Archive for April, 2014

In this episode of The Round Table on The Tome Show’s website, I sit down with Rudy Basso, Alex Basso, Andrew Timmes, and Greg Blair to talk about something that affects all games – party conflict. We discussed each other’s different philosophies, strategies, and opinions about dealing with and causing mayhem amongst fellow PCs. This is a topic that we very interested in hearing your opinion about, so please let us know what you think!!!! This episode was recorded on March 21, 2014.

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!

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Happy Friday, everyone. I recently did a really fun interview with Douglas Cole of Gaming Ballistic. He is a brilliant, hilarious, and fun game designer. His blog is awesome. Check him out.

If you’re interested in the interview, here’s a link to check it out on Gaming Ballistic. That’s the best way to see it, especially since there’s a transcript included on the page.

We talk about everything from edition wars to D&D Next to GURPs. We cover a lot of Exploration Age as well and gaming philosophy in general. It was some of the most fun I’ve ever had talking about games so be sure to check it out! Also, how sweet is my hair in this video?

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

 

You ever look at the North Pole and ask yourself, “Why in the Hell would Santa want to live there?” The answer is simple – his operation is so confidential he went to the one place no one could find him. Even if you know exactly where his operation is, good luck braving the elements to get there. I feel bad for the person who has to deliver all those letters to him. Seriously, a man with the power to see us at all times of the day should have an email address.

Exploration Age has blank spots on the map beyond The Damned Lands and Verda. The harsh environments of Glacius and the North and South Poles of Canus have kept even the toughest explorers at bay.

Glacius

Map of Glacius

Map of Glacius

Just North of Findalay lies a continent about the size of Parian covered in snow and ice. Glacius is one-third frozen ocean, one-third snow-covered plains, and one-third mysterious ice-covered mountain range with the occasional volcano and aberrant ruin thrown-in.

The snow plains of Glacius are a near constant blizzard, but thanks to the Society of Seekers and The Explorers’ Guild most of the area has been mapped. For those with the stomach for it, the snow plains offer some of the most spectacular sights in all of Canus. Rare beasts, a strange aberrant ruin full of mysterious labs, and bizarre weather phenomena make Glacius unlike any other place on the planet. All of these rarities are not as strange as the seemingly abandoned tunnels dug into the frozen snow. Where exactly the tunnels lead and what their purpose was is up for debate, as no expedition deep into the tunnels has ever come back.

Glacius’ frozen ocean is the most dangerous place to get rich quick. Frozen within the ice is gold dust. Ice-breaking ships manned by all-or-nothing crews make their way through the sea, trying to find the best places to saw out blocks of ice flecked with gold. These blocks are melted aboard the ship and the gold is then harvested. Of course, the frozen ocean has many of its own hazards such as weather, thin ice, hidden icebergs, polar bears, krakens, ice pirates, and more. Boats can get stuck inside the frozen ocean if they venture too far into the ice and the sea freezes their path behind them. In this case the crew can starve and freeze or abandon ship and try to survive out on the ice – a miserable existence. Perhaps the most frightening hazard upon the frozen ocean is The Undead Miner Army. Sailors tell tales of a greedy legion of wights who met their fate mining gold on the ice. These undead are always looking to increase their ranks and horde of gold by attacking the crews of the living. There may be truth to these rumors, since destroyed mining ships have been found with all their gold removed and not a single corpse ever in the bloodstained area.

Imagine… a legion of this guy!

The Ice Ranges of Glacius are the unmapped area of the continent. The ice-covered mountains have peaks higher than 20,000 feet. As a result, no one has ever ventured beyond the outer-most mountains so what occurs within the Ice Ranges remains a mystery. Occasionally a white dragon can be seen flying toward the mountains and those with keen ears can hear thunderous booms erupting from the inner peaks through the howling blizzard winds.

Two active volcanoes live in Glacius. Mt. Steam sits on an island in the frozen ocean. Some sailors claim to have seen a massive red dragon coming from or going to Mt. Steam, but those rumors have never been corroborated. The other volcano, Mt. Hyrias sits on Glacius’ coast and seems to constantly spew ash and lava into the sea. Mad soothsayers claim that the aberrants buried a weapon beneath this lava flow long ago and are soon going to return to use it and cover Canus in ash and fire.

The Poles

If Glacius is remote and dangerous than Canus’ poles are the hardest-earned suicide mission Exploration Age has to offer. Barely explored, and less often survived, few know what the poles have to offer. To some that is a reason to stay away, but for others the challenge has become a draw. The Society of Seekers and The Explorers’ Guild have a bit of an unofficial race going between them. The Society has an independent pet project of exploring the South Pole while The Guild is exploring the North. Both are hoping to prove their superiority over the other by filling in the blank spots of their pole’s map first.

While both poles are cold, icy masses of frozen ocean with treacherous terrain and more dangerous weather, each does have its own unique hazards. The North Pole’s winds are stronger than any other on Canus. Whirlwinds of snow and ice can kick up at any moment, or gusts of wind could blow so strong that a traveler without ice cleats may be lifted off of the surface of the frozen ocean and carried into the air. Flying is not an option on the North Pole for any but the most powerful creatures.

Below the surface of the North Pole swim predatory creatures known as ice-breaker sharks. These crafty beings use the bony growths upon their heads to weaken the ice in a given area then surprise their prey by either breaking through the weak spot or allowing their target to fall through it before attacking. Either way ice breaker sharks can sense footsteps through the ice from up to a mile away and will begin preparing a hunting ground with plenty of these weak spots. They often allow their prey to travel far into the hunting grounds before attacking so they can surround the victims with weak spots, giving no option for easy escape.

Who wants to snuggle?

The South Pole is just as deadly as the North Pole. Winds are not as fierce, however the snow falls so heavily here it forms massive dunes that are treacherous to climb. The snow is uneven and could collapse at any moment, burying a traveler. As if the snow and weather weren’t enough, earthquakes constantly shake The South Pole, threatening to level and reform new snow dunes constantly, not to mention bury and knock adventurers off their feet. But the worst of the worst hazards in The South Pole is The Lingering Havoc.

No one is sure of The Havoc’s origin. Some say it is an ancient remnant of aberrant societies, some say it migrated from The Damned Lands or mysterious parts of Verda, and others believe there is a darker force somewhere deep within the South Pole controlling the force. Few have seen The Lingering Havoc and lived to tell of it. Those who have their minds permanently warped. Yet all those who describe The Havoc have a similar story to tell. Either coming out of the snowy depths or rising through the broken ice, a massive creature, more than 500 feet tall by many accounts. The Lingering Havoc is a hulking mass of bones and corpses of various humanoids, animals, and monsters that have somehow formed together into one colossal engine of destruction.

Other than their ongoing competition, why would The Society of Seekers and The Explorers’ Guild continue to risk it all over two seemingly worthless hunks of ice? Because there could be profit, adventure, glory, and discovery to be found over the next snow dune. Aberrant ruins that have yet to be picked over, a new race of intelligent beings, portals to other worlds, and more endless possibilities live in the minds of adventurers and PCs. It’s my promise to deliver on those expectations, provided they survive the harsh cold… and the ice breaker sharks… and The Lingering Havoc… you get the idea.

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

Dragons are world-weary and few. I’m a huge fan of these creatures. Who isn’t? When the fourth edition of D&D launched I loved the variety of dragons in the game. I used them everywhere. They served as main villains, but also as mounts for bad guys, guardians of temples and artifacts, beasts that were summoned by wizards, powerful allies, combat companions alongside the PCs… you get the idea. After all of that I’m a little pooped out on dragons and they’ve lost some of their majestic pizzazz for my players. I know, I know. I blame me. So I’m taking a different approach.

However, I also don’t think dragons should be shut away in ivory towers, reserved for epic level encounters only. They are in the name of the game after all and a big part of the attraction. If you can’t see a dragon in your fantasy life when can you? (Seriously when can you see one in real life, if you know, please tell me.) As a player I’d feel cheated in a dragon-less campaign and as a DM I’d have a big dragon-shaped void in my gamer heart.

Dragons Are Special

What do you mean I ain’t special?!?

In Exploration Age, dragons should feel special, but not wholly inaccessible. The PCs should all know of the greatest dragons from childhood stories. The mere mention of a specific name should make an entire tavern nod with recognition. Before a dragon ever steps into the PCs’ lives they should know he or she is kind of a big deal.

Along the same lines dragons in Exploration Age should never play second-fiddle to another NPC. They don’t serve as full-time guardians or mounts, those are jobs for animals, not great majestic beasts. If a dragon chooses to work with an NPC, it is for one of two reasons. First the dragon is clearly in charge, the scheme is of his or her design and the NPC is the dragon’s lackey. Second, the dragon and NPC appear to be equal partners in a scheme crafted by the latter; however the dragon still considers itself superior (he or she probably is) and allows the NPC to think of them as equals as long as their goals are aligned.

Dragons of Exploration Age are proud of their mighty heritage. Since the dragons of Canus only grow stronger of mind and body as they age, some dragons from The Birthing Dawn (the time when the dragons came forth from Canus’ core) are still alive. Though old age will not kill a dragon, he or she could still be put down by physical wounds. There is no known ritual that can restore a dragon to life once it has died, which is why some might choose to become a dracolich. If sword or spell strikes down a dracolich, the phylactery will bring the dragon back.

In general, dragons have grown world-weary of the affairs of mortals. While once their goal was world domination, most no longer desire power and already have a vast horde of treasure, either acquired or more-likely inherited. Dragons often look to gain something far more useful than items or kingdoms – knowledge. They have the time and strength of mind to become experts in all sorts of lore. Some might spend their time summoning other-worldly beings to speak with them, reading mounds of ancient tomes, experimenting with magic, studying the stars, talking to spirits of the dead, or even occasionally seeking out mortals of renown – all in the name of expanding their minds.

There are, of course, exceptions to this rule. Some dragons may grow so bored and nihilistic they seek their own death, so they begin raiding villages and country sides as a challenge to find a creature worthy enough of granting them death. Others may hunger for knowledge so ravenously that they kill other dragons and extract the knowledge of the victims’ corpses. Still others, mostly younger dragons, may become obsessed with gaining power or a larger horde and seek out treasure, minions and power, or enjoy the company and affairs of mortals more than most of their kin.

Chromatic vs Metallic

In Exploration Age there isn’t a strict evil/good divide between chromatic and metallic dragons. Instead these general truths holds true:

  • Chromatic dragons can be found in Parian, Glacius, and Findalay.
  • Metallic dragons appear to be exclusive to Verda.
  • Chromatic dragons are quicker to anger and use their might and wrath to swing a situation to their advantage. They are more straight forward and demanding when dealing with lesser beings.
  • Metallic dragons are calmer and more level-headed in high pressure situations. They let their confidence and intellect win the day and prefer to have others fight for them, only attacking when there is no other option.
  • Surprisingly, these two types of dragons have always known about each other, or so they claim, but have had no known contact since they emerged from Canus’ core. The reason why is currently unknown, but it seems the dragons are not friendly.

Legacy of the Dragons

Exploration Age’s dragons are no longer active in the day-to-day lives of mortals, but that wasn’t always true. Drow and elves formed from the blood of chromatic dragons and share their love of knowledge, quick temper, immortality, and passion for life. They are fiercely proud of this heritage and call themselves The Dragon Children. Sharminds, gnomes, and dwarves fought against the chromatic dragons long ago, and their tales speak of the terror and violence dragons can rain down upon the world. Tieflings and dragonborn can trace their own creation back to the hands of metallic dragons. The dragonborn just recently learned of their lineage, but the tieflings have never forgotten their younger brethren, nor have the tieflings ever stopped hating the dragonborn’s existence.

The dragons influence can be witnessed throughout the world. Aberrant ruins tell tales of the wrath of the dragons, while abandoned nests tell tales of their caring, introspective natures. Tieflings have books and works of art from metallic dragons in their Spires. Dragonscale armor is more than practical, it’s a sign to others that you are a badass. Scholars may spend their lives dreaming of getting to sit down and access the mind and/or library of one of the more ancient dragons, while a village may live in fear because of their proximity to a dragon’s nest.

Stories are the largest legacy dragons give to the world. There isn’t a person on Canus who hasn’t heard at least a few tales about the majestic beasts as heroes or villains.

Do you agree? Should dragons be super special, but still fully integrated into the world?

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