Monday, September 19, 2016

Dragons of Renewal: DL1 Dragons of Despair


Image by Clyde Caldwell


It's been a while since my last update. Nearly a year, in fact. A variety of factors came into play, for a while I was running the original Dragonlance Chronicles adapted for the 13th Age ruleset. As of last Saturday (September 17th), my players ended the campaign and saved Krynn from evil. It last a good 7 to 8 months, all with players I consider good friends, and plenty of DMing notes to spare for adaption into blog posts. Now would be a perfect time to delve back into things, and what better way than looking at the adventure that started it all?

Overview

Dragons of Despair opens up with the PCs venturing to the quiet burg of Solace to reunite at the Inn of the Last Home. While there they get hints of dark tidings, from the Seeker movement on the search for a Blue Crystal Staff to goblins being hired to search for it. The crux of the module is that the cleric/prophet PC begins play with this treasured artifact, which she obtained from the ruins of Xak Tsaroth before Dragonarmy forces moved in and forced her to flee. The PCs can gain information sources from various places on the goings-on in the land of Abanasinia lately, from Inn patrons to visiting the Lordcity of Haven. But all in all, the crux of the adventure is to get to Xak Tsaroth and find the Discs of Mishakal and help bring knowledge of the True Gods to Krynn. While in the dungeon, the PCs descend a multi-level flooded ruins and fight a black dragon guarding the Discs and a bunch of other treasure?

Things to Change/Look Out For




The module suggests the PCs coming back to Solace in separate groups, each with their own encounters along the way to tell the rest of the party that things are not alright. This may or may not be a good idea depending on your party makeup and how your players feel about sitting around doing nothing while their fellows participate in several pieces of combat.

Fewmaster Toede is a Dragonarmy flunky and recurring villain who ends up promoted several times simply due to his superiors kicking the bucket. He's an overweight, cowardly, and arrogant fool with little redeeming qualities who the PCs will meet several times during the Dragonlance Chronicles. One of the possible first encounters with him has him ordering hobgoblin lackeys to attack the party. Depending on how your players feel about recurring villains, it's entirely possible that Toede will get killed in this encounter, even if on a horse (ranged attacks and spells can be a game-changer). If the GM wants to keep Toede around, perhaps have his presence be near the edges: seeing him as a boisterous bully in Solace demanding families tell him of the Blue Crystal Staff, or if escaping from a Seeker patrol amidst the linked trees of Solace seeing Toede off in the distance barking orders.

The Initial Hook: It's assumed that the Cleric/Prophet PC with the Blue Crystal Staff was already at Xak Tsaroth. That PC could be a great way to get the rest of the party into going to the dungeon. However, the main hook provided is having a mysterious old man in the Inn of the Last Home tell them to take the artifact there as part of a great destiny. This may be a bit cliche and overt for many groups. Another way is to have rumors that evil's afoot off to the east, that a strange army of monsters now inhabits a set of old Istaran ruins in the swamps to the east.

Pax Tharkas Rumors: The Dragonarmies do not have an overt presence in Abanasinia yet, instead having draconian minions go about in concealing robes and acting through intermediaries such as Toede. Even so, they're transporting slaves and prisoners of war to a fortress to the south. A refugee first tells the PCs in overland encounter 38 (AD&D version), telling him the specifics. Do not do this; although he tells the PCs to not head south and go to Xak Tsaroth first, it's likely that the PCs are heroic in nature as Dragonlance doesn't work well with evil-aligned protagonists. Hearing of this may cause them to go south as a first priority, bypassing the Discs of Mishakal.

Instead keep the hints of slavery as a background element; a friend of a friend claiming that their cousin went missing one day in Haven, or that a certain nomadic Plains tribe wasn't seen in their usual location route in the autumn months.

Xak Tsaroth Dungeon Crawl: There are many rooms with low numbers of baaz draconians. Fighting them one after another can get tedious after a while due to low enemy variety. This is going to be a common theme in Dragons of Renewal, but cutting out extraneous encounters (especially ones where the enemies are little better than easily-defeated mooks) can help speed things up and allow for focus on the more interesting encounters.

Interesting encounters in Xak Tsaroth include: a Huge Spider in a cellar in the Upper Levels (51a in AD&D, UXT21 in 3.5), swarm of poisonous snakes in Dance on the Wall (59b or UXT39), exposition talks among some draconians in Assembly and Mess Hall (64d and 64h/LXT8 and LXT 12), bozak draconian's high priest office (has spellcasting ability, 70h/LXT41), and of course the black dragon Khisanth/Onyx in the bottom room, the Court of Balance!



Overall, there isn't as much things to change in this adventure plotwise, at least in comparison to the following adventure Dragons of Flame. The PCs have quite a bit of places to explore, both in Xak Tsaroth and overland.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Why the Mediterranean is a great place to draw inspiration from for fantasy games

Two of my most-viewed articles are advice columns for deriving inspiration from Ancient Greece and the Byzantine Empire as fantasy counterpart cultures. For a long time I've been looking past Western Europe-style settings and folklore for new and interesting material, and found Byzantium's legacy neat enough to base an entire campaign around.

But beyond these two civilizations, the wider Mediterranean has plenty of material. This post is a snapshot of bits and pieces of things I've found in my amateur research.

The Cradle of Empires, A Melting Pot

Ancient Greece and Rome, the Byzantines, the Ottomans, Egyptian dynasties, Babylonia, Persia...countless renowned civilizations touched its waters, their legacies still standing in the forms of pyramids and architectural wonders. And perhaps more familiar to gamers, southern France and Spain touched its borders as well, and even the non-native Mongol Empire reached its eastern extremities as they sacked the Middle East.


Related to the previous entry, the diversity of civilizations in the Mediterranean provide a prime opportunity for taking fantasy counterpart cultures while retaining an authentic atmosphere. Arabian Nights-style fantasy, glorious pseudo-Roman metropolises, pyramids housing undead lords, feuding merchant houses in Vencian city-states, Slavic-style Balkan villages, and all the monsters and folklore of such cultures would make for a populous and interesting world for fantasy gaming.

Additionally, the sea as a central location would allow for the GM to let the PCs traverse uneventfully from one realm to another instead of worrying about buffer states and or glossing over the intervening lands ("no no, in order to get to the Sultanate of Kremdora you'll need to traverse the Dragonlands first, and that's if you manage to make it out of the Dire Desert, and then we can have adventures there").

Mobile War Altars



The Carrocio, or war altar, was an iconic possession of medieval Italian cities. Its use was to boost morale, displaying the city's coat of arms as priests gave sermons and trumpeters encouraged soldiers to battle. Each Carrocio was the pride and joy of its people, and for the enemy to seize it was considered a major defeat no matter the eventual outcome.

How can this be adopted for fantasy gaming? Perhaps the Carrocio has magic powers, capable of boosting bardic music and divine spells as long as the person standing upon it gives a good performance or sermon. Extending the range of such abilities to many soldiers would make this a coveted prize for any army, thus explaining their high priority.

Armor-breaking Swords and Damascus Steel



The flyssa is a sword which was popular in use among the Berber (Amazigh) tribes of North Africa. The blade was specifically designed to break open chainmail armor, a common means of defense in that region of the world.

Additionally, the city of Damascus in what is now modern-day Syria was known for its namesake Damascus Steel. This material was used in the creation of distinctive swords notable for aesthetic patterns similar in design to flowing water. The secrets of their creation died with the artisans, and to this day modern engineers can only theorize as to the techniques used. All the same, its high quality gave rise to many legends, such as the ability to cleanly cut through a rifle barrel and finely split a strand of hair.

In fantasy gaming, flyssa swords might provide a bonus for the purposes of sundering armor, a technique normally reserved for maces and other blunt weapons. A secret society of artisans using Damascus-style Steel might be able to create unique magical swords.

A Turkish Subterranean City



Derinkuyu was a multi-level underground city in the ancient world capable of holding as many as 20,000 people within its confines. Not only could the front gates be closed off via stone doors, each level was capable of cutting itself off from the above levels in a similar manner. Schools, stables, cellars, chapels, and other urban accommodations were believed to be present. The city was used for protecting the populace from invaders several times during the Byzantine reign.


I might expand further on the region, including specific entries for fantasy counterpart cultures such as Egypt, Mongol armies, the Balkan Mountains, and others once I do enough research. All the same, I hope I wet your whistle in the potential the Mediterranean has for fantasy RPGs!

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Larius Firetongue's School of Sorcery: First Draft is Done!



Little Witch Academia 2 Art


Pack your adventuring gear and spell component pouches, for magic school's just around the corner for the OSR!

One hundred and six pages. 36,619 words. All in MicroSoft Word, and I figure it's going to be even bigger once I add in page backgrounds and artwork! Even though it's still in development, this is my biggest piece of work yet and most of the tasks remaining involve the help of others. Fortunately I have plenty of stock art to fill the book's interior, but in terms of editing, cover art, and maps, those still need to be done and people hired. I can't predict when this will all be finished, but I'm confident in saying that we're nearing the finish line.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Kickstarter Project Throne of Night inspires letter-writing campaign

Comprehensive article I wrote on Throne of Night in general.

Paizo post suggesting letter-writing to KickStarter staff.

Comment section updates.

Derek Blakely/Kevin Video was one of the most optimistic and hopeful of Throne of Night's backers. But everyone has their breaking point, and apparently when the project owner Gary McBride logged back in to back 2 more projects with no contact or update, that was the final straw. He encouraged fellow backers to contact KickStarter staff with the appropriate forms and to let them know the problems.

This started something, as many further posts in the Paizo thread were responses of people following suit. As of this posting, several hours ago Derek said that he got a response from KickStarter staff, who said that they'd contact Gary McBride got grew concerned that nobody else was able to get in contact with him.

Although I wonder why something like this didn't happen earlier with contacting KickStarter, it is interesting in that I haven't often heard of similar tactics done for other vaporware and failed crowdfunding projects in the tabletop fandom. Either way it's interesting to see, and I wonder if it will have an impact on future projects.

Monday, July 18, 2016

D&D 5th Adventures now on OneBookShelf as Fantasy Grounds supplements

While browsing through the newest releases of Drive-Thru RPG's online catalog, I noticed that several prominent adventures and the three core rulebooks for 5th Edition are now available for sale as Fantasy Grounds expansions produced by SmiteWorks.











I can imagine that many Fantasy Grounds players are excited by this. Hopefully this means that the rulebooks and adventures themselves will be for sale in PDF format soon for us non-Fantasy Grounds gamers.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Weavebound: a Godbound Hack for the Forgotten Realms


Elminster Must Die cover art by Kekai Kotaki

The Forgotten Realms is a setting well-known for its high-octane action, where the battles of gods and archmages scour the surrounding land, a drow warrior without peer fights off hundreds of orcs by his lonesome, and elder evils such as illithid overlords and krakens plot the domination of the sunlit nations beneath the major metropolises of the world. It is a realm of high adventure and epic deeds.

Although a feature of many D&D games, the setting has been described as a high-powered world, sometimes to its detriment. While there are many adventures for more typical power levels in Faerûn, there is an appeal for the PCs to get the spotlight, when they can challenge Manshoon or Szass Tam directly, match wits and magic with Larloch the Netherese archmage, or challenge the god-dragon Tchazzar and put a stop to his reign of terror in Chessenta. Unfortunately, the level of power for such things in most Editions is either a.) nonexistant/capped below that point; b.) has really wonky math or unfinished rules, or c.) the amount of options at that level can overwhelm most DMs especially when magic is involved.

While reading Kevin Crawford's Godbound, it hit all the right points for this kind of game. It was high-power yet rules-lite, used a familiar framework of Basic D&D/OSR which can map well onto the Realms, and the province of using one's power and sway to change the world from villages to even entire nations via Dominion and Influence sits well in a game where you don't just feel like you're playing second fiddle to author favorites.

So then I thought, what about a setting hack? Use the Godbound rules to simulate epic heroes on the level of Elminster, Storm Silverhand, and even the deities who walked upon Faerûn during the Time of Troubles?

The Time of Troubles: the Premiere Era



Shadowdale: the Scouring of the Land by William O'Connor

The year 1358 was a time of chaos and uncertainty for the world of Toril. The evil gods Myrkul and Bane stole the Tablets of Fate, the divine inscriptions listing the portfolio of influence of every deity. When the leader of the gods Ao summoned the many pantheons to his side, he asked the guilty party to step forward. When nobody stepped forth, he punished them all by casting them into the Material Plane confined to their less power avatar forms. In spite of being mortal, the deities were still extraordinarily powerful, but did not possess the mastery of the portfolios they once had.

The PCs number among these gods. While Ao intends this harsh lesson to teach the deities to be grateful for the powers they had and to more personally connect with their worshipers in the mortal world, this may not necessarily be the case. Many deities are resentful and seek a way to gain back their former status, even including fighting and killing their now-mortal peers in hopes of absorbing their power. Others search for the Tablets of Fate as a way to earn repentance. Many go into hiding, fearful of their many enemies, while others use their still-mighty status to build influence as god-kings such as the red dragon Tchazzar.

Who are your fallen gods? And what shall they do in this Time of Troubles?

Adventure Hooks for Weavebound

Band of Brothers: The Godbound PCs are all members of the same pantheon, such as the elven Seldarine or the Mulhorandi pantheon. This is a good means of tying the party together, as they are all familiar with each other and can laser-focus their efforts on a single culture or region as an immediate motivation.

Deicide: Of greatest concern to the former immortals is the law of divine absorption. When a deity slays another deity, the killer assumes the conceptual influences of the murdered. A goddess of fire who kills a god of travel and the open road becomes a deity of both purview. While it can be a tempting draw to power, it is just as much a shield; a kindly, just deity would be loathe to absorb the essence of a god of hate and suffering.

Still, this does not present some from contemplating the unthinkable, of slaying a god. Cyric is the most famous example, but certain learned mortals and rival deities present a looming danger. Making a difference in the world and building up Dominion makes you a target for those who crave power.

Mechanics: Slaying a a fellow Godbound means that they can purchase one of their related Words for 1 point instead of 3 when gaining a level. Until then, they're still new and unused to this new domain of influence and must spend time mastering their new nature.

Generally speaking, the murder of a deity should be a momentous occasion, whether it's a PC or NPC. Either a mortal has ascended or an existing deity wields more metaphysical influence. Generally speaking most deities are aware of this rule and will usually find other ways to conquer and divert the plans of their rivals. For example, Lolth might threaten Corellon's Dominions and factions, making him less powerful and thus less able to challenge her will. Alternatively a Godbound beaten into submission by another might be imprisoned in a magical ward, a remote dungeon, or a similar location.

Basically, your PCs should feel free to rule openly if they so desire and it fits their character. Let them reap the joys of godhood, but also remind them that there are threats to all that they built.

Redemption: It's possible that the PCs might view retrieving the Tablets of Fate as their primary goal. There's no doubt it was stolen by one of their fellows, but who remains the question. In Forgotten Realms canon, it was Bane and Myrkul, but you can throw a twist in the mix by having a similar antagonistic deity do the deed. Shar is a good choice, as is Lolth, Ilsensine, Mask, Tiamat, and/or Loviatar.

Naturally, finding the Tablets should be a mighty feat spanning adventures. Even if the thief is not a God/dess of Deception or Secrets, they doubtlessly called in favors to place it in a realm beyond realms guarded by their most faithful and most powerful servants.

Adversaries for Weavebound

There's already plenty of existing Forgotten Realms material to draw on, so I won't repeat them here. However the world of Toril is full of threats worthy of challenging gods walking the earth.

Archmages: Elminster, Khelben Blackstaff, Larloch, Manshoon, Szass Tam, the list goes on. Masters of arcane power are the most commonly known characters of this setting aside from renegade drow.

The Eldritch stat block (p. 148) is perfect for the many mages of Faerûn, although one should not be tempted to make each one a 36 Hit Die Master Eldritch. Even a Greater Eldritch can do a good job of replicating many of the big names here, and the myriad rules for Low Magic and invocations do a good enough job of replicating common powers. If you own the Deluxe version of Godbound, there is advice for Converting Powers from Other Games (p. 235) and the Creating Mortal Heroes section talks about turning Vancian Casting into a talent (p. 193).


From Faiths & Pantheons

Bane & the Zhentarim: one of the two gods who hid away the Tablets of Fate, this mighty figure of tyranny is more than eager to make his mark on Faerûn, whether by acting through his agents in the Zhentarim or leading whole armies to conquer regions. Any PCs who start making their marks on the world will doubtlessly attract his attention. Bane tolerates no competition, and if he can kill a god with a portfolio he desires, so much the better.

Bane's stats should change during the course of the campaign. He should be strong enough to be a threat in straight combat for an entire pantheon of Godbound (Creating New Foes, p. 166), but climb in power as they do instead of remaining static. What should remain constant is his access to the Command, Might, and Sword Words, with powers dedicated to showing off his dominance and power such as Cutting the Crimson Road and The Soldier's Faithful Heart. He might gain the Wealth Word if the Zhentarim continues to grow unchallenged.

                               

From 3rd Edition Dungeon Master's Guide

Cyric: Originally a mortal mercenary, the man known as Cyric obtained the legendary sword known as Godsbane which he used to kill Bhaal and become a true god. His path of destruction and deicide during the Time of Troubles made him one of the most powerful (and dangerous) entities of Faerûn.

Unlike Bane, Cyric is a more subtle, lonesome entity. Lusting after power, his desire is to kill as many deities as possible, absorbing their portfolios in the hopes of becoming the supreme divine entity of all reality.

Cyric's stats before godhood should be a Mortal Hero (p. 154) with the Walk Between the Rain (Alacrity), Contempt of Distance (Sword), and Thirsting Razor (Sword) gifts. When he slays Bhaal and then Leira, he becomes a full Godbound with the Death, Deception, and Sword Words.

Like Bane, he should grow in power as the PCs do, albeit with a wider variety of Words as he slays more deities.

Godsbane

Effort: 4 Creation Cost: 14 Dominion

Godsbane was the sword-form of Mask, God of Shadows and Thieves, during the Time of Troubles. Those who wielded it inevitably went mad, as the blade coaxed them to murder others to sustain on souls. Upon murdering a victim, the body is drained entirely of blood and the sword glows for a while with a reddish hue.

Keeper of the Grave (Lesser Gift): You learn exactly where every corpse, undead or fragment of remains are within 200 feet and their identity in life. You can tell exactly how they died as if you had observed their death personally. If you Commit Effort you have an invincible defense against lesser undead.

Deplete Health (Greater Gift): Commit Effort for the scene and choose a target. They sicken, falling to half their current hit dice or hit points, rounded up. Worthy foes get a Hardiness save to resist. The lost hit dice return at the scene’s end if the creature is not dead. This gift does not stack multiple times.

Mortals who wield the sword become increasingly psychotic, eager to slay others for the thrill of the kill. All but the strongest-willed mortals (or those with the aid of a deity) can resist this urge.


Dragon's Dogma Concept Art by Craig Mullins

Dragons: Albeit reclusive in modern times, the dragons of Toril are one of the oldest and most dangerous creatures. Many lair in well-defended caves and fortifications, usually supplicated less powerful races offering tribute in exchange for protection. A few dragons, such as the Moreume clan of the North and Tchazzar of Chessenta, rule entire communities.

Dragons can deal their damage as an area attack in the form of a breath weapon with a range of 60'. Said breath weapons vary widely in energy types, and they have an invincible defense against the type chosen for their breath weapon. Many dragons have fledgling knowledge in the magical arts and might have Adept of the Gate, while the older wyrms almost always know Adept of the Way, and the greatest can use Way of the Throne.

As for Tchazzar, he's no mere dragon, but a shard of Tiamat. He's a Great Wyrm with access to the Fire, Sorcery, and Wealth Words, and the ruler of his own country. With his wealth and peerless power and knowledge, he's more than a match for all but the mightiest pantheons of Godbound.

Dragon
Adult
Elder
Great Wyrm
AC
4
3
2
Hit Dice
15
24
36
Attack
+10 x2 attacks
+10 x2 attacks
Two automatic hits
Damage
1d10 claw/bite straight
1d12 claw/bite straight
1d12 claw/bite straight
Move
60’ fly
60’ fly
120’ fly
Save
8
5
3
Morale
10
11
12
Effort
7
10
15




Dungeon Magazine #24, cover artist unknown

Illithid: Also known as mind flayers for their primary means of sustenance, illithid are among the most powerful creatures of the Underdark. They seek to turn other races into mentally-dominated thralls for the betterment of their undercities.

All races of illithid are able to telepathically communicate with an intelligent being within 100'. Neothelid are gargantuan worms capable of tunneling through solid rock. Elder Brains, meanwhile, are the undisputed masters of the illithid. They possess access to the Knowledge Word and knows 2 or 3 lesser gifts from it.

Illithid
Mind Flayer
Neothelid
Elder Brain
AC
5
3
6
Hit Dice
5
20
36
Attack
+7
+10 x2 attacks
Two automatic hits
Damage
1d8 psychic blast
1d12 crush straight
1d12 straight
Move
30
60' burrow
60’ fly
Save
12
7
5
Morale
9
12
11
Effort
1
6
12

The Natural Laws of Toril's Divinities

This is mostly flavor text, but covers generic rules for the divinities of Toril and thus common knowledge for the PCs.

The many gods and goddesses of the Forgotten Realms are Estelar, exemplars of chosen portfolios, just about anything which can exist in a tangential form or drives people as an ideal. They are either mortals elevated to such a status by Ao or allowed to allowed to be worshiped in the case of ones from foreign realms. They also derive power from the faith and worship of mortals, and the lack of devotion can be inimical to a deity's power, even leading to metaphysical death. Many are grouped into pantheons, usually with a common theme or relationship binding them together.

Deities can manifest in the Material Plane via the creation of an avatar, a less-powerful yet still mighty extension of their awareness. As of the Time of Troubles, every deity save Helm is stuck in avatar form. With time (and learning the Apotheosis Word) they can commune with worshipers, but their overall cosmic awareness is far less than it once was in their original forms.

Alternative Campaigns



Playing as fallen divinities during the Time of Troubles is a natural fit for a Godbound setting hack, but the high power level of the Forgotten Realms makes other campaign styles possible.

Defenders of the Weave: The PCs are all Chosen of Mystra, imbued with divine power by the Goddess of Magic and tasked with fighting evil and investigating disruptions in the Weave. Not all Chosen operate together, but they have a common patron and goals which inevitably draw them to the sight of trouble. Whether it's a maddened avatar of Shar creating a dead magic zone across a country or a Thayan tyrant building a doomsday device, you can guarantee that the Chosen of Mystra will be there!

Mechanics: All Chosen of Mystra are treated as Godbound with access to three Words, each representing a common magical tradition or pathway (such as Death for necromancers). They are immune to the ravages of age and can weaponize pure Weave energy into a bright form known as Silver Fire by Committing Effort. Silver Fire can be used as a ranged weapon out to 100 feet and counting as a magical weapon. It can destroy up to one foot of nonliving material per use.

Netheril's Last Breath: Wind the clocks back to the last years of the Empire of Netheril, It is hard to tell that their golden age is over: humans live in utopian sky-cities where every commoner is versed in low-magic to make their lives easier. There is little need for the magic of the gods, as innovations in spellcraft provide for most of the people's needs and the elite are well-removed from the strife and troubles of the world below.

Still, things stir to threaten humanity's greatest achievement and folly: the Phaerimm seek to wage war on the floating cities whose residual magic pollutes the earth below with devastating sorceries. Random mishaps in magic cause archmages to go into hiding or die at the hands of vicious rivals, resulting in political upheaval. Karsus, the greatest archmage to have ever lived, seeks to steal the mantle of godhood from Mystra herself, all to save the land he knows and loves.

The mood and theme of this campaign is impending doom. Like it or not, the face of Faerûn is going to be changed forever. The PCs might avert the worst of it, but it will take a lot of time, effort, Influence, and Dominion. Encouraging communities to swear off magic to avoid supernatural residue from afflicting the surface shall leave them open to attacks from rival city-states and vengeful phaerimm. Diverting unstable Weave energy to another location only shunts the problem elsewhere, creating a temporary reprieve which can come back back to haunt them with even worse troubles.

There is still opportunity for heroism. The PCs can be the leaders the people of Netheril, no, the world, needs. They can use their magic to shelter refugees and confound the phaerimm, or even call upon the "barbarous" low-land nations for aid who are long used to fighting the horrors of the world without magic. The PCs might even be traditional gods, less-powerful avatars stepping into the Material Plane before things get even worse to set things right.

Or they can be like so many of their peers and pick the remnants of Netheril's treasure and glory like vultures upon a carcass before fleeing to safer pastures. But even sorcerous looting is dangerous; you'll need to build safehouses to store your treasures, anti-scrying wards to evade the notice of the phaerimm and rival mages, and get past the defenses of rival city-states and outrun pursuit of those you betrayed.

Mechanics: The PCs are newly-appointed archmage rulers in one or more of the sky-cities. They are treated as Godbound who are free divinities (p. 19) with access to the Sorcery Word and two others of their choice. Dominion can be used to repair areas of unstable magic in the Weave or even divert them elsewhere, being treated as changing a Fact (p. 126 to 128).

Concluding Thoughts

I may contribute future articles to this campaign hack if there's enough interest. Given the size and scope of Ed Greenwood's shared world, I only scratched the surface of possibilities for a Godbound campaign. Still, I hope that I covered enough ground to spur people's imaginations and get the muse fired up.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Larius Firetongue's School of Sorcery Excerpt: the Bard Class



In some lands they are known as sha’ir, poets who communicate with spirits in exchange for knowledge and magical power. In others they are skalds, warriors who retell the deeds of legendary heroes to inspire their fellows in battle. And in the distant south they are griots, lorekeepers who pass down the history and traditions of their people. Whatever form they take, bards are learned folk who express their knowledge through performance and magical powers.

Prime Attribute: Intelligence and Charisma 13+ (a bard character gains a +5% experience bonus only if all of their prime attributes are 13 or higher)
Hit Dice: 1d6/level (a bard gains just one hp/level after 9th)
Armor/Shield Permitted: Bards can only wear leather armor and use shields.
Weapons Permitted: Bards can use any weapon they can get their hands on, although they need at least one hand free in order to play an instrument and cast spells.
Attack Tables: Bards use the Magic-User, Thief, and Assassin attack table.

Table: Bard Advancement


Level
Experience
Hit Die (d6)
Saving Throw
Class Abilities
1st
0
1
15
Spell Casting, Social Butterfly
2nd
2,000
2
14
Citizen of the World
3rd
4,000
3
13
Fascinate
4th
8,000
4
12

5th
13,000
5
11
Thief Magic Items
6th
20,000
6
10

7th
40,000
7
9

8th
60,000
8
8

9th
90,000
9
7
Establish College
10th
130,000
9+1 hp
6

11th
200,000
9+2 hp
5

12th
400,000
9+3 hp
4

13th
800,000
9+4 hp
4

14th
950,000
9+5 hp
4

15th
1,100,000
9+6 hp
4

16th
1,250,000
9+7 hp
4

17th
1,400,000
9+8 hp
4

18th
1,550,000
9+9 hp
4

19th
1,700,000
9+10 hp
4

20th
1,850,000
9+11 hp
4



Table: Bard Spells


Level
1st
2nd
3rd
4th
5th
6h
1st
1
-
-
-
-
-
2nd
2
-
-
-
-
-
3rd
2
1
-
-
-
-
4th
2
1
-
-
-
-
5th
3
1
1
-
-
-
6th
3
2
1
-
-
-
7th
3
2
2
1
-
-
8th
4
2
2
1
-
-
9th
4
3
2
2
-
-
10th
4
3
3
2
1
-
11th
5
3
3
3
2
-
12th
5
4
3
4
3
-
13th
5
4
4
4
4
1
14th
6
4
5
4
4
2
15th
6
5
5
4
4
3
16th
6
5
5
4
4
3
17th
7
5
6
5
4
3
18th
7
6
6
5
5
3
19th
7
6
6
5
5
3
20th
8
6
7
5
5
3


Requirements and Limitations

Musical Dependency for Spellcasting

Bards can only work their magic when able to perform. They tap into the collective consciousness of mortal culture and emotion as expressed through song, tales, and all manner of art throughout the ages. Much like a cleric’s holy symbol or a druid’s mistletoe, a bard needs a musical instrument to focus their spells. Singing, dancing, and similar performances are an exception to this, but require the bard's hands to be free as they gesticulate for dramatic effect.

Class Abilities

Spell Casting

Bards cast spells from a specific list. Like magic-users they carry a spellbook known as a bardic journal which they use to prepare their spells each day. The spellbooks of bards and magic-users are cross-compatible yet limited; a magic-user can transcribe spells from a bardic journal provided that said spell is on the magic-user spell list, and vice-versa.

The contents of bardic journals appear much like a private diary, with haphazard notes, musical sheets, and all manner of trivia with little rhyme or reason.

Saving Throw Bonuses

Bards gain a +2 bonus on saving throws vs. mind-controlling and sound-based effects.

Social Butterfly

Whether they’re a warrior-poet, traveling minstrel, or esteemed spiritualist, bards find it easy to influence people. As long as they’re in a settlement of at least 100 people, a bard can find basic accommodations at an inn or similar place of service for a party of five provided they entertain patrons.

Additionally, a bard can roll 1d20 once per day whenever they’re in a similarly-sized settlement (magic schools, roaming armies, and the like count for this). If the result is less than or equal to their Charisma, they pick up a piece of information about latest gossip and upcoming events which folks might otherwise only volunteer to trusted friends and not complete strangers.

Citizen of the World

Bards pick up many phrases, stories, and speech patterns of different lands as well as their writing. Starting at 2nd level a bard gains fluency in a bonus language, and another language at every even-numbered level thereafter.

Fascinate

A bard’s performance is mesmerizing, whatever form it takes. When outside of combat a bard is capable of entrancing 2d4 + level in Hit Dice worth of spectators. Those with Hit Dice greater than or equal to the bard’s can roll a saving throw to resist, but those affected become distracted and unaware of their surroundings. This can allow thieves to sneak around or enemy soldiers to mount a surprise attack.

This effect immediately ends if at least one member of the audience is attacked or killed in an obvious fashion, or if a person or event interrupts the bard’s performance.

May Use Thief Items

Bards can use any magic items usable by Thieves, plus any magic weapons, armor (leather only), and shields.

Establish College

At 9th level, the bard may establish or become leader of a bardic college. Such places act as centers of learning for new initiates, and contain much in the way of art, music, and culture. The bard will attract students and teachers over time seeking to learn by their example.

Bard Spell List

Spells marked with an asterisk (*) are detailed in the New Spells section on page xx.

1st: Charm Person, Detect Magic, Good Cheer*, Keen Ear*, Read Languages, Read Magic, Song of the First Era*, Song of the Hopeful Knight*

2nd: Cure Light Wounds, ESP, Magic Mouth, Phantasmal Force, Righteous Castigation*, Song of the Stalwart Companions*, Tongues*

3rd: Crescendo*, Fear, Invisibility, Knock, Mirror Image, Rope Trick, Suggestion

4th: Charm Monster, Confusion, Cure Serious Wounds, Danse Macabre*, Legend Lore

5th: Charm Plants, Contact Other Plane, Quest


6th: Conjuration of Elementals, Feeblemind, Mass Charm, Song of the Last Great Hero*


New Spells

Crescendo
Level: Bard 3
Range: 30’ radius

The caster produces a high-pitched note. Targets within range take 1d6 damage per level of the cast, and fragile objects with a low natural resonance (crystals, glass, etc) shatter. A successful saving throw means that the target takes only half damage.

Danse Macabre
Level: Bard 4th
Range: 60’ radius
Duration: Concentration or until dispelled

This spell takes the form of a recited song or tale, taking 1 round to cast. Upon completion, all undead within range of the spellcaster feel an overwhelming compulsion to dance for the duration of the spell. Mindless undead are automatically affected, while intelligent undead can resist with a saving throw. Dancing undead have a 50% chance per round to fight or cast spells normally, otherwise they spend the entire round dancing. Regardless of the result, dancing undead can only move at half speed.

The caster can only affect a number of undead whose total Hit Dice is twice his own.

Good Cheer
Level: Bard 1
Duration: 8 hours
Range: 60’ radius

After casting this spell, those resting nearby the bard find their spirits uplifted. When recovering damage naturally from uninterrupted rest, a character heals 1 hit point plus 1 hit point per level of the bard provided they remain within the spell’s radius. For example, someone resting while under the benefit of this spell cast by a fifth-level Bard heals 6 hit points per day.

Keen Ear**
Level: Bard 1, Unseen 1
Duration: 6 turns
Range: Touch

The subject gains the ability to hear noise as a level 3 thief. If the character already has the ability to hear noise at an exceptional level, this grants a further +1 on his hear noise checks.


Righteous Castigation
Level: Bard 2
Duration: 1d6 turns
Range: 30’

The caster condemns the target for their shortfalls and misdeeds. If the target fails a saving throw, they suffer a +2 penalty (-2 if ascending) on Armor Class as they’re rattled by the words. Lawful targets gain a +2 bonus on their Saving Throw, and mindless beings and those of pure evil such as demons have no conscience and are immune to this spell.

Song of the First Era
Level: Bard 1
Duration: Instantaneous
Range: N/A

This spell takes the form of a recited song or tale, taking 3 rounds to cast. Upon completion the bard makes an Intelligence roll in regards to recalling information, treating their attribute as 4 points higher for this purpose. If successful, a part of the performance provides an insightful piece of lore relevant to the situation at hand.

Song of the Hopeful Knight
Level: Bard 1
Duration: Concentration or until dispelled
Range: 60’ radius

This spell takes the form of a recited song or tale, taking 1 round to cast. Upon completion all allies within range gain a +1 bonus to attack rolls. This bonus persists for as long as the bard concentrates or until the spell is dispelled.

Song of the Last Great Hero
Level: Bard 6
Duration: Concentration or until dispelled
Range: 30’

This spell takes the form of a recited song or tale, taking 1 round to cast. Upon completion a spectral spirit of 16 HD appears, who was a renowned mortal in their old life. The spirit obeys the cast only for as long as the caster concentrates on it, after which they will discorporate and return to their home plane.

Last Great Hero: HD 16; AC 3 [16]; Atk Spectral weapon or spell ray (3d6); MV Fly 15; SV 4; AL Same as caster; CL/XP N/A; Special Undead Traits

Song of the Stalwart Companions
Level: Bard 2
Duration: Concentration or until dispelled
Range: 60’

This spell takes the form of a recited song or tale, taking 1 round to cast. Upon completion all allies within the radius gain morale (if said ally is not a player character) and gain a +2 bonus on saving throws versus spells and effects which would cause fear or alter their mental state such as charm person and confusion. If any allies are under said effects when the spell is cast, they immediately gain a new saving throw to resist.

Tongues
Level: Bard 2, Magic-User 3
Duration: 1 hour per level
Range: Touch

The target of this spell gains the ability to speak and understand any verbal language, but not to read or write it.



**Keen Ear first appeared in Magical Theorems & Dark Pacts by Dyson Logos.