Archive for June, 2014

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

I sit down with Rudy BassoJoe Lastowski, and Topher Kohan to talk about tons of fifth edition D&D news! We discuss the latest D&D Live Q&ALegends and Lore article, and excerpts of the D&D Starter Set. Also discussed – the news of D&D’s digital tools, Codename: Morningstar, and Chris Tulach’s Tweets from Origins Game Fair. This podcast was recorded on June 14, 2014. Can’t wait until July!


Topher Kohan Google+

Topher’s Obsidian Portal

Joe’s Obsidian Portal

What the Average Joe Thinks

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!

This month’s RPG Blog Carnival theme is a great one – “What’s in the hole?” This theme is both oddly specific and wonderfully broad. Metaphorically, the inside of a hole could be any place unknown! I’ve already written a few posts about the blank spots in the world of Exploration Age and how some people in the world want to adventure for profit, power, knowledge, or the sake of discovery itself. All those blank spots in Verda, Glacius, the Poles, The Damned Lands, and The Underdark are really just big holes. Heck even portals are holes to other planes.

What’s down there?

Too bad I already tackled a lot of these topics before this theme was brought to my attention. Dang! So I decided to go less metaphorical and more literal with this one. What’s in the hole in Exploration Age? An enormous, hungry shark.

Remember the Icebreaker Shark?

Remember me?

Some of you may remember my post on Glacius and the Poles. It was there that I introduced the world to the icebreaker shark. A man-eating, cold water fish with bony protrusions on its head and tail used to break the frozen layer of ocean beneath the feet of unsuspecting prey. Its finely tuned senses allow the shark to feel vibrations of prey moving on the ice above. This allows the shark to weaken areas of the frozen ocean and prepare a killing ground into which unsuspecting victims will walk.

Thus the icebreaker shark of the North Pole has options. It can wait until the moment is right and then break the ice beneath the feet of its prey or it can prepare a trap and when a potential meal arrives break pieces of the frozen ocean around its victims, trapping them in a maze or on an island of ice. Big meals don’t come around for the shark often, so when it can it eats its fill, knowing the next big meal could be a month or longer away in the frozen polar climate.

The icebreaker shark eats mostly seals, polar bears, fish, and any other arctic life which crosses its path. They are solitary hunters, but do meet once every Winter beneath the ice to spawn. A typical icebreaker shark can is 20 – 30 feet long and weigh 2,000 – 3,000lbs. They are characterized not just by their enormous size, but by the bony growths on their faces and tails, which resemble that of Ankylosauruses. These growths are what the creature uses to smash through the ice and prepare it’s killing grounds.

If one listens very carefully, the smashing and ice cracking of the shark can be heard, but often this sound means it is too late for those hearing it. The howling winds of the North Pole often drown out these warnings for all but those with the keenest hearing.

Icebreaker sharks have been known to migrate South as far as Glacius, though such sightings are rare.

As far as holes and the RPG Blog Carnival theme go, icebreaker sharks make their own. Sometimes you don’t chose to go down the hole, rather the hole swallows you instead.

Game Statistics

Dude is RIDING a shark. RIDING A SHARK.

Here’s what I’m thinking the game statistics for the icebreaker shark will be. The math is subject to change with the release of the fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual.

The icebreaker shark is tough and clever. It believes in ambushing its prey in a prepared killing ground. Should its prey manage to get away, the icebreaker shark will stalk it for days or sometimes even weeks on end, waiting beneath the ice for its victims to drop their guard. It is rare to encounter more than one of these beasts at a time, unless an unfortunate victim unwittingly passed over their spawning grounds in the Winter. Woe to any who make this mistake, for they will find themselves the main course in a shark banquet.

Icebreaker Shark

Huge beast

Armor Class 17

Hit Points 158 (16d10 + 70)

Speed 0 ft., swim 60 ft.

Senses blindsight 60ft., darkvision 100 ft., tremorsense 100 ft.

Str 29 (+9)

Dex 14 (+2)

Con 20 (+5)

Int 2 (-4)

Wis 12 (+1)

Cha 4 (-3)

Alignment Unaligned



Aquatic: The icebreaker shark can breathe only while underwater, and being underwater imposes no penalty on its attack rolls or ability checks.


Multiattack: The icebreaker shark can make a bite and a tail attack, a bite and an ice smash attack, a tail and an ice smash attack, or two weaken ice attacks.

Melee Attack – Bite: +11 to hit, reach 5 ft., one creature. Hit: 36 (6d8 + 9) piercing damage. If the target is Medium or smaller, it must succeed on a DC 14 Dexterity saving throw or be swallowed by the icebreaker shark.

A swallowed creature takes 21 (6d6) bludgeoning damage and 21 (6d6) acid damage at the start of each of the icebreaker shark’s turns until is escapes. A swallowed creature is blinded and restrained, but it can use its action to cut its way free by dealing 50 slashing or piercing damage to the gizzard (AC 15). A creature that frees itself falls prone (or more likely finds itself afloat in the ocean) in an unoccupied space within 5 feet of the icebreaker shark.

An icebreaker shark can swallow up to four medium or small creatures, and 16 tiny creatures at once.

Melee Attack – Tail: +11 to hit, reach 15 ft., one creature. Hit: 27 (4d8 + 9) bludgeoning damage and the creature is knocked prone.

Ice Smash: The icebreaker shark can smash adjacent ice in a 15-foot cube, creating a hole through which the shark can attack. Any creatures standing on the ice must succeed on a DC 14 Dexterity saving throw or fall through the ice. Any creature who succeeds on the save ends up in an unoccupied space adjacent to the smashed ice.

When the icebreaker shark uses this ability on a cube of ice adjacent to any weakened ice (see below) the weakened ice is also smashed. Any weakened adjacent to the smashed weakened ice is also smashed, and so on for any touching patches of weakened ice.

Weaken Ice: The icebreaker shark can weaken adjacent ice in a 15-foot cube. This ice counts as weakened for the purpose of its Ice Smash ability.

So that’s the icebreaker shark and it’s what’s in the hole. Does it sound terrifying? Would you use it in your game? Did I get the mechanics right? Let me know!

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

First up, my real world timeline. I wanted to give you all a quick update on the Exploration Age Campaign Guide. Most of the history, description, and fluff has been written. That’s all being looked over by a group of close friends, pretty much all of the guys who play in my campaign. I’m taking the comments left on the blog into account as I revise and edit as well, so please keep them coming!

Right now all mechanics are still being tweaked. Obviously, I’m waiting for the release of the fifth edition Dungeons and Dragons core rule books before I lock it all down. I won’t be able to release anything for sale until the Open Gaming License is revealed in 2015. That’s good, because it gives me more time. I’m only one person and I can only do so much, especially when I want any modules and supplemental rules to be fair and balanced.

All that being said I know I can start finalizing some of the mechanics I’m creating starting July 3rd when the first set of D&D Basic rules drop and my local friendly gaming store will put out the D&D Starter Set. Wow that is close!!!

A Special Sneak Peek?

I also know that a lot of folks out there are eager to start a campaign around August 19th when the Player’s Handbook drops. Maybe, if I’ve done my job right, there are a few of you eager to play in the world of Exploration Age? Maybe with a less complete campaign guide lacking art and layout, but for free? A manuscript version of the Exploration Age Campaign Guide, if you will. If you are interested in that sort of thing, keep checking back here and follow me on Twitter for updates. It’s going to happen, but I won’t be giving it away for free for long so keep your eyes and Twitter feeds open.

And now a bit about my own process of creating Exploration Age and some excerpts…

Starting Point

When I first began getting into the details of Exploration Age, I wasn’t sure where to begin. If you’ve been following this blog for a while you how I determined the ideas and themes of the world as well as the major events inspiring Exploration Age. But what led to all of these events and got Canus into its current state? I needed some help and inspiration.

I looked at the timelines of my favorite campaign worlds like Dark Sun , Forgotten Realms, and Eberron. In looking at these timelines I realized something huge. Timelines are outlines. They give readers and authors the significant events in a world’s history. These events are deemed significant by the fact that their impact is still being felt in some way in the present. I didn’t just need to write a history, I needed to start with a timeline to help me mold the rest of the world.

All of these timelines begin with big, broad strokes which paint the settings’ most important beginning events with hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands of years in-between events. Heck, Eberron’s first event in its Age of Demons is 9.5 million years away from the next.

That's a big jump.

That’s a big jump.

This is to say, only the really big events of the far past still matter today (for the most part). In general, when we look back in Earth’s history, it’s the real game changers that matter and for which we can still find evidence. Your ice ages, your rise and fall of the dinosaurs, and your big bangs fall into these broad strokes categories. Here’s what the beginning would look like for Exploration Age. (Note: BF stands for Before Findalay – since the formation of the countries and continent of Findalay are the defining moment in Canus’ history according to the people making the calendar. More on that below.)

  • ??? Aberrant beings rule Canus. The first dragons hatch from eggs buried deep within Canus’ core and the tunnels they dig to climb out become The Underdark. The Chromatic Dragons bleed from the effort, lacking the hard scales of their metallic brethren, and their blood turns into the drow. Somewhere in the present day Damned Lands, a psionic race of peaceful humanoids has shielded their lands from the aberrant influence.
  • 500,000 BF In present day Findalay and Parian, Chromatic Dragons, coveting power for themselves, war with the huge population of aberrants, but become locked in a bloody struggle in which no side ever has the clear advantage. Metallic Dragons in Verda form a less straight-forward plan to beat the abberrants and begin experimenting with planar magic.
  • 300,000 BF Chromatic Dragons create the shardminds who, enslaved by the dragons, destroy the aberrants in Findalay and Parian. The remaining abberants flee underground. The Damned Lands earn their name as an unknown tragedy envelopes the land. For hundreds of millennia its skies and lands glow hot with psionic energy, changing the land and destroying all civilization within its borders. Metallic Dragons open a portal to The Nine Hells, releasing legions of devils upon Verda to battle the aberrants. While many devils are subservient to the dragons who summoned them, others are able to break free of their bond and form alliances with the aberrants. The devils and the aberrants mate, creating the morchia.
  • 100,000 BF The shardminds rise against the Chromatic Dragons in a surprise attack, releasing two races of their own creation – the dwarves and the gnomes. Canus is completely devastated by the attack. The shardminds are spread far and wide as are the dragons, with most of their civilization in ruins, few of either ancient race remain after the war. Some gnomes and dwarves are driven deep underground and welcomed by the drow, while others begin to build new lives on the surface once the war settles down. The Metallic Dragons of Verda create a race to uphold their ideals of learning from the devils still loyal to them known as the tieflings.

Then, People Showed Up

Eventually people show up in the world and that’s when the timeline becomes less broad. As people, our personal history is more important to us and has more of an impact on our present. Still, the far past of human history is painted in broader strokes with more time between events than the more recent past. The rise of Christianity, the fall of the Roman Empire, and the Norman Invasion are events in our own distant events which shaped our world today. The period of time between events could be hundreds of years, decades, or less.

These medium-broad stroked events are also part of the history of fictional campaign worlds. Again, I’ll use the Eberron example.

These are still pretty big jumps, but smaller than before.

These are still pretty big jumps, but smaller than above.

Exploration Age has some similar jumps in its timeline as it comes closer to the present year – 403 FF.

  • 4,000 BF A sect of devout humans on Parian, now an established, powerful nation, face religious persecution from their emperor. The remaining gnomes face racial persecution. Together they board a boat in search of safer lands and come to present day Aeranore. The dwarves welcome the humans and gnomes, who, in exchange for land of their own, promise to aid the Bragonians in a renewed fight against Taliana and Marrial. Tieflings, fearing their own destruction at the hands of the morchia, begin to research a way to seal the morchia in The Underdark.
  • 3,500 BF Parian declares war on Aeranore, seeking to punish those who left. Bragonay turns to the powerful Parian, offering to help destroy the inhabitants of Aeranore in exchange for help against Marrial and Taliana. Aeranore joins forces with Marrial and Taliana against Bragonay in return for aid against Parian. The First Great War begins. On Verda, the tieflings use The Reckoning Spell to bind the morchia back beneath the ground. The ritual is so powerful, they break it into many pieces and hide it.
  • 1,000 BF Parian declares a truce with Aeranore, Marrial, and Taliana in exchange for trade rights. Bragonay now faces a war against the other three Findalayan nations alone, but is aided when Taliana’s capital city is swallowed by a massive earthquake.
  • 500 BF Desperate, Bragonay makes an exclusive treaty and trade agreement with Marrial to remove them from the war. Taliana’s capital is rebuilt on the site of the old.

It is usually during this time that many histories have their defining moment of the current age. In the real world for many cultures this defining moment was the rise of Christianity. BC standing for Before Christ and AD standing for the Latin phrase Anno Domini meaning “in the year of the Lord,” are good examples of that. All other events in many of Earth’s cultures are defined by their temporal relation to the birth of Christ. Regardless of your beliefs, that’s some lasting influence right there!

In Exploration Age the defining moment for the calendar is the founding of the continent and nation of Findalay. For tens of thousands of years the various nations of Findalay were at war with one another. When the leaders signed a (temporary) peace and officially created their borders, that moment was huge for the people of Exploration Age. It has helped define the current age in a major way. Thus everything in the Exploration Age timeline is either BF (Before Findalay) or FF (after Findalay’s Founding).

Details of the Recent Past

When one thinks of the recent past, he or she can name numerous defining moments of the world’s history. In the United States we still feel the effects of slavery, World War II, the moon landing, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and more. I could name a bunch of events in the past few years we’re still feeling. That’s how it goes when you’re looking at the recent past. Even smaller events have an impact if they’ve happened recently. Again, let’s look at Eberron, who’s starting campaign year is 998 YK. Not only is the distance between events much shorter, some years have multiple significant events.

Less than 10 years between jumps here.

Less than 10 years between jumps here.

So for Exploration Age the trend follows. When I got to this point in the time I began with broad strokes. There were major events I knew I wanted to have happen – like the cooling of The Damned Lands, the creation of the Explorers’ Guild and The Society of Seekers, and of course, the discovery of Verda. Then I put random placeholder entries between the years of major events I knew I wanted. In those placeholders, I began placing minor events. These were usually events that I wanted to happen that would create interesting organizations, adversaries, conflicts, and adventure sites for PCs in Exploration Age. Some of these events were ideas I had in my head for years and some were things I thought of on the spot as I was filling in the spaces I had created for myself.

As I’ve used the timeline as an outline to flesh out the actual Exploration Age Campaign Guide, events have been added, subtracted, and modified. I love coming up with another cool idea and then finding a place within Exploration Age’s history for it. Take a look at some of Canus’ recent history.

  • 377 FF The Plague of Twenty Cycles comes to Verda and decimates the tribal population for twenty years.
  • 384 FF Parian discovers Marrial’s involvement in the freeing of slaves and joins Bragonay in battle due to Marrial’s breaking of the Pardalay Treaty.
  • 387 FF Desperate to remove the pressing grip of Parian and Bragonay, Aeranore makes a deal with Parian and provides them with slaves to replace those lost to Marrial. Parian agrees to the terms and leaves the Fourth Great War.
  • 392 FF End of the Fourth Great War as the warforged rise up against the dwarves.
  • 393 FF The Explorers’ Guild discovers Verda. Findalayan countries and Parian rush to establish colonies.
  • 397 FF The Damned Lands finally cool and exploration begins… and most end badly.
  • 401 FF Ragorn Zhul Prison has a massive riot and the guards stay on the walls. The prisoners stay inside and run the prison city.
  • 403 FF The campaign begins…

So that’s the Exploration Age timeline! Take a look and let me know in the comments below if you’re toying with the idea of playing a few sessions in Canus.

If you like what you’re reading, please check out my podcast on The Tome Show, follow me on Twitter, tell your friends and share this blog post, 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 site.

I sit down with Joe Lastowski and Topher Kohan to talk about the D&D Adventurer’s League announcementTyranny of Dragons, and the announcement of the forthcoming OGL for the new edition of D&D. This podcast was recorded on June 3, 2014.


Topher’s Google+

What The Average Joe Thinks

Mike Mearls Escapist Interview

io9 Interview with Wolfgang Baur

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!

How great are mechs? So great! Wait, wait, wait… I can see you shaking your head and closing the browser tab. I know, I know. You don’t want fancy, overpowered suits of armor ruining your epic fantasy campaign. I’ve already walked a dangerous line with firearms, swifty gear, and airships. Now I’m asking you to adopt some thinking about mechs into the game?!

Well, in my defense I have this to say – Mechs are fun! I think I’ve got an idea of how we could hold onto that without them breaking every game.

I mean, you got to admit… that looks fun!


I can remember playing Megaman X series back in the day on the old PlayStation. How fun was that game? There were a lot of levels where you got to jump into a big suit of armor and really punch, shoot, or drill the crap out of baddies.

These ride armors were tons of fun to use. You tromped around in them fighting some baddies and eventually the armor blew up or you got to a place where the mech couldn’t go because it was too big or too immobile and so it was left behind.

I want to apply the same principle here with mechs in Exploration Age.

Mech Guiding Principles

Still looks really fun to me.

Here’s a lit of design points I used while creating the mechs.

  1. Mechs are badass! These mechs should be powerful and more fun than a whole barrel of monkeys. Big, honking, damaging attacks and then some cool flashy attacks with fun effects.
  2. Mechs are slow. You don’t need to run from danger when you are the danger. As fun as busting some heads in a mech is, making them slow means they aren’t going to be anyone’s main mode of transportation. They’re big, heavy, and you can’t just park one in front of a tavern. These are not made for travel, but rather for being badass (though, I have no doubt they are a chick magnet).
  3. Mechs are big! Mechs being big is lots of fun and helps bring balance to the game and make it more interesting. Imagine a troop of adventurers meeting a hobgoblin army out in the field. The adventurers are outnumbered, but they’re all driving mechs, so the hobgoblins are outgunned. Being big is also a disadvantage. Once those hobgoblins run back to their tunnels, good luck getting a mech suit to fit and fight in those cramped hallways.
  4. Mechs are expensive. I’m pretty sure this speaks for itself. These things ain’t cheap. ‘Nuff said.

The idea here is that mechs are well beyond the means of low-level adventurers and even if they do find one, they don’t have anyway of taking it everywhere they go due to the mech’s slow speed and Large size.

Mechs in Exploration Age

Come on! This one is even called Steam Golem. It’s a sign. Open your heart to mechs!

So without further adieu, here are the mechs from the Exploration Age Campaign Guide

There are a variety of mechs in Exploration Age used for everything from war to mining. Every mech has its own AC, HP, Speed, and Mech Modifier, a bonus applied to attack and damage with mech weapons. A driver who has mech proficiency may apply their proficiency bonus to attack rolls made with the mech’s weapons as well. An attacker using individual ranged and melee attacks may choose to target either the mech or the driver. Once a mech is reduced to 0 HP it ceases to function.

Here are a few of the mechs one may come across in Canus. All the mechs below are Large in size and have a 10-foot melee reach, unless noted otherwise.

Mech HP AC Speed Right Arm Attack Left Arm Attack Mech Modifier Price Special Abilities
Lifter 30 14 10 ft. Slam – 2d8 bludgeoning Slam – 2d8 bludgeoning +1 20,000 gp Grab, Rend
Lumberjack 50 15 10 ft. Chainsaw – 3d8 slashing Slam – 2d8 bludgeoning +2 35,000 gp Grab
Miner 75 16 10 ft. Drill – 2d8 piercing Pick – 3d8 piercing +3 50,000 gp Drill Press, Scoop Kick
Gladiator 125 16 15 ft. Trident – 3d8 piercing, 15-foot reach Net Thrower – see Special Attacks +4 75,000 gp Net Throw
Destroyer 150 17 10 ft. Cannon – 4d12 piercing, Ammunition (range 50/150) Hammer – 3d10 bludgeoning +4 100,000 gp Explosive Shot
Pyro 150 17 10 ft. Flame Jet – see Special Attacks Axe – 3d10 slashing +4 100,000 gp Flame Jet
Knight 200 20 15 ft. Sword – 3d12 slashing Shield – 2d8 bludgeoning +5 150,000 gp Sword Sweep, Shield Defense

This mech suit was created by Bragonian dwarves to do some heavy lifting. These mechs can be found all over Canus – in shipping yards, warehouses, mines, forests, and more. The huge suits are equipped with two strong arms meant for lifting everything from lumber to boxes.

Grab A creature hit by a Lifter’s slam attack is also restrained. On its turn, a restrained creature may make a DC 14 Strength or Dexterity check to break the restrained condition as part of a move action. If one of the Lifter’s arms is being used to restrain a creature, that arm cannot attack a different creature without first letting go of the creature it is currently grabbing. A Lifter cannot restrain more than two creatures this way at once.

Rend This attack requires the Lifter to be restraining its target with one arm and have no creature in the grip of its other. The Lifter attacks the restrained creature with both arms dealing 4d8 bludgeoning damage to it on a successful attack.


This suit was crafted by the elves of Taliana to aid in their lumber industry. One arm of the mech is a mechanical saw, made for cutting down trees. The other is a large, two-pronged claw made for picking up several logs at once.

Grab A creature hit by a Lumberjack’s slam attack is also restrained. On its turn, a restrained creature may make a DC 14 Strength or Dexterity check to break the restrained condition as part of a move action. A Lumberjack may only restrain one creature this way at a time. While restraining a target, the Lumberjack cannot attack any creature with its slam attack other than the one it has restrained.


Another Bragonian creation, these mechs were built to carve tunnels through the hearts of mountains. As a result, they are heavily armored to avoid damage from the debris their pickaxe and drill arms kick up. The feet of the Miner mech suits sport large scoops and can kick debris in several different directions to keep their path before them clear.

Drill Press The Miner may use this attack against a prone creature only. If the Miner makes a successful drill attack against a prone target, that creature is pinned to the floor and restrained. At the start of the Miner’s driver’s turn, if a creature is restrained in this way, the target automatically takes damage from the drill and the driver may still use its action to attack with the pick, cast a spell, etc. On its turn, a restrained creature may make a DC 15 Strength check to break the restrained condition as part of a move action. If the mech moves more than 10 feet from the restrained creature or attacks a different target with the drill, the restrained condition ends.

Scoop Kick The Miner’s driver may use the mech’s scoop kick as a move. The driver attacks a target adjacent to the Miner using its Mech Modifier and, if applicable, proficiency bonus. If the Miner hits, the target is pushed 5 feet and knocked prone.


The Gladiator is one of the first mech suits ever designed for combat, built by the dragonborn of Marrial. The Gladiator stands tall, is quicker than most mechs, and has an impressively long trident arm. The mech suit sports a second arm capable of launching nets into throngs of enemies.

Ammunition A Gladiator can hold up to 10 nets at once. During a rest the Gladiator’s net launcher can be reloaded.

Net Throw As an action, a Gladiator’s driver may launch one net. When launched, a single net covers an area 15 feet by 15 feet. Creatures within the net must make a Dexterity saving throw (DC = 12 + the driver’s proficiency bonus, if applicable). Those who fail the saving throw are restrained. On its turn, a restrained creature may make a DC 14 Strength or Dexterity check to break the restrained condition as part of a move action. A creature may attack the net, which has AC 5. If the creature causes 20 points of damage to the net it can itself or another creature free. A net which is dealt 100 damage becomes useless.


The heavily armored Destroyer is a bipedal tank designed by the empire of Bragonay. Its slow speed doesn’t hinder it as much as other mech suits, since it has a powerful cannon which can shoot a ball a far distance. For those creatures which get too close, the Destroyer has a backup defense – a mighty hammer arm.

Point-Blank If the Destroyer attacks an adjacent creature with its cannon it has disadvantage on the attack.

Ammunition The Destroyer can carry 10 cannon balls at once. During a rest the Destroyer’s cannon can be reloaded.

Explosive Shot Every Destroyer has a special space for a special explosive ball which can be loaded into its cannon. As an action, this ball can be fired with the same range as a regular cannon ball. The ball explodes on impact in a 20-foot radius and creatures in the area must make a Dexterity saving throw (DC = 12 + the driver’s proficiency bonus, if applicable). A creature takes 6d6 fire and piercing damage on a failed saving throw, half as much damage on a successful one.


Sometimes it’s all about making your enemies fear you. That’s certainly what Parian’s inventors had in mind when they created this mech suit. The armored Pyro mech moves through the battlefield, spouting flame out of one arm and hacking down enemies with the axe in its other.

Ammunition The Pyro can carry 30 alchemical charges at once. During a rest the Pyro’s flame jet can be reloaded.

Flame Jet As an action, the Pyro can be made to shoot a 15-foot cone of flame from its flame jet and creatures in the area must make a Dexterity saving throw (DC = 12 + the driver’s proficiency bonus, if applicable). A creature takes 2d8 fire damage on a failed save, and half as much damage on a successful one. The fire ignites any flammable objects in the area that are not being worn or carried.


Aeranore’s contribution to the world of mechs is the most expensive and powerful suit of mechanized armor Canus has to offer. The Knight is fast, super-armored, and ready to cut through anything with its powerful sword arm. Its heavy metal shield arm protects the driver and companions alike.

Shield Defense When a creature the Knight’s driver can see attacks the driver or a target within 10-feet of the Knight, the driver can use its reaction to impose disadvantage on the attack roll with its shield arm.

Sword Sweep As an action the Knight’s driver picks four creatures within 10 feet of the mech. It makes a sword attack against all of those creatures.

So there you have it. Remember, the idea here is that mechs are a sometimes food. As always, please let me know what you think, and if you haven’t yet, please fill out the survey below. I’m trying to see if I should turn all this hard work into something more. Thanks!

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

My day job has been keeping me busy traveling, so here’s another sweet excerpt from the Exploration Age: Campaign Guide. Take a look below at the religion of the humans and gnomes of Aeranore and let me know what you think.

A BIG shout-out to my friend, player, and fellow podcaster Ray Fallon for giving me this idea. Sometimes a friend approaches you with an original mythology and world creation story. Those friends are the best kind, especially when you’re creating several unique religions for a campaign world. These ideas come mostly from his own, amazing brain.

Here endeth my similarities to Steve Jobs

Also, as you read this excerpt, remember that Exploration Age is a campaign world where the gods have no confirmed existence, and if they do exist they do not directly interfere in the affairs of mortals. How is that possible when clerics and paladins pray for spells and get magic? Well, skeptics would say sorcerers, rangers, warlocks, wizards, bards, and more have magic without praying for it – why can’t clerics be getting their spells from the same places? Magic is mysterious. No one is sure of its origin on Canus, but that’s another matter.

Many humans and gnomes of Aeranore practice a religion known as Immortalism. It was their belief in this religion that resulted in their persecution in Parian and subsequent immigration to Aeranore. Immortalists believe all humans and gnomes are descended from a race of humanoids who used to be immortal, long ago. According to the religion, these beings, known as The Immortals, lived before the aberrants and the dragons.

World Creation Myth of Immortalism

According to Immortalism, Canus was created when The Sun and The Moon mated to produce three children. Their firstborn was their daughter, Alphon, a ball of earth encased in water. Their second birth was conjoined male twins, Baydon and Cardon. These twins were made of dirt and earth. They lived as one land mass on top of Alphon. These stories have led many humans and gnomes to believe that Parian and Findalay (and now Verda) were once one giant land mass.

The Immortals sprang forth from the bodies of Baydon and Cardon and at first there were no animals or plants. They were the first living beings on Canus and their lifespans were infinite, though they could die as the result of physical harm or starvation. At the time there was no disease. Since there was nothing to eat other than each other The Immortals began as violent cannibals.

This changed when Gretan, the first Immortal Hero, prayed to Baydon and asked him to produce something to stop the violence amongst her people. Baydon took pity on Gretan and was overcome by her beauty, so he created sheep and goats. The Immortals learned to herd.

It is said that sheep and goats soon began to die, however, for they had nothing to eat. It was then that Mara, the second Immortal Hero, prayed to Cardon for an answer by planting her hair in the dirt. Her hair took root and grew, becoming the first plants. Soon The Immortals learned that they could eat this food as well. Baydon created many animals and Cardon created many plants. For a long time Canus lived in peace.

Overtime, Baydon and Cardon grew jealous of one another. Baydon was resentful of the fact that his animals could not exist without Cardon’s plants, and Cardon did not like the way The Immortals made animal flesh the center of their meals. Soon the conjoined twins began to war with one another through earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and storms. Many Immortals had their lives ended in the process.

As the war progressed, Alphon formed rivers to part her brothers, breaking them into pieces large and small. Still that was not enough to stop their warring. Cardon and Baydon created The First Dragons who escalated the war. These were the ancestors of the dragons known today and instead of breath weapons of fire, ice, acid, and the like, they breathed pestilence, which ravaged the plants and animals of Canus. Eventually these diseases spread to The Immortals. It took a toll on their bodies and The Immortals had their life spans shortened. They began dying of old age and disease. They became the present day humans. The gods, Baydon and Cardon saw what they had done to these people, called The First Dragons back into the ground, took them apart, and rebuilt them over centuries into the dragons known today. The brothers vowed to never again interfere directly with the live of the folk of Canus.

The Immortal Lines

It is believed that Cardon, Baydon, and Alphon in a final act of divine intervention granted immortality to one champion each of their choosing. Baydon chose Gretan and Cardon chose Mara. It is said that when these champions grow tired of their immortality, they are able to pass it to a worthy offspring. It is believed that Queen Icillia IV herself is descended from The Line of Gretan and holds The Immortal Gift, which she may pass on. Currently it is unknown who holds The Immortal Gift in the Line of Mara.

Alphon’s champion does not pass on his gift. The goddess chose the first man to ever drown in her waters, a sailor named Delistar. His body still lies somewhere in the oceanic depths, and it is said that his late-granted immortality does not allow him to move physically, but he can transfer his spirit into the body of any Immortalist. When an Immortalist is dying, moments before death it is believed that Delistar inhabits that person’s body and sends his or her spirit on, so he may suffer that person’s pain.

Creation of Gnomes

Somewhere down the line, Alphon decided the humans needed magic again, but since she had vowed to never directly intervene again in the affairs of the world, she created a plan for the creation of the gnomes and left it out for the shardminds to find. The shardminds followed the plan exactly and then also modified it to create the dwarves.

Immortalism Today

This creation myth is the base of all Immortalist doctrine. The Sun and The Moon are part of this five god pantheon, but they most prayed to are Alphon, Baydon, and Cardon. Delistar is a sort of demigod, prayed to when a loved one passes. Most Immortalist priests and clerics are not exclusive to one god or goddess. They rely on Alphon in times of healing and magic, Baydon in times of the hunt and war, and Cardon during the harvest.

  • Alphon Often depicted as a globe of water, Alphon is the kind and gentle goddess. She is prayed to for all things nautical and ocean related. Alphon is also the goddess of mysteries so all magic, psionics, and healing are both her domain as well.
  • Baydon Often depicted as an angry volcano, Baydon is the aggressive god of the hunt and the herd. War and weather fall into his domains as well.
  • Cardon Often depicted as a piece of wheat, Cardon is the sneaky god of the harvest. He is said to take pleasure in many things that delight and make life easier so art and technology are also part of his domain.
  • Delistar Though not truly a god, Delistar is prayed to in times of death, and some cults who worship him have sprung up throughout Aeranore. The cults range in their beliefs from those innocently interested in death to those who violently murder other Immortalists, believing if they sacrifice enough victims to Delistar he will grant them his Immortal Gift.

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

Wow. 21 podcasts already! Check out the latest episode.

I sit down with Vegas LancasterAndrew KaneRudy Basso, and Alex Basso. We discuss the latest huge D&D news about the release dates for the Starter SetPlayer’s HandbookMonster’s ManualDungeon Master’s Guide, and Tyranny of Dragons products. They also discuss the big announcement from Mike Mearls – Basic D&D is free! This podcast was recorded on May 28, 2014.

Link to Vegas’ site:

+2 Comedy

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!

A few months ago (wow, has it already been months?) I wrote about The Damned Lands – an unexplored area of land psionicly irradiated in some unknown incident that was ripe for exploration. Staying within The Damned Lands for too long is harmful as there is a creeping disease, The Madness, which works its way into one’s mind and heart, but leaving The Damned Lands too soon robs a person of its greatest reward – superpowers. Take a look at this excerpt from the Exploration Age Campaign Guide. Let me know if you think the risk/reward balance is correct here.

Note: Every month in Exploration Age is exactly 30 days. None of this 31 sometimes and 28 once a month, except for every four years (looking at you, February).

The Damned Lands (dark gray hexes are uncharted territory)

The Damned Lands (dark gray hexes are uncharted territory)

The Madness

Also, the only thing worse than an extended stay in The Damned Lands!

As adventurers spend more time in The Damned Lands, they risk becoming infected with The Madness. Every ten days straight spent in The Damned Lands, a creature must make a successful DC 15 Wisdom saving throw or contract The Madness. For every ten days beyond the first spent in The Damned Lands, the DC for the saving throw increases by 1, since The Madness becomes more difficult to resist as more time is spent in The Damned Lands.

Once a creature is infected with The Madness, roll on the table below to see how it specifically is affected.

1d4 Effect
1 Target abhors all life except for itself. It attacks and kills any living creature it can sense.
2 Target is called by a mysterious force toward the center of The Damned Lands. Anything that gets in its way or tries to stop it is immediately attacked.
3 Target weeps uncontrollably and sits down. It will not eat or drink, but only sit and cry. Anyone who tries to move or comfort the creature is attacked until they leave the creature alone.
4 Target develops a taste for the flesh of humanoids. It hunts and kills other humanoids whenever it is hungry. The target refuses to eat anything else.

It is advised that if a PC become infected the GM and player have a conversation about what this means and possibly have the GM take control of the character.

There is currently only one known cure for The Madness (though there may be others out there). An infected creature must be killed, have its body burnt to complete ashes or dissolved in acid, and then brought back to life via true resurrection spell. Doing this cures The Madness, however the process is expensive and also removes any psionic abilities the infected acquired from long-term stay in The Damned Lands.

Psionic Abilities

It can’t buy everything… but it comes close!

There are two types of psionic abilities that can be acquired by staying within the borders of The Damned Lands, minor and major. Any creature who survives a continuous month or longer in The Damned Lands has a chance (at the GM’s discretion) to acquire a minor ability. The GM may choose or roll on the table below to grant a creature a power.

1d20 Effect
1 You can use detect magic as an action at-will
2 You can speak telepathically with any creature who has language within 30 feet
3 You can move an unattended object within 30 feet weighing 20 lbs. or less 30 feet in any direction as an action.
4 You can cause an unattended flammable object within 30 feet to catch fire as an action.
5 You can teleport an object being held 50 feet (this includes into the hands of another person) as an action.
6 You can teleport yourself 25 feet as a move. You must rest before doing so again.
7 You can heal yourself once per day an amount equal to your Constitution score as an action.
8 You gain darkvision out to 60 feet. If you already have darkvision, you now see in color in the dark.
9 You can speak with animals per the spell at-will.
10 You can use disguise self per the spell at-will. (DC to resist equals 8 + Charisma modifier + proficiency.)
11 You can create psychic claws which are light finesse weapons which deal 1d6 psychic damage. You are proficient with these claws.
12 You gain blindsight out to 5 feet.
13 For one hour per day, you can increase your speed 10 feet.
14 You can use the feather fall spell at-will.
15 You can use entangle at-will. (DC to resist equals 8 + Charisma modifier + proficiency.)
16 You can use zone of truth per the spell. You must rest before doing so again. (DC to resist equals 8 + Charisma modifier + proficiency.)
17 You can throw psychic knives which act as daggers and deal 1d4 psychic damage.
18 You can create a psychic wall around yourself which acts as the sanctuary spell. (DC to resist equals 8 + Charisma modifier + proficiency.)
19 You can use charm person per the spell. You must rest before doing so again. (DC to resist equals 8 + Charisma modifier + proficiency.)
20 You can use cause fear per the spell. You must rest before doing so again. (DC to resist equals 8 + Charisma modifier + proficiency.)

Any creature who survives a continuous three months or longer in The Damned Lands has a chance (at the GM’s discretion) to acquire a major ability. The GM may choose or roll on the table below to grant a creature a power.

1d20 Effect
1 You gain a fly speed of 60 feet.
2 As an action you can become invisible at-will.
3 You regenerate 5 HP at the start of your turn. If you lose consciousness, you lose your psionic focus and cannot regenerate until you regain consciousness.
4 Your speed is tripled.
5 As an action you can summon a psychic pet which has the same statistics as a triceratops. You may only summon one creature at a time. The creature disappears once reduced to 0 HP. You must rest before using this ability again.
6 As an action you can read a creature’s mind. They are allowed a Wisdom saving throw (DC equals 8 + Charisma modifier + proficiency). If the saving throw succeeds you cannot try to read the creature’s mind for another 24 hours. The target does not know you are reading it’s thoughts unless it has magic or psionic means of detection.
7 You can breathe underwater and gain a swim speed equal to your own.
8 You gain a burrow speed equal to your own, tremor sense out to 60 feet, and blindsight out to 30 feet.
9 You gain advantage on saving throws against magical effects.
10 You can blink in and out of the ethereal plane as per the blink spell. You can activate this ability as an action at-will.
11 You can teleport 15 feet as a move.
12 As an action you can use dispel magic at-will. If you have no magic ability modifier, it equals your proficiency plus your Charisma modifier.
13 You can use time stop. You must before you use this ability again.
14 Once per day you can cast true resurrection without any material components.
15 Once per day you can use foresight on yourself.
16 As an action you can create a major image at-will. (DC equals 8 + Charisma modifier + proficiency.)
17 You can use antimagic field. You must rest before you use this ability again.
18 You can use telekinesis per the spell at-will.
19 Your Strength becomes 26.
20 Your Intelligence becomes 26.


So you can see the idea here – PCs can get powers for surviving in The Damned Lands if their GM allows, but they have to risk their sanity and make increasingly difficult Wisdom saving throws, not to mention all of the horrific monsters and environmental hazards of The Damned Lands. Let me know if this all makes sense to you. Did I leave your favorite power off the list? Tell me! I want to make The Damned Lands worth it!

Poll Time!

So I know a lot of you have already taken this poll, but if you haven’t please take 20 seconds and read the one question and answer below, even if the answer is “No, I hate your stupid blog.” I’m making an Exploration Age Campaign Guide (release date sometime 2015 once the Wizard’s OGL is released) and I’m interested to see if people would actually want that. Thanks!

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

Is there anything tougher to crack than cosmology? For me the answer is no. Throughout its history, Dungeons and Dragons has handled various planes of existence in all sorts of ways. There is The Great Wheel, Spelljammer, the oft-malign and easily understood Fourth Edition cosmology, World Axis (I got your back, James Wyatt), and so on. What’s a designer to do when in creating one world he realizes now he needs to create a whole multiverse to go with that world?

How I felt when I discovered I had to create worlds beyond Canus to make Exploration Age feel complete.

Personal Likes and Dislikes

My biggest problem with multiverses is that they always seemed overly complicated. I know I’m going to get some flack for saying that, but that’s my personal opinion. Don’t get me wrong, as a DM I love delving into the more complicated minutia between various planes. There are connections and pathways and Demiplanes, Outer Planes, Inner Planes, coterminous planes, coexistent planes, and on and on. Yet for players these complications are dull and slow down gameplay. For the most part they don’t care which plane borders which and how the map of multiverse is drawn.

The thing I love most about the planes are the little details which affect gameplay for the players – the silvery chord tethering a creature back to its body on the Material Plane when traveling through the Astral Plane, or the ability to travel more quickly in the Plane of Shadow are good examples. These concepts are more easily understood by players because they have tangible and immediate effects. They remember the Elemental Plane of Air because they have personal directional gravity in a huge, open, infinite expanse of sky, not because it’s one of the inner planes. These are the details which make planar travel in an RPG interesting.

To be honest I enjoy the variety of planes within The Great Wheel. I want that level of variety in the multiverse of Exploration Age. However I want the simplicity of a Fourth Edition World Axis layout for my players who don’t care that the Elemental Planes are Inner Planes and Celestia is an Outer Plane and all the details which go along with those distinctions.

If your planar map looks like this something has gone wrong.

Sweet, sweet, easy to understand World Axis cosmology.

Cosmology in Exploration Age

So first things, first. Let me be clear here – if you choose to run an Exploration Age campaign you can use any cosmology you want. If you don’t like what I’ve laid out here, that’s totally, 100% fine. Bring The Great Wheel, Fourth Edition’s World Axis cosmology, or any system you want into Exploration Age and play with that. That’s what tabletop RPGs are all about and 95% of Exploration Age’s content deals with the Material Plane anyway.

That being said, here’s what I’d like to present as the default cosmology for Exploration Age is this – certain planes, such as the Ethereal Plane and Plane of Shadow are Coterminous. They overlap completely and in all areas with the Material Plane, like they always have been. This allows for use of spells like shadow walk and blink to be used and to get some of D&D’s most classic planes into the Exploration Age multiverse. Many other planes, not just The Material Plane, have an Ethereal Plane and Plane of Shadow which are coterminous.

Then there are the Reflections – worlds of the same size and with similar natural landforms as the Material Plane. This includes Fourth Edition’s Shadowfell and Feywild and allows for the freaky fun looks-like-our-world-but-totally-isn’t-our-world effect that one gets while adventuring in a plane which reflects our own world.

Other planes are not Conterminous nor Reflections, but they do overlap with The Material Plane in certain places. These areas of overlap are where one might find a standing portal on Canus to a particular plane. One must be careful when using these gateways for sometimes they only work one way. So an adventurer might be able to leave Canus through a portal, but not return, or a monster could wander through a portal in an Overlap Zone and be stuck on the Material Plane.

This overlap also creates Overlap Zones – small areas where the barrier between worlds is thin creating strange environmental effects. It is even possible, in rare places, to have overlap between Overlap Zones. These planes do not just overlap with Canus’ Material Plane. They can overlap with one another (so it is possible to be travel through the Elemental Plane of Fire and encounter an Overlap Zone with The Abyss).

Of course it is possible to travel from one plane to another without being in an Overlap Zone. Spells, rituals, magic objects, and more can take a person from one plane to the next. Overlap zones just make extra-planar travel much easier.

The Astral Plane, which is technically the space between the other planes and the Far Realm are exceptional planes and do not fall into any of the above categories.

In Exploration Age when people die, their souls eventually pass onto the unknown, beyond the multiverse and if there are any gods, they too are beyond the multiverse. This changes things a bit for a few of the classic D&D planes, since the gods and the dead will be spending their time elsewhere.

Let me know what you think about the proposed layout above. For the most part Exploration Age’s planes will be familiar. I’ve already made an entire world with tons of adventure hooks and I didn’t feel the need to remake the wheel when it came to the multiverse (pun intended).


I couldn’t resist adding a few planes of my own design. Take a look at the two below and let me know what you think!


There is a strange Reflection plane where what are considered monsters in Canus rule the land, while what would be considered civilized humanoids live in caves, swamps, and dank, dark ruins. This strange world is ruled by well-dressed ogres, gnolls, and more, who try to keep the humans, elves, and other savage species at bay. Humanoids from the Material Plane who travel to this world are as misunderstood as they are confused.


An infinite region of mountains, forests, tunnels, and swamp makeup Murderfall, the land where everyone wants to kill everyone else. When outsiders enter the plane, they must make a DC 15 Wisdom saving throw or attack any living creature they can sense until it dies. They make a new saving throw after 24 hours to try and end the effect. If they leave Murderfall the effect ends. Creatures native to Murderfall are immune to this effect, but they are all vicious, territorial loners, so it may seem they are under this effect anyway. Essentially everything in this plane is stalking or being stalked.

Overlap Zone All critical hits deal twice the maximum amount of 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!

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

I sit down with Rudy Basso, Alex Basso, Joe Lastowski, and Topher Kohan to talk about the past, present, and future of digital tools in D&D. We mention a lot of great resources in this podcast, so check them out in the links below! This podcast was recorded on May 17, 2014.

Links to resources:

Obsidian Portal




Fantasy Grounds

Google Drive

Displacer Cube

Links to personal stuff:

Topher Kohan Google+

Topher’s Obsidian Portal

Joe’s Obsidian Portal

What the Average Joe Thinks

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!