Friday, November 17, 2017

November Campaign Design IX - Campaign Map

In the previous installment of this series, I laid out the starting scenario for the PCs. They will be starting in the area indicated by the box on the map below:


For me, the maps are where things really come alive. I took the area on the large-scale map, and blew it up to a scale of 2 miles per inch. This allows me to show individual features like mountains, the extent of hills and forests, villages, minor rivers, tracks, and even individual farms. Here is my hand-drawn map of the area that will serve as my primary wilderness map when DMing:


I haven't noted the locations of individual monsters yet. Since that's something that will change over time, I'll make a copy of this map and stock it with an initial load of creatures. As they get killed off or driven away, I'll gradually restock the place. Most of the monsters will be in the wooded mountains, of course, but the Spider Wood is an obvious haunt of giant spiders, and I have a vague idea that the Trotterwood would be a good place for giant boar and wereboars.

There's also the ruins of the Artanian town at the northern edge of the map. As indicated in the last post, this is where the locals believe most of their troubles are emanating. They're partially right; there will certainly be some beasties in there. There's also an orc tribe in those woods, too; the Spinebreaker tribe, who worship Dispater, lord of the second plane of Hell. Their exact home is unknown, but they are known to have several villages throughout the mountains, as they are semi-nomadic. They cause no end of trouble to the settlers, and thwarting them would be a great service.

The whole is known as the Greitzberg District.

The eight villages in the District are mostly agricultural in nature, with the four on the plains surrounded by well-tended fields. Each is centered around a fortified manor house, and ruled by a baron. The exception is the village of Greitzberg, which is ruled by a Freiherr, which means he is not a vassal of the Markgraf in Osttur, and enjoys a great deal more independence than the other villages in the district. This causes no small amount of ill-feelings, as the barons are jealous of his independent status. All of the villagers have the right to appeal a baron's justice to the Markgraf, but the Freiherr's rulings in judicial matters cannot be appealed. Each baron maintains a number of ritters (knights) to lead the defense of the village.

The mountain villages each have a small population of half-orcs, who are treated as second-class citizens. They are barely tolerated by the humans, but driven out by the orcs. On rare occasions, such half-orcs will return to the tribe after years of being raised in the human communities and treated so poorly. Such renegades assist the Spinebreakers in planning their raids.

Lirberg is primarily a dairy cattle-herding village, ruled by Baron Ludwig Erchendag. He is married to the daughter of the Freiherr of Greitzberg, so the two are on good terms. Several years ago the previous baron was turned into a vampire, but was eventually destroyed and his manor house abandoned and sealed. Ever since then, however, there are said to be more unusual happenings in the vicinity than can easily be accounted for. Population 330, 2 ritters, 66 militia.

Greitzberg is also a cattle-herding village, but supplements this with logging in the forest across the river. It is ruled by Freiherr Erwin Stadtler. His title comes from the fact that his village was founded prior to the Markgraf being granted his own title. The Markgraf thinks the world of him, however, and treats him like an honored guest whenever the Freiherr visits Osttur. The Markgraf will stay in Greitzberg on visits, and the two nobles will hunt together in the woods. Population 700, 4 ritters, 140 militia.

Jenstein is a logging town, but also sports a stone quarry that provides high-quality blocks of granite to the rest of the district and Osttur. It is ruled by Baron Krieg Lustorf. There is a dispute between Jenstein and Greitzberg, however, on where exactly the border between the two lies. It turns out there are two boundary stones, a half-mile apart, each claiming to mark the border. A group of bandits has taken advantage of the confusion and sometimes strikes in the disputed zone. Population 400, 3 ritters, 80 militia.

Melheim's economy is centered on a pair of copper mines nearby, worked by a sizeable force of hill dwarves. The ingots are difficult to transport, however, making full exploitation of the resource difficult. The village is ruled by Baron Karl Urfein. They recently built a palisade wall to protect the village against constant raids by the orcs. The baron is experimenting with embracing the half-orcs in his community, organizing them into a militia unit specifically to deal with orc raids. Its success is yet to be determined. Population 370, 2 ritters, 78 militia.

Graufort is situated on a ford across the river, and is surrounded by extensive acres of farmland where mostly wheat and rye are grown. The current ruler is Baroness Ursula Megendorf, a young widow whose husband was killed in an orc raid. Graufort is also home to the largest temple of the Holy Family in the district, which gives the baron no little pride. Population 560, 4 ritters, 130 militia.

Lunz is a small farming village ruled by baron Josef Kreiten. He himself is an accomplished magic-user, and hopes to start a school for the mystical arts in the village. He has attracted a few students already. Population 300, 2 ritters, 60 militia.

Oeltorf is a small farming community ruled by Baroness Suzanne Woldkopf. She is an ancient matriarch of her clan, and the family or its relatives own half the farmland surrounding the village. She herself has 8 children, 23 grandchildren, and 7 great-grandchildren. It is said she has a touch of elven blood. Population 450, 3 ritters, 90 militia.

Sendenow is another farming village that grows barley and rye predominately, but also has a strong tradition of hunting boar in the nearby Trotterwood. The ruler is Baron Baldur Reichbach. Being the furthest from the Slate Mountains, Senenow has the least problem with raids from the Spinebreaker orcs, but between the Spider Wood to the north and the Trotterwood to the west, there are other dangers that plague the village, and so he maintains three knights and still makes sure the village militia drills weekly. Population 500, 3 ritters, 100 militia.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

November Campaign Design VIII - Fresh Off the Boat

Part of the conceits of the Lost Artanis campaign setting is the idea that it so easily fits the "classic" campaign set-up, as a consciously inherent aspect of its design. That is, the PCs can literally enter the setting fresh off a ship from Hanar-Across-the-Sea, into a land they only have the vaguest knowledge of. Thus I don't have to worry about why the PCs don't already know a bunch of people (although I can still pull out the "someone you met on the ship" card if I need to introduce an NPC whom they can probably trust).

However, details as to what they see when they step off that ship are lacking.

First, I have to decide what the best landing point is. Do I want to start a party in Aedgaria, Lippegen, or New Valais? All have different opportunities for a band of adventurers. I choose Lippegen, specifically Osttur.

The PCs arrive in the port at Durst, and then are taken by coach to Osttur in a week, where the promise of employment by petty landowners to the northeast of the town has drawn them. They are to serve as a force of warders to "supplement" the soldiery of the Markgraf and protect the settlers. In reality, the Markgraf's soldiers never venture more than twenty miles from the town gates, so they're on their own, along with several other similar bands of warders who act in semi-competition. To complicate matters, there is a ruined Artanian town in the woodlands, and it is thought that many of the creatures that are making life hard for the settlers are coming from there. After five years, they are to be rewarded with homesteads of their own, but it's a dangerous job, and few live or stick around long enough to collect that reward.

Naturally, nothing says they all must come from the Dual Kingdom of Grott-Heimburg. The good folk of Lippegen are more than happy to get their employees from Valais, Wynnland, or elsewhere. Thus, if someone wants to play a ranger or a halfling, they have options that fit into this setup.

Next step: some small-scale maps of the area the PCs will be operating in, Osttur itself, and the ruined Artanian town.

The map is mostly unchanged, but I did add a few more
Artanian ruins, including the one in the woods northeast
of Osttur.

Monday, November 13, 2017

November Campaign Design VII - Lost Artanis

I wanted to take some time to discuss the realm of Lost Artanis, which, although it no longer exists in the time-frame of the campaign, will still cast a very long shadow upon it. Artanis is a kingdom that covered the whole of the colonized area and beyond, which fell some 500 years ago due to circumstances which remain unknown. Not a single Artanian is known to have survived, and their cities and villages have fallen into ruin. At first I wanted to give the Artanians some sort of distinctive feature (like blue skin) but then I realized that might be unconsciously derivative of the green-skinned Viridians of the Judges Guild Wilderlands setting, and I shelved the idea. If I come up with something better, I'll certainly revisit it.

Mountain ranges now have names, and ruins of Artanian
ruined cities and towns are now marked. Many are underwater.

As I mentioned before, I don't want this to be a dungeon-centered campaign, and thus I will not give into the temptation of having extensive underground regions of cities, buried cities, etc. These ruins are all above ground, overgrown with vegetation, open to the sky and the elements. There will still be monsters, and treasures, and the like to be found in the ruins, but the experience of exploring them will (hopefully) be quite different than a standard dungeon-crawl.

As might have been obvious from some of the details I've given in the previous installments on the colonial governments, I also want to have the campaign have a large waterborne/underwater component. Thus did I mention communities of merfolk, sea elves, etc. that the land-based communities interacted with.

Because of that, many of the largest cities of Artanis are now underwater, thanks to some unspecified natural disaster that caused the coast to sink, taking the cities with it. These are now haunted undersea ruins, and exploring them will present new challenges, as well as giving an opportunity to really work in the undersea races. Some sort of ubiquitous water-breathing magic or substance might be in order I'm thinking a special wine, made from sea-grapes, that provides the ability to breathe underwater for a specified period of time; downside, if you drink too much to make an extended journey, you suffer from the effects of intoxication.

There are still ruins to be found in the interior, of course, and these will be as described above; large, spread-out ruins open to the sky, overgrown with greenery. Some structures might still have roofs after 500 years, but most will not. Orc tribes, wild elves, and goblinoid (goblins/ hobgoblins/ norkers/ bugbears) deserters from New Valais and Lippegen might take up residence, as will wild creatures and monsters.

The biggest mystery to be solved is why Artanis fell in the first place. A plague is the most likely explanation, but I think something more mystical will end up being the true cause. Perhaps the population was all transformed into animals whose descendants live in the cities, or left via magical gateways through time and/or space. If so, the stage could be set for their triumphant return at some point. Which, naturally, would be something of a sticky wicket for the colonists.

I also like the idea of Artanis being of a higher level of technology and magical knowledge than the colonists. I thought of making it some sort of steampunk or otherwise mechanical aesthetic, but it's so easy to let that slide into cliche and silliness that I demurred. Rather, Artanian magic operates along different lines than standard (A)D&D magic, in that it relies entirely on blood sacrifices to operate. That's similar to how magic works in the Dark Sun world (with its defilers and preservers), except that rather than destroying plant life and turning the countryside into a desert, Artanian Blood Magic destroys human/demihuman life and depopulates over the long run. That might also tie in to the fall of the realm.

Acquiring knowledge of this new form of magic is of the highest priority to the guilds and schools of wizards back in Hanar and their nascent offspring among the three colonies. It will be much more powerful, relatively speaking, but since it inherently requires the spilling of blood, it will be much more difficult. Imagine a magic-user having to spend hit points to cast spells. Now imagine if that magic-user could use the blood of others to do so. At low levels, animals might suffice, but at higher levels, only intelligent creatures will do. For those of good alignment, his companions could volunteer to do so, and he could of course give of himself. For those of evil alignment, the question is somewhat easier to answer, as long as living victims are at hand...

Saturday, November 11, 2017

November Campaign Design VI - Aedgaria

Following on the previous installment where I talk about the second of the three colonies in some detail, I'm rounding out Aedgaria in this post.


Aedgaria is the last of the three colonies to be founded, by the kingdom of Wynnland. Because of this, they got the leftovers when it came to territory, and even had to split the colony into areas, North and South Aedgaria. It's still a feudal society, though, with his grace John II, Duke of Aedgaria as ruler under the king, far off to the west over the Stormsea. Beneath him are several earls and barons that administer the land.

Aedgaria is almost entirely agricultural, with its relatively small population clustered around its towns and the roads that connect them. The one large-scale building project, the Long Road that connects Dubton with Port Westview in South Aedgaria, was personally paid for by a consortium of merchants who bankrupted themselves in the attempt, as the flow of goods from New Valais to the port never materialized. The duke, realizing the value of the road for the internal development of the colony, pays for its maintenance along with the earl of South Aedgaria.

Where the other two colonies brought in goblins, hobgoblins, norkers, and bugbears to serve as mercenary troops, Aedgaria brought in halflings to till the soil and make the land bloom, and in that respect they have been very successful. Halfling and human settlements exist peacefully side-by-side or completely integrated. The military consists almost entirely of local militia that drills regularly, and consists of light infantry, slingers, and archers. Each noble maintains a small force at arms, of course, but they are limited in number compared to Lippegen's mercenary contingents.

Each half of the colony is ruled by an earl. The south is governed by Thomas Westlake, Lord of South Aedgaria. He is an old codger, son of the original earl, with an enormous family who are involved in all aspects of administration of the colony, forming a mini-oligarchy. Most of the day-to-day duties are handled by his oldest sons, who are quite competent.

Port Westview is the seat of ducal power, and the town itself falls within the duke's personal demesne. Intended to be the preeminent port in Artanis, it's turned out to be something of a disappointment on that score, serving Wynnland shipping, but little else. Large numbers of convicted criminals were shipped in to help build the port on the promise of freedom afterwards, but that has backfired. Desperate for traffic, the place has become something of a haven for smugglers from other lands to the west attempting to evade the tariffs and regulations imposed by Lippegen and New Valais. This, combined with a much larger-than-usual criminal element among the population, has led to a situation where several gangs compete for control of the city's criminal and other activities. The duke and his officials seem unconcerned with this, but the law abiding elements of the populace, numbering 8,000 total, is less than pleased.

Ulfmore is the meat capital of Aedgaria. Flocks of sheep, herds of pigs and cattle, and other more exotic sources of meat are all found here in great abundance. There are more halflings here than humans, but the baron, Josef Royt, is actually of Sacarian stock; a tiny but proud land between Grott-Heimburg and Valais. His family was driven out after a pro-Grott-Heimburg coup, and his father found his way here, marrying into the baronial title. The town itself, with its population of some 7,000, is built on the ruins of an ancient Artanian city, and this gives it a very distinctive architectural style, as the ruins were used as a quarry for the new settlement.

Dubton is on the border with New Valais, and quite a bit of trade takes place between the two colonies here. Baron Ulred Green is still stinging from his father's defeat by New Valais, in which the family estates on Green Island were lost, but most of the populace has long since forgotten the decades-old conflict. He has been quietly building up his personal forces, but it's unlikely he'll come anywhere close to the strength of the Valasian goblinoid mercenaries.

The Islands of the Five Mists technically form their own barony, but the position is vacant and the duke seems to be in no hurry to fill the seat. The islands themselves are a merger of human villages and underwater settlements of tritons, mermen, locathah, and sea elves. The various races live in harmony, and fishing is the only industry of any note.

The north is governed by Wallace Ford III, Lord of North Aedgaria. He is young, intelligent, and utterly depraved. Although he puts a genteel face on for public consumption, rumors swirl around the court about demon-worship, murders of lovers, and the like. He is married, and his young bride is sweet, innocent, and entirely silent regarding her husband's supposed peccadilloes.

Uffberryton is the largest town in the north, with a population of 7,000 or so. The Earl's castle is some miles outside the town, which is under the Baron Frederick Regeld, but governed by a Lord Mayor. Between its position as a port, confluence of roads between the other baronies, and being at the gate of trade with Lippegen, it's a prosperous place, relatively speaking.

Norton is mostly dedicated to fishing and whaling, although there are merfolk and locathah communities not too far offshore that provide some interesting opportunities for trade. One in particular is centered around an underwater gold mine, which provides some much-needed hard currency for the often-struggling Wynnland colony. The town has a population of 5,000, and there are many farmers in the surrounding countryside. The Baronness, Ursula Whitehouse, is a widow with a large fortune and a small family.

Northgate is uniquely situated at the only opportunity for true expansion in the whole of Aedgaria, to the north. The barony also controls the hills and mountains in the northern portion of the duchy, and there are quite a few active mines and much prospecting that goes on. The enormous pine forests and mountains to the north tempt quite a few explorers, but few are heard from, as they are home to numerous monsters and giants. It has a population of 6,000.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Cavalier for 5th Edition

Today is the hobby store release day for Xanathar's Guide to Everything, and apparently one of the things it includes is a cavalier martial archetype for the fighter class. It just so happens I also wrote up a cavalier martial archetype for my own Players Guide to Greyhawk 576, so I thought I'd share that here for comparison (I haven't seen the WotC book yet, because I pre-ordered it on Amazon, and apparently the hoi-polloi don't get the book for another couple of weeks).

My version is based on the cavalier sub-class from the 1st edition Unearthed Arcana book. Wherever possible, I'm trying to go back to the 1st edition material for inspiration.

CAVALIER

Cavaliers are the quintessential “knights in shining armor” of the Flanaess. Dedicated to honor, prickly about the deference due to someone of their social standing, they are yet still the product of intense training that makes them among the deadliest warriors in the realm of horse born combat using heavy weapons and armor. No matter their alignment, cavaliers follow a code of chivalry that includes hospitality, honor, courtesy, bravery, and pride. As a rule, cavaliers will wear the heaviest armor available (even if such is not the most efficient, and magical bonuses are not counted), and will seek to attack the most powerful foe available to prove their bravery. Cavaliers never used ranged weapon attacks; such are considered dishonorable. Failure to observe these restrictions may result in forfeiture of half or full experience points and/or renown, at the discretion of the Dungeon Master. Those not in service to some lord, religious cause, or other figure of authority are considered “knights errant” and will have as a primary goal finding service with such a figure. 

Knighthood

When you choose this archetype at 3rd level, you automatically gain advantage when using a lance, mace, or flail from horseback. You are also proficient in heavy armor, if you are not already. In addition, you can expect up to three day’s hospitality (food and lodging) from any other fighter with the cavalier archetype, and other characters who would recognize such feudal hospitality obligations as appropriate. You will have a coat of arms which will be flown on a pennant on the cavalier’s lance and/or held by a retainer as a battle flag. If this standard is lost, the cavalier will make every effort to recover it, or suffer a great loss of personal honor. 

Retainers

At 7th level, you will attract a group of retainers like that detailed in the Variant Noble: Knight background in the Player’s Handbook. If you have already chosen that background variant, your retainers will follow you into dungeon environments, once you reach this level, but will still expect to be protected and not put in the forefront of danger. 

Horseman

At 10th level, you always gain advantage when attacking from horseback. In addition, you are an excellent judge of horses in general, and can always pick the horse with the highest number of hit points from a group, when evaluating them (for instance, when picking one out of a herd to buy or ride). You can ride any ordinary mount without effort, and when attempting to ride special mounts (pegasi, hippogriffs, unicorns, etc.) you have advantage. Finally, you have proficiency in animal handling, when it comes to horses and horse-like creatures.

Mastery at arms

At 15th level, you can take an additional action each round to perform a melee attack. If you are wearing heavy armor when making this attack, you get advantage automatically. 

Determination

At 18th level, you are automatically immune to magical fear. In addition, you gain advantage when making saving throw vs. any sort of mind-affecting magic or other effects.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

November Campaign Design V - Lippegen

So last time I covered some details about New Valais, and now I'd like to put a little meat on the Lippegen bone. The map hasn't changed:


Lippegen is my pseudo-Germany colony, linked back to the Dual Kingdom of Grott-Heimburg, with its Summer King and Winter King who swap roles at the equinoxes.

I see Lippegen as the second colony founded, after New Valais, and its territory spans from the Uffberry River in the north down to the mountains south of the Southrun. This gives them an enormous frontier they can exploit, through the forest to the north as well as the valley to the southeast (in which they will inevitably run into conflict with New Valais as their efforts meet in the poorly-defined border area). The key to their expansion eastward is the town of Osttur, which commands a strategic gap in the mountains and serves as the gateway into the Shining River valley as well as its northern section.

The whole is ruled by the Herzog of Lippegen, Oscar I. Founded some 80 years ago by the grandfather of the current ruler, and stocked with continuous shipments of new serfs, prisoners, and goblinoid mercenaries, the colony has been steadily built up. Oscar's father, Frederic, was especially aware of the importance of roads to the nascent colonial venture, and embarked on a great road-building program, linking all of the towns in the country. The road between Durst and Uffberryton in particular was a stroke of genius, as it provided an incentive for the North Aegarians to use Durst's port rather than develop their own, both stalling development and providing taxes and fees to Lippegen. He also established the frontier-town of Osttur, intended to open up the great valleys to the east to exploration and eventual settlement. Beneath the herzog are a number of grafs of various sorts.

Durst is the largest settlement in Lippegen, ruled by Josef II, Graf von Durst. It is a thriving port-town, one of the main destinations for traffic from the west, as well as possessing a large fishing fleet. It has a population of more than 10,000, and the surrounding countryside is thickly settled with farmers, and the whole peaceful. The burggraf of the city, Ernst von Durst, plays a subtle game of politics, playing the herzog off against the graf, and ends up being the real power within the city itself, and in many cases far beyond the city. Finely drilled units of goblin soldiery with hobgoblin and bugbear officers protects the lands of the town from marauders and generally keep the peace. A small force of human Grott-Heimburgers is on hand to keep the mercenaries in their place.

Stuttbad is on the official border with South Aedgaria, but there is little trade between the two, as there are no roads connecting them on the Aedgarian side. The primary industries here are fishing and trade with the sea elf and triton communities in the southern portion of Chivar Bay. The current Graf von Stuttbad, Erik II, is much more interested in his antiquarian and artistic endeavors - he has actually built a dedicated opera house in a struggling colonial town of 8,000 - than he is in effective governance, which he mostly leaves to the burggraf of the city, Prophero Musk, a hobgoblin of exceptional intelligence and ability. Stuttbad has more integration between the goblinoid soldiery and the civilian population than usual, and the people are gradually getting used to the idea of a hobgoblin among the petite aristocracy, as long as it doesn't start a trend.

Zweistadt is a frontier town, ruled by the Markgräfin von Zweistadt, Corinna I. She is a young woman of exceptional ability and wealth, a first-generation immigrant from Grott-Heimburg and widow of the previous Markgraf. She is considered the most eligible widow in Lippegen (some say all of Artanis), as her territory is not only at the northeastern edge of Lippegen and thus poised to bring in wealth from the thickly forested lands beyond, but the hills and mountains surrounding the town are also home to very profitable mines, worked by a large contingent of imported dwarf and gnome labor. The markgräfin manages to navigate through the treacherous shoals of politics, all the while entertaining a host of would-be suitors and attending a never-ending cycle of balls, masquerades, and other social functions. And as she does so, her wealth increases daily, as does her power. It is rumored she has her eyes set on the handsome young son of the Graf himself, but that one is already pledged to another.

Osttur is the bright hope for Lippegen, founded explicitly as a gateway to the rich valleys to the east and southeast, and aimed like a crossbow bolt at halting New Valaisian expansion in that quarter. The Markgraf von Osttur, Karl II, is energetic but unimaginative, and has a strategy that consists of little more than buying serfs in Grott-Heimburg and transferring them to small landowners to whom he grants land titles. Much of the time, however, those land titles are in name only, and the holders have never even set foot upon "their" land. The only thing that prevents his incompetence from coming out is the even greater incompetence of his New Valaisian counterpart, the Marquis d'Onjoi.

Chivar Bay is home to three fairly large islands; the Anville, Welcome Island, and Gareth Isle. The Anville is so named because it regularly gets hammered by the hurricane-force storms coming off the Stormsea. The early Valaisian explorer Jon Borjeaux had a sense of humor. Both Welcome Island and Gareth Island are inhabited, and there are thriving co-existent communities ashore and underwater, with sea elves, tritons, and mermen aplenty.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Universal's Dark Universe

Well, that didn't take long. News has come out that Universal's Dark Universe, which was supposed to be a shared universe with their various monster properties like Dracula and Frankenstein, has folded after just one (well, two, if you count Dracula Untold, which was in, and then out, of the Dark Universe) film, this year's awful Tom Cruise Mummy flick.

I mused on the Universal monsterverse a few years ago, but I'd like to do so again.

To my mind, the chief problem was the idea of taking a classic horror movie icon like the Mummy and putting it in a non-horror movie.

2017's The Mummy was a high-budget action movie, with planes, and explosions, and Tom Cruise, and action, and chases, and spectacular special effects, and all the things that were suspiciously missing from almost all of the other Mummy movies that came before it. Even the excellent 1999 Mummy with Brendan Fraser, which was sort of a mix of action and horror, played up the horror more than the action most of the time. But the sequel inverted that formula, and suffered greatly as a result.

My proposal is to make a shared Universal horror universe (I'll call it DU2) that is focused not on big-budget action flicks, but which is focused on medium-budget horror movies. Stop swinging for the fences, and concentrate on hitting singles and doubles, and you'll have a franchise that will be going for decades. Here are the guidelines I'd use.

1. Make the films period pieces. Start them in the late 1870's, near the height of the Victorian age. Explorers are penetrating deepest, darkest Africa, science is advancing steadily but superstition is still rife, Bedlam is still in operation, surgery is still a gruesome thing, and Spiritualism and ceremonial magic are surging. H.G. Wells and Jules Verne are writing, and some of their stories could also be used as material. Jack the Ripper is only a decade away, but there's also Spring-Heeled Jack and other Victorian curiosities to work into the background. Doing so can accommodate all of the major monsters, while nicely avoiding high-tech cop-outs that modern films have to explain away.

2. Start small, and build to crossovers. Have a Dracula movie set in Transylvania in 1878. Then Frankenstein in Bavaria in 1879. An expedition to Egypt uncovers the Mummy in 1880. Dracula arrives in London in 1881. Frankenstein and his former mentor Doctor Praetorius create a female monster in 1882. Stretch them out, again emphasizing horror and suspense over action and flashy special effects.

3. Don't have a generic, all-encompassing "anti-monster society." Each film has their own protagonists and heroes, but there are crossovers with minor characters. Keep the early crossovers to minor characters; the same British police captain that we see in a Dracula movie set in London is also in the Invisible Man movie, or Doctor van Helsing is a correspondent of Doctor Jekyll, both being interested in the nature of the subconscious, but they don't get together until a few movies later. That sort of thing.

4. Tie things together, especially in the early years, with a television show. Universal's House of Horrors would be episodic, centered on a trio of characters (a Spiritualist medium, a ceremonial magician (proto-Golden Dawn), and a former soldier from service in India) who encounter supernatural oddities across England and Europe, and help various people overcome them. Have the same minor characters we see in the films, show up here. But keep it centered on horror. This should be a creepy, tense, scary show, not "Supernatural by Gaslight." Ghosts, Satanic cults, monsters out of folklore; these should be the focus. They can hear about the big bads, but they don't encounter them, except second-hand.

5. The payoff isn't a big, Avengers-like mash-up of all the players. It's the set-up of pairings between the monsters, and the subsequent mixing and matching of their adversaries. Dracula and the Mummy are excellent "organizer" type monsters, who might enlist others as minions, pawns, or partners in specific schemes, such as the Monster or the Wolfman. Others might get together due to mutual affinity; Dr. Jekyll and van Helsing are both scientists, as are Frankenstein and Griffin (the Invisible Man). There are also possibilities for neat inversions; the audience may know that Mr. Hyde is the same person as Dr. Jekyll, but van Helsing might not realize it, and it might become a plot complication as Hyde is in league with Dracula, while Jekyll is helping van Helsing.

I really think that would work, and would keep the studio churning out films for a goodly while, as long as they were good in and of their own right, with strong characterization and a heavy emphasis on horror and suspense.  But what do I know? They'll crank out some standalone Frankenstein movie set in modern-day New York and have cloning or some crap, and lots of car chases. sigh

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

November Campaign Design IV - New Valais

As mentioned in the previous installment, I've filled in a lot more detail in the eastern portion of the map, and added one large and one small lake, to give the terrain some interesting features. Here's what it looks like now (click to embiggen):


The scale is 10 miles per hex, and bear in mind that this is not the final look and feel; the final will be using the Darlene-esque look I used in my Beyond the Flanaess maps a few years ago. The map is done using Hexographer Pro, by the way.

I wanted to spend a little time considering the southernmost colony in the setting; New Valais. Named for the Kingdom of Valais far to the west across the Stormsea, I'm going for a medieval French vibe (hence the pseudo-French names).

The Duchy of New Valais stretches from the Grey River in the west to Lake Onjoi in the east. The Grey River also forms a political boundary between South Aedgaria and Lippegen, but the boundary on the other side of the mountains, in the valley where the Shining River flows, has never been firmly defined. As Lippegen continues to expand southeast in the valley, they are bound to run into conflict with the Valaisians, who are also expanding in that area. The Three Moons Desert forms the southern boundary, so named because of the time it takes to travel from one end to the other, so legend has it.

New Valais was the first colony founded, and thus the oldest. Valasian explorers were the first to arrive in Artanis once the Stormsea calmed (an event whose cause is unknown, and serves as a central mystery), allowing regular traffic across its surface. New Montrose serves as the capital and seat of the Dukedom. It is the largest settlement in Artanis, with a population of approximately 30,000.

Underneath Duke Absolon III, there are four Marquis, each based in one of the large towns; Chamlin, Anleans, Duchance, and Onjoiville. The towns have populations of between 10,000 and 15,000 each, and an equal number of peasants live in the surrounding countryside, based in small villages. The whole duchy is based on feudal land-rights, with tenant serf-farmers making up the majority of the population outside the towns.

The island chain known as the Breakers protects Chamlin and Anleans from the worst of the storms that still roll in from the Stormsea, and the coast is also connected by a fine road. No road connects Onjoiville to the rest of the Duchy, however; all traffic passes on the Firstwaterl; the river connecting Lake Onjoi and the Gulf of Morois. The Duke has granted exclusive rights to such traffic to a number of companies and families, and they guard their position (and incomes) jealously.

Chamlin is the westernmost marche in the duchy, ruled by Lewis I, Marquis d'Chamlin. They uniquely enjoy a small amount of trade with South Aedgaria, via the road that connects Chamlin and Dubton. Although this gives the Chamliners a somewhat better impression of the Aedgarians, twenty years ago they did fight a short but violent war over possession of Green Island, which is particularly fertile, not to mention strategically placed. Chamlin won the conflict, a fact which some in Dubton have not forgotten. Chamlin's primary agricultural product is cattle and cheese. In fact, Chamlin cheese is particularly famed back home, and constitutes one of its chief high-value exports.

Anleans is another coastal marche, with a thriving fishing industry as well as large amounts of cotton, ruled by Lothar, Marquis d'Anleans. Being the interior-most marche in the duchy, Anleans is also the most secure, with few raids from orc tribes to worry about. The marquis of Chamlin and Duchance grumble about being expected to carry all the burden for the defence of Anleans, but so far the fact that the marquis is married to the duke's second daughter has prevented any action. There are rumors that the duke is paid a special honorarium to maintain this arrangement.

Duchance is situated in a hilly valley, and the marche extends up into the hills and mountains beyond. It is ruled by Roger, marquis d'Duchance. The land is excellent for grapes and wine, which is its chief export, but suffers badly from constant raids by orcish tribes (and their goblinoid allies, originally brought over as mercenaries by Valais, but many thousands have deserted).

Onjoi is the easternmost marche, with the marquis' residence in Onjoiville, overseen by Welois, Marquis d'Onjoi. In theory, the marquis rules over all the lands within thirty miles of Lake Onjoi, as well as the entire Shining River valley. In reality, the only really secure settlements are on the southern end of the lake, and Lippegen is beginning to settle the valley en masse. Orcs and other threats have kept Onjoi from gaining true control over the lands he has been granted, and rumors in the court of both the duke nearby and the king across the Stormsea say that patience is growing thin among his superiors. Action to secure and pacify his lands is not only expected, but required, if he is to retain his position. This has made him understandably frantic to do just that.

As mentioned before, religiously Valais and its colony follow the druidic faith. Since rangers use druid spells, they are implicitly associated with that faith. So, class-wise, there aren't going to be any Valasian paladins or clerics, but druids and rangers will come from here.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

November Campaign Design III - The Religion Question

As mentioned in the previous post in this series, here's the trimmed-down map that only focuses on the northern, settled, parts of the continent (which I've christened "Lost Artanis"):


The map has a scale of 10 miles per hex. The eastern areas definitely need some more detailing, and I might throw another large lake in there to break up the landmass and give things an interesting contour.

I also realized I need names for the home countries of these colonies. New Valais is obvious, of course, with its people coming from Valais, and being beholden to the king of that nation. Aedgaria is a colony of the kingdom of Wynnland, a rather conventional, bucolic place; while Lippegen is a colony of the Dual Kingdom of Grott-Heimburg, with its two kings who swap out the duties of royalty as the seasons turn, with one being the Winter King and the other the Summer King.

Regarding the question of religion, I've already decided I want Aedgaria to be a traditional cleric-based religion, and Valais will be drudical in nature. That still leaves the question of what to do with Lippegen. I could go with something completely new, or I could go with another clerical land, but with a different spin than Aedgaria. Since I already have one country that is completely different (Valais), I'm going to go with the option I think lends itself to the most dramatic possibilities, and say that Lippegen and Aedgaria share a religion, but that they are in schism, and thus each regards the other as heretical.

This religious tension can flare up and be tamped down from time to time, with hostility increasing or decreasing as events unfold. It gives me another arrow in my quiver for making plot-advancing events come to life.  So what's the deal with this religion in crisis?

The Church of the Holy Kin is based on the worship of the Holy Family, a trio of gods that is said to have created the world and who are related to one another. There are no evil deities, but demons, devils, daemons, and etc. take that role. The Holy Family consists of:

Adar - Sky father, appears as a powerfully-built human male with the head of a lion. Neutral good. Greater god. God of the sky and weather, storms and the rain that quickens the fields. He is prayed to in most circumstances, especially for fair winds, gentle rains, and good weather. He is also god of craftsmen. A primordial being with no father or mother.

Amara - Earth Mother, appears as a beautiful woman with the head of a falcon. Chaotic good. Greater goddess. Goddess of the earth, plants, animals, and agriculture. She is prayed to for bountiful crops and game, and also in childbirth and healing in general. A primordial being with no father or mother.

Kest - The Joyous Warrior, appears as a prototypical knight in shining armor, with great eagle wings, or a beautiful young girl, scantily clad, with butterfly wings. Lawful good. Lesser god. God of war, victory, chivalry, and knighthood as well as sex, lust, food, drink, and pleasures of the flesh. S/he is prayed to for victory in battle. Child of Adar and Amara.

Temples of the Church are dedicated to all three members of the Holy Family, as are clerics. The idea of a cleric dedicated to a single member of the Family is unknown. Clerics wear blue and white, and are as described in the Players Handbook. The religion is a moralistic one, embracing the tenets of Good, imported from a now-destroyed city-state of great splendor in the distant past. 

There are, however, specialty clerics that arise in different places and cities, emphasizing particular aspects of life that are of particular interest to their faithful. Naturally, Lippegen and Aedgaria have their own, and some from Hanar (the home continent off to the west across the Stormsea) will have come themselves as settlers. No specialty clerics trained in Artanis will be anything other than Lippegen or Aegarian Order. Here are a few such orders of specialty clerics that could be found:

Lippegen Order specialty clerics: AL LG, LN, NG; RA blue and white tunic and leggings with green and yellow trim; WPN longsword*, dagger, spear; SPL tracking as a ranger 2 levels lower; ADD burning hands, locate plants, slow poison, stoneskin, transmute rock to mud. The Lippegen Order evolved to be more aggressive and warlike, while at the same time gaining skills that are helpful in a new environment.

Aedgarian Order specialty clerics: AL LG, NG, CG; RA blue and white tunic and leggings with red and white trim; WPN flail, battle axe, horseman's pick; SPL re-roll all 1's when curing wounds; ADD animal friendship, charm person or mammal, plant growth, animal summoning I, animal summoning II, commune with nature, anti-animal shell. Such clerics are well-suited to the rigors of life on an untamed continent. It is possible that a North Aedgarian and South Aedgarian order will emerge at some point, but it has not occurred yet.

Lordain specialty clerics: AL any good; RA blue and white tunic with silver and blue trim; WPN dagger, knife, cutlass*; SPL predict weather 1/day at 1st level, gust of wind 2/day at 5th level, control weather 1/day at 14th level; ADD feather fall, fog cloud, call lightning, control winds. Lordain is one of the great seaports of Wynnland, and their clerics are used to serving aboard and helping ships and those that travel by water.

Kreff specialty clerics: AL any good, RA blue and white tunic with gold and red trim; WPN longsword, lance*, horseman's flail; SPL +1 to hit when mounted, immune to fear at 3rd level; ADD flaming sphere, fireball, protection from evil 10' radius, wall of thorns. Kreff is a barony in Heimburg that has seen generations of warfare in the struggle between the Orthodox and Reformed churches. Their clerics serve on the front lines, encouraging paladins and their troops to greater deeds of action. They follow the Orthodox church, but a single decisive victory by the Reformed church forces would render them all but extinct.

The nature of the schism within the Church is, on the surface, one of theological minutiae. The Orthodox church, to which Grott-Heimburg (and thus Lippegen) holds allegiance, believes that Kest can only be male or female at any given time, thus constantly shifting the balance of gender within the Holy Family. The Reformed church, to which Wynnland (and thus Aedgaria) is pledged, holds that Kest is at all times inherently both male and female, and thus there is always equality of gender within the Holy Family. There are other, minor, issues as well.

But that is on the surface. The real root of the schism is political and economic. The Orthodox church is centralized, with a single Great High Priest who rules as priest-king over his own realm in Hanar and who has spiritual authority over the church organization in the various kingdoms that uphold it. The Reformed church, on the other hand, is very locally centered, with the highest level of authority at the level of an individual temple or shrine, or at most a town with three or four temples.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Review: Thor Ragnarok (Spoiler Free)

I saw Thor Ragnarok tonight in a mostly-filled theater with the new (to me, anyway) Dolby system installed. Supposed to have better sound and visuals. The sound was definitely more rumbly; the seats would shake when there were explosions or ships flying past, but I didn't notice anything particularly better about the viewability of the film. The power recliners were a definite plus, though. No 3D, no IMAX. Now on to the movie itself.

Bottom line; this is easily the best of the Thor films, but that's a pretty low bar, as they're on the bottom end of the MCU films as a whole. A lot has been said about the level of humor in this film, and there are definitely a lot more jokes (sight gags as well as silly moments in general) to be had than in most Marvel films in general, save the Guardians of the Galaxy films.

At first when I heard about the humor in the movie, I was afraid it would descend into farce, and had visions of using the phrase "the MCU has finally reached the level of Abbot and Costello Meet Loki" but my fears were unfounded. The humor is definitely stepped up, but it's well-done and adds to the film, rather than taking it down the Abbot-hole.

Valkyrie from the comic books
Hela (played by Kate Blanchett) is one of those rarities in the MCU - a villain whose motivations are relatively easy to understand and clearly defined. Unlike Malekith in Thor The Dark World, I might hasten to add. I won't go into too much detail, but they tie her story into that of the Valkyrie (played by Tessa Thompson) very nicely.

Speaking of whom, I comfort myself that they never actually call her Brunhilde, as she is known in the comic books, so she is "one of the Valkyries" rather than "the heroine called Valkyrie, whose real name is Brunhilde, in the comic books" who is a leggy blonde, as one might expect someone named Brunhilde to be. Ahem.

Jeff Goldblum's Grand Master is a treasure to behold, and he's just as quirky as his brother and fellow Elder of the Universe, The Collector, seen in Thor The Dark World and Guardians of the Galaxy.

Hulk is the Big Guy in the room, and dominates the film's second act. He's more vocal than we've seen him before in an MCU film, but that's perfectly in line with his comic-book incarnation, where he speaks regularly. I found myself really liking the talking Hulk a lot more than the screaming-only Hulk we saw in the first two Avengers films (with one notable exception):


There's a great call-back to this scene in the film, by the way, and it's brilliant. You won't see it coming, but you'll know it when you see it.

What struck me overall about the film was the use of color throughout. From the opening title you know this is a film much more grounded in the MCU's Cosmic side, with its bright colors, asymmetrical designs, and weird angled line ornamentation that doesn't seem to serve any purpose, but which should be instantly recognizable by fans of Jack Kirby's work in the comics. Visually, this film establishes the use of color and crowded design as a hallmark of the Comic MCU definitively. Sakaar is what Asgard should have looked like (and Attilan from the Inhumans show on ABC, for that matter, but that's another story). The use of contemporary music also recalled GotG, but to a lesser degree.

The pacing is also worth noting. The film runs longer than either of its predecessors (130 minutes) but it doesn't feel like it. When the final battle in the third act rolled around, I thought the movie still had a ways to go. It never feels rushed or bloated. Great pacing. Spider-Man Homecoming was similarly well-paced.

It's far from a perfect movie, of course. They completely unnecessarily re-use a musical theme. Holding off until the end of the film would have had a lot more impact. Doing the same thing twice feels like they couldn't be bothered to find anything else (someone send the folks at Marvel Studios a bunch of Manowar CDs, pronto!). Once or twice a joke could have yielded to a straight line and provided greater impact. Meekly-voiced Korg became a one-trick pony. But these are relatively minor issues. There are none of the greater problems that plagued Dark World, for instance.

On the whole, this is an entirely fun outing for the MCU. We see a side of the Cosmic universe we've not seen before, which broadens it immensely, setting things up for even greater things I'm sure when Captain Marvel hits theaters in 2019, and we get to see the Kree (again) and Skrulls (finally) in action, not to mention the inevitable Guardians of the Galaxy 3. This will surely be yet another hit for Marvel, and deservedly so. Its definitely in the top third of their catalog.

Friday, November 3, 2017

November Campaign Design II - Better Map, Firmer Concepts

So after the previous effort, I sat down with Hexographer and took a stab at a first-draft map. Here's what I came up with:

Click to embiggen

A few things are different from the sketch map, of course. There are more towns. There are islands, Things have names. This isn't a final map by any stretch - I want to do it in the same style I did my Beyond the Flanaess maps - but it will do to get some concepts going. I'll pretty it up at some point. (Although I may, just may, do a hand-done map for this one, in true old school style.)

One thing jumps out at me. The whole desert area in the south is unnecessary at this point. At a scale of 10 miles per hex, we've got 400 miles by 200 miles of adventuring terrain, just in the areas claimed by the colonies. I might want to expand into the southern part of the map at some point, but I think I'm going to cut it off and focus on the settled areas.

I have my Big Concept now. I want this to be a campaign without dungeons.

Yup, no dungeons. No credulity-defying gilded holes. There will be ruins from Lost Artanis (the civilization that was here before the founding of the colonies, but which was mysteriously destroyed 500 years ago), but they will be just that. Ruins. Like you'd see in Rome or Greece. No vast megadungeon complexes, but there will be vast ruined cities to explore. Mines are a possibility, and dwarves and gnomes live underground, and there will be sewers, but no dungeons in the conventional sense. Tombs will be small, four chambers, maximum. I do think there will be an Underdark-type area where the druegar live, but even then there will be conventional buildings in large open underground areas, like Erelhei-Cinlu in the Vault of the Drow.

The far eastern half of the map still needs to be fleshed out, and I should start thinking about the nature and location of those Artanian ruins.

I'm also thinking about the nature of Lippegen's religion. I could go with something completely new (designing a new sub-class of cleric to go with it), or I could have the church in Lippegen and Aedgaria in schism. Both have clerics, but they are at odds with one another over some point of theology, somewhat analogous to the Protestant and Catholic churches in the 16th century. But do I want to put them at each others' throats?

Worthy Cause: Extra Life

Starting tomorrow, Thramack and Darth Cupcake will be participating in Extra Life's game stream marathon tomorrow into Sunday. You can pledge any amount, which will go to help ill and injured kids in need. Do check it out, here:

https://www.extra-life.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=donorDrive.participant&participantID=249425


Wednesday, November 1, 2017

November Campaign Design I - Rough Map, Broad Concepts

In my first installment in my NaCaCrMo series, I have a quick sketch of a map done, a big concept for the campaign, and a few details that occurred to me as I was contemplating the whole thing. Here is the map I came up with, along with marginalia which I'll transcribe below (click to embiggen):


One of the core ideas of starting off an adventuring party is to have them come from somewhere else to the place where the adventure is, to give a reasonable explanation for why they wouldn't intimately know the terrain, NPCs, local secrets, and so forth. In the original DMG, Gary Gygax gave some excellent advice on the subject:
As background you inform them (the players) that they are from some nearby place where they were apprentices learning their respective professions, that they met by chance in an inn or tavern and resolved to journey together to seek their fortunes in the dangerous environment, and that, beyond the knowledge common to the area (speech, alignments, races, and the like), they know nothing of the world. Placing these new participants in a small settlement means that you need do only minimal work describing the place and its inhabitants. -- AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide, p. 87
So here's where my first concept for the setting comes from. The whole thing is a recently-colonized island, or subcontinent, or continent. The kingdoms doing the colonizing have only been at it for a century or so, there's a multiple-month lag in getting there from the homeland, and the settlements are still very early in the process of becoming secure. There are only a handful of actual towns, settlers are coming over and clearing land, a few intrepid explorers have mapped out some of what's out there, but there's a huge frontier, mostly unexplored, filled with mountains, forests, monsters, and mystery.

That gives a perfect excuse for the PCs to be fresh off the boat (literally!), almost completely unfamiliar with their new home, and with a built-in excuse to go off exploring. Perhaps there's even a bounty on bringing back new and better maps, locations of valuable resources, and so forth.

In order to do this, I looked to the European settlement of North America. The map above doesn't have a scale, intentionally. When I did some back-of-the-envelope calculations based on the colonies from New England down to Virginia, a population of 100,000 after a hundred years of settlement activity wasn't excessive, and a scale of about 400 miles long and 200 miles wide would be about right, if I'm aiming for a 1720's scope.

Note that this does not mean I'm going for a 1720's level of technology. I'm just looking for historical patterns of colonization, exploration, and population growth. Fast forward 100 years from Plymouth Colony, and we get about that number of people and area of development. Still all very rough and dangerous and unexplored, though. Just what I'm going for.

There are three competing powers who have established colonies here; the colonies are Aedgaria (split into north and south), Lippegen, and New Valais. I envision them as (very roughly) English, German, and French. Aedgaria is the latecomer with the worst pickings, as both Lippegen and New Valais have solid routs to the interior, while North Aedgaria is stuck with a more northern route, with worse climate. Stretching the American colonies idea, North Aedgaria is New England, Lippegen is New York/Pennsylvania, South Aedgaria is the mid-Atlantic states, and New Valais is Virginia. Again, these parallels are more for scale than anything thematic, except for South Aedgaria being cut off from the interior.

It's also worth noting that setting up the campaign this way makes it much easier to head towards the AD&D "endgame" of clearing land, building a castle, and ruling over peasants.

Transcribing my margin notes on the map above (just stuff that occurred to me as I was contemplating the map):

Humanoids
Goblinoids - mercenaries brought over by Lippegen and New Valais. Many deserted, now indigenous/feral.
Orcs - Natives. Unknown in Hanar-across-the-Sea

Demihumans
Native Wild Elves.
Other elves/dwarves/etc. brought w/Hanarians [I seem to have settled on "Hanar" as the name of the continent whence all the settlers are coming]
Most elves - Valais
Most dwarves - Lippegen
Most halflings - Aedgaria
Native druegar

LOST ARTANIS
Former big empire, suddenly destroyed. Why?? Ruins.

Secret - There were two civilizations, one much earlier. Not obvious. High Tech (steam-magic)

Religion
Valais - Druids
Aedgaria - Clerics
Lippegen - ???

Pop approx 130k

That took about an hour. Can't wait to see where this leads me!

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

November Campaign Design


I'm declaring November to be NaCaCrMo.

Sodium-Calcium-Chromium-Molybdenum for the win!

Oh, wait. No. With all the national month of this or that or the other thing in November, I thought I might turn my own attentions to creating a campaign setting in a month, both to see if I can do it, and to share my own process for doing so with you all. I'm calling it NAtional CAmpaign CReation MOnth. Because those sorts of semi-acronyms are all the rage nowadays, apparently. Maybe it's not "national", but I'll give it a try anyway.

Starting on November 1st, I'll go from a bare concept to (hopefully) a finished, ready-to-play campaign setting that could last many years of play.

My only self-imposed limitations:
  • It'll be written for some form of D&D or OSR game (or more than one)
  • It'll have at least one complete map and accompanying descriptive text
  • It'll be in final, playable (not necessarily publishable - formatting and layout is not required) form by November 30
  • It'll have at least one unique twist to set it apart from most other campaign settings
So there we go. Hope this works out as well as my NaGaDeMon experience a few years ago!

_______

Illustration from Ed Greenwood's excellent "Plan Before You Play" article in Dragon Magazine 63.

1st Edition Paladin Spells (Part 2)

Following up on the previous post, here are the remaining paladin-specific spells, converted from 5E
to 1E format. The 5E paladin spell list goes up to 5th level, but in 1E paladins can only cast up to 4th level spells, thus this list is a little smaller than the total list of paladin spells in 5th edition.

Third Level

Aura of Vitality

Level: 3
Components: V
Range: Self (3" radius)
Casting Time: 3 segments
Duration: 1 turn
Area of Effect: Special
Saving Throw: Neg.

This spell fills you with healing energy. One time during the duration of the spell, you can cure wounds on any individual within 30 feet of your position, causing them to regain 2d6 hit points. If cast on an unwilling subject, they are entitled to a saving throw to avoid the spell's effect.

Blinding Smite

Level: 3
Components: V
Range: Self
Casting Time: 3 segments
Duration: 1 turn
Area of Effect: 1 weapon
Saving Throw: None

This spell will create a special field in any single weapon you hold. The next time the weapon hits an enemy before the end of the spell, it will ring with a thunderous clap, inflicting an additional 3d8 h.p. of damage. In addition, unless it is able to make a saving throw vs. spells, it will be blinded for the duration of the spell, with a -4 penalty "to hit". If the weapon does not hit, the spell effect wears off at the end of the spell's effect. Only one target will be affected by the weapon.

Crusader's Mantle

Level: 3
Components: V
Range: Self
Casting Time: 3 segments
Duration: 1 turn
Area of Effect: 30' radius
Saving Throw: None

This spell creates an aura around you that inspires all friendly creatures within 30' of you to greater feats of martial skill. For the duration of the spell, all friendly creatures inflict an additional 1d4 h.p. of damage when they hit. The radius of effect moves with you.

Elemental Weapon

Level: 3
Components: V, S
Range: Touch
Casting Time: 3 segments
Duration: 1 hour
Area of Effect: 1 weapon
Saving Throw: None

This spell allows you to temporarily imbue a single weapon with a +1 bonus for both "to hit" and an additional 1d4 h.p. to damage inflicted. If you are 13th level, the weapon will have a +2 bonus to hit, and if you are 15th level or higher, the weapon will have a +3 bonus to hit.

Fourth Level

Aura of Life

Level: 4
Components: V
Range: Self
Casting Time: 3 segments
Duration: 1 hour
Area of Effect: 30' radius
Saving Throw: None

This spell infuses you with positive energy, which radiates out from you in a 30' radius and moves with you. All friendly creatures in the area of effect get a +4 bonus to all saving throws when attacked by undead creatures or creatures native to the negative material plane. If any friendly creature within the area of effect starts a round with 0 or fewer hit points and is still alive, that creature will be increased by 1 additional hit point.

Aura of Purity

Level: 4
Components: V, S
Range: Self
Casting Time: 4 segments
Duration: 1 hour
Area of Effect: 30' radius
Saving Throw: Neg.

This spell surrounds you with an aura that protects against disease and other conditions. For the duration of the spell, all non-hostile creatures within 30' of you will be immune to all diseases, including mummy rot, but already-existing diseases are unaffected. In addition, they will have a +4 bonus to all saving throws vs. poison, petrification, fear, blindness, deafness, and paralysis. Finally, they will also take half damage from any non-fatal poison. The aura moves as you do.

Staggering Smite

Level: 4
Components: V
Range: Self
Casting Time: 4 segments
Duration: 1 turn
Area of Effect: 1 weapon
Saving Throw: Neg.

This spell will create a special field in any single weapon you hold. The next time the weapon hits an enemy before the end of the spell, it will cut through into their mind itself, inflicting an additional 4d6 h.p. of damage. In addition, unless it is able to make a saving throw vs. spells, it will be stunned and suffer a -4 penalty to all "to hit" rolls, saving throws for the next 1d4 rounds. If the weapon does not hit, the spell effect wears off at the end of the spell's effect. Only one target will be affected by the weapon.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

1st Edition Paladin Spells (Part 1)

One of the things I like about 5th Edition is the notion of special spell lists for paladins and rangers. (I have no idea if this was also a thing in 3rd or 4th edition, since I never got into either.) I think this is precisely the sort of thing that could translate into 1st edition very well.

So, that being said, here's my take on translating some of the 5th edition spells into 1st edition format.

These would be in addition to the normal clerical spells to which paladins have access.

First Level

Compelled Duel (enchantment/charm)

Level: 1
Components: V
Range: 3"
Casting Time: 1 segment
Duration: Special
Area of Effect: One creature
Saving Throw: Neg.

This spell will compel a single creature to fight the caster. On a failed saving throw, the target creature must remain within 30 feet of you and has a -4 penalty "to hit" when attempting to strike any creature except you. Once affected by the spell, the creature can attempt to make another saving throw which would allow it to move more than 30' from you for that round only. The penalty to hit remains in effect. The target creature is aware of the compulsion to attack you.

The spell ends when you attack any creature other than the target (either with a weapon, magic item, or spell), when a creature friendly to you damages the target (again either by weapon, magic item, or spell), or you move so that you end the round more than 30' from the target.

Divine Favor (evocation)

Level: 1
Components: V, S
Range: Self
Casting Time: 1 segment
Duration: 1 turn
Area of Effect: One weapon
Saving Throw: None

This spell will imbue any single weapon held in your hand with divine energy in the round following the casting of the spell. A weapon so empowered will do an additional 1d4 h.p. of damage when it hits. The effect remains until the spell duration expires.

Searing Smite (evocation)

Level: 1
Components: V
Range: Self
Casting Time: 1 action
Duration: See below
Area of Effect: One weapon
Saving Throw: None

This spell will turn any weapon you hold white-hot when it strikes (you are not harmed by this) in the following round. This will inflict an additional 1d6 h.p. of fire damage, and the target will become engulfed in white flames. These flames will inflict an additional 1d6 h.p. of fire damage per round until they are extinguished, or 1 turn has passed, whichever comes first. The flames can be extinguished by the target making a successful saving throw vs. spells, by some other creature using the round to extinguish the flames (smothering them with a cloak, etc.), or if the target is in an environment where fire is impossible (underwater, in a vacuum, etc.).

Shield of Faith (abjuration)

Level: 1
Components: V, S, M
Range: 6"
Casting Time: 1 segment
Duration: 1 turn
Area of Effect: 1 creature
Saving Throw: None

This spell causes an invisible shield to protect one creature of your choice. For the duration of the spell, the selected creature will have a +2 bonus to its armor class. The spell requires a bit of parchment with a prayer or holy text written upon it, which can be re-used.

Thunderous Smite (evocation)

Level: 1
Components: V
Range: Self
Casting Time: 1 segment
Duration: 1 turn
Area of Effect: 1 weapon
Saving Throw: None

This spell will create a special field in any single weapon you hold. The next time the weapon hits an enemy before the end of the spell, it will ring with a thunderous clap, inflicting an additional 2d6 h.p. of damage. In addition, unless it is able to make a saving throw vs. spells, it will be pushed back 10 feet and knocked prone, requiring a round to get up. The sound of thunder can be heard up to 300 feet away. If the weapon does not hit, the spell effect wears off at the end of the spell's effect.

Wrathful Smite (evocation)

Level: 1
Components: V
Range: Self
Casting Time: 1 segment
Duration: 1 turn
Area of Effect: 1 weapon
Saving Throw: None

This spell imbues a single weapon you hold with a powerful magical aura. The first time the weapon hits an enemy during the duration of the spell, it will inflict an additional 1d6 h.p. of damage. In addition, the creature struck must make a saving throw vs. spells. Failure means they are struck as if they had a fear spell cast upon them for 1d6 rounds.

Second Level

Branding Smite (evocation)

Level: 2
Components: V
Range: Self
Casting Time: 2 segments
Duration: 1 turn
Area of Effect: 1 weapon
Saving Throw: None

This spell imbues a single weapon you hold with a powerful magical aura. The first time the weapon hits during the duration of the spell, it will inflict an additional 2d6 h.p. of damage. In addition, the target will glow as if a faerie fire spell had been cast on it for one round after the hit. If you do not hit a target before it expires, the spell is lost.

Zone of Truth (enchantment/charm)

Level: 2
Components: V, S
Range: 6"
Casting Time: 2 segments
Duration: 10 minutes
Area of Effect: 15' radius
Saving Throw: neg.

This spell creates a zone within which no untruth can be spoken. If any creature enters the spell's radius, or is within that radius when the spell is cast, it must make a saving throw vs. spells. Failure indicates it cannot tell any falsehood. You will know whether any given creature is under the effect of the spell when you hear them speak, but creatures affected by the spell will also be aware of their condition, and could very well choose silence or evasiveness.

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Edit: Thanks to James Mishler for input on the spell effects, which have been updated to reflect his feedback.