Posts Tagged ‘warforged’


I sit down with Vegas Lancaster, Dave Gibson, Sam Dillon, and Jeff Greiner to talk about some recent layoffs on the D&D team at Wizards of the Coast and the Unearthed Arcana 5e Eberron update. This podcast was recorded on February 5, 2015.

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If you like what you’re reading please follow me on Twitter, check out my other podcasts, Bonus Action and Gamer to Gamer, tell your friends, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!
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It’s character building time! We’re almost ready to start playing in the world of Exploration Age and I couldn’t be more excited. Last Thursday I posted my version of the svirfneblin, duergar, and shifter PC races and their unique stories in Exploration Age. There’s three more classic D&D races I’ve made available to my players and each has their own story twist for my campaign setting.

Githzerai

Githzerai just look so cool!

New to Verda by many other races’ standards, githzerai came to Verda to aid the tribes and tieflings with the incursion of their oldest foe – the githyanki. The githyanki violently invaded the Material Plane, looking for a place to lay their eggs as they cannot lay them in their home Astral Plane. For years they terrorized the tribes and tieflings, until the githzerai got wind of the invasion. They were old enemies of the githyanki and were driven from their Astral Plane home to the Swirling Chaos of Mispuria by the evil race. The githyanki heard the tales, knew the Material Plane was in need, and added their might to that of the tribes and the tieflings. Over 200 years later, some githzerai still remain in Verda because they enjoyed life in the Material Plane, or because they are still trying to hunt down every last githyanki. Many githzerai have been accepted into the tribes and some have even had offspring with humans.

Githzerai are the picture of calm and peaceful. They have seemingly endless patience and believe all the power an individual needs to find enlightenment lies within one’s self. As a result, they often serve as shamans and spiritual advisors to the tribes, giving council on all matters often whether or not their opinion was asked. The githzerai seem to share an unspoken superiority to the other races of the tribes, as they were instrumental in staving off the githyanki incursion.

Githzerai get along with just about anyone, but they can come off as condescending and superior, which is known to turn certain folks off. Githzerai adventurers could be monks on quests to find enlightenment, githyanki hunters, powerful shamans seeking the ways of the world, or anything you dream.

Githzerai Traits

Ability Score Increase. Your Dexterity score increases by 1 and your Wisdom score increases by 2.

Age. Githzerai reach adulthood around the same time as humans and live to be about 100 years old.

Alignment. Githzerai are pragmatic, sometimes to a fault, so they tend to be neutral. They fall all over the spectrum of law and chaos.

Size. Githzerai are between 6 and 6 and a half feet tall and weigh between 150 and 200 pounds. Your size is Medium.

Darkvision. You have superior vision in dark and dim conditions. You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light. You can’t discern color in darkness, only shades of gray.

Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.

Mental Magic. You know the mage hand cantrip. When you reach 3rd level, you can cast the blur spell once per day. When you reach 5th level, you can also cast the haste spell once per day, but you may only target yourself with the spell. Wisdom is your spellcasting ability for these spells.

Mental Might. You have advantage on saving throws against charm effects.

Languages. You can speak, read, and write Common and Githzerai.

Kalashtar

Even his hair floats!

I’ve already written about the story of the sweet, sweet kalashtar here. Now for the mechanics!

Kalashtar Traits

Ability Score Increase. Your Charisma score increases by 2 and your Wisdom score increases by 1.

Age. Kalashtar reach adulthood around the same time as humans, but can live to be 200 years old.

Alignment. Kalashtar are good-hearted and community-oriented so they tend to be lawful good.

Size. Kalashtar have the height and build of humans. Your size is Medium.

Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.

Bastion of Mental Clarity. You have advantage on saving throws against spells of the illusion school of magic.

Mental Might. You have advantage on saving throws against charm effects.

Subtle Psychic. Choose one of the follow skills: Deception, Intimidation, or Persuasion. You are proficient in that skill.

Telepathy. You can communicate telepathically with any creature within 60 feet of you that understands a language.

Languages. You can speak, read, and write Common and one other language of your choice.

Warforged

It’s hard to beat an axe-arm.

The warforged generally fall into two camps; those who accept their slavery and those who rage against it. Invented less than half a century ago, warforged were built by Bragonay’s dwarves as machines with a purpose. The master craftsmen didn’t realize that they were actually creating sentient life.

Now the warforged can be found throughout Findalay and in parts of Verda. Free warforged have embraced their liberty fully and try to experience all parts of life. They are open to and seek out new experiences. Their thirst for the knowledge of other cultures and lands is unrivaled by by no other race. These free warforged have a fiery passion in their bellies for liberty and want to see slaves set free across Canus.

There are many warforged still enslaved in Bragonay. These warforged are content to serve their masters, but still have feelings, thoughts, and emotions of their own, and still share the passion for learning free warforged have. Then there are the warforged who cannot stand their bonds of slavery and spend their days plotting their escape.

Warforged reproduction is a touchy subject. The Creation Forges in Bragonay have been out of service since the uprising, though they still work and many debate whether or not the empress and warlords should turn these back on. A few free warforged have discovered ways to build their own offspring however, using pieces of their own body and expensive material components found throughout the land. To get the ritual and blueprints required however, one would need to speak to these warforged directly. These creators do not share their identities with just anyone, lest the plans be used to once again create beings to be used as slaves.

Warforged adventurers could be slave liberators, druids trying to figure out their own place in the circle of life, slaves spying on a liberation operation for their master, or anything you dream.

Warforged Traits

Ability Score Increase. Your Strength score and Constitution score increase by 2.

Age. Warforged are born as adults and do not age.

Alignment. Warforged tend toward lawful alignment, since they were designed to be soldiers and slaves. They usually do not bend either good or evil, since they are usually more focused on the task at hand than its moral implications.

Size. Warforged are between 6 and 6 and a half feet tall and weigh between 250 and 300 lbs. Your size is Medium.

Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.

Composite Plating. You gain a +1 bonus to Armor Class.

Construct Rest. Instead of sleeping, you enter a sleep‐like state. You need to remain in it for only 4 hours each day. You do not dream; instead, you are fully aware of your surroundings and notice approaching enemies and other events as normal. After resting this way, you gain the same benefits a human does from 8 hours of sleep.

Incredible Resolve. You can end any incapacitated, paralyzed, or stunned condition effecting you on the start of your turn. You must complete a short rest before you can use this ability again.

Living Construct. Even though you were constructed, you are a humanoid. You are immune to disease. You do not need to eat or breathe, but you can ingest food and drink if you wish.

Languages. You can speak, read, and write Common and one other language of your choice.

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!

So I’ve already written quite a bit about some of the races available to my players in Exploration Age – the assimar in one post and the deva, mul, and shardmind in another. Yet, I’ve got more yet to be released D&D races I’m going to make available to them and I’d like to give you the mechanics I’ve created as well as the unique story for each race in my setting.

Svirfneblin

First up, the svirfneblin. They’re actually a gnome subrace, so bust out that Player’s Handbook, and check out the gnome. I’ve given you the deep gnome story in another post, so check that out if you want their story. Here are the mechanics.

Svirfneblin Traits

Deep gnomes are weird.

Ability Score Increase. Your Wisdom score increases by 1.

Superior Darkvision. Your darkvision has a radius of 120 feet.

Sunlight Sensitivity. You have disadvantage on attack rolls and on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on sight when you, the target of your attack, or whatever you are trying to perceive is in direct sunlight.

Stonecunning. Whenever you make an Intelligence (History) check related to the origin of stonework, you are considered proficient in the History skill and add double your proficiency bonus to the check, instead of your normal proficiency bonus.

Svrifneblin Combat Training. You have proficiency with the war pick and warhammer.

Svirfneblin Lights. You know the dancing lights cantrip. Intelligence is your spellcasting ability for this spell.

Duergar

Mohawk duergar is the best.

Living with the drow and fighting side-by-side in their constant war with the aberrants are the duergar, or gray dwarves. Like their surface kin the gray dwarves value martial prowess and good well-crafted. This is, of course, because the duergar descended from their surface kin a long time ago. During their bloody war with the chromatic dragons on the side of the shardminds, some dwarves went into The Underdark seeking refuge. These dwarves became the duergar and eventually found an entirely new war beneath the surface.

Now, in many ways duergar have more in common with drow than they do with dwarves of the world above. Both duergar and drow deal with the constant stress of their aberrant war and rely on each other with undying trust.

While they share brotherhood and battlelines with the drow, duergar do not share their drow’s impulsiveness and live-each-day-as-if-it-were-your-last lifestyle. Almost everything the duergar do is in preparation for war. Duergar are practical and know that a good night’s sleep and healthy meal are more likely than a late night of revelry at ensuring survival the next day. They craft arms and armor, mine metals, and train constantly. Ever vigilant, careful, and calculating are the gray dwarves.

Duergar adventurers could be mercenaries seeking a better life on the surface, aberrant hunters hoping to learn new techniques to help them with their war below, deadly assassins for hire, or anything you dream.

Duergar Traits

Ability Score Increase. Your Wisdom score increases by 1.

Superior Darkvision. Your dark vision has a radius of 120 feet.

Sunlight Sensitivity. You have disadvantage on attack rolls and on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on sight when you, the target of your attack, or whatever you are trying to perceive is in direct sunlight.

Duergar Magic. You know the thaumaturgy cantrip. When you reach 3rd level, you can cast the invisibility spell once per day. When you reach 5th level, you can also cast the enlarge spell once per day, but you may only target yourself with the spell. Wisdom is your spellcasting ability for these spells.

Shifter

Don’t mess.

Shifters are born outcasts. Many are killed as babes, their parents too horrified to look upon them. To the elves they are abhorrent monstrosities. To the werewolves – an evolutionary misstep deserving only to die. Many of the shifters lucky enough to have a parent let them live are still kicked out of the house at an early age, or orphaned when their parent is murdered by bigots.

These abandoned shifters find each other and form communities of wandering vagabonds who make a living performing, swindling, and selling crafts. These communities exist all over Findalay and many look forward to the circuses and carnivals the shifters provide. Others feel shifters have been short-changed and try to help these beings find a more established life in Findalay. Some fear the partial werewolf race avoiding and shunning them. The truly fearful seek out and kill these half-breeds.

The discovery of Verda has opened up new possibilities for the shifters, a place where they may have a home of their own free from persecution, stares, jeers, discrimination, violence, and the ever-looming Brotherhood of the Moon.

Shifter adventurers could be thieves disguised as traveling circus performers, cunning mages using their magic to predict people’s fortunes, wild, untamed barbarians, or anything you dream.

Shifter Traits

Ability Score Increase. Your Wisdom score increases by 1.

Age. Shifters mature and age at the same rate as humans.

Alignment. When it comes to good or evil, shifters are usually neutral, since they embody the spirit of the wild. Most shifters tend to be wild and free and therefore favor chaos over law.

Size. Shifters range from just over 5 to just over 6 feet tall and have lean builds. Your size is Medium.

Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.

Darkvision. Thanks to your lycanthrope heritage, you have superior vision in dark and dim conditions. You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light. You can’t discern color in darkness, only shades of gray.

Keen Hearing and Smell. You have advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on hearing or smell.

Languages. You can speak, read, and write Common and one other language of your choice.

Subrace. Two subraces of shifter are found in Canus: longtooth and razorclaw. Choose one of these sub races.

Longtooth Shifter

Ability Score Increase. Your Strength score increases by 2.

Longtooth Shifting. Once per day, as a bonus action you may shift, entering a more beastial state for one minute. When you do, you gain a +2 damage bonus to Strength-based attacks and regenerate 5 HP at the start of your turns. In addition, you grow long fangs which function as a light weapon which deals 1d6 piercing damage. You may attack with your fangs as a bonus action on your turn.

While you are shifting, you may not cast spells. You can end the shift early on your turn if you so choose.

You gain a second daily use of longtooth shifting at 8th level and your bonus damage to Strength-based attacks while shifting increases to +4, and your attacks with your fangs count as magic for the purpose of overcoming damage resistance. You gain a third daily use of this ability at 16th level and your bonus damage to Strength-based attacks while shifting increases to +6.

Razorclaw Shifter

Ability Score Increase. Your Dexterity score increases by 2.

Razorclaw Shifting. Once per day, as a bonus action you may shift, entering a more beastial state for one minute. When you do, your speed increases by five feet, you gain a +1 bonus to your AC, and you have advantage on Dexterity saving throws. In addition, you grow a pair of claws which function as light, finesse melee weapons which deal 1d6 slashing damage. You may attack with one of your claws as a bonus action on your turn.

While you are shifting, you may not cast spells. You can end the shift early on your turn if you so choose.

You gain a second daily use of razorclaw shifting at 8th level and your speed increases by 10 feet, you attacks with your claws count as magic weapons for the purpose of overcoming damage resistance, and your bonus to AC increases to +2 while shifting. You gain a third daily use of this ability at 16th level and your speed increases by 15 feet and your bonus to AC increases to +3 while shifting.

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!

I’ve made a few passing references to the caste system of Bragonay in the past, but I’ve got a more fleshed out version to share. I’m pretty pumped about this. As I was writing it made me want to run a campaign with an entire party of Bragonian dwarves, which is a good sign to me. When it comes to gaming write what excites!

The Caste System

Know your role!

In Bragonay there is little hope of climbing the ladder of social status. Most dwarves are born into the caste system in the same position as their parents and they cannot hope to advance beyond their station. Dwarves live, marry, and have children within their own caste. Persons of higher castes have better quality of life, more money, more power, and their word is worth more than that of any with a lower station. Within the same caste the word of women is always worth more than men’s. The levels of the Bragonian caste system are, in order from most powerful to least, empress, warlords, nobles, soldiers, artisans, peasants, and slaves. In Bragonay only warforged can be slaves. The empress and warlords are all female, which means they can marry below their station, but only from the noble caste. Sons born from such a union are nobles, daughters are warlords. All members of Bragonian society must follow the rules of the caste, including the empress. If she breaks the caste, the warlord may vote to overrule and execute her. The only member of a caste who moves up due to a death is a warlord who becomes the empress when the previous empress has died. This warlord is the next of kin of the previous empress. All stations of Bragonay’s caste are assigned a clothing color. At all times a majority of the clothing they wear must be this color for easy identification.

  • Empress – Black
  • Warlords – Yellow
  • Nobles – Purple
  • Soldiers – Red
  • Artisans – Blue
  • Peasants – Green
  • Slaves – Orange

Warlords serve as councilors and enforcers for the empress. Nobles serve on councils which are in charge of various settlements and soldiers serve as their enforcers and lieutenants. Artisans could be any merchant or seller of wares or services. They are well-trained in their respective skills and valued by nobles for the money they bring into the region (which is of course, heavily taxed). Peasants could be many different things, farmers, street cleaners, messengers, etc. Yet the most popular job for peasants is easily miner, since metal working is the backbone of the Bragonian economy. The use of slaves is on the decline since the warforged uprising and Bragonay has ceased production of the humanoids (even though some warforged have figured out a way to build new members of their kind). Still many nobles and warlords have loyal slaves who work as servants and bodyguards. Laboring is mostly handled by the peasant class, but occasionally a warforged slave might be brought into a mine or field to fill a very dangerous, low-level position. Some of these slaves are well-treated and have no desire for freedom, but there are those who abhor their bonds and plot their escapes. Since the uprising crack team of dwarf artisans assembled by the empress herself has been working on a new breed of living construct to replace the warforged as slaves. What may happen to the remaining warforged slaves once these new constructs are complete is anyone’s guess.

The Caste Rules

There are two rules which are the hope of all those in the lower stations, except for slaves who can never leave their station. These rules apply to even the empress herself.

  1. A Bragonian within a higher caste may initiate a status trade with a Bragonian of a lower station.
  2. A Bragonian of higher caste may force a status trade upon two individuals of a lower station.

The Caste Game

As a result of the rules above, The citizens of Bragonay are often engaged in a dangerous and deceitful game involving blackmail and manipulation. The lower castes use methods of blackmail to manipulate their way up the ladder of the caste. Threats of violence are usually no good, since a dead dwarf cannot trade castes. As a result of this blackmail, dwarves within higher castes are usually either very secret about any illicit dealings or lifestyle choices in which they engage, or they are extremely open about these goings on. Still, there is always a caste to which one may advance for there must be someone trying to keep an affair quiet, covering up a murder, having gambling debts, or stealing from their boss. In some cases, desperate dwarves will turn to kidnapping a loved one, though most dwarves cannot be manipulated in this way. A higher caste is more difficult to replace than a child or spouse. Sometimes manipulation of a manner more subtle than blackmail is required. Faked romances and seduction are a favorite ploy of young Bragonians, as well as servants trying to form close friendships with their masters in hopes that they will receive a boost up the ladder. As a result the higher castes look to the lower castes for only labor and services. There is very little mingling otherwise. These games are not for the faint of heart. Murder, blackmail, kidnapping, lust, betrayal, and more play into the dangerous caste game of Bragonay.

The Caste Gods

The goddesses gave this lady magic pink fingers.

The religion of the Bragonian dwarves takes its cues from the caste system. This religion is referred to as Hierotheism. The polytheistic religion recognizes its goddesses organized into their own caste system. Each caste has its own priests lead prayer to their corresponding goddess. One may not pray to a goddess above his or her station and if caught doing so the penalty is death. Prayers to the goddesses below an individual’s station are acceptable, though not common. The empress is a special case. She has a goddess assigned to her caste of one and therefore is her own priestess. However, at the request of the empress only, a priest of the warlord caste may pray with the empress to her goddess. A ladder with seven rungs is the symbol used to represent Hierotheism. Each rung is a different color which corresponds with the clothes worn by a particular station. Here are the goddesses and their corresponding stations.

  • Caramey The goddess of the empress is usually depicted as a female dwarf standing next to a throne of adamantine, wearing a mithral crown. She wears a huge great sword, Order-Keeper, strapped across her back. Legends say the just goddess has never had need to draw her sword, for all the caste goddesses know their place in the hierarchy and do not stray out of line.
  • Meralla The warlord goddess is wise in the counsel she gives to Caramey. She suffers no foolishness and takes the lives of every Bragonian citizen as her personal responsibility. She wields a huge scythe, Head-Remover, which is used to bring swift justice to those who try to operate outside their castes.
  • Zelti The beautiful goddess of the noble caste is often depicted holding a bag of coin in one hand and a dirk, Secrets Released, in the other. She protects the personal property of nobles and grants them strength to make secrets public so they may save themselves from blackmail and corruption. Zelti also carries a scroll tube on her belt, which is where she writes down the sins of dwarf nobles. Her priests encourage dwarves make these sins public, again to help avoid blackmail.
  • Swarvune The goddess of soldiers and war is often depicted as the happiest of dwarves, smiling and reveling in battle. Her axe and shield, Judgement and Law, are always sharpened and polished, ready to defend the Bragonian people. She commands loyalty and respect from her worshippers as a commander would and asks that they lay down their lives in defense of the Bragonian way of life. It is said she dies for her people every night in a grand divine battle and is rewarded with new life for her sacrifice every day at dawn.
  • Shalleal The artisan goddess is said to have taught the shardminds to create the dwarves at Caramey’s order. She works at a forge using her great maul, Dragonbane. Her worshippers say she speaks little, for her work is of the utmost importance. Craft and labor are the be all, end all for Shalleal and she expects the same of her worshippers.
  • Berga The hearty goddess of peasants is depicted as a soot-covered miner wielding the pick axe, Servitor. Happily she supports the other goddesses, serving as a laborer and messenger. Likewise the other goddesses are grateful for Berga, for without her support they could not do their very important work.
  • Almahad The only male god in the Hierotheistic pantheon, and so low on the totem pole that the dwarves refer to all seven as simply, the goddesses. Still, like the others in the pantheon, Almahad serves his role well. He has always been depicted as a dwarf, for Bragonay used dwarf slaves before the warforged came along. He carries a club, Worthy Example, as his weapon, which is allowed to him by the other goddesses for his loyalty.

It is rumored that the weapons of the goddesses have equivalents on the material plane that were given to heroes fighting against the chromatic dragons. The rumors say these items were lost long ago, but if they are true, the items are still on Canus somewhere waiting to be discovered.

Adventurers and the Caste System

Bragonay’s caste system is a wonderful rabbit-hole down which adventurers may travel. They could receive word from an old dwarf friend because he or she is being blackmailed. They could be hired to dig up dirt on another dwarf’s rival. They could get caught in a dangerous game of deceit and have to determine who is a real ally and who is false. If one or more PCs is a Bragonian dwarf, the possibilities are truly endless. 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!

All creatures are free. All masters must die.

This is the motto of Lifeforged, a group of bandit terrorists living in Bragonay’s deserts. Many who cross paths with these ruffian warforged believe they are no more than deranged highwaymen. But those with a deeper understanding of Bragonay’s history know the truth. Lifeforged have much more than gold on their minds.

The Creation of the Lifeforged

Like a big metal Batman. With an axe.

Not so long ago Bragonians created the warforged to be the lowest rung on the ladder of their strict caste system. For years these beings did everything they were told without complaint. They were the perfect slaves, serving in all capacities from butler to soldier.

However, years after their creation warforged began to do the unexpected, thinking and feeling for themselves. At first the Bragonians dwarves were happy about these surprises, for it meant the warforged could be proactive in their duties and take initiative without being told to do a task.

Things turned bad for the dwarves when some warforged tried blackmailing their masters for a position higher up in the caste system. The dwarves were shocked by these actions, their creations were unruly. These warforged who tried to do such things were considered rejects and dismantled.

When other warforged heard of this they began to take action. More tried blackmail to earn a higher caste position while others turned to outright violence or attempted to flee Bragonay. Marrial’s Masters of None became involved, secretly helping some slaves escape. The problem became so great that the Bragonian Empress at the time made a law stating no warforged could advance beyond the slave level of the caste system. This enraged the warforged and a nation-wide revolt began.

During this revolt, many warforged fled from Bragonay and were accepted as members of other societies. Others stayed loyal to their dwarf masters and a large group formed an army. Those soldiers found themselves in Bragonay’s deserts. This was the perfect place for warforged as the hot sun does not burn them or make them thirst as it would any fleshy foes. The living constructs in this army called themselves Lifeforged.

Out in the desert Lifeforged was safe. This was their terrain and they held all the advantages. The Lifeforged army grew too bold and moved from mounting surgical strikes and guerrilla attacks to a full scale march on Bragonay’s capital, Kerdabi. The Lifeforged believed their hour was at hand since most of the Bragonian armed forces were abroad at the time, trying to invade other countries as part of The Fourth Great War. The Bragonians got word of the attack and secretly pulled their armies back. It cost Bragonay the war, but allowed them to keep their country.

In the Battle of Kerdabi the dwarves decimated the Lifeforged ranks, taking no prisoners. Any warforged who had revolted were considered faulty machinery and destroyed. Some Lifeforged managed to escape. A sizable force of Lifeforged still roams the Bragonian deserts, planning attacks, growing their ranks, and seeking support where they can.

All of this violence is based on one fundamental disconnect – warforged see themselves as living beings, and many Bragonians see them as machines. That is true of some Bragonians to this day.

Goals of Lifeforged

Today Lifeforged operates as desert bandits, attacking caravans and stealing the goods for resale, but they are hoping to grow into something much greater than they ever were. Here is the Lifeforged plan:

  1. Gain Coin. The warforged do this by hijacking desert caravans as described above. If the caravans are Bragonian, and most of them are in The Wastes, Lifeforged will ransom any wealthy merchants back to their families, kill any dwarf soldiers, and liberate any warforged. Any foreign caravans that have their goods hijacked and are left with enough food and water to survive a journey back through The Wastes.
  2. Increase Ranks. Lifeforged lost many of its soldiers in the Battle of Kerdabi. However, it has been slowly and steadily regrowing. By recruiting warforged from raided caravans, using surgical strikes to liberate the enslaved, and blackmailing Bragonians into freeing their slaves, Lifeforged’s numbers are approaching full-blown army status once again. Of course, these freed warforge are always given a choice, join Lifeforged or spend their newfound liberty in any other way they like. The only answer which is unacceptable to Lifeforged soldiers is a return to slavery. Surprisingly though, this is the choice of some recently freed warforged who find themselves on the wrong end of a Lifeforged sword.
  3. Gain Allies. Free Aeranore has been known to run weapons to Lifeforged in exchange for coin. The Tiefling Spires in a rare public address welcoming Bragonay and Parian to Verda, condemned slavery. But the most direct support to Lifeforged comes from Masters of None. The Marrial-based organization sends all the aid they can, including soldiers who can be spared to help free any warforged. Lifeforged regularly sends appeals to other organizations and governments asking for aid and help, but because of their illegal bandit activity many refuse to help them.
  4. Free All Warforged. This is Lifeforged’s penultimate goal. They would see an end to slavery of their brethren by any means necessary. Right now that means resuming a full-scale war with Bragonay’s empire once they have the soldiers and coin. Until that time they will be killing what slavers they can, intimidating and blackmailing others who own slaves into giving up the practice, and slaying those warforged who hurt the cause by choosing to remain slaves.
  5. Free All Slaves. Once Lifeforged has freed Bragonay’s warforged, their next target is Parian. Parian practices slavery of all races, not just warforged, and their reign must also be stopped, by any means necessary.

You don’t own me!

Rumors

  • Several Bragonian inventors and smiths are working with Lifeforged. All of the dwarves’ superior weaponry is being assembled with secret weak spots that are known to Lifeforged and will be exploited in major battles.
  • Many warforged have migrated to Verda to begin a new life, but perhaps they have a more nefarious purpose. Some believe they are working with the tieflings to recover The Reckoning Spell and use it against the Bragonians.
  • Lifeforged is not at all what it seems. They are a group of warforged supremacists who believe constructs are superior to flesh humanoids. After they take Bragonay for themselves, the rest of Canus will follow.
  • The Empire of Bragonay is actually in league with Lifeforged. After The Fourth Great War Bargonay’s economy is suffering. Through Lifeforged, the empire is able to ease that pain and take what they need from merchants and get free handouts from Masters of None.

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!

“It’s been a while,” the clergyman thinks as he gets out of bed and reaches for his prayer-book. It hasn’t held interest for him in years, but today, for some reason, he feels compelled to grab the book off its near-permanent location – the bedside table.

Also on the table sits a pile of gold and bank notes – extortion fees from the nobles he is blackmailing. The scheme is simple – the nobles come to the cleric to confess, a process during which he remains anonymous. The cleric makes a note of the noble’s sin and identity and then years later collects his money via blackmail, long after the noble has confessed.

Sighing, the clergyman opens his holy book to begin his prayers and he throat becomes dry. Cold sweat breaks out on his brow, his back, and under his arms. The pages of his prayer-book are defaced. Right over the text someone has painted a face with two large, black ears. Behind him a voice speaks.

“If only you hadn’t given up your prayers for the pursuit of wealth, you may have received our warning in time.” The cleric does not turn around. His face curls in terror and he can only let out a whimper followed by a sob.

“We cannot show mercy to those who cannot save themselves.”

“Please!” the cleric finally musters the strength to save between tears. It is not enough. Before he can say more, he looks down on the floor and sees the carpet stained with blood. His blood. Dripping from his own white robes and from the end of the blade sticking out of his stomach.

Dark Whispers is secret organization of Gnome Assassins operating in Aeranore. They seek to right anything they deem an injustice through intimidation and murder.

The Founding of Dark Whispers

‘Nuff said.

The gnomes fled Parian many millennia ago due to the violent persecution of their race at the hands of a human emperor. A mass exodus of humans and gnomes from Parian landed on Findalay and founded Aeranore. For thousands of years after that exodus, the gnomes and humans worked side by side building a better life in Aeranore.

Then Maldwyn the Mad King sat Aeranore’s throne. His paranoia and suspicious nature made him fear the gnomes’ ability with magic. Maldwyn ordered all gnomes be removed from The Council of Mages and then demanded every member of the race be rounded up and put into walled camps. Any who spoke out against the actions of Maldwyn were immediately put to death. The gnomes had few allies amongst each other, let alone from other races. However, a group of courageous gnomes rose up and decided to take action against Maldwyn. They became everything he feared, mastering illusion magic and stealth. One night, they infiltrated Maldwyn’s court, killed Maldwyn, and all of his advisors. The victims’ ears were blackened, for the gnomes had poisoned them via the ear canal while they slept soundly.

The king’s brother, Madrin, took the throne and immediately did away with the camps. He never searched for his brother’s assassins. Many believe the gnomes intimidated Madrin, explaining his actions and lack of retribution.

Since there was never a warrant issued for the arrest of the gnomes who killed Maldwyn, they remained free. The vowed to never again suffer injustice at hands of another race. Folks took to calling the clan of assassins Dark Whispers, a name taken from a poem written about The Night of Black Ears by, Namfadring Dazlittle, a famous gnome bard (whom may have been a member of Dark Whispers).

The Manifesto

This lady ain’t messin’ around.

Dark Whispers has set forth a code for dealing with those they deem unjust.

  • Those in power have no one to keep them in check; therefore we shall be the judge, jury, and executioners of those with power who oppress those without.
  • All people are flawed. Before they are delivered judgement, they must first be given a symbol which warns them they are giving into evil temptation and will soon be dealt justice if they cannot change their ways.
  • There are no third chances.
  • There will be no warning given to those who take action to intentionally harm the gnomish peoples as a whole. These are the worst kind of criminal and shall be dealt a swift justice. We cannot allow our race to risk suffering again.
  • Those in power hold many of the cards and only a preponderance of evidence is needed to convict them.
  • The word of the common folk is worth twice as much as that of nobles.

By these rules Dark Whispers deals out judgement.

Secrecy

No one knows the structure of Dark Whispers or how one joins the organization. Dark Whispers could be as small as ten gnomes or could have hundreds of members. To this day there is very little proof they exist. Copies of their manifesto can be found and occasionally a noble finds a face with two black ears on a piece of parchment of carved into his or her furniture, but this could be and most likely is someone playing a childish prank. It’s the Exploration Age equivalent of Bloody Mary in many people’s eyes.

Still occasionally one of those nobles who has received the sign does become a corpse. The nature of this organization and the tales surrounding it have become of great concern to Queen Icillia IV and her court.

Remember how David had a fox… I’ve got a pet too.

Dark Game

Queen Icillia IV has publicly expressed her own disgust with Dark Whispers, an organization she fully believes to be real. Though she speaks out against the organization, she has never received a mark of warning or threat otherwise, strengthening the belief for many that there is no Dark Whispers. Other argue that while Icillia rails against the organization, she has done nothing under-handed during her time as Queen of Aeranore and therefore Dark Whispers continues to let her live… for now.

Either way, the queen has launched her own investigation into Dark Whispers. Many say a dangerous game of imbedded spies and double agents has begun. Who is working for whom is unclear and loyalties are fluid. Of course, publicly, no one is really sure what’s happening, since the existence of Dark Whispers has yet to be confirmed.

There are a lot more pictures of badass gnomes on the internet than I thought.

More Rumors

Here are some other rumors about Dark Whispers:

  • The organization is currently run by a racist gnome supremacist who has plans to use Dark Whispers to eliminate all humans and other non-gnomes in Aeranore.
  • Dark Whispers is no longer exclusive to gnomes and the organization may contact all types of like-minded specialists to join.
  • Dark Whispers has grown beyond Aeranore and now has branches all over Canus.
  • Solving the plight of warforged slaves in Bragonay has become a primary focus of Dark Whispers.
  • Queen Icillia was assassinated by Dark Whispers long ago and has been replaced by a doppleganger in service to the organization.
  • There is no Dark Whispers. The rumors were started by Madrin, who actually desired the throne for himself. He murdered his brother and Maldwyn’s advisors. Since that time Aeranore’s Royalty has used Dark Whispers as a cover for a few assassinations.
  • The deep gnomes of The Underdark have their own branch of Dark Whispers known as The Lightbringers, but they are assassins for hire.

The idea here is that DMs can choose which of these rumors they want to be true or not about Dark Whispers. Or perhaps they could add their own and keep the players guessing!

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!

This weekend I sat down to make the timeline of major events in Exploration Age that lead up to the time of play. I found that I still had a lot of thinking to do. Mainly, how did Canus and the folk of Exploration Age go from literally nothing to being what they are now?

I don’t necessarily have to describe how the world came to be, since medieval fantasy RPGs are somewhat based on our own world’s actual past. Back in the day those folks weren’t sure how our world came to be (though they did have theories, but that’s another post). However, I do need to describe how the beings that populate Canus came to be where they are now. History is very important. Big actions have big repercussions that are felt for long periods of time. For instance…

  • During prohibition of alcohol, the American gangsters are born and continue to operate even after it becomes legal to drink again.
  • During WWII Germany invades the Soviet Union. After WWII, Berlin is occupied by the Soviets until 1990.
  • The Americas are discovered and a whole bunch of countries rush to colonize.

You get the idea. My point is – the actions being taken that greatly affect the folk of Canus are those which deserve to be written down on the timeline. The players are not going to care to read every little detail of when a specific plant came into being or care when a local organization of farmhands was formed. I only put that kind of thing in if I know it’s going to be important to the plot. The rest of the stuff, can be big, broad strokes to give your players the idea of the history of a people or government or culture, etc. Most of the time, these will be actions taken by a specific group or individual. The only time pure nature makes it on the timeline is for something really crazy – like a meteor causing the end of the dinosaurs, an earthquake swallowing a city, or ice covering the planet.

Remember that, in general, you care more about the history of the world than your players do. “Why do the warforged hate the dwarves?” they might ask. “Because they kept them as slaves,” you reply. For some adventures and for most players that will more than suffice.

Starting the Timeline

Before I began the timeline, I had to figure out how old Canus is, or at least how far back its significant history begins. Since I want the world to be frame by the Findalayan point of view, I decided that it’s been 700 years since Findalay’s Founding (FF), when all nations of Findalay officially recognized each other. Before that, Aeranore, Bragonay, Marrial, and Taliana all came into existence, but they constantly at war with one another. For thousands of years! So when they decided to put down the sword and begin trading, that was a big enough event for them to begin counting the years. Now that’s not to say there haven’t been disputes and wars in those 700 years, but each nation is now officially recognized by the others.

However, more important than those 700 years are the years which came before. Those years, Before Findalay (BF) have had a huge influence on what happens in the world today. So I wanted to go back and in broad strokes think about the world and how each nation of people got its start. How each race came to be and what actions led to where they are. And of course, since this is a fantasy setting, I wanted to make sure there was plenty of magical flavor to all of it, since that’s what we love.

Before Dwarves, Elves, and Humans

So before our PC races made it onto the scene there were great forces walking the earth, just like in the real world there were dinosaurs before us. I wanted Canus to do something different for originality’s sake, so I decided the first beings to populate its surface were aberrant creatures. Beholders, illithids, umber hulks – all the bizarro creatures that normally live underground, well their ancestors lived on the surface of Canus.

Just some mind flayers hanging out, thinking about their ancestors.

I like the idea of picturing these creatures’ surface-dwelling ancestors. I like thinking about what their great civilizations might leave behind. This gives us a way to spread similar, but mysterious ruins all over Canus. It also gives the aberrants a reason to abhor surface dwellers once they are driven underground (more on that below). That’s my first beat on the timeline and it has a bunch of question marks next to it, because no one sure how far back the aberrant civilizations go.

Now, I don’t know about you, but my dragons are pretty important to me. They’re old and mystical and have been around almost since the beginning. More importantly to me, chromatic and metallic dragons are part of the material world. Think about it, dragons have all this magic at their disposal and for the most part they choose to stay in the material world. They must really like it there. I decided that on Canus, dragons are drawn to staying in the material plane because they are literally part of the world. The first dragons were incubated in Canus’ core and birthed out of the ground. For whatever reason, the metallic dragons ended up in Verda and the chromatic dragons ended up in Parian and Findalay.

So the aberrants are doing their thing when suddenly the first dragons hatch from beneath the ground. The dragons think to themselves, “It’s time for us, baby. These crazy-looking dudes got to go.” War that rages for years with neither side having a clear victory. So second timeline beat – dragons hatch from the earth and war begins. This is around 500,000 BF. Broad strokes.

You didn’t know I was down here, didja? DIDJA?

Now, when the dragons hatched from the ground, the spaces and tunnels their bodies made became The Underdark. The chromatic dragons bled for their efforts, lacking the finer scales of their metallic kin, and their blood became the drow race. This is also part of the second beat.

Third beat on the timeline comes when the dragons gain their advantage around 300,000 BF. The chromatic dragons create a new race to aid them – the giants. With the help of the giants they destroy many of the aberrants and drive the rest into The Underdark. Meanwhile in Verda, the metallics have a different plan and open a portal to the Nine Hells calling forth devils to kill the aberrants. This only half works, as some of the devils create alliances with the aberrants, creating a horrifying half-fiend, half-aberrant race who eventually become The Sleeping Ones. In the fourth beat on our timeline, around 100,000 BF the devils who remain on Verda and side with the metallic dragons eventually evolve into the tieflings.

The pattern here with the beats is that they get closer together and more specific as they continue. More significant history exists closer to the time of the game. In-game there would also be better historical records for more recent events.

The PC Races

So you can see above where tiefling and drow came from, but we still have a bunch of races to define here. I’ll give you the bullet points for each.

  • Eventually, the giants get tired of their chromatic dragon oppressors and create the dwarves and gnomes to help them rise up. Their bloody revolution is not so successful and dragons and giants, now few in number are scattered across Parian and Findalay. Some gnomes and dwarves retreat to The Underdark and become duergar and svirfneblin. Some stay on the surface and begin to found their own civilizations.
  • The aberrants regroup for thousands of years in The Underdark and then invade the kingdoms of the drow. After a few thousand years of war, some drow grow tired of the war and retreat to the surface. These drow evolve into elves, the drow left behind feel betrayed and the hatred begins.
  • When the elves retreat to the surface some of the svirfneblin come with them, who evolve yet again over the course of time into halflings. So halflings and gnomes are related in this campaign.
  • Metallic dragons create the dragonborn race to help populate Verda, but the their allies, the tieflings become jealous and so the dragonborn are sent away on ships and eventually come to land in present day Marrial.
  • In a cycle of slave creation learned from their masters, the dwarves create the warforged.

I’m a big fan of evolution apparently.

It’s obvious there are some races I’m choosing to leave out of this list. I think the only races that need a big explanation are the ones that have their heritage impacted by their creation and evolution. Orcs, minotaurs, etc. formed organically over time and scientific evolutionary processes. Or magic if you like. Or divine intervention. Their origins are not as important as their actions, which do end up on Exploration Age’s timeline.

Human might be the most obvious race missing from the list, but that’s because I think the big questions of why are we here and how did we get here are part of the human experience. I think it will make the humans of this world feel natural and relatable to sort of just appear without fanfare one day and through survival, suffering, and hard work build a civilization.

Action!

So once the races are established the timeline gets pretty interesting. The Bragonay dwarves have all of Findalay under their control and then the other races begin trying to take their land in a crazy struggle that has alliances forming and breaking everywhere. In the midst of it all, earthquakes, plagues, inventions, magic, and the like happen. Meanwhile on Verda the half-fiend, half-aberrant problem persists with a host of other failures and successes on the part of its people. There’s some big events that lead up to the time of play, like the discovery of Verda that I’m excited to share in the future.

Looks like the world is coming together! I’ll probably divide the timeline up into different ages such as Aberrant Age, Draconic Age, etc. and have the time period of play be known as… you guessed it. Exploration Age.

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

My last post got me psyched to start fleshing out this world in more detail. There’s two gameplay guidelines I want to have in my world to help make it feel full and complete.

  1. Every country should have enough ideas for adventure that a party could spend an entire campaign (levels 1 – 20) within its borders and not be bored or run out of quests to discover.
  2. Every country should be interconnected to the rest of the world in enough interesting and complex ways that a party could spend an entire campaign (levels 1 – 20) running all over the world in way that’s not-forced and organic to the story.

This way if my players want to have an entire campaign where my party is helping warforged ex-slaves organize a rebellion in Bragonay and getting into the nitty-gritty details of the caste system they can do that. They can experience an intimate story with some epic challenges even if they stay local to one area the entire time. Or if they want to experience every corner of the world as they battle evil cults in Verda while trying to recover artifacts spread all over the world for a mercenary guild, we can create a story that’s massive and sprawling, but feels just as compelling and intimate as a localized campaign.

Brainstorming Rules

All this is to say you need ideas and lots of them to make compelling, intimate stories and tie places together. There’s no better way for me to generate ideas than to sit down and brainstorm. It’s old-fashioned, but it really works. My incredible day job, working as a television promo writer/producer, involves brainstorming creative ideas every single day. Here’s a few basic rules I like to follow when throwing out ideas.

  • Every idea is worth writing down. This is the brainstorming golden rule. Even if it’s “every dwarf should own a spirit monkey.” When you have those more far-out ideas, get them down, out of your head, and see what other ideas they lead to. Let the trail of ideas take you to crazy places and worry about editing yourself later. Brainstorms are all about idea generation. Quantity is king. Write down all your ideas and there’s bound to be at least a little gold in the pan.
  • Go down the rabbit holes. Some ideas in brainstorms are short and that’s cool. If you simply write, “ancient city swallowed by sand,” that could be it. Maybe you haven’t fleshed out the idea and you just want that as a starting point. But if you there is something more there that excites you, write it all down. So that idea might become, “ancient city swallowed by sand after evil cult performed a ritual to kick up the desert winds.”
  • When possible, have a partner or team. Collaboration during brainstorm can build huge ideas you never would have come up with on your own. Remember to build off each other’s ideas and when you think something is cool or interesting, say so. Don’t shoot ideas down and apply the brainstorming golden rule to others’ ideas as well as your own. Let someone finish a thought before you say, “Yes, and…” to build on his or her idea. You can get caught up in how cool something is and want to jump in before he or she has completed the thought.

The Process

So I got together with my player and life-long friend Andrew to generate some ideas about Bragonay. I picked Bragonay simply because I was excited to work on it and already had a few ideas I wanted to bounce around. Since we both have day jobs, we did the brainstorm using gchat. This was great because not only did it mean we could walk away to do work and come back to the brainstorm more easily, it also means there is a record of our entire conversation saved within my email now. Andrew is a good choice, because he offered to help, I’m already very comfortable kicking around insane ideas with him, we’ve been playing D&D together for more than ten years, and he’s got an academic background in classical studies. Andrew is able to think of a lot of real world allegories for our ideas.

We began by going over what we knew about Bragonay. I had made a list of some specific categories for which I wanted ideas.

  • Caste structure
  • Government
  • Culture
  • Religion
  • Adventure sites
  • Foreign Affairs

When we began to wane in one category, I’d keep the momentum going forward by switching to the next. It didn’t matter if we were in one category and had an idea for another we’d done or hadn’t discussed yet. The whole idea is for everyone to be comfortable. If you’re comfortable your best ideas will come forward. By keeping the train rolling and accepting every idea that comes up, all involved will feel at home sharing.

Results are in

So after about an hour or serious brainstorming, Andrew and I generated a little over 18 pages in Google Docs of gchat. I’d put all the ideas in this post, but it’d be overwhelming. Instead let me give you some of the highlights. This is the stuff I am most excited. Please note, these ideas are by no means complete or final, just the seed of something that I’ll have to grow into the world.

  • The dwarves of Bragonay live in a strict matriarchal caste system, however one can climb through this caste system by switching stations with a dwarf above him or her in an official process initiated by the person of the higher station. This station switch may also be ordered by a dwarf of a station higher than the two dwarfs who are switching. Thus dwarves play out their games trying to blackmail and backstab one another into switching stations.
  • Bragonay’s recent attempt to conquer Findalay ended 100 years ago when their warforged slaves rebelled. Bragonay might have succeeded had they not had to quell the uprising, which destroyed parts of Bragonay’s settlements. The dwarves are recovering and rebuilding, but their economy has taken a huge hit as the other Findalayan nations are wary of trade with Bragonay.
  • Violent warforged rebels live in the desert, attacking caravans and plotting acts of terrorism.
  • Bragonay’s empress has clan chieftains who report to her. Each clan has a specific industries for which they are in charge such as weapon making, armor forging, warforged creation, farming, herding, etc.
  • As Bragonay races to claim lands in Verda, they find they have the least amount of resources to dedicate to that cause of any other Findalayan nation, since their war has impoverished the nation.
  • In an attempted to magically terraform the desert to grow more crops, a village of venerable artisans was swallowed by violent, sentient plants. The plants now covet the artisans’ greatest creations and have scattered them deep within their insane jungle.

That’s just a few of the ideas. You can see how many of them are interconnected or built off one another, thanks to our established brainstorming rules. We went off on some long tangents at some points and at others discussed ideas for the world beyond Bragonay (all of which I’ve written down). More cool stuff to come just from that one hour of gchat.

By the way, if you’re liking the blog, please share it with any of your friends who may also be interested. If you’ve got feedback, leave me a comment. You can always follow me on Twitter @JamesIntrocaso, where I tweet out new posts for the blog and the D&D News Podcast I create – The Round Table. Thanks!