Thursday, January 29, 2009

Ecology of the Gaming Table - Part 1: The Table

Welcome to this new series! Find out how to optimize your gaming pleasure in the real world. Learn how to create a comfortable gathering place and thus how to maximize the roleplaying experience for you and your friends.

Let's start with the gaming table itself. Some cool roleplayers have already posted pictures of their projects. Gone are the days when you had to play at the kitchen table.

The guys at Agyris built a custom rpg table from scratch, complete with player stations and a MDS (message delivery systems).

You may already know this from Dragon Magazine, but it's always a classic worth re-posting. See how the cool people from Pen, Paper, and Pixel used a projector to enhance their gaming table.

“If there’s a Gamer Heaven, I hope it has rooms like this.” said Andy Collins about this ultimate gaming table. This table even has a name. Check out "The Avenger"

Friday, January 23, 2009

Motherland Campaign Setting part 7 - The Drow of Talem-Dûr

The drow were once known as dark elves for their obsidian colored skin. At that time drow were simply underground cousins of the elves that lived in the valleys and forests above. Although only a few dark elves were downright evil, most were at least moody, arrogant and generally nasty.

The dark elves were always masters of the realms below. They built fantastic and bizarre underground cities, and were very knowledgeable in arcane matters and warfare. Maybe because of the harsh environment they were living in, the dark elves always felt a little bit superior compared to their surface brethren. On many occasions this feeling turned into haughtiness that continuously isolated them from other friendly races.

One such event, caused a dramatic change in the dark elves society. A powerful dark elven wizard managed to summon an ancient spider demoness from her vile dimension. Immediately the demon began to taint and seduce the susceptible chaotic underground elves. Soon the spider demon and her vassal gained control over an army of at least ten thousand dark elves, willing to wreak havoc and cause chaos among the weak races.

Every dark elf who spoke against the spider demon was brutally sacrificed at her unholy altar. Then something unexpected happened. When a group of rebels led by a high elven cleric of Sharladalain prayed for help and guidance in their misery, an avatar of the elven goddess appeared, and led them into battle against the evil spider demon. Under the guiding light of the goddess Sharladalain they found the demoness in her spidery lair and attacked. The two powerful beings clashed together in a gigantic battle. When it seemed that the elven goddess would prevail suddenly the dark elf army of the demon swarmed upon the avatar like millions of tiny spiders. When Sharladalain looked into the insane faces of her children, she felt incredible grieve for a single moment. In this very moment the demon spider attacked the goddess with a vicious bite that killed the avatar. Within seconds the spider demon wrapped the body into a big cocoon. Then the demoness started to suck from the dead body. After she absorbed enough divine essence, she left the body for her followers, who in turn feasted upon the slain avatar like frenzied ghouls. As they gulped the last pieces of the goddess and absorbed her power a new race was born: the drow

Today the drow are a sinister race of twisted demon-worshiping elves. Over the years they formed a matriarchal society, ruled by bloated mother-queens who continuously spawn young drows, each one suited for a certain purpose, like assassin, soldier, worker, wizard or priestesses. Their society is full of decadence and malice. From their spider demon patron the drow adapted many perverse habits, such as keeping living creatures webbed and left to ripen. They also found a way to control spiders and even developed spider related magic. The Drow see themselves as the pinnacle of all intelligent races. All other races will eventually be either slaves or exterminated like vermin. Beside the spider demon drow venerate other demons like a fiendish aboleth lord, and many more dark entities.

A small number of dark elves escaped the transformation. They lack the supernatural powers of the drow, and live somewhere hidden in exile.

(c) Copyright 2009 by Markus Brixius. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Motherland Campaign Setting part 6 - The Dwarves of Talem Dûr

This article describes the dwarves of the Motherland Campaign setting. Here you find a general write up, and a particular breed of the Talem Dûr dwarves. Stay tuned for other dwarvenkin in the future.

Dwarves are shorter and stockier than humans. They average four feet in height, with squat, broad bodies, and solidly muscled. Their bodies seem purposely built for manual labor and warfare. Dwarves are nearly always bearded and grow thick facial hair. Female dwarves normally don't grow beards, and are very rarely seen outside dwarven realms. Dwarves are a very long lived race with lifespans of more than 300 years. As a dwarf becomes older so his beard becomes longer and thicker. Since dwarfs have a deep respect for age they would not cut off or trim their beards. Instead they skillfully groom their beards with braids and adorn them with other decorations but let them always grow naturally. Their skin, eye, and hair color ranges from a gray to a brownish tan.

Dwarven society is organized into strongholds each governed by a mountain king or thane. The kings of each stronghold are independent but during times of trouble a dwarven High King is elected, who takes ultimate charge. With the regalia of power he is fighting at the forefront of the battle, leading by valiant example. Unfortunately the dwarven regalia of powers are currently lost deep under Mount Ironheart, after a terrible incident. Outside of their strongholds dwarves are organized into clans. Clans are family-like structures of common ancestry.

Dwarves are widely known for their fine craftsmanship both with stone and metal, as they have a deep knowledge of the earth's secrets, which they protect jealously. As a result they pretty much distrust everyone else.

Dwarves venerate their ancestors, especially from their own clans.

The dwarven language (auld dwarwish or dwarvish for short) has not changed noticeably in the past 2500 years. The first original runes used as a written language are displayed in a temple in the city of Ironheart. However dwarves normally don't speak dwarvish in the company of others. When they speak their native tongue they do that in deep, resonant voices.

When not working or fighting dwarves love to drink, ruble and revel heavily in their clan's feast hall.

Ironheart Dwarves: These were once the stone dwarves (also known as mountain dwarves) of the Ironheart Mountain. Almost nine generations ago they were driven from their underground kingdom by a terrible enemy. Now they live above ground in the shadow of the snow-capped Ironheart Mountain in the city of Thunderhold. The Ironhearts are a stoic and sullen breed of dwarves, always talking about their glorious past and their return to the depths of the mountain when the time is right. They almost never talk about how they lost their home for they regard the circumstances of the incident as a great shame.
Nowadays most of these dwarves have lost their touch to the old days in the underground, as they live urban lives for generations now. Some established shops, inns, or merchant houses in the mountain city, and have earned a reputation as honest but tough traders. Other less honorable dwarves live in the lower parts of Thunderhold as beggars or muggers.
The Vigilant Lamplighters Guild is almost exclusively run by Ironheart Dwarves. While they pretend to be a normal guild they also have another agenda. The Lamplighters Guild constantly guard the street, looking for any signs of danger from their former underground realm. They patrol the old gateways to the mountains, looking for any sign of their enemy. The lights they carry through the streets is also a sign of importance to the dwarves. Since they were driven off their homes they tend a flame in their headquarter that they will one day carry to the depths of the mountain to lit their halls again. Carrying the light through the city is also a sign for their enemies that the dwarves are always watchful and will not tolerate another assault on their new homes from above or below. The Ironheart dwarves have developed a silent language they can use with their lanterns which they employ as signal lamps then.

(c) Copyright 2009 by Markus Brixius. All rights reserved.
(c) image by Ivan Gil, used with permission

Monday, January 5, 2009

Instant high quality fantasy music

Every now and then the topic background music for gaming sessions pops up. Most of the time people discuss cd's featuring soundtracks or other genres that could enhance a session. I'd like to introduce you to a quick way to find the right music for your sessions.
Check out Radio Rivendell - the fantasy station. These guys have a very good selection of the best fantasy music around.
Have fun!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Motherland Campaign Setting part 5 - Lay of the Land

The Kingdom of Calhaligon stretches approximately 3000 miles in diameter from north to south and covers about 6000 square miles. Most of the land is wilderness (76%, 4600 square miles), the rest is civilized area (24%, 1400 square miles).

A total of 252,000 people of different races live in Calhaligon, with about 42 per square mile. Most of the population lives in urban regions (91% 231,840 people). Only 5 percent (12,600 people) live in cities. The rest (3%, 7,560 are wandering or have no residence). These number change slightly, depending on the season.
The biggest urban population centers are:
* Thunderhold 9445
* Gatetown 1635
* Elvenwatch 1520

The rural population is divided between the villages and hamlets, and five castles.
With the Winding Waters Calhaligon features a major lake. Smaller lakes can be found at other places.

The borders of Calhaligon are marked naturally by a large mountain range in the north and in the east. The western and southern borders are political borders that were subjects to many conflicts in the past.

As a kingdom Calhaligon is ruled by a monarch, Queen Lucya. The kingdom grants minor lords of the lands in exchange for their service estates or plantations, complete with any villages or serf who live there. These lords and ladies claim a portion of the crop, herd, or other goods, produced on on his land. From that portion he pays tribute to the monarch. Sometimes a stretch of land is granted to a faith. Then the rulers are noble-clergymen, that also run monasteries (like the Stern Tower), cathedrals and abbeys (the town of Ortwyn is such a place). Other towns are controlled by merchant-princes (Crossroads Inn), guilds (Gatetown) or wizards(Sundall).

Calhaligon consists of three dales that are ruled by the duke. Minor nobles report to the duke, who in turn reports to the queen.

Calhaligon has a relatively strong economy that consists of:
* Agriculture. Mostly in the river floodplains, and sometimes even in the grasslands.
* Fishing at the Winding Waters. the halfling population at Denderlum also produces great quantities
* Forestry. Calhaligon has large forests, however there are often conflicts with the druids, as they try to tease the hunger for wood of the big cities. The elves of Darkwood are known to cultivate the forest without disturbing the natural beauty of the woodlands.
* Herding. You can find large herds of animals grazing in the vast grasslands and sometimes in the mountains.
* Hunting/Gathering. The forests offer game and other goodies for those who dare to enter the sometimes dangerous woodlands.
* Manufacturing and crafting is normally found in the cities or in the mountains.
* Mining is found mostly in the mountains and sometimes in the Adder Hills.

(c) Copyright 2009 by Markus Brixius. All rights reserved.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Undead Template Locator

I've put together a list of all undead templates currently available, for your gaming pleasure.

I'd love to hear your stories of your undead pc's


Bone Creature – Book of Vile Darkness

Corpse Creature – Book of Vile Darkness
Crypt Spawn – Magic of Faerûn
Curst - Monsters of Faerûn, Lost Empires of Faerûn

Death Knight - Monster Manual II, Dragonlance Campaign Setting
Demi Lich - Epic Level Handbook
Draco Lich – Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting
Dread Warrior - Lost Empires of Faerûn, Unapproachable East

Evolved Undead - Libris Mortis: The Book of the Dead

Ghastly Creatures - Dragon #307
Ghost - Dragon #300, Savage Species, Ghostwalk
Ghost Brute - Libris Mortis: The Book of the Dead
Ghoul - Call of Cthulhu
Ghoul Lord - Denizens of Darkness
Ghoulish Creature - Dragon #307
Gravetouched Ghoul - Libris Mortis: The Book of the Dead
Gravewright – The Standing Stone

Half-Vampire - Libris Mortis: The Book of the Dead
Heucuva - 3E Fiend Folio
Husk Vermin - Drow of the Underdark

Keening Spirit - City of the Spider Queen

Lich, Dry - Sandstorm
Lich - Monsters of Faerun
Lich, Good - Monsters of Faerun

Monstrous Vampire - Ghostwalk
Mummified Creature - Dragon #300, Savage Species
Mumia - Ghostwalk
Mummified Creature - Libris Mortis: The Book of the Dead
Mummy, Greater - Deities and Demigods

Naga, Bone - Serpent Kingdoms
Necromental - Libris Mortis: The Book of the Dead
Necropolitan - Libris Mortis: The Book of the Dead
Mummy - Call of Cthulhu

Pennaggolan - Oriental Adventures

Revenant - Monsters of Faerun
Revenant - City of the Spider Queen
Revived Fossil - Libris Mortis: The Book of the Dead

Sepulchral Thief - Cityscape
Scion of Kyuss - Dragon #307
Shadow Creature - 3E Manual of the Planes
Shadowslain - Shadowdale: The Scouring of the Land
Silveraith - City of the Spider Queen
Skeleton –
Skeletal Warrior - Dragonlance Campaign Setting
Spectral Mage – Magic of Faerûn
Spectral Minion - Dragonlance Campaign Setting
Skeleton Dragon - Dungeon 100
Spectral Creature - Savage Species
Spectral Savant - Complete Psionic
Swordwraith - 3E Fiend Folio

Tainted Minion - Heroes of Horror

Umbral Creature - Libris Mortis: The Book of the Dead

Vampire - 3E Monster Manual
Vampire Lord –
Vampire, Monstrous - Ghostwalk
Vampire Spawn, Elven - Denizens of Dread
Vampire Strains - Denizens of Dread

Wight - Dragon #300, Savage Species
Wraith - Dragon #300, Savage Species

Zombie –
Zombie Lord - Denizens of Dread
Zombie, Juju - Unapproachable East