Over the last 18 years, I’ve DM’d nearly exclusively in a world of my own creation. It’s a fairly cold place, with short cool summers and brutal, cold winters but life has managed to grab hold, and civilization is nothing if not persistent. I’ve generally focused on the relatively medieval nation of Tyrndall and its fall from powerful nation to a despotic Tyranny, and I think it’s time for a change of pace. Tyrndall’s main rival and sufferer of equal misfortune is the late republican Roman based Killbar. Though the adventurers had heard about what had happened and even visited the land once or twice, the perils of its peoples and the darkness that has fallen on the land hasn’t really been showcased.
Category: 5th Edition
Good day, and welcome again to the tales of the Obsidian Vault Reclalmations!
The first meeting of the group happened on Tuesday, and everything went quite well. There are currently four of us in the campaign – Some of the potentials had work schedule changes, or were sick, or some other problems. That’s why Tionas invited multiple people – Just In Case. So without further ado, I will introduce you to the current team:
Race/Class: Human Fighter
Description: Atalian is a stoic-looking individual. He dresses primarily in dark colors that don’t show the dirtiness of travel, his skin tanned from months of sun exposure. His black hair is kept short, and his brown eyes tend to be hard on those he watches.
His weapon is one of his prized possessions. Made for him by the Dwarves of Narunmad after he stayed and fought with them, the weapon looks much like the blade of a short sword on the end of a shaft much like a glaive would be. The haft of the weapon is carved with intricate spirals of runes, the meaning known only to him.
Atalian speaks many languages – If it is spoken by any significant population, he knows it. Killbaran, Tyrandallian, the dialects of the shared tongues of Dwarves and Orcs, Elvish, Draconic, and even Celestial, learned from his time studying with the Dwarves.
History: Atalian is the son of Tyrandall, and was sent to study with the dwarves of Narunmad, seeking knowledge on the ancient Primal language. Close to the end of his studies, the tentative peace between the Dwarves and the Giants to the south disappeared, the Giants and Dragons attacking the Dwarven cities. Atalian stayed and fought alongside the dwarves, earning his weapon in this time. He was with them as they fell back further and further, eventually reaching Kenderick, then Anzerat before making his way to the Tyrandallian city of Kendian with some of the dwarven survivors.
After ensuring his companions were situated as best as he could, he returned to Tyrandall, and was sent west in search of more information on this Primal language. He stopped in Hilea, then made his way north to the Elvish lands. He hoped he would be able to convince them to allow his entrance, but was met with only violence, returning to Belian briefly before heading to the Orcish city of Gagdreg.
From there, he returned to Hilea, gathering supplies before making his way west to where the Killbaran city-states fought among themselves for power, dominance, and even food. He made several stops at various places, notably helping Bethania a T’ominex’s forces secure their newfound hold over Bacatae.
While there, he learned of the return of Tyrandall’s iron-fisted King, and having no desire to see the madman in possession of the knowledge he had accumulated, decided to seek out the Obsidian Vault on the recommendation of one of Bethania’s fighters. Parminium was thus his next destination, and it was here he met with the others.
Notes: This is my character, so obviously I will know more about him than the others. One of the others sent me an awesome amount about his guy, but for Atalian? I can fill in the gaps on the fly as needed.
Race/Class: Human Monk
Description and History: Haltz has led a secluded life for the past twenty years, teaching himself martial arts and attempting to conquer the elements. After the fall of Killbar, he sent himself into the wilderness, following Nera’s favor of wandering and exploration. As his self-imposed exile went on, his disdain for civilization grew next to his capabilities in sustaining himself in the wild.
When he hit a plateau with his self-taught combat, he set a challenge for himself, following Retren’s teachings of hardships as personal trials. He would fast for a week, spending 12 hours of the day with his left side exposed to the burning sun, staring directly into the sun with his left eye. For the 12 hours of the night, he exposed his right side to the bitter cold.
At the end of the week, his left side was sun burnt and ragged, his right side frostbitten and blackened. Satisfied with this endurance, he decided that the wild was no longer suitable for him – It had become too easy. He turned his eye back towards the challenges that civilization will bring, and made his way back to what had become the Killbaran city-states. In his travel he heard of the Obsidian Vault and made his way to Parminium, and hopes that the path ahead will challenge him more and more, allowing him to grow stronger and more versatile.
Race/Class: Tiefling Monk
Description and History: Ronin was orphaned at a young age, living a rough life in the streets before being brought in by his Order. A tiefling of red skin, he does not fit in well with the more common crowds, a fact made obvious by his scars – His left horn is almost entirely missing, and while his right horn curls back along his head, it stops abruptly, the tip broken off long ago. He also lacks a Tiefling’s typical tail – The reasons behind this are known only to him, and few care enough to ask.
Race/Class: Wood Elf Rogue
Description/History: Carric is the offspring of a pair of elves that decided on self-imposed exile when the Elven leadership called everyone back and closed their borders. He has grown up in a Killbaran setting, although not entirely in a noble setting. He was expelled from his city for one too many thefts, and was spotted on the road by Nimel, the recruiter for the Obsidian Vault. Seeing opportunity, he made his way to Parminium.
Carric has coppery skin with a greenish tint, and his favored weapons are his bow and a pair of daggers.
Now that everyone is introduced, I shall recap the (short) session that we played through. Each of our characters were meeting with Brolen, the Vault’s Dwarven treasurer, when a man from the town of Meturius came, asking for the Vault’s aid. Their silver mine – Formerly one of the most famous in Killbar – had been overrun. Goblins, he had said.
But they flushed the goblins out. The mines were clear – They sent in a team to check things out. Then they sent in a second team to check on the first team. And then he made his way here, as neither team had been heard from again.
Brolen asked our characters if we would be willing to do the job. Silly question. I think we’d all end up crawling the walls if we were left here too long. Happy to see us accept, Hadruck, the Obsidian Vault’s Half-Orc leader, instructed Brolen to give us an open writ for supplies.
We made our way to the supplier – A fat, greasy, nasty man named Timorus. Generally a terrible example of a human being, he did have what we needed – supplying us with another gallon of oil for Atalian’s lantern, more arrows for Carric, and some jerky and hard tac for our time away from civilization.
It was at this time that Ronin commented on the spiderweb tattoo on the back of Timorus’s neck. Timorus claimed it had no real significance, but everyone had seen a similar tattoo on the left side of Hadruck’s neck, and Atalian, during one of his conversations about the Dwarven lands with Brolen, had noticed a similar tattoo on the dwarf’s right wrist. None made any effort to hide the tattoos, but neither were they making an effort to show them off.
After securing our supplies, we rested for the night, meeting up with an outbound caravan to Meturius in the morning. Around mid-morning, the caravan was stopped – The guard had noticed something in the woods.
At this point, everyone slipped into their combat postures. Carric made his way into the woods, quiet as a mouse. Ronin used his monastic magic to send the sound of a twig snapping behind whatever was making the noise. At this point, an awful, nasty goblin shouted and jumped up. He was out of view of everyone, behind the tree – Or so he thought. Carric took a shot with his bow, killing the goblin and causing its companions to flee.
After Carric recovered his arrow, the caravan continued on, only pausing when it was ambushed once again – By a deer. Arriving in Meturius in the evening, the session came to a close.
Next week, I’m sure we’ll be making our way into the mine, and hopefully I’ll be able to get some use out of this fancy polearm. Goblin heads do not deserve to be attached to Goblin bodies.
It is time!
Its been over a year since I’ve been at an RPG table at all, an even longer since I have been behind the screen as a DM. Now, its time for me to return to my favorite non-competitive past time and start weaving stories.
I will be sending my adventurers in the wreckage of the Killbaran Empire, the shattered shell of what was once a great mageocracy and then a short lived dictatorial Empire. Now, in its rotting carcass over 30 city states and countless warlords and bandits vie for control of the what they can chew off.
NAME: Hedima, Accursed of The Lost
Other Titles: Queen of Traps, The Lure, Beguiler, The Mad Accursed
Weapon: Mace (Discorder)
Major Domains: The Lost, Chaos, Confusion
Minor Domains: Mazes, Traps, Curiosity
Totem Animal: Toad
Holy Symbol: As one of gods of Chaos, Hedima’s holy symbol has many variations. Her most common is a pounded silver medallion with a maze either engraved or painted into it. Each of these mazes has three exits: one at the top, and two at either side, symbolizing Chaos, Confusion, and Curiosity, the three main reasons people and things become lost.
Favored Appearances:Hedima tends to walk the world as a female, though her form is easily confused for a male. Androgynous, with a sharp jawline, wide eyes, and a high forehead. She wears black trousers almost without exception, and a loose, white shirt. Her hair rests easily on her shoulders, but is sometimes worn pulled back into a ponytail to place emphasis on her jaw and forehead. In this shape, she will respond to both male and female forms of address and seems to revel in confusing and deceiving whoever addresses her.
Hedima’s Male form is the complete opposite, a definitive man, with a large barrel chest, broad shoulders, and limbs the size of tree trunks. His beard is a singular brown expanse that is the envy of many. However, he is a terrified being, scared of the smallest animal, afraid to confront those who threaten him, and dismissive of anything that isn’t immediately a threat to his person. He will also wander off at the worst time in a conversation and has been known to interrupt people just to make a nonsensical comment.
Warform: When Hedima Marches to war, its in the form of a gigantic toad. Its eyes, tongue and mount are all pure flame, while her body is riled water riddled with Ice-warts. Its legs, too, are ash and coals compressed into muscles and sinew built to propel around her massive girth. In battle, she seeks out enemy commanders and consumes them whole, hoping to sow confusion and discord among the ranks and therefore cause a rout.
Personality: Hedima is, like many of the gods of chaos, a being with many facets. Though many of her actions concern chaos and confusion, her true dedication is to the lost. This concept of lost encompasses all aspects of the term. Under her ward are those who have become lost, those who have lost their way, and even those who have lost their mind, though this can sometimes lead to conflict with Woan. Additionally, it also encompasses lost knowledge, missing bits of lore and civilizations that have ceased to be entirely. To this end, she seeks to, as befits her nature, either continue or abate that condition as she seeks fit. She is the patron of people looking for something they have lost, seeking to have something become lost, and those we are lost themselves. Though all pray to her to their own ends, they know that they are simply at her mercy. With her mercy, however, she is mercurial and volatile. Those who please her only know a short spat of bountiful attention and adoration before her attention turns else where. Likewise, she is also quick to forget past grievances and cannot hold a grudge long.
She loves tricks and traps, and enjoys seeing her quarry both elude and succumb to her deadly attention.
Teachings: With such conflicting ideals, it is hard for any solid teachings to come from Hedima. She teaches that those who are, or that which is, lost are there for a reason. Diving that reason is the province of Hedima alone, though her acolytes are encouraged to work towards assisting the lost with their purpose, whichever end that is that they see fit. They are also taught that in a straight up fight, the winner is the one who can cause the most confusion. Therefore, make the enemy come to you, through a maze of traps and tricks meant to kill, maim and disable even before the battle begins. Fighting in a forest or out on the plains, chaos is your most valuable resource.
Abode: as befits the Queen of Mazes, Hedima lives in an enormous labyrinth deep within the accursed side of the Iron Marches. Built of Lead and rusted iron, its sharp edges and lead-lined pools of water are traps in themselves. In addition to stocking The Warren with captured souls from the battles in the Iron Marches, she enjoys wandering it in person when her powers wane and she is no longer needed preparing ambushes and leading trappers in war on the plane.
Cultists: The cultists of Hedima are a confused bunch, rarely gathering together in a single group long enough to make decisions. However, there are many that operate individually throughout the world, doing what they can to sow chaos and confusion. There are some few, however, that maintain lodges and libraries in the most remote of places, seeking knowledge and people lost to both time and the world. When encoutnered or found they offer hospitable exchange of supplies and information at the cost either information of your own, or memories you hold dear. These crazy, deranged hermits are not to be messed with.
Clerical Attire/colors: Hedima’s followers tend towards clashing colors of purples, greens and pinks. Though most of the time they do not flaunt it, if you find all three colors on the same person its very likely that they follow the Mad Accursed. Those high ranking cultists of Hedima wear, as a badge of office to other followers, a broad, dyed pink, belt made of some sort of skin. The material is left to that of the creator, and it is not polite to ask what ones belt is made of.
Followers: The Followers of Hedima count among their numbers barbarians, tricksters, assassins, strategists and thieves.The worship of this particular accursed is fairly popular with Elves, though Dwarves and humans have only a passing relationship with her.
What’s this? An article by someone other than Tionas? What madness is this?
It’s actually pretty simple. I’m Andon, Tionas’ brother. And I am going to be doing a weekly article on his D&D campaign that’s set to start on Tuesday. For some background information, I highly recommend going through the Mythology Monday bits. They set up a lot of the mythology around the world and are quite a good read.
Since the campaign hasn’t started yet I can’t introduce you to the characters that don’t exist yet – But I can give you some of the information that we’ve been given on the campaign.
The campaign is set in Killbar, or rather, what’s left of Killbar. About 50 years before the campaign’s start, Killbar was a great nation, a Mageocracy run by Killbar City’s Wizards School. However, the mages of Killbar contracted the Mind Plague, which drove them all slowly and irrevocably insane. In comes the General, heading a military dictatorship which hunted down and slaughtered as many mages as it could get its hands on.
His homeland secure, he set his eyes on expansion – He went east, into Tyndarian lands. He went south, conquering Jeslith, the home of the Halflings. His treatment of them was no better than the treatment of the mages. Then he went north, hungering for the Elvish lands, but was stopped by Moduru’s Second War, in which he was slain.
After his death, Killbar City was besieged, conquered, and then razed and salted for good measure. Where once had stood a thousand years of history now only ashes and death remained. Moduru held control over Killbar for a few years but they were also defeated – Not by a single conqueror, though. No lone person came to unite the Killbarans, and two decades after the sacking of Killbar City, the rest of the once-great nation is under the sway of city-states and warlords. Some rule through trade and money. Some rule through strength of arms, and others through deception and cleverness.
These city-states are willing to cooperate enough to ensure no single entity gains too much power, but as soon as the threat is gone, so is the cooperation. This allows for bandits and cutthroats to thrive in the lands between cities, just waiting for those brave enough to travel between them so they could liberate their hard-earned belongings.
Our characters have assembled in the port town of Parminium, where the Obsidian Vault Reclamation has its base. They specialize in reclaiming goods and items from the former Killbar territories, and our characters will be under their employ. This could take us in many directions, and I am excited to see what Tionas has in store for us.
I’ll be back next week, with information on the characters, and perhaps some more information on what our goals in the campaign will be.
The new edition of D&D is starting to trickle out, as I mentioned yesterday, and I am really excited. I had held off on any emotion until I saw the actual rules. I’ve been playing D&D now for 20 some years, and I’ve been through it all. I started with my dads AD&D set, and was amazed when I moved down to Maryland and met people who played this mysterious “second edition” game. I played that system with a fervor for 4 years before 3rd edition was announced. We looked over it, and disregarded it. We saw no use in this edition. I finally got picked to play in an adventure with a friend (it was some sort of raffle), and absolutely fell in love with 3rd in early 2003. Later that year D&D 3.5 came out, and we embraced it heartily, playing it for another 5 years until 4th edition was announced. This time, I wasn’t going to be late to the party, I wanted in at the ground floor. I even bought my friend his own PHB! While we played it for some time, it was not what I had bargained for. 4 years later, after a number of tried, 4e just kinda died. We played Gamma World, tried Dark Sun out, and eventually played the Iron Kingdoms RPG, which was a blast. We’d fallen out of love with D&D, it just wasn’t the same. Wizards eventually caved, and in May of 2012 started their 2 year long beta test of the next edition. I was cautiously optimistic, burn me once, shame on me, burn me twice, well… you know the end.
So, here we are, August 2014, 2 years and just a scant 3 months after the beta test started, and I have finally purchased and looked over the PHB, the only available rulebook.
I think I might be falling in love again.
See, 2e was that first girlfriend you have. You clung on to her a little longer than was good for you, it was your first love, and you only remember the good parts of the relationship. All the negative has slowly faded away. 3e was the one that got away. You caught her at a dance one time, and had an extremely good evening, but it wasn’t meant to be, and she moved away. 3.5, though is the serious one. She reminded you of the one that got away so much. You stuck this one through, and boy was it rewarding. You made plans, you got engaged, everything happened so fast and you were swept up in the romance. Then, she broke your heart. She left you, forever, for someone else and there was no going back. Now, 4e was the rebound girl. She was vaguely fun, and it was enjoyable for the first little while until the novelty wore off, but you kept at it, trying to make it work until finally, you gave up. You realized this wasn’t good for anyone, and you ended it. You float around for a year, maybe two. You flirt with all sorts of girls and have tons of good times. Nothing sticks, though. Nothing matters. Each one has its own flaws. 5e, though. This one might be the one. She’s like your first love, and brings back all those same feelings, but she is also like the serious one. She’s got everything going for her, at first look. But you’re wary. The rebound has you worried that maybe its all just novelty. Maybe it won’t stand the test of time. but you hope it will. You just hope.
Huh, I just rode that analogy train right into the crazy station. I’ll let it go, though. Right. Back on track.
the 5e PHB is a hardbound, rock solid thing:316 pages of information related to playing the game, and nearly all of them are for the player. When I opened it up, I immediately went to the fighter class. One of my big problems with 2e/3e was that the fighter was brutally simple. There was little to no room for fancy maneuvers and other sorts of flourish and I really enjoyed that 4e game him a ton of things to do. The Fighter in 5e isn’t initially more versatile, to be honest. Its level progression chart is impressively simple.
There is a glimmer of hope, though, in that they get to choose a fighting style: Archery, Defense (Tank), Dueling, Great Weapon (2h), Protection (bodyguard) and Two Weapon. Each gives a specific bonus to the player while they are wielding the appropriate weaponry. They get a few other semi-active abilities, but at the end of the section they have the Archetypes. They are very similar to prestige classes, but available to the class on reaching 3rd level. Each archetype takes the class in a slightly different direction, with archetype abilities granted at certain levels. For fighters, that is 3rd,7th,10th,15th and 18th. Each Archetype is really intriguing, as well. A Champion is a brutal warrior, the Battle Master is a devotee to the art of war, and the Eldritch Knight is the fighter-mage. What is extra interesting is that the champion is simple, straightforward and brutal, while the Battle Master is full of choices, complexity and options. The class can easily play for both types of players.
I was cautiously optimistic at that point and bought the book, took it home and gave it a quick glance over. I even posted to my facebook that it was a love child of 2e and 3e, which didn’t necessarily garner love, which is fair. Now, though, I can take my time and try to project my meaning much better, and less in small tidbits while running around.
To me, 2nd was focused on playing the game, and discarded the numbers game, sometimes much to its detriment. there were numbers in the game, don’t get me wrong, but I feel that they were somehow more malleable than the numbers in 3.5 and 4e. The numbers in 2nd edition weren’t there to create balance, they were there to represent, as much as one can, the idea into the game. One of my general commandments of RPGs is that not all things are created equal, and so the game should not be. I don’t think that you need to validate fluffy bits in your rules, but I do think that they shouldn’t directly compete with combat bonuses, and 2nd edition did that well with its weapon and non-weapon proficiencies. It surely wasn’t equal, but it was separate. This edition also didn’t worry about the players breaking the game. Bonus types didn’t exist, and characters were allowed to do what they wanted, within the reason of the DM. Final arbitration of many, if not all, of the elements of the game were left up to the DM. Gygax many times would refer to the DM as the referee who was there to settle disputes during the game because someone had to be there to perform the task in the inevitable times that players disagreed, either with each other or the DM. This meant that the DM many times had to rule against his own pieces, and needed to be someone who was bent more towards story teller than rules lawyer in their position. Magic Items and stat lines also played a much lesser part of the game in 2nd than it did in the 3e generation of games. Your stats could only reach 18, and it was amazing when Dark Sun introduced the player character stat of 20 as something easily attainable, instead of something that only monsters had.
I know that all of that looks like I have rose colored glasses on, but that’s not true. I saw the need, and still do, for 3e to come along. D&D had been around in the same form for just over a decade and had seen a vast shift in both popularity and the way players played the game. It was overburdened by sourcebooks, rules and piles of options that didn’t mean anything in the overall scheme of the game or of roleplaying in general. Handicapping yourself is only useful if its fun, and many of the games options were either so optimal that no other options could exist, or so terrible that taking it wasn’t an option. Towards the end of the games life span characters had gotten so out of control that even the might dragons were not a challenge to many of the characters in the game. Finally, many rules were simply outdated and ignored. I cannot remember a time when we restricted character class, level or HP. We rolled Hit dice until the character stopped gaining levels. Optional rules like Multi-classing and Dual Classing were taken as given rules with no way around it, and characters were often “created” with multiple 18’s using tons of randomly rolled stat blocks because anything less than a 16 in any given stat wasn’t going to do you any good.
3rd, by contrast, is a numbers game. There are plenty of ways to make fun, enigmatic, fluffy characters, but by and large was driven by the numbers. Monsters HP was out of this world. Armor class and to hit bonuses became unlimited. Magic Items became the staple way of making sure that your character kept pace with the monsters of the world. Everything in the book became numbers driven and most choices a character could make were combat numbers. Combat and non-combat skills were combined into a single pool for simplicity sake and non-combat choices were nearly always shunned for the combat choices. What good was it to have +2 on Tumble and Acrobatics checks if you didn’t take that +2 to hit feat and got smurshed by a monster in the first two adventures. The game also had a rule for everything, and plenty of them. This change was the most insidious, as it was the one sunk its tendrils in the deepest and is the hardest to excise. who doesn’t want the game to be fair to all players, across all classes. Who wants to have an argument with the DM about how your character could totally jump that 25 foot chasm. Now, you have a rule for all of it. Everything in its place, and a place for everything. But, as I found out, that is not what happens. Instead, it erodes the DM’s ability to tell a great story. Players become “empowered” to show you the rule book and show you “right here” were the rules say that they can do this. With all the rules in place, and the game build for balance, you start accepting that they players can do whatever they want and you become, instead of a storyteller, and adversary. I tried to build the nastiest encounters and drive my players to the edge every time because that’s how the rules worked. I had become a slave to the rules, and it was terrible. I never had less fun DMing than at the end of 3rd.
I won’t only harp on the downsides of 3rd though they are many and varied. There is also a staggering amount of fantastic groundbreaking work that was done with the 3rd edition system. Player choice, once stifled behind arbitrary limits, was unleashed. Prestige classes and feats were invented to let players advance their character with options beyond their first level, and the games popularity skyrocketed. The monster manual became less a puzzle box and more of a tool box with simple, tweakable encounter creator mechanics and clear challenge ratings for the monsters. Classes such as the Barbarian, the Bard, the Warlock and the Monk became part of the core concept of D&D instead of some shunted away option. It was a glorious time to play the game, but as more stones were added to the mountain, it became harder to feel you were doing the right thing.
5th grabs the best of both of those philosophies and consolidates them into a system that, at first read through, embraces the best of both worlds. Gone are the bonus types of third edition, and there is no mention of how bonuses work together: they just do. The corollary to that, though, is that most of the bonuses to hit are gone as well, replaced with either advantage (roll two, take the better) or extra HP. Damage seems to have taken a few steps back, as well, with most bonus damages reigned in. Gone is the insane complexities that come from having negative HP, replaced with the death saves. Saving throws have undergone change again and are based on the action causing them, not static, or even deterministic stats. Options abound, with each class having between 2-9 archetypes to choose from to customize their class. Oh, and there are 12 classes: Fighter, Monk, Rogue, Wizard, Sorcerer, Warlock, Bard, Druid, Cleric, Barbarian, Paladin, and Ranger! Stats are a big part of the game, determining many of your actions, but are capped off at 20. Armor class has become more reasonable than 3rd, and more understandable than 2nd. Magic Items have finally taken a back seat to the character class itself, and from the complete absence of their mention I assume they are not as necessary. Measurements are made in feet, and the game makes no mentions of the figures and models, making the game more accessible and easier to adjudicate for those on the fly fights. The game is definitely worth picking up and giving a read through, though the $50.00 price tag is a touch steep. I look forward to giving the game a few spins, and may even talk more about the classes as I go along discovering what I can and cannot do with he game.
Though I am excited to play the game, I do have to say I am still wary of what it could turn into. I was all gung-ho for 4th, and I feel burned from the game. Its not a terrible game, when taken in a vacuum, but it is most assuredly not a RPG. I really hope my enjoyment of 5e isn’t misplaced. If it is, I probably won’t play another Wizards RPG ever again.