Monday, September 9, 2013

Tales of A Failing Empire- Interlude (Part 3)

Nefydd let out a barely audible sigh, looking at the dwarf.

“Your... Illustriousness,” Grijhold said, hands tightening on his walking stick.

“No, dwarf, you have the title wro-” hissed the priest.

“I was referring to your female companion,” Grijhold interrupted. “I believe we haven't been properly introduced.”

The woman smiled, revealing perfectly straight, polished teeth. “Grijhold Torseeker, well met. And you must be Nefydd Foulkes.” Again she smiled, giving a curt nod, her ponytail moving in rhythm.

Cornelius coughed. “I have some rather important news from the village council.”

The priest pulled out a scroll case from within his robes, tossing it to the dwarf. “Your contract with Tamith shall end in two days time. You will be paid accordingly, any shortcomings or shirking of your duties are a violation of our contract and will, of course, be deducted from your payroll. That is your copy of the termination notice.”

Grijhold removed the scroll from the case, unraveling it and glancing at the scribework within. “Impressive handwriting skills, did you forge this document yourself, Sunshitter, or did you have a lackey do it for you?”

“Oh the article is genuine, I assure you, I was able to procure 3 out of the 5 signatures needed to make the termintation binding. I expect you to leave this town in two days. But before you go, there is the matter of an old barrow you two dug up?”

“Barrow!? We dug-” Grijolhd's walking stick snapped.

Nefydd laid a firm hand on the dwarf's left shoulder. “Grij, leave it be, we can be damn sure Aled didn't sign it.”

“Can we?” the dwarf growled.

“As I was saying before I was interrupted by your unprofessional behavior, there is the matter of a barrow. This is Alalyn. She will accompany you to the barrow and assist you both as she sees fit under official capacity as an adjutant marshal.”

Grijolhd, grinding his teeth, said quietly, “ Anything else?”

“Ah yes, I would like the scroll case, it is property of the Church.”

“But of course,” Grijhold spat in the case, closed the lid and tossed it back to the priest. “Apologies Gleaming Goose, but I needed to clear my throat.”

“Good riddance to you both. You do your Guild great dishonor.” Cornelius nodded to Alalyn, striding back to the village proper.
“Lead on gentlemen,” Alalyn grinned.

“As you wish, milady,” Nefydd managed to say with a slight bow.

“Ah Mr. Foulkes, no need to be so formal. Lyn will be fine if you please.”

“Very well.”

Grijolhd walked briskly in the direction.

“Is your dwarven compatriot always so dour?”

“Only when he's lost his job.”

“Adventuring is such a difficult profession these days.”

“Aye milady.”

“Mr. Foulkes-”

“Begging your pardon Lyn. I don't know you but it appears you can more than carry you weight in matters such as this. So let's skip the flattery and the flirtations, if any were forthcoming in the first place. I prefer milady as you clearly prefer to refer to me as a gentleman, which, last time I checked I'm anything but.”

Alalyn smiled, “Ah Nefydd, you and I will get along spectacularly, I'm sure.”

Nefydd gave her a quick nod, rubbing his right forearm, walking headlong to catch up to Grijhold.

“That's an interesting torc on you right arm Mr. Foulkes,” Alalyn called after him.

“She's worse than I thought,” the dwarf mumbled. “Definitely magicks attuned.”

“She's charming in a way,” Nefydd whispered back.

“With looks like that, it ain't too hard lad.”

“Maybe she can charm the bulette.”

“That is what I'm afraid of.”

Alalyn called behind them, “A bulette did you say?”

Both Nefydd and Grijolhd stopped. Nefydd turned, containing his surprise. “Aye milady, near the barrow.”

“We shall all earn our keep then won't we?” The woman smiled. “Come, come, I should like to see this barrow.”

“I imagine you would,” Grijolhd mumbled again.

“I heard that.”

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Update- The New and Improved Art

Thanks Keith for sending me a jpeg image of the art! I've been able to put the it on the blog and it looks fantastic! Thank you!
More to come in the following weeks folks.

Monday, August 5, 2013

A Tremendous Thank You!

I would just like to thank Keith Decesare for his hard work and contribution to the blog! Keith drew the picture you see above!  Unfortunately, (myself not being very suave with computers) I had to do a bit of tinkering with Blogger to get the art up and running for the site. Keith is an amazing artist, one of my top favorites and I really appreciate the work he has done. This really doesn't do the piece any justice, as I had to scan the art in order to have it posted on the site. For some reason, Blogger wouldn't accept the Adobe pdf that Keith sent me. For this Keith, I apologize profusely.  Keith's website can be seen here:  Linkage

Thank you Keith for the art and for your time!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Four months is too long

Four months away from the blog and that means..... I've been gone too long!

I've lost any readership I may have developed over the brief month that I kept the steam going and this distresses me, but the fault is entirely my own. Entirely! The blame is all on me. For any who are reading this still, I apologize and I will endeavor to do better. I appreciate the time that anyone is able to take to sit down and read the blog.

On to some good news, the main piece of  artwork that I have planned for the blog is in its final stages of development and should be completed within a week or so, I hope (fingers crossed). Once that is complete and I have posted I will reveal the artist and link his website on the blog. I can only give one hint, his name rhymes with heath!

This month is a big month as I believe I will be getting two fantastic RPG books!

The first book is Monte Cook's Numenara, which of course, I'm super excited about it as it reminds me of the very first Gamma World boxed set from TSR in flavor and themes. Obviously though, it's far different, filled with a unique touch that only Monte Cook can bring to any game. I'm highly interested in the mechanics as Mr. Cook has tailored them to enhance the storytelling nature of the game.  Sometimes in RPGs, the rules can bog you down to the point where the story suffers. In my experiences with gaming, when a session gets overwhelmed by rules, it exhausts everybody, and the GM loses the juice needed to keep the story going. According to what Mr. Cook has said in the blog, Numenara is taking a different approach, making the rules lighter to accommodate the story, hence, hopefully, making the GM's job a little easier.  Here is the link: Numenara website

The second book is Nick Logue's campaign for (3.5 initially) the Dungeons and Dragons game, Razor Coast.  Razor Coast is a swashbuckling, age of sail campaign that deals with nefarious demon squid cults, pirates, native cultures under siege by enterprising, opportunistic, greedy colonials, islands of undead cannibal pygmies, sharks, and lots more! The book was set out to published years ago, but a string of unfortunate circumstances have stymied its completion and publication, until now! It's been designed for the Pathfinder and Swords & Wizardry RPG systems (sorry 3.5 D&D!) and is being published by Frog God Games. There is an excellent video blog which goes into some of the details of Razor Coast's inception, demise and resurrection. You can see this on the vlog, The Demiplane of Gaming, look under the month of April 2013 in the show guide, click, click to watch, and enjoy! Linkie

As for my cheesy fiction that I post on the blog regarding my homebrew setting for Pathfinder... Sigh....

The only reason I write fiction on the blog is that there are plenty of other gaming blogs out there that cover crunch. I am horrible with crunch. Rules bore me, but to be fair, there are a few gaming blogs that cover and discuss rules in an interesting and engaging manner far better than I could ever do. As for myself, I would rather design a world and its myriads of creatures and peoples as inspired by an RPG system rather than write about the system itself.

I realize the blog's fiction, for those who have the stomach and psychological wherewithal to read it, is currently scattered. There are two threads that have to be closed, the first being the piece of Nefydd and Grijolhd, the second is the tale of Arrigo Covi. I'm constantly brainstorming for ideas on these threads but have yet to type them. I don't hold my fiction in high regard, not even close, this is an creative outlet. I do this for personal satisfaction over anything else.  For any readers who are remotely interested in these pieces, I apologize for the lack of posts. I apologize profusely. I will take a stab at the fiction in the weeks to come.

I'm sorry for the lack of posts in these past few months. I will do what I can to remedy that. Until then, to all those going to Gen Con this year have a blast and good gaming to you all! To everybody else, I hope you've had an enjoyable summer and good gaming and reading!  Take in the rays of this last month of summer!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Tales of a Failing Empire- Part 3 (Interlude)

The temple to Aeremas (although any worshipper of The Wanderer will tell you, they're called Foot Stools in their vernacular or Travel Lodge to the unbelievers) was a modest building made of white oak, with rock elm logs for joists. This was one of two places of worship built within Tamith. Many of the religiously inclined farmers and shepherds surrounding Tamith built their own small altars to Shaanavishea in their fields and pastures, but there was yet to be any organized effort to build a temple proper to the Goddess of the Wood and Herdsmen.

The current priest (again, to those who serve Aeremas, he/she is called Footman or Traveller, depending on rank) of The Wanderer was an elderly man named Aled Tew. Aled was part of the village council, but more importantly, a sympathetic ear to Nefydd and Grijolhd. Neither of them could guess Aled's age, and both felt it inappropriate to ask.

Aled sat in a chair in the main hall, a board atop his knees, earnestly at work carving a figurine out of a branch of black walnut. A small pile of wood chips coated his breeches and was starting to pile on the oak flooring. He didn't even glance upwards as the doors opened, his special carving knives delicately scraping and etching the wood, forearms never touching the board.

The main hall of the temple was only 20 paces long and ten wide. Near the entrance were 6 benches, each set aside to form a narrow aisle up to the podium, where Aled currently sat, carving in earnest. Behind him was a large, colorful curtain that spanned the entire eastern edge of the hall depicting Aeremas arguing with the archaic sphinx Atalzyx to gain entry into the plane of Fovikklen.

Nefydd and Grijolhd approached the closet bench to Aled on the left side of the aisle and quietly sat down, maintaining a respectful silence. Time passed, Aled carved. Nefydd cleared his throat. “Greetings Traveller, peace be on your path, and fleetness to your feet.”

Aled looked up. “Nefydd, let's dispense with the sanctimonious crap for once shall we? What trouble have you two gotten yourselves into?”

“Traveller, um sir. First, I'm deeply hurt that you think we have ambitions towards mischief... And well, second, there's a bulette hunting around the western pasture lands.”

“A what?” Aled got up, placing the board on the podium.

“A bulette.”

Aled grabbed a rag from his vest, wiping his hands. “Shitballs.”

“Well sir, actually, when the bulette defecates, it's feces-”

“I don't need a lesson on the critter's excretory system Nefydd. Both of you follow me. I think we all need a drink.”

Aled drew the curtain back to the right, revealing oak panneling and a door. This led to his living quarters. The room contained a bed to the north with a desk and a bookshelf parallel to the bed along the wall. The fireplace dominated the wall to the east along with various kettles, cauldrons and a metal tripod. To the south was a wooden tub, a cabinet, a table and 3 chairs. Just beyond the tub was a secret door, which Aled graciously allowed Nefydd and Grijolhd access to during times where their presence was to be discreet (which was almost all the time). Aled opened the cabinet, took out a jug and three mugs and began pouring.

“Hard cider my marshals. Good for the soul in oh so many ways. Seat yourselves.”

Nefydd and Grijhold sat down. Aled slid them each a mug.

“All right gentlemen.” Aled raised his mug. “My Our Restless Father bless your endeavors in this village at the ass end of nowhere. But as we all know, even nowhere leads somewhere. Although, somewhere can take us nowhere, in essence, a vicious bloody circle. May our paths always be straight and may our paces always move us forward.”

“Here here,” Nefydd and Grijolhd chimed in. All three companions took a large swig of the cider.

Aled looked at both of them, placing his mug on the table. “Did you tell the Sheriff?”

Both man and dwarf gave the elder priest a grimace, rolling their eyes.

“Well, I'm certainly overjoyed that you two do not hold me with such contempt. So, who knows then?”

Grijhold took another swallow of his cider. “As of right now sir, you, me and Nef here.”

“There's more sir,” Nefydd added, “ We think something is actually, well, scaring the bulette.”

Grijhold took a deep breath. “Some ground near the Oded's pasture lands collapsed. Eight paces by four paces. It descended forty. Nef noticed the claw marks near the side of the northeastern edge along the bottom. We found a lamb down there, completely untouched, and very dead.”

“And,” Nefydd added again, “ There's a tomb or ruins of some kind on the eastern edge at the bottom. We encouraged elder Obed and his son to stay as far from the hole as possible.”

Aled pushed his mug away and ran his hands through his greying hairs. “You need to get back there as soon as you can and make sure nobody goes near that hole. The shepherds are sensible folk, but it's their children I'm worried about.”

Nefydd nodded in agreement. “Traveller Tew, if I may, I'd like to borrow one of your pigeons, send a message to the Ranger House at Anthin.”

“Nefydd, I'm not a helpless old fart, I can do that myself. I need to ask, are you sure you don't want to involve the Sheriff?”

“Well,” Grijolhd let out a deep belch, sighing, “Nobody's died yet.”

Aled gave the dwarf a deadpan look. “I thank you both for trusting me and bringing this matter to my attention. You two need to go back to that hole, and be careful. I need to do a little reading and I'll have to come up with some excuse to join you without attracting undue attention. May your wits be as fleet as your feet.”

Nefydd and Grijolhd gave curt bows to Aled. The old man gave a dismissive wave, “You know how to show yourselves out. Gather your gear and be off.”

The two marshals quietly slipped out the secret door behind the temple. They looked around. The temple was situated on the very eastern edge of the village proper. It was dusk. Nefydd pulled out a sunrod from his shoulder sack. He nodded to the west, whispering, “We need to move quietly until we get past the mill and the Vuoti's house, then I can use this.”

“Aye lad, let's hope the Sheriff and his boys are still drinking at the inn.”

Walking quietly, maintaining a nonchalant pace, the two slowly made to the western edge of the village, staying off the main road. There were only two more houses before the two story home of Vuoti's and the mill came into view.

“Good thing we stashed our gear out of town,” Grijhold whispered, “ Though inconvenient, I'd rather not have to deal with those slackers at the inn.”

“Let's hope nobody found the stash,” Nefydd replied. “Our luck has been a bit lopsided lately.”

“Well, I thought Sheriff Dudok made it abundantly clear that you two were to remain on extended patrol in the pasture lands,” said a voice from their left.

Suddenly everything turned bright. Coming from between the houses, staff alight with magical brilliance, walked a man, his head shaved except for a ring of black hair just above the ears. His goatee was waxed. He was garbed in the priestly robes; white and gold, with sunbursts throughout. Cornelius Aggett, priest of Polaris, a man both Nefydd and Grijolhd despised almost as much as the Sheriff (with the mayor coming in a close third). Behind Cornelius was a woman neither had seen before, dressed in fighting leathers and knee high boots of chocolate brown, her black hair tied in a ponytail. With the magefire from the staff, the woman's eyes shined like golden monarchs.

Grijolhd almost spat, but restrained himself. “You were saying something about luck Nef.”


Fovikklen- one of the planes of existence outside of the Prime Material Plane; some call it The Hidden Plane, legends have it that the only way to access the plane itself is to defeat an Archaic sphinx in a game of mental challenges followed by a duel with magics (most times of the nonlethal sort).

Monarch- one of the currencies of Anfekor, a gold coin

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Crooked Kindness- Part 3

The Festival of Planks occurs in late spring in Goshen. Most of the city docks shut down during the festival, with a handful remaining opening to any river traffic that insist on harbor and trade during the activities. In a rare sign of solidarity, the Covi family decided to head down to the Horseshoe District to partake in the celebration. The district is somewhat of a misnomer, as it doesn't actually refer to what is produced there but rather the shape as the city spans out over the Cefron for a little less than a league. After the Horseshoe the city tucks back landward, forming the Warehouse District for a mile, after, the land reaches out again to the river with the Porcaro Hill District, home of the Thirteen, the name of Goshen's wealthiest families. The water in between Horshoe and Porcaro Hill forms the city's solitary bay. The city council insisted that a portion of the Warehouse docks remain open to river business for this year's celebration.

Lanfranco walked with his wife in hand (and a bottle in the other) down the Bargeman's Way to the festivities. Arrigo trailed a few steps behind, he had never been to this part of the city. Traffic along the thoroughfare was relatively light, but as the family reached the south end of the road, it increased tenfold. Suprisingly, the city watch was seldom seen as the throngs of festival-goers grew larger.

“Stay close to me Arrigo,” Meridiana let go of Lanfranco's hand and grabbed her son's, “Please be mindful of where you walk.”

“Relax Meri,” Lanfranco rumbled, “You'll be in Otterman territory soon. We'll be all right.”

“Lanny! Lanny!” The voice shouted to be heard over the noisy crowds. A smaller man with ruffled brown hair made his way through the knots of people to Lanfranco.

“Hail Jacca!” Lanfranco picked up the man in a bearhug. “How goes the offerings to the River Goddess?”

“Hmph, I see you've already started on your donation,” Jacca winked at Lanfranco, gazing knowingly at the bottle in his hand. “Did you bring Meri and the runt?”

“Right behind me.”

“Aha! There is the jewel of the Cefron herself!” Jacca approached Meridiana and Arrigo, bowing and kissing his mother's hand. “And Arrigo! Are you being fed proper boy? I've not seen you grow one thumb taller this year.”

“If I'm to be the jewel here, then my Arrigo is a sapphire as well,” Meridiana smiled and squeezed her son's hand.

“So shall it be. Come! Come! Let me lead you to the best events of the festival! Feats of strength, acrobatic excellence and other exploits of derring do. Right this way!” With a flourish of his right hand, Jacca motioned mother and son to follow, then walked beside Lanfranco.

“So where is the Watch Jacca?” Lanfranco slapped the man's back. “Usually it's tighter than a taxman's grip on his tax chest here.”

“There's trouble over at Warehouse, some of the workers are dropping kegs of ale in the river and setting them alight.”

“Must be shitty ale one would hope.” Lanfranco sighed.

“Lanfranco please!”

“Oh Meri, the boy has heard much worse, leave it be woman.”

“Vest Import and Exports has bought out Alfred's Barge and Storage,” Jacca spat once he finished.

“Another gods damned business, is there no stopping these bastards?” Lanfranco added more saliva to the street. “If this keeps up, then there will be only a handful of dockers working as independents.”

“ If this keeps up it'll be just Vest, Rees's outfit and us. I bet it's Iddawg and his crew that's doing the dropping. Vest cut their wages after buying out Yadler's.” Jacca whinced as he said this.

Lanfranco snorted. “ Rees is no better. And where is Iddwag's bloody guild in all this?,” He threw his bottle in a nearby rain barrel.

“Lanny, it's tied up in the fucking magistrates with the lawyers.”

“And that asshole is rumored to be in Vest's pocket. Iddawg is fucked, drop or no drop.”

“Husband, please be a little more discreet with the language.” Meridiana began humming an old Amsernan folk tune. It was one of Arrigo's favorite songs.

Jacca changed the topic. “Meridiana will you sing for us tonight?”

“If you gentlemen can articulate yourselves in a more honorable fashion I might consider it.”

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Crooked Kindness- Part 2

Lanfranco Covi was a man three armspans in height, with a head of raven black hair. His father, Salvi was a dockworker in Goshen and by the gods, Lanfranco was going to be raised as one too. The only education Lanfranco received was on the river docks, from passing merchant barges and paddle boats or from the noticably opinionated recollections of his fellow guild members of the Otterman River Guild. The docks taught him how to do basic numbers, basic business reading, how to communicate a few words of the Tribes and Orcish, and certain forms of less than savory articulation.

By the time he'd seen twenty two summers, sweating his ass off on the docks, Lanfranco became one of the luckiest bastards of the guild. His ambition and work ethic got him promoted to dock overseer, but that was one only part of the good fortune. Lanfranco's dock master sent him and his team upriver to dislodge a cog stranded on the banks. One of the passengers on the cog was a green eyed Amsernan lass, with a voice that even charmed her aloof elven passengers. A voice from the heavens, said Akab (one of Lanfranco's workmates), that would even give cherubim pause. Her hair was brown, with golden strands from her love of the sun. She helped pull the cog from the mud along with Lanfranco's crew. Lanfranco, true to his Jilipothan heritage, charmed the woman's name from her lips; Meridiana, eldest daughter of a general goods merchant.

Meridiana was a young woman of 19 when she met Lanfranco. Like her siblings, Meridiana was privately schooled with as many tutors as her father could afford. Meridiana wasn't content to be her father's dandizette on his estate in the Stonedale province. She had the fire for adventure and knowledge, always begging her father to allow her passage on his many forays down the Aisne River. Eventually her father relented and she was promoted to 'attache' status. Meridiana fell under Lanfranco's sway that fateful day. Before she accepted Lanfranco's proposal she visited a old seeress as was the tradition. The seeress gently grabbed her hands, looked into her eyes and said, 'My poor dear, there is a saying, 'Love will go where it is sent, even if it's up a pig's asshole.'” Meridiana did not heed the kindly old woman's advice. She married Lanfranco on the banks of the Cefron River the next spring, on the very spot where the cog that took her to him ran aground.

As with most marriages, the early years were blissful. The Covis moved to the Spire District of Goshen into a two floor apartment. Meridiana was able to educate Lanfranco with her knowledge of the Bright Empire and folklore. She encouraged him learn to read literature besides inventories and shipping ledgers. She would sing and submit to impromptu performances for their neighbors and some of the dockers at Lanfranco's employment. Lanfranco even toned down his nights of late drinking with his guildsmen. But it didn't last. Eventually Lanfranco insisted on continuing his nightly debaucheries. Meridiana was often alone many nights of the week. She would book passage on a river cog back upriver to where the Cefron met the Aisne, leaving Lanfranco for days. Things continued on a descending spiral until Meridiana found out she was with child.

In their third year of their marriage, Lanfranco and Meridiana Covi had a baby boy. Young Arrigo spared the union some more deterioration until his fifth year of age. At that time, the Senate passed the Universal Education Program which created public education for children throughout Anfekor from the ages of five to seventeen. This was unheard of in many lands. Lanfranco didn't like it, as his plan was to raise Arrigo as another docker in the Covi tradition. Meridiana loved the idea of little Arrigo receiving education outside of the expensive approach of her father's (and the upper classes) methods. This conflict was just one crack in the illusory mirror of the Covi marriage. Arrigo was blessedly unaware of this, but he had trials of his own to contend with. For many youth, some of the most heart-wrenching trials in their path to the loss of innocence; trials of social acceptance, of peer pressure, of the difficult passage to learn morality, or a lack thereof.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Crooked Kindness- Part 1

Young Arrigo Covi never dreamed in eleven years of life that he would want to leave Goshen, at least at first. Arrigo's mother had a voice of a birdsong, reminding him of the black capped cidmiths in the winter that would perch in the old park near Gristman Square. Her melodies were soothing and sometimes when she sang or hummed a tune she would gently run her fingers through his hair, usually putting him to sleep. He loved her for this and many other things.

Arrigo's father was a temperamental man, prone to fits of shouting. He worked at the docks in the Horseshoe District of the city. It was a hard job, Arrigo's mum told him with her soft green eyes; she pleaded with the boy to be quiet and let father yell. While yelling at his mother, Arrigo tried to leave the kitchen, but his father would yell at him to stay and 'Listen to what I have to tell your mother.' Your father is stern with us because he loves us, she would say in her birdsong voice. But his father would be angry with him because Arrigo would never stand up to the other children that hurt him.

Even among humanity's children can be found the cruelest of souls. At school Arrigo was derided for being small and quiet. Folco and Eryk especially would catcall him, calling him mongrelboy (named after the elusive mongrelfolk that supposedly dwelled in the sewers beneath the city) and other names. It was the bigger boys Tadei and Bekter that had fists like hammers, feet like rocks. They left his eyes black and his legs bruised.

Arrigo feared retaliating, there was something about violence that felt so terrible, it was like tasting soap when he was caught swearing. But the boys kept beating him, and Arrigo's father kept shouting. Arrigo's anger, humiliation and frustration was a sickness. It was a stomach ache, it was a black, cold fire in his mind, threatening to burn out his soul. When the namecalling became too much, Arrigo would scream and cry, shrieking like he was being burned alive. The teacher at school would remove him from the play yard during recess, leaving him sobbing in the corner of the classroom.

The occasional outbursts at school kept Arrigo's cold fire at bay. His father would reignite it at home, encouraging him to solve the humiliation with a fist. Arrigo didn't like his hands as hammers, he used his hands to draw with the charcoal sticks in the classroom. He would draw the far away Mareskod Mountains or the strange stalagmites of the Golden Caverns just outside Goshen. As he drew, he tried to feel he was actually in these places, looking at the great snow covered peaks of the mountains or being blinded from the brilliance of the fabled luminium crystals. His father couldn't understand, and the screaming came on and on, like rain in a thunderstorm.

During the summers, the children would swim in the river near the Spire of Bones.  The children were oblivious to the artefact's dire reputation.  Arrigo was able to hold his breath the longest due to repeated dunkings by Tadei. Once even Bekter convinced Tadei to let Arrigo up for air for fear of drowning; the name tadpole's bastard was added to the list of epithets thrown the boy's way.

The black fire was building within Arrigo, and when he saw a trio of kittens sipping water from a cistern in the alley behind Hinter Street, it burned him at last. He grabbed one of the small, mewing youngsters, the white and black one, caressing its fur. His right hand crept up its neck, fingers gently tapping as they went. The fingers wrapped around the kittens neck, slowly Arrigo squeezed. The kitten's mews became wheezes, there was a crunch, the kitten hit the cobblestones with a wet sounding thump. Arrigo picked up another; two lay dead before his fire was spent.

Arrigo cried aloud that night for the first time in a long while, even his mother's singing couldn't calm his shattered soul. He couldn't tell her what he had done, his introspective revelations accenting his wracked cries. His father came in then, beating Arrigo into silence. “Since you're too lazy to speak to us about what's making you cry I'll give you cause to weep boy!” After the boy quieted down, muffling his sobs with his pillow, he daydreamed of floating down the Cefron River, legs hanging lazily over a river barge, watching the waters flow past Old Grimy Kneebones Bridge. No tormentors or dead kittens were there to haunt him. He slept peacefully. Arrigo awoke to another day of harassment, continuing into nightfall, his father once again screaming at his mother in the kitchen.

Black capped cidminth- small bird very similar to our modern black capped chicadee

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Good Gaming Group Chemistry- The Challenge

RPGs are fantastic avenues for social stimulus among a group of people. But sometimes, that can be difficult to achieve. It is my opinion that what amounts to an enjoyable gaming session is a unique chemistry within the group. Sometimes it takes a few gaming sessions to develop, at other times, the chemistry begins as soon as the GM and the players enact their first encounter of the game. When an RPG hits its stride for both the GM and the players is when good gaming group chemistry is accomplished (I will label this GGGC for short).

GGGC is a challenge for many, myself included. Some game masters have that je ne sais quoi that creates an enjoyable atmosphere for the players. It also must be said that players need to have a measure of this too. There are a few people out there, game masters and players alike, that have charisma, a natural affinity to bring people together and help create a fun game. This is few and far between. Personally, I can think of two people that have that charisma (and yes, they are gamers). RPGs, in my opinion, is interactive storytelling at its finest, with everybody at the gaming table contributing (ideally) to a great gaming experience.

GGGC can be maintained if both the GM and players are active particpants in the game session. This is a tricky balance. Every human being is different, we were all raised in different households, different families, even different cultures. Part of keeping the chemistry alive is having everyone (regardless of their background) come together on common ground and socially interact with each other, staying in character (when possible) and accomplishing some amazing story dynamics with their characters. This is easier said than done. For me, as a GM and a player, it is a personal challenge. Every game I struggle with this issue.

Paizo has made an effort to address keeping GGGC alive by giving advice to the Game Master in their book, Game Mastery Guide. Now please keep in mind that there are other publications out there that cover this is as well (For example. I believe Robin D. Laws wrote a book about addressing GGGC and the title escapes me at the moment). So if any blog readers have other publications in mind, please comment, make your voice heard. Actually, if any blog readers have any tips they'd like to share on keeping great chemistry in an RPG, please comment, not only will you be helping me, but you will be helping any readers of the blog! (Apologize for the digression)

Getting back to Paizo's Game Mastery Guide, the second chapter of the book, entitled Running a Game, has oodles of information for what a GM can do to help assist with providing GGGC in a game. The chapter examines styles of running the game, creating a atmosphere for your players, what type of adventure to run (relating to styles of running the game), and other things. There's a great section entitled, 'Don't Stymie the PCs.' In chapter 3, there is an interesting section that can prep a GM as to what type of personality a player may have at the gaming table (the book outlines 14, yes fourteen, types of player personalities you may run into when Gming a game!). I would recommend any GM to peruse this publication at the very least.

If you want even better advice on game mastering then you could go straight to the source, find a great GM and mine his/her brain for great suggestions on running a game. One great way to do this is sit in on an Iron GM competition. Iron GM challenges Game Masters to run an adventure with three random topics, at the end of the competition, the Gms are judged and the best of the best are given prizes. If these guys and gals are willing enough, you should talk to them for tips about running a game. Another alternative is to go to a gaming convention, be observant, ask questions, try and find a GM that is captivating his/her players at the gaming table, and after the gaming session is finished, see if you can get some good gaming advice.

To achieve the best GGGC, it takes two to tango, as the saying goes. I've briefly covered how a GM can get advice and tips to help with GGGC. However, the players are just as important in contributing to GGGC. Players need to have to team work, and they need to be observant when a GM gives them a chance to shine in moments of role-playing. I was playing a game and a GM presented me with an opportunity to role play and I completely blew it. It was one of our first gaming sessions and I was playing a gnome rogue. The GM set me up as a bookie for two other PCs in a failed gambling operation, and rather than taking this facet of the game and running with it as a role play opportunity, I froze, because I wasn't accustomed to the game and I think my ego got in the way. Not a good thing! Which brings us to another to another difficult concept for players.

As players (hell, and game masters too!) we need to remove our egos from the gaming session. Remember that this is an interactive experience! That means everybody at the table MUST contribute to the gaming experience. This is a team sport! We need to help each other out when we can. The antagonists are many in an RPG, and some do require actual team work to overcome them, whether it be physically or intellectually. We need to fight those selfish desires of wanting our character's needs addressed on a significant basis in a game. Be patient, share the story with our fellow players and the GM. We need to let our fellow players breathe, watch them grow into their character roles, encourage them to role play, commend them when they do role play. Be positive, play to our fellow players strengths! Don't focus on the negative. Unless, of course, a player is being a complete jerk, in that case, send them out to the firing squad! Just kidding.

Always be congnizant of any way that our role playing can actual enhance the storytelling of our fellow players. Look at my mistake, rather than contributing to role playing with a whole gambler angle with my fellow PCs, I just shut down, I didn't contribute! There is a fine line here too, we need to keep a balance and make sure we're not stealing our fellow PCs thunder all of the time! Share the story! We need to give our fellow players some slack, allow them to grow into the game with their character's experiences.

Getting back to the game masters and the egos, a GM keeping his ego in check is one of the hardest things to do in a game (at least for me anyway). Especially in a homebrew campaign where we spend hours on plots, NPCs, stat blocks and adventure hooks and in one session the players can destroy all that hard work or go in a completely different direction. It is frustrating! But the players are making the story, we provide the stimulus for action, and they take it where they want to go. It's not our story, even though a lot of times we think it is, but it's the players that give it life, they create the magic. And sometimes, let's be honest, the magic isn't what we thought it was going to be in the first place. We make a really great NPC that has an incredible backstory and what do the players do, completely ignore them or worse, kill them or rob them. Yes, as a GM, we need to prepare our hearts to be broken sometimes in the game. Remember, everybody's different, so our player's motivations on what they do in the game may surprise us. Just roll with the punches. Let the players breathe and feel our world, and be prepared for them to do something unusual. We can't dictate what our players do, even though at times we wish we could, but that ruins GGGC. As game masters we need to keep things fluid, let the players run amok, within reason. If the players make a dumb decision, well, they pay for it, that's part of our job.

Well, that's some of my thoughts on generating GGGC. If anybody reading these blogs would like to chyme in and give their input, it is most welcome (unless it's belligerent of course). Cheers folks!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

New Gaming Company by some of the great old timers!

For those of you who remember the ancient days of RPGs, and if the names Frank Mentzer and James Ward ring a bell then please pay attention! These two gentlemen along with two other guys (Tim Kask and Chris Clark) have created their own gaming company! It's called Eldritch Enterprises.
A cool new gaming company

They have several fantasy RPG products and Mr. Ward is working on some sci-fi products. I strongly urge you to check these guys out!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Tales of a Failing Empire- Part 2 (Interlude)

Yolsan the 3rd 447, Third Imperial Reckoning (12 years earlier)

The tomb was found by a lamb. The shepherd's son wept as Grijolhd lifted the animal's corpse from the cleft, the dwarf using his levitation magic. The lamb had fallen in, breaking three legs, the boy heard its bleating cries and went to get his father. Eventually, word got out to the village hall, where, in turn, the 'adjutant marshals' received the summons.

Tamith was one of the fortunate villages that could afford adjutant marshals. The concept had taken root in Anfekor's wilder, outlying provinces. Some villages needed extra manpower and muscle to keep the peace. Such assistance proved difficult to find until an enterprising adventurer's guild offered to hire out their members. Since then, over a dozen guilds have provided such services to three of the Bright Empire's provinces.

Tamith assigned tours to their adjutants, the tour usually lasting no longer than a month. Tours were entirely dependent on how much of the village coffers were willing to be given out for maintaining order. The guild informed Grijolhd and Nefydd Foulkes that if they wished to extend their tour, some hobnobbing with the mayor and the village council would be necessary. Knowing the overall disposition of himself and his partner, Grijolhd surmised that they would be employed for two weeks.

Nefydd watched as the dwarf deftly grabbed the lamb and quietly slid the corpse into the boy's waiting arms. The father, a man named Udy, stood a few paces from his son, leaning wearily on his staff. Nefydd gazed into the cleft. It dropped forty armspans before it gave way to rock and mud. The mud was fresh in places, recently upturned. The cleft itself was about 8 paces long and only 4 wide. At its northern edge, some old masonry could be seen rising from the bottom, grey and archaic. Nefydd placed his eyepiece over his ears, the bridge of the device finally coming to rest on his nose. Taking a glance at the cleft, he turned and walked to the boy, who was now on his knees, still holding the lamb.

“Ah, if only all of Anfekor's sheperds were like you and your da.” Nefydd gently ruffled the boy's hair. “May your ewes have more lambs with spunk that gifts your family in smiles. Listen, I want you and your da to go home and see that the lamb gets buried proper yeah?”

The boy smiled through his sobs. Nefydd helped him up and tenderly nudged him toward Udy.

“Udy, make sure you keep your family and herds well away from this drop until Grijolhd and I can... ah, fence this off.” Nefydd flicked a silverfish to the shepherd, who grabbed the coin, nodded and led his son towards their home.

Nefydd and Grijolhd watched Udy and his son until they were out of earshot. Even then, they spoke only in whispers.

“Bloody, bloody hammer of Ganim!” Grijolhd spat at the ground.

“I think Aeremas is pissing on us right now,” Nefydd grimaced and removed his eyepiece. “Wish it was a damned tremor that did this.”

“A bloody gods damned bulette!” Grijolhd spat again.

“I wonder what brought it up this far Grij? And why in the infernal hells didn't it take that lamb?”

“Aye, weird. Only a week out on the Trim, and we've already got more excitement than a few lads in a brothel for their first plucking.”

“Speak for yourself Grij.”

Both man and dwarf laughed, breaking their whispered nervousness.

“We'll go back to the village and come up with a gods damned plan.”

“Yeah Grij. I'll have to send a pigeon to Anthin. We need help with this one.”

“Help? More like a gods damned divine intervention.”

“Lets not bring the gods and damnation into this.”

“Damnation!? We may already be there lad, bathed in the acid of five stomachs!”

“Six Grij, the bastards have six.”


Aeremas- god of travel and luck, and sometimes... protection

Bulette- a horrid monstrosity that burrows through the earth, having a beak shaped head and strong jaws, four strong legs with claws, specimens can grow up to 20 feet long, standing 12 feet tall

armspan- a length of measure, approximately 2 feet

Trim- term for the outlying provinces of Anfekor, also known as The Fringe

Ganim- a god of the dwarves

silverfish- one of the currencies of Anfekor, a silver coin

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Tales of a Failing Empire

Humanity does not live long enough to grasp the import of history. Your boundless optimism continues to drive you to new heights, which is impressive. But it blinds you to the far-reaching consequences of your quest for greatness. Perhaps you view the past as shackles to your amibitions, as the one foul smelling wastrel that can ruin your great revelry in living. Ware the past, and use it to guide the future. Can you not see the patterns of atrophy and extirpation that plague us all?
-Eruirdyn, elven scholar and explorer

Nefydd Foulkes watched as the town burned, the wooden walls finally catching fire as the outer buildings collapsed. His vantage point from the hill was uncontested, the corpses of several men lay about him. The crows circled above the conflagration, their patterns of ascent occasionally molested by a plains hawk. Some had left the aerial congregation and were now picking at some of the corpses. Nefydd's most recent employer, the merchant Cormac, was among them.

That's what comes of a swing at peaceful negotiations, Nefydd mused. It was a crossbow bolt that took the merchant in the throat. Definitely an ex-soldier or disgruntled militia. Cormac, you should've taken my advice and run.

Nefydd was a man of average build with dirty blonde hair that was just growing out of the close cropped stage. His nose was large, and broken at least once. It was his helm that really made him stand out, the visor had built in lenses made from one of the glassworks at Kelmaranse. Nefydd's vision was, he reckoned, one of his many shortfalls. But his swordsmanship was better than average, which, he thought, was one of the reasons why he was still standing and the others, alas, were not.

Another crucial factor to Nefydd's survival was standing 50 paces to his right. The dwarf Grijolhd, was a natural bender of magicks, known in the professional schools of magery as a sorcerer. His hair was black as a raven, and his beard was cut shorter than most dwarves, with striking streaks of grey. Despite his heritage, Grijolhd's physique was not impressive; a lanky upper body disproportionate to his muscular, stocky legs.

“If we were thriving 'adventurers,' we would loot these bastards and be done with it. But since the entire economy of the Bright Empire has taken a dive down a cracked garderobe, we may as well bugger that option,” Grijolhd spat on the scorched ground beside him, “Not to mention looting men who were driven to desparation sours my luminous disposition.”

“Grij, we never really looted, not even on our tomb runs. No sense in starting now,” Nefydd's smile was gone, his head turning back to observe the growing inferno. “It's finally coming apart. Even though I had the sickly anticipation, I couldn't quite grasp the dissolution.”

“Aye Nefydd, the breakdown boggled your charming pessimism eh? Let's get marching, before more pissed off townsfolk, er, former townsfolk show up.”

“I wonder if the 'enthusiasm' has spread.”

“Neffer, I wouldn't be surprised. I think anarchy on this level is its own special kind of madness. The kind that breeds plague.”

“Grij, let me pay my respects to Cormac before we go.”

“Aye lad, there is that.” Grijolhd spat again, this time hitting the forehead of a corpse. “While I pay mine,” he whispered.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Half-Baked Campaign- Dragon Tales of Abviok

Arsi 4th cycle, 3279, The Archer's Draw

'Our mages routed the great wyrm, driving it into the mountains. We lost two cohorts of archers to the thing. Our cavalry was useless. It took to the air. The sage Vadrensil's tome was nigh worthless. Our archmage, Cheniel, will endeavor to draw the creature back down the valley into an enfilade from our fortlets. She departs tomorrow and insists that no one is to accompany her. I will have some of our best scouts shadow her at the very least.'

Arsi 4th cycle, 3279, The Owl's Lament

'Cheniel is gone. Our hearts are troubled that she goes alone. The skies were clear. I thank Thelinar for such small blessings. Yet every sentry squinted at the blue expanse, expecting the dread creature to materialize out of the aether. I will see the elder one more time, he is delirious I think, some of the guard wish him to be euthanised, but perhaps through the delirium I can discern something.'

Arsi 4th cycle, 3279, The Lynx Track

'The old one is gone, he departed for the Vale as is the way of things when the cycles draw to their close. I will miss the strange elnisari.* But his last words to me leave my mien troubled. 'Only in devastation will you see the maw open. The mother grieves even in bloodshed.' I have arranged for the acolytes to sing the song of farewell and send him to the Valediction Aerie.

3279, The Wind's Embrace

'Our patrol found Cheniel's remains along with two of our scouts I sent to watch her. She was mostly bones, the forearms remained, as did the hands. Vantar, one of our eldest scouts said the beast is toying with us. He believes in the old superstitions, but we saw the monster bleed on the field did we not? Our mages astride their mighty gryphons burned its flesh, and it fled! I have relieved Vantar of his duty and sent him elsewhere.'

3279, The Crag's Breath

Our northern fortlets are decimated. It was a slaughter. It appears the garrisons were massacred in the early hours before sunrise. Every male, every female. Throats slit, necks broken. There was a certain economy in the butchery. Every blow was meant to be fatal. The mages are all unaccounted for. I fear their fate is as Cheniel's.  Does this beast control demons?

3279, The Moon's Shadow

The beast has returned. It attacked our remaining mages with a wizardry of its own. Something I have not seen before. Themselves, their mounts, turned to dust in the air. The forward elements were covered in their remains as they fell from the sky. Ashen, pale, covering helms, cloaks, and armor. Some fled in fear. A great green mist arose among our archers, they died gasping, asphyxiated by foul magicks. It unleashed its fearsome breath, and entire cohorts fell under its blistering steam. Not once did it touch the ground. Never have I seen its like.

3279, The Moon's Shadow

The remaining fortlets have fallen, despite the double guards and extra vigilance. I shall sound the retreat. We must leave this valley, or face annihilation.

-Excerpt from an elven journal, author unknown, it's age is a guess, but I would think it predates any elvish literature we have translated or stored in the Logist Archives.

I believe this is an accounting of a dragon attack upon one of the mountain holdings, perhaps even before the rise of Elende'. Of course, my colleagues scoff at this notion, since a dragon has not been sighted since Anfekor's inception, and are believed to be extinct. The elven ambassador has taken it up with our magistrate, stating that we have no right to hold such a valuable artifact of their culture.  I have hired the Klangeshi to guard the elven wing of the archives. While I believe the decree will lean in our favor, I know how persnickety these elves can be when it comes to humans holding some of their writings.

- Angus Thermost, Sage of Blackwood University, City of Perhgath, Anfekor.

*elnisari- elvish, means 'elder kin,' denoting one of their kind who is considerably advanced in age

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Half Baked Campaign- A treatise on dwarves- Part 3

Well, that is a general overview of dwarven history. I will now discuss some of the social behaviors of dwarves.

Deep dwarves will never come even 100 feet near the surface. They rely on the surface dwarves to negotiate prices and hire them as diplomats with the other races when possible. If a race needs to speak to the deep dwarves directly, they will send a surface dwarf guide to lead them to a prearranged meeting place in a cave complex or, should the petitioner be bold enough to enter Rootstone, to a consulate in the deep dwarf city (that is, if the city even has a consulate).

Deep dwarves are mistrustful of everyone outside of their city, and I mean everyone. This may have been a factor in the collapse and desolation of a few of the cities in Rootstone. I myself have only recently been accepted into a couple of their cities after engaging in two grueling quests on behalf of the cities countesses. It is my guess, that deep dwarf trust can only be gained by spilling the blood of deep dwarf enemies and predators (multiple times I might add) or aiding the higher city officials in some endeavor. Due to confidentiality, I cannot disclose what I have done on behalf of the countesses.

A deep dwarves loyalty lies with his/her city. Everything is done for the greater good of the city. It could be the crafting of a sculpture, it could be forging armor, sometimes even marriages; every task, large or small is weighed in regards to how it benefits the city. The deep dwarf city is broken down into clans, with the clans arranged by family or blood ties.

Both deep and surface dwarf societies are matriarchal. Females, especially females who have several children are highly respected and are given political offices in both cultures. Every deep dwarf city is run by a countess and her staff, which are for the most part, all female, with each of these females all have at least 3 or more children.

The deep dwarves recognize the dangers of Rootstone, and there is always the stress to keep procreating to keep the city vibrant and alive. Marriages are few, being viewed as only a necessity when it helps keeping the city whole or united in purpose (for example, uniting two fueding clans).

Children are viewed as one of the biggest priorities in the deep dwarf culture. This urgency is cemented by the fact that deep dwarves have a low birth rate. Deep dwarf females can have only 4 children during their lifetime, with special cases being around 5 or 6 children. Usually it takes around 20 years for a female to become pregnant again after having a previous child. However, many females die during their fifth or sixth childbirth, regardless of age. Thus a deep dwarf female who has survived birthing 6 children is held in high esteem by most, if not all dwarves in the city. Since marriages are held in low regard, it's not uncommon for a female to have a different father for each of her children. I am awed at how many of the city scribes can keep track of who belongs to which clan, and who is the mother and father of whom. It is not unusual to hear of a male deep dwarf claiming to have 50 children and being related to 8 clans.

Childbearing is also a sign of selflessness and responsibility in dwarven culture. The more children a female has, the more responsibility she has, so the deep dwarves reason that she has gained more wisdom, more patience, more understanding, in the raising of these children and this is why the females are often put in positions of leadership, whether its the clan or in the city government.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Half Baked Campaign- A treatise on the dwarves (Part 2)

Before reaching the surface, the dwarves encountered the goblins. A few of these encounters were bloody, but these escalations were short lived. The goblins took note of the superior arms and armor of the dwarves and sued for peace accompanied with trade agreements. The dwarves, seeing that they were getting a great deal (after all the goblins were completely ignorant that the dwarves were outcasts of their deeper brethren, who forged incredible, quality arms and armors in Rootstone) accepted. Of course, the dwarves had never tasted goblin cuisine, the foodstuffs received from the goblins were harsh to the palette. To this day, both races still wonder who got the upper hand in those trade agreements.

The goblins warned the dwarves that some of their tunneling operations would eventually run afoul of the elven mountain kingdoms. The dwarves, curious and stubborn (it also might be noted that they were feeling confident after their cessation of hostilities with the goblins) ignored the goblins warnings and continued upwards through the earth, yearning to breach to the surface.

The dwarves tunneled straight into the mountain citadels of the elves. The elves, viewing this a violation of their sovereignty, insisted that the dwarves either turn around and go back the way they came or become vassals of the elves. The dwarves, affronted by what they viewed as elven obstinancy, began a brawl that would turn into a series of wars that would last a century. It should be noted that this is where the saying, “Time to beat the elf out of you,” originated. But I digress. Apologies. Both races became weary of fighting, treaties were signed, and the dwarves collapsed the tunnels that wormed into elvish cities.

The dwarves eventually became accustomed to the sunlight. During this time, some dwarves left their brothers to become citizens of the elven kingdoms, but the majority left the elves alone and settled elsewhere in the surrounding mountains. 500 years later after the last exodus from the Eadh-Deash, several surface dwarves decided to send expeditions back to Rootstone to see how their deeper kin fared.

Those expeditions that made it back to the deep dwarf cities created quite a stir. The deep dwarfs were shocked to see their former brethren with darker, sun touched skin, using torches and lanterns to help guide their way through Rootstone. The majority of deep dwarf cities abolished Eadh-Deash, instead sending their dissidents and failed Echoes of Earth candidates to the surface dwarves. Trade was soon established with the surface dwarves. Rootstone caravans began making regular routes to the mountain and highland realms. Many deep dwarf cities decided to give their surface kin a measure of respect and they're not shunned as they were when under the laws of the Eadh-Deash.

Though they trade and interact with their sun loving kin, many deep dwarves hold that the surface dwarves are the weaker subrace. The sunlit lands have softened their minds and bodies, corrupting their respect for the deep dwarf laws and traditions. Add to the fact these were individuals who descended from dwarves who failed Gharas-akhdrat, the disdain only deepens. The more hospitable cities in Rootstone allow a surface dwarf to stay as a 'guest' in their city for a maximum of a week unless special circumstances merit otherwise. Despite this prejudice, many deep dwarves appreciate the wood from the forests above and the tasty foodstuffs that come with the caravans (which by the way, are not goblin, or so I've been told).

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Half Baked Campaign- A treatise on the dwarves- Part 1

An accounting of the dwarves, as explained by half elven scholar Vrenirin Gant.

I apologize for the dry tone of this lecture, and pity the scribe endeavoring to write this.

First off, when we speak of dwarves, we are really speaking of two subraces, the surface dwarves and the deep dwarves. The surface dwarves are accustomed to life in the sunshine, and are the emissaries of their dark delving brethren. The dwarves that humanity and elvenkind interacts with are almost entirely surface dwarves. This interaction has created a misconception that the dwarves look and behaves like surface dwarf culture.

Deep dwarves shun the surface, spending their entire lifetime below the mountain peaks in the dark recesses of the earth. Deep dwarves as you have already surmised, despise the sun. They commonly refer to their surface kin as 'capstones.' Though they try to supress it, deep dwarves have the belief that their surface kin are the weaker of the two subraces. This brings us to the rite of passage known as 'Gharas-akhdrat,' loosely translated this means 'Echoes of the Earth.'

Once a deep dwarf reaches the age of maturity, (40 years of age) they are sent on a series of tests in the deeps to see how well they can mine, craft and fight. This is Gharas-akhdrat. The candidates are divided into groups of five or six dwarves and are accompanied by a judge and mentor (called Dranhds). Sometimes the group can have 2 Dranhds accompanying the group. Gharas-akhdrat lasts up to a month, but can be cut short if the Dranhds see a candidate has exhibited exceptional abilities during the rite, or in the most of unfortunate of circumstances, death or injury befalls the candidates.

If the Dranhds find the candidates worthy of Gharas-akhdrat, they are accepted into deep dwarf society in an event of celebration. This festival is known as The Crystal Song (or Vah-Andha). The Crystal Song entails a lot of singing, drinking and the occasional fornicating. At the end of the festival, the elders determine what occupation the deep dwarf will have. If the dwarf does not like his chosen occupation, he/she can raise an objection with the elders. The objection is then discussed with the candidate and the elders behind closed doors.

If candidates do not pass Gharas-akhdrat, this means exile into the 'Eadh-Deash' (loosely translated, 'The Empty Halls'). Every deep dwarf city has a zone on the outskirts set aside as Eadh-Deash. In addition to those candidates who have failed Gharas-akhdrat, any dissidents or deep dwarves who are deemed 'unhappy' in society are moved (sometimes forcibly) to Eadh-Deash. There have been records of Eadh-Deash housing some 3,000 dwarves.

The deep dwarves only interaction with any residents of an Eadh-Deash is when they arrive to bring more exiles to the zone. Some Eadh-Deash have been known to be periodically wiped out, either by predators, hostile denizens of Rootstone*, disease, or geologic upheavels.

However, about 1,000 years ago, some Eadh-Deash communities banded together and through courage and persistence eventually mined their way to the surface. The particulars of this trend are not outlined here as I'm trying to be as general as I can. What must be known is that these former deep dwarves of an Eadh-Deash became the surface dwarves.

*Rootstone- the deep dwarf general term for all realms underground

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Half Baked Campaign- A Brief Treatise on Elves (by a human scholar)

“Where was I? Ah yes, elves. To put it simply, elves as a whole, are some of the most arrogant sons of bitches on the continent of Abviok or as they like to say, Asinadiniel. Doesn't roll off the tongue very well does it? Asinadiniel! The elves think everything they do is superior, from their language to how they shit. Oh and they're entitled to their prejudice aren't they? They've been on Abviok for at least three thousand years. You'd think they would've developed at least a measure of humility wouldn't you, being here all this time? No, it's only made them more entrenched and stubborn in how they view the other races.

Yes, the relatively new (by elven standards anyway) Palm Concordants have forced them, in some measure, to at least learn how to get along better with humanity, but they're still secretive, smug and damn self-righteous.

I think humanity should take a lesson from the dwarves, who really don't give a shit about what the elves think. Oh the dwarves will certainly give an elf a beating when they've been pushed too hard, but other than that, there's this strange aspect of coexistence between those two peoples. It certainly helps that the dwarves like to live under the mountains while the elves like to live on top of them. You know, that should've given the delegates an indication of elven disposition, when they knew they had to trek a few miles up to the top of Glinnegown Peaks just to talk to the cheeky bastards during the High Peaks Accords. But I digress.

Then there are those handful of elves who just break the mold completely. Like those in Yethers. These buggers don't mind living with humans. Rather than coming off as arrogant, these fellows are distant shall we say? They've picked up some of humanity's better qualities (thank the gods); compassion, honor, loyalty but sometimes, they have that far off look, and if you ask them what's the matter they'll answer, 'just meditating upon a thought,' or some such thing. These type of elves are just damn frustrating, but at least I don't get the urge to throw a haymaker at them like I do with their spoiled brethren.

So lad, do you still want to make a go of courting that elven female? Take my advice, leave this manse and try to find a living dragonling, trust me, you'll have more success, even if you fail! The experience will be worth it. That elvish lass will just lead you to pain and disaster. Quite possibly, she will sacrifice your manhood to an abattoir. But such is the folly of youth hey?”

-from the Sage Cedifor Maddock, as he attempted to dissuade young Master Kearins from fawning over the daughter of an elven consulate

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Got Gug?

Just experimenting with artwork on the blog. This is a poor rendition of a TPK by a Gug. The Gug can be found on pg. 151 of the Pathfinder RPG product Bestiary 2.

The Half Baked Campaign: written from an NPC's POV

'Spire of Bones, Mageslayer, Dread Tower, all of these are names given to this wondrous, murderous construct I see before me as I leave the North Gate of Goshen. Sages and scholars have argued with me that it is not so. The older sergeants of the watch whisper in their pubs and their patrol routes along the northwest river tower, “It's a bloody weapon.” I look to this elegant, ancient edifice and I feel fear, and humility.

The spire is thousands of years old. The goblins, who have settled this area well before the first Sulkiri fished the Cefron's banks, call it, 'Poegshi,' roughly translated 'Fire's Cliff.' The dwarves don't talk about it. The elves, smug as always, only grin at us when we ask their emissaries of this place. Yet still I pressed them whenever I could. “You humans were foolish to build a city near it, now your accountability has come to roost in one of your squalid nests,” this rebuke is what I received from their most recent consular to our city.

This festival we hold every year is folly, as is our meager attempts to gain knowledge of what this spire truly is. It is anathema and it is a strong testament to the age of its fabrication. But make no mistake, no one, and I say again, no one, has ever coaxed its secrets from its unfractured, timeless stonework.'

-Egron Rooke, mage of the Garnet Cooperative, addressing 'adventurers' who participated in The Festival of Knock, 458 TR

'I'll be back in three bells time with a trinket from that tower old fart.'
-Adlar Gepidae, self styled captain of The Savage Sables adventuring company, responding to Egron's caution, 458 TR

The Sables were obliterated before they even set foot on the isle, and 6 score men and women lost their lives or disappeared that day. The onlookers of the city were happy, if only for a few days, despite the bloodshed. It was a welcome escape for the darker times to come, as Anfekor's economy continued to plummet like a stone in the deeps of the Cefron.

All excerpts taken from 'Chronicles of Modern Goshen,' written in the Third Imperial Reckoning, in the year four hundred and fifty nine.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Gygax Memorial Fund and Dave Arneson

The Gygax Memorial Fund is dedicated to the work and legacy of one of the founders of D&D, Gary Gygax. In gaming stores around the US you may be able to pick up Limited Edition, Premium Cover Copies of the original 3 books of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons; The Player's Handbook, The Dungeon Master's Guide, and the Monster Manual. The books are quite nice with gilded pages. A portion of each purchase of these books goes to the GMF. Or if you want to donate and learn more about the GMF you can follow this link here:

Personally, I think this is a something to consider if you're a gamer, especially if you're an older gamer, and really appreciate the history of D&D and RPGs. Gary Gygax brought a lot of joy and inspiration to generations of gamers, not just to D&D, but to other genres of RPGs as well. Please think about whether or not you want to make a donation and show gratitude to the legacy of this creative genius.

That being said, a measure respect should be paid to Dave Arneson, who was the co-founder of D&D. Dave was a creative genius in his own right, and helped Gary with the original edition of the game in 1974. Apparently, Dave and Gary had a falling out. Events transpired to the point where Dave relinquished any profits he would receive from D&D altogether.

For more information on this sad story see this link here:

These Limited Edition Premium Covers do not credit Dave Arneson as being a co-author of the book. However, Gary does acknowledge Dave in the preface of the DMG and the PHB.  In the MM's preface, Gary also admits that the Monster Manual is based on the original work that he and Dave published 3 years previous. Perhaps not enough credit is given to Dave Arneson. If so, it's up to us to give Dave the accolades and credit he deserves when we talk about the 'old days' of RPGs.

It's sad that both Gary and Dave are gone, and I don't know if anybody in the gaming industry is going to fill either of these guys shoes.

Tower of the Lonely GM

This is a short post. If there are any readers who like Pathfinder and Steven Erikson's series Malazan Book of Fallen, I urge you to check out the blog Tower of the Lonely GM by Belo Horizonte! This fellow from Brazil has created stat blocks and descriptions of three of the intriguing races from the series, the T'lan Imass, the Jaghut, and the Forkrul Assail. They're well done and Belo brings his own slant to each race in the Pathfinder system.


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

DM or GM, which do you prefer?

The word GM is more preferable to me than DM, as the term DM infers that the only responsibilities in the game are to run a group of players through a dungeon. Some players and GM/DMs prefer an entire campaign around one mega-dungeon. In a way, this makes things a little easier for everybody, there is one locale you as a GM/DM prepare for... Wandering Monster tables, check! Maps, check! Room descriptions check! For the player, the combat prep is basically close quarters, although there are a few dungeons that throw a curve ball in the mix. For example, fighting on multiple levitating platforms. A DM may also prepare a town or city where the players can offload their loot and engage in a little r&r. When I think of the term DM, all of the above applies. The Dungeon Master, the creator of dungeons, populator of the labyrinth. And hey, if that's your gig, that's great!

But does a GM/DM just run a dungeon every game? This brings us to the next title the GM, or Game Master.

 A Game Master infers so much more, you have entire worlds you create, or at least the part where the players adventure in. Players can go anywhere! (And often do, much to the GM's chagrin) There are continents, kingdoms and/or countries, geographical wonders, and yes, ruined civilizations and eventually a dungeon or two (or three). There are the alternate planes of reality and existence you have to worry about. Then there's monster placement, what critters inhabit them there hills? In a country you need to think about the culture and the people/NPCs the players interact with (although technically you could have a dungeon inhabited with nothing but NPCs). And that's not all! Languages, seasons, earthquakes, flooding, bird migrations, (Well maybe not, unless you're running a Holy Grail RPG) coinage, national economies, bartering, social upheavals, etc. etc.

If you're playing a sci-fi RPG it gets more complicated! You have entire galaxies to plan, then solar systems, then planets, then nations, and on down the line. Galactic civilizations! Alien races... and monsters (really just a new alien species of critter). Technological advancements, do they have laser rifles or sling shots? Teleportation devices or gas powered vehicles? Or a 9 legged oxen?? And the list goes on and on.

Ah yes, all of these responsibilities are the in the lap of a GM or Game Master! Not a Dungeon Master!

However, which one sounds cooler!? DM of course, hands down! GM also implies that you're a corporate SOB, taking away a 50k plus salary running a store, getting cussed at by your fellow employees or underlings in General Manager speak. You get stressed out because 2 of your not so reliable employees called in sick on the same day, so who is going to pick up the slack!? Huh? So GM definitely does not sound cool, not cool by a long shot!

DM just sounds so much better. Not to mention it's almost like saying a shortened version of 'DAMN!' Like as in 'damn' that girl is hot! Or 'damn' when you realize your GM (you know which type of GM I'm talking about, or do you??) just caught you spray painting his desk because this week he was being a really obnoxious prick.

So really, while GM is a more accurate term for running a game, it still sounds obnoxious. DM is more on the side 'Dude, I don't just run dungeons damn you!' On the other hand, 'Damn yo! (Or DM yo!) That sounds bitchin!' rolls off the tongue so much smoother.

It's all a matter of semantics really. Damn!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Edition Wars.... NOT!

I know this may be old hat for all of you, if not most of you. But it's official, Wizards of the Coast is coming out with another edition of Dungeons and Dragons. I'm not here to tout which edition is better, I'm not going to compare rules and say, this is where this edition went wrong. I look at the edition wars through two lenses, one as a player and the other, as a DM/GM.

As a player, quite frankly, I will play any edition of D&D just as long as I get to play. D&D is a social game. You're there to perform deeds of heroism, or.. dastardly deeds of ill repute with people of like minded interest. The point is to have a fun.

D&D is an interactive story. Both the DM and the players can contribute to an incredible playing experience. I don't really care what edition my fellow players choose to decide to play, because this a 'team sport', I need to check my ego at the door and cooperate with the group, not be a bastard and refuse to play a particular edition because I'm uncomfortable with it.

However, I do draw the line if I'm in a group that is playing a particular edition on a continous basis and I begun losing joy in playing the game, it's time to go. It may not be the edition, it may be the group. The premise is simple, if I start not having fun anymore, then that's a sign for me to leave. I'm not doing anybody any favors by trying to stick it out, because in the end my misery will rob my fellow players of the fun they may be having with the game.

So as a player, I have no qualms about playing any edition of D&D.

As a GM/DM, it's different, not only because I have a bias to a particular edition that I feel comfortable in running, but also there's the matter of finances and shelf space.

I don't necessarily hate any edition, what I do hate is the business model, marketing strategy of the company that is making a new edition. Yes, I'm speaking specifically of Wizards of the Coast.

Every few years, WOTC seems compelled to make a new edition of D&D, which means, that as a GM/DM, if I want to run the game I have to fork out another few hundred bucks and shelf space. I simply do not have the time, the patience, the money and yes, the shelf-space to put up with these shenanigans any longer.

I realize that these guys have to find some way to stay in business, but I don't agree with making a new edition every few years is the right way to go about it. I would think that a lot of it would have to do with being more involved in the gaming community. Why not instead of making other editions, why not continue to support the older editions?

But really a lot of the onus rests on us as gamers, we need to spread our love of the game to younger generations, to show these kids why this game is so magical, regardless of the edition we use. If we argue about which edition is better, we're taking away that magic and lessening the value of the game that we cherish so much.

Monday, April 8, 2013

This is a first time attempt at blogging on a regular basis.

Please be aware that much of the blog is only my opinion, which is most certainly fallible, and in the vast, intricate web of life, amounts to nothing less than a hill of beans... A lesser hill of beans for that matter. So should I garner any type of readership whatsoever, I would hope that any discourses will be kind and courteous, or at the very least civil. Aye, I have repeated myself and for this, I apologize.

My interests lie primarily in the aspects of 'nerdery.'  To be more specific, science fiction and fantasy, which I believe is collectively known as speculative fiction (spec fic). I also enjoy some RPGs (role-playing games), though as will be evident in later posts, my biases lean towards the Pathfinder RPG by Paizo Publishing and some of the older editions of Dungeons and Dragons (3.5 mostly).

I will try to veer away from discussing politics and religion, as those two topics are incendiary, and both depress me on a daily basis.  I should really stay away from dating too, but I may slip regarding that topic from time to time.

For now, as it is getting late here on the East Coast, I will cease my ramblings. However, I will leave you with a link to a podcast, produced by two incredibly decent and talented fellows, Ed Healy and Rone Barton. If you like tabletop games and RPGs, I strongly suggest you check these guys out!

The linkage is as thus: Atomic Array