This should be the last of the large updates to get everything ready to go.Next week I’ll put out a god/goddess and see what I can come up for them.

The Cosmology of my world is fairly simple, but I don’t have any artistic skill or talent, so we’re going to have to go with my descriptions.

  • There are a few types of planes
  • Elemental – Fire, Air, Earth (Stone) and Water (Cold)
  • The Prime Material Plane – Kasan
  • The Outer Plane – The Iron Marches
  • and the Shadow Plane

Kasan and the Iron Marches occupy, simultaneously, the center of the cosmos. Around the Iron Marches/Kasan orbits the Elemental Planes. Surrounding them all is the plane of shadow, used to travel between each plane.

The Elemental Planes

Thanks to Sae-Oon the great chaos that was the universe was separated  into the three realms. The Elemental Planes, The first of these realms, are spheres of pure Fire, Ice(Water), Air and Stone (Earth) of tremendous size. They are separated from one another physically, but bleed into each other, The Iron Marches and the Prime through vortexes of pure elemental matter. These spheres are finite in size, though of an unknowable proportion. Each is as inhospitable to life and terrifying as the next. Fire is a land of condensed soot and ash, awash in flame and choking debris. Stone is an orb of ever-shifting mountains and avalanches riddled with caves and canyons. Water is a globe of choppy seas and roiling oceans covered in colliding icebergs and vest glaciers. Air is a sky full of clouds and razor winds with powerful cyclones of air ripping through it. Very few beings can survive here, but those that do are extremely suited for the task.

The Elemental planes orbit the Iron Marches vertically, across the Known Width, each in their own orbit, which is crucially important. Each god, and each Accursed is connected to one or more elemental plane, having a conduit them from which they draw some part of their powers. With the rising and falling of each orb, the strength of the related Paltonarchs and Accursed also waxes and wanes, providing for literal tides of war on the Marches.  In addition, their orbit  also provide the seasons for the Kasan: when fire is in apex, Summer  comes, which while rare and quick here, is long and drawn in the Iron Marches and by contrast, when cold is close to Kasan, winter reigns.

The Iron Marches

The Iron Marches is a plane of fierce warfare and bitter conflict between the gods and the accursed. It is the plane which was created by the will of the gods as a prison to for the Demon Queen, the plane to which the Accursed fled to hide from the armies of the Paltonarchs, and where the Paltonarchs made a pact to hunt the Accursed for what they had done, remaining there until the deed is done. With great forests and deep oceans, jagged mountains and unruly bogs, every type of terrain is represented in the Marches. It all suffer a slight change, however. Here, the primary mediums of creation are metal. There are rivers of molten bronze and trees of iron growing on rusting mountains and fields of golden flowers. The Marches themselves, however, are bitterly divided. The Accursed control one edge, and the Paltonarchs control the other.  The thousands of miles of contested land between each edge is a gradual gradient of the influence of the respective powers. the center of the plane houses giant forests of iron trees, and great plains of gold grasses, but as you approach the Accursed lands the mountains start to rust, and the clouds howl in silver fury while drops of mercury falling from the sky to form great silver rivers raging to the edge of the corroded plains to plummet infinitely into the world of Shadow. There the trees grow leaden, blackened with the soot of a thousand molten furnaces forging the weapons of warfare from the vile tainted metals of the land. Conversely, the landscape glows and shimmers as it approaches the land of the Paltonarchs. Iron trees become great Brasswoods, and the golden grasses flow into adamant shrubs and great, shining platinum tundra’s with towering blue hued fortresses of Cobalt dominating the land. Deep within the recesses of the plane, close to the edges of their respective sides, the Accursed and the Paltonarches make their homes in vast fortresses of precious and corroded metals. Every home is always in jeopardy here, in the Iron Marches as the constant war threatens to consume everything. When there is not immediate warfare, there is the constant threat and the preparation for it. Where there is rest, there is also readiness. The war here is eternal, the struggle between the Demon Queen, and her brothers and sisters the Elder Paltonarchs, and can only end with the complete genocide of one side or the other. Armies march across the plane in constant flux dictated by the primacy of the nearby elemental planes, each side trying to take advantage of waning powers by countering with their own waxing forces.

The Plane of Shadow

The Shadow Plane is the strangest to an outside observer. Where the other planes are either hostile, or slightly changed from the basic concepts of reality, the shadow plane is a shifting, ever shifting semi-representation of the other planes. When you exit Kasan into the shadow, you will come upon a warped, twisted version of were you left. Trees will be cut or warped, buildings may be ruined or simply missing, and roads may be overgrown or paved in completely different stones. It even shifts as you look, with living objects dying or vanishing and buildings crumbling to ruin before your eyes. The same is for the Iron Marches, which resembles Kasan closely. The Elemental planes are even less stable in the plane of shadow, simply because the elemental  planes themselves are constantly shifting, making it  extremely hard to represent them in even a decayed form. This plane was the original habitat of the Demon Queen, after her birth and the creation of Kasan and the elemental planes. Within it lives shifting, terrifying alternate versions of many creatures.

Belief, The Soul, and the Armies of the Dead

The gods and accursed reside on the Iron Marches, and there they absorb the worship of their followers. While followers do not directly create power, it is through them that the domain of a god is expanded, and therefore their base power grows. Due to the Black Pact, this is a beneficial relationship for both parties. Gods gain power through the deeds of their followers, and the souls of the followers are preserved from the clutches of the Demon Queen. What is so insidious about the Black Pact is that it blocks the gods knowledge of the death an individual who does not worship them. This allows, if the person worships no god, or worship is significantly minimal so as to not heavily alert the god, the Demon Queen to use the body, and its soul, for her own purposes. Because of this, each god has their own cadre of attendants that have the sole job of collecting the souls that the god, or accursed, dictates should be brought to them. Rarely two gods will claim the same soul, and often it comes to an accord between the gods.

The soul, once freed of its mortal shell, is then able to follow these attendants to the Iron Marches to begin their eternal servitude to the god of their choice. For some this will be on the front lines leading armies, and for others it will be logistics to supply the armies or tactics to maneuver them. Each soul is put to use to support the eternal war in the heavens. One of the things that perplexes even the gods, though, is the duration of a soul on the Iron Marches. some souls are reincarnated death after death for a thousand years, yet others vanish after a single death, never to return. Piety, devotion and personal prowess seem to have some sway, but even then there have been exceptions.

The Iron Marches are huge and war torn, with massive armies of soul-soldiers tied to their patron god marching to and from war as they follow the elemental connections. its a bleak, perilous and violent life for many, but it beats an eternity of slavery to the Demon Queen, unable to make even the most simple choice.

The Goal 

Remember the goal here is to have gods that are undeniable, distant and yet still matter. It took a lot of work over many years to get this mythology to the state it is now, and I think even that can be improved. What comes next will be a look at each of the gods, goddesses, and accursed that embody the pantheon, and showing how they are involved both in the Godswar and the mortal realms. I don’t know who is next week, but we’ll get there.

Make sure to ask questions if you have any, both for clarification and for edification if necessary.

Sometimes, its good to reflect on ones self and to look in a mirror and find out who you really are.

For me, it was a lesson I learned in high school, in a philosophy class where I was exposed to ideas and thoughts that had really never been shown to me. I took each part of me, my thought processes and my preconceptions and examined them. Those I embraced, I put back on the stack, rebuilding me. Those I disliked were tossed away like so many cracked and deformed bricks.

What I found out, through that ruthless process, was that I truly enjoyed competition. It doesn’t always have to be with others, sometimes I compete with myself, but often times it is. This is exponentially more so when you get to games. It gets bad when I am trying to best my own time while running, or make sure that I get home faster than I did yesterday, but with games it elevates itself to an entirely new level.

I love games because they are a competition, though there are three different versions of competition within games.

The first is the simplest, and is the competition of one person against either a single or multiple opponents. This is when you are trying to be the master of the game, and be better than your opponents at the game. I love these games because it lets me think in direct puzzle mode, engaging the parts of my brain that are trying to figure out whats the best path to victory against a similarly clever opponent. These games tend to give me the greatest pleasure because the opponent is a living, thinking, intelligent person like myself who is also out to get me down. Warmachine really hits this off for me, with Tabletop games filling in as well. Deckbuilding games and some board games come in here, but they also hit the second concept as well.

The second is harder to get good at, and also harder to get right. This is player against the designer. Many video games play this way to me – Its why I always play on hard. In this version of competition, you’re pitting your skills, knowledge and intelligence against a person who has play tested this game a hundred-hundred times and though that they came up with everything. They know every way to win, and every path to victory you’ll take and most often they know before you do. I enjoy video games in this manner because I can pass judgement on the game designer without knowing or ever encountering him or her based on their game. It is much harder to viciously drub a pleasant opponent and then call them terrible at the game when they are sitting across from you smiling and drinking a beer. This is also the way I view most deck building games. The creators of that type of game were definitely trying to balance the game around something, and I really take a perverse joy in trying to beat the balance to death within the rules of the game while also beating my opponents.

The final version is pretty much the most fun I can have playing games, and that’s cooperative. This version the competition is against the game itself. To me, this is significantly different from a developer competition because you have to work as a team to beat the game with your other players. You have to combine the good sportsman of the first game with the ruthlessness of the second. You have no rules arbiter or referee, and you surely don’t have someone who wants to interpret the rules any way other than for the benefit of the players, so its got to be a hard, hard game in order to be any fun, and hard games are the most fun.

With all that said, I know that while I am competitive, I still let the narrative and casual gamer out alongside the artistic one.  In MTG this means that while I want them to hum and work with brutal precision, I have an insane fixation on strange themes with my decks. This means that I don’t really like mercs in my faction armies in Warmachine, and it means that I love reading the fluff wording during board games. Knowing that I am competitive also helps me suppress it when I need to, though it is hard. It means that I can step back and try to just flow with the game as opposed to forcing, especially in multiplayer games, my style of games on the rest of my friends.

Its important to know where you stand on the spectrum of gamers, and why you stand there. It helps you decide what games you like, and why. It also helps you interact with the other players of a game in a manner that makes both of you feel comfortable, because you can just say what you are without having the opponent get through the vast majority of a game before figuring it out.

Finally, and most importantly, it lets you know how you’ll get the most fun out of a game that you own or play. For me, I have to look at the models and the rules. If the rules aren’t good enough to be competitive, its going to be a little hard for me to embrace, but if they seem clean and clear cut, I’ll be all over it.

So take a few minutes and determine for yourself what type of gamer you are and embrace it. Get all in it. Become it. But control it and turn it off when you interact with gamers who are different from you. Its always better to play games with others than never play a game again.

Thanks for bearing with my absence! Though it was longer than I thought, NOVA was a ton harder on me than I’d anticipated. It was an amazing time, and I’ll talk about it tomorrow, but I really needed a day of recovery, which meant that I wasn’t going to be writing last night for any reason. Instead, I’ll get it going today, and move to on to the Godswar and general Cosmology, because they are connected together.

After the creation of the earth, the death of Sae-Oon, and the birth of the Demon Queen, the cosmology was set. There was the earth, Kasan, the body of Sae-Oon covered in the four elements. Around it orbited the four elemental planes, the pools of pure elements that the gods had saved for themselves from the coalescence. Between each of these, surrounding each individual plane in a dark mockery of itself, is the plane of Shadow. Each of the four gods built palaces on the newly formed world, as they could not survive in each others planar homes. The orbits of the elemental planes caused the seasons to emerge on Kasan, which caused curious events to arise. Rain fell onto the earth, and with it came the god of rain. Grass, trees and other plants arose, and with them as well, came gods. What Sae-Oons death had brought was the gift of primal essence. Each new event, each new creation brought with it its own god or goddess. Kasan was to be populated with his children. Thousands of gods were born in those years, and made their homes on Kasan as well. There were gods for each color, and for every animal, though none of the animals were sentient yet: That was a gift only for the gods. There were gods for every thought process, concepts place. Their numbers were as grains of sand upon a shore. While these spontaneous gods were many, there were also the birthed gods, the sons and daughters of passion among the gods themselves. These gods were granted domains upon their birth, and were generally powerful, wide domains under which several other gods fell. Marija, for example, was given the wilderness, and Gestril weather and storms.

The gods also had needs that must be met. Castles must be built and food must be served and palaces cleaned. While gods are powerful, their power was based on the quantity and abundance of their domain. The god of green was extremely powerful, while the god of exotic birds was quite weak, but they all had tasks they could not accomplish by themselves, and most were to vain to get their hands dirty with these simple tasks. To this end, they pooled their considerable powers and created, for the first time, a being. Perfectly suited to the tasks they needed, they created Humans. Short life spans, strong backs and a rabid desire to reproduce, they became the perfect servants.

But even this was not enough to quell the growing resentment in the younger gods, especially those created inadvertently from the creation of humans. The god of ambition, Ferosh, was the first to speak out against the greater gods, and Siaron, the god of invention, was the first to be seduced by his words. It was not long before they had gathered a great host, and in an incident of violence unparalleled prior to this time, ambushed and murdered several gods in their homes. There were two consequences of this horrific event. The first, and intended consequence, was the sparking off of war between the gods. The second was completely unknown and unexpected: The death of a god bestowed upon its killer the domain and powers associated with the now-dead god. This was revolutionary and escalated the conflict swifter than anyone had expected.

The war, however, drug on. Gods killed each other, and gained powers doing it, until it seemed that each side was unassailable to the other. There seemed to be no end in sight, and no solution. The Rebel gods – who by now had recruited to their side a number of elder gods, though none of the Primal – were the first to arm their attendants, the races of the world, with powerful godslaying weapons and march them to war alongside the gods themselves against their stronger and more plentiful opponents. The Primal gods responded in kind, and soon the struggle reached even greater heights, with millions and millions of lives being spent attacking and slaying single gods on both sides.

Even this, though, was not enough to turn the tide.  One god, though which one has been lost to time, looked at his armies and thought that they could be even greater. He granted them great strength and size, and martial prowess to kill a hundred human servants, and created giants. Soon, his idea was taken farther and farther, granting scales and teeth to make lizardmen; wings and elemental breath for dragons; stout fearlessness for dwarves and wild, ferocious abandon for Orcs. The world became populated with living weapons off all sorts created for all sorts of specific purposes.

This was enough to turn the favor of war towards the rebel gods, and they pushed forward, slaying hundreds of gods, and getting even more killed from their own side. The brutality was unhindered in every way, and the armies destroyed great swaths of Kasan in their quest to rid the world of their hated oppressors. The rebels finally trapped the Primal gods and their most trusted friends and allies in the Fortress of the Dawn, the sun gods own palace at the edge of the world. Here, the rebels were unable to enter the fortress. It was as old as the Primal gods and as strong as their combined might. Here, truly, the war ground to a halt.

Some of the rebels wanted to end the war, leave the Primal gods holed up in their fotress, sealed off from the rest of the world, but the leaders of the rebels were not content to have almost the entire world to themselves, instead they wanted to eradicate the Primal gods from existence. And Ferosh, now the god of Ambition, Deception and Trickery, thought he knew the way. He had contacted the Demon Queen out in the Plane of Shadow and she had convinced him that she could give them all powers unmatched by the Primal gods, and could enable their victory. He shared his plan with a select few, and contact was initiated. No one knows what the powers that were granted to the rebel leaders was specifically, but it had a cost, one that the rebels agreed to for generations unto eternity – any soul not claimed by a god was to be given to the Demon Queen a night and a day after their death. Their bodies, as well, belonged to her.

Now, with the power of the Demon Queen and the Black Pact made, they prepared for the final assault against the Primal gods. What had happened, though, was spread among the Rebel gods, and very few were pleased at the turn of events, and especially with the concession and signing of the Black Pact. In an event that Ferosh and the others had blindly ignored could happen, many of the Rebel gods rebelled once again, attacking the group that would forever more be called Accursed. The Primal gods saw the chaos in the camp around the Fortress of Dawn, and sortied out into the rebel camp, and with the assistance of their newly allied gods, pushed the rebels out.

When the Primal gods were told what had happened, and of the Black Pact, they sent a party out to find the Demon Queen, while others created a great prison for here where  she would be unable to aid the rebels. She was swiftly hunted down, though being the child of both the Proginetors, was unable to be destroyed and was cast into the prison created for her: The Iron Marches. Shortly thereafter, as the Accursed were being hunted down, they managed to feel the pull of the Iron Marches and they escaped the wrath of the Primal Gods by fleeing there as well, leaving their armies of hundreds of millions behind, abandoned in their hour of greatest need. The Primal gods knew there was no choice, now, and followed the Accursed into the Iron Marches, where even today the war still rages on. The accursed are assisted by the Legions of the Demon Queen in defending against, and occasionally attacking, the Primal gods.

What had made the prison so enticing was now the cause for eternal struggle, as very few of the beings created on Kasan could transition to the Iron Marches. Many would have their souls torn apart in the attempt, and others would simply vanish from reality. However, each side could recover their great champions and their hallowed dead from the realm of mortality to the iron marches, though they would only slowly regain their memories and skills. It is through this capacity that the Godswar is still fought with massive armies of soldiers lead by gods in their Warforms and the greatest champions of the ages.

 

I know this isn’t as complete, and doesn’t contain the cosmology, but this took way longer than I thought. Next week, I promise, we’ll get Cosmology! Also remember: This is meant to be a discussion, please comment and let me know what you think, and if you have any ideas, though don’t be insulted if I don’t use them!

The Monday Mythology series is meant to be a discussion about what I have in my head and how to best portray it on paper and in game. If you have any comments or critiques, please feel free to leave them

I originally was going to discuss both the creation myth and the Godswar here, but I was not quite as happy with the creation myth as I originally thought. It took me a while to re-write it because I was unhappy with my original portray of Akos, the female embodiment of chaos. I kept, in my head, revolving around two terrible archetypes for her: The raped victim and the treacherous seductress. Neither were ideas which conveyed what I really wanted to have happen in my world.

Instead, I have created this:

In the beginning, there was a twisted sea of four elements, neither separate from each other nor a single whole. There was only chaos.  Fire was not separate from Earth and Water was no different from Air.
The rolling elements, after a time, gave forth a son and a daughter.
The daughter was named Akos. She was mistress of Chaos, born of the universes primal destruction
The son was called Sae-Oon, and he was the master of Peace, born to sort the universe into its separate components.
Where Sae-Oon walked, the chaos separated and organized.
The Earth formed under his feet so he would have land to tread on. The Air coalesced above and around him so he would have a place to move.
Fire, his sword, to his right, and the water, his shield, to his left.
Akos only brought destruction where she went. The roads that Sae-Oon tread were torn apart, the sky filled with fire and waters sunk away. Akos, seeing all that Sae-Oon was, desired him.
But Sae-Oon treasured his creations, and was enraged at the destruction that Akos caused. When Akos approached him, he rebuked her
“Why do you come, Akos, destroyer of all I create”
“I desire your company, Sae-Oon. I am alone in the universe, without equal, Save for you. I would give all of creation for your company! There is only us! You are my match!
“It cannot be, Akos. You destroy all that I create. You cannot keep yourself in check. I will be alone, and you will be alone. I despise you! ”
Akos, spurned, and dejected, walked back alone into the Maelstrom.
But Sae-Oon soon felt the truth of Akos’ words. He created vast mountain ranges, deep seas, and clear skies. He created too, rivers of fire, flying icebergs and great clouds of ash. Nothing, however, appeased his loneliness. He desired company.
So he created from the primal elements the first Gods, his children. Evalrun, from cold logic of stone
Takkannas, from burning wrath of the fire
Nera, the capricious desires of the cold
a
nd Conadral, the silent expanses of air
These four beings, though, were reverent to him, and though they gave him respect and love, they were not his equals. Whatever they could do, he could also do. He felt no kinship to his creations. The loneliness only amplified itself, compounded by the absence of Akos, who he had started to long himself. On a particularly terrible bout of loneliness, Sae-Oon drank himself into a stupor, though it took precious little of the Godsmead to do it. It was a concoction created by all his children together, and he very much enjoyed it. With ferocious vigor he set into the Maelstrom, calling out for Akos, over and over. His children had never seen him this way.  Akos heard his calls, however, and came out. She took him in, and they lay together. Throughout the night, there was much commotion, and the Gods were terrified. The next day, Sae-Oon woke alone, deep in the wilds of the Maelstrom. When he returned to his children, they would not look him in the eyes. They would not tell him what his night had contained. The months passed, and while Sae-Oon was curious what had happened that night, he did not press his children. Life returned, and while he wondered what had happened to the vanished Akos, he was not disappointed she was gone. His world was orderly and he was happy.
Akos, however, did not stay away forever. One day, she returned, large with child.
“Sae-Oon!, “ she shouted, “look what we have made! A true child of the universe!”
Sae-Oon was wracked with shame, his shame. It bit to the core that he had allowed such a thing to happen, and asked his children if all was true, and as they told him everything, tears rolled down his eyes.
 He fled without a word, deep into the Maelstrom, never looking back. Eventually, alone in the mire of fire and earth, the mix of air and fire, Sae-Oon curled up in shame and slept. The Maelstrom around him  solidified and ordered itself without his conscious direction.
First came fire, his rage, to surround him.
Then, Much later came earth, enclosing his rage in defeat.
Then, shortly after, as he grew to accept it, he became calm and the waters pooled, cooling his defeat.
Finally, he was blanketed in the silence of death, and the air filled the space around him, cushioning the blows what was left of the Chaos. An enormous plane of earth, water, fire and sky now existed where there had once been only chaos. The gods, though, had saved a small bit of their connected element,  infinitely large as they were, to dwell in and on. They set these bits in motion around the  body of Sae-Oon, their father, so they may watch over him.
As all of this happened, Akos was forced to retreat into the world of shadows that was left between the planes. Here, in the darkest recesses of the universe, she gave birth to the greatest evil. Born of lust and failure, of desire and weakness, the Demon Queen ripped herself out of her mother’s womb fully formed. The experience was traumatic in the extreme for Akos, who bleed out her life as her daughter watched unconcerned.
Thus was the world, and its greatest foe, created. 

What I wanted here was a Father earth, created in shame of his part in birthing the great evil on the world, though he never saw it to fruition. His literal body was to be the world, much in the manner of Tiamat of Mesopotamian myth.

Let me know what you think of the creation story, this is the first time I’ve ever shared it with anyone, so I’m eager to see what people think!

 

So, that’s it until after NOVA! I’ll see you again for another Mythology Monday on Sept. 1!

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.

Straight from the new book!

Straight from the new book!

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.

My version saw so much more use

My version saw so much more use

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.

one of my favorite editions

one of my favorite editions

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.

 

 

The fifth edition of D&D has released the first of the three core books, the Players Handbook,  to WPN retailers and the Gencon audience, with a full release to come tomorrow, 8/19. Picking this book up on Friday has really rekindled my interest in filling out my world, and I think putting it out here for suggestions and comments will be extremely helpful.

Continue reading

Just a few days ago, Wizards released the primer and dates for the new edition of Dungeons and Dragons, and it turns out they are doing a few things different this time around.

The schedule is below.

Dungeons & Dragons Starter set: July 15th
Players Handbook: August 19th
Adventure: Hoard of the Dragon Queen (Forgotten Realms): August 19th
Monster Manual: September 30th
Adventure: Rise of Tiamat: October 21st
Dungeon Master’s Guide: November 18th

Continue reading

I’ve been playing D&D for nearly 18 years now, and I’ve enjoyed all but a few times I’ve sat down to a table with my friends. I enjoy getting together with friends, shooting the shit, and playing monsters and heroes. I’ve been DMing for almost that entire time, and I’ve run my fair share of adventures, from years long campaigns to 15 hour one shot adventures. I’ve found different ways to turn tropes on their heads and I’ve built a huge mythology in my mind and in the players games that have affected the world I created.

Continue reading

My wife got me Fallout: New Vegas shortly after it released as a gift, and I played the hell out of that game. I put over 100 hours into it, and that was before any of the DLC’s.

PS: Though its over 2 years old by now, spoilers, right?

Its a glitchy, freezy, buggy game, and if I was any other person, I’d have probably tossed it out the window by now, but I powered through it. Westside is the largest problem, in that it often slows to a crawl, if it doesn’t just outright freeze up. I’ve also encountered animals in rocks, invisible enemies, and infinite gaps in the world. But, for all its flaws, I still love the game.

FNV_Wallpaper_7_1920x1200

I had finished playing Fallout 3 some time before I picked up New Vegas, so I wanted something a little different: I turned on Hardcore mode. This unlocks a specific set of variables that makes the game decidedly different. I won’t go so far as to say that the game is harder: Food and Water is plentiful, sleep is rarely needed, and ammo does not weigh all to much; but the game definitely feels more desperate. There are popups warning about your hunger level, hydration and sleep, as well as the typical HP and Rad awareness. The biggest change, though, is the weight of the ammo. in Fallout 3 there was no need to wonder whether or not you’d use a specific ammo type, and it was light as a feather. Hardcore changes that, especially with the heavier weapons like missiles and grenade launchers.

And my new friend, the Anti-Material Rifle.

From the very beginning I wanted to play a sniper. I grabbed what rifles I could and made a go of it until I found myself an Anti-material rifle. And man does that thing roar. Sadly, I didn’t think I’d need strength as a sniper, but it turns out the the AM rifle is heavy, so for the longest time, I just dealt with a swaying set of cross hairs. It sucked, but it did make me good at timing those head shots!

I spent a ton of time and even beat the game with the sniper build, clearing every location (making sure by taking Explorer), getting very used to the way the game works. I took Boone and ED-E to up the sniper-quotient. Boone Marks out enemies in a red color, and ED-E allows me to see extremely far, upping my perception. Adding gear to increase my perception, and going to visit Dr. Usanagi to increase both Perception and Strength made it so that I was a nightmare to all the walked the wasteland. I could, and did, one-shot Deathclaws with head shots. It was glorious!

I tackled Dead Money and Honest Hearts when the game came out, but the wait I had for Old World Blues and Lonesome Road were to long, and they fell off my radar. However, a friend mentioned playing New Vegas recently, and it kindled my interest again. I picked up the game, and downloaded what I thought was the next DLC: Lonesome Road (I was wrong, and damn it, that makes me angry). I Immediately went north, Rifle in hand, and entered the Divide (I assumed it was the Grand Canyon. Maybe not?)

The divide and all it offers is a blast. I’m not going to do a walk through, though I am tempted by my predilection to do so. Instead, I am going to try to just give impressions and thoughts. Its a very cool place. The environs of a blown out canyon are cool, though they offer little in terms of a different feel. The main enemies are irradiated, trapped and insane Marked Men, who are both former Legion and NCR members. They are tough as nails, and have a pair of very aggravating traits: They tend to wear helmets, making getting head shots much more difficult, and they have the Rad Child perk, regenerating health in a land full of regeneration. If I don’t kill them right out with a head shot, its very likely that they will come and try to cave my brain in with Thermic Lances, Blades of the West and other very gruesome means.

 

Many times you have to explode undetonated nuclear weapons in order to get through to the next place. I’m not really sure how that works, though, as the explosion radius seems not to be to large. Maybe they are just small nukes.

Anyway, the whole time you’re chasing down Ulysses, another Courier, who is using a modified ED-E robot you found in order to communicate with you. He leads you through ruins and tunnels and back out again to where he’s planned to launch a nuke over to the NCR’s lifeline to the Mojave. From there, you can choose who to nuke, once you remove Ulysses as a threat.

Honestly, there isn’t much new, but there is a ton of content. 25 new locations filled with Marked Man and the other new bad guy: Tunnelers. These tunnelers are one of the things that really left me aching to find a secondary weapon to my AM rifle. Tunnelers, well, tunnel, and you can’t target them below the ground. They pop up close to you and do some serious damage, especially for one used to wearing light armor and crouching. Most often they would 2 or 3 shot me and I wouldn’t have time to get more than a single shot out. Add on the fact that they’ll actively swarm you with clusters of 2-3 of them, and you’ve just got a recipe for dead sniper.

Thankfully, one of the first Marked Men I killed had a Plasma Defender on him. I love energy weapons, so I figured I’d give it a shot. I’d been working up my Energy weapons, so it seemed a good fit. Thankfully, it did everything I wanted. With the extremely fast rate of fire and the low AP usage in V.A.T.S, I was able to pretty regularly overcome the Tunnelers I did face.

The hardest part of the whole mission, though, was completely optional. You end up sending a nuke to land just outside of Hopeville, the first area. If you go back there, it ends up being overrun with Irradiated Deathclaws that are extremely aware of their surroundings and are overly durable to anything but a AM rifle round to the head. While I enjoyed clearing the area, it was a brutal slogfest that didn’t end up giving me a whole lot more than I’d started out with.

In the specific instance of the Irradiated Deathclaws, being a sniper was a significant disadvantage. However, most often, the habits of wandering around in crouch mode as well as having a sniper rifle at the ready most times made the Marked Men and many of the normal Deathclaws trivial. In one spectacular instance, I exit into the wasteland from the top of a building. Thanks to my perception being so high and ED-E’s help, I can see there are enemies all around. Because I am at the top of the building, I have height advantage on every one of them. Though it took me almost an hour real time, I cleared every one of them out without needing to leave the roof of the building. It was glorious!

Courier

When I get to the end of the DLC, I wanted to see what the discussion would be with Ulysses, even though I was positive I wouldn’t save it. The discussion is interesting, but wasn’t anything I could live without. So the end battle was, as many of my battles, anti-climatic. I reloaded and then shot Ulysses twice in the back of the head from very far away, and then dealt with the many, man Marked Men that come to his aid. It took me a few tries, though. Ulysses is extremely hard to kill if you don’t drop a shell into his Noggin at least once. You a neat weapon from it, Old Glory, an old eagle-headed flagpole, and his duster and mask, which both are pretty good. You also can open up new areas on the map depending on who you nuke, and the legion camp I bombed was pretty neat.

I enjoyed the experience Thoroughly, and I look forward to playing Old World Blues. Makes me happy they are doing Fallout: Boston. At least that’s what the rumors are!

When it comes to Pen and Paper RPG’s there seems to be a sliding scale that is used to describe how a player approaches both their character and the game. On one end of this imaginary scale is the powergamer who is actively pursuing the game to its highest numerical end. They completely disregard of the personality of the character, having only the barest of bones to role play with: generally race, class and sex. On the other end stands the Complete Roleplayer, giving up every numerical advantage they can to have their character as close to the vision of the player as they can.

Neither end can really comprehend the other, as they are as antithetical to one another as the shadow is to light. Many times these two extremes, whether both are in the same group or not, will tear at any player in the center. These centrists represent the backbone of RPGs, the traditional player who wants nothing more than to have both an  effective character in combat and also while having a reasonably developed personality.

As the years have worn on, this central player has more and more disappeared, replaced by the two extremes. I’ve played D&D since I was around 12. I started in AD&D, moved to AD&D 2e, playing that for a very long time. After 3.0 came out, I did eventually grab the game, and grew to love 3.5. With the advent of 4e, I reflected on the fun that 3.0/3.5 had brought, and decided to run with 4e and see where it took us. I’ve also played Vampire, Gamma World, d20 Modern, Silver Age Sentinels, and the IKRPG. I dabbled a little in Savage Worlds and Exalted. Every game I played had its own dynamic, but they invariably contained people further along the spectrum towards either Personalities or Powergamers or both. lately, however, I have seen harder and harder stance towards one or the other, with little thought given to meeting in the middle. During these games, these two sides almost always would clash, causing player tension, which is the death of any game.

freaks-and-geeks-dd-700x466

What really causes the divide is that there is a significant mental difference between the two perspectives starting points in playing the game. Powercentric players seek out and create a powerful character, placing a personality and character attributes around the core of the powerful character like a shell. It can be a very detailed and pretty shell with layers of color and different patterns, but it is still, ultimately, a shell. Personalitycentric players will seek to create a character and then fill out that character with abilities that match it. While its pretty and gorgeous on the outside, with the most fantastic styling, excruciating precise details and deep roots to the center, the core can be very rotten. The rules and abilities that they pick are based on color, not on taste. Its a very basic difference that is hard to describe, and even harder to acknowledge, as they are  simply incomprehensible to the other.

D&D has always been the poster child for the powercentric because it enables a massive selection of choices that inevitably devolve into combat choices. Even the most character driven player becomes wary of the danger and finality of combat, and combat effectiveness becomes the focus of almost every character. When the figurative life of the character you have built through your mental power, given breath through your force of personality, and become attached to through shared experience is in jeopardy, players almost always start crunching numbers to make sure their emotional investment sticks around, because numbers are the only defense you have against death in that game.

But there are, inevitably, people for whom the puzzle of creating a powerful character is the original draw, for whom the the death of the enemy is not enough, and nothing but their total numerical annihilation will suffice. These are the people who strove to hear M. Bison yell “Perfect!” at the end of a match. They hunt down every complex interaction and every written rule that they can glean an edge from. They hunt down every +1 and each additional die that they can add to their characters sheet. They are little more than the complex number generators of a video game wrapped in paper.  I find that there is no joy, no fun, in those characters. There is only the hollow victory before you need to get the next level, the next feat or ability that will allow you to do more numbers. When all your game decisions are made for you because they are factually the best  its much harder to create a character that is believable, especially after the first. When every character you play has the same basic core, there is nothing new about it, no matter the color of the shell.

wanderingmonsters-large

As another extreme, if you take a personality player and have them make a character who has a fully fleshed out life, has a family, a job, and a solid roof above his head. What reason does this character have to be in the game? what reason could possibly make him leave his comfortable life? each of his four children are painstakingly detailed, as well as his boss and his family tree. The layout of the house he lives in includes rooms for the kids, the stables and the cook. Maybe the character is a loner, someone who just likes it better on their own, without the interference of people of lesser skill. He’s been a hardened veteran of countless countless battles, and has no trust of the world. Neither of these characters is part of the world, they are either above it or contained by it. They could have the strongest rules set to back them or none at all, but they are as useful as a heap of used diapers.

I try to stay in the center, as Building my character to be powerful gives me a sense of accomplishment, but that accomplishment means nothing if I stare at my belly button between combats. I’ve taken a character’s bare bones idea and fleshed it out to be the best that concept can be. My most personally powerful character was a complete accident, one that a friend of mine had to unfortunately suffer through DMing as he was an unstoppable force of Magic. Now, I do have to say that I only played in an Epic Level 3.5 game once, and man was it insane, but I tend to stay between 1 and 15, so my power curve is a little shorter than most. Endrus “Hammer” Tolsien was a Human Mage (enchanter) that didn’t have a single offensive damage spell. What he had was Spell focus and a build created to make his enchantments extremely robust. Hold, Charm person, Charm Monster, Mass Hold, Slow, Haste, the list goes on and on. What really made him bonkers was that he was super-effective against anything alive and enchantable, but was also extremely good at buffing the party to take on things that were not. Oh, and he used a Maul, in combat if necessary, and I took feats and abilities to make it so he was good at it, because it was in his story and background I had written for it. No other game would allow me the freedom to create a character so detailed and rich and full of story that I have ever played. And that is the beauty of RPG’s: They are small scale acting studios with a game behind them. 

None of it all matters, though, when the understanding of the core of the game flies out the window. When the Personality player creates something that is so detrimental to the group that it is divisive, when the Power player creates a character who’s very essence nullifies the rest of the groups existence, or when the middle creates a character that wants to stay home and do nothing. Everyone can be equally guilty at making the game  no fun for anyone other than themselves. 

What really is at the heart is that the game is a group game, set up between more than a single person. While you want to create the character that fits you the most, always keep in mind that there are other people at the table as well, including the GM, that are there to have fun. If your character, by their simple existence, is making someone else not have fun, you’re doing it wrong. You can build a powerful character that is the bane of the strongest monster without nullifying the DM, and you can create a dark character without having him be forced to come along for the ride. When creating a character you have to keep in mind that the whole game is based around going on adventures, and that the personality you create, bare or obese, needs to be able to go out on these adventures with others, and that these others need to have as equal a spotlight as you. I’m as guilty as anyone else is about breaking these rules, but I try hard to keep these in mind, letting other speak, kill monsters, and take the spotlight.

If you can’t you should probably go find a video game to play, because playing by yourself will be just as satisfying. I’ve heard Neverwinter Nights and Baldurs Gate are very, very good.