Archives for posts with tag: eberron

I’ve always liked Foehammer from the first Halo game. Wherever the Pillar of Autumn’s crew needed her, she went, usually just in time. Foehammer knew how to pilot her Pelican transport like it was an extension of herself.

Carrying the idea a bit farther, I developed Foehammer as an NPC to use in my games. I plan to insert Foehammer into the fantasy Midgard game I’m currently planning.

Originally designed for the Eberron campaign setting, Foehammer is, in fact, two beings: a warforged and an elemental airship. It is impossible to tell where one begins and the other ends. Their history and origins are uncertain, but the few who have seen them up close know that they communicate without words, even in the heat of battle.

In Eberron, Foehammer were developed as a secret project during the end of the Last War. Through some accident during construction, the two became bonded in a way the artificers had not foreseen (and certainly could not understand). House Cannith performed numerous tests on the two as soon as the bond was discovered, but after just a few days Foehammer disappeared forever, leaving behind broken bones and a smoking hole in the Cannith research foundry.

The same origin story works in any setting. Just change House Cannith to fit whatever amoral research group you have handy. In Midgard, the clockworkers guild would fit perfectly.

Since escaping, Foehammer have kept to themselves. They can typically be found cruising at high altitude through convenient mountain ranges, and occasionally appear to rescue dumbstruck travelers caught by scrags or stuck in a landslide.

Both the airship and the warforged are the finest specimens of their kind, and some have attempted to take one or the other for their own. Attempting to steal a heavily-armed, sentient airship is hardly an easy task, and the warforged is a skilled combatant in possession of powerful warforged artifacts.

Foehammer will become a major player in the campaign world I am now developing. How might you use them?

Like many people, I saw Inception over the weekend.  Also like many people, the film made me oooh! and aaah! and then stop and think about it.  Before I continue, let me say that I was a fanboy from the moment I saw the first trailer and so I had great expectations.  They were fulfilled.

As soon as the credits rolled I wanted to start talking about the movie, but I also sat and listened to the glorious score and watched the credits respectfully.  Not only is it good manners, it is a convenient time to process a film in silence.  In the lobby afterwards, my friends and I began to talk about the movie.  Few were as enthralled as I, but most were impressed.  Two of my friends, philosophy majors, were disappointed in the philosophical basis and said that The Matrix had lived up to its potential better.  The potential of what, I wondered.

As soon as we began to get longer trailers I was intrigued by the idea of the dream world and its malleability.  In fantasy roleplaying games there has traditionally been a multi-layered universe with planes, and the player characters typically exist in the material plane.  Eberron introduced the plane of dreams (Dal Quor), though similar concepts have been explored frequently.  The planes and dreams are not something I had previously introduced into my gaming, however, and I was excited by the possibility.

A few weeks ago, during our weekly Pathfinder session, the characters stumbled upon the Market of Dreams, a sort of flea market that may travel or may simply have entrances and exits on every conceivable world at random intervals.  During their subsequent exploration, the characters were offered a job in which they were to read a scroll (which would deliver them to a destination unknown) and retrieve an object for their employer.

On arrival, the characters found themselves in a world much like our own, but devoid of life and detail.  They quickly discovered that the world did not operate on the same rules they were used to.  In game terms, I let them use Will saves to attempt to manipulate the environment around them.  They enjoyed the possibilities this presented, especially once battle with a group of derro commenced.

Of course, what they did not figure out was that the realm they had entered was somewhere between a mind and a dream.  By retrieving their goal item, they have left a man bereft of sanity and reason.  They were, of course, given opportunities to deduce such an effect, but it is an illustrative example of unintended consequences that (I hope) will make the game world seem more vibrant and autonomous.

So, to come back to Inception, there was more in the film than simply action-packed dreams.  I was particularly interested by Mr. Nolan’s method of storytelling.  Without giving anything away, the chaos of the first minutes of the movie left me feeling as if I barely knew the characters, and yet by the end I felt as if they were real enough to be sitting next to me in the theater.  Of course, this sort of storytelling makes all the sense in the world, especially as a meta-commentary on film and storytelling.

Inception had little to no exposition.  The characters spoke to one another as if they were speaking naturalistically (that is, each knows what the other is talking about and doesn’t provide unnecessary explanation) and there were no narrated sequences that established the world or the characters’ history together.  This is, in fact, how the real world functions.

We learn about one another through the actions we observe others taking and the stories they choose to tell us about themselves.  Inception accomplished something similar in film, which I appreciated a very great deal.  Roleplaying games function essentially the same way, an insight that I intend to exploit in tonight’s session of Pathfinder.

One final note on Inception: I loved it, and you probably will, too.  I recommend seeing it twice, just to work out the complexities, and consider the soundtrack.

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The typical fantasy world assumes a low level of general education.  Many (or most) can’t read or do basic math.  Scholars are rare or derided, and universities and higher learning are not considered to be worth the expenditure in gold and real estate.  Learning is generally not a priority for most people, because most fantasy worlds assume a medieval level of development and resources.  For the average peasant, there is little time for reading when crops must be gathered.  Adventurers focus on staying alive or the practical knowledge they need to loot more efficiently.  Generally, this makes sense given the medieval baseline.

That is not to say that education does not exist in fantasy gaming or literature.  It quite often does, but it is at best a sideline.  Eberron introduced institutionalized education into D&D in a way that hadn’t been done in a major production before (again, to the best of my knowledge – please feel free to correct the record).  I think it’s safe to say that education very rarely drives much of any fantasy world, and that it is very rare for education to be anyone’s priority (in the fantasy world at large, at any rate).  Within the scope of my gaming experience, there has been little in the way of an educated populace.

I’ve been looking for a real twist to the Pathfinder campaign I’m in the process of planning.  While reading David Weber’s By Schism Rent Asunder, I had a brainstorm.  What if education was common in my game world?  What if the Empire, the largest unified nation in the world, sponsors public education at all levels?  What if the Fellowship of Light, the largest organized religion in the world, encourages its faithful to better themselves and others through intellectual endeavors?  What if most of the population can read, do math, and owns at least a few books?  I don’t think this is necessarily a revolutionary approach to gaming, but it certainly revolutionizes my approach.

The first step towards solidifying this idea is to determine the level of education in science, mathematics, literature, philosophy, linguistics, and religion that has been reached.  In other words, how advanced is their education in real-world terms?  I’ve decided to go with an Italian Renaissance-era feel.  So, the sciences (especially their practical applications to engineering) are on the rise, and intellectualism is prized.  Successful rulers must also be well-versed in all aspects of learning in order to be able to converse intelligently with one another and in order to manage their realms.

Keeping with the Renaissance influence, organized religion is also a sponsor of education, though mostly so that they might tempt the people to join the ranks of the priesthood.  Architects and artists are commonly commissioned to create great works that venerate the pantheons.  Clerics and acolytes also educate their flocks as part of their ministerial duties.  Most mid-size cities on up have a college or university of some kind, and some have more than one.  The Imperial capital, of course, has the biggest and most awe-inspiring of them all – Imperial Collegium.  There are half a dozen competitors in the city, but none with quite the same resources or prestige.

The next consideration is magic.  How does it fit into education in my world?  Is it part of universities, or do spellcasters maintain their own schools?  Either choice presents more options, but I’ll stick with magic included in universities.  Spellcasters have their own guilds, of course, but magical education may be found at most temples of learning.  In fact, artificers and archivists are quite common in universities around the world, melding the magical with the mundane.  I’ve always loved Eberron’s blending of magic and technology, and I’d like to carry the same tone into my game world.  A little bit Renaissance to it, perhaps, but it’s a good starting point.

Similar to Eberron, I’d also like to make museums part of the educational scene.  Many colleges have them, and they help the adventuring economy thrive.  Such collections provide ample opportunities for buying and selling, as well as cloak-and-dagger affairs.  Universities compete over having the best museums, just as cities and kingdoms compete over having the best universities.  Skilled faculty are always in demand, as are items (or people)  for study.  This way, adventurers are an integral part of the educational system and the economy.  Adventurers also exist in their usual capacity as troubleshooters, mercenaries, and just plain treasure hunters, but I like having a solid reason for so many antiquities and artifacts to be moving through the economy.

Class-wise, scholars and teachers may be of any class.  Artificers and archivists are going to be common scholar classes in my world, with a fair number of bards, clerics, and wizards for flavor.  There will also be a very sizable proportion of NPC classes represented, since not everyone is an adventurer.  It will vary a bit by institution, of course, but at most places the majority of faculty members will be from NPC classes.  The most common heroic class is most likely the bard, followed by the wizard and archivist.  Clerics and artificers have the smallest noticeable presence, but there are still plenty of them.

And there you have it…

Wizards announced at Gen Con that the Dark Sun setting is being revived for D&D 4EDark Sun is a blasted world, torn asunder by magic.  Psionics, which will be brought to 4E just months before with the Player’s Handbook 3, play a major part in the setting.  The original Dark Sun is quite the legend in many RPG circles, and that legend was directly responsible for the revival of Dark Sun.

It sounds like just the kind of setting I’m looking for at the moment.  Between Dark Sun and Eberron, I may just have the impetus to play 4E seriously.  How about you?   What is your reaction to Dark Sun?  Excitement?  Dismay?  How does it make you feel about 4E?

Most fantasy settings take it as a given that books exist and are accessible to the denizens of the setting.  Wizards, for example, often use spell books.  Characters may augment their research abilities with access to a library.  Basic education is available to many characters, or so most games and literature seem to assume.  In a steampunk setting, for example, the printing press has (usually) been invented and propagated.  Sword and Sorcerory-style settings occasionally have scribes or calligraphers.  But by and large, the topic of printing and literature rarely comes up in fantasy settings.

Of course, not many characters care much about where they learned to add (if they learned to add) or whether or not they read the classics.  From a character standpoint, literature and education are often the same and mostly irrelevant.  The availability of books is, generally, a world building item.  Come to think of it, it’s a pretty boring topic for game masters and authors, too.  Nonetheless, it can be a nice depth-factor to consider.  It can also provide extra hooks and options for any campaign.

Steampunk settings are automatically geared up to explain the availability of printing and literature.  Education, too, for that matter.  The literature of the steampunk genre is often vastly more descriptive about both literature and education than that of fantasy genres.  Steampunk technology is also advanced enough for printing presses, and so the spread of the printed word is easily explained.  The latest issue of Steampunk Magazine includes a section on tramp printers, which make a nice option for adventurers.

Fantasy settings are less easy to explain away.  Because they (generally) don’t have printing presses, books and other literature must be copied by hand.  Scribes are very important for the dissemination of knowledge and information.  In Europe, Christian monasteries provided scribes who recorded history and copied the Bible into local languages.  Many other societies with which I am less familiar used scribes to serve the same purpose.  Some fantasy literature, like Robin Hobb’s Assassin’s Apprentice, does mention the presence of scribes.  Literature rarely exists in great quantities in historically accurate fantasy settings.

It is interesting, then, to consider how literature and the written word are spread through a fantasy setting.  Eberron has a dragonmarked House, that of House Sivis, that handles scribing and communications.  I tend to assume that things just get scribed.  I intend to add a primitive printing press (perhaps magically augmented?) and a Printer’s Guild to my world of Thelenia right away.  It will add depth and some new factions in the world.  In addition, it will slightly advance the technology and education available.  Thus, higher education and institutions, as in Eberron, become practical.

What solutions have you come up with?  How do your settings handle printing and literature?