Archive for March, 2014

Another new Round Table, which is the podcast I produce on The Tome Show. In this episode I sit down withRudy BassoJoe Lastowski, and Andrew Kane sit down to discuss a big time D&D Next buzzword – iconic. We talk about iconic characters, monsters, adventures, and rules. What does iconic mean to us? If you strip away all the logos and branding from something, and you can still tell that it’s D&D, then that thing is iconic.

What is the most iconic D&D party? What are the most iconic non-dragon D&D monsters? What makes a D&D adventure iconic? What rules are the most iconic of D&D? Let us know! We really want to hear what you think. Leave us a comment here on or The Tome Show’s website.

If you like what you’re reading please follow me on Twitter, tell your friends, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!
Advertisements

I was honored to be on and episode of The Tome Show with Jeff Greiner, Sam Dillon, and Jay Klint. We reviewed a whole bunch of old adventures available as pdfs on dndclassics.com. Eyes of the Lich Queen, Eye of Pain, Ravenloft, and Against the Cult of the Reptile God are all covered in the sweet, sweet aural experience. It was so much fun, and I hope you have fun listening as well. If you like the show, check out everything else The Tome Show has to offer, including the podcast I host and produce – The Round Table.

If you like what you’re reading please follow me on Twitter, or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

I’ve made more than a few references to the tribes of humanoids living in Verda. There’s so many of them, it can be difficult to keep track. These tribes are made of humans, orcs, goblins, hobgoblins, bugbears, gnolls, and more. Many tribes are undiscovered deep in the unexplored areas for Verda. This allows me to work-in new races and elements as supplements for D&D 5 begin to come out. Exploration Age is not limited because parts of the world still remain a mystery.

Similarities Amongst the Tribes

Orcs!

There are two similarities that all of Verda’s tribes share. These elements are designed to help my players and I keep the numerous Verdan peoples straight in our heads.

  • All of the tribes are named after a beast, be it animal or other-worldly. e.g. Frog Tribe, Chimera Tribe, Remorhaz Tribe.
  • All tribes worship the same set of four gods, one for each element. These gods favor neither evil nor good, law nor chaos, so their word is interpreted in many ways.

This way we don’t have a collection of thousands of gods to keep straight and the tribes are conveniently named and easily identified by a symbolic beast.

The Major Variances

Verda’s tribes can fall into a few major categories:

  • Permanent or Nomadic – A tribe may have taken up a permanent residence in a ruin, natural holding such as a cave, or built their own permanent domiciles out of water material they had available. Many of Verda’s tribes have a more mobile life style, perhaps in tents or tepees. These nomadic people chase game and good weather, relying on both to sustain themselves.
  • Isolationist or Open or Hateful – Some of Verda’s tribes are happy with the arrival of Findalayans and Parians. These new visitors bring exotic gifts and make good trade partners. Others prefer to ignore these new arrivals, observing from a distance to see what they might do before rushing to interact. A third category of tribes is unhappy with the way Findalay and Parian have claimed pieces of their homeland and deal with the tribes as inferior beings. This third category has decided these newcomers are their enemies and need to be put down and sent home.
  • Small or Medium or Large – Most of Verda’s tribes are on the smaller side. Their populations are usually less than 100. The constant warring coupled with the recent plague and famine have kept the number of tribesman quite small. The medium tribes are between 100 and 200 people. Larger tribes can have as many as 500 members.
  • Warring or At-Peace – At any given time there is roughly a 50% chance that a tribe is at war with another tribe. The violence does not usually take place in full-scale battles, but is more like a gang war. Each tribe sticks to its territory and only commits violence when they cross paths with enemies. Some organize raids on their enemies, but rarely are these tribes looking at full-scale extermination of one another. These wars can begin as disputes over resources and game, to show superiority, or some other reason.
  • Racial Makeup – Most tribes are composed of humans, half-orcs, orcs, goblinkin, or some combination of all. There are other humanoids that also make up the tribes such as gnolls, ogres, and minotaurs, but there are fewer of these folk on Verda.

Minor Variances

Undead Wolverines shouldn’t mess with the tribes of Verda.

Those major details help me (or any other DM) quickly flesh out a tribe. The little details are then up to me. Things to consider that might help a tribe feel unique:

  • What natural game and plant life are around that the tribe might hunt and eat?
  • Does this tribe value strength at arms? Strength in arcane magic? Divine magic? Psionics? Unarmed combat?
  • Are men and women equals in this tribe? If not, which sex is the dominant one?
  • What do their living structures look like?
  • How do they get around? Mounts? Vehicles? On foot?

These questions are a great place to start when introducing a new tribe into the game!

Brief Overview of The Tribes History

The tribes have been on Verda almost as long as the tieflings. Their origins are unclear as they simply emerged from the The Sprawling Jungle, already worshipping their gods and divided into racially segregated tribe.

At first the tribes were racist and each believed its own to be the superior one. Many small and violent wars were had and smaller tribes ran to the outskirts of Verda, pushed away from the jungles by tribes with superior numbers. Even today, the tribes speak of The Beholder tribe which dominates the center of The Sprawling Jungle still pure in its strange racial makeup. They dare not head into the heart of the jungle, for there they may come face to face with the huge tribe that pushed all others further out into the world.

Over time, most other tribes softened in their views and accepted other races into their communities, even allowing marriage and mixed-race offspring to come into being. The tribes came together just as the morchia rose from the earth in an attempt to conquer Canus.

The tribes were great in number and for a long time they managed to hold out against the powerful morchia. Eventually though, their numbers dwindled and the morchia spread, even though warring tribes put aside differences to come together against a common foe. For over one thousand years this war raged, until the tieflings used The Reckoning Spell to end the war and drive the morchia back underground.

After that moment, the tribes always respected the might and power of the tieflings. When a tiefling comes into a tribe, they are treated with a healthy dose of respect… and fear.

The next problem for the tribes of Verda came in the form of the githyanki incursion. Githyanki, coming through a portal created by the tieflings, decided to take Verda as their own. They were less straight forward than the morchia, planting spies amongst the tribes and within the tiefling spires. Then the githyanki would strike suddenly and catch an entire settlement by surprise. The thriving tribes once again suffered many losses, until the tieflings opened a portal and made a pact with the githzerai. Together, the tribes, the tieflings, and the githzerai pushed back the githyanki. Today, the githyanki are still said to roam some of Verda’s mountains. The githzerai who did not return to their home plane retreated into the jungles and have not been heard from since after the war.

Since those two big wars, the tribes have continued their own skirmishes, survived The Tarrasque, harsh Winters, volcanic eruptions, and most recently a wide-spread plague. They are resilient people, smart, tough, and often they find pleasure in simple things like a good meal, a fierce battle, or a clever joke.

These guys deserve an “I survived The Tarrasque” T-Shirt.

The Tribes Today

Today, the tribes have become alerted to the presence of other folk in the world and across the oceans. Some of the tribes have gotten along and traded with the peoples of Findalay and Parian. As time has gone on, however, even the most open tribes have learned that these newcomers can be dangerous.

Many of the settlers have their own fear of the people of the tribes, since the orcs of their homelands are always murderous and fierce, or they assume that if one tribe takes pleasure and fun in killing they all must. Racism and assumptions about the tribes living life as uncultured savages have led to many misunderstandings, some of which have ended in violence.

The tribes present yet another layer and shade of gray to added to Exploration Age. They make wonderful NPCs and help make the world rich and complex. The people of the tribes also present an opportunity to play a different kind of PC than someone from Findalay or Parian. A PC could be naive, inquisitive, introverted, or suspicious. An expert in one land, and a stranger in another.

If you like what you’re reading, please check out my podcast on The Tome Show, follow me on Twitter, or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

I’m not sure there’s anything more frustrating to me than trying to create a map. I am a horrible visual fine artist. Envisioning what I want is easy, but I just don’t have the skills to execute. I wanted to use a program that would help me create a large world map, easily and quickly. One that would make calculating travel easy and allow me to convey a lot of information in one shot. One that wouldn’t look too terrible!

You’ve Got Options

There are actually a ton of programs you can use to make a world map that fits the bill. Here’s a few resources you can use to make a great world map without being a Photoshop wizard or fine artist.

  • Mapdiva – Has a ton of interesting tools and their example maps look great, but I think you need to be a decent artist to make it work and it seems a little pricey.
  • Campaign Cartographer 3 – Oooooh giirrrrl. This one looked like it might be it. Easy to use, decent price, looks great… but you have to be on the PC and I’m on a mac. Crap.
  • Fractal Mapper – Same great stuff and singular problem as above.
  • Stone Sword – Free and web-based! On a great track! But it looks limited in its variety of visual terrain options, and I’m not sure it allows me to create a world map big enough.

Now I didn’t actually use any of these as you can tell from individual reasons listed, but maybe one of them is right for you! To make the map of Canus, I used a program called Hexographer. I have to say it’s certainly not the best looking map creator out there, but it allowed me to do all of the things I needed to do and it runs on both Mac and PC.

So Why Hexographer?

Here’s my list of reasons for going with Hexographer after doing a little research and playing around.

  • It’s a hex mapper. – I really love hex maps because they make calculating travel very easy. How far is A to B? Well, just count up the number of hexes along your route, multiply them by the scale and BAM! Answered.
  • It’s easy and fast. – Hexographer has loads of handy features, and the basic concept of placing individual terrain hexes down to create a map is pretty user-friendly. You can place them all individually, you can input settings and have it generate a random world map, or you can make a sort of outlined world and then use the terrain wizard feature to fill in the gaps.
  • It has a lot of variety and customization. -Hexographer has a multitude of hex tile options. Pictured below is just the tip of the iceberg. The titles, lines, text graphics, shapes, and more are all customizable and make it easy for you to really shape the world (or galaxy) you want to make.
    • Some terrain hexes available.

      Some terrain hexes available.

    • Some symbols that can be added to the map.

      Some symbols that can be added to the map.

  • It’s free. – Yep. You can pay more to get a license and get some cool features (which I did), but everything listed above is 0 dollars. 0.

Size of Canus

So after I picked the software I wanted to use to create the map, I had to determine just how big Canus is. I know I want adventures that span the world to feel as epic and big as they might in our own world… if not bigger! The scale of my hexes to be easy to add for figuring out distances. My map is roughly 500 hexes across. The circumference of Earth is just under 25,000 miles, so I decided to make each hex 50 miles across. That makes Aeranore and Bragonay about the same size across and the United States. Hopefully that scaling will make my world feel huge and epic. I’m not too worried about travel time between places, since Exploration Age is full of many neat ways to get around, like airships, underground railways, portals, magic beasts of burden, and magically enhanced cobblestone roads. Let me know what you think of that scale. Is it too big? I really was having trouble judging it, but if you need to get around the world, that should take a while!

Blank Spots

Obviously a big part of Exploration Age is… well, exploration. So I’ve got a few big blank spots on the maps. Both of the poles, northern Glacius, most of Verda, and most of The Damned Lands. I’m actually thinking that when I put these materials out for others, I’ll include my DM map as well with the blank spots revealed for all those DMs out there. The blank spots do present a bit of a problem. In a world where airships exist, why haven’t people done fly overs to map out unknown areas? Well my friends, airships wouldn’t be much fun if they didn’t have a bit of danger! In Exploration Age, airships need to be recharged with raw arcane energy every 500 miles. This process is as quick as refueling a car, so it doesn’t really slow down travel. The refueling process requires a huge tower topped with a massive crystalline rod. The rods are then filled with arcane energy by mages once a year. All airships have an apparatus which allows them to connect to the rod and recharge. Since the towers take many years to build, there are few in Verda and almost equally few airships since they had to be built there, since they can’t be piloted across the ocean. This helps keep the game exciting. An airship adventure has danger and resource management. If you have one it doesn’t automatically let you surpass all challenges. Also airships will have to take certain routes. Picture an encounter on one of these towers, as a rod crackles with energy PCs must find their way to the ship above which is leaving in moments, or lie in wait for an enemy airship coming to refuel… or perhaps someone lies in wait for them!

What Do Ya Got?

Take a look for yourself. Here’s Canus! Let me know how I did.

World Map of Canus

World Map of Canus

If you like what you’re reading, please check out my podcast on The Tome Show, follow me on Twitter, or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

Aeranore’s gnomes value the study of magical arts, history, and sciences above all others. Long ago they founded an institution in Aeranore where all gnomes could attend to receive an education in these areas of the highest pedigree. The Arcane College was meant just for Aeranore’s gnomes when it was founded, but now its presence and influence has spread.

Every major city in Findalay and Parian has a campus to which members of any race are welcome to apply. Now with various fields of study, The Arcane College has become the Canus A-List academic institution.

Fields of Study

Had to be done.

Retired adventurers, young academics, and everyone in-between can be found on the faculty of The Arcane College. If you’re at the top of your field, they want you, and they’ve got the hiring package to back it up. In addition to a healthy salary, professors are offered free room and board in spacious campus apartments, the ability to take free classes themselves, free travel to other campuses, and funding for expeditions and independent studies (provided The College also profits from these pursuits).

There are major fields of study for any who come to the college as a pupil, either to specialize or receive a well-rounded education. Some of the fields of study:

  • Arcane Magic
  • Forbidden Lore
  • Psionics
  • Physical Combat and Martial Strategy
  • Theatre
  • Music
  • History
  • Economics and Accounting
  • Law and Government
  • Nature Studies
  • Unusual Beast Lore
  • Cartography and Geography
  • Geology and Earth Science
  • Alchemical Sciences
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Mathematics and Physics
  • Foreign Languages and International Relations

Goals of The Arcane College

Let’s check out that pyramid… uh ziggurat…. uh temple? Whatever, there could be loot inside!

The mission statement of The Arcane College states: “We establish this collegiate institution to uncover mysteries of the natural and magical world, whether forgotten, lost, or as yet unknown. Our professors will light the candle of students’ minds, which shall, in turn, bring a glorious flow of knowledge to all people in the dark.”

From that flowery, pretentious statement it seems The Arcane College was founded to teach, experiment, research, and explore. That may have been true centuries ago when the establishment was founded, but at some point during the institution’s rapid expansion, another goal was added – profit.

Yes, The Arcane College continues to teach, but their tuition prices are steep. One can get a loan from The Arcane College, but, as we all know, in the long run the student would end up paying even more. Scholarships are only granted to the most gifted potential students, and in turn, those students must work for The Arcane College for free for four years after graduation.

And yes, The Arcane College experiments, researches, and explores, but they only fund those endeavors which will grant them a return and then some on their investment. For PR reasons, the institution will occasionally take on a high-profile project or expedition from which they shall not profit directly. This is a calculated risk. The College bets the prestige associated with that particular project will generate enough donations to turn a seeming net loss into a profitable venture.

That being said, The Arcane College makes its money through discovery and exploration. They have many folk in Verda learning about new cultures and mapping out areas unexplored. They have even sent (often ill-fated) expeditions into The Damned Lands. The Arcane College funded research that has given rise to air ships, underground railways, and hasted cobblestones that speed travel throughout Canus. They have experimented with cheaper technologies and better medicines. When the kingdoms of Canus were truly in trouble, they have to rise up with the goodly folk, as they did during the War of the Crown.

The Arcane College is run by The Board of Arcane Directors, a group of gnome wizard professors, who are each in charge of running one of the campuses of The College.

Adventures with The Arcane College

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

The Arcane College provides many opportunities for PCs. They might be contracted to serve on an expedition, guard the transportation of The College’s goods and services, or be called upon to help face a greater threat. One of the Directors may hire the adventurers to investigate a murder on campus he or she is hoping to keep quiet or to spy on another Director who may be engaged in underhanded dealings. The Arcane College has several zoos full of exotic beasts, and adventurers can earn coin by capturing and turning over odd beasts to the institute. The more rare and dangerous an animal, the higher the pay.

The PCs might become professors and teach in the downtime between adventures, or pursue an independent study, expedition, or experiment of their own if they can convince the institution to give them a grant. Which The Arcane College may do after a lengthy review process and cost-benefit analysis.

If you like what you’re reading, please check out my podcast on The Tome Show, follow me on Twitter, or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

On this episode of The Round Table, I sit down with Alex Basso, Rudy BassoRay Fallon, and Joe Lastowski to talk about the Legends and Lore D&D Next updates on the Warlock and Bard. Should the bard have as many spells as a wizard and cleric? What warlock pacts need to make a return in fifth edition? Do tarantulas make good pets? Let us know what you think in the comments.This episode was recorded on March 11th, 2014.

Here’s some links to cool stuff the panelists are doing!

The Round Table invites players of various backgrounds to discuss the latest D&D news. If you enjoy it, you should check out all the other great content on The Tome Show.

As always you can reach me by leaving a comment or hitting me up on Twitter. Thanks!

Everyone loves the twice-widowed Queen Icillia IV. The octogenarian is praised for her even-handed ruling, merciful nature, and kindness to people of every class. Her reign has been long and prosperous for Aeranore. Not only do her farmers’ crops bring the nation great economic standing, but Aeranore has the largest and most successful settlements in Verda. Of course, there is the matter of the Twins, which could lead the entire nation to erupt into a civil war.

The Twins

Queen Icillia has two male successors, Fergal and Mankor. These identical twin brothers are now in their fifties, and have watched their resilient mother hold the throne all their lives. The twins are growing restless. Each desires Aeranore for himself and at this rate their mother could outlive them.

Fergal was born first (“by a minute,” as Mankor is quick to tell anyone) and has become a charismatic general. He is as ruthless and cunning at court as he is on the battlefield. Backstabbing, blackmail, theft, seduction, underhanded dealings, and even murder are all rumored to be part of Fergal’s toolbox when it comes to scheming and gathering power. Who could blame him? Though the throne is his by birthright, Mankor is clearly the queen’s favored son. Some whisper the reason she continues to sit the throne in her eighties is her secret hope Fergal dies in some war and Mankor be next in line. Any favor Queen Icillia gives to Fergal is for accomplishments that cannot be ignored, and nothing less.

Mankor is the seemingly softer soul. More educated and sheltered, the minute-younger twin has a love of music, wine, and bed partners. The queen looks upon Mankor with the greatest affection and has granted him a seat at her right side. For his entire life, Mankor has believed he is more worthy of the throne than his brother. His mother, who reinforced the thought, will not scheme against Fergal, she simply grants him no special favor. Mankor, on the other hand, has no such honor. Often he openly mocks his brother as a ruthless brute. More than once Fergal has thwarted assassins that have come for his life, many believe at the behest of Mankor.

Icillia is seeing her own health degrade, but it does not seem fast enough for either of her sons. So they plot against one another, they plot to strengthen their own claims to the throne, and some whisper, they plot the demise of their own mother. (DM Note: The fact that these two are identical twins allows them extra opportunities to sabotage each other via impersonation.)

The Twins are not simply power mongers. Both have visions for what Aeranore may become. Fergal believes that the smaller folk should have more of a voice at court and believes Aeranore must maintain a strong military. His biggest proposal, which has so far been rejected at court, is that anyone who enlists in the military has an opportunity to be heard once a year by Aeranore’s royalty.

Mankor also has a dream for Aeranore. He sees a land of inventors and researchers building new technologies and uncovering blank spots on the map. He believes Aeranore should be investing in young minds by scouting out potential scholars and mages then offering them scholarships to institutions like the Arcane College. In exchange these students then come and work for Aeranore’s government for a time.

The Twins are not the only forces at play.

Icillia V

When Queen Icillia IV was in her twenties she was married to a nobleman adventurer named Rallaigh DeTremont. Rallaigh went to war against Bragonay shortly after marrying Icillia and lost his life at the end of a dwarves waraxe. Shortly after, the queen gave birth to their daughter, Icillia V.

The queen rained love down on her daughter and told her tales of her father’s bravery. One day the throne would be hers after all, and she had to know what it meant to have courage. Little Icillia V grew proud of the father she had never met and desired nothing more than to go on heroic adventures. Everything the girl did was out of love for Rallaigh. That love was nurtured by her mother to prepare Icillia V to be an effective ruler. The queen constantly sang the praises of the girl’s father and spoke of how deeply she loved him.

Alas, the queen pushed too hard and praised Rallaigh too much. Eventually she remarried to the Twins father, Jerronic Tellibo. Icillia, appalled at the actions of her mother, forsook her birthright. She disappeared amongst the peasants, sought her fortune as an adventurer, or took any and all of the actions told in countless other rumors. Today she would be in her sixties, if she is still alive, and hiding somewhere in the world. Aeranore’s true heir to throne does not wish to be found, but there are those who wish to find her. Certain diplomats and nobles do not think either of the Twins sitting the throne is a good idea. They hope to find the lost princess so she might take the crown and perhaps avoid a civil war… but Icillia V’s return could just make a potential war even worse.

The Power Players

These rebels are… upset.

Two other groups further complicate Aeranore’s situation. Free Aeranore is a revolutionist group that spreads their message through acts of terrorism. They wish to bring democracy to Aeranore and put more power in the hands of the peasants by having a democratically elected group of leaders. The message of Free Aeranore is spread through vandalism and acts of violent aggression, such as raiding and raising government buildings, robbing treasury carts, and executing nobles. Their leader, a masked female who calls herself The Voice, claims Free Aeranore does not wish to commit such acts, but the monarchy forces them to do so. They have promised all acts of aggression until now have been warm ups for an imminent event they’re calling The Big Show.

Aeranore’s other issue is its largest Verdan colony, Paqual. Governor Sydal Freedrock has convinced the people of Paqual that they should not be subject to the rule of Icillia IV, who sits on a throne across the sea and does not understand the problems of the Verdan colonies. He wants Paqual and Aeranore’s other colonies to rise against Icillia IV and declare themselves a separate nation. Trying to garner support, Sydal will soon make his own claim for Paqual’s independence, with or without the other colonies. Many of Paqual’s citizens agree with this separatist attitude, though others see Sydal as a power-hungry tyrant who desires a kingdom of his own.

The Rumors

Aeranore’s situation is complicated even more by rumors whispered amongst the peasants and nobles alike. Here’s a few!

  • The Twins’ father is not actually Jerronic Tellibo, but actually his deceased, older brother Vant Tellibo. Therefore the Twins are actually bastards and have no claim to the throne.
  • Icillia V is actually still the 18-year-old woman she was when she left her mother’s palace to seek a life of adventure. Some say this youth has been achieved through a magic necklace given to her by an old tutor who looked upon her as a daughter. Others believe it is because Icillia has studied dark arts and transformed herself into some sort of undead.
  • Queen Icillia IV is not as healthy as she appears. She is suffering from an illness that will strike her down sooner than her sons might.
  • Mankor has a love all things lemon – pies, tarts, drinks. This has led many to whisper that Mankor himself is a mystauk host.

How’d I do?

I know I’ve said before I want every country to be a rich enough world that a party could simply complete a level 1-20 campaign without ever leaving its borders, but have enough connections to the outside world that an organically sprawling campaign may also be played. Hopefully, I have enough domestically going on in Aeranore to make things interesting if my players stay there. This is just a small piece of the country’s lore and we haven’t gotten into its connections to the outside world yet.

If you like what you’re reading, please check out my podcast on The Tome Show, follow me on Twitter, or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

roll20.net

Posted: March 13, 2014 in General
Tags: , , , ,

I’m taking a one post break from Exploration Age to write a post for the RPG Blog Carnival. This month’s theme is about virtual tabletop gaming, a subject near and dear to my heart.

Like many people, I go wherever I can make a living. I’ve lived all over the East Coast – New York, Philadelphia, Atlanta, and now Washington, DC. I came here a little over two and a half years ago to work at a place I love.

However, working in the heart of DC makes it very difficult to find a game to join. I tried organized play events, but the game stores within the city of DC closed by 7 and I work until 6. The stores outside the city were unreachable in a timely manner due to DC’s infamous traffic. I tried posting games on meetup, but alas those fell through. My travel to and from Philadelphia to maintain my long-distance relationship made meeting on weekends impossible.

For a while I despaired. I would never play a tabletop RPG again! Cue dramatic sting. Then there was ray of hope. Cue choir. Wizards of the Coast introduced their virtual game table and I gamed more often and consistently than I ever have. Virtual tabletop gaming saved my hobby. For realsies.

After a time of playing with the platform Wizards created, which required one to be a D&D Insider subscriber, I started to bemoan the limited selection of minis and map tiles. For some of my players with older computers, the table was sluggish and bogged down their connections. Then, the final dagger – was not going to continue supporting the table and we would have to look elsewhere to game.

(Note: Today the table still lives at www.rpgtableonline.com thanks to GameTable Online.)

Through talking with some friends, I learned about roll20.net. We tried it out and I cannot say enough good stuff about it.

First of all, it’s free. You can support roll20’s development with an upgraded account if you wish (and I suggest you do if you rely on the service and/or would like cool extra features), but no payment is required. Guess what you get for $0?

  • A virtual tabletop that supports all systems, grid maps, and hex maps.
  • Players can have journals that track character stats, keep story notes, and share notes with just the GM. Each player’s journal can be linked to his or her mini.

Just a fraction of what you can do in the journal.

  • The selection of free map tiles and minis is through the roof, and more are available for a nominal fee (from a store to which anyone may submit art). Searching for the tiles and minis you want is fast and easy, making improv a dream. I swear, making a map in roll20 looks better and is so much faster than drawing it out at the table.
Again, a fraction of the options that appeared in literally a second when I searched "goblin" in the token library. All these are free.

Again, a fraction of the options that appeared in literally a second when I searched “goblin” in the token library. All these are free.

  • If you don’t find the tiles or minis you want within roll20’s database, you can import your own images and use those.
  • You can easily add stats, auras, markers, and status effects to any mini.
Screen Shot 2014-03-13 at 7.29.45 AM

Customizing a mini’s stats and auras.

Once again, just a fraction of the markers you can add to a mini with minimal effort.

Once again, just a fraction of the markers you can add to a mini with minimal effort.

  • GMs can easily communicate messages and rolls with just one player via IM.
  • GMs can share handouts and art with one or more players.
  • Movement and distance is easily tracked.
  • Lighting effects and fog of war options are simple and easy to control.
  • A whole host of command options exist for rolling different combinations of dice. I’m not just saying roll20 can do the math of 1d20+5 for you. I’m saying it can roll 2d20 and take the higher (or lower) result and then add 5 with just a few quick easy to learn keystrokes.
Simple commands for complex dice rolling and math! No, roll20 is not paying me.

Simple commands for complex dice rolling and math! No, roll20 is not paying me.

  • Don’t like key strokes? Macros. That’s right, easily programmed little buttons that with one click can give you result of attack and damage for any attack, check, saving throw, etc. This is especially useful if you player 4e and have players with a lot of powers or for spell casters. Pro tip: encourage your players who are bad at math or take forever going over their character sheet looking for an option to set up macros. This will speed up play (again my 4e combat never moved so quickly at a table).
Once your macros are easily setup, simply click on the character to have your options appear at the top of the screener and click what you want to roll. Bam. Done.

Once your macros are easily setup, simply click on the character to have your options appear at the top of the screener and click what you want to roll. Bam. Done.

  • A jukebox feature allows you to play music from a huge library at the table.
  • A virtual card deck can be brought onto the table and dealt to players. You can even build your own custom decks by uploading art. (Hello, Deck of Many Things!)
Deck of Many Things in action.

Deck of Many Things in action.

  • Lots of neat visual features like virtual dice and special effects (like a mini breathing fire) add to the fun.
Rolling dice onto the minis, just like real life, only it doesn't mess anything up.

Rolling dice onto the minis, just like real life, only it doesn’t mess anything up.

  • You can launch roll20 through Google+ Hangout as an app. So you get all the features of a Hangout (or you can simply play through roll20 itself which has webcam, voice, and text capabilities).
roll20 in G+.

roll20 in G+ Hangout.

  • If you don’t know anyone nearby or far away, roll20 has a whole community of folks just like you and the message boards to find them . So find a game or post for players and get rolling.
  • There’s also a team constantly working on making roll20 a bigger, better platform with consistent updates and upgrades. They’re also responsive to any questions and concerns you may bring to them via Twitter or forum .

So whatever your game, if you can’t gather folks around a table, see if you can all sit down to a virtual one. I recommend roll20, but there are tons of others out there. Explore and play! This day in age, no gamer need be gameless. The only downside is you’ll need to buy your own snacks.

And if you want to see more of roll20 in action, check out this video for players…

Or GMs.

If you like what you’re reading, please check out my podcast on The Tome Show, follow me on Twitter, or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

My podcast, The Round Table just posted its eighth episode. (The ninth records tonight!) In this episode, Rudy Basso, Vegas Lancaster, Alex Basso, Andrew Timmes, and I discuss the leaked D&D Fifth Edition release dates, religions, and campaign themes in Dungeons and Dragons.

Here’s a bunch of links for you related to the podcast.

The Round Table invites players of various backgrounds to discuss the latest D&D news. If you enjoy it, you should check out all the other great content on The Tome Show.

As always you can reach me by leaving a comment or hitting me up on Twitter. Thanks!

I have two gaming groups, both of which will be playing in Exploration Age.

Originally, when I asked them what they wanted to see in the world, one player suggested that the two groups work for rival adventurer’s guilds. He also suggested we do the occasional megasession with both groups racing to get the same artifact or teaming up to defeat a greater foe.

Now, I’m not married to that idea, especially since megasessions are quite unwieldy and difficult to DM, but two groups of rival adventurers’ guilds seemed an awesome addition to the world! The parties won’t be forced to join one or the other, but the options and perks will be there for them.

Dungeons and Dragons has always played upon the dichotomy of good and evil, but there is the lesser explored dichotomy the game also encourages. It is one of law and chaos. In Exploration Age, The Explorers’ Guild is chaotic and freeform, with just enough rules to keep the money and jobs flowing into the organization. The Society of Seekers is more structured and has better definition to rules and regulations for its members. In their eyes, a job well done is better than a job that’s done by any means necessary.

My last post spoke about The Explorers’ Guild. I also mentioned The Society of Seekers in that post and now I’d like to show you a bit more of that organization now.

How The Society Came To Be

Shouldn’t we have some heroic music or something?

The Society of Seekers was started when a group of Explorers’ Guild mercenaries began to tire of the The Guild’s reputation as a group of merciless thugs who could get any job done, no questions asked. The Guild had some corrupt leaders and no standard structure from chapter to chapter. They thought the organization was one of braggarts and bullies, and the loudest thugs got the best contracts. They didn’t like that a mission accomplished by adventurers breaking laws and piling up damages and bodies received the same reward as a meticulous, legally sanctioned operation. It seemed Guildmasters were chosen for their popularity rather than merit. So these adventurers left The Explorers’ Guild and started their own organization.

For fifty years the two organizations coexisted in a tense environment, always trying to beat each other out for the biggest contracts. Soon, patrons realized they could contract both organizations for a job and pay the one who completed it, doubling the chances their quest would be fulfilled. The two organizations were so anxious to beat the competition, they gladly engaged in these missions to prove the other unworthy.

The Guild Wars

As the competition between the two organizations grew, so did their hate for one another. Jeers turned to practical jokes which turned to violence. Parties sent on the same mission would attack one another to ensure only their organization could fulfill the contract. It’s unclear who struck the first blow, but the two eventually took their feud into the streets of Findalay and Parian’s cities. A bloody, international gang war began.

During the time of this war, many patrons took advantage of the two organizations’ hate for one another to drive their contract prices down. This did not help quell the war. The worse things became the better the deals were for the patrons, ensuring a cycle of violence.

Then, almost fifty years after the feud turned bloody, The Plague of Undeath ravaged the land. Death knights, lead by Aeranore’s Highest Councilor Mage, a gnome called Fletcher Correll, used the undead to cut down a part of the king’s army. With the help of the rest of The High Council of Mages, he then used the slain to create an army of undead. Fletcher desired a kingdom just for his gnome brethren and was determined to carve one out in Findalay.

Other nations came to Aeranore’s aid, but every soldiers death added to the ranks of undead. Something had to be done before all fell to The Plague. The Society of Seekers and The Explorers’ Guild held their first ever summit. They called a truce and settled terms in The Finders’ Treaty, which lays out the rules for the two guilds’ relationship and interactions. The Treaty signed, the organizations came together to stop Fletcher Correll.

Today, that begrudging peace has lasted almost 100 years. The two organizations don’t always get along and still compete for business, but at least they aren’t knifing each other.

Undead. For when you need a common enemy.

The Finders’ Treaty

So what’s exactly in the treaty?

  • Members of The Explorer’s Guild and The Society of Seekers shall not take up arms against one another.
  • If the two organizations compete for a contract, the one first awarded the contract by a patron is the only party allowed to pursue that contract. The second party must decline any offers made for the same job.
  • Once a year, the Finders’ Festival is held in Aeranore and it is a chance for leaders to come together and discuss any problems and come to solutions. Members of either organization are welcome to attend and partake in revelry and physical and mental competitions that put the organizations on opposed teams.
  • Those who disobey the tenets set forth in The Finders’ Treaty will be removed from the organization and pending the offense could be charge a hefty fee, publicly shamed, or put to death.

Contracts with The Society

The Society of Seekers has a slightly different contract than the The Explorers’ Guild.

  • Patrons pay 50% upfront and the other half when the job is complete.
  • Patrons may give up to ten specific parameters for any reason in a contract. (e.g. do not torture any suspects, use no lethal force, let no one outside The Society know of your mission, etc.) For each parameter broken during the contracted job, the patron will be given a 5% or more discount off the original fee.
  • Patrons are guaranteed direct contact with The Society party contracted to them. If they so choose they can help oversee the operation with the local Society Baron. A patron can hand pick a Society party of their choice.
  • The Society of Seekers takes personal responsibility for any mishaps during a contracted mission. They will pay for damages of goods and people they were meant to protect in the unlikely event of such a thing.
  • At any time for any reason, a patron can request a new party be put on the contract and that request will be honored.
  • The Society of Seekers will replace a dead or otherwise incapacitated party of adventurers if the contract can still be fulfilled at the time of death or incapacitation.
  • Patrons are guaranteed rigorously tested, experienced adventurers working on their contracted job.
  • At anytime, for any reason, a patron can break contract and ask for his or her upfront 50% back.

The Structure of The Society

The Society of Seekers was founded partly because its original members believed the Guildmasters of the Explorer’s Guild held too much power. There own structure is, of course, different.

At the head of The Society is a President which, similar to High Guildmaster, is a yearly elected position. However the President does not work alone. He is part of the Top Executive Board which includes a Vice President, Treasurer, Parliamentarian, Secretary, and Registrar. All of these positions are annually elected. Each country has a chapter with a similar setup, though the President and Vice President position are the Governor and Lieutenant Governor. In local chapters these positions are Baron and Under Baron. The board runs the operations of their respective territories and are answerable to the boards above them. The Society of Seekers has Parliamentarians within their boards to help them amend and change their rules should the need arise. At-large members can also ask for recall elections of board members if 50% or more of the overall membership for the required region asks for it.

Being on the executive board is a mark of pride for many members of The Society, but it also comes with the perk of payment. Whenever a contract is completed by The Society the Top Executive Board gets 10% of the contract, the country’s board gets 10% and the local board gets 10%. The boards take their pay and pay the bills out of this debt. The adventuring party who completed the job gets the remaining 70%. However, if that party ignores or breaks one of the patrons parameters or damages property for which The Society is responsible, that penalty to the organization comes directly out of their pay (see above). Likewise, if the party is deemed to have done an excellent job, broken no parameters, and followed all the local laws and customs pertaining to the mission, the executive boards only take 5% each and the party gets 85% of the contract’s reward for themselves. Thus the party is encouraged to follow the rules within the contract and the law of the land.

Joining The Society of Seekers requires proof that an adventurer has completed a life-threatening mission (usually in the form of a recovered relic or a letter of recommendation from a former patron), a letter of recommendation from a member of The Society of Seekers, and a thorough interview process held during a formal dinner with a local executive board.

Every member must renew membership annually, by meeting with the Registrar of their local chapter and proving with official records they have completed at least one contract for The Society. At anytime an executive board can review a member’s status in the organization and force them out of The Society for misconduct or negligence. A member can appeal this decision by taking it to the board above the board which made the decision.

For the most part, The Society of Seekers holds themselves in high regard as courteous, clean, and chivalrous. This doesn’t mean that The Society doesn’t know how to have fun or see its fair share of corruption. After all, they were involved in a years-long gang war that cost many innocent lives.

Benefits of Being in The Society

For adventurers in The Society, there are benefits other than pay and easy access to jobs. Like The Explorers’ Guild they always have a place to stay in any settlement with a Society House, and have their mundane expenses, room, and board paid for when on a mission. Any items acquired while not on a mission that are not specified in the contract are the adventurers to keep.

A big benefit that is not an official practice of The Explorers’ Guild is The Society House Shop. Found within any Society House, the items purchased here is 20% off. The mages on hand usually have a few common consumable magic items and given a day or two can create a less common potion or scroll.

Accomplishments of The Society of Seekers

Careful now. They regenerate!

In its storied history, The Society has accomplished much. Here’s a few highlights.

  • 231 FF – The Society of Seekers uncovers the famed Ruins of Eloga and the technology discovered is used to power airships.
  • 257 FF – The Society of Seekers lays waste to the army of Vrelock the Troll King who threatened the isles of Marrial.
  • 305 FF – In rare team-up with the The Explorers’ Guild, the two organizations put aside differences and turn the tide of The Plague of Undeath and hordes of undead armies.
  • 397 FF – The Society of Seekers is the first to explore and discover ruins within The Damned Lands.

If you like what you’re reading, please check out my podcast on The Tome Show, follow me on Twitter, or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!