Archives for posts with tag: RPGs

In one of the first episodes of Torchwood, the team encounters faeries. Related to my latest post about the fey, the faeries of Torchwood are mischievious, magical, and even murderous. Older by far than the humans and completely alien to us, they will not hesitate to kill to achieve their ends. Their victims are found without a mark, rose petals spilling from their mouths.

I quite liked the idea of fey assassins, so I’ve adopted and adapted it for my own purposes. The elves in my world are divided, some allied with the humans and some with the fey. There is a group of elves with unclear motives and alliances who have begun to kill, leaving no mark other than rose petals.

The group is made up of two ranks, the assassins and the foot soldiers. Each assassin has several levels in an arcane casting class, enough to allow him or her to cast phantasmal killer. They kill their victims magically, supported and protected by the foot soldiers. They specialize in killing quickly, quietly, and undetected.

I haven’t yet decided whether the group works for hire or is self-directed. They could easily play a part in political intrigue, or would make excellent rivals for a group of PCs.


Modern fantasy has largely repurposed elves. Elves used to be tricksters feared for their magic and otherworldliness, but especially in fantasy gaming elves have become ancient and noble creatures of high culture and learning. While thinking about the background of my gaming world I decided to adopt a more traditional approach to elves, and so I’ve come up with the following supposition:

Suppose the elves are not a race apart from humans, and suppose they are not ancient. Suppose the faeries left the feywild and entered the world of man, enslaving and entrancing it. Suppose they bred with humans and created the elves (and thus there are no half-elves). Suppose the humans and some of the elves rebelled and fought and drove the faeries back to the feywild (ie. were thrown out of the garden). Suppose there is a barrier, erected at great cost, and planar magic is dangerous and forbidden to most. Suppose some of the elves remain but are not exactly on great terms with the humans, and some of the elves get along fine.

The elves are a relatively new race, one trying to find its place in the world. They have magic in their blood and, like every other race, have as much potential for good as they do for evil. Still, there is something unsettling about them to most of my world’s inhabitants, and they will offer numerous roleplaying and plot opportunities. Furthermore, planar magic and the feywild will be an epic challenge and bring in traditional high fantasy stakes.

Ameron wrote a great post about suicide missions in roleplaying games. While (almost) no one likes to be surprised by a TPK, planning on a suicide mission can be a great way to amp up the tension. Heroic sacrifice is a traditional part of high fantasy, and there’s no reason you can’t make it part of a mission or even a campaign.

Of course, sacrifice need not be heroic. Knowingly going to one’s death is terrifying, to say the least. It may provide valuable perspective, and will certainly change the player’s outlook. Will they laugh in the face of death and live life to the fullest while taking heedless risks? Or will they take no risks and assure a meaningful sacrifice?

Add religion or ideology and a sacrifice can resonate for campaigns to come. Future characters might even be devotees of the famous martyr/saint from a previous campaign. Of course, this idea touches on a whole lot of social and political issues from the present time, so be sensitive and respect all points of view.

Photo by jerekeys

Why aren’t there more riots and civil disorder in roleplaying games? Because they’re a pain in the ass to run, and no PC has ever been able to mind his own business, that’s why. Here are some ways to introduce riots and revolution to your games.

  • Riots and mobs are massive, moving forces. Treat a riot like a large river, pushing the characters at random through the city. Characters may attempt to swim against the tide or out of it, but combat and spellcasting are impossible within the flood.
    • Violent riots may also deal small amounts of damage for every round a character is part of the crowd.
  • If the characters are in a city where riots are common, spring a riot on them without warning at random. Some quarters of the city are more likely to produce riots, of course.
  • Riots are a sign of instability and unrest. A skilled party may stir up or calm a mob at will, giving them leverage against a government or other powerful faction.
  • Barael’s Scythe is a relic of the third human empire. Barael, a humble farmer, carried it in a failed, forgotten revolution against the Shan. Barael whipped up a mob and led a suicide charge against an Imperial Guard unit stationed nearby. Against all odds, they successfully captured two dozen Guardsmen, whom they promptly executed. Barael was assassinated not long after, but his scythe has appeared at the forefront of riots and mobs all across Telmane.

How do you do riots and mobs?

I was really excited by Johnn’s post announcing the March carnival because: 1) life and death in RPGs offers a lot to play around with, and 2) his examples really sparked my imagination. To be honest, death doesn’t feature very heavily in my games. Nor does undeath, in fact. I’ve stayed away from vampires, liches, and zombies and I’ve never had a character death from one of my players.

However, in the near future I expect a shift toward death. I’m preparing a new campaign setting based in a city on the border with Morgau and Doresh, the realms detailed in Kobold Quarterly’s Imperial Gazeteer: The Principality of Morgau and Doresh, and Realms Subterranean. Here are a couple of ways I plan to include death:

  • The base city will be in contested territory—Morgau and Doresh to the northwest, Wyte and Tele to the south and southeast. The princes of the nearby realms have fought over it for centuries. About 70 years ago (1370), several powerful merchants declared an independent oligarchy and a bloody shadow war ensued, now called the Glorious Uprising. Morgau and Doresh used the opportunity to mount an offensive, using the defenders’ own corpses for fodder. The oligarchs rallied the city to fight the undead, using the external threat to solidify their power. While the oligarchy has relaxed in recent years and there is even some trade across the border, the fear of enemy agents is constant.
  • One artifact to be found during the campaign is the Axe of Imshandra. Imshandra was a holy warrior of Pharasma during the Third Human Empire, known for her devotion and fearlessness in battle. Ultimately slain during the assault on Lotherion, her reputation lived on, as did her weapon. Anyone who strikes the killing blow to a creature of at least equal prowess may shout, “I dedicate this death to Pharasma!” and receive the blessing of the goddess in the next encounter.
  • Few know that the city is on the edge of the long extinct First Human Empire. Exactly how and why the Empire perished is lost to time, but there is a small but active cult trying to revive it. The cult believes that the Empire is merely sleeping, waiting to be awoken by its loyal descendants. While they are active in several other cities, the cultists have begun to gather in this city. One of their prophets (actually a manifestation of the demigod Hos) wrote of a cataclysm to take place in the near future that would allow the cultists to perform the rituals necessary to raise the Empire. The appointed time approaches, and the cultists watch for omens. Little do the cultists know, of course, that they are being played by the demigods who plan to use the cultists to pierce the planar veil and manifest fully on the material plain.

So, that’s coming along. Sound exciting?

Over the next few months on this blog, I will develop parts of a world in which I hope to run some Pathfinder games in the near future. I will sketch out regions, nations, cities, factions, and denizens (sometimes literally). Things will likely be fluid as I change my mind, so I may add a wiki to keep track of every aspect of the project. Please read along and chime in—this is meant to be a learning experience for me, and community feedback will be vital.

What is this world called? I really don’t know yet.

Let’s be honest.  Most blogs shine when they have a real focus.  Most RPG blogs are just that: RPG blogs.  Perhaps they post interesting-and-random-but-related tidbits every now and then.  Ink Nouveau is a great pen ‘n’ blog that sticks to its mission with commendable zeal.  Some of my classmates, like Carey Pietsch and Steph Su, keep up sketchblogs and book review blogs and keep a tight focus.  Sure, there’s the occasional post about happiness, but part of what garners a loyal crowd of readers is keeping that laser-tight focus on your blog’s mission statement.

Why do I bring this up?  In a month’s time, my contract with Dreamhost is set to expire.  I bought my original hosting plan with a ridiculously cheap deal, something like $12/year for unlimited storage and bandwidth.  Over the past two years, I’ve tried to run a webcomic/sketchblog and a personal blog that morphed into an RPG blog.  I’ve had a whole lot of fun doing each of the above.  I’ve read some great game products, interviewed cool people, and engaged in some excellent dialogue with others in the blogosphere.  Unfortunately, I fear that the time for this blog has come to an end.

To be honest, I’m not sure why this blog is around any more.  My first blog, an utter embarrassment hosted on Blogger, was really just an experiment to see if I could make my voice heard on the web.  Surprise!  It worked.  I don’t know if anyone actually read it, but I could certainly publish with a click of a button.  This blog was more of an effort to see what I could do with a server.  Turns out I could learn some HTML and CSS.  It also turns out that I’m not very good at web design, but somehow I’ll just have to live with myself.  Now, two years later, I’ve experienced blogger drift.

Some people manage to make a living by writing about their opinions day in and day out.  We call them politicians, or, charitably, op-ed contributors.  Some people even manage to maintain a blog of random, awesome stuff.  Look at Boing Boing or Tom Scott.  They do really neat stuff and rarely fail to usually surprise us almost completely.

But, again, let’s be honest.  Writing the ridiculous amount of stuff that shows up on Boing Boing requires work.  First, you’ve got to have an idea.  I’d be curious to see how many ideas are tossed in the bin by Mark & Co. for every one that makes it out to the thousands of readers who visit the site every day.  Second, you’ve got to research your idea.  You can’t write a good news piece, interview, expose, or what have you without doing some basic research.  Then you’ve got to do some in-depth research.  Blogging may look like random, serendipitious fun, but the best stuff, the stuff that makes you add a site to your news feeds, is founded on some basic journalistic principles, like research.  Third, you’ve got to write your idea.  And fourth, you’ve got to edit your idea.  Those last two take only a pair of sentences between them, but in reality they can take hours to days.

And now I come round again to the reason why I’m assaulting your eyeballs today.  Blogging is fun, but it also requires a time commitment.  To build the sort of loyal, involved readership that I want requires a regular schedule and at least a couple of hours per week spent researching, writing, and editing (to say nothing of interacting with other, like-minded bloggers).  I do not think I can invest that kind of time every week.  That is not to say that I have done so in the past.  This blog is not Boing Boing.  This is not meant to be Boing Boing.  But I would like it to be a place of focus, a place where readers may reliably find new and exciting pieces of quality amateur journalism.  Whether it’s roleplaying games, writing instruments, speculative fiction, comics, or the state of professional journalism today, I want my blog to have a reason for being and I want every post to contribute meaningfully to that purpose.

For now, I shall think more about why I like to write and what I like to write about.  When my Dreamhost plan lapses, I may transplant the blog to another (free) host.  At the very least, I shall keep the domain name and an archive of the content from this blog.  Maintaining a self-hosted blog is no longer an option for me, but I plan to continue my online presence.  I have found in the past that eliminating commitments, even if they exist only in my head, is a liberating experience.  Sometimes it pays to reevaluate what you do and why you do it.  I’ve noticed my blogger drift and have decided that the time for reevaluation is now.

I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I love blogging, and that I love interacting with readers and other bloggers.  So, to all my readers and subscribers, whoever you may be, thank you.  I appreciate the time that you’ve invested in this blog over the past few years.  I don’t intend to disappear, but in a month this blog will likely not be what it was.  I hope it will be better.