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…..so 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.

Mastering as Game Master: Tips & Tricks Episode.051

Anytime I am at a convention or around seasoned GMs, I love to pick their brains.  I love talking about past games we have run and anecdotes, but really the parts I eat up most are the times GMs talk about a technique they did or a trick they pulled off without the players knowing that led to an amazing story conclusion.  Even newcomers just getting into the GMing world often have clever ideas that people who have been running rpgs for 20-30 years never thought about.  Like with any professional field, talking in groups with like-minded individuals will almost always yield improved productivity either through creative ingenuity or higher efficiency ratings.  These adjustments can add light years to your game.  Your experience as well as your players may very well improve and revitalize that campaign that is waning rapidly on excitement.


There aren’t enough seminars at conventions involving GM training.  It’s not that GMing is all that difficult with some practice, but there are things we don’t think about or realize and fail to utilize in our game.  Various tips, tricks, and techniques can spice your game up significantly.  There is a tremendous amount of information on improving your game online that can help anyone sharpen their skills.  If anything, it’ll stimulate the imagination and bring about new inspiration.

When you are running a campaign, it is important to make note of the insignificant things from time to time in your world.  Next time you are out in public, take a mental note of your surroundings.  Maybe an emergency vehicle is rushing to aid someone or a broken down vehicle alongside the road.  Someone’s flying a kite or riding a bicycle or painting in a park or riding in a hot air balloon.  These are things we generally ignore (perhaps not the hot air balloon), but they make up our realistic world.  If we were to remove those mundane things, we would immediately become aware of our surroundings and the odd obscurity of it all.  We don’t stop and listen to birds, but we take note if the birds suddenly stop singing.  Much like our world, it’s vast enough that a million things are happening at the same time, most of which does not pertain to you.  Someone is going to the store, someone’s going bowling, or someone’s working on their car in their garage.  Someone is visiting their nephew on his birthday.  They would not really fit or be needed in a typical campaign, but they carry the same premise understanding for what you can implement.  For example, in a gritty, sci-fi campaign, an emergency vehicle with sirens blaring flies by.  The players overhear a news report on a broadcast system – an isolated radio in an abandoned station, a department store, a passing vehicle, a town crier – of something significant and interesting happening elsewhere.  It can be a natural disaster, a huge political change, a large scale war, an epidemic, an alien sighting, the dead rising, etc.  These do not need to have any ties whatsoever with the campaign.  I’ve had players feel the rumbling of thunder on the ground approaching from behind that is caused by an enormous army on the march down the road they are traveling down.  One officer lets them know frost giants are on the move against a famous capital city far to the north, and they are on their way to reinforce the city.  The party could try to join or follow the army, but it wouldn’t be the end of their campaign if they didn’t if they were on their way elsewhere.


Don’t feel you have to go by the book on encounters.  If questing in rpgs were real, you would not experience a progressively more difficult group of monsters.  Just like if you go camping up in North America or the deep parts of Syberia, you’re going to encounter deadly animals from the very start and not harmless bunnies.  You don’t have to kill the characters.  There’s no need to throw adult black dragons at players just starting their campaign.  However, monsters can come in, wear down and toy with the PCs then abandon them when they realize they are uninteresting due to their weakness.  Think of it as a toy that a dog or cat plays with and grows bored once it realizes the ball does nothing but roll when they push it around.  It doesn’t fight back or chase them (and in the case of the party, the damage is insignificant to the monster).  This also helps you as a GM wear down players who seem to always be dominating combat.  Make them spend a few spells or lose a little health before the fight you really were planning to throw them at.

Before you begin a campaign, establish a “social contract” with your players.  This was an outstanding idea from Chris Perkins, senior producer for Wizards of the Coast.  Essentially it is an agreement between you and your players on a list of certain things that everyone has to abide by throughout the game.  This can be anything from “no threatening or attacks between PCs,” or “accepting and dealing with bad situations that happen to your PC without belly aching.”  It lays down the foundation of understanding of how you are going to run the game and what the players expect up front.  I enjoy putting PCs in bad situations; I especially love having them arrested and making them find a daring way to escape.  Without knowing prior to the campaign beginning that this can happen, players may get aggravated, frustrated, or irrational in thought towards the GM when something happens to their precious PC.  These will essentially be house rules, and I would recommend a clause that more rules can be added if the group finds a problem that needs a remedy in the rules or gameplay.


Many times, experienced players can role play without meta gaming even though they know the truth.  I picked up a hint from the GM when he slipped about something behind the door, but I know my character is reckless and careless.  Even though I played the character accurately to his background and personality, as a player I knew I was walking into a trap.  Yes, I’m okay with playing it right, but the surprise of my character getting pummeled by falling rocks in the corridor was lost.  This is where you as a GM can hide things that the players are “suppose” to know according to many mainstream rpg rules.  For example, don’t have players roll for checks on whether they are in danger or about to be if they proceed.  If the player is looking for traps, then roll for them privately.  Otherwise on a success they know there aren’t any traps, but on a failure they also might fail to find any traps.  If you roll poorly for them and tell them they do not find any traps, they will properly trigger the trap as their characters did not spot it in time.  Without this hidden method, they have to avoid meta-gaming, but they still will have their own, story-line surprise ruined.  This goes for any situation that does not involve an objective occurrence, only subjective.  Your character believes he is moving silently because he can’t hear himself, but a guard has incredibly better hearing and is listening to each step unbeknownst to the character.  Let the player find this out when he turns the corner and runs into a waiting guard.  If you have problems with your players meta gaming (i.e. players who aren’t wise enough to play the game truly), this can reduce that problem.

Instead of always rolling dice for situations, give the players activities to interact with.  Daring escapes from a burning building by having each player solve a maze on a piece of paper at the gaming table.  Time it and hand out incremental damage depending on how many seconds after the target time each player takes.  Trying to get through an interesting situation that usually deals with a simple roll of the dice and consulting a chart can be substituted out with a simple but challenging toy puzzle bought at the store.  It will stimulate their minds in a different way, break up the monotony of the game, and give them something to fiddle with for a bit.


If you’re lucky enough to get to a convention, or if you find some GMs at your local gaming store, keep your ears and eyes open for people talking about rpgs and running games.  Those are your GMs who you can pick their brains or just listen in on their stories and such.  Ask them about any interesting techniques they may have, situational problems you have face, or general ideas on handling a campaign.  Don’t worry or feel self-conscious of asking a stupid question ever when it comes to a fellow gamer.  The industry has always been a niche and we cherish and value fellow RP gamers when we meet them.  And among those fellows, good GMs are extremely hard to come by.  I can’t stress that enough as I often find people tackling GM duties at conventions and admitting it was their very first game ever to GM.  So pick their brains, ask the questions you need to ask, and make mental notes of any tips and advice they may have because generally it’ll help your game out tremendously.

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

Rotating Dungeon Masters Episode.038

Having recently returned from the world of the Old West after liberating the mysterious Kung Fu from jail, you now face the next chapter in your journey.  This time you are needed in 945 A.D. along the Norwegian Sea of planet Earth.  An expedition is about to embark north into the frozen Arctic Sea, but scouts have returned with tales of colossal beasts that are lurking just below the ocean’s surface.  Your equipment will be provided to reflect the time period, but it will be up to you to gain trust of the clan’s leader to lead the expedition.  Rumors have spread from the scouts’ tale of a giant cyclopean eye four times the size of their longboats that currently sleeps.  It may be the slumbering god you have been hunting through the cosmos.

Personally I don’t like running long campaigns because I run out of steam and ideas.  It takes time to run a proper RPG.  You may feel you can pick up your dice and just adlib the entire session, and that’s fantastic, but if you are meaning to have a decent plot, encounters, well-developed NPCs, and bridges with the characters’ background, you’re going to have to do some prep work.  Unless we have literally nothing to do every day, finding time to take notes and get them prepared for next week’s session seems to always be put on the shelf for more important, real life issues.  Generally I prefer to go on short, intense campaigns that last 3-5 sessions maximum.  However, there is one concept that I’ve used with my friends with fairly moderate success that will allow for much longer campaigns: Rotating Dungeon Masters.


Perhaps you have already tried this.  The idea is simple:  every session or every couple of sessions, your role as DM changes to another person in the group.  You take control over your character, and the player assumes role as the DM.  That person then runs the session or a few sessions before they temporarily resign their role and resume their character.  You continue enjoying your character and playing the game, free from having to come up with an idea of what to throw at your party next week.  Eventually your turn as DM returns, but you have been able to play for several sessions to rejuvenate your imagination.  While you are the DM, your character will take the support role of an NPC or simply wander off for a time before meeting up with the group at a later date.

Now the concept may sound easy, but making sure things run smoothly between DMs requires a little planning and setup.  First, there is the issue of “DM Secrets.”  These are the plot twists and storylines the PCs haven’t discovered yet.  As a Rotating DM, either the secrets that carry over must be ignored by the next DM, or you must resolve that secret for the PCs before you resign your DM role.  For example, if the PCs don’t know one of their traveling NPCs is secretly a vampire spy sent to assassinate one of the PCs, either give enough hints or opportunity for the PCs to discover the truth or keep it secret and hope the other DMs don’t thwart your plan by killing him off.  Essentially don’t carry over huge plot events between now and your next role to avoid having things blow up by an unsuspecting DM.  Feel free to run a few sessions before stepping down in order to finish those story arcs.


Unless agreed upon, your session (or anyone else’s for that matter) should not hinder or restrict the next DM.  If your game runs through the frozen wastelands of the north, the next DM should not be forced to make an adventure progressing down to warmer weather.  Assume between each session a bit of time has passed.  It won’t be critical, and it should not be so much so that the PCs age significantly.  It’s more like the episodes on a TV show like Hercules or Xena where each episode took them to another location, yet they never aged.  Allow for story immersion to fall on the current DM’s desire.

Having a Rotating DM has another benefit that can be utilized.  If the group is seasoned players, consider dimension traveling.  The players are a part of a central hub that bridges any dimension in time and space.  They are capable of journeying anywhere, but they have to remain restricted to the technologies and advancements of the time.  Perhaps using the Prime Directive as a Golden Rule.  This would allow for any of the DMs to run any RPG they wished.  Not all of us enjoy running a traditional medieval fantasy RPG.  I personally prefer running 1920s Call of Cthulhu.  Some might enjoy running a game of Deadlands.  But then how do you deal with character sheets changing each week?

The easiest is to plan out what settings each DM is interested in running and create characters for each.  Assuming you don’t have a Rotating DM class of more than 4 or 5, it shouldn’t be out of the question to handle.  For advancement, you can eliminate experience points and award levels based on the number of sessions.  To reach 2nd Level, you must complete 2 sessions.  Each character should be leveled at the same time to reflect the individual character’s progression as a person.  Skills and various abilities would transfer as close and reasonable as possible.  Some abilities will not be available in certain settings such as magic in a modern world.  That is just part of the uniqueness behind this option.DMG_MagicItems

If you are in a group that insists on divvying out experience points, then some conversion or DM “creative license” must be implemented.  Assign a list of XP per level like you see in many advancement RPGs and adopt it to every setting that offers leveling characters.  Generalize XP rewards that reflect similar situations to those rule books that are laid out clearly.  For example, if the party kills a Wendigo in Deadlands (which offers its own format of XP) and you want to utilize Pathfinder’s XP advancement track of medium, then merely take an educated guess as to the difficulty and XP value based upon your knowledge of Pathfinder.  This method is far more tedious, less exact, and can lead to arguments if the party objects to the decisions.  Personally eliminating the XP system and merely rewarding them advancement in leveling per so many sessions is the easiest to go.  There are some exception rule systems that don’t offer 20+ levels to advance such as Deadlands who only has 4 (I believe) or Monte Cook’s Numenera that would have to be taken in stride.  Simply take a moment to reflect the maximum levels for each setting, if offered, and set up a ratio.  For every 5 levels in Pathfinder, you go up 1 level in Deadlands.  Numenera currently I believe has 6 levels, so every 3 levels in Pathfinder.  Again this is all done before you begin the campaigns, so a simple chart on your character sheets will help you identify when your character advances.

The benefits behind this concept are considerable.  First, you don’t get burned out as a DM.  You remain fresh by only running a few times then breaking to play as much or more often.  Your creative juices get reenergized by playing more and listening to other DMs share their stories.  Everyone participating gets to experience what it’s like being a DM without tackling a long, drawn out campaign.  Even newcomers can try their hand here by running a one-session adventure to see if they enjoy it.  Rotating DMs also creates a new group each session.  You’ll have one new player in your particular group to change play style up a bit.  This allows for different relationships between characters, different reactions and behaviors, and completely different experiences throughout the campaign.  Finally, you get to see a different style of game every week as we all DM differently.  One person will run an over-the-top fantastical session followed by the next person running a modern horror followed by a session in Rome.  It may all remain in one setting but shift regions from tropical to tundra and offer more roleplaying opportunities one session and nothing but combat the next.  It’s a unique approach to a system that has more traditions than anything.

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

Mastering as Game Master: Conceptual Dungeons Episode.030

You find yourself following a series of twisting corridors barely illuminated by your dying torchlight.  It’s been nearly two hours now of walking on the cold, stone floor, and you begin to feel the stiffness in your knees.  Most of the doors have been locked and barred from the inside.  With no means of entering them, you have been forced to press on.  However, you have heard whimpering behind each one, and the constantly increasing number of barred doors has made you start to wonder about things.  What could be behind them?  Why would denizens of a dungeon keep themselves secured inside so many rooms?  And what is causing them to whimper?  The questions are immediately erased from your mind as your last torch begins to flicker its final light, and the sound of hundreds of high pitch clicking noises enter your ears.  There is movement up ahead, but the light is faded and gone, leaving you in the darkness with the source of the sound.  You’ll soon find out what is making the noise, but then it will be over.

There tends to be a fairly decent separation between RPers:  those who began playing RPGs in the 70s and 80s and those who began playing in the 90s and 2000s.  I have met enough gamers in the last 20 years to convince me that this holds true.  The style of gameplay, the focus of the adventures (especially published modules), and the setup of each encounter has changed drastically.  Dungeons have grown smaller with notable occurrences much closer together than before.  What was once a long, winding series of tunnels that eventually led to a room are now more compact, almost as if they were written for short attention span players.

Encounters are the most significant change.  It once was expected in a description to have a block of text to read to the players, describing the situation followed by some notes for the DM to be aware of.  Although some of that remains, the larger publishers out there who produce miniatures focus the fights more on strategy and utilizing their full-graphic battle maps and pre-painted miniatures.  Of course, it’s a smart move financially as you want to promote and encourage consumers to purchase your entire product line.  These features can enhance or clarify situations that otherwise might become cloudy.


More modern RPGs have a more tactical approach to combat.  There are more rules for combat these days that try to answer every situation and provide all forms of maneuvers.  It can add more visual elements to the table and more flavor to the excitement as the fighter no longer simply swings his sword but bull rushes against the opponent, sending him over the cliff’s edge.

Traditionally, the earlier you go back in history of RPGs, the more the game is focused on developing the scene in your mind.  Although it still holds true to today that the game’s core concept still resides in the mind for the most part, there are now elements that take away that need for imagination such as the use of figures on the table.  Twenty plus years ago, the game relied entirely on great storytelling to make sure everyone had as close to the same understanding of what is going on as the other.  Naturally there were times reiterating the situation was necessary in order to more clarify and paint the mental picture better, but for the most part, everyone tended to enjoy their own version.

We generally prefer to play the games we were first exposed to.  Playing for years in 1st edition AD&D, one might be less inclined to playing Pathfinder for very long.  There is a more comforting feel of a game that we are familiar with.

I prefer dungeons that are long, drawn out.  I keep track of things that other DMs may not such as torch and lantern life.  However, more traditional dungeons sometimes take a different approach in order to keep the pace going as the corridors can stretch for considerable length and have numerous turns.  A single level filling an entire page of notebook paper is not out of the question.  If you have stuck to more modern dungeons and are interested in trying to bring back a more traditional style, there are a few things to keep in mind.


Don’t describe things in 10 foot intervals.  Nothing can be more boring and dragging than to say, “You continue down the corridor, traveling 20 feet.  Up ahead the corridor continues another 40 before turning to the right.  You continue down 40 more feet.  The hall turns to the right 90 degrees.  Up ahead the corridor continues before making a left.”  This proves nothing except point out the corridor continues on for a while.  There is no need to go into that much detail when talking about a dungeon unless something is important such as an encounter.  In long years past, the thief was the leader in a dungeon, checking for traps every 10 feet to assure the rest of the party doesn’t succumb to a fatality.  It is a terrible idea to have the thief check every 10 feet.  Broaden the scope of checks and allow for an entire corridor to be checked.  It goes with rooms as well.  Even if the room is tremendously large, the roll should be about finding traps and not based on the size of the room.  Instead factor the time it takes to search the entire room and calculate any chance for random monsters if applicable.  Keep the game moving.

Structure your dungeon with logic.  This is a big change in the evolution of dungeons over the years.  One could almost deduce that the architects of dungeons 20-30 years ago were all completely mad, creating illogically laid out dungeons that made zero sense.  The monsters roaming around would soon die from lack of food and water unless the place had a steady stream of adventurers, to which would mean that the odds are against the monsters surviving every party.  Every dungeon does not have to be filled with just monsters.  Roaming creatures that are harmless but are meant to be food for predators can not only make your dungeon more believable but give more realism to the experience.  I often will throw the old “cow’s eyes” trick on players where their lantern sees 2 glowing eyes in the darkness outside their lantern’s light.  Nine times out of ten they fire an arrow at it because they are spooked.  Then they discover it was just a cow.  There can be kennels, stables, even special grazing dens for herd animals.  Yes, herd animals can be in dungeons.  Rooms can be large enough for grazing, and as long as there is some form of light source somewhere, life, uh, finds a way.  Natural lighting can come from a hole in the ceiling high above like a cave, or there can be magical means from an old permanent spell.  Perhaps the vegetation itself casts light that aids in other vegetation to grow.  Every living creature must sleep at some point to regain strength.  Therefore they all must have places of rest.  The more intelligent the creature, the better the accommodations will be as they appreciate comfort more.  Be creative in sleeping quarters for monsters that are not bipeds.  Don’t just make them sleep on a pile of hay.  Maybe they sleep on a pile of warm coals that are heated by lava far below but is just far enough to be toasty and bearable.  Some could sleep in a hammock that was abandoned years ago by someone.  Wood crates that are opened at one end could be a nice nook for a creature to cozy up in.  Flying creatures might have rings suspended from the ceiling to roost on.


Dungeons don’t always have to have a plot to exist.  There usually is a reason for every dungeon’s existence, but there doesn’t have to be an actual plot.  There might be small situations such as a prisoner wishing to escape but has nothing to do with the overall scope of the dungeon.  More traditionally, dungeons are built to protect something or someone or just torment adventurers.  They are fortresses in a sense because they are there as an obstacle.  Players may simply stumble upon a half-hidden door in the side of a mountain or even a small sink hole no bigger than 3 feet in diameter in the middle of a forest clearing that leads to a colossal dungeon.  They can be more of a grab n dash where the purpose is nothing more than to clear out the monsters and loot the treasure.  Plot can exist, yes, but create the dungeon to the plot itself if doing so.  For example, if the players must discover why archaeologists have been disappearing from a cleared out dungeon, build plenty of rooms that are half-excavated with proper tools lying about.  Provide fluff such as journals that discuss the history of the structure they are working on.  It can slowly unfold the plot of what is causing the disappearances as they learn more about the place.  If the plot involves a beholder who is coordinating assassinations on a nearby town in order to wipe out a family line prophesized to slay it in the future, provide rooms that demonstrate the various eye stalk powers and spells as a hint of what is going on but offer confusion as to the source.

Keep things moving.  Unless there is a door, trap, monster, or split in the corridor, move things along.  Describe it as a whole.  For example, “The corridor spans about 100 feet before making a series of turns, left and right, with seemingly no rhyme or reason behind it.  Finally your walk ends at the beginning of a stretch of doors on either side of the corridor, all made of wood and lined with old iron.”  Even that was too long winded.  It is important to give them the mental picture that the dungeon twists and is maze-like (if it is), but the overall movement goes from situation to situation.

Try to keep your dungeon at least 60/40 with interesting rooms.  Empty rooms can be rather boring, but sometimes they need to be to keep the meaningful rooms more meaningful.  These empty rooms are not truly empty; they are there for the logical side of the dungeon’s structure such as sleeping chambers, eating quarters, storage rooms, or even a latrine.  However, don’t overdue one or the other or the value will be lost.  I generally  like to provide 1 meaningful room for every 2 empty rooms.  I also won’t hesitate to make one of those empty rooms have something meaningful hidden within such as a secret door.  Players will begin wondering if they should pass the room up or investigate further.


Utilize unique rooms wisely.  It is tempting to throw all of your aces into each room the players come across.  Especially when the creative juices are flowing, we have a book full of great ideas to entice the players.  However, it is important not to saturate the dungeon too much or else the flair will be lost.  Unless the dungeon is in the style of “Through the Looking Glass,” which players are expecting everything to be off-the-wall unique, use them sparingly.  Don’t worry about thinking outside the box in your more traditional dungeon either.  It’s okay for one room to be a reverse gravity arena where everyone is on the ceiling or a living tropical jungle that spans several miles in every direction.  Make part of the dungeon multidimensional.  Just make sure there is a proper balance, that there is some constructive thought behind your placement and not just random chaotic crap.

Give your players enough room.  This actually doesn’t matter if you are using battle maps with miniatures and modern rules or exclusively classic rules with just the imagination.  There is still the need for movement.  Sure it is fun to wedge your party into a narrow area and pit them up against a challenge that requires mobility, but in the end, it becomes cumbersome to manage.  At first there will be the sense of dread as the players realize their traditional method of fighters dancing around in melee while the rest move for cover in the back won’t work this time.  As soon as that realization wears off, it still has to be dealt with.  It’s very uninteresting (not to mention too fair) if one player is forced to take the entire blunt force of the opposing enemy simply because the design of the place is inadequate.  It is okay to put them in tight situations, but give them opportunity to have some freedom.  Don’t constraint them to the point they might as well be fighting out of cages.  The game is about allowing players to do whatever their characters can do not tunneling them down a glorious vision the GM dreamt up.  If you are using battle maps, blow the entire place up bigger than you think.  A 3×3 room may be a nice 15 foot wide space, but when the miniatures take up 1/3 of the width, it becomes tight very quickly with 3 or 4 in there.  Let the players and monsters dance a bit.


Don’t let players map your dungeon out.  This takes forever.  I’ve mentioned this in an earlier blog months ago that falls into pace.  No one in their right mind is going to bring pieces of paper, quills, and ink with them on a dungeon excursion to document every turn.  It’s highly cumbersome to begin with.  There are no cartridge pens in a fantasy setting.  Future settings would just use some kind of a GPS system to coordinate it all out.  Using quill and a bottle of ink requires a table.  It’s not something you can stop and press the paper against a nearby wall and dabble the quill in ink then proceed to draw it.  Not to mention that graph paper didn’t exist either.  Adventurers are there to explore.  If the players get lost, have the one with the highest wisdom deduce backtracking.  Recommend the players use landmarks or even simple notations such as an unusually large crack in the wall near a juncture in case they do have to retrace their footsteps a bit.

These are just suggestions for dungeons, and the suggestions could keep on going such as making dungeons more narrow and vertically oriented with the risk of falling through the floors.  Perhaps keep the initial dungeon relatively small and simple with dimension doors that take players all over the world to explore part of a ruin or a few rooms of a sunken temple before finding an important clue and returning to enter another dimension door.   The point is in this entire article is that we need not commit ourselves to just one look or line of RPG.  Our comfort zone may be in one edition or another, but opportunity abounds as long as we keep an open, positive, and willing mind to keep exploring.  Traditions and modern concepts need not be kept in separate cages.  Dig out the books you’re not used to using to find new inspirations.  Give yourself a chance to look into classics that you didn’t think was possible or interesting before simply because it didn’t feel right.  Nostalgia might always be nagging at you to go back home, but don’t let yourself miss the chance of discovering what’s over the next hill.

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