Archive for May, 2014

The illegal drug industry has fascinated me for years. As neither a contributor nor consumer, I’m (thankfully) on the outside of the industry looking in. Everything about the process is gripping and utterly illicit – growing, manufacturing, smuggling, buying, selling, and consumption. I’m not alone. Drugs have captured our imagination in critically acclaimed television shows like The Wire, Breaking Bad, Weeds, and many, many other ways. Movies, books, comics, and more have all sorts of stories related to the drug industry.

I’m lucky enough to work for the National Geographic Channels. One of our most-watched series is a program called Drugs, Inc. which goes inside the billion-dollar industry of illegal drugs. The series features in-depth interviews with dealers, kingpins, enforcers, users, and police with crazy access like I’ve never seen. I was part of a team assigned to promote the series in its fourth season and here’s the launch promo we produced:

(Note : If you want to learn more about how this promo was made check out this post from my boss Andy Baker on his killer site – The Client Blog.)

All this is to say that drugs have become a huge part of our everyday world. It is some people’s only source of income, it is some people’s family business, and it is some people’s complete and utter addiction.

Exploration Age’s Drug of Choice

Orange spice

When sorted, smoked, or ingested the vasiseing flower’s orange pollen causes great jubilation and energy within the user. The vasiseing pollen, more commonly called orange spice or simply orange, is highly addictive. Heavy users become dependent on the substance and can eventually lose their lives to the stuff.

History

Orange spice was first discovered growing wild in the Paxa Forest of Parian by soldiers in The Emperor’s Military. They found that after smelling the vasiseing flowers their mood was enhanced and their movements and reflexes were quicker. They harvested the flowers to share with their platoon and soon the entire nation became aware of the wonderful effects of orange spice. They figured the source of the effect was the flower’s pollen and so they began harvesting the substance. Farms were erected and Paraian’s merchants began selling orange spice over seas.

However, it soon became clear orange spice had some terrible side-effects. Many users developed a dangerous dependency which made them spend all their earnings on the drug. As these users ran out of money they began to live in squalor and turn to crime to get money to feed their addictions. Others would take too much of the drug and overdose, which has a variety of random effects including death.

As these effects became clear the drug was outlawed in Findalay. Initially, Parian was upset with these developments as the country was the main supplier of orange spice, but as its citizens’ eyes became open to the effects on their people, the emperor outlawed the drug as well.

In many ways this action was too little, too late. The trade was established and the addicts created. Soon an international black market for the stuff was created. Today this same illegal market exists today, bigger and more profitable than ever.

Orange Spice Cartels

The orange spice trade is now controlled by cartels, small and large. Each cartel is a competing corporation in a business with no ethics and ruthless tactics. They are at war with law enforcement and each other.

At the head of each cartel is a boss. Each boss has his lieutenants who are responsible for a territory. They supervise the growers, smugglers, hitmen, and falcons within a given region, which could be as big as an entire country for larger cartels or as little as a city neighborhood for the smaller cartels. Cartels also have assets, folks not on the full-time payroll and outside the organization, but who can be tapped for a specific task when the need arises.

  • Growers – These are the people who grow the vasiseing flowers and harvest the pollen. They often have to farm in secret fields deep in the forests, or magically enhanced greenhouses so their activities are kept private. They keep these areas well-guarded with soldiers, animals, and traps. Most growers are based in Parian, but there are a few grow operations in Findalay and now Verda.
  • Smugglers – The most creative and charismatic people of the orange spice trade are the smugglers. They have to keep coming up with original ways to hide the orange from law enforcement and they must be bold enough to lie, bribe, and murder (when necessary) to keep from getting caught.
  • Hitmen – Kidnaps, thefts, extortion, assassinations, and all-out wars are the specialties of the cartels’ hitmen. They deal with problems in the most violent ways possible. Publicly when the cartels want to send a message, quietly when they don’t.
  • Falcons – The lowest level operatives of the cartels are also some of the most important. The eyes and ears on the street, falcons monitor and report the activities of law enforcement and rival cartels while serving as street dealers. Falcons are the merchants selling the drug to individuals.
  • Assets – Anyone could be a cartel asset, a bribed city watch sergeant looking the other way when a huge shipment arrives, a merchant with a kidnapped daughter allowing a smuggler to use his ship, or a politician being blackmailed into pardoning a group of thugs. Assets are manipulated by the cartel because of their job or position within a society. Usually a bribe is the first way a cartel will try to manipulate a target, then intimidation, blackmail, kidnapping, and violence come into play. It can be difficult to not give into the cartels’ demands. Even the smaller organizations tend to have assets in law enforcement and government, so there are few people one can turn to for help if a cartel comes knocking.

One of the largest cartels is the Rainbow Dragons, led by boss Juong Meral and based in Parian, but operating everywhere. They are rivaled by Sunset’s Children, another large Parian cartel led by boss Kerta Fernnath. In Aeranore, a small cartel called No Trace has gained some infamy as they have begun expanding into Taliana.

The cartels have begun moving into Verda, where the lawless land allows them to easily sell and transport orange spice. They have had success addicting colonists and the folk of the tribes at first, but the people of Verda have begun to wise up and many are wary of those peddling the stuff.

Effects of Orange Spice

Orange spice is a stimulant. It makes users faster and full of life, but leaves them feeling immensely down. A user can snort the drug directly, absorb it through their tongue, or smoke it in a paper or pipe. The going price for a hit (or one dose) of orange spice is usually around 1gp.

One hit of orange spice grants users one extra action during their turn for the next hour. After the initial effect wears off, a secondary effect kicks in. Users must make a DC 10 Constitution saving throw. A failed save means the target is intoxicated for the next eight hours. A successful save means the target is intoxicated for only the next hour. The intoxicated condition cannot be removed in any way, but it can be delayed by taking a second hit of orange spice, however the target risks overdosing (see below).

Once the orange spice’s secondary effect wears off, targets must make a DC 10 Wisdom saving throw or become addicted. Each time a creature makes this saving throw within a month of the last time he or she made another Wisdom saving throw to avoid becoming addicted to orange spice, the DC increases by 1.

Addicted creatures have a difficult time functioning without orange spice. When they aren’t using, addicted creatures are considered intoxicated and need to use just to function normally. An addicted creature needs one hit to function without the intoxicated effect for an hour and two hits to feel the effects of the orange spice outlined above. A creature can detox to lose their addicted condition, but they must not use orange spice for a month.

A creature who takes orange spice twice in a day must make a DC 10 Constitution saving throw or overdose. For every use of orange spice after the second, the DC increases by 1. When a creature overdoses, roll on the chart below to see the effect of the overdose.

d20 Effect
1 Creature dies
2 – 4 Creature is unconscious for the next 8 hours
5 – 7 Creature is paralyzed for the next 8 hours
8 – 10 Creature is blinded for the next 8 hours
11 – 13 Creature is deafened for the next 8 hours
14 – 16 Creature becomes frightened of another creature of the DMs choosing for the next 8 hours
17 – 19 Creature cannot stand and is prone for the next 8 hours
20 Creature considers all other creatures it can see enemies and attacks for the next 8 hours

 

Let me know what you think. I know these rules are a little complicated, but I figure the mechanics make orange spice seem addictive and dangerous while also making them a little attractive. The complexities here are meant if PCs choose to take the drug, and many won’t. GMs are encouraged to have NPCs react to the drug however they like.

A Quick Note

So today Mike Mearls revealed in a Legends and Lore article on the Wizards of the Coast D&D site that they’re creating some form of Open Gaming License for the new edition of D&D. He said that it won’t be ready for launch until 2015, so all of Exploration Age will probably be available for a modest fee at that point as well. This gives me lots and lots of time to get the math right for things like new backgrounds, feats, monsters, magic items, and rules modules. In the meantime, take this survey to help me figure out what the price of an Exploration Age Campaign Guide pdf should be. Thanks!

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!

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I have to admit, I was stumped. This month’s RPG Blog Carnival themeStar Wars. Don’t get me wrong, I love (the original) Star Wars. I’ve played many a Star Wars RPG, read many a Star Wars book, been Luke Skywalker many a time for Halloween… The list goes on. Heck, I even produced Star Wars! The Musical when I was in college.

Still, l just could not come up with a way Star Wars related to what was going on over here at World Builder Blog. I thought and thought and then gave up. Maybe I was just going to be a disappointment to the RPGBA and bow out this month. I felt like a lameo.

Then I realized I had to stop being so literal. Star Wars is in space. Exploration Age is more of a medieval fantasy world (though Space Exploration Age sounds incredible! Hmmm…) So what ? Story is story and fantasy is fantasy. There are so many things in all of our games that could be inspired by Star Wars. The posts I’ve done on mounts, the empires of Bragonay and Parian, airships, and more share aspects with Star Wars. Heck there’s more to come that has yet to be revealed relating to smugglers and ancient orders and who knows what else! Star Wars has all that a bag of chips. So I was a fool.

Well today, I’m going to talk about my favorite Star Warsian beast and how I can fit it into Exploration Age. It’s not the rancor, though he is a close second. This beast is native to Tatooine, one of the greatest places in the Star Wars universe. I’m not speaking of banthas or Jawas. No, no! I’m speaking of the sarlacc.

What are Sarlaccs?

Nom nom nom.

According to Wookiepedia, sarlaccs are essentially large, plant-like omnivores that grow downwards into the earth and outwards forming ever deeper and wider living pits of teeth. They live for 20,000 to 50,000 years, but their Exploration Age equivalent will have immortal lifespans.

The sarlacc has crazy tentacles that can grab a creature and pull it toward it mouth. Since the sarlacc doesn’t move it doesn’t need to eat terribly much, but it can fit a lot into its huge stomach and will eat anything it can which happens to approach because in the desert who knows when your next meal will be?

The beaked, snake-like tongue doubles as its mouth opening. The sarlacc devours pray through its tongue. Once a victim is in the stomach, spines laced with neurotoxins paralyze the victim so it sarlacc can digest in peace over the course of 1,000 years.

Why Sarlaccs Rock

Sarlaccs are ferocious, hungry, and torturous. They slowly digest victims over the course of 1,000 years after devouring them in the grossest and most horrific way possible – via strange snake-y tongue. In terms of tabletop roleplaying, the sarlacc scene in Return of the Jedi is one of the best designed set piece encounters ever! Sarlaccs are like an enormous desert Venus flytrap that eats several people at once. Suck it, Audrey II.

Also, if we look at Expanded Universe lore, sarlaccs can be escaped, but only if you’re a BAMF like (non-canonical spoiler alert!) Boba Fett so sarlacc s are terrifying, but not wholly insurmountable villains.

Sarlaccs in Exploration Age

A look at the entirety of a sarlacc. Gross.

Ok, so how do I work sarlaccs into Exploration Age’s story? First, they’re going to need a different name, because copyright. How about gaping maws? Get it? Because their mouths are… Of course you get it. It’s painfully simple. For that same copyright reason and for fun and simplification, I’m going to change a few other details here about the sarlacc. The gaping maw is inspired by the sarlacc, not an exact copy.

Well Canus is already a world full of interesting horrors, which includes many an ancient aberrant creature. Gaping maws certainly seem weird enough to be aberrants. There’s plenty of deserts on Canus, so maybe these creatures have taken root in the desert and when their brethren went underground they could not follow as they were too rooted in their pits. They did not represent much threat to the dragons, so they didn’t bother to kill the gaping maws.

The older a gaping maw is the bigger and deeper it is. They are stationary creatures with spiked tentacles that whip around and drag prey into their tongue mouths. They digest their prey very slowly, killing them over a slow and torturous digestive period which can last months.

Gaping maws are tough. The best way to kill a gaping maw is to attack it it from the inside, which is difficult since the noxious gases created by its stomach acids can paralyze a creature. Creatures swallowed by the gaping maw may resist its noxious stomach gas and try to attack it from within. The gaping maw may try and crush the creature using its stomach muscles if it attacks, but this is a last resort. It prefers to digest slowly and conserve its energy.

Gaping maws are asexual and reproduce every 100 years by releasing spores which burrow into the sand and take root, growing into young, then adult, then ancient gaping maws. Not many gaping maws get to mature however, since as babies they can easily be dug from the earth and devoured by various desert animals.

D&D Next Statistics

Using the last public playtest packet, here’s how I’d represent gaping maws in my game.

Gaping Maw, Young

Huge Aberration

Armor Class 14

HP 52 (7d10 + 14)

Speed 0 ft.

Str 18 (+4)

Dex 10 (+0)

Con 14 (+2)

Int 3 (-4)

Wis 9 (-1)

Cha 8 (-1)

Alignment unaligned

Languages 

Traits

Damage Resistance: The gaping maw is resistant to all nonmagical weapons.

Grappler: The gaping maw has advantage on attack rolls against a creature grappled by it.

Magic Immunity: The gaping maw is immune to spells of 3rd level or lower, and it makes saving throws against spells of 4th level or higher with advantage.

Regeneration: At the start of each of its turns, the gaping maw regains 5 hit points. If the gaping maw takes damage from a creature it has swallowed, this trait doesn’t function on the gaping maw’s next turn. This trait ceases to function while the gaping maw has 0 hit points.

Actions

Multi-Attack: A gaping maw may make four tentacle attacks or two tentacle attacks and one bite attack.

Melee Attack – Tentacle: +5 to hit (reach 20 ft.; one creature). Hit: 10 (1d10+5) piercing damage and if the target is Large or smaller, the creature is grappled. While using a tentacle to grapple a creature, the gaping maw can make that tentacle’s attack only against the grappled creature.

Melee Attack – Bite: +5 to hit (reach 5 ft.; one creature). Hit: 15 (2d8+6) piercing damage.

Melee Attack – Crush: +5 to hit (all swallowed creatures). Hit: 12 (1d12+6) bludgeoning damage.

Swallow Whole: While grappling a Medium or smaller creature, the gaping maw can make a bite attack against the creature, and if the gaping maw hits, it also swallows the creature. A gaping maw can swallow 16 Tiny, 8 Small, 4 Medium creatures at a time. A swallowed creature is blinded and restrained.

Swallowed creatures must make a DC 12 Constitution saving throw. Failed Save: The target is paralyzed for 24 hours. At the end of this period if the creature is still swallowed by the gaping maw they save again or remained paralyzed for another 24 hours. If the creature does save but remains swallowed it is subject to another saving throw 24 hours after the successful one. A swallowed creature’s maximum HP is reduced by 1 for every day it is swallowed. When it’s max HP is reduced to 0 the creature is completely digested and dies. A swallowed creature may attack the gaping maw. When attacked from the inside the gaping maw loses all resistances and immunities.

Encounter Building

XP: 340

Gaping Maw, Adult

Gargantuan Aberration

Armor Class 15

HP 88 (11d10 + 33)

Speed 0 ft.

Str 20 (+5)

Dex 11 (+0)

Con 16 (+3)

Int 3 (-4)

Wis 10 (+0)

Cha 8 (-1)

Alignment unaligned

Languages 

Traits

Damage Resistance: The gaping maw is resistant to all nonmagical weapons.

Grappler: The gaping maw has advantage on attack rolls against a creature grappled by it.

Magic Immunity: The gaping maw is immune to spells of 5th level or lower, and it makes saving throws against spells of 6th level or higher with advantage.

Regeneration: At the start of each of its turns, the gaping maw regains 10 hit points. If the gaping maw takes damage from a creature it has swallowed, this trait doesn’t function on the gaping maw’s next turn. This trait ceases to function while the gaping maw has 0 hit points.

Actions

Multi-Attack: A gaping maw may make six tentacle attacks, or four tentacle attacks and one bite attack.

Melee Attack – Tentacle: +6 to hit (reach 25 ft.; one creature). Hit: 12 (2d6+5) piercing damage and if the target is huge or smaller, the creature is grappled. While using a tentacle to grapple a creature, the gaping maw can make that tentacle’s attack only against the grappled creature.

Melee Attack – Bite: +6 to hit (reach 10 ft.; one creature). Hit: 21 (3d10+6) piercing damage.

Melee Attack – Crush: +6 to hit (all swallowed creatures). Hit: 18 (2d12+6) bludgeoning damage.

Swallow Whole: While grappling a Large or smaller creature, the gaping maw can make a bite attack against the creature, and if the gaping maw hits, it also swallows the creature. A gaping maw can swallow 32 Tiny, 16 Small, 8 Medium, or 4 Large creatures at a time. A swallowed creature is blinded and restrained.

Swallowed creatures must make a DC 13 Constitution saving throw. Failed Save: The target is paralyzed for 24 hours. At the end of this period if the creature is still swallowed by the gaping maw they save again or remained paralyzed for another 24 hours. If the creature does save but remains swallowed it is subject to another saving throw 24 hours after the successful one. A swallowed creature’s maximum HP is reduced by 1 for every day it is swallowed. When it’s max HP is reduced to 0 the creature is completely digested and dies. A swallowed creature may attack the gaping maw. When attacked from the inside the gaping maw loses all resistances and immunities.

Encounter Building

XP: 3,920

Gaping Maw, Ancient

Colossal Aberration

Armor Class 16

HP 142 (15d10 + 60)

Speed 0 ft.

Str 23 (+6)

Dex 13 (+1)

Con 18 (+4)

Int 3 (-4)

Wis 12 (+1)

Cha 8 (-1)

Alignment unaligned

Languages 

Traits

Damage Resistance: The gaping maw is resistant to all nonmagical weapons.

Grappler: The gaping maw has advantage on attack rolls against a creature grappled by it.

Magic Immunity: The gaping maw is immune to spells of 7th level or lower, and it makes saving throws against spells of 8th level or higher with advantage.

Regeneration: At the start of each of its turns, the gaping maw regains 15 hit points. If the gaping maw takes damage from a creature it has swallowed, this trait doesn’t function on the gaping maw’s next turn. This trait ceases to function while the gaping maw has 0 hit points.

Actions

Multi-Attack: A gaping maw may make eight tentacle attacks, or six tentacle attacks and one bite attack.

Melee Attack – Tentacle: +7 to hit (reach 30 ft.; one creature). Hit: 15 (2d8+6) piercing damage and the creature is grappled. While using a tentacle to grapple a creature, the gaping maw can make that tentacle’s attack only against the grappled creature.

Melee Attack – Bite: +7 to hit (reach 15 ft.; one creature). Hit: 32 (4d12+6) piercing damage.

Melee Attack – Crush: +7 to hit (all swallowed creatures). Hit: 24 (3d12+6) bludgeoning damage.

Swallow Whole: While grappling a huge or smaller creature, the gaping maw can make a bite attack against the creature, and if the gaping maw hits, it also swallows the creature. A gaping maw can swallow 64 Tiny, 32 Small, 16 Medium, 8 Large, or 4 Huge creatures at a time. A swallowed creature is blinded and restrained.

Swallowed creatures must make a DC 14 Constitution saving throw. Failed Save: The target is paralyzed for 24 hours. At the end of this period if the creature is still swallowed by the gaping maw they save again or remained paralyzed for another 24 hours. If the creature does save but remains swallowed it is subject to another saving throw 24 hours after the successful one. A swallowed creature’s maximum HP is reduced by 1 for every day it is swallowed. When it’s max HP is reduced to 0 the creature is completely digested and dies. A swallowed creature may attack the gaping maw. When attacked from the inside the gaping maw loses all resistances and immunities.

Encounter Building

XP: 20,010

So let me know what you think! Does it feel sarlacc-y and do you want to use one of these for your game?

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!


In an all DM panel edition of The Round Table I sit down with Joe LastowskiTopher Kohan, and Round Table newbie Brendan Mansell to talk about the latest Legends and Lore article from Mike Mearls and its D&D Next Q&A follow-up. We also talk about Pathfinder and D&D’s so-called competition, a discussion inspired by a recent Escapist article. This podcast was recorded on May 2, 2014.

 

Joe’s Reviews

dungeonsmaster.com

Topher’s Google+ Page


 

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!

Parian is a place unlike any other. The humans citizens have a rich cultural history of art, poetry, music, food, and more. Everything its citizens do they do for one man – he is their ruler and their God.

Government

Wrong emperor.

 

Parian is a country that’s home to one man – Emperor Quan Denang. Everyone else in Parian is just living in his world. Quan is the supreme leader, the one and only God in the eyes of his people. His rule is absolute and there is no error in his judgement. The emperor is stronger and smarter than any other living being alive.

When the emperor dies, a new emperor takes his place – traditionally a son or brother, but any male relative of the Denang Dynasty may be appointed by the emperor in his will or on hid deathbed.

Emperor Quan has a contingent of one thousand elite bodyguards and the world’s largest military at his command. While his people believe Quan is one in a long line of infallible Gods, he does have a court of advisors – who are often the ones blamed and punished when the emperor makes a mistake.

Perhaps the most notable of all these councilors is Emperor Quan’s chief advisor. Symextrivilicus is an ancient red dragon titled Baron of All Affairs who has been advising Parian’s various emperors for hundreds of years. The dragon seems content to play second fiddle to whoever the current emperor is, but many cannot believe this is the case. It is unheard of behavior for a dragon to say the least, first to so involve himself in the affairs of mortals and even more so to then let others run the show. No one is sure what sort of game Symextrivilicus is playing, but many are sure he is playing one.

Emperor Quan has other under barons responsible for war, treasury, foreign affairs, domestic affairs, and emperor’s pleasure. All of these barons report to Symextrivilicus. In turn Symextrivilicus reports to Emperor Quan. Each under baron has his or her own staff who aids them in their business.

There are few consistent punishments for crimes in Parian. The soldiers enforce the law of the land at the emperor’s whim. If the emperor decides one day stealing is punishable by death, then it is. If Quan changes his mind and decides all thieves will serve jail time, become slaves, or have their hands removed, then that is the new law. One would be wise to listen every morning to Parian’s news criers for any changes or updates in the law of the land.

Slavery

Parian has a long tradition of slavery. The very rich are able to buy prisoners of war, criminals, and the children of slaves to work for them. Supposedly slavers no longer illegally capture and sell foreigners, but it is well known that some pirates still capture ships and sell the people to Parian nobles who ask no questions.

Rowdy slaves are kept in line by enforcer-slaves who are shown favoritism, better living conditions, and more privileges and freedoms. All slaves branded in case they ever escape. Many treat their slaves fairly well, but it’s not a life for which most would wish. Marrial’s Masters of None have taken a particular interest in the slaves of Parian and works to secretly free them, though this is against international law.

Divinity

Emperor Quan is God in the eyes of Parian’s people. There is no freedom of religion, believing in the divinity of the emperor, or Imperatism, is the only option. Infidels and heretics are tortured and executed publicly for all to see.

Quan has ways of proving his divinity to his people. He often gives public demonstrations of his power by creating fire and lightning out of thin air. While these displays are impressive, all mages could point out these are spells readily available to any who learn the craft. They would be wise to do so out of earshot of the emperor and any of his servants if they value their lives. Quan has also given public displays of power which show off how long he can hold his breath, how swords break against his skin, how he can read thoughts, and more. All of these could be explained away with the right spell, but to some it is real proof.

The divinity of the emperor is explained in the Denang Scrolls, an ancient holy text of Imperatism. In the beginning there was only Aliay Denang. he created Canus and the multiverse through sheer force of will and gave life to all creatures and plants. It was his gift to the world which he could take away at anytime. A power many Parians believe and fear Quan and all his ancestors also hold.

Aliay’s body grew old on Canus. For though He was God, it took all His might to keep the world moving and living. This took a toll on his body, causing it to age. Though Aliay could have lived forever, He passed on his divinity to a new body, one of His sons. Aliya’s old body died and His son was now God. Parian’s believe all emperor’s pass this divinity as their bodies age from maintaining the existence of the world.

Many in Canus, including some citizens of Parian, think that Imperatism is one of the most insane things they’ve ever heard. Others believe in the emperor’s divinity for not only does Quan display impressive might, he has clerics who pray to him and receive spells. Of course, when he commands the world’s largest military, many have faith in Quan as God for they have no other choice.

Rumors

Other countries whisper rumors about Quan beyond him being a God or a mortal. There are all sorts of theories about his background and the Denang Dynasty.

  • Emperor Quan is not God, nor is anyone of the Denang Dynasty. Aliay sold his soul and his entire family to demons in exchange for power. Every emperor since Aliay has been possessed by a demon.
  • The Denang Dynasty is not a long lineage. Rather it is simply two generations of fathers and sons who are constantly switching places. Once the fathers become old, they absorb the youth of an unfortunate young victim. After turning young, they pretend to be the sons of their sons. This is a cycle which has been repeating so long neither generation can remember which is the parent and which is the offspring.
  • Emperor Quan is secretly a woman. Quan had a twin sister who died in a mysterious accident during a hunt as a child. Many believe it was actually Quan who died and his sister took his place. Quan’s soft complexion adds credence to this rumor.
  • Emperor Quan actually holds The Immortal Gift from the Line of Mara in the religion of Immortalism, Aeranore’s official religion.

As you can see Emperor Quan and Parian have more going on than meets the eye. What do you think? Do you want Parian to be part of your world?

Also I’m reposting this survey and looking for answers! Please take five seconds and answer. Thanks!

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!

Peace-keepers, heroes, reluctant partners – all of these terms apply to The Swords of Findalay. This international peacekeeping quartet was put in place long ago to help settle disputes and punish those who violate the Treaty of Findalay.

Who?

It’s party time.

The Swords of Findalay are four of Canus’ most accomplished adventurers joined together in a party for the betterment of the continent. One adventurer is chosen by his or her country’s leaders to join The Swords for a ten-year term. Swords may serve as many consecutive terms as they like and their leaders allow.

The Swords of Findalay are above all laws but their own, so they are supposedly selected based not only on their accomplishments, but their character… but character is quite subjective. More often than not the leaders of a country pick their most popular and storied hero to serve as a Sword. Other countries don’t want to be outdone and so The Swords of Findalay can sometimes become showboating drama queens out for individual glory and popularity as opposed to a cooperative team of negotiators and adventurers. Though recent events have encouraged a more careful picking of The Swords.

Meet the current Swords of Findalay, who are in their tenth and final year of their term.

Mikandra Felonde – Aeranore

Aeranore’s champion is a demure, middle-aged gnome woman. She dresses plainly, abhors makeup, and keeps her hair in a tight bun. Queen Icillia IV didn’t appoint her close friend for her appearance. Mikandra Felonde is a renowned conjurer. She and her many summoned beasts have a rich history saving citizens of Aeranore from various threats – particularly the terrorist organization of Free Aeranore.

Mikandra does not say much in public appearances and when she does speak it’s usually with the voice of a person who’s so intelligent they can’t understand that no one else is keeping up with them. Still, her power, heroism, and time on Aeranore’s Council of Mages make her a perfect fit for the job. Her zipped lip means she’s likely to not shame Aeranore as well. Of course there is that pesky rumor that Mikandra is secretly a member of Dark Whispers…

Therrah Gwana – Bragonay

An artisan turned warlord who rose through the ranks of the Bragonay caste by order of Empress Nawja herself is far and wide considered the most honorable fighter in all the land, which is a major accomplishment considering her predecessor literally stabbed the other Swords of Findalay in the back. In her early days, Therrah gained fame as an artisan when she made armor out of the hides of dragons… whom she personally hunted down and killed with her axe. When her fame reached international levels the Empress forced a warlord to trade castes with Therrah and later asked her to join The Swords.

Therrah is well-mannered and respectful of other nations and cultures. Training is her number one priority and she is soft-spoken… until she gets a few ales in her. Therrah becomes the life of the party and center of attention whenever she starts to drink. This is a little dangerous though. How lose her tongue becomes is proportional to how much she’s had to drink.

Leiryiach Lekjaver – Marrial

There is no voice in Findalay as sweet as that of Leiryiach Lekjaver the bard. Leiryiach is a dragonborn who has grown popular in the isles by calming monsters and beasts with his songs and spells. He has laid down almost as many beasts as he has women – his one true weakness.

Leiryiach is easily the voice of The Swords of Findalay. He often sings when they give public appearances and is the first to show off when challenged. Leiryiach craves attention and pulls pranks on his fellow Swords when they are being honored in order to draw attention back to himself.

Justinianus Salavanas – Taliana

Leiryiach might be the voice of The Swords, but Justinianus is their true leader. He is a calm and collected Solarist priest who has made his name through adventuring and then giving away his gold to the poor. This made him wildly popular in Taliana where he could easily be a senator. Parliament naturally saw him as a political threat (he could take one of their seats) and immediately nominated him to be Taliana’s Sword as soon as the opportunity arose. His work as a Sword bars Justinianus from running for office.

Justinianus often picks the quests The Swords of Findalay undertake when they are not needed to settle a dispute. When they are needed, he is a skilled mediator, helping leaders everywhere come to agreements during disputes. Though he has stated when his term as a Sword is over he does not plan to stay, but run for Taliana’s Parliament, which has worried more than a few in the House of Labor.

What?

Party down.

The primary responsibility of The Swords of Findalay is to keep the peace between Findalay’s nations. They have two primary ways of doing this.

  1. When another nation or leader of a large-scale, internationally recognized organization such as The Arcane College asks them to help mediate a dispute between themselves and an opposing party, The Swords must heed the call. Likewise, before any military action is taken The Swords must first be called upon. Nations and organizations who do not take that step are subject to penalties determined by The Swords of Findalay.
  2. The Swords must provide an example for all of how the different Findalayan countrymen can work together. This means public appearances, speaking-events, and above all adventures. If a Aeranorean gnome can become a hero to young Bragonian dwarves and Talianan elves, then people may be able to better understand one another. There’s plenty of places for The Swords of Findalay to explore and plenty of adventure out there.

Since The Swords of Findalay are so very busy, they have a few special tools to manage their jobs. Each has a special stone of sending which allows communication with one another and the leaders of Findalay. They are also loaded up with scrolls of teleportation so they can easily get from one place to the next, not to mention their griffon mounts given to them by Taliana’s Parliament.

Where?

In order to not show favoritism to any nation over the others, The Swords of Findalay spend two and a half years, one-quarter of their term, in one of Findalay’s four nations, using it as a base of operations. Their base is usually located in a the country’s capital.

Why?

The Swords of Findalay came about after years and years of war between all of Findalay’s countries. Aeranore, Bragonay, Marrial, and Taliana agreed to create a force made of their champions that would be the continent’s police force. They have not always been successful in negotiations, but they always take action and pride themselves on hunting and punishing the guilty.

When?

The Swords of Findalay have had numerous major accomplishments. One of their biggest was uncovering the grain plot of Taliana and offering Parliament a choice in their punishment, the result of which was damning to the country’s economy.

Perhaps one of the most important moment in The Swords’ history is the event that started the Fourth Great War. Bragonay’s Sword murdered the other three and then the empress of Bragonay began her invasion. The Swords murdered and the war begun, for a long time there was no Swords of Findalay.

Ten years ago the countries brought the group back, but many people are wary of The Swords, unsure if they truly put the needs of Findalay above the needs of their individual patriotism.

How?

So how are The Swords of Findalay important to the PCs? Well, first of all they are the highest moral authority in Findalay, an example to all adventurers. Second, these adventurers have real authority, they could ask the PCs for help, or with the term ending, one of the PCs could be chosen to be a Sword.

Or perhaps the adventurers find themselves at odds with The Swords. The adventurers could work with an organization sparking an international incident or perhaps The Swords themselves have ulterior motives, either individually or as a team. Imagine the best adventuring party in the world gone rogue. Fun stuff.

Last one… party on!

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!

A new episode of my podcast The Round Table is up on The Tome Show’s website.

I sit down with Round Table regular Joe Lastowski and newbie Topher Kohan to talk about the past, present, and future of organized play for D&D. In particular we take a hard look at the D&D Encounters program, what it’s like to run an organized play game, and what we’d like to see changed in the future. This episode was recorded on April 17, 2014.

Links:
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!

Who doesn’t love a good mount? Let’s face it, horses are a huge part of the fantasy genre. They were the main mode of transportation in medieval times and the knights and cowboys we loved as kids rode them. But for all their lore and presence, mounts have some problems in D&D.

Mounts are the best.

Problem #1

Of course the dungeons aspect of Dungeons and Dragons can make mounts a little impractical. I can remember numerous times a player sadly sighed as the party entered a dungeon, his PC leaving a horse, a host of mounted combat feats, and equipment behind for the umpteenth time.

Solution #1

In order to make mounts useful we need to think beyond dungeons. Exploration Age is a massive world. Countries are 3,000 miles wide or more. Also, it’s dangerous out there! Mounts are the cheapest way to get from place to place and to avoid danger. After all, I’ve heard tell that famous Shakespearean kings would have handed over their titles in exchange for horses when their lives were in danger.

In D&D Next a horse is twice as fast as a person. That means getting to places in half the time. Plus horses can wear swifty horseshoes. When these magic shoes are paired with a speedy cobblestone road they move three times as fast as they normally do so six times faster than a regular pedestrian. Awesome! So there’s one way to appreciate your mount beyond jousting. For more on speedy cobblestones, check out this earlier post on travel in Exploration Age.

Even at those speeds it still takes a significant amount of time to cross a country and even more so to cross a continent. That’s loads of time getting to know your mount and tons of possibilities for mounted encounters while traveling. Imagine traveling at breakneck speeds down a speedy cobblestone road as bandits riding horses with swifty horseshoes give chase. It’s a medieval car chase worthy of James Bond or Vin Diesel. In cases like this a mount is essential.

Exploration Age also has the potential for large-scale combat, where horses give everyone a big speed advantage. There are plenty of countries with rocky relationships and militant organizations with large memberships and a bone to pick. Massive battles are practically inevitable in an Exploration Age campaign. When PCs are able to do circles around enemy battalions, they’ll be glad they brought their mounts.

But finally, and most importantly, Exploration Age is about exploring. Whether you’re riding over the frozen ocean of the North Pole on a dogsled, exploring the depths of Verda’s Sprawling Jungle on the back of a yak, or riding a lizard through The Underdark, mounts make travel faster and can serve as pack animals for carrying all the loot you’ve won. Not to mention when you’re heading off the road certain mounts in Exploration age ignore difficult terrain. More on that below.

Problem #2

Remember that time we road pterodactyls?

There’s another issue with mounts – horses can be kind of boring for some folks, or sometimes horses don’t perfectly fit a character concept when another mount might. I know there are plenty of options in D&D aside from the horse and pony, but many of these mounts, such as griffons, pegasi, and nightmares, are hard to come by and harder to train and control… and rightfully so! These mounts give players ridiculous advantages like flight, insane speed, and special attacks. They are at least an awesome magic item and at most another PC in the party. That’s all well and good at higher levels, but what about unique mounts for the low-level adventurer? (Riding dog being the adorable exception and Dark Sun’s kank being the wonderfully weird exception).

Solution #2

Well this solution is pretty simple. Exploration Age adds a whole host of normal and bizarre mounts to your game. Many of these mounts are affordable and easy to find for low-level characters because they don’t have powerful attacks and special abilities. They help add flavor to the world and add to the feel of playing a fantasy, tabletop role-play game.

Still, each mount needs to feel a little different from the rest mechanically. A riding lizard should be able to do some stuff a horse can’t, especially if it isn’t as fast. Well in Exploration Age there’s a lot of different types of difficult terrain on the map. There are snowfields, mountains, forest, jungle, swamps, and more. I decided if a mount was native to a type of terrain, for instance the lizard in the swamp, then it would ignore any difficult terrain of that type. Take a look at the mounts available in this excerpt from the Exploration Age Campaign Guide.

Exploration Age is home to some bizarre and wonderful animals that serve as mounts beyond horses and camels. Many can cross certain types of difficult terrain at normal speed. Use the charts and descriptions below to help you look at some interesting creatures for sale. Note: These are common mounts for sale, other fantastic mounts might be found and trained at the GMs whim. Descriptions are provided for the creatures which do not exist in the real world.

Mount Speed per round Speed per hour Speed per Day Ignored Difficult Terrain(s) Price Notes
Riding Lizard 40 feet 4 miles 40 miles Swamp, Marsh, Jungle 75 gp See Description
Water Buffalo 60 feet 6 miles 60 miles Swamp, Marsh, Jungle 150 gp None
Bison 50 feet 5 miles 50 miles Forest 100 gp None
Riding Deer 60 feet 6 miles 60 miles Forest 150 gp See Description
Mountain Ram 40 feet 4 miles 40 miles Mountains 75 gp See Description
Yak 50 feet 5 miles 50 miles Snowfields, Mountains 100 gp None
Reindeer 60 feet 6 miles 60 miles Snowfields, Mountains, Frozen Ocean 150 gp None
Dog Sled and Team 80 feet 8 miles 80 miles Snowfields, Frozen Ocean 400 gp Snow and frozen terrain only
Ostrich 70 feet 7 miles 70 miles None 150 gp None
Riding Turtle 100 feet 10 miles 100 miles None 200 gp Water Only, See Description
Ornithopter 60 feet 6 miles 60 miles See Description 20,000 gp See Description
  • Riding Lizard These over-sized monitor lizards are trained to carry a rider across swamps, marshes, and jungles. While they may not be as fast as a horse, they can tolerate the humid conditions and wet terrain better than most other mounts.
  • Riding Deer These over-sized white-tailed deer were first bred by elves to be large enough to hold a rider. They spring through wooded forests and hills with ease, making it easy to get across huge swaths of terrain.
  • Mountain Ram Huge goats large enough to hold a man were first trained by the Bragonian dwarves. Now they are the prefered method of travel for all who traverse mountainous peaks.
  • Dogsled and Team A team of 8 dogs comes with a sled, ready to pull a rider and gear across the frozen landscapes of Canus.
  • Riding Turtle These enormous, freshwater turtles are large enough to hold one rider on the shell. Outside water they only have a speed of 20 feet per round, but in water they are quite fast. Turtles like this are often used in lieu of boats when traveling on lakes and rivers.
  • Ornithopter This is a special one-person flying machine created by Bragonay’s artisans for reconnaissance and solo travel. It has huge flapping wings powered by the rider which allow for lift and propulsion. An ornithopter can glide great distances.

Swifty Gear

The speedy cobblestones in the roads of Findalay and Parian allow for travel at double speed when paired with swifty equipment. The Arcane College sells this equipment, advertising it not only as fast and convenient, but also as safe, since with swifty gear one is three times as fast as any monsters or bandits (theoretically… a few bandits have acquired their own swifty gear). Small gems along the wheels and on the bottoms of the shoes and boots harness the magic of the cobblestones. When using swifty equipment on a road of speedy cobblestones, magic energy hums and crackles with blue sparks when the gear connects with the stones.

Gear Price Notes
Swifty Boots 50 gp Pair of two
Swifty Horseshoes 200 gp Set of four
Swifty Animal Shoes 400 gp Customized for mount of choice
Swifty Wheels 500 gp Set of four

I hope you’re as excited about this stuff as I am. I’ve never really had my players use mounts with any frequency and I’m hoping my Exploration Age game will be different. Mounts can add some great characters and relationships to the game. Think of famous rider/mount pairs. Gandalf and Shadowfax, Eragon and Saphira, the Lone Ranger and Silver – the list goes on. Even if my players don’t reach that level of companionship with their mounts, these animals have a purpose and the PCs have options. That’s never a bad thing.

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!

I love giving out magic items. I think it’s because I remember how I felt getting them as a player. The excitement of unlocking the power of something hidden in an ancient temple for hundreds of years is like no other. The story and history of a sword or helm or belt could be awe-inspiring and terrifying. As a player my magic items are like pets to me. As a DM I look forward to designing and handing out these rewards or rolling on a random magic item table and seeing what might come up.

This is about a quarter of the magic items needed for a PC in fourth edition to survive to level 30.

In the third and fourth editions of Dungeons and Dragons magic items became exhausting. Just look at this article from James Wyatt’s wandering monsters column. It discusses the number of items a DM was expected to fork over in order to make the game math work correctly in earlier editions of D&D. In fourth edition it was encouraged by the rulebooks that players give DMs wish lists of the items they wanted because there were so many from which to choose. DMs were happy to hand them over because there were literally several thousand items in the character builder alone. Creating a customized magic item took a lot of time since DMs wanted to make sure all the math worked out. It was a lot of work to just give out items to keep the math correct and making your own balanced items was even tougher. Not to mention at higher levels character already have enough options in combat to make even the most experienced player’s head spin… and magic items just added to the confusion and slowed things down.

Now don’t get me wrong, I LOVE third AND fourth edition. I just think they were flawed when it came to magic items.

An excerpt from the Bounded Accuracy article linked below.

An excerpt from the Bounded Accuracy article linked below.

Well no more in D&D Next! Thanks to the bounded accuracy system, a PC needs no magic items in order for the math to work out properly. Magic items are back to being special again, baby! I can give as many or as few as I please and the magic items will feel unique and special. Not to mention a magic item received at first level is just as relevant at twentieth, so I don’t have to stock magic weapons stores with +3 swords because a PC’s +2 sword isn’t strong enough to make the math work at his or her current level. I don’t even need magic item stores at all! Rather than spend their gold on more magic items they need to survive, my players can get creative and spend their hard-earned graverobbings on building castles, researching new spells, starting guilds, or any other crazy thing they dream.

Magic Items in Exploration Age

Any permanent magic item in Exploration Age requires a gem to hold and focus its magic. So all magic items have at least one gem affixed to them somewhere. More powerful items may have larger and/or more gems required in order to be created. This accomplishes a few things which help make magic items in Exploration Age feel unique and special.

  • Adventurers and others have a good guideline for figuring out if an item is magic before casting the usual detection and identification spells.
  • Gems can be affixed to nonmagical objects in order to deceive and give the appearance of magic where there is none.
  • While adventuring in Exploration Age finding gems is more exciting than in a typical D&D game. Finding a gem usually meant turning around and immediately selling it for gold back in town (large diamonds were sometimes saved for raise dead rituals). These economic interactions can be fun to role-play… the first 20 times. It gets a bit old and the players have to keep track of how many gems they find and how large they are. Eventually most DMs just give gold to cut out the middleman. Well now finding a gem means something more! They can be saved and used to craft magic items.

Magic Item Creation in Exploration Age

In a recent Live D&D Next Q&A with designers Mike Mearls, Rodney Thompson, and Chris Perkins they revealed there will be an optional rules module for magic item creation included in the core rule books for D&D’s next edition.

Now unfortunately for me and my designing the details of this module have not been made public. That won’t stop me though. There are a three things I’m willing to assume about the module.

  1. It will cost money and resources to create these items. One can’t make something from nothing.
  2. It will take significant time to create these items. This is a normally safe assumption reinforced by the fact the that this magic item creation rules module came up while discussing how PCs could spend downtime during an adventure.
  3. Magic item creators must meet certain prerequisites in order to create certain items. Those prerequisites could be related to level, class, race, or even alignment.

Most important for me is the first assumption. Whatever the R&D team at Wizards of the Coast decides is the right amount of gold to spend to create a magic item, I’m going to say that rather than paying the cost all in gold, half the cost must be paid in gems which are then incorporated into the item’s final design.

Don’t mess with this guy. He’s got a lightsaber.

In Defense of Weird

On a personal note, might I add I love strange magic items? I’m talking about the things that make you laugh or furrow your brow in the Dungeon Master’s Guide of any edition. Take, for example, the dust of dryness.

Excerpt from the latest D&D Next playtest packet.

Excerpt from the latest D&D Next playtest packet.

Pretty lame when you compare it to magic armor, right? Wrong! You got to think outside the box, my friend!

Get creative and use that dust to turn a tavern brawl into a naval battle. Or to threaten a group of desert nomads withholding information by holding the dust over their oasis. Or dry up an underground lake to see the oozes lurking below. Heck, throw it onto one of those oozes and see what happens! Could be nothing. Or you could be carrying and ooze around in your pocket like a Pokemon trainer. That’s a story people at the table will remember forever. Moments like that are why we pour hours of free time into these games.

Every item is a chance for unique and creative play. So don’t turn your nose up at the apparatus of Kwalish. You just haven’t thought of how to use it yet.

Sample Magic Items for Exploration Age

Mind-Warp Rod

Legendary wondrous item

This long iron rod is of aberrant make and has many small mouths carved along its surface. When aberrant creatures are within fifty feet of the rod the mouths all laugh manically in unique individual voices.

Long ago aberrant wild mages created these rods to be used by elite skirmishing troops to sew confusion amongst the draconic ranks. These items are abhorred by dragons and many of them have been destroyed. Only a precious few remain in Canus.

Property: As an action this rod may target a creature, area, or the wielder who is subject to a random effect (roll on the table below). Aberrant creatures targeted by the rod may choose the effect which targets them.

Roll 1d20 Target Effect
1 Wielder Creature becomes invisible per the spell.
2 1 creature within 50 feet Creature is polymorphed per the spell into a cow. (DC 14)
3 1 creature within 50 feet Creature collapses prone in gales of laughter for 1 round. All attacks against the creature have advantage and it cannot take actions. (Wisdom saving throw DC 14 negates)
4 A line 100 feet long and 5 feet wide A lightning bolt per the spell shoots from the tip of the rod dealing 6d6 lightning damage. (DC 14)
5 1 creature within 50 feet Sees all creatures in the area as enemies for 3 rounds. (Wisdom saving throw DC 14 negates)
6 A 30-foot square area Becomes covered in grease as per the spell. (DC 14)
7 A 15-foot radius area within 50 feet Becomes a zone of truth per the spell. (DC 14)
8 1 creature within 50 feet A swarm of spiders and scorpions covers the target for one round dealing 4d6 poison damage. (Constitution saving throw DC 14 negates)
9 Wielder Wielder is instantly more attractive and has advantage on all Charisma rolls for 1 minute.
10 1 creature within 50 feet A ray of enfeeblement is shot from the rod with a +6 bonus to attack.
11 A 20-foot radius within 100 feet Silence for ten-minutes per the spell.
12 Wielder Gains the benefit of comprehend languages, read magic, and speak with animals for 10 minutes.
13 Creatures with an adjacent 15-foot cone Color spray per the spell. (DC 14)
14 Creatures with an adjacent 60-foot cone A barrage of tiny needles attacks, per the conjure barrage spell. (DC 14)
15 Wielder Gains the benefit of darkvision for 1 hour.
16 Wielder Immediately knows where all magic items are within 100 feet.
17 Wielder Gains the benefit of the levitate spell for 10 minutes.
18 A 20-foot radius within 100 feet Creatures are subject to the entangle spell. (DC 14)
19 Wielder Becomes the target of the sanctuary spell. (DC 14)
20 A 20-foot radius within 100 feet 6d8 HP of creatures put to sleep per the spell.
Order-Keeper

Artifact magic weapon (great sword)

This massive great sword is a copy of the one carried by the dwarf empress goddess, Caramey. The adamantine blade is carved with colorful runes along the flat on either side which name the different levels of the Bragonian caste. When wielded in battle it sings a hymn in dwarven about the power of the empress.

It is said Caramey sent a single copy of her weapon to Canus to give to the first dwarven empress to help her lead the rebellion against the shardmind while fighting the dragons. Others believe the sword was actually created by the shardmind themselves and given to a dwarf warrior to aid her in the war against the dragons. Whatever the case this warrior led the charge against both dragons and shardmind. Though she lost the sword in battle, she did become Bragonay’s first empress.

Property: The wielder gains a +1 to attack and damage rolls made with this weapon. Creatures with the draconic type feels a strong revulsion to the weapon. If they maintain contact with the weapon for one round, draconic creatures take 3d6 pyschic damage.

Property [Attuned]: You must be a dwarf to become attuned to the weapon. The weapon’s bonus to attack and damage rolls increases to +4, and it does an extra 3d10 damage against draconic creatures.

While carrying this weapon, the wielder may speak, understand, read, and write draconic.

While this weapon is drawn, it sheds bright light in a 15-foot radius. Allies of the wielder and the wielder within the light gain advantage on Will and Dexterity saving throws. Whenever these allies and the wielder are subject to a Dexterity saving throw to take only half damage from an effect, they instead take no damage on a successful save, half damage if they fail.

Trail-Blazer Beetles

Uncommon wondrous item

This fist sized, copper orb constantly appears to have moment just underneath its shiny surface. The cardinal directions are carved into the sphere.

Property: When thrown the orb turns into 500 tiny, copper scarab  beetles who eat vegetation and snow, making forests, jungles, and snow fields making a small path which is longer difficult terrain. These paths are easily followed and cannot be made through solid rock or large trees. The beetles move in a path defined by the person who threw the orb for 10 hours and then revert back to orb status. They eat only plants and snow. They cannot be used again until a long rest has been completed.

While active the beetles can attack plant-based creatures, who are subject to a DC 12 Reflex saving throw or take 2d6 damage.

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!

There’s a new episode of my podcast, The Round Table up on The Tome Show’s website.

I sit down with Doug Davison of Fantasy Grounds to talk about his product and the latest developments. They discuss what makes Fantasy Grounds a different kind of virtual tabletop and how Doug got his start making cool stuff for the RPG world. This podcast was recorded on April 12, 2014.

Here’s a sweet video that can tell you more about Fantasy Grounds.

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!

I have yet to write a lot of material about Parian, the nation to Findalay’s West ruled by an emperor who considers himself a god. Check out the excerpt from the Exploration Age Campaign Guide below.

Map of Parian

Map of Parian

In Parian there is one man who holds all the power. He is not just a political leader, but the only true force in the world as far as his people are concerned. In their eyes he is God and to say anything else would be a heresy punishable by death.

How does one man get all this power? How do his people not riot in the streets? Emperor Quan has the strongest military in the world at his command and his command alone.

The Emperor’s Military

Don’t mess with Emperor Quan, dragon!

In Parian the armed forces as a whole are referred to as The Emperor’s Military. This simple and direct title is so all might know to whom the military belongs. There is no question Emperor Quan is the owner of all Parian.

Parian’s soldiers swear an oath to serve and protect the emperor with their lives and obey his every command. These oaths are reinforced by the attitudes of fellow soldiers and superior officers. Members of the military are constantly reminded of the importance of their job for they must protect and carry out the divine will of Emperor Quan. These reminders come written in handbooks and posters, verbally communicated by fellow soldiers, and from the emperor himself each day via a mass sending spell. It only takes a matter of days to brainwash any recruits who aren’t already 100% on board before signing up. Every member of the military is ready to give his or her life for Parian and Emperor Quan.

Another reason Parian’s soldiers love their country – they get the best treatment. Good meals, good pay, and they are well-respected by others for their position. Soldiers receive the choicest treatment at most businesses because the folk of Parian either love or fear them. Their undying loyalty to Emperor – gives them singular purpose and focus that makes them determined and terrifying.

Branches of Parian’s Military

  • The Emperor’s Army The largest branch of Parian’s military is definitely its standing army. The army breaks down into specialized units of foot soldiers, front-line pole-arm fighters, tiger-riding cavalry, siege weapon operators, grenadiers, riflemen, archer snipers and more. They train constantly, even when they sail to war in the cargo holds of massive, specialized galleys. Member of the army are tortured to death if they run from a battle or surrender so they fight until the bitter end.
  • The Emperor’s Navy While Marrial is known for its fast ships, Parian is known for battleships of enormous size. Huge battleships with rows upon rows of cannons spell certain destruction for enemy ships. The men and women of Parian’s navy are disciplined, clean, and trained in hand to hand combat. Unlike the specialization of The Emperor’s Army, The Emperor’s Navy expects its personnel to be well-rounded and capable of doing every job at sea.
  • The Silent Fury There is a smaller unit of specialized militants which answer directly to Emperor. These elite ornithopter pilots drop bombs atop strategic targets. The ornithopters can be carried and launched from large naval vessels or the land, making them versatile. The hot-shot ornithopter pilots are famously arrogant. They see themselves as superior to the other branches of the military because they are literally above it all.
  • The Emperor’s Hand There isn’t much known about this secret branch of the military and when asked about it Emperor denies its existence. However, Parian moles have been discovered throughout Findalay in some information-sensitive areas. These spies have been known to call themselves The Emperor’s Hand. How much they know and how many spies there are remain to be seen. Their exact purpose is unknown to any other than Emperor himself. In addition, it is whispered by the folk of Parian that The Emperor’s Hand has undercover agents watching for rebellious activity domestically.
  • The Emperor’s Armor Parian’s cream of the crop warriors are chosen for the highest of honors. Emperor Quan has 1,000 elite bodyguards who have risen through the ranks of The Emperor’s Military. They are his personal shadow and protectors. Their tongues have been removed so they may not speak of any strategy or secrets they witness during Quan’s meetings. They communicate to one another with a unique sign language and are required to pray to Emperor Quan eight times a day.

Joining The Military

They want YOU!

Joining The Emperor’s Military requires passing tests of physical fitness, mental acuity, and ethics. Ethics is the most important of these for bodies can be shaped and minds can be molded, but what is inside one’s heart cannot be changed. The members of Parian’s military want men and women to join who are undyingly faithful to their country, emperor, and fellow soldiers.

These feelings are commonplace in Parian, since everyday life is full of propaganda, patriotism, and displays of support for the emperor. The military also uses these tests as a screening process. Those who do not pass the ethics tests are not just barred from The Emperor’s Military, but depending on the severity of their failure they could be exiled, imprisoned, or put to death.

Heroic Examples

Why can’t everyone be more like Klaus?

Those soldiers who exemplify themselves in battle are held up throughout Parian as heroes and examples to its citizens. Soldiers can achieve instant fame through deeds in battle, though usually ones which involve personal sacrifice and help reinforce what makes a model citizen of Parian. Every hero raised up by legendary stories has a political motive behind the move.

Some of Parian’s most storied heroes killed traitorous friends or spouses, laid down their lives to personally save an emperor, lost limbs or organs taking on a horde of enemies, or somehow chose Parian and an emperor over other meaningful personal relationships. These stories are told to children from the time they are young as bedtime stories and nursery rhymes. Quan has a number of bards in his palace ready to be teleported across the country and sing the praises of heroes who are doing right by Parian.

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