Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Forsaken War

There's a campaign map up over at the main G+ page for Legacy of the Bieth. On it, you can see that there is an arrow marking where the lands of the Forsaken are.

The Forsaken look like the denizens of Hell as illustrated in Wayne Barlow's Inferno, the results of living for generations in areas ravaged by the now-uncontrolled Bieth magics. They crouch in the remains of Bieth cities, expanding the subterranean tunnels and growing their civilization beneath the sands. They largely keep to the ruined cities, but some have started to expand outwards.

Interior of a Forsaken city.
From Wayne Barlow's Inferno.
About ten years ago, Caliph Abu Qasim decided that he wanted to expand the Empire's borders, secure some trade routes that didn't go right next to a Zone. Taking the results of a few Bani Khalil nomad skirmishes with the Forsaken as justification, he launched an invasion of their lands. It was expected to be a sudden quick strike. Neither the Caliph nor his advisors expected the hordes of Forsaken warriors boiling out from their cities, or the Bieth weaponry and constructs that they brought with them.

Forsaken leader General Hormisdas.
Nathan Rosario's "Portrait of a General"

The fighting went badly for the Empire; whole units were annihilated by the dark fires of Forsaken weaponry. The arrival of the Awlad-i-Dimagh, the new order of Psychic Warriors, was able to stabilize the fighting and even push the Forsaken back across the Muqabla River, where the lines held. Only after the fighting did the Imperium find out about the horrors that the Awlad-i-Dimagh had been concealing...

Imperial troops preparing for war.
Piece at Una The Blade.
It was at this time of stalemate that Caliph Abu Qasim suddenly and tragically passed away - a rapid and sharp onset of acute metal poisoning (a sword through the belly). His daughter Zainab, the new Calipha, apprehended the assassins (personally executing them before anyone could put them to the question), then offered peace to the Forsaken, seeking to end the war and consolidate her new reign. The Empire pledged that it would remain on the eastern side of the Muqabla in return for the Forsaken withdrawing from the ruined city of Qasr al-Malik.

Most Imperial soldiers returned to their homes, but many still haunt Sanctuary as laborers, mercenaries, and burned-out drunks (sometimes filling more than one category).

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Desert Lands In Places Deep; Dungeon Design

Evan's got a nice desert setting blurb up over at In Places Deep, definitely worth checking out.

* * *

I'm still working on putting together a few sites to get the G+ game up and running. For whatever reason, I find the process of stocking a dungeon to be interminable, even when I'm stocking a pre-existing map and not drawing my own dungeon. I could likely wing it, or put minimal prep in - just draw a line in to part of the dungeon saying "kobolds, traps" and improvise as the PCs approach. I feel comfortable enough with that approach that I can get a good game session in with it. But I don't know that it holds up in campaign play, because dungeons aren't generally one-shot and leave. They're explored over time, and that means having records of what's where and remembering what's changed (and what's stayed the same) since the last time players were in an area.

Any tips for dungeon construction and prep?

Friday, December 7, 2012

Civilization seems far, city dweller...

Robert Parker's Rogues and Reavers has a few excellent posts on civilization and the concept of "hardboiled fantasy." Since one of the key inspirations for Legacy of the Bieth is the spaghetti western, this is a topic of great interest to me.

Robert's posts start with examining some of the works in Appendix N of the 1e DMG, and some of the thoughts on game design that emerge. Check them out:
Eyes of the Overworld by Jack Vance - picaresques, plot hooks, and the necessity of mischief
The Snow Women by Fritz Leiber - hardboiled scenario design, and presenting a setting that can foster hardboiled fiction's themes of moral ambiguity
Ginger Star by Leigh Brackett - hardboiled settings' take on civilization, social class, and how to make that pop in play.

Robert's quite right to point out that Vance's work thrives on both whimsy and the ubiquity of swindles. (See also: Bob the Angry Flower on Vance). For Legacy of the Bieth, I don't want too much setting-loaded whimsy - after all, Roadside Picnic is another inspiration here! - but the ubiquity of swindles is definitely something to keep in mind. Everybody's got an angle that they're playing; this isn't evidence of any particular moral calumny, but just the way of the world.

In the book 10,000 Ways to Die (pdf link) Alex Cox takes a look at the spaghetti western, and divides the spaghetti western protagonists into (of course) the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. PCs will by and large fall into the categories of Good and Ugly here; the Bad represents the entrenched elements of society, which is at odds with the PC's role as a Free Agent (as per Robert's characterization in the Ginger Star essay). In discussing the Good, Cox notes:
Interviewed in a documentary about Eastwood, Leone said that what had attracted him about the actor (who he'd only seen in episodes of 'Rawhide,' speaking in a language Leone couldn't understand) was his indolencia. This easy idleness, often translated into laziness, was to become a regular heroic characteristic...The hero is never seen working hard at anything. He cannot slave like a peon or run a saloon, because regular work is one of society's demands - like ostensible submission to the law. 
This fits in excellently with the Free Agent PCs, who certainly can't fit into the straits or confines of society, because why the hell else would they be digging into tombs and running from horrible monsters? 

Robert brings up a point in The Snow Women essay regarding balance: 
"I suspect this is the "sweet spot" where D&D works best - the protagonists vary between wretchedly self-interested and morally decent, at times robbing tombs and at others saving villages. Presenting opportunities for both should be the goal of any campaign."
This melds interestingly with the distinction that Cox draws between the Good and the Ugly in spaghetti westerns: the Good is often the ice-cold revenger, remarkably adept with weapons but unable to relate to the people he interacts with, an elemental force of violence. In contrast, the Ugly is the human one of the trio, living life with gusto, comic, but with a sliver of decency hidden away. And ideally the PCs are balancing between these two extremes as well, it seems.

Cox notes that "even more than the Good man, the Ugly would in an American western have been a villain of major proportions - the bandit chief in THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN for instance...Ortiz and Hugo in MINNESOTA CLAY and DJANGO are undoubtedly villains - they ambush, torture, and kill without compunction - but there is something attractive about them. Physically they are big and fat and jolly-looking. They deck themselves out in paramilitary the director [sic] of some banana republic. They laugh a lot, though what they laugh at is often questionable..."

Sounds like a few PCs I know.

Sorry if this all seems a bit disjointed. I'm still chewing over how to best express the disaffected feeling common to spaghetti westerns and Roadside Picnic into the atmosphere of my game, without having it be omnipresent message-y nonsense.


Powder of the Moon: a powdered compound with coarse bone dust mixed with several alchemical preparations. When the powder is sprinkled upon a corporeal undead being, it is treated as though a fifth-level cleric was attempting to turn the undead. If the turning attempt is successful, the undead retreats and seeks to lie down in its grave once more, for 1d6 hours. If the turning attempt fails, or the undead had no grave to begin with, then it is tormented by visions of a proper burial, and attacks with a +2 bonus to attack and damage rolls.

Thursday, December 6, 2012


This guy was originally called the Crystal Butterfly, but after some PCs encountered it, they dubbed it the Blooderfly instead.

Like this, but no amber in the wings.
Oh, and with a 30 foot wingspan.


Big-ass butterfly (30' wingspan) with crystalline wings that glitter beautifully. Too bad it's trying to drain your blood. 

No. Encountered: 1
Movement: 120' 
AC 5
HD 5
Attacks: Blood drain - gaze attack 2d6 dmg, save vs pet/poly for half damage. Blood comes out of someone's body in a thin red mist, goes into the butterfly's wings and makes them a nice pink. 
Balefire - After 3 successful drains, it can fire a balefire blast from its antennae - HDd8 blast damage in 20' radius, save vs BW for half, it's immune to its own blast. Balefire can sometimes generate/cause illnesses. 
Defenses: The Crystal Butterfly is immune to clerical magic, being a creature of the Bieth.
Morale: 8
XP: 5 HD: 800
6 HD: 1320
7 HD: 2040