Tuesday, June 29, 2010

the Shattered Empire: Session 1

At long last, me and my friends have finally gotten together again to play D&D! The first hour or so was devoted to making characters, definitely a disadvantage of using something derived from 3rd Edition (we're using Pathfinder). Then we got the adventure underway.

The game began with the PCs meeting on the road to Delphens, a corrupt town filled with bandits and thieves. Soon after that they were attacked by some of the bandits. However they were no threat to the players. After the PCs killed one, and knocked out the leader, the others surrendered. The PCs decided (at my suggestion) to recruit them.

Then the PCs finished heading to Delphens where they looked for an adventure to undergo. Theron, the warrior revealed that he had heard of a ruined palace on just the other side of the river. The underground sections of this palace had been expanded into a maze, which where filled with both treasure and traps. They also heard a (false) rumor of an invading army of goblins. Theron was unsympathetic and said the people in the tavern should be out getting ready for the war.

They decided to explore the ruined palace. They hired a fisherman to ferry them to the other side of the river and to return when they finished they're expedition. Theron taught the northern barbarian (currently nameless) about haggling.

When they arrived at the palace they began exploring the place. Some players wanted to barge right through, but Theron's player advised caution, and so they began methodically mapping out the palace. Most of it was empty, however they did encounter some stirges, a couple of dire bats and some dire rats. They didn't find any treasure, except for a masterwork longsword, because they didn't look in the right places (i.e. under a pile of rubble). When the session ended they were getting ready to head down to the under ground level.

All in all, it was fun. It could have gone better in some parts, but I enjoyed myself immensely. I'm looking forward to playing again in a couple weeks. I find it interesting that Theron, a neutral evil character is becoming so prominent.

Friday, June 18, 2010

the Planes of Existence

I've been thinking about how the planes of existence will be organized and which kinds will exist in my campaigns for some time now. The planes of existence are one of my favorite topics in fantasy games. The awesome Planescape campaign setting probably helps with that.

So my idea for what the planes should be like is very similar to the Great Wheel cosmology. However there are several changes as well.

  • Limbo connects to all of the chaotic planes. Except, perhaps, the planes that are only secondarily chaotic like Carceri. Furthermore, Limbo has it's own layers, including the realms of various chaotic divinities. These are not the roiling maelstrom that Limbo proper is, but are all still quite chaotic in they're own ways.
  • Olympus is chaotic neutral (good), like Ysgard. Olympus may be on the same layer, or a seperate one, I haven't yet decided. Arborea remains Chaotic Good, but may be undergoing some changes, like the whole plane may be getting the infinite layers deal that the Abyss has, with Arborea just being one of the layers. It may or may not be the uppermost one.
  • The Beastlands are very similar, but the various Animal Lords & intelligent animals may be moved to the Outlands, or perhaps scattered throughout the planes, with the plane (or at least some layers of it) retaining the general wild feel. That region of the Outlands may get the name Beastlands, with the plane of Neutral (Chaotic) Good getting a new moniker.
  • Not many changes to the lawful planes so far. One thing is that I may deemphasize Acheron's focus on battle. Also Grummsh and Magulybiet may be moving to the Abyss and (back to) the Nine Hells respectively. They're armies still battle, but largely as part of the larger Blood War. A significant fact is that since orcs and goblins are the same thing in my campaigns, they compete for worshipers. Thus they're relationship is altered somewhat.
  • Outlands may have other layers. For instance Illsensine's realm may be on a separate layer (if I decide to keep Illsensine at all. If I do he may also be on a different plane and may be a different manner of being, like a "Great Old One" rather than a god), as may be Tír na nÓg.
  • In addition to relatively normal worlds like Oerth and Abeir-Toril, material planes (not just demiplanes) may have wildly different rules and attributes. Oerth and Toril exist in a universe much like ours (I'm not using the crystal spheres idea from Spelljammer), but with more magic. In fact, like in the Spelljammer setting they may share the same universe, but others like Athas and Krynn would not. The Elemental Planes may just be a series of alternate Material Planes dominated by a single element, but I'm leaning towards having both the "main" Elemental Planes and element-dominated Material Planes. I'm changing around the Ethereal Plane. The Ether is part of all worlds, but the Ethereal Plane is not it's self coexistent with those worlds, instead merely connecting worlds.
  • The Astral is in fact coexistent with the Material, but not the Outer Planes. So if you Astrally Project you start off in the part that is coexistent with the world and can from there travel to the higher spiritual planes (i.e. the Outer Planes). This is also the realm of ghosts and other spirits, the "Spirit World" of Oriental settings. The demiplane of Dreams, if I decide to use it would also be in the Astral Plane. So it basically takes the role of the Ethereal in many ways, as I judge to make more sense.
In general I'm looking to shake up the planes, so that there is more room for new material (though there was already a lot of room). My policy is not even the most knowledgeable of sages in places like the city of Sigil know everything about the planes (as much as Sigilians like to deride Primes as "clueless"). The Great Wheel is just one of many models for mapping out the planes, no more valid than any other. They may know that there are two layers in Bytopia, or three in Hades but there may be others that are uncharted. 

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Real-world Religions and the D&D Game

I'm currently undergoing research to find out about the real world religions, primarily those of the ancient world, but also such contemporary religions as Hinduism and Buddhism. Now the primary focus of my research is not the mythology of those faiths, but rather the day-to-day practices of those faiths. After all, if you play as a priest how often does mythology effect most adventures? Or if you go to the village priest for healing? It's not a complete non-factor, after all creatures of myth are a common opponent in D&D and the rivalries between divinities are often the focus of an adventure, but actual religion is often overlooked.

I hope to garner from my studies a greater understanding of how ancient religions worked and how it might work in D&D. A thing I have noticed is that religion is often summed up as "you worship this god, he has such-and-such a dogma, hates this and this god, etc.", as if each deity has it's own separate religion. There are such things as monolatrists, but even so this approach oversimplifies things. Yes, sometimes simplicity is good for the game, where overcomplexity would be bad, but I believe that a greater understanding of how religion worked for various cultures could in fact improve my games.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Update on Shattered Empire

Well since my players are home from college we are planning to get together in real life to play. Unfortunately this will actually be our first session since we haven't been able to get MapTool working. But I'm glad we'll finally be able to play!