Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Dungeons and Dominion (or campaign setting idea generation)

This is a little trick I came up with when trying to come up with cool bits to work into my D&D homebrew setting, but it can work with most any fantasy setting.

First, a little background. If you're not interested, skip over it and get to the bolded part.

There's a Twitter game I play called Echo Bazaar. In Echo Bazaar (or #ebz as it is sometimes abbreviated) a lot of the various NPCs you encounter are not named, but given suitable epithets. An adjective, and then a title. To wit: a Retiring Blackmailer, a Winsome Orphan, a One-Eyed Bishop, a Wry Functionary, and so forth.

A few weeks ago, I was trying to come up with some tidbits to make my homebrew campaign setting more interesting and alive. I was looking through the Roleplaying Tips magazine, and came across the Idea Seeds method by Mike Bourke.

The gist of the Idea Seeds method is to list a bunch of nouns, say 12, which are to show up in your campaign ("goblin, king, mercenary"). Assign each one an adjective ("heroic goblin, sad king, grizzled mercenary"), use the noun-adjective in a sentence ("the heroic goblin slew the evil dragon"), and...well, it goes on from there.

The noun-adjective thing reminded me of Echo Bazaar, and how powerful those two-word descriptors can be.

And then I had my moment of inspiration. The card game Dominion is themed around a medieval low-fantasy setting. I could use that to generate even the nouns...

So Here's How To Do It

Go to a Dominion set generator (I like this guy) and generate a set of 10 cards. Use all the expansions you want.

This will give you a set of 10 cards. You don't care about anything except the names. Arrange them in 5 pairs of two.

For example, I just got:
Vineyard and Upgrade
Secret Chamber and Tactician
Shanty Town and Royal Seal
Alchemist and Venture
Lookout and Minion

Right. Now, grab a random adjective generator. I like this guy, because Exalted names have awesome punchy adjectives. Generate a list of ten adjectives, and assign them in order to your nouns. (Yes, you could do it out of order, picking and choosing, but then that is NO FUN.)

In the example, I would get:
Secret Vineyard and Crimson Upgrade
Savage Secret Chamber and Stalwart Tactician
Bounteous Shanty Town and Grey Royal Seal
Ebon Alchemist and White Venture
Exaltant Lookout and Sagacious Minion

Now assign temporal states to the examples, alternating between current and past.

(now) Secret Vineyard and Crimson Upgrade
(past) Savage Secret Chamber and Stalwart Tactician
(now) Bounteous Shanty Town and Grey Royal Seal
(past) Ebon Alchemist and White Venture
(now) Exaltant Lookout and Sagacious Minion

The pairs are (or were) interacting, somehow, in your setting. Figure out where, and put it in!

In some cases, this may come up with stuff which just feels stupid ("Savage Secret Chamber" sounds pretty dumb, even though Stalwart Tactician sounds awesome). I recommend tossing the pair out entirely, if one is mediocre. The good thing about this method is that it is pretty quick, so generating multiple sets of 10 doesn't take very long at all.

Friday, January 7, 2011


OK. First a few magic items, converted over from a few places.

Targeting Eye
"A targeting eye is a magically treated piece of quartz hollowed out, filled with a gel worm and nourishing fluid, then attached to an eye patch. When worn, the worm burrows into the wearer's eye, destroying it. Though the fluid in the gem makes this process relatively painless, the wearer" loses one HP permanently. When making a missile attack or sufficiently similar action, the wearer may take a +4 penalty to initiative to gain a +1 bonus to their attack roll. "A targeting eye cannot be removed, and the damage point can never be healed." -quoted text p. 259, Earthdawn rulebook (1e?). Italics mine.

Blood Pebbles
"Blood-pebble armor is a form of living, elemental armor. Hundreds of small elemental stones are embedded in the wearer's skin, drawing power from the magic in his blood. A character wearing this armor takes 4 Damage Points," (loss of 4 HP, easy enough) "which cannot be healed as long as the character wears the blood pebbles. Implanting or removing blood-pebble armor requires eight hours of work by a trained Weaponsmith." (Or a nasty Bieth laboratory, which could likely do it much quicker. Magical AIs are wondrous useful things!) Blood-pebble armor provides AC 5, improves all saves by +1, and allows for a saving throw vs. magic missile spells. -quoted text p. 255, Earthdawn rulebook. Italics mine.

OK. Next, let's bring in some cool things from Warhammer Fantasy. These spells are taken in concept from the WFRP 2e supplement "Realms of Sorcery".

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Realms of Sorcery
The Beast Broken (p 138)
Level 1 M-U Spell (replaces Mending)
Duration: Permanent
Range: 36'
"You break the wild spirit of a single animal (that can be domesticated) within 12 yards. These animals include horses, dogs, and some birds of prey. It does not include normally wild animals like wolves, bears, snakes, and so on...On a failed test" (aka failed save vs spell) "it remains docile towards Humans, Elves, Dwarfs, and Halflings forever, though it is still likely to be afraid - and rightly so - of creatures like Greenskins, Skaven, and those tainted by Chaos." Replace Humans, Elves, etc. with 'PC races,' unless you want to make it specific - a bit of anti-Dwarf prejudice? - and similarly, broaden the Greenskins et. al. to just include inhuman beings. This spell functions as a poor man's 'Charm Animal,' but adds a significant deal of flavor to the abilities of an M-U, permanently dominating the mind of an animal and exerting arcane influence over Nature. Druids ought to flip out if they find an animal that has been mentally gelded in this fashion.

Signs in the Stars (p. 151)
Level 3 M-U Spell (replacing Invisibility 10' Radius)
Duration: 1 month/level
"You...write a subtle message in the stars. The message is not detailed and can only serve to communicate complex ideas if you and the one you intend to receive the message have discussed the signs you intend to send in advance." Anyone with significant knowledge of astronomy or astrology can observe the sky and see that someone has cast this spell; however, "without knowledge of what you intend to communicate...the meaning cannot be easily divined."

I'd like to convert some of the rituals included (particularly The Impossible March of the Damned Soldier, p. 168). I also plan to convert the demonic bargains options available to the Demonologist into retroclone/similar format.


This is less for posting new and creative ideas and more to force me to start fleshing out NPCs within the LotB setting. Right now, it's an extremely basic sandbox with a few sparse NPCs, and that needs to change. Sanctuary is an interesting place, but just telling the folks that it's interesting won't cut it!


Murdach (hob m F2): Murdach is a travelling peddler and sometime fence, usually roving between Sanctuary, Kwannom, and points south.. He seeks to circumvent the taxes on the Bieth relic trade. Murdach is a bulky ruddy-skinned hobgoblin, carrying a curved sword at his side and a large smile on his face. His left eye is glazed over and his left ear is forked - courtesy of a wild magic zone that he and his partner Feihong traveled through to escape Ungern's riders back in the day.

Friendly and garrulous, Murdach nevertheless deflects discussion of any shady wares away ("Artifacts? Nonsense! But if you want wondrous items, observe this beautiful teapot..."). It will take a bit of coaxing before he can start to show the Real Goods. Feihong (h m Lvl 0) is Murdach's partner, a thin man dressed in green wearing a box cap. As Murdach rattles on, Feihong will quietly and solemnly display their wares. He hardly ever speaks - not from any desire to keep a mysterious demeanor, but because he has been cursed to spit out a small creature (snake, frog) each time he gives voice. It's pretty awkward all around, but it makes him a good partner for Murdach. While the hobgoblin babbles and distracts, Feihong inspects their potential trading partners.