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.

desolate-castle-desktop-wallpaper-1920x1080

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.

desolation_by_pe_travers

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.

wallpaper-statue-of-anti-gravity

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.

hp_lovecraft_artwork_cities_desolate_fantasy_art_1920x1200_79865

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.

maxresdefault

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.

1506308

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.

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.

besplatne-pozadine-za-desktop-690_40

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.

015649

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.

Premium 1st Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Books Episode.015

Ever since I began playing Dungeons & Dragons back in 1992, I have enjoyed collecting any form of book or literature for just about any roleplaying game I could find.  Mostly hardbacks so they looked excellent on the shelf, I confess to having numerous rulebooks I have never even opened let alone played a single session.  Collecting books in general has been a hobby of mine for years, but there is something more about going after roleplaying books.  Generally if I ever need inspiration on what to write about in next week’s gaming session, I turn to reading one of those off the shelf.

DSCF2996

If you have noticed them on the shelves of your local gaming store, I encourage any gamer interested in the classic of classics to look at the re-printed premium copies of 1st edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons core books.  Shortly after Gary Gygax passed away, his wife began an ongoing journey to raise an incredible amount of money to resurrect a statue of Gary in his honor up in Geneva, Wisconsin.  Among the various methods, she approached Wizards of the Coast to toy with the idea of reprinting the original 1st editions on high quality paper.  Not surprisingly they obliged and even reprinted a few sourcebooks and bundled a couple of module series into their own books.  As a result, gamers are able to leave their original, autographed copies in pristine condition back on the shelf while they proceed to spill Mountain Dew all over the newer versions.

There aren’t many roleplaying books I really prefer to leave on the shelf.  Off the top of my head, I think my Call of Cthulhu sourcebooks would remain on shelf because most of them are out of print and probably won’t see the light of day on reprints anytime soon.  They don’t remain on the shelves forever as I do take them down to browse through from time to time, but in the end, I protect their conditions more than use them.

However, having the “premium” copies of AD&D has allowed me to revitalize the classic and introduce the system to many new players.  The books are not very thick – perhaps 130-180 in length at most.  And the retail cost will feel a bit steep although they sell for considerably less and more affordably on various online retail sites.  Unearthed Arcana was released shortly thereafter along with the core books for 2nd edition and the original edition (pre-1st AD&D) of Dungeons & Dragons.  These offer not only opportunities for new players who are unfamiliar with D&D, but also veterans to bring the books back to the dinner table to play again.

DSCF2984

I personally get frustrated when books go out of print because the thieving scavengers will swoop in and resell the books for considerably more than the original retail value.  They are in it for a profit from something they did nothing to create only making a quick buck by victimizing would be collectors.  Usually reprints of books from 20+ years ago are not economical or financially sound, so companies often look away from the notion of bringing back (or even updating the quality) any former literature.

Ever since 3.5 edition came out for Dungeons & Dragons, I have been disheartened by the company on producing new versions of their system so closely together and ignoring or even discontinuing past books after we invest so much (SO MUCH) money into them.  All too often we find ourselves rebuying books with enough change to justify the means, but in the end realizing that the two versions are similar enough that we were better off not investing again.  Yet if that decision is made, then good luck finding new published material.

With their decision to re-release OD&D, 1st, and 2nd editions to the public in higher quality, longer lasting versions, I have considered re-evaluating WotC again.  As with any business, they are looking for profit at the end of the day, but releasing copies of other versions that technically compete with their current product, is usually unheard of.  The older copies are significantly cheaper, and they are much lighter to chew on than more modern RPGs.  (One may argue that older editions of AD&D contained endless charts to refer to, but those were there for the GM’s benefit when ideas needed to be produced on the fly and the creative juices were running dry).

Devourer

The covers are produced the same way Wizards of the Coast produces their most current material.  There is a mixture of glossy and matte finished throughout the covers, and the paper is of much heavier weight than the originals.  Each page feels semi-glossy.  The ink is much bolder and richer (as many of our books are faded from age and a lack of using archival ink).  There’s a better feeling of durability in these productions simply because literature material is better now than it was 30+ years ago.   These will last for quite some time.

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