Archive for March, 2014

Across Findalay there are ancient ruins , mysterious forests, unexplored caves, and the terrifyingly uncharted Damned Lands. In Parian vast expanses of untamed wilds hold the remnants of ancient societies long forgotten. Verda is a newly discovered land with a map that remains incomplete and holds wonders unseen in the history of Canus’ current non-dragon inhabitants.

Adventurers were being hired by to procure treasures, clean out monsters, protect teams of archeologists, map new areas, discover new travel routes, investigate rumors, find new life, or simply to see what might be happening in a place uncharted and report back. The patrons for these quests included everyone from potion shop owners in need of ingredients from a dark marsh to federal governments in need of mercenary explorer. But for every ten adventurers hired, five might die, run away with the paycheck or treasure, seize an operation for their own, or muck up their patron’s desired result.

In Marrial, groups of seasoned adventurers were watching work slip through their fingers to cheaper, less-experienced greenhorns and they decided to do something about it. These groups formed The Explorers’ Guild and advertised themselves as the best and most reliable mercenaries for hire. The popularity of this group grew and today members of The Explorers’ Guild are made up of all types of adventurer. The Guild can be found in every corner of Canus.

Contracts with The Explorers’ Guild

Hire The Explorers’ Guild today!

The Explorers’ Guild is very popular with patrons because of the guarantees they give when they take on a contract.

  • The Explorers’ Guild asks for 40% of a contract’s payment upfront. A full refund is guaranteed if the contract is not fulfilled.
  • The Explorers’ Guild asks that the remaining 60% of the contract be paid upon fulfillment of the terms.
  • The Explorers’ Guild promises experienced, tested, proven adventurers working on every contract.
  • The Explorers’ Guild 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.
  • The Explorers’ Guild will replace a dead or otherwise incapacitated party of adventurers if the contract can still be fulfilled at the time of death or incapacitation.
  • The patron may terminate a contract at anytime and get his or her 40% upfront payment back.

The idea of paying less than half upfront and a company of experienced adventurers that would claim fiscal responsibility for damages appealed to many patrons and still does today.

Thee other attractive thing about The Explorers’ Guild – they’ll stop at nothing to fulfill a contract. Patrons often don’t ask how results were achieved and less often does The Explorers’ Guild tell. To the mercenaries, laws are left unbroken when possible, but if they get in the way, they are an obstacle – not a dead end.

Structure of the Guild

The Explorers’ Guild has a very freeform structure. Every first of the year all members of the Guild are invited to Marrial to vote for a High Guildmaster. The High Guildmaster’s job is not very exciting – mostly bureaucratic. The position does pay very well however, and the job is an important one. The High Guildmaster appoints a regional Guildmaster for each country. The regional Guildmasters in turn appoint local Guildmasters in each city. The High Guildmaster deals with all international contracts, the regionals handle high-profile and domestic missions for the respective federal government, and locals handle the day-to-day quests.

Other than Guildmasters, members are simply at-large. An individual Guildmaster can hire as many advisors and coworkers as he or she wants (though it comes out of the Guildmaster’s tithe – see below). Thus each local chapter of The Explorers’ Guild is set up a little differently. The Guildmaster is only responsible for the lower Guildmasters and at-large members currently signed to a contract in his or her jurisdiction.

Guildmasters negotiate, settle, and dispute contractual terms. They assign teams of adventurers to fulfill the contracts and see that they are paid rewarded when the mission is complete. They deal with any snafus and serve as advisors to at-large members. If an at-large member has a dispute with a local Guildmaster they must take it that individual’s supervising regional Guildmaster. A regional Guildmaster’s decision can only be overturned by the High Guildmaster.

The largest perk of being a Guildmaster is the payment from each contract when fulfilled. 10% of every local contract goes into the local Guildmaster’s pocket and the pockets of his or her staff. 5% goes to the funding of the local chapter for upkeep, goods, and travel expenses, 5% goes to the offices of the regional Guildmaster, and another 5% goes to the offices of the High Guildmaster. The remaining 75% goes to the party who fulfilled the contract.

Joining The Explorers’ Guild requires letters of merit from two standing Explorers’ Guild members. The letters must speak first and foremost to the adventuring experience and ability of the individual. These are presented to the local Guildmaster who verifies their authenticity. As long as everything checks out, that person is granted membership into The Explorers’ Guild. Once a member, always a member. Only in the harshest of circumstances is a member removed from the organization.

Benefits of being a Guild Member

The first perk of joining The Explorers’ Guild is, of course, the payment and easier access to jobs. All an at-large member needs to do to receive a mission is enter an Explorers’ Guild House, talk with the local Guildmaster or a staff member and see what’s available. When times are slow, which is rare, the Explorers’ Guild may pay adventurers to take up a mission of importance (usually mapping a new area or gathering treasure) that will help the organization profit in some way.

Members of the Explorers’ Guild always have a place to stay in a settlement where there is a Guild House present. When on a contracted mission, their room, board, and travel are all paid. Any items or wealth acquired during a mission not specifically mentioned as desirable by the patron or Explorers’ Guild are the adventurers’ to keep.

I’m addition, members of the Explorers’ Guild respect and aid one another. They can provide goods, services, food, refuge, etc. to their fellow-guildsman.

Accomplishments of the Guild

Remember when we did this, dudes?

In its over 200 year history, The Explorers’ Guild has accomplished much not just in small ruins and towns of Findalay and Parian, but globally they are a force known to many. Here is a list of a few of their accomplishments.

  • 205 FF – The Guild destroys the ancient blue wyrm, Filixtrasa the Mad, after she lays waste to parts of Aeranore.
  • 266 FF – The Guild helps The Arcane College uncover and destroy the plans of The Servants (a group of evil wizards who profited from an enormous war in Findalay thanks to their manipulation of the people in power via magic crowns).
  • 305 FF – In rare team-up with the Society of Seekers, the two organizations put aside differences and turn the tide of The Plague of Undeath and hordes of undead armies.
  • 393 FF – The Explorers’ Guild discovers Verda.

Relationship to The Society of Seekers

When The Explorers’ Guild was fifty years young, a significant portion of the membership was unhappy with their loose structure and thought there was a better way to go about things. These adventurers formed The Society of Seekers and began competing with The Explorers’ Guild for contracts. Eventually this conflict became violent and the two organizations waged a years-long, global gang war.

Today, the two groups have ceased violence, but they are still in competition with one another. Representatives from The Explorers’ Guild and The Society of Seekers will often show up simultaneously to court and convince a patron that they are the best organization to take on a job. If that doesn’t work, the two groups will quickly resort to mudslinging tactics and bring up past failures of their rivals to convince the patron to grant a contract. The two organizations may also compete for members.

There will be more on The Society of Seekers in my next post.

PCs and The Explorers’ Guild

PCs can join The Explorers’ Guild either by seeking out members themselves, or by being approached once they have a level of moderate fame and notoriety. Perhaps the PCs would be approached about membership at the same time by The Guild and the The Society of Seekers. Or perhaps they run into a Guild-contracted party on the same quest as themselves. Or maybe the local Explorers’ Guild has too many jobs and not enough members in the area, so the Guildmaster turns to the PCs for help. There are loads of possibilities there. The PCs could be rooting out corrupt Guildmasters. The Explorers’ Guild is a perfect frame for me to design a dungeon of the week style campaign or have the organization pulled into huge, global problems. However it pans out, The Explorer’s Guild is a welcome addition to Exploration Age.

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!

Round Table 7 is up!

Posted: March 4, 2014 in Uncategorized

The next Round Table Podcast is up here. We discuss rules updates to D&D Next and the sorcerer in D&D Next in articles covered by Mike Mearls.

The Round Table has players of various backgrounds discussing the latest D&D news. If you like 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 following me on Twitter.

Special thanks to our panel – Joe Lastowski, Rudy Basso, and Andrew Kane.

Your lips kiss the foreheads of your children. Your hands wrap around your husband at night. You greet your neighbors every morning and your back hurts after working in the fields. But you did not choose to do any of these things. Your life is not your own. This is the horror of the mystauk.

Trapped within your own body, you watch and listen as your words persuade your wife to head deeper into the swamps, looking for sweet casgrove fruit to sell. She does not know your words will turn her into a helpless puppet just like you. This is the horror of the mystauk.

Your neighbor comes by, priest by his side. They are here to release you from your prison. They know you have been trapped for years. Your words and movements belonged to another. Suffocating, you were forced to watch your life through your own eyes lived by another. But they will release you! Until you uncontrollably reach forth, your enhanced strength allowing you to punch your fist right through the priest’s chest and out his back. Your other hand grabs your neighbor’s head and crushes his skull. This is the horror of the mystauk.

Ecology of the Mystauk

Mystauk are a type of fly-sized, green beetle living in the swamps of Verda. The insects feed on yellow-orange, citrus fruits called casgroves and live a life cycle of about a hundred years. Although they are insects, these tiny creatures reproduce at about the same rate as humans. But of all these features the most important is this – mystauk are mind-controlling parasites.

When not inside a host, a mystauk’s intelligence drops to an animal level. It relies on instinct to seek out food. Instinct also drives the creature towards the brain tissue of intelligent humanoids. By crawling through the ear, nose, or mouth a mystauk can attach to a humanoid’s brainstem and seize control of its body, memories, and mind.

Upon attachment with brain tissue, the mystauk becomes super intelligent. After this awakening, most mystauk desire nothing more than to remain in this enlightened state. The parasite will often assume the identity of the host and use this cover to awaken other mystauk. To the insects, this is the natural way of things. All parasites need a host.

While inside an individual’s body, the mystauk can often play the host perfectly by accessing memories. The only real change in the host’s behavior could be the mystauk’s insatiable desire for citrus fruit, which they often force the host to consume daily. Other behavioral changes can occur, but the mystauk is often careful about these as to not tip-off others that the host is possessed.

Another change comes from the mystauk’s ability to harness all parts of an individual’s brain – increased physical prowess. A mystauk-possessed host has almost supernatural strength and toughness.

The mystauk will sometimes leave the host’s body to mate. It will gather with other possessed hosts, who will hold down the humanoid host while the mystauk it out of the body. The mystauk will return to an uninhabited body after mating and return the favor of standing guard while the other insects mate. Often during these times, a mystauk will re-enter a body different from the one with which it came, which is fine by the insect. To have many different experiences in life is preferable to a mystauk.

When the host dies the mystauk immediately detaches from the dead brain and seeks out a new host or swampy environment instinctually. Its intelligence returns to an animal level, but if it finds a new host, it will remember all of its past experiences.

A mystauk also has a special sense. It can tell when another inhabited host is in their presence and can communicate telepathically with any other awakened mystauk within 25 feet.

The Goals of the Mystauk

Most of the parasites share a single goal once they have attached to a host – help their unenlightened brethren awaken. Mystauk may infect an entire tribe or village in this way without anyone realizing until it is too late. Though these occurrences are few and far between, the mystauk will obviously act more freely when they are with only other mystauk-inhabited hosts.

These communities of awakened mystauk are dangerous indeed. Many prefer to remain isolated, guarding their secret from outsiders and woe to the travelers who wander into these settlements. There is always a need for host bodies and always another mystauk to be awakened. If one of these settlements is discovered it often means a bloody conflict. The parasites will not give up their bodies without a fight. The biggest fear is one of these communities could overpower another and slowly add more and more awakened mystauk to their ranks, creating an army of inhabited hosts.

Individual mystauk also pursue other interests that are as varied as those of humans. These interests are often related to their now heightened intellect and creativity. The mystauk may take up artistic and academic endeavors, or travel the world looking for unique experiences. Often the mystauk is smart enough to make these behavioral changes gradually if their host had different interests before inhabitation, as to not tip off family and friends.

Discovery and History of the Mystauk

The tribes of Verda have long spoken of a strange force in the swamps that grabs one’s mind and makes one’s body into a prison cell. However the cause of this phenomena was discovered ten years ago by the first Aeranorian humans exploring the swamps of southern Verda. But first, these explorers found casgrove fruit. It’s exotic flavor made it popular overseas in Findalay and Parian for cooking, baking, juicing, wines, and raw eating.

The tribes of Verda warned the explorers to stay away, for there was a mysterious mind-controlling evil in the swamp. But the opportunity for profit was too great and the Aeranorians went deeper into the swamps to continue harvesting the fruit. One day an entire camp of farmers and their families left the swamp in pursuit of other endeavors. Aeranore, confused about the sudden halting of operations sent a team to investigate. After talking with the tribes and venturing in the swamps, this team uncovered the truth of the mystauk.

The farmers were eventually captured or put down. The prisoners were studied and Aeranore’s druids eventually discovered that a successful feeblemind spell will detach the mystauk from the brainstem of a host, drawing it out. However, the mystauk itself must still be killed and the host still suffers the ill effects of the spell, needing to be healed in the normal fashion.

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Eventually, Aeranorians created hooded, netted outfits so they could continue their profitable casgrove farming safely. Currently, Aeranore’s government will pay, house, and feed any citizen looking to make a fortune in the casgrove swamps of Verda. For many this is a ticket to the new world. Still, with so much casgrove fruit being farmed… accidents do happen, outfits do tear, and mystauk claim their hosts. And with all that casgrove fruit traveling to Findalay and Parian… who’s to say a few mystauk haven’t hitched a ride?

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!