Monster Lore Skill (Home Rule) – Episode.069

While your strike is true on the beast, your blade seems to only enrage it more, whipping its body around to face you.  The grip of your sword holds firm, however, and you are spun around with the sword to the creature’s back, hanging on for dear life.  It seems you are completely outclassed in this fight, and it may be your final battle.  Yet in the back of your mind, you recall hearing from a peddler about such beasts having a sensitive area susceptible of injury between the shoulder blades.  Still holding the sword in one hand, you deftly pull out the dagger from your sleeve and jam it into the creature’s shoulders, sinking the blade much deeper and sending the beast to its knees in misery.

I have always implemented a minor action into my “House Rules” whenever running an RPG with new players.  Monster Lore is an exciting feature that players can use to learn about the monsters of the world, especially in Dungeons & Dragons or any other fantasy setting that is heavy with beasts.  While many people inexperienced to the game may recognize dozens of creatures that have been made famous through literature or movies, statistically they don’t know just how harmful they are.  Granted they can assume a Cyclops is lethal and they should run away, but if they keep that mentality, they will never engage in any enemies.

This is where Monster Lore comes in.  For 3.0, 3.5, 4th, and 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons as well as Pathfinder, having rollable skills makes adding this feature quite easy.  For other systems not as strong in this area, minor modifications can be made to build this into the game.  Whenever a character encounters a creature that is found to have statistics (i.e. immunities, resistances, vulnerabilities, behavior patterns), a player may roll to see if they discover one of these traits the monster has.  The GM will be the one who determines what information the players receive.  They are welcome to continue rolling this, but combat is still moving along at this time, and their action is being used to learn more.  As an added challenge, the number they must roll to obtain such information could go up incrementally as they try learning more information about the same creature.  Particularly devoted GMs could even create 3 or 4 categories that all traits fall into, each category having more critical information than the last, and the target number to roll would be assigned to each and progressively get larger.  For example, the creature’s Armor Class could be in Category 1 with a DC of 11 while its vulnerability to fire would be in Category 4 with a DC of 20.


Many GMs already offer this feature through Perception Checks during combat to spot vulnerabilities.  Monster Lore Checks would essentially be the same, but this skill implies the characters might recall from a past book they read or a person that warned them of something relating to the creature.

While taking up an action to make the roll during combat could make a player disheartened of missing out on the real action, I will offer the check to be made in lieu of their movement so they could use a ranged weapon or spell, or they could wait until they are in melee range before making the roll.

This then provides another angle of interaction for the players: archiving.  They could keep a single binder and create a page for each creature they meet where they obtain information.  That knowledge would stay with them as long as the characters remain alive.  As they continue, the players would slowly learn and understand just what makes any particular monster dangerous.  Granted, they would not want to meta-game with this information, but at the same time, newcomers should be able to have some caution when gauging a fight in order to avoid preventable TPK (total party kills).

With more seasoned players, this feature is not necessary and would be quite monotonous for them.  But with new players fresh to the gaming world, it could really prove to be a great way for them to get a better grasp on what to expect while playing a roleplaying game.

Until next time, lie about your dice roll as much as you can get away with.  Thanks for stopping by.

Dungeons & Dragons 5th Ed. – My Take, Episode.068

After a considerable hiatus, I have returned to continue writing as I am inspired.

His decision was critical as his companions faced certain doom.  The black dragon reared its huge head in preparation of unleashing its fiery acidic breath blasting down upon the unprotected heroes.  Meanwhile the infamous necormancer, Pyrex, grinned maniacally from high above as he neared completion of his resurrection spell that would bring back the fallen the heroes had just slain.  The decision was critical or his companions were surely dead, but he couldn’t decide who to focus on… he brought out two pipes and played them in unison for he was the Grand Master Bard.

I am among those who resented the 4th edition of Dungeons & Dragons that Hasbro/Wizards of the Coast published in 2008.  Although I adored playing MMO video games such as World of Warcraft at the time, the 4th edition books felt too close to those when I wanted to play more of a traditional role playing game that reminded me of the older editions.  Perhaps I am an old man who doesn’t like change, but the game play mechanics simply did not fit my style and preference.  So I was hesitant on even giving 5th edition a try when it was released in 2014.  In took me a year before I sat down with a group to experience it for the first time.  I will say this – I am very impressed with the effort and result that Wizards of the Coast put forth in the books.  Very impressed.


For one, there doesn’t seem to be as much necessary crunch as before.  While I would say that 3rd and 3.5 editions were built to be more of a strategic role playing game, utilizing the innovated battle maps and miniatures, 5th edition feels more akin to the 1st and 2nd editions.  These were less of a visual game play and more of the mind.  While maps were still used back then (and even pewter miniatures were frequently sold), the maps were mostly drawn on-the-fly by the players as they ventured through dungeons.  There were few times when a top-down view of the immediate surroundings was drawn and miniatures were placed strategically on the battle field.

Fifth edition allows for battle maps to be used if desired for those who enjoy or need a better visualization on how the fights are laid out.  It caters in this regard to the 3rd edition lovers.  It isn’t necessary, however, to use them, and in fact many times I have gone through entire fights without them.

Another feature that I really like is the advantage/disadvantage system.  This is a simple but very effective way for a Dungeon Master to make a challenge difficult without having to do much math on adding modifiers to a roll.  On either account, you roll 2 D20s rather than one, but depending on whether you have advantage or disadvantage, you take the best or worst roll of the two.  There are still options to add the thousands of modifiers to a roll if desired, which was very common in 3rd edition, but if you wish to just give your players a little edge or challenge to their roll without having to over think it, this feature gives a quick result.  And that makes a good point in that streamline and pace, which I have talked about numerous times on how important they are, can be maintained with this feature.  Dungeon Masters need not look at a chart on their screen in front of them and hunt for the right situation modifier that will probably wind up being +1, +2, or +3 to their rolls.


Short and long rests are a wonderful addition to the rules.  All too often the typical “rest” that a party faced in the past would result in an 8-hour stoppage of adventuring.  This would be mostly for the magic-users to regain their spells after blowing them all.  I always felt that it bogged play down and hindered magic-users a bit too much.  I would often find myself being very hesitant on casting a spell at an enemy because it was “early in the day” and I didn’t want to use up my 4 spells so soon.  Instead, we now have a short rest, typically 30 or so minutes of downtime for the characters before continuing on.  One of the classes fairly new to the list of Dungeons & Dragons game is the Warlock, which benefits greatly from this feature.  Although they are severely limited to the number of spells they can cast per day, they are given the ability to regain all of their spent spell slots after just a short rest.  This allows them to cast theoretically as many spells or more as a wizard or sorcerer if the party takes necessary short rests throughout the day.  Warlocks could then regain the spell slots right before a fight and concocting a plan of attack with whatever spells he knew.  Wizards would have been stuck with whatever they studied the night before and face possible expended spells used earlier that day.

Cantrip spells have become more useful.  Spells like Eldritch Blast now unleash considerable damage for magic-users who don’t want to spend any of their hard hitting spells but wish to contribute during common encounter fights.  There are even “bonus spells” that allow magic-users to cast more than one spell during a turn, giving them more options.

One of the most annoying rules that 3rd edition introduced was Attack of Opportunity or AOO.  This came into play when a character or opponent would pass by close enough to a target who could attack them.  There were ridiculous options and feats to this that really made players have to talk out the results on whether or not the situation even called for an AOO.  In 5th edition, AOO is only granted when an engaged combatant leaves their opponent’s melee area.  As long as they stay within that zone, they can move about as freely as they wish.  Just having to pay attention to characters leaving combat zones is much easier.


And then there is the Dungeon Master’s Guide, which I have only gotten to work a bit through.  However, what I have seen so far is even more impressive.  There is a good portion of the book dedicated to people who want to become a Dungeon Master, which is to be expected in a book like this.  I have been asked many times by people wanting to know how to step into the Dungeon Master’s chair, and this book is a great start.  It works on NPCs, which honestly is an unnecessary task of creating and working with since many times they are here-and-gone in an encounter.  Creating monsters and spells is another area that Dungeon Masters like to produce, and both are thoroughly explained in the book.  Monsters are more modular, in my opinion, being able to swap abilities among other monsters for unique experiences.  If one monster has a sting ability but you want that ability on another monster, it can be done and the calculations of its improved difficulty is a snap to follow.

There’s a section to make random dungeons on-the-fly by dice rolling.  This is almost exactly what can be found in the 1st edition.  It provides all kinds of listings that can be rolled and sought out, allowing you to not have to really give a lot of thought into whether a turn in the corridor is a good idea here or if a 10×20 foot room is needed and with what to fill it with.  If anything the book is inspirational for Dungeon Masters with a lack of experience or a lack of ideas.

In the end, we all have our own preferences when it comes to what we enjoy playing.  You may not even like the fantasy genre and focus just on RIFTS, Shadowrun, or Traveller.  You may just focus on the Weird West of Deadlands.  You may only wish to play Paizo’s Pathfinder because you still have a sore attitude towards Wizards of the Coast for releasing a “3.5” edition only 3 years after releasing their 3rd edition (even though Pathfinder plays much like 3.5 and you paid $50-60 on a book after refusing to buy the 3.5 books, thus ironically doing the very thing you said you wouldn’t do).


Fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons is one of the most flexible systems I have ever played.  Wizards of the Coast allowed for gamers to voice their opinions on what they wanted in a rule book, and the publishing company actually listened and made the book for them.  The result is satisfying (and if it didn’t become successful, it was the gamers’ fault because it was their creation essentially).  You can play it like 1st edition with charts and exclusively with the mind or you can crunch it up with modifiers and battle maps like 3rd edition.

I encourage those still with hesitation from 4th edition to find yourself playing the game in the future.  Empty your mind and biased feelings of any previous editions you didn’t enjoy and focus on the features this new set of rule books has to offer.  You may be surprised and have a new system to spend your money on and clutter up your already cluttered bookshelf.

Until next time, lie about your dice roll as much as you can get away with.  Thanks for stopping by.

Creating an RPG Campaign Bible: Origins – Part 7 Episode.067

Chris Perkins’ campaign bible he developed for his world really was a novel idea.  Each section brings life to the world and provided wonderful information for both players and GMs alike.  One of my personal favorite sections is about origins for both race and class.  This is a nice breakdown of the most likely location any particular race may be found.  It further discusses a bit about the actual classes and mentions anything unusual about them that goes beyond the normal rulebooks.  Just like in real life, occupations vary depending on where you are.  A physician in Manhanttan, New York, is going to work and behave differently than a physician out in the bush in Africa.  They have the same education and training, but they have to operate differently because of their different environments.  Having this knowledge for the players is wonderful as it provides more meaning to their decisions when they are choosing their characters.  Perhaps one race is revered among all races while another is not allowed into any city.  One class may be praised as a prestigious occupation such as Clerics more than anything else because of the world they live in much like how doctors are usually appreciated more than other jobs from the lives they save.


This section is where you can customize your game even more than the world.  Generally you have already selected the rulebook you are going to use to play your campaign.  Nearly all RPG books will have a list of provided races and classes and various stats.  By providing this section of origins, you are taking those rules and making them your own.  You are scooping the normal out and sculpting the uniqueness back in.  Have fun with it, either go crazy or go subtle on your decision.  Try to have a consistency throughout.  If one race is over the top, have a good reason if the other races are fairly by the book typical.  If you make one or two races dramatically unique, you may wind up having an entire party of the same race.  It is also a good idea to make 1 race ordinary in case there is a player who wishes to keep things simple, especially if you have new players.

Here is my list of races and classes, where they are from generally, and how they are tied uniquely to the world.



Due to the Chambers being built, nearly all races originate from within now.  That being said, not all races live safely underground and still survive on the surface of Zantra.  Here are some typical points of origin for the different races.  Many of these are based upon Pre-Touch years.

Dwarf, Hill: You grew up outside of the “True” Dwarven Kingdoms as the Mountain Dwarves call it.  Instead of chiseling your fortress out of rock, you built it out of stone.  You’re still an expert in engineering but from a different angle of construction.  Your home could be in the foothills of Valashra, the mountain range that separates much of Zatra from the frozen tundra of the Northern Lands.  Alternatively, you could reside in the warm, temperate marshes of Keldia where you honed your spear fishing skills through practicing the Illouvy, an ancient ability of holding ones breath for hours.

Dwarf, Mountain:  As a member of the “True” Dwarven Kingdom, your blood is linked directly to Doka, the First Dwarf.  You come from one of the three Dwarven Kingdoms:  Gungrak, Solitude, or Balakork.  Each offers a different philosophy and way of living.  Gungrak is built upon ancient lore and discovering forgotten knowledge.  Solitude is more devout and focused on religion and philosophy while Balakork breathes war and fearlessness into the souls of the dwarves who live within its borders.  If Balakork is chosen, you have the option to follow God or Vagnarock while the other two are forced to follow Vagnarock or face possible ridicule of your sacrilege.


Elf, Sky: You come from the heavens and the clouds.  Your people are the only humanoid race to have discovered the art of flight and levitation.  Among your cities, the crown was K’leshima, a hovering city surrounding a mighty citadel that softly floated with the breeze.  You possess the secret and sacred knowledge of flight and how to achieve it for yourself or for most objects of adequate size.  Your race is the only one who has survived the Touch as your world is high above the tainted lands.  However, sustainability is critical in that all Sky Elf cities must be fully self-sufficient.  They are highly xenophobic and show extreme hostility to anything that ventures within sight of their lands, even mundane birds passing too close.  You either are able to bite your tongue towards other races, or you are among the extreme few who wish to find a cure to the Touch and free your people from their self-imprisonment.

Elf, Earth: You grew up in the largest race variant of the elves.  Your people covered the most of Zatra, reaching from corner to corner and adapting better than any race in the world.  Your keen wit and quick adaptability has led your people to prosperity no matter where you settle.  Although you are not truly nomadic, it is not uncommon for a clan or community to relocate for an improved life.  This can be because of a natural disaster or as simple as a message from cousins encouraging of greener pastures.  Earth elves tend to wed within their clan and not venture out.  This is especially true with other races as they tend to remain pure blooded.  Those who choose to produce half-breed offspring are automatically exiled from the community although it is without malice.


Half-Elf:  You are almost one-of-a-kind in Zatra.  The sky elves have become xenophobic while the Earth elves practice pure-blood weddings.  You were created because someone willingly or forcefully left their people, usually the latter.  You are forbidden to enter any of the floating cities of the sky elves, and you must obtain sponsorship from either an earth elf or someone with good standing of them.  If you are caught in the former, you will be tried and put to death if convicted by dropping you to the surface below.  Many half-elves either fall into great debt with wizards seeking permanent disguises while others simply wear hoods and keep clean shaven.  You live a life as a second class citizen nearly everywhere, but you have the benefits of both elves and humans.

Half-Orc: You make up 1 of exactly 32 others of your kind.  Centuries ago when wars were fought among kingdoms and orcish tribes, your half-breed race variant was more common through spoils of war.  However, since the Touch, your kind has quickly begun vanishing into extinction.  Because of the imminent doom of your race, the world has openly accepted the remaining few as honorary citizens of all civilized communities.  You receive free room and board at any inn and 50% discounts on non-precious items.  When there were 100 of you left, a ceremony was held, and each of you commemorated the event by receiving tattoos that read “The Last Hundred” followed by a ranking number associated by age.  If you are a half-orc, you determine the number, which will reflect how people honor and treat you.  Those with lower numbers are the oldest of the half-orcs, usually in their elder years.


Halfling:  You were born to live near the water.  You are an expert at handling small boats such as canoes and rafts, and you have advanced knowledge in navigation and the use of instruments to find your way across any body of water.  You are gifted in the Illouvy, the ability to hold your breath for hours.  This gives you the unique ability to fix ships and boats without the need to dock if the repair is exterior and under the water’s surface.  It is rare that you come from a region that is not beside some body of water.  Hollow Dens are found along them where you live partially underground though your resilience to fear allows you to venture to the surface frequently to garden surface-growing vegetables like lettuce.

Humans: You once were the dominant race in Zatra and aspired to greatness.  Although dwarves and elves constructed cities more elaborately ornate than you, humans were the innovators of the world.  The short life that you live puts a sense of urgency if your choices each day, pushing you to improve upon yourself and reach goals seemingly unobtainable.  You are welcomed among any race, even some orcish tribes.  Most commonly hailing from central, warmer regions of Zatra, a split of your kind migrated to the Northern Lands passed Valashra and is seldom seen.  The harsh, bitter winters there have become extremely dangerous since the change in weather and daylight hours shifted.  As a result, if you come from the Northern Lands, you wear long, full beards, thick manes of hair that reach down your back, and hair covered chests.  You also possess uncanny vision in near white out conditions.

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Barbarians: A commonality among humans of the Northern Lands, Barbarians are found throughout Zatra.  These thick-skinned survivalists are among the few who have survived through the Touch by gauging their battles with the Touch carefully and moving when too many threaten their home.  Barbarians are almost all nomadic except one village in the deepest parts of Zatra’s jungles around the central regions.  These people live in harmony with nature and wildlife and are expert hunters and exotic animal trainers.  Magic is not shunned by their people, and every tribe has a witch doctor or shaman that aids them when necessary.

Clerics:  There is but one true god that looks over Zatra, but not everyone believes God is the only deity.  Every Cleric has been given a vision of the truth about deities, the existence of God and Koz, the Five Powers and what they mean, and that other gods reign over other worlds.  This knowledge is highly forbidden beyond clerical practices, and any pious individual who speaks the Truth to any non-Cleric will immediately be stripped of all powers and marked as a heretic.  Those exposed to the Truth and believe it are incapable of handling this awareness and die from an overwhelming pressure.  Despite this, clerics are all that exist for expanding the word of God.  Their powers, however, have diminished in the last 50 years as no prayers have been answered by God and no holy presence has been felt by followers.  Some have believed that the new presence, Koz, has somehow vanquished God, and this weighs heavier on Clerics to assure that God remains despite the loss of presence.


Druids: The Druids are the more disciplined, even-tempered cousins of the barbarians.  Frequently they are former shamans and witch doctors who sought isolation from their people, setting out among the land to find a deeper connection with nature.  They do not follow God though they believe He exists.  Instead their philosophers of the world, spreading more questions than answers and finding peace among the outdoors.  Their knowledge in practical medicine through herbs and roots are often welcomed greatly among communities throughout.  They have a cumulative mission in life after the Touch formed to eradicate the disease.

Fighters: These disciplined warriors are almost all from either soldiers and militia or knights and cavaliers depending on their background.  The former comes from poorer families while the latter are almost entirely nobles unless one is lucky enough to become a squire during open combat events.  Fighters have a natural born desire to hunt, defend, and, if necessary, to kill.  Therefore they are challenged to keep busy if they reside in one of the Chambers or Hollow Dens.  They are explorers and will be the first to travel through newly discovered tunnels if a Chamber wall collapses or damaged.  These are also the first to volunteer to leave the Chamber and set out on the surface if requested by one of the three kings, but they must be fortunate enough to be living in one of the 3 Chambers that the king resides.


Monks:  Monks are among the rarest classes in Zatra.  There are imitation monasteries, but only one true monastery produces Monks properly.  It is located deep in Valashra, the mountain range that runs along the northern portion.  All Monks are recruited by a messenger being sent out among the world to locate the chosen one.  Mentors know exactly who this is when they send out the messenger, who is then guided by the magic ki that is tethered to the mentor chosen to train the recruit upon their arrival.  Through their Third Eye, an ancient ability passed down by centuries, which allows them to look upon and follow naturally gifted beings that qualify to train at the monastery.  Due to the isolation and challenge to reach the monastery, along with the incredible special powers that help fight off the Touch, monks still roam the world.

As a true testament to their devotion of ki, all Monks are blinded when their training is complete.  They often will wear an eye patch over one eye, a blindfold, an ornate mask, or they will tattoo their face when they leave the monastery.  Their vision at that point comes entirely from the Third Eye.  With this ability, they see the world without diminishing light – that is they see no darkness and their vision is limited only by the strength of their eye sight, which weakens as they age.


Paladins:  The path of the Paladin has become a confused and lonely road since God’s presence has vanished.  They are tested more than any religious figure in Zatra, forced to continue their practice and worshipping without any of God’s powers that separate them from Knights.  When the Touch first was discovered, before the world realized its potential threat, Paladins were the very first to respond.  They pledged their lives to saving those Touched and those threatened to be Touched.  There are not many Paladins left in the world as many have turned and lost their faith, many of whom have gone mad.  These ex-paladins now roam aimlessly and often fight with anger in their heart and bloodlust.  Those who remained true to God through this testament find their way in the world by journeying from community to community offering their service until they feel it is safe to venture on.  Because of the growing threat, some of them remain indefinitely as the area continues to be in constant danger from the Touch.

Rangers:  Few people are more respected than the Ranger in Zatra.  Their discipline of wilderness has protected the five kingdoms over the centuries as well as educated those communities or groups wishing to relocate to a safer region.  Rangers bring with them knowledge of survival and have spent the last 100 years passing that knowledge onto as many citizens as possible in anticipation of the Touch dominating the world.  It was the Order of the Rangers that helped organize tens of thousands of people who wished for sanctuary in the Chambers, guiding and protecting them to their destination.  They worked directly with the dwarves in establishing a self-sufficient environment in order for the people to be sealed safely within.  Currently there are no Rangers living in any of the Chambers or Hollow Dens as they are all Hunters of the Touch.  Fearless and savage at times, these lethal men and women search endlessly for those who have been Touched to vanquish them properly from the world and release them from their torment.


Rogues: A Rogue’s business has changed greatly in recent years.  Since nearly all of the cities of Zatra have been abandoned, there is little for them to seek out there in terms of coin and jewels.  Some Rogues chose to retreat into the Chambers, hoping to acquire incredible wealth from the nobles, but money has lost all value inside as everyone works to produce necessary things in order to live.  They quickly become bored and join in the cause.  Those remaining outside the Chambers now have a new value in life, however.  While there may not be riches to be sought after, important tomes and artifacts that might lead to a cure of the Touch are hidden throughout the world, many of which are well guarded by members of Nub Sumat or monsters.  Sneaking past to acquire any item is a tremendous asset for adventuring parties as survivability in Zatra relies on the least amount of encounters with the Touch as possible.

Wizards:  Wizards are viewed as the blasphemers of the world as their powers are not of God’s Will.  They hold within their Order a mysterious method of channeling into beams of pure energy that flow throughout Zatra, intersecting at points known as Hubs where they are the most powerful.  The energy itself is the fuel for all life, set there by God over a thousand years ago to self-nurture the world as He observed.  By tapping into the flows, which are called Leeways, they are essentially stealing life from the world, which reduces the flow and damages life in some form.  This may result in something small such as butterflies migrating too far north and dying of the cold or something catastrophically powerful as the formation of a fissure.  In light of Koz, however, Wizards have gained some light in God’s Eye prior to His vanishing in that Wizards are strongly against Koz’s destructive methods and use their powers to counter in whatever means necessary.  It is believed that Wizards will be among those who are capable of eliminating the Touch and even discovering a means to sever his ties from this world.  Currently there is an enclave of Wizards who are maintaining a protective shield over an entire city far to the south that keeps the Touch from entering.


As you can see, each class and race has its own uniqueness beyond what’s in the book.  They adhere to the world closer, giving them a feeling of belonging.  Not only does it make for a good read for the players to immerse themselves in your world better, it provides them plenty of information to help them answer “Why should they play X character?”  It should not be about the stats; it should be because the race or class has an exciting interest to the player so they wish to continue on into the high levels.

Until next time, lie about your dice roll as much as you can get away with.  Thanks for stopping by.

Creating an RPG Campaign Bible: Places – Part 6 Episode.066

Next on the list is probably going to be the most fun out of the entire campaign bible: important places and events.  This is where your world will shine the brightest.  You can put literally anything in your world.  Anything!  Don’t let your pop culture knowledge restrict your imagination.  Just because it was in Lord of the Rings doesn’t mean it has to be in your world.  Make orcs civilized instead of barbaric.  Give elves an evil twist to their nature by making them sadistic in sacrificial rituals.  Let the dwarves have industrial technology.  Provide dungeons with spectacular events like the walls, floor and ceiling suddenly breaking apart and floating in a void causing the players to jump along or fall to a lower level.  Bring life to your world by making the decisions you want to do.


In Zatra, there are already tons of places to explore despite the fact that most people are living underground and sealed in the Chambers.  I want to make each region or location interesting and intriguing to the players by giving a little twist if possible.  The more typical and predictable the region is, the less likely they will want to explore it.

Important Places & Facts


The Dwarven Chambers.  First designed in 1043 by a Dokaleer architect named Ludvig Shadowholm, Chambers are a complete ecosystem with the purpose of being entirely self-sufficient for living creatures within.  These structures are underground fortresses, chiseled and designed by only master craftsmen dwarves, and sealed off for protection.  The idea was to bring in only those who are not carrying the Touch disease in order to quarantine the healthy and keep the world from being wiped out.  There were originally 30 in total, but rumors have begun spreading that several have been discovered and breached.

Each Chamber has a secret one-way tunnel that leads to an underground cavern that’s connected to the surface.  The knowledge of its whereabouts and the trick to pass through it unscathed is only with the three dwarven kings and their 2 advisors within each of the 3 Dwarven Kingdoms.  These tunnels can only be used once as the last obstacle along the way causes a complete cave in.  Each of the 30 Chambers is governed by a Rystar, or knight, who is responsible for the wellbeing of those residing inside.  Generally communication between Chambers does not occur because of the danger of an outside source intercepting the message and, thus, discovering the location of either.  Only one of the 3 kings can give permission for a message to be sent by means of spells.


Unhallowed Necropolis.  Formerly called Lut Gotain, it was once the shining jewel of the eastern coast of Zatra in the kingdom of Remes.  Strengthened by the advantageous geography of the land and sea, it remained untouched by enemies for centuries.  It was known to be the wealthiest and most powerful city along the East Coast.  So much so that an enormous vault was built high above the land, suspended by magic and tethered by thick, spell-bound chains.  Anyone passing within dozens of miles can visibly see the floating building waiting for someone to bravely climb the chains or find a means to lower it to the ground.  Lut Gotain was famed for the rich tobacco called mamiya used in meditational fires and smoking pipes.  Another well-known memory of the port city was the high vertical sails of their ships, some having masts over 300 feet tall.  These colossal sails were capable of producing speeds of up to 45 knots on the open sea, which allowed goods to be traded at an astonishing rate.

Sadly the only enemy that ever breached her walls brought her to ruins.  The accepted story is that a lone traveler from the far north brought the Touch unsuspectingly into the city without the guards checking.  Now the city of Unhallowed Necropolis is an extremely deadly location to venture, filled with hundreds of victims who fell to the curse.  It is peculiar, however, in that a rumor is known of a powerful person or creature that took control over the city and found a way to command the Touched to his bidding.  Some believe it is a member of Nub Sumat, but others believe it is another entity unrelated to Koz or his followers.


Valashra. It stretches from east to west and divides the world into halves by its sheer size and range.  The mountain range Valashra was an unnatural phenomenon, created exceedingly quickly due to a massive explosion below the earth’s surface.  To this day, no one really knows for sure what caused the explosion, but for centuries it is wildly believed that a rare race of gnomes lives somewhere far, far below the surface.  Although some claim to have seen a gnome, most notably the dwarves as they dig forever deeper, there is no documented evidence that they exist.  Scholars believe that if there is a mystical race, they live much farther underground than the deepest the mountain dwarves have ever dug before.

The mountain range has an unusual feature that is found at either end:  a cave entrance.  While the duration has never been fully traveled, it is believed that the tunnel eventually leads from one coastline to the other.  A few tests have been conducted by sending glass bottles into one end and discovering it to exit on the other over a year later.  On one peculiar incident, the bottle was slightly tinted blue and had a piece of parchment containing unknown symbols that have yet to be deciphered.  Copies were made and placed in each of the 30 Chambers as well as several surface cities.  The original copy is on permanent display in Chamber 1 where King Wolvar Thunderharm resides.


Ming Ki. Very little is known of the monk monastery.  Those unwelcomed attempting to locate it almost always finds their fate sealed before their eyes lay upon the fortress.  It is well hidden among the mountains high above in Valashra for mysterious reasons as no one knows why the monks require such isolated privacy.  Those who leave seem to already have their purpose determined, and none of them ever surrender any information about what went on during their training.  Some people believe the monks go through extremely torturous exercises, fasting for days while being burned or pierced.  The size of the complex is also only rumored.  Many scholars feel the fortress can hold hundreds of inhabitants, but being so high in the mountains, little in terms of vegetation can be grown.  So the mystery continues as to how they provide nourishment.  The only people who journey down from the mountains are the messengers, but they only recruit a new person without acquiring any goods.


Ulopia.  One of the remaining surface cities in existence, Ulopia is protected by some of the world’s most powerful wizards.  Many of them formed the enclave over a century ago when it was clear the Touch was a global threat.  They were innovative with their spells, fusing and reforming new ones that far exceeded historical expectations.  A dome of energy was created over the entire city, giving off a light pink hue to those observing it from miles away.  The focal point comes from one of the most powerful hubs of multiple Leeways in Zatra, which was a fortunate coincidence to the founding location of Ulopia.  Unfortunately the dome comes at a price.  Within the dome, essentially no energy comes from the Leeways.  This includes all plant life as well as magic.  As a result, farmlands surround the dome.  The engineers of Ulopia designed fascinating structures that allow the fields to be elevated ten feet off the ground to help prevent dangerous creatures from harming the farmers as they work.  Water is drawn up and carried through aqueducts from within the dome to the surrounding countryside.  Still, patrols are on duty all hours of the day outside of the dome on an elevated, circular walkway that follows the circumference.


K’leshima. Consider yourself lucky if you lay eyes upon the great floating fortress of K’leshima unless you are a sky elf.  This nearly impossibly accessible city slowly floats above the surface of Zatra as the wind blows.  Spiraled in the foundation of the city through solid rock are four massive iron chains tipped with anchors that are lowered to the ground below during troubling winds or storms.  The center point of the city is the citadel known as Malistima (Muh-lee-stemuh), a mighty building of deep historical purpose to the sky elves.    It is here that only the Sacred Nine are permitted to conduct elemental experiments and execute decisions that reflect all people of K’leshima.  Numerous smaller rock formations are tethered to the main portion of the city and hold smaller structures including windmills.  These are powered by the wind as the city travels across the country, fueling the city’s need for advanced technology: electricity.  There is no other race or person besides the sky elves that know how to produce or harness such power.  All believe it to be simply another form of magic as certain spells are capable of creating similar effects but for a brief moment.  Only in K’leshima will you find artificial illumination, and the city is a speechless, breathtaking sight at night as it explodes into a sea of lights that can be seen for hundreds of miles away.  Transportation between the floating islands is conducted either through floating wind- or electric-powered ships or bridges.  Ships ride on magnetic currents from the planet’s core and are capable of traveling up to 150 miles per day without recharging if powered by electricity.  Sailing vessels, on the other hand, are more common but extremely expensive and difficult to acquire.


Keldia.  Covering a large portion of the southern lands is the bog of Keldia.  Despite the feeling of death and decay throughout, Keldia is home to the hill dwarves and plays a vital role in the ecosystem of Zatra.  The origin of Keldia stems from the hands of the Nub Sumat when Koz granted them the power of weather effects.  But the flooding that created the marsh fields resulted in very soft saturated soil that happens to be ideal conditions for peat moss.  Once cultivated, the peat can be used to produce numerous valuable resources such as luxury sealing wax, growth acceleration chemicals for farming, and the purification of water.  This crop grows for dozens of miles in every direction, giving the residents of the bog a lifetime of work.  The need to purify water came several centuries ago when a contamination directly resulting from a collecting of wizard spells reached a large portion of Zatra.  At the time, powerful Clerics were able to restore the tainted aquifers, but the duration was immensely long.  With the discovery of peat moss being used to purify groundwater, the process takes considerably less time and money.


Northern Lands. The Northern Lands are not for the weak.  The region is a cold, dark formidable area covered in some areas with over a hundred feet of snow, plagued with white out blizzards that last for weeks, and riddled with extremely dangerous creatures.  Those who reside in the region are among the toughest in the world, capable of withstanding extremely dangerous temperatures and battling the most ferocious beasts.  All of the Northern Lands are covered with some snow or solid ice, and the majority has enough that tunnels are the only means of travel and survival.  These interlocking systems are carved by giant animals or by the humans who call it their home.  It is rumored that the Northern Lands was once home to a thriving civilization not of this world before the humans made the journey over Valashra and claim it for their own.  Any evidence of this ancient people has been buried deeply under the frozen ground.

I’ll cover an interesting section of the campaign bible in Part 7 with character and class origins.  I particularly enjoy this section because it adds a better reason in selecting your race and class during the creation process.  Instead of simply saying “I like playing dwarves and I like playing fighters, so I’m a dwarven fighter,” you can say “I really like the idea of coming from the frozen Northern Lands and being well adapted to survival as well as being a member of one of the barbarian tribes there.  I’ll play a dwarf from there, completely white skin and slightly bluish beard who is covered in tribal tattoos and carries a giant battleax as a fighter.”

Until next time, lie about your dice roll as much as you can get away with.  Thanks for stopping by.

Creating an RPG Campaign Bible: Famous NPCs – Part 5 Episode.065

Up to this point in your campaign bible, you should have a general concept of your world on a macro level, on a large scale.  We have been generally getting more and more specific, a micro level, as we progress.  This is one of two methods you can use to tackle world building.  Some people enjoy looking at the world on a smaller level first, fleshing out a region where the players are going to begin their careers and then build outward as they travel.  While this is perfectly fine if it suits your preference, there are a few things that are lacking by doing so.  One of which is important figures and places that are not directly conflicting with the players at that time but are affecting the world as the players journey through it.  These are famous nobles, politicians, monarchs, wanted criminals, famous bards, and the like.


A very strong method of bringing more life into your world is to have things occurring elsewhere during their campaign.  I often will provide news and events to the players as we go along, usually in between sessions or prior to just starting one.  This can be anything from an illness in royal family, a major heist that took place in a far off city, an assault on a castle, a war that broke out, or tension that is building between the wood elves and the nearby orc tribes.  It’s important to make notes of these events and not just make them up and forget about them later.  Your players may very well remember them without you and bring the event up some time later when they reach that area.  Don’t underestimate the memory of your players.

For now, I started with the most well-known figures in my world of Zatra, those running the Dwarven Kingdoms.  Since the world has fallen to a horrible curse called the Touch, the dwarves have shown to be the most resilient against it and, therefore, the best place to be protected.  The dwarves in general are governed by a supreme king with two other kings reigning over two of the three kingdoms.  Essentially one rules all of them while maintaining a governing body over a third of the dwarves.  With this, the three kings are vastly critical in the world for two reasons.  First, they hold the knowledge on how to leave the sealed Chambers through the secret passage back to the surface.  Second, they are the only governing body among the dwarves who can grant permission to send messages between the Chambers via a message spell.  One of the options for the players is to have their character come from one of the Chambers.  Since this is the case, they will ultimately have to talk face-to-face with one of the kings, depending on which Chamber they choose.  So it is important to have the knowledge of who the three kings are.


Important Figures

The following figures play prominent supporting roles or significant peripheral roles in the campaign:

His Grand Highness, Superior Chancellor and King Wolvar Thunderharm.  Although three kings in total reign over the three Dwarven Kingdoms, one of these is King Wolvar Thunderharm who holds total authority over all dwarves.  His words become law, and his governing is overruled by no one.  Few know how old Thunderharm is, but he states claim that he was among the first dwarves on Zatra to wield and strike with a hammer.  If this is the case, he has received special treatment or aid by non-magical or magical means to give him longevity in life as the oldest officially recorded dwarf was 387.  These days, Wolvar Thunderharm spends his waking hours either entertaining his 8xGreat-Grandchildren or locked away in his private library as he pours over volumes of lore that was written around the time believed to be when Koz first became a reality.  Wolvar Thunderharm reigns over the First Dwarven Kingdom of Gungrak.

Her High Holiness, Grand Pontiff and King Syldi Tarndark.  She is one of the three kings that reign over the Dwarven Kingdoms and carries the highest rank within the Holy Order of the dwarven religion, Vagnarock.  Vagnarock is considered sacrilege among all other races in Zatra for they worship an imaginary god.  Syldi Tarndark leads the order and proceeds over laws that are dictated by religion such as time of worship, Sabbath days, official scripture interpretations, and so on.  Her masculine title as king is an official ruling that was added to the Law after equality rights were decided among the dwarves.  The Law can never be changed, but interpretation can be changed by amendments.  In this case, the Law clearly states “Only a king may reside over a Dwarven Kingdom.”  By giving the same title to a female dwarf, the Law is not betrayed.  Syldi Tarndark reigns over the Second Dwarven Kingdom of Solitude.


His Royal Highness, Battle Warlord and King Krog Dragongrind.  Battle scarred and showing little emotion, Dragongrind has little fear.  His list of battles is legendary, taking days to recite completely.  Beyond military skills in tactics and warfare, Krog is capable of wielding any weapon placed in his hand.  He has Grand Master titles on over 200 melee and ranged weapons.  From a personal level, he does not follow Vagnarock as he believes it is a false god.  His title gives him the freedom to follow his own faith, but most dwarves criticize him behind his back.  There is a very few number of followers of God within the Dwarven Kingdoms, and almost all of them converted to the faith after Krog took reign over his kingdom.  Of those few, all of them reside in his domain.  He will take any opportunity that is given to him to passionately warn that following a false god like Vagnarock will lead to retribution and believes Koz’s existence was the direct result of too many followers against God.  Krog Dragongrind reigns over the Third Dwarven Kingdom of Balakork.


This list progressively gets bigger and bigger as you come up with more noteworthy figures.  Once the campaign begins, it still will be necessary to continue expanding it to keep track of everyone.  As the campaign gets longer and longer, the list of NPCs will grow substantially long.  Having a nice database of who’s who will help keep the memory of them fresh in your mind.

As I like to keep these blogs around a 2 page length, I will put the important places section on the next blog as my material for it covers 3 pages by itself.  Breaking it down and explaining the section, its importance and recommendations will only add to the already lengthy bit, so stay tuned for Part 6 where I’ll include that section.

Until next time, lie about your dice roll as much as you can get away with.  Thanks for stopping by.

Creating an RPG Campaign Bible: Races – Part 4 Episode.065

Today we get into the meat and potatoes of the campaign bible by describing and breaking down the details of the races of the world and adding a little flavor with a custom-built calendar.  It’s always important to add even mundane and routine things into your world because what doesn’t stand out tends to be the things that make your world more realistic.  These are things that we take for granted in real life such as days of the week, typical weather patterns and seasons, food diets, superstitions, implied laws and regulations, etc.


Then there is the detail of the races in your world.  They can be a traditional lot that are familiar to the average gamer or they can be completely foreign.  If you go the route of the latter, make sure there are some familiar features to give them a foundation to build the idea of what they look like in their mind.  If you create creatures and people with such fabricated concepts, it may be difficult for the players to wrap their heads around and paint a visual in their minds without being confused.  Race should be well established for role playing purposes as well.  There is no law stating you have to make dwarves and elves hate each other.  You don’t have to make dwarves and orcs mortal enemies either.  Don’t be afraid to spice things up and change things that might go against the norm because your world doesn’t have to be the norm.  It’s your world.

Although it isn’t entirely necessary, giving percentages of each race that makes up the whole world’s population can help give players a better way to imagine how populated areas look.  If they know that the majority of your world comprises of humans, when they enter a village or city, they will tend to imagine people milling about in the background as humans to make up the entire scene they just painted.


Another tidbit of information you can provide your players that will also help you in the long run are names.  Some people have a lot of trouble coming up with a name they like.  Other times they give up and just randomly use a name that they later regret picking.  Whatever the case may be, giving a list of first and last names for them to pick can make their creation process easier.  It can be a nice time saver for you down the road when you have to come up with a non-important NPC on the spot and need a name.  The list you make now can be referenced at a later time.  It is also nice to add a little flavor of the race, too, if there is any unusual features about them such as better relation with another race or if the race has a general preference over a sporting event or deity.  You need not write a novel for each race.  A couple of paragraphs are sufficient for giving players a general idea of what that race feels like.  You’re essentially advertising the races to the players as if they were window shopping for the right one.

To begin with, here is the Zatra calendar.  Unique names for months may be tough for people to memorize although it might not be important for them to do so.  For those who really love becoming fully immersed in the world may take the time to learn the names and even the holidays.  Adding this knowledge into conversation while roleplaying will add that much more realism and excitement into the game.  Besides the names, I included some significant features that occur during that time.  I leave these open and in name only initially to draw interest at a later time.


The Zatra Calendar

Most civilizations in Zatra follow the first calendar that was conceived by the elves after the year 232.  This follows a conformed pattern of 10 months, each month comprising of 5 weeks, and each week containing 5 weekdays (First Day, Moon Day, Midweek, Week Eve, Final Day).

Month                  Seasonal Significance

Mako                    First month of Spring, Star Harvest Begins

Ramo                   Month of the Spring Equinox, Day of Doka

Endispar               First Month of Summer, Fire Festival

Venispar              Month of the Summer Solstice, Giving of Thanks

Luno                    First Month of Fall, Major Harvest Begins

Luktavo                Month of the Autumn Equinox, Lunar Day

Menzo                  First Month of Winter, Day of Solitude

Tykober                Month of the Winter Solstice, Remembrance Day

Nunober               God’s Day celebrated, First Frost Eve

Umbo                    Soul Festival celebrated, Death Reborn Eve


The Four Main Races of Zatra

The people of Zatra once were dominated by humans (80%), but since the Touch, they have been nearly wiped out to 20%.  Dwarves now are the majority species (60%) while halflings (5%), elves (10%), and other races (5%),(including half-breeds) make up the rest.  Here are notes and common names for each major race:

The Windemeir (Humans)

The few humans that remain are those wise enough to accept the invitation of the dwarves to live underground and avoid the Touch.  Most of the human race was wiped out due to arrogance and pride, ignoring the imposing doom of the Touch’s spread and not wishing to dwell with dwarves underground.  Interestingly enough, nearly all of the Windemeirs (Wĭn-dĕh-mērz) are from one kingdom of Zatra, called Kindred.  These survivors have traditional first and last names with middle names given to those of nobility descent.

Male First Names: Alastair, Ambros, Andrew, Avery, Barnaby, Bartholomew, David, Eward, Geoffrey, Hugh, Humphrey, John, Julian, Milton, Myles, Nathanial, Oliver, Roger, Solomon, Thomas, Timothy, Wyatt, Zachary

Female First names: Agnes, Blanche, Bridget, Clemence, Dolores, Edith, Eleanor, Emma, Ethel, Florence, Isabel, Joyce, Margery, Marion, Mildred, Molly, Princilla, Rose, Ruth, Susanna, Sybil, Ursula, Valorie, Winifred

Surnames: Andrews, Ashenhurst, Barlow, Battle, Beadows, Berkhead, Blackwood, Blake, Bishop, Bloom, Blunt, Bright, Carpenter, Cartwell, Castledon, Collingford, Crane, Crook, Cunley, Dawnthorpe, Downer, Dragonwell, Dunfield, Elkhorn, Everett, Fitzgeoffery, Fitzgerald, Fletcher, Francis, Fray, Gladdish, Goldworth, Gossingham, Grimmer, Hadley, Hale, Hammersfield, Hargreave, Humphrey, Hunter, Hyde, Ives, Jenkins, Jollybad, Keast, King, Kottlegrey, Lestrange, Leventhorpe, Langford, Lloyd, Mansfield, Merriwethre, Mortimre, Motts, Moxley, Narbridge, Northam, Noyes, Olver, Pallcraft, Payne, Penhale, Polkinghorn, Pummel, Quail, Quillmaker, Ratley, Reeve, Ringer, Rosserford, Rowley, Russell, Sawford, Shivington, Silcox, Smythe, Snell, Stargrave, Stokes, Strangeways, Teague, Tellam, Throckmorton, Thurman, Torrington, Trowbridge, Unger, Uxbridge, Vaughan, Vawdrey, Whitaker, White, Winkle, Wyndham, Yates, Ysterman.


Random picture of a Mindflayer

The Dokaleers (Dwarves)

The dwarves are a hardened race with a strangely powerful resilience to the Touch (although not immune).  The Dokaleers (Dōh-kŭh-lērz) make up two of the three Dwarven Kingdoms and are credited for proposing the idea of building the Chambers to protect all untainted by the curse.  Their name comes from the First Dwarf, Doka, who was created by God in the 12 year of Zatra.  All dwarf surnames are their clan names.

Male First Names: Arn, Barin, Dolmen, Fargrik, Fyorn, Gluto, Grulf, Haxan, Holst, Illvar, Jokum, Krog, Krune, Kvalgar, Lofgren, Ludvig, Nylan, Rangvald, Stenger, Svensoren, Tarl, Wolvar, Yospur

Female First Names: Bjerke, Dreylan, Falka, Frau, Frunda, Gorana, Grayka, Halskir, Hammelmar, Helvig, Hjork, Lykke, Nessa, Ryngylrund, Rosenklau, Syldi, Vannim, Yilsi, Yuska, Zelga

Clan Names: Axeberg, Barrelmead, Blucher, Copperstein, Crystalbeard, Dragongrind, Dwerryhouse, Emberstoke, Evergulp, Ferrizalt, Grottmund, Hammermain, Ironshoe, Mithralvein, Osterchasm, Rockmantle, Shadowholm, Tarndark, Thunderharm, Tumblecask, Understrom, Vorne, Zonkenlander

The Waterfolk (Halflings)

Halflings are fairly rare in the world as they were more vulnerable than humans to the Touch.  They prefer to live in the hollow of giant trees and soft mounds near a waterfront where the soil is rich and fertile.  They were the first to invent oceanic navigation instruments and build sea-worthy vessels.  Those that remain created smaller versions of the Chambers that are not buried so deeply underground.  This led to a quicker discovery by members of the Nub Sumat though some Hollow Dens (as they call them) are still hidden.

Male First Names: Badger, Bandit, Banzai, Carrot, Charley, Chipper, Corky, Cricket, Dodger, Early, Heron, Huck, Jay, Jester, Louie, Lucky, Moe, Ozzy, Pennywise, Robber, Seymour, Skip, Skylar, Smedley, Squirt, William

Female First Names:  Blueberry, Celery, Claire, Cookie, Daisy, Minnow, Noodles, Peaches, Peanut, Pepper, Petunia, Punkin, Sadie, Sunny, Wendy, Whitney, Willow, Zoey

Den Names: Daggerthwart, Fatpurse, Featherpluck, Fondslinger, Foolspride, Hallowhill, Hawksprey, Honeygrab, Hydenhill, Littlegrift, Meanderstride, Nevercaught, Noosewary, Poundfoolish, Puddleskiff, Rattlekey, Riverdance, Rockhucker, Roundhill, Shallowpool, Tricker, Trufflestuff, Wanderfoot, Whisperhill, Wylde.

The Shastenza (Elves)

The original civilized race, Shastenzas are the geniuses of the world, creating marvels of inventions and discoveries that no other could conceive.  Many of their strange and wonderful devices can still be found operating endlessly in abandoned ruins or isolated regions.  All but a handful of elves remain in this world.  The race discovered a doorway that brought them to another plane of existence where they live temporarily until a cure for the Touch is created.  The handful of elves that remained is among the brightest of their people with a passion to find a cure.  They now reside underground in the Dwarven Kingdoms.

Male First Names: Aravoth, Arthon, Arvellas, Athelon, Balan, Balhiramar, Balthoron, Canyalas, Diron, Erannon, Eruvarne, Filverion, Firavaryar, Ganalan, Harmenion, Hilneth, Iomar, Larasarne, Lovain, Maingalad, Lenaren, Morisira, Pellavan, Senevast, Tarthagol, Valisain

Female First Names: Alonnen, Althirn, Anvanya, Dagor, Eredaith, Eruanna, Firyan, Gwenmirith, Haradi, Lenaren, Morisira, Myree, Nilde, Nimmeth, rainion, Sennemir, Shalmorgan, Sirva, Torduin, Valaina, Varalia

Home Names: Astramordan, Astravelios, the Circle of Ashes, the Emerald Cradle, the Green March, Kvalagost, Misthaven, Summerdown, Thornhenge, Val Andamar, Val Ressarin, the Weird Glade, Winterbane, Woodcrown


Next part will break the races down further by listing some important figures and also some important locations that the players should know from the start.

Until next time, lie about your dice roll as much as you can get away with.  Thanks for stopping by.

Creating an RPG Campaign Bible: Your World – Part 3 Episode.064

What makes your world unique?  It was probably the initial idea that came to your mind when you first thought of starting a campaign based on a home-brewed world.  World builders, as some GMs enjoy being referred as, seldom wish to create something static and typical.  The world must be rich and dynamic, full of wonder and mystery that few have ever heard about before.  Secrets await the players as they begin exploring every corner, discovering new innovations that wow and draw them in deeper.


Your world does not need to have one large unique aspect to it.  Consider instead the idea of having multiple smaller, “mini-features” that set it apart.  One particular part of the world may have high energy levels of magic that grant anyone in the area to suddenly possess spell-like abilities.   Another region could be riddled with random portals that suddenly appear that either sends your party to another part of the world or even to another dimension.

Try to keep in mind how your idea or ideas are going to truly affect the players both on a short term and long term basis.  There seems to be always one player who is capable of finding loopholes in everything, so be prepared to face a curveball from them at some point that might take advantage of your idea.


I have seen some GMs run test games with his players using pre-gen characters similar to a convention.  These games are one or two sessions long tops, but they are based on specific circumstances within your world.  If you are worried that someone may take advantage of a region that grants wild magic, run one-session game involving the players randomly crossing over the boundary and see how they react.

In my continuing work of the campaign bible of Zatra, I included a more GM-friendly than Player-friendly section on my overarching twist of my world and what somewhat sets it apart.  Granted, we are all truly inspired by previous experiences to which our original content has reflections of the past, but we make it our own and enjoy it.  In the world of Zatra, it was created and observed by a single god, but a second chaotic god came into existence and wishes to rival him.


World Altering Events & The Five Powers

The Five Powers is a generalized term used to describe the omnipotent power that God possesses.  In a literal sense, the Five Powers are an unknown force of god-builders.  The god is capable to do everything, know everything, and see everything.  It represents the ultimate sheer control that God contains.  Through these powers, the god can handle their world as they see fit.  Zatra’s God grants life and death and allows the living to determine their own fate and course of action.

However, from time to time, the Five Powers creates multiple deities for a single world.  They are commonly polar opposites in order to form balance, but on rare occasions these deities clash.  One of such phenomenon occurred in Zatra in its year of 920.

About 150 years ago, Koz reached a level of power and influence in the world that he was able to manipulate the very existence of all things throughout.  His powers, however, could only be filtered through the use of mortal pawns and avatars though he would be able to harness the powers himself once he acquired the fifth one.  Through the use of mind manipulation and brainwashing, Koz was able to convince his followers to do exactly as he commanded in using these powers.  His motivations (other than transforming all living beings into victims of the Touch) are unknown.  The potential of Koz acquiring the Five Powers is a tremendous threat as four of them have already been developed and utilized.


The first power he acquired was in 1051 and allowed him to change the planet’s rotation speed, thereby causing extended periods of darkness.  Although incapable of stopping the world altogether, his powers could create daylight to appear for only a few hours before slowing the motion for darkness to last for days.  When nightfall occurs, the intensity increases to a pinnacle of nearly total darkness with visibility only a few feet away, even with a magical light source.  Some creatures were further granted the ability to see great distances during this period, including members of Nub Sumat.

As the Touch and the awareness of another god’s presence spread, his powers grew in number.  The Touch had a direct link to that power, and either more joined the cause of Nub Sumat or they fell to the Touch.  Soon Koz gained another powerful ability which was to alter weather patterns.  He allowed Nub Sumat to unleash a fury of torrential storms from hurricanes to massive tornadoes and earthquakes that devastated the lands and destroyed many of the cities.  Floods washed farmlands and building debris away, leaving ruins in their wake.  In some portions of the world, blizzards would last for days during the long periods of nightfall, leaving dozens of feet of snow, tunneled out by creatures and travelers still living above ground.


His third power came in 1154, just 100 years after his first power acquisition.  This proved to be more lethal due to the lack of evidence of its existence.  Throughout the world, pockets would form at random that either contained a low amount of gravity or lacked it entirely.  The latter was particularly hazardous from those without proper magic as victims entering the pocket would rise up to a point in the atmosphere incapable of sustaining life.  Those who managed to manipulate their ascension to move out of the pocket before that point would retain gravity but usually fall to their deaths unless they had a means to slow their descent.  Telltale signs are difficult to spot from an area of a complete lack of grass to holes where young trees were uprooted to floating objects in midair.  Some of the more potentially dangerous anti-gravity pockets have been marked by past travelers as a warning beacon, but these signs are soon destroyed by members of Nub Sumat.

Some forty years after Koz acquired the 4th Power, the snowball effect of the world falling into darkness from the Touch’s spread allowed him to begin minor manipulations of time itself.  These brief spurts could cause time to reverse several seconds, speed forward a couple of hours, or momentarily stop.  These occurrences would not be worldwide but sized similarly to the areas of his gravity manipulation areas.  These moments are completely random and can happen at advantageous and disadvantageous times.  For example, moments after someone falls into a sinkhole, time shifts backwards, bringing them from falling.  Memory and awareness of the time shift seems to remain with the victim, too.


With the final Power utilized with Koz, he will reach the level to rival God.  All Powers will be capable by Koz directly, and he will progress into the next existence as a deity, which is the omnipotent being that which is God.

Until next time, lie about your dice roll as much as you can get away with.  Thanks for stopping by.

Creating an RPG Campaign Bible: Timelines – Part 2 Episode.063

Another feature of the campaign bible that really helps the GM more than anything is a timeline.  This can be very challenging as you have to make educated guesses on when things occur in your world’s past.  Things like war, famine, catastrophes, worldly achievements, and political movements all fall into your timeline, but it can’t all be done in a few decades of history.  Laying out a timeline helps you give life into your world, but it also gives you a better structure when building.  If there really is no rhyme or reason behind your decisions as you create the world, you may find the entire project to be scatterbrained with ideas bouncing all over the place.  Although there is variety in any world, there is also a level of order and structure that ties everything together.  For example, adding a natural disaster event in the past can give reason to an important geological feature in the present.  An assassination of a great king a century ago that wiped out a bloodline leads to a noble house ruling the kingdom today.


It also gives reason of how your world has risen or declined over the years.  At a glance, you can see the possible golden years or the dark ages and what transpired that led to those changes.  Although your world may not have cyclical events like in real life (things reoccurring over and over in history), it leaves the possibility of reoccurring themes if you are looking to add something to your campaign.

For my world of Zatra, I made a fairly big mistake: I made my history too brief.  I began building my timeline in the year 0 when the world was created rather than basing the numbering like the Gregorian calendar.  From here, I began to think in a chronological standpoint, filling in as the history began to be created.  As I went, I would put random dates down that went in order and were separated with what I thought were enough dates.  As it turned out, I ran out of ideas initially for the history.  I wound up finishing the timeline with the present events only 1,200 years after the world was created.  If compared to Earth’s history, the connection with the Middle Ages is familiar enough with the traditional fantasy setting that my timeline works in that regard.  However, too many things happened in too short of time, and more things need to be added to breathe more life into the world.


These events in the history don’t have to be ground shattering either.  A merciful and wise king dying of pneumonia isn’t important for the players to fit into the campaign, but it adds more character to the world and offers them opportunity for it to be significant in the future.  They might stumble upon the king’s tomb after it was lost to a mighty rock slide centuries ago.  History does tend to repeat itself although your world may not, but those moments can really become memorable when a player comments, “Isn’t this the tomb of King Gutaliehm IV who was cursed for betraying his wife to a demon?  He went mad and traded his wife off so he would live for another 20 years!”

Here is my timeline that I created which has an extremely short world life (only 1,200 years).  From here, I will go back and add quite a bit more, but more importantly I’ll change the dates to spread them out a bit and have a few thousand years, perhaps from the time of creation to the first civilized city being formed.


A Brief Timeline

0: God established by the Five Powers and Zatra is created by Him.

232: The first civilized city is formed as elves develop advancements in lifestyles quickest

258: General worldly civilization among the main races form, trading and politics are established

280: Five kingdoms are forged with Archdukes ruling each and one crowned king or queen over all.

372: Oceanic navigation is developed and fully exploring Zatra begins by many cultures

744: War breaks out among the five kingdoms after an assassination on the king

790: The original five kingdoms are reformed and political structure changed

810: The first nobility house takes over one of the five kingdoms

920: The speck of darkness that will become Koz comes into existence

1030: The first documented incident of the Touch is recorded

1037: [Koz communicates with his first follower and establishes his vision and demands]

1042: Touch has been deemed a worldly threat

[Nub Sumat is formed]

1044: The first Chamber is built by the Dwarves

1051: The world mysteriously darkens, the sun appearing for mere hours each day.

[Nub Sumat gains the ability to alter sunlight hours from Koz, darkening the world]

1089: Nub Sumat makes their presence known and spreads the praise of Koz.

1120: Catastrophic weather patterns form throughout the world without meaning.

[Koz grants Nub Sumat weather altering abilities, causing massive destruction]

1135: The last of the Chambers are built

1143: All communication or signs of God’s presence disappear

1154: Light- and anti-gravity pockets form throughout the world, causing unsuspecting victims to rise miles into the air and die.

[The dark god nearly reaches pinnacle, granting minor gravity alterations to Nub Sumat]

1178: Several Chambers are discovered by champions of Nub Sumat and are breached

1199 (Present Year):  People experience periodic time shifts throughout the world

[Minor time alterations are granted to Nub Sumat, Wild Magic occurs]

Until next time, lie about your dice roll as much as you can get away with.  Thanks for stopping by.

Creating an RPG Campaign Bible – Part 1 Episode.062

As a GM, there is nothing quite like that initial feeling you get when you are about to start a campaign with some friends.  You have tons of inspiration that hasn’t been tapped, plenty of ideas, and a feeling of “newness” fills each of you as you begin that first session.  But there is a lot of prep work that is required before you start something like that as a GM.  Although you can begin a campaign on-the-fly during the first session, it’s considerably challenging to devise over-arching plots, side plots, character-plots, cities, dungeons, people, monsters, treasure, weather patterns, geographical landmarks, etc., as you play.  It’s really best (and can be a lot of fun) to build up your world at least a little bit before beginning.


A few years ago, Chris Perkins, one of the big producers with Wizards of the Coast (and all around tremendous DM), uploaded what he called a “Campaign Bible” that was about 12-pages of information for the players to read prior to starting the campaign.  In the document, players could read up on interesting features that people living in his world would know from landmarks to famous people.  Much like we would in real life, we have various knowledge of the same information in the country we live in.  This information allows players to select the best character that suits their interests and fits the world, and it gives background information that they can use as they play the game.  For example, if they know that the king of their realm is known for allowing anyone to seek an audience with him, day or night, they can automatically make that move when they arrive in the city he resides in without being told in-game by the GM.  It allows players to roleplay their character with knowledge, which in turn gives more immersion to the system.

Creating a bible helps the GM as well in many ways.  You are able to lay out some basic, important information in a well-organized document for later use.  You also can get a good feeling if you’re up to the challenge of running a campaign, too.  Usually these bibles should only be 10-15 pages maximum.  Writing that many pages can be quite a challenge for many people, and coming up with that amount of information for your world will show you if you have the motivation to stick with it.  By filling out a document such as this, you are able to answer the important questions that need to be answered from the start.  For example, you need to know about interesting features of your world so the players have places to go without you railroading them.  Important people need to be created for them to interact with.  A sense of realism needs to be made such as what month is it, how is the geography laid out, how desolate is the world, what is the typical weather like for each season in each region?  You need to be able to provide information on races and classes to the players, too.  Give the races more life by having a short history of each, where they are typically found, how they interact with others, and what are some unique things about them.  If you’re going through the trouble of making your own world, it had better be unique in many ways.  Otherwise you might as well use a published campaign setting that is already fleshed out.

Surrach map

Currently I’m preparing a campaign as I venture out and search for a gaming group.  I want to be prepared when I find the people who need a GM to run a campaign for them, so I’m working on the concept now.  This is done by creating a campaign bible of my world.  That way when I do stumble upon them, I don’t have to ask them to wait another month or two while I work on concepts.  I can present the bible document to them to read over and see if it interests them.

I’m going about it a little differently because I don’t have a group yet.  If you already have a group and are interested in running a campaign, you absolutely need to consult with them first.  Sit down with them over pizza and ask them as many questions as you can.  What kind of campaign are they wanting?  Combat?  Roleplaying?  A mixture?  Do they like mystery adventures, or do they like to solve puzzles and riddles?  Are they into political intrigue?  Do they like their characters to be in constant danger or dominate from the start?  How often are they wanting to meet (this will give you an idea of how much time you’ll have to work on between each session)?  Once you have your answers, then it is time to make the campaign bible, listing the important information they need to know upfront while they make their characters and prepare for the first session.


My world is called Zatra, and I begin the bible with an introduction.  At this point, I am writing more information in it than my players will know.  There are facts and knowledge in this that will not be privy to them from the start.  It’s easier to hide that information than have to come up with it in the future.  Over the next few episodes of this blog, I’ll be providing and discussing each section and why it is helpful for the players while giving any possible recommendations or tips on how to improve that section.  For now, here is the introduction of the document that sets the mood and gives the general idea behind what conflicts the world is facing right now (without conflict, a Utopia world would be boring to run a game in).


the world of ZATRA

Zatra is a realm that is at the end of its golden era, on the verge of falling into total darkness.  What was once the pinnacle of mankind in discovery, innovation, and other advancements has become a realm of fear and terror.  For thousands of years, only one omnipotent deity, known only as God, oversaw and took care of the land, nurturing and guiding those in his favor to the world he envisioned, bringing it into a utopia.  Prosperity abounded.  Yet all was not well as a flicker of darkness had become a manifestation in a direct polar opposite of what the world had become.  This manifestation became a second deity, known only to a handful of people.  Numbering in seven, they were drawn to each other with the influence and guidance of this new figure who they named Koz.  However, the new power was weak and needed time, followers, and self-nurturing before it was ever a threat to God.


The world is still divided into a five kingdoms, but there are no true rulers over siding them.  What remains is a broken world that is destined for a film of darkness to overcome the lands.  Few civilized races still reside above ground for fear of being infected by the Touch, a mysterious ooze that removes conscious control while granting physical boons and bestial violence.  Those who have avoided the contamination have fled to the Dwarven Kingdoms far below the surface as the subterranean species find a strong resilience to the Touch.  Dozens of sealed vault-like caverns called the Chambers are built for all civilized races who are unaffected by the Touch.  The kingdoms have been reinforced and sealed from the world, completely self-sufficient.  The three dwarven kings and their two advisors are the only living beings who know of the secret chambers that access the surface and how to navigate through them.


As the group of Koz followers, known as the Nub Sumat, aid in spreading the Touch, Koz grants them more incredible powers that can change the world on large scales.  Time is dwindling for those seeking a peaceful, healthy life as the last remaining outside the Chambers are slowly transformed into the creatures that haunt the world.  Discovering the hidden tunnels that lead to the three Dwarven Kingdoms is inevitable as Koz grows more powerful each day.  But those hiding underground have grown to be xenophobic and shun anyone from the surface suspecting them of contamination.

Next episode will talk about creating a historical timeline for your world.

Until next time, lie about your dice roll as much as you can get away with.  Thanks for stopping by.

Exploring Gen Con’s Dealer’s Room Episode.061

If you haven’t had the opportunity to see the Exhibitor’s Hall at Gen Con in Indianapolis, Indiana (USA), it’s an eruption of sights and sounds that beg you to strain your neck in 360 degrees.  Things will catch you out of the corner of your eye, someone will invite you to play a game for free, and vendors will be handing out free trinkets to lure you in.  It is no surprise that 3-5 hours can be spent in what is commonly referred to the Dealer’s Room.  Some people ignore the majority of the booths and go straight to their favorite location, planting themselves at the demonstration tables and play games all day.  You can do that.  Fantasy Flight and Mayfair Games especially offer entire sections of tables where you can sit down with a sales representative and learn the basics of the game before you buy it.  And under no obligation are you held to doing so after you play it.  While it is easier to walk away from the larger booths where dozens of people are milling about, the smaller booths cause a greater sense of guilt for not buying their game after they took the time to show you how it’s played.  You are wise to be comfortable saying no.


I find it hypnotic as a sight of wonder as I make my way through the aisles of merchandise.  I generally do my best to start at either end of the room because it is beyond colossal in size.  Two football fields could fit inside the hall side by side.  The hall is so massive they have to drape giant banners above each aisle signifying what number it is.  There are approximately 25-30 aisles total.  It is very easy to get distracted or disoriented without keeping a good eye above.  And not all of the aisles cut entirely straight through.  Many of the booths are so huge that they cannot fit width-wise between two aisles and cross right over it.  This makes it more of a challenge as you aren’t able to just walk right through these areas since they are assigned for gaming demonstrations that sometimes have long lines.  You must walk to the next aisle over and come around on the other side of the gaming area.  If you’re easily distracted, this simple task will be quite difficult.


The crowds are another factor.  Several things to remember is that this convention handles over 50,000 attendees, many of which are in the Dealer’s Room throughout the day.  One of the biggest complaints with the massive crowds is parents who bring strollers in with them.  I’m sure they are not having any more fun than I am trying to wedge the wheeled contraptions with their children through thickly crowded aisles.  They take up space, and they force the already jammed packed crowds to push their way to one side in order to give room.  While the convention is family oriented, these tight, congested areas really are not suitable for strollers.


Despite what the convention asks, people still stop in the middle of aisles and intersections to either visit, take a picture of someone in costume, or just gawk at something.  It’s perfectly suitable to take a detour from your path over to the side and do those things all you want, but when the aisles are so crowded that you have to literally shuffle your feet no more than 6 inches at a time, it’s horrifically annoying when the whole “train” comes to a stop because people are blocking the way.


But regardless of the few annoyances you’ll see when it comes to any large group, you’re in for an experience that you can’t quite prepare yourself for.  To begin with, the doors open at 10 a.m. each day and close that afternoon at 6 p.m.  They do this Thursday through Sunday, and if you are lucky enough to either slip past the door nazi or have a friend who’s a vendor, you can actually get in Wednesday evening to have a look around though nothing is for sale at that point as vendors are finishing up on setting their merchandise out for the next day.


If you want a specific thing that has a chance of selling out, you need to be prepared to show up well before 10 a.m. on Thursday morning.  By 9:20, you are going to see the start of what will become an enormous buildup of a crowd gathering outside the hall.  By 9:30, most of the hall will be full of people packed in.  The area is so congested that staff volunteers have to force people to make paths through them in order for others to walk.  When 10 a.m. rolls around, the doors open.  At this time, the hall has 3 groups of doors at various intervals along one of the walls.  Each group consists of about 6 double doors.  You have to present your badge in order to get in, which I think slows up the flow of traffic initially, but that is the convention’s way of demanding you pay to spend money like a Costco or Sam’s Club.


It’s really a good idea to take the trip twice for many reasons.  First, you’re going to probably miss something.  Second, vendors will bring out or change merchandise throughout the weekend.  Third, sales will begin really picking up on items by Saturday afternoon and into Sunday.  Fourth, the traffic begins to thin out as the weekend goes and people have spent their money and bought the things they came for.


There’s no doubt that with the entire amount of stuff to look at in the Dealer’s Room, there are things that are going to be overlooked.  So a second look doesn’t hurt, especially if you’re interested in finding something that just interests you but you weren’t expecting to buy.  Discovery is a big word in there as you stumble upon things you never knew existed.


Items get rotated throughout the weekend.  Things are sold out, and other items are brought in.  The smaller vendors will have a more static arrangement of merchandise, but the larger vendors sometimes have a cycling schedule where some new merchandise is brought in later in the weekend to entice customers to return to their booth.


Although a fairly obvious statement, merchandise can be heavy.  The amount of things that even the smaller vendors bring to the show takes up space and is a bare to load back into their van or truck to hall back home.  Many companies, especially the smaller ones with a lot of books, will drop their prices or be willing to make deals once Saturday afternoon rolls around and especially on Sunday.  Feel free to request bundle packages with things and don’t be afraid to haggle a bit.  There are obvious times when vendors aren’t going to mark their merchandise down.  The larger the vendor, I’ve found, the less likely they will come down on an item.  If they are brand new items, it’s tough for them to justify already lowering the cost, but if you offer to buy multiple things and then ask if $5-10 can be knocked off, you may be surprised to get that.


Usually on Saturday there are a tremendous amount of events going on from private parties hosted by some of the vendors to live concerts to huge tournaments.  This takes up a good number of people’s time and generally has an effect on the numbers in the Dealer’s Room.  Sunday is usually the emptiest because a huge group, mostly those traveling, will be back at the hotel packing and taking taxis to the airport or driving home.  You’ll find more success by then as long as the merchandise is still there.  That is always a risk when dealing with any retail store, however.  If there are enough copies on Friday, you should be okay by Sunday.


While I do have numerous opinions about the convention and its growing size previously talked about, there are still benefits and good things about the place, especially the Dealer’s Room.  However, keep in mind this final thought.  Unless there is an item that is being released just at Gen Con and limited supply, chances are you can buy it online for the same price or cheaper.  There are quite a lot of vendors I notice year after year who sell their books for the same price they sell it year round.  Books that were out last year have the same MSRP as this year without giving any deals.  The used items like former editions of Dungeons & Dragons are usually on sale with the option of a better offer given.  But unless you absolutely insist on buying that new copy of Shadowrun that came out last year or the  year before, just buy it on Amazon for much less.

Until next time, lie about your dice roll as much as you can get away with.  Thanks for stopping by.