Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Secrets of Amalthia

Amalthea is pretty much a mystery to me. And yet, it provides one of the best untapped source of adventure ideas that I have run across in a long time. The mystery of why people feel compelled to stay and just what is locked away in the University is one that I have played with several times in my fertile imagination, and here are two ideas I have come up with.

1) When Amalthea was threatened with destruction during the Divine War, the refugees hiding in the University used dark magic, perhaps even an artifact of some kind, to make a pact with dark powers. In exchange for saving their lives, they would serve whatever dark power they enjoined and their decendants would be bound by the same pact. However, their patron has a very liberal definition of decendants and so anyone who stays in the city for any length of time become bound by the pact. The people are compelled by their patron to keep their worship a secret and outwardly they show reverance to Denev.

2) The University houses several very powerful titanic artifacts that could change the balance of power if they fell into the wrong hands. As a result Denev had the Gods place a divine Geas over the city compelling people who come there to stay and strengthen the city's defenses. Should the city ever be overwhelmed, as during the Divine War and the Druid War, Corean and Chardun have tasked a legion of angels and a legion of devils to defend the city. For the two and their followers to willingly work together to keep the city from falling shows just how dangerous the artifacts are.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Dragon Lords

In the days before the gods, before the history of the world was written, perhaps even before the Titans, there were the four elemental dragons. These four dragons represented the four primal elements and it is said by those few scholars that know of such things that they were the ones who created the world and that they birthed the Titans just as the Titans sired the gods.

The elemental dragons first came to me as a plot device while flipping through one of the Tome of Horrors sourcebooks. In my current campaign, the PCs are investigating an expedition from Dunhanae that has been looking for something in the Bronze Hills along the boundary of the Devil's March. I wasn't sure what they were looking for, but I knew it had to be something awesome. At first I thought that they would be searching for an artifact that had the potential to destroy the world. Then I started thinking about how dragons were often involved in creation and how it had been mentioned that nobody knew the origins of dragons and that they may have predated the Titans.

As mentioned, there are four elemental dragons. The air dragon Vorelthraethuril represents life and freedom. Edariejirusk is the earth dragon and represents stability and oppression. Vignarixenloerchix represents violence and destruction and is the elemental dragon of fire. Finally Opossternesjmajak is the water dragon and represents patients and growth. Although some dragons with the appropriate type claim kinship with the elemental dragons, others do not. For example, not all blue dragons claim to have been the children of Edariejirusk, although some do. Almost no gold dragons claim ties to Vignarixenlorchix, and silver and white dragons do not claim kinship with any of the elemental dragons.

So what does this mean for the Dunahnae expedition? Well quite simply, although they do not know it they are searching for for the resting place of the earth dragon. The four dragons have been in a state of torpor for more than 1000 years. In that time they have faded from memory to myth, from myth to legend, and from legend to forgotten fable. Nobody knows what will happen if they awake, because nobody except a few scholars like Yugman the sage even remember that they ever existed. However, as they have the power to create and to destroy worlds, at least collectively, waking one and swaying it to your side would certainly sway the balance of power.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Veiled Society and The Iron Ring

Today is the first look into my home campaign, which is set in Fangsfall. Although the campaign is set firmly in the Scarred Lands, it has not stopped me from importing elements from another of my favorite campaign settings, Mystara. In particular I have used a lot of elements from the kingdom of Karameikos, which shares a lot of elements with the Fangsfall Peninsula. Both are relatively new kingdoms with a ruler that has immigrated from some other part of the world. Both have a native population that has very different beliefs from the immigrant aristocracy. Finally, both are sparsely populated with lots of need of heroes and adventurers to make the wilderness safe.

The first thing I incorporated was the Veiled Society. This is an organized crime syndicate that operates in the capital city. Only individuals from Ledean families are eligible for membership. They are organized into cells, with each cell running the operations for a different neighborhood. The Veiled Society deals primarily with protection rackets, prostitution, and illegal gambling. Some of the cells also deal drugs and run murder for hire operations. Lately they have been tunneling under the city looking for something, but nobody knows just what. The Veiled Society is suspected to be allied with House Asuras, a well connected and well known merchant family. The truth is far more sinister as the Veiled Society is actually led by members of the Asuras family who hope to develop more direct control over the city than they do over Shelzar, Mithral, and other cities.

The Iron Ring is the other thing I incorporated. It is a slavery ring that operates on the Fangsfall Peninsula. They are allied with the goblinoids that live in Fang Quarry and often use them as muscle. However, it is no surprise to anyone that they also kidnap some of those goblinoids and sell them to other customers as well. Nor is it a surprise that the gang is run by a charduni, one of many who were left in the region after the Divine War. What would surprise most people is that the Iron Ring is not as independent as it seems. The group is secretly allied with the governments of Calistia and  Dunahnae, both because they all share a common religion and because those two nations provide great markets for their services.

Well, there you go. Two new organizations to add to you game and use to keep your friends guessing. Until next time, good luck and good gaming.

A Quick Update

Just when yours truly thought my life could not get any more hectic, I have been hired to work a summer internship at the Nevada Attorney General's Office in Las Vegas. So who knows if I will have any chance to update my blog during this summer at all. Until next time, good luck and good gaming.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Do All Reptilians Worship Mormo?

Mormo seems to be big among reptilian humanoids in the Scarred Lands, as nearly every one of the major reptilian races mentioned worships her. However, a lot of the major reptilian races from the core rules were left with no mention what so ever. Now that is not Sword & Sorcery's fault; the original Monster Manual was not finished when the first Scarred Lands books were released. Others were not OGL; although they did get special permission to use the Yuan-Ti. So the question is, who do those other races worship.

Let's start with kobolds. These small draconic creatures are usually worshipers of Chardun. They venerate him for his strength and pray to him for the strength to overcome their enemies. According to the kobold they were created by Chardun from the drops of blood spilled by dragons who sided with Chardun during the early days of the Divine War. They are most often found in Dunhanae where they supervise the goblin slaves that toil in that nation's mines. They also fight in Calastia's armies in the Durrover campaign. Of course none of this applies to Dragon Land kobolds.

Next up are the lizardfolk. Native to the Mourning Marsh and the Swamps of Kan Thet, lizardfolk are followers of Denev. They view themselves as defenders of the balance and protect the swamps where most of Denev's followers are at a decided disadvantage. This also places them in direct opposition with the Asaatthi that make their home in Kan Thet and place the resurection of the Serpentmother above all other concerns.

Finally we look at the troglodytes. Troglodytes are the most likely to worship Mormo of the three reptilian races presented in the core rules.  However, they are more likely to worship Laathsaal, The Crawling One. Laathsaal is the only god to have actually accended and have once been mortal, which is something that troglodytes admire. He is also a savage warrior, particularly in protecting his followers from harm.  Troglodytes often work with asaatthi since their god is an accended asaatthi and his desire is to restore Mormo to power. However, they just as often clash with asaatthi over territory and resources.

Well there you go, three races that are a big part of the core rules but never really made it into the Scarred Lands. Until next time, good luck and good gaming.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Dinosaurs and Gladiators: A Great Combination

Calastia is the great empire of the Scarred Lands. Not only has it established a hegemony of vassal states across the southern portion of Ghelspad but they have also begun to expand into Termana. It is also beloved by most of it's citizenry, which seems like somewhat of a contradiction on the face of it as Calastia is a Lawful Evil nation. However, there is a way to make sense of it. Although Calastia is presented as a traditional monarchy, it is much more than that. Calastia is in many ways the Roman Empire of it's world. And just like Rome, the Empire of the Black Dragon has ways of buying the love of it's people.

Bread and circuses, that is what Calastia thrives on. The first way that the empire earns both the love and the respect of the people is by keeping them well fed. A populace that has it's basic needs met are far less likely to revolt than a population of starving people who live in squalor and have no hope of things getting better. In fact, a populist uprising is more likely in Mithral than it is in Calastia. These initiatives to keep the people fed have even been able to win the loyalty of conquered territories like the Heteronomy of Virduk.

The other thing that keeps Calastia happy is the games. Commemoratus is a holiday that celebrates the Calastian military. It is celebrated through mock combat and other martial displays. There is some evidence that the Romans started the tradition of gladiatorial combat from similar mock battles. However, the mock combat eventually spread beyond the Commemoratus observances and became a way of entertaining the people and eliminating political enemies.  The games are a popular way of keeping the people entertained and sending a message about what happens if you step out of line.

I know what you're saying, but what does this have to do with dinosaurs? Simple, one of the draws of the gladiator games were hunts and fights involving exotic animals. Even in a world with fantastic creatures such as dragons or chimera; dinosaurs are going to be pretty exotic creatures. Calastia's presence on Termana means that of all the nations and city states of Ghelspad they are the ones who are in the best position to present their people with dinosaurs.

Dinosaurs wander the Gamalganjus Jungle, the one place on Scarn that could easily pass as a lost world. The Calastians could either send their own expeditions into the Gamalganjus from their base in the Titanforge Mountains to recover dinosaur eggs, or they could buy them from merchants in either Buru or Chukema. The cities are havens for merchants who trade with the Gamalganjus natives. Of course the Calastians are going to use eggs to bring their people a spectacle; adult dinosaurs are just too difficult and dangerous to transport. Now this might not be realistic in the real world; in a world where magic exists it would be much easier to transport and raise dinosaur eggs and infants for such a purpose. In fact, a mage could even keep a few of the eggs for the purpose of breeding new stock so that after a few decades trips back to the Gamalganjus might not be needed at all.

Now I am sure that some of you are thinking that I have finally lost it, but just spend some time thinking about it and you will see the genius behind it. If not, maybe this will change your mind. Until next time, good luck and good gaming.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Case for Living Constructs

Okay, I know what you are thinking. Living constructs are warforged, right? Well you would be half right, warforged are living constructs. So are the 4th Edition race, shardminds, which are living crystal beings. Neither race existed when the Scarred Lands were put into print, and yet there is a good case for including them among the people of Scarn.

Most living constructs would live in Termania. In Virduk's Promise we have many reports of strange constructs traveling the land, and even occasionally adding travellers who are in trouble. Some claim that these golem-like creatures are creations of Golthagga the Forger while others claim that they are creations and emissaries of Trelu, demigod of form and reason. Regardless of who created these mysterious beings, they make a great way to introduce the warforged into the Scarred Lands.

Let us assume for a moment that they are creations of Trelu. There are two ways that they could be dealt with. The first way is that they are prototypes of Corean's Hollow Knights and that Corean worked with Trelu to create the animated paladins. In this scenario the warforged are few in number and generally do not congregate in large numbers. They are aware that they are a rough draft and many may become embittered towards the divine powers.

The second scenario is that Trelu saw the Hollow Knights and decided to improve on them. There are two flaws with the Hollow Knights, 1) they are not truely alive, and 2) more of them cannot be made. Trelu wanted to create a race that is the perfect embodiment of form and creativity. In this scenario the warforged have their own culture and society that exists in hidden cities and they are as dedicated to the gods as any other divine race.

Shardminds also can have a home in Termania. The Tepuji in the Gamulganjus Jungle are filled with arcane crystals that have a number of strange properties. The shardminds were first born when Mesos was destroyed by the gods. Instead of dying, his titanic essence was absorbed by these crystals. These beings have none of Mesos's memories but they do have his talent for arcane power. It has since been discovered that shardminds can "grow" new members of their own race the same way that new crystals grow from existing ones. Each new shardmind that is born spreads Mesos's essence even thinner and yet conversely makes him even less likely to be destroyed. Ironically, most shardminds are dedicated followers of the gods despite being the literal embodiments of one of the Titans.

The last option for living constructs is the previously mentioned Hollow Knights. Let's be honest, nobody had thought of living constructs when the Creature Compendium was first published with the Hollow Knight in it. However, given the background and fluff of the Hollow Knights as paladins of Corean who were given construct bodies after their death and then stuck in that form when Vangal double crossed Corean; it seems like the living construct type would be more likely to be used in creating them today. There are three ways to deal with this. One is just to go with things as they are. That is the simplest option. The next simplest option is to use the Hollow Knight name and the stats for the warforged. Finally, you could do the work to stat up the Hollow Knights using the living construct type. I personally would use the second option, but you might choose something different based on the flavor of your game. Until next time, good luck and good gaming.