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An OD&D (and AD&D) exodus through the eyes of a lifelong gamerMothshadehttp://www.blogger.com/profile/18417201456628056552noreply@blogger.comBlogger195125
Updated: 1 day 6 hours ago

Lost Civilizations

Sat, 09/07/2019 - 21:15

In a fantasy setting, lost civilizations can represent or encompass so many possibilities beyond some exotic and empty ruins in the wilderness. Simply deciding how the civilization vanished opens possibilities and adds new dimensions. This essay explores some of those possibilities.
Curse: A great and terrible malediction was pronounced upon the entire region or population. Possibly from a deity or high priest. Could have originated with an artifact or relic. Maybe just a powerful spell. Because of this curse, the entire region is under a pall of misfortune that only an equally powerful source of benediction can lift. Those who enter or explore the region risk suffering the curse themselves. The specifics of such a curse are nearly limitless, and can be used to explain some bizarre trait or resident of the region. Is there a perpetual shroud of darkness over the area? Did the curse transform everyone into some kind of monster that now infests the site? What happens when/if the curse is lifted? Is the civilization restored? Would this be a good thing? Would the deity or object that bestowed the curse return with renewed wrath?
Disease: A terrible plague wiped out most, or all, of the populace. Such an end would probably leave the structure of the civilization wonderfully intact – at the loss of all living creatures. While the dead would litter the streets, those streets would be otherwise undisturbed. A paradise for archaeologists and looters brave enough to risk the disease. But, such a disease is unlikely to linger for hundreds or thousands of years. But, what if it has? What if the pathogen lurks within one or more dead bodies? Or, the water of a well or cistern? Or, the remains of a sacrificial animal/victim that offended the gods – leading us back to the Curse option? Perhaps the disease has evolved or mutated over time – even becoming sentient. This sentient disease could be looking for new hosts to take it out into the world.
Earthquake: Natural disaster is a classic reason for the decline or loss of a civilization. In the case of an earthquake, there won’t be much left intact. Ruins will be broken and tumbled. Much of what would be considered valuable is likely buried and crushed. Exploration might require the use of excavation tools and many strong backs. It might even be more difficult to find the ruins in the first place as they could be at least partially buried by the surrounding terrain. If the region is particularly unstable, others might have decided to avoid it altogether. 

Famine: A bad drought or blight could have brought one civilization down, but another could also have come along since – and been wiped out in the interim. Or, the newer civilization could be in decline. Perhaps the land can only sustain so many consumers. Perhaps the fertility of the region is cyclical. Dependent upon seasonal floods or infrequent storms. One civilization might be built atop the ruins of another. Or, yet another civilization on top of those.  
Fire: A conflagration massive enough to wipe out an entire city would certainly destroy many potential treasures or records. Still, structures of stone could remain standing – at least in part. Also, those who managed to flee the disaster could have settled nearby, or been assimilated into other civilizations. Their blood may be mingled with current natives of the region. Traces of the destroyed civilization may still exist – even as only oral records or salvaged artifacts (the non-magical kind). Deciding whether or not the original fire was magical would also identify the type and extent of damage to the city itself.
Flood: Possibly the most fun with a flooded ruin is deciding whether or not the site is currently underwater, whether in whole or in part. Even more interesting could be a formerly drowned civilization that has just recently resurfaced. Brand new ruins that no surface dweller has seen or set foot in for generations. Also, with a flooded ruin, you can give the players a limited number of choices for exploration without the stigma of railroading. Just leave the areas worth exploring above the waterline. Putting ruins underwater also makes it harder for the players to survey the field in advance. If the ruin is above water now, is it likely to flood again? While the PCs are exploring? Will there be any warning? Is there a time limit for safe exploration? Will there be slowly-rising flood waters adding even more drama to the adventure?

Invasion: This civilization fell to a conquering force. Possibly a force that chose not to occupy their conquest – for one reason or another. Outer walls and fortifications might have been destroyed, while dwellings and other buildings were left mostly intact. This ruin could be within the borders of the conquering nation – but left to crumble quietly into history. Any survivors could have been integrated into the conquering nation as slaves or citizens. Traces of that heritage could survive to this day. Perhaps even someone of a noble or mythic bloodline that is prophesied to return the fallen civilization to its former glory.
Meteorite: Depending on how close to the impact zone this civilization happened to be at the time, there might not be much left at all. Maybe another civilization was built around the impact point. Is the “falling star” still there? Does it have unusual properties? Has it somehow enhanced or altered the civilization? Or, is there nothing more than a crater? Or, a crater with a meteorite at the center? Or a crater lake filled with water, with a submerged meteorite at the center?
Planar Portal: So many possibilities with this one. From which side was the portal opened? Did someone from the lost civilization create or discover it? Was it opened for exploration? Was it opened to bring something through? Was it intentional? Is the portal still there? Is it still open? Did the portal open from the other side as a means for extraplanar invasion? Was it torn open in some kind of disaster/accident? Is it a threat to the surrounding landscape? Where did the people go? Did they go through the portal? Did they flee the region? Is the ruin being slowly consumed by the portal? Does the portal distort reality in proximity? Does it alter the flow of time? Is the environment beyond the portal seeping into this world to change the very form of nature? Can the portal be closed?
Tsunami: Kind of like a flood, but far more destructive. A disaster of this magnitude could easily destroy more than one coastal city. Remains of such a civilization could be found miles inland, hurled there by the force of the raging waters. Again, it is entirely possible that newer civilizations could have been built upon such a site. Also, was the tidal wave a natural phenomenon? Was it caused by the action of a titanic sea creature? Divine wrath? Would those who knew of the godly extermination risk building upon the same ground – or even nearby?

Volcano: The ruins of Pompeii really capture the imagination. Could this ruin be equally well-preserved? Or, did a deluge of molten lava wipe most everything from the map? Is the volcano still active? Would anyone dare rebuild? Is there need for a presence to keep the volcano mollified, lest it erupt again? In my own setting, I have a ruined city inhabited by golem-like “ashen undead” that haunt the site. These creatures are animate humanoid remains covered in layers of ash and stone. They seem to be intent upon rebuilding the city.
Just by considering how a civilization or habitation was lost or destroyed, many questions just seem to answer themselves. Opportunities arise. Obstacles form. Danger lurks. Adventure looms. And, for me, that’s really the point. I enjoy running scenarios in a setting that sometimes completes itself in unexpected ways. Where nothing is ever truly lost.

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Mothshade Concepts Patreon

Mon, 09/02/2019 - 20:29
Now that there is a Patreon for the Avremier project, this blog will no longer contain much Avremier content. Changes are nigh. Worlds are shifting. There is no slowing down.

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Avremier - a macro view

Thu, 08/22/2019 - 15:18

Avremier was my first attempt at creating a fantasy world. From the start, I was attracted to some of the tropes found in myth, folklore, and fantastic fiction. I was also driven to strike out on my own in new directions and in different ways. There was no desire to duplicate the work of those who came before. I saw only inspiration.
I recall writing and drawing with the intent to create from about age 6. At the time (1977) I had very few references or role models. So, I was creating as best I could from very few sources. I didn’t discover the Moldvay Basic Set for D&D until I was 11 or 12 (1982). From that point-forward, most of my creative focus was on my RPG campaign setting.
As I ran games and campaigns in Avremier through the years (1984-2017), the setting evolved and matured. Having the framework of gaming rules along with the insights and input of others really pushed the work forward. Deciding to publish some of the results a few years ago brought the project full circle.
Avremier is an alien planet placed at the exact center of Creation. It has been the focal point of exploration and incursion from other worlds and planes of existence throughout the span of time. The world itself may have sentience of a sort. The seasons manifest themselves as deity-like beings that wield seemingly absolute power over the cycles of nature and the disposition of the elements. As far as native species go, humans are not included. They came from elsewhere.
The concept of Avremier as an RPG setting is basically a fantasy treatment of Colonial America. Humans came to this world from elsewhere. They landed on the western shore of a continental landmass. They were greeted by the natives that resided at the landing point. They interacted. There was a war. Humanity lost the war and faced extermination. Through divine intervention, the remaining humans were spared and given some land upon which they could try to build.
That was the first few centuries. Humans have learned to thrive in this new world, and to coexist with their neighbors. They don’t exactly rule great empires, but there are those who could see doing so within their lifetimes. Not all lessons learned are necessarily the right ones. Time will tell.
Avremier is what humans call the world. Teloen is what the world was called before humans arrived. It has also been called Eitha Myndarun. On some charts of the planar structure of Creation, this world is simply labeled The Core.
Humans have been granted two regions of the continent. The first is Dhavon – located immediately east of the region where the first colonists landed. That region is a marshy delta known as Parateva. It is home to a race of “marsh gnomes.” They were the ones who first encountered humans during their initial arrival. The second human homeland is found to the south and east of Dhavon. Collapsed about a mile into the ground during a cataclysmic event, it is called Mauvolg.
It is important to understand that few of the native races of this world shared the values and impulses of humankind. In fantasy literature and gaming, there are a number of “classic” races and cultures. Dwarves are stoic miners and smiths with a fondness for gold. Elves are contemplative immortals with an affinity for nature and enchantment. Halflings tend to be depicted as contented homebodies that value comfort, good food and drink, and family. And so on.
Avremier isn’t like that. At least, it wasn’t before the arrival of humans. The natives of Teloen are largely of a Fae and/or Elemental nature. They had never been much inclined to build, forge, or buy. This is a vital aspect of the setting and possibly the most difficult to explain. Towns and cities are a human thing. The concept of ownership is a human thing. Money and commerce are human things. Adventuring and dungeoneering are human things. Deities and religion are human things.
This makes some aspects of the Avremier setting almost unrecognizable in comparison to other worlds. Just a brief look at a continental map will reveal huge swaths of unbroken wilderness. The realms of humankind stand out as rather isolated islands of rooftops and plowed fields among the ocean of green. Still, there are other civilizations.

The elves have Indrunel along the shore to the south of Parateva, and among the hundreds of tiny splinter islands just off of that shore. Even there, the only city you will find is the one built for human visitors and trade. The dwarves have their strongholds upon and within rocky foothills and towering mountains, but a great many have chosen to live among humans in an effort to maintain cordial relations and avert another war. The gnomes inhabit the delta of Parateva and welcome humans for trade and education – but not to dwell or to own. Halflings prefer the humans of Mauvolg over those of Dhavon, but seem keen to learn and to assimilate into their culture.
The rest of the continent tolerates humans with varying levels of success. To the south of Indrunel, the land becomes truly wild. Known as Chongoku, this is the Realm of Faerie – according to human maps. East of Dhavon are the Marchlands – an area of sparsely settled wilderness that exists in an uneasy agreement of occupation between humanity, humanoid tribes, some types of savage Fae, and the occasional group of ogres or smaller giants. Beyond the Marchlands can be found the giant realm of Undomni. Not only is the land inhabited and governed by giants of all types, but it is truly a place created on a gigantic scale. Those of lesser stature find it difficult to even survive the environment and landscape.
The remaining realms and domains of the continent have even more of a magical or mythic flavor. To the east of Mauvolg and south of Undomni, there are the realms of genies, sphinxes, dragons, and gorgons. Some desire only to enslave or devour humanity, while others would rather see what the upstart race has to offer. Some of these races have more in common with humans and have built recognizable civilizations. This will allow for easier interaction and understanding. In theory.
As a world, Avremier is adaptive. Not all races or species are natives. The arrival and presence of humankind has had a ripple effect that continues to spread and exert subtle influences. Of course, this isn’t the first time that humans have come to the Core…
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Dirty Rotten Magicks (RedStaff)

Wed, 08/21/2019 - 18:15

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

From Whence the Magic Comes (Siege Indigo)

Wed, 08/21/2019 - 17:25

Start with the campaign premise of, “What if magic was not meant for humans?” A setting where “demihumans” wield magic naturally (in their own distinct ways) but humans have to settle for unreliable scraps and their own ingenuity. Not to say that humans won’t be ruling great kingdoms in this setting – they’re just not particularly magical when compared to the domains of the dwarves, elves, gnomes, and halflings.
Last of the “Color-Titled” post-Avremier setting variants.

To be honest, that was the whole of my premise. Sometimes, I want a game where magic is – magical. Where you don’t have magic shops available for the shopping convenience of treasure-laden adventurers. Where magic is rare, and weird, and non-generic. Where the non-human races seem truly non-human – not just fantasy caricatures of humanity. Besides, look at some of the famous protagonists of fantasy fiction.
·         Merlin) But, look – the most famous human wizard of all! Except, that Merlin was half-demon, a heritage from which his supernatural abilities sprang.·         Conan) A magic-hating human barbarian that lived by his sword and his own free will.·         The Fellowship of the Ring) A ranger, a fighter, an elf, a dwarf, four halflings, and a wizard. For the record, Gandalf was not human. Also, just about all the magic items were made by elves, dwarves, or Sauron.·         Elric) Powerful magician, but not a human.·         Kane) Human warrior somewhat reliant upon alien technology and forbidden magic that turned on him more often than not.·         Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser) Another mighty-thewed barbarian, and a talented sneak thief who dabbled unsuccessfully in magic before giving it up mostly for the sword and his own wit. Each has a wizardly patron – neither of which is human.
If you want a magic-using character in this setting, you’ll need a background similar to that of a comic book superhero origin story. From whence does your magic originate?
·         Accident) Were you bitten by an enchanted spider and now find yourself with mystical spidery powers and attributes? Were you born on a dying world and sent to this one for your own good? Maybe a falling star impacted near the place you were born at the moment of your birth.·         Blood) Do you have powerful magical forebears? Are you part demon? Fae? Angel? Elemental? Something else? Of course, there’s always alchemy – maybe your blood is no longer entirely blood.·         Bookish) You somehow learned how to read some dead language and later discovered that all magical tomes and scrolls are written in this language. So, through accumulating pages of this stuff, you struggle to master the meagerest of magicks.·         Gumption) If you look hard enough, you might be able to find some old, forgotten, forbidden, hidden, dangerous alien magic or magic-like technology. Those who can’t do – steal.·         Patron) Perhaps you are supported or guided by a supernatural entity that lends you magic from time to time.
In any case – there are options.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

A Brief Glimpse of Forever (Violet Grimoire)

Wed, 08/21/2019 - 01:52

A central MacGuffin for the setting, this volume of work is said to contain the secrets of true immortality. A legendary treasure (artifact) that has been the goal of countless adventurers and other seekers. It has been the lifelong pursuit of Andraeun Nemacae, with the reluctant support of his wealthy, influential, and eccentric family.

The reality of the Violet Grimoire is variable – depending on the goals and flavor of the campaign. The Grimoire offers immortality, but of what kind – and, at what cost? Let’s list some possibilities.
  1. Accursed: You are immortal – in one form or other, but at a terrible cost.
  2. Avatar: Your physical form is a vessel for some outer being or divinity. It is possible that your body will be altered to better suit the occupant. It is also possible that your body will not survive the transformation.
  3. Immortality: You do not age. You are impervious to most forms of harm. You have no need to eat, drink, or breathe. You are no longer mortal.
  4. Possession: Your physical form is the shared host for a being that preserves you as best it can for its own good.
  5. Regenerating: Not only have you stopped aging, but you regenerate from harm. You are very difficult to kill. In fact, you would have to be destroyed utterly to keep from being restored.
  6. Reincarnation: Yes, you can die – but you will somehow be reborn in a new form, with the memories and experiences of your previous lives.
  7. Spirit: You are a disembodied spirit. You will not pass on to the afterlife and are able to possess the living with effort, for limited periods of time.
  8. Transference: Your intellect and consciousness are placed inside an alternate physical shell. In theory, this can be continued indefinitely as long as there are viable shells available and the means of transference.
  9. Unaging: You do not age. Period. Barring incident, you could live for a very long time.
  10. Undead: You become some sort of free-willed undead monster, like a vampire or lich.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs