City creating a hybrid culture.  The city is thereafter known as the City State of the Invincible Overlord.

3600 - 4000 CCC - The CSIO and Viridistan war for generations while Kelnore declines.

4000 CCC - The Gishmeshi migrate from East of the Wilderlands, invading the heartland of Kelnore and capturing the city (renaming it Tarantis).  Kelnore is no more.

4200 CCC - Viridistan begins to wane even as it is able to consistently defeat the CISO.  Civilization in the Wilderlands Ebbs.


Modern History - The Decline of the CSIO. DC 15.
4300 CCC - The Skandiks and Avalonians migrate from the Northern Wilderlands.  

4400 CCC - Karakhan emissaries come to the Wilderlands, find its civilization in a weakened state, and begin to set up colonies near the Ebony Coast.

4433 CCC - THE START OF MY ORIGINAL WILDERLANDS CAMPAIGN

4434 CCC - The Skandik Kingdoms east of the CSIO are unified by a group of adventurers.  The new kingdom is allied to the CSIO.

4435 CCC - The CSIO is destroyed when a relic of the Uttermost War is activated.  The Unifiers of the Skandik kingdom are able to destroy the relic before it does more harm through sheer luck.  This feat so impresses the gods that they are given demigod status. One of the demigods, Bjorn the Mighty, rebuilds the CSIO and makes himself the Overlord.


Recent History - The Rebuilding of the CSIO and war with Viridistan. DC 10.
4435 - 4450 CCC - During the long years of rebuilding, Viridian power waxes again (though not to its former glory) as it takes advantage of the CSIO’s weakness. Tharabians leave the CSIO area, upset with the new Overlord’s favoring of Skandiks, and join Viridistan as mercenaries.

4450 CCC - Bjorn the Mighty marches forth to reclaim areas taken by the Viridians.  He is partially successful but ultimately defeated by the magic of Armadad Bog.  The status quo from before the CSIO was destroyed is restored.

4500 CCC - THE START OF ANY FUTURE CAMPAIGNS


Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Adding Kofi



I've been without income (besides the Demon City Kickstarter stretch goal) for a bit over a year now.  If you like my stuff and want to support me I put a Kofi link at the top of my blog so you can throw me a tip or something. 

If you do, I greatly appreciate it!

Dark Country Maps (Again)

I have mostly migrated my discussion of maps to G+, but since that's ending I thought I'd better stop posting about them here again.


The Master Map

The canon/official/whatever version of the Dark Country map is the master map pictured above.  It is based a combination of the Baltic Coast and Transylvania.  The master map currently notes the location of the 7 cities and most of their village protectorates, the location of pagan villages, and ruins the players have visited or that I know exist.

A Digital Recreation of the Master Map

The digital recreation of the master map is a working map I use for when I'm writing adventures or typing stuff.  I thas more settlements on it but I am unsure if I will maintain their current positions since the PCs have not yet been to them.  In making this map I found that the Lychgate Bishopric map (see below) I've used for so long is slightly off, but it's close enough for horseshoes.

Players' Map for the Bishopric of Lychgate
This is the latest version of the map my players most often interact with.  It's even labeled with stuff!  A key for an older version can be found here.

The World of Nightwick

The World of Nightwick Map is my current idea for the areas around Nightwick.  They are...

Clear - The Realm (Two duchies represented on this map)Hills - Vulgary (Formerly the Iron Kingdoms)Snowfields - NovgovyMountains - AtaliaDead Forest - The Dark CountryGlaciers - MuscorodForest - CuccagnaBroken Land - the BorderlandsGrassland - The SteppeDesert - The Desert LandsScrubland - ZenopolisDesert (again) - The Desert Lands (Again)


Not pictured are Karse, Averois, Cathay, and Noppin.  I've been working on a map of Karse and have worked up a map for a single lordship of Noppin (the island of Kokushi) but they are beyond the scope of this post.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

NPCs of Nightwick

NPCs in and around the Village of Nightwick:


Sir Albrecht
Albrecht is the current "Lord of Nightwick," a semi-recently created title that was held by Lord Eckhard before his demise.  He has recently taken over the village from Badder on behalf of Bishop Notker the Unshaven (see below).  He has staffed the local manor with his family and personal retinue, who guard it diligently.  He seems to run a tight ship, and is never seen in the village without a number of guards.  He recently made a deal with the Howling Kommandos that subsidizes their pay for watching the village.


Aythe
A recent arrival in the village, Aythe speaks common with a strange, halting accent and claims to be Halfdan the Black's long lost daughter (see below).  The party has reason to suspect that she is actually his "bear-wife" made human by machinery they recovered from the ruins of the abbey.  She spends much of her time in the Fog-bound Forest and local cemetery.

Bruno
Bruno is the proprietor of the Medusa's head.  In the early years of the campaign he seemed morose over the fact that his wife left him with "a traveling circus," but he seems resigned to this fact now.  Local rumor says his wife was a changeling of foul aspect.  His tavern was semi-recently the sight of an assault on one of the brothers Trull by a witch who was later slain.


Duncan
The local blacksmith is a man of simple mind and great talent.  Duncan is said to be the son of a local witch (now deceased, and not the witch which attacked one of the Trulls).  Villagers believe a spell lays upon him and that any who try to cheat him based on his simple mindedness may find themselves cursed or even pursued by demons.  His craftsmanship lacks ornamentation but is without peer in the Dark Country in terms of practical use.  Unfortunately, the time it takes him to make weapons and armor is often great due to the troubles in Blackleg and along the Long Road.


Fingers
Fingers is the second in command of the Howling Kommands, and received this honor when he strangled his former comrade Toothless Tom Smiler to death when he tried to betray the party in the ruins of Vollage.  All observers note that he is extremely loyal and deferential to Stavros, the current commander, and has become something of a siege tactician.  He also knows his men's strengths and weaknesses inside and out; however, he is sometimes impotent in controlling them due to their low discipline and morale.


Father Roderick
Roderick is currently the official priest of Nightwick.  Life in this backward land, and his frustration with the obvious graft and greed of Bishop Notker, has made him a cynic and a pessimist.  Roderick is, to the bishop's mind, overly tolerant of heresy and paganism, but since he has not espoused heresy himself he has not been removed.  He is served by two monks who have taken a vow of silence.


Halfdan the Black
This wizard has lived outside the village in a tower at the edge of the Fog-bound Forest since anyone living in the village can remember. He seems to be a necromancer of considerable power, as no local authority has yet moved against him.  He seems more interested in experimentation than political dominance, and his erratic personality may make it impossible for him to maintain evil schemes for too long.  He has often employed adventurers to bring him "samples" from Nightwick Abbey.  He used to have a black bear that lived in the tower with him and attended to his needs - referred to by the party as his "bear-wife" - but she disappeared around the time Aythe showed up.


Mervyyn
Mervyyn was once an adventurer, but he gave that life up to help protect the local village from the depredations of the creatures of Nightwick Abbey and to devote himself to the Old God Father Winter (see below).  Since his given up the adventuring life, he often waits outside the dungeon to great those who seek to plumb its unknown depths.


Low Deacon Osprant of Prattle
Osprant was sent by Bishop Notker the Unshaven to observe Roderick and determine if he was saying anything heretical.  After taking copious notes, he determined Roderick's sermons were orthodox, if somewhat noncommittal.  He has sent messengers back to Lychgate but doesn't plan to make a report in person until the weather is colder and the roads and swamps harden for easier travel.  He is, by all accounts, a turd.


Randulf
Randulf is a woodsmen and friend of the Woodsmen's Lodge, though seemingly not a member of it.  He acts as a guide for them during their longer trips into the Fog-bound Forest.  The respect they have for him is rivaled only by their respect for Kozel in his role as priest of "Saint Santa Claus."  He has seemingly avoided the party every time they have tried to contact him.


Rupert van Toad
Rupert is the local representative of the van Toad trading house who long had to hawk his wares outside the village walls.  Thanks to both the greed of the bishop and the agency of the players, Rupert was able to move his shop inside after Lord Eckhard was lawfully slain and replaced with the "reeve" known only as Blackbird (now also deceased).  In the spring and summer months he is known for his quickness and joviality while in the fall and winter becomes slow and listless.

Major NPCs Elsewhere in the Dark Country:



Anne of Waldheim
Anne has been widowed twice.  She moved to Blackleg when her husband, Arn of Waldheim, took the city during an extremely intense "Yimslite" rebellion.  Her husband was murdered under mysterious circumstances - many speak of the involvement of both the sinister Brotherhood and Bishop Notker himself.  She became Notker's ward for a sort time before being married off to the most recent Lord of Blackleg, Baltzer the Bold.  Baltzer recently perished either due to the actions of his wife or the vengeful shade of Arn, no one knows for sure.  In either case, she is once again the ward of Notker but also the only authority in Blackleg.  Abraham Nermal, deformed rogue and vassal of the Bishop, hopes to win her hand in marriage.

Arnawald the Black Eagle
Arnawald is a man of brutal reputation.  His desire to make himself the sole lord of the entire Dark Country is obvious and has placed him in a kind of cold war with Bishop Notker.  He has invaded the Bishop's territory twice, but ostensibly to "aid" Notker against either the White Lady's pig-men or Yimslite rebels (see below).  During the second incident, he was able to capture the town of Blackleg, which he gave to his son Arn, and the villages south of Nightwick Abbey.  He planned further campaigns but was stopped when the release of Father Winter caused a blizzard in July, killing many of his men. It is said he still holds a grudge against Father Winter. Neither he nor Notker seem willing to declare open war yet for mysterious reasons.  He is known for his missing eye, which he leaves uncovered to unnerve those he is negotiating with.

Badder the Badger
Badder is a mercenary who has entered into what is essentially a permanent contract with Bishop Notker and the city of Lychgate.  Lychgate has its own forces, but Badder and his "boys" act as the Bishop's personal group of troubleshooters and hitmen.  After the death of Marta the Bitch, who Arnawald had installed in Knightpath, Badder came to Nightwick to campaign in the south and try to oust more of the lords that Arnawald had installed during his last campaign in the south.  Whether or not he was effective is unknown, and he was recalled to Lychgate after losing many men and materiel. It is believed Sir Albrecht's postion as Lord of Nightwick shows that Badder is now on the Bishop's bad side.


Father Winter
Father Winter is an Old God who resides in the Fog-bound Forest and the Nameless Mountains, though he shares this territory with at least two other gods.  He was entombed by the Sword Brothers during their campaigns against the pagans but freed by the party in order to stop a plague.  The somewhat syncretic nature of religion in the Dark Country has led to him being associated with a "saint" named Saint Santa Claus.


Knecht Ruprecht
Ruprecht is a servant of Father Winter who deals punishment to those on the god's "Naughty List."  He is the ultimate arbitrator of what is and is not Naughty - an axis of alignment not well understood by the Church of Law.  He was transformed into a hideous monster by agents of Arnawald when they found a way into his shrine and wrote Father Winter's name on the Naughty List.  The leadership of the Howling Kommandos saved him from this fate, and for their service he gifted them many magic items.


Bishop Notker the Unshaven
Notker the Unshaven is Prince-Bishop of Lychgate and as such technically rules Nightwick, Blackleg, and the villages in the Southern Dark Country.  He is a petty, greedy man whose naked avarice is a constant source of woe for his subjects.  In the years since 1388, his territory has been greatly diminished by attacks from the White Lady, Arnawald, and Yimslite rebels.  He know can only effectively control Lychgate and Nightwick, but even the road between them is unsafe due to the destruction of Vollage and the absorption of the Witchfort into the Witchwood.


The White Lady
The White Lady is the Old God (or perhaps demoness) of the Witchwood - a realm of iron trees and perpetual autumn.  Her servants are pig-men, groans, and haughty elves as well as all manner of woodland creatures.  Once a great threat to the civilized parts of the Dark Country, she has seemingly abandoned her assaults in recent years after a small detachment of the Howling Kommandos entered the Fog-bound Forest.  Only Flint of the East Wood (now deceased) returned, and he did not know the whole story.


Yim Yimsley
Yim Yimsley is a mysterious figure.  He has apparently led many rebellions against Bishop Notker and Arnawald and seems to combine the Solarist heresy and paganism into a new kind of Dark Country religion.  In his early years he mostly spent his time embarrassing the Bishop and his servants, but later his aims became more coherent and violent. After interrogating cultists inside Nightwick Abbey, the leadership of the Howling Kommandos believes he is involved in a satanic cult associated with the Bleeding Baroness.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

History of the Wilderlands of Swords & Devilry

I made this a bit ago but only posted it on the Wilderlands G+ community.



  • The Galactic Federation establishes a colony on Ghenvek IV.  The planet has conditions similar to Earth during an ice age with most of the planet being cold but the equatorial zone still being tropical.
  • The Markabs go to war with the Galactic Federation and attack Ghenvek IV.  This is one of the two events referred to as the Uttermost War.
  • The Uttermost War ends with both the Federation and the Markabs having to abandon Ghenvek IV, however they leave a number of colonists.
  • The colonists descend into barbarism and forget their technological past.  
  • The Markab Colonists dominate the area of the Wilderlands during a period known as the Demon Empire.
  • The slave races of the Demon Empire discover advanced AIs and both magical and technological artifacts.  
  • These manifest themselves as the gods of the Wilderlands and attain actual metaphysical status due to their newfound worshipers.
  • The slave races and their gods overthrow the Demon Empire.
  • The kingdoms of the Grey Elves and the Reptillons are established.
  • The Gods give the peoples of the Wilderlands a prophecy that Men will one day dominate the world.  
  • The Reptillons attempt to create their own race of Men (the First Men - Dragonborn) in an attempt to frustrate the prophecy.  
  • The Grey Elves experiment with ways to expand their magical power using strange biotechnological implements from before the Uttermost War.  Their experiments bring ruin to their civilization.
  • Man arrives under mysterious circumstances (created by Grey Elves?) and destroys the Reptillon civilization.
  • Men establish the Orichalcan Empire on the Pazidan Peninsula.
  • Orichalcan Empire becomes decadant and weak.
  • Ghinorians from the southern parts of the Wilderlands invade the Orichalcan Empire, destroying it.
  • Ghinorians set up colonies across the Wilderlands, most notably in Kelnore (now Tarantis) which becomes their capital.  Strangely, they do not settle in the lands of the old Orichalcan Empire.
  • At some point around this time the Orichalcans split into the civilized Alryans and the barbaric Altanians.  More mystically powerful examples of the “true” line exist in isolated groups.
  • During the height of Kelnore, a strange magical occurrence awakens the god Armadad Bog in the Trident Gulf.  He creates the first True Viridians.
  • The Viridians conquer the much of the Western Wilderlands, isolating the Ghinoran city of Damkina and subjugating the area north of Lenap.
  • The Alryans refound a city on the site of the old Orichalcan Empire.
  • Tharabians migrate from somewhere north of the Wilderlands, settling in the northern part of the Pazidan Peninsula and east of the Viridian Empire.
  • The Tharabians capture the Alryan City creating a hybrid culture.  The city is thereafter known as the City State of the Invincible Overlord.
  • The CSIO and Viridistan war for generations while Kelnore declines.
  • The Skandiks and Avalonians migrate from the Northern Wilderlands.  
  • The Skandiks set up their kingdoms east of the CSIO, sometimes serving as mercenaries for the city and sometimes warring with them.
  • The Gishmeshi migrate from East of the Wilderlands, invading the heartland of Kelnore and capturing the city (renaming it Tarantis).  Kelnore is no more.
  • Ghinorian Successor Cities attempt to assert themselves but get nowhere.
  • Viridistan begins to wane even as it is able to consistently defeat the CISO.  Civilization in the Wilderlands Ebbs.
  • Karakhan emissaries come to the Wilderlands, find its civilization in a weakened state, and begin to set up colonies near the Ebony Coast.
  • THE START OF MY ORIGINAL WILDERLANDS CAMPAIGN
  • The Skandik Kingdoms east of the CSIO are unified by a group of adventurers.  The new kingdom is allied to the CSIO.
  • The CSIO is destroyed when a relic of the Uttermost War is activated.  The Unifiers of the Skandik kingdom are able to destroy the relic before it does more harm through sheer luck.  This feat so impresses the gods that they are given demigod status.
  • One of the demigods, Bjorn the Mighty, rebuilds the CSIO and makes himself the Overlord.
  • During the long years of rebuilding, Viridian power waxes again (though not to its former glory) as it takes advantage of the CSIO’s weakness.
  • Tharabians leave the CSIO area, upset with the new Overlord’s favoring of Skandiks, and join Viridistan as mercenaries.
  • Bjorn the Mighty marches forth to reclaim areas taken by the Viridians.  He is partially successful but ultimately defeated by the magic of Armadad Bog.  The status quo from before the CSIO was destroyed is restored.
  • THE START OF ANY FUTURE CAMPAIGNS


Wednesday, August 29, 2018

How I Make a Fantasy Sandbox


I use a lot of algorithm-style stocking processes in order to quiet the ghosts in my brain, and I'd thought I'd take the time to set out the basic process I've been using for making fantasy sandboxes.  The sandbox described below hypothetically should provide 6+ months of play and take 5e characters* from levels 1-10.

Some caveats:

1) This represents a synthesis of methods I've used previously.  I have not used this precise method as I am about to lay it out, but the version present here represents the previous methods with the changes I would make based on how I felt about those results.

2) For 5e it assumes that you are stocking things using the level bands in Xanathar's Guide's random monster tables (1-4, 5-10, etc.),

3) It also assumes encounters per level based on this guy's post taken with the comments there and my own experiences with 5e.  I cannot replicate The exact numbers for that here because it is a belly-feel sort of thing.

4) I am going to assume that you have a kind of genre of fantasy you already want to emulate and so don't necessarily need help coming up with the material culture for the area or the threats the adventurers will face.  This is about the kinds of things you'll need not the specific things you'll pick.

5) Sometimes the most important answer a player can give in a sandbox is "no" or "not that one."  You should have more content than you expect the players to see because it is important that they be able to turn hooks down. 

6) Since OSD&D leveling rates are primarily due to treasure, if you want to use the same rates just make sure the dungeons I talk about contain enough treasure to do that.

This is kind of a cheat because Huth made it for me

The first thing you will need is a map.  I use hex maps that are roughly 25x15 hexes at 6 miles a hex.  For most campaigns this size is probably fine, but if you want a higher degree of wilderness exploration in your game then 4 of these laid out in a 50x30 grid should be used.  If you're using a section of a pre-made setting then simply cut out a section of geography that would fit inside those grids.  If not, you can use something like the Welsh Piper's system or just draw it freehand if you feel like you're good at that sort of stuff.

For each 25x15 grid you have, place between 4 and 8 settlements - including villages, forts, castles, towns, and cities.  Note that these are only the settlements where the PCs are expected to interact with mostly peacefully or civilized factions that the PCs may be "at war" with.  It does not include large groups of monsters or bandits.  If you're worried that this is too few settlements, then just use the Judges Guild-style hamlet system.  Personally, I worry less about this sort of thing now in part because I want places the PCs will remember.

Place cities, towns, and castles in areas that would seem to be of strategic import - bays/harbors, mountain passes, hills overlooking large areas of flatland, where rivers meet, etc.  Forts and villages should be placed so that each is about a day away from another settlement and that the major cities and castles could be traveled to without having to go a day resting in the wilderness.  The main exception to this type of placement is if you assume the settlements are at war, in which case there should be some days worth of no man's land between them.

For each of these settlements, write a short paragraph about it including who rules it and any other NPCs the players could interact with, and any weird things about it.  I usually also include the population, the permanent garrison (if any), and the potential muster.  If you don't plan on having a lot of warfare you don't necessarily need that.

This is about the right size

Next you'll need dungeons.  I am assuming each dungeon has ~20-30 rooms and about 1/3 of those contain combat encounters.  I have a whole notebook full of maps like the one above that I've copied or made over the past few years.   Some of them have a lot more rooms than that, some have a lot fewer, but on the whole if I use ones from that notebook it'll average out.   If you don't have that you can find a bunch online or just draw them yourself.  If my belly-feel is right, you need about two of these to level from 1-4 in 5e.  In-keeping with the idea that you want more material than you'll use, have three dungeons near the starting town for the PCs that are stocked to be low level (1-4).  You'll want to make sure these have backgrounds that go with your setting, but that's beyond the scope of this post.  You'll want to have these stocked for the first session. 

For the midlevel dungeons (i.e. the rest of the campaign as outlined here).  You'll want 12-15 dungeons of similar size but with more variables in terms of encounter difficulty.  You don't need to stock these yet.  For right now right a short paragraph saying what they're the ruins of and maybe something else that makes them a neat dungeon so you know what they'll be when you need them later.  These dungeons should be scattered about the rest of the map you have as you see fit.  Note that it's 12-15 dungeons regardless of whether you're using a 25x15 grid or a 50x30 grid.

Something about like this

Next you'll need some hex contents.  I'm not a 1 hex = 1 encounter sort of guy, having come to hex-crawling through the 3e Wilderlands products.  I've arrived at about 40 per 25x15 grid to start off with as a good number.  That should be one encounter for every column and one for every row on average (though you don't have to place them that strictly).  If you're using a 50x30 grid you'll need 160, but you can probably get by by just populating the 40 that go in the quadrant where your players will start in and stock the rest as they explore what you've already made.

To stock hexes I use the Ruins & Relics tables in the Ready Ref sheets or the 3e Wilderlands book (they're the same tables).  If you don't have access to those, there may be others online, but I'm too lazy to find them now.  The Ruins & Relics tables generate a type of thing you found, its state of decay, and the creatures guarding it.  It's possible to monkey with these tables to better fit your setting, but that can be kind of an undertaking so I recommend just editing the guardians section to reflect what you want in the setting and then disregarding rolls that seem weird (like flying machine wrecks if you don't want that sort of thing).

Before you place them on the map, make sure you've named your geography if you haven't already.  If you notice you have a lot of a certain type of encounter (say things with snakes) you can place them semi-near each other in the same region and name it after that sort of encounter.  In Yavana this led to the Serpentine Jungle which I more often than not ended up calling the Jungle of Serpents.

Next I do random encounter tables for each geographical region.  The ones containing the starter dungeons I set to levels 1-4, everything else is 5-10.  I use a 1d6+1d4 table that produces numbers 2-10 and a flat curve.  This allows me enough range to have a variety of encounters but a limited enough range for the regions to feel different AND that I don't feel like I have to add things that don't fit just because I have some missing spaces.

Below is an example from yavan; however, it should be noted that this was not designed with a specific level range in mind.

Mangrove Swamp
2 - Plesiosaur
3 - Raptors
4 - Camarasaurus
5 - Iguana-People
6 - Trachodons
7 - Tiger
8 - Bucaneers
9 - Giant Spider
10 - Giant Crocodile

If you want to bake how many monsters show up into the tables (or determine them for a Ruins & Relics result), use the dice ranges for a similarly CRed creature from the Xanathar's tables.

Finally, before you can run you'll need some hooks, otherwise the PCs won't know what to do or where to go.  I use the Tome of Adventure Design to generate hooks.  There are other methods available online, or you can just make them up as you go.  Tie any hooks you generate to content you've already created if possible, and add elements not already created when necessary.

For the first session you'll want to make sure that you have three hooks, so there are some choices, and that at least two of them lead to low level dungeons you've made.  All three can if you like, but it's also perhaps useful to have one that ties to some overland adventure for variety's sake.

It used to be that I would then add two-three hooks a week each week thereafter, tying them either to wilderness locations I'd already placed or dungeons I'd just stocked; however, I found that with my home group this quickly meant there were too many hooks floating around to keep straight.  It may be a better idea to only introduce new hooks when you think they're about to finish something up and even then only if they don't have a big to do list waiting thereafter.

Once you've done all of that you might consider some of the extra steps Rob Conley uses, but I tend to let "plots" develop organically using the hooks and maybe the Oriental Adventures event tables rather than coming up with them ahead of time.  Regardless, you should have enough material for a long period of gaming.