Category: Wildworld

Teleportation No More.

A decade ago, I decided to remove teleportation and gates from my world.

Plane shifting still exists but is rare and is fixed to locations. For example, under a mountain range known as the Echo, some of the caverns there lead to Hell. These caves are one of the few means of traveling to the realm of Hell.

By making this adjustment to what the Heroes can do, I have made my homebrew world feel remarkably larger. By forcing Heroes to travel, often by ship, it has made the subject matters of my stories more local.

I know this style of local story based campaigns is not what all GMs want. I have played in good D&D games where Heroes feels like jet-setters “flying” all over the world. We would have sessions where the party teleport from city-to-city solving global problems. There is no doubt this can be fun.

However, I feel something gets lost in those types of global stories. Counties become abstract ideas. Often, the party never steps foot outside of the palaces. Whole countries get reduced to a few buildings and NPCs who the Heroes repeatedly visit.

My taste is the local stories. When the Heroes are helping a village, a city, or a nation. Often they begin the campaign in a region and never end up stray too far from it. My stories are designed so that the Heroes never have to travel the world to take part in them.

Even when I am running a Sandbox style game, because they need to travel by sea to get anywhere far, they often explore where that start. It isn’t always guaranteed. But even when the Heroes do travel, they often find someplace to build their roots.

One day, I decided to create a new world. While doing so, I thought I would try something different. My new world would be base on naval power. But then I was thinking about teleportation. After all, at some point, all travel becomes pointless in standard campaigns. The party teleports everywhere. Then I had a thought, remove teleportation. So I gave it a try.

Removing Teleportation and Gates have been the best world design decision I have ever made.

When I look at many of my favorite novels: LOTR and the Belgariad, they did not have teleportation in them. In fact, numerous books I love there is no teleportation. I enjoyed books that also have teleportation in them, just as I have liked some D&D campaigns with it.

But after playing my world for nearly a decade, I have concluded that removing teleportation is the way to go. If you are making your world, I would suggest you remove it. You will find your world will suddenly become so much larger.

Note: One minor adjustment I have made is to add a few additional powerful Blink type spells. At the highest levels, these can travel a few miles. So the Villain and Heroes can still Blink away if need be. I recognize that is something I still want to have in the game.

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Current Running

I thought I would share my current campaign for Age of Swords. This is set in my world setting of the Wildworld.

This campaign serves as a playtest for version 4 of the game. I am now working on version 5. I try not to change rules mid playtest, but I learned a lot out of this running. So I might have them convert the Heroes to version 5.

I had the players start at level 1. They have been rapidly advancing in level. It is a group of seven players, but on average four players, a session can make it. At this point, the Heroes range from level 5 to 2. These level range because of missed sessions and deaths. Two Heroes have died, and their replacements started at Level 1.

The Backstory

The Heroes begin in the Summerland territory. Until two hundred years ago, this area was apart of the Seagod Kingdom. The northern region of the kingdom started to convert to the Music god. This eventually lead to a civil war known as the Brinestone Revolt. At the end of the revolt, the nation had two breakaway regions. Summerland was one of those regions and became a federation of city-states united by their faith in the Music God.

Then 180 years after their independence, the eastern Five Crown Empire invaded by sea. Summerland quickly fell. It is now a colonial state of the Empire.

With shifts in political power and trade, Summerland has been having booms and busts economies as different cities and region adjust to the far away whims of the Empire. The land is under the control of four governors who plot for Imperial favors.

The Railroad Part of the Story Beginning:

The Heroes began as people of Mayway Valley, a district of Summerland that has suffered under Imperial rule due to their traditional trade routes being made obsolete.

Each player got to choose their race. I did ask for them to be a diverse party, so everyone picked different classes. As some of the players have since died, their new Heroes do have some overlaps in race and class. I haven’t cared, I just wanted them to start off on sound footing.

All of my runnings, I give the players some character background restriction. In this case, I gave them the following:

  1. They needed to play disenfranchised people of the Mayway Valley. Coming from a poor family or families that have lost their wealth.
  2. Each needed to be someone who would willingly travel to Pe’dock in the hopes of a better life.

These restrictions are not too severe. But they force the party to have similar backgrounds and motivations. They are playing poor people seeking to better their lives. Some of the players started off knowing each other, while others were traveling by themselves.

There was only one Hero that I had to work extra to get into the party, but then he was the first to die. And in the second battle! When a Level 1 Hero gets 4 hits in a round, it is hard for him to survive it.

So at Level 1, the Heroes were stragglers of a Dwarven caravan traveling to the city of Pe’dock. Pe’docks promise of prosperity and jobs thanks to the Empire expanding the harbor. The road to Pe’dock was once a lifeline of the Summerland Federation. Now it is forgotten. The Empire is a naval power, and all trade is now by sea.

The Plotted Adventure Begins:

On the way to Pe’dock, the Dwarven caravan was attacked by goblins. The party got separated from the Dwarves who march on ahead. With a member of the party poisoned, they retreated to a village they had passed days before.

The villagers healed them. They told the Heroes that the goblins invaded their forest a year ago. Since then twelve of the villagers have died. They have suffered because they traditionally hunt the forest for food. The town passed around a collection plate and offered them the puny award for their help. The party agreed to help the village and started their war on the goblins of the forest.

After a couple of fights against the goblins, the Goblin Chief wanted to talk to them. The goblins were only in the forest because a Mage has displaced them from there bog. The Goblin Chief promised a treasure of stolen Dwarven weapons and armor if the party would get rid of the Mage so they could return home.

The party followed the goblin instructions and traveled to a lost temple in a bog. There they fought the minions of an Echo Mage until they came to an agreement with him.

The Mage had been stuck here for a year. In a secret dungeon under the temple, his Imp companions had betrayed him. Now, the Imps were trapped inside, but he could not get to them. Perhaps the party could… so the party made a deal.

He promised them the loot of the temple if he could just get an item of the spoils. It was agreed. The party entered the dungeon and killed the Imps. They had a fortune in gold treasure! But then the Mage betrayed.

Years Later… So Starts the Fox Hunt style adventure.

One of the party members “woke up.” He was being tortured by some Nagas over a piece of treasure he had pocketed in the dungeon. He escaped and came to realize that for the last three years, his memory and personality had been wiped. With his memory and energy restore, he remembers the Echo Mage betrayal.

He then found the other party members and woke them up too. Now the party is on a mission to get revenge on the Mage and get their treasure back.

My GM Notes on the Story Structure.

Okay, the evil Mage betraying the party is an old troupe. But I feel it is a good foundation for this story. The party is well motivated to get their revenge. It allows me to Hourglass this story building it around their desire for revenge. I do have a story I want to explore. I know they are on board because their goal is to kill the Mage.

Like most of my campaigns, I Railroad the first 1 or 2 hours to get the party on the tracks and then step back. That is how I did this one too. They were mainly running a module I wrote for the first session. The first battle was wholly scripted, and the whole session was well thought out. All the way to the Mage betraying them was somewhat planned. They threw out some surprises, but since they were going monster killing and treasure hunting it was simple to adjust.

Now that they are on a Fox Hunt, I just sit back. It is a Sandbox where their goals are clearly defined. So while they do their actions against the Mage, the players are discovering parts of the story I plan to end the adventure arc on. It is building up. It involves the Mage’s upcoming revolt against the Empire using the Nagas as pawns.

The Mage has a bunch of Sharkniod minions. These are a cross between a frog and a shark. They do a lot of damage but are not too hard to take out. Two party members did come close to dying while fighting them, so they work well as a threat. This has allowed me to get some fights in with this new creature I have designed and adding to my world. There is a whole area of the map they will infest.

The party has learned that the city of Pe’dock was built on the ruins of an ancient Naga city. And that below the city, there are tunnels that the Naga still live in. They have made an ally with a Naga Prince, but do not really know the full scope or power of the Naga. I hope to get them more involve with the Naga in the future. I have some ideas, but it will be interesting to see if they bite on it.

Nagas are also being added to my world. They will play a more serious role as a significant villain in future stories, so another chance to playtest them out.

They do know that the Mage is using an element he found in the temple to create an item to control the Naga. It is a repeat of the device he uses to control the Sharknoids. They believe that with this army, he hopes to take over the region.

They have also learned that the Mage is well connected and a personal friend of the Governor. So they know the local government is on the side of the Mage.

The Location is Important to me as a GM.

All of this adventuring has taken place within one month travel of the city of Pe’dock. They have visited two local villages, becoming friends with one and enemies of another. They have explored a jungle temple and even returned there later to gather more information.

Keeping the story and adventuring locally is crucial to me. I want to flush out this part of my world. And the best way to do this is to have a party adventure in it. They have already discovered the lore of a forgotten god, origins of some monsters, and the political dynamics of the city-state.

They have been both friends and enemies of the local goblin tribe. In the sewers of the city, they have discovered new enemies and friends. They have had interactions with the provincial governor and some Imperial agents.

I hope that the entire story arc takes places in this region. On a few occasion, they have plotted to go to Summerland and the Kingdom of the Seagod in hopes to find the Mage’s family. If they did this, it would not be a disaster but would not further the adventure.

They have also talked about making the long trip to the Five Crown Empire. This would also be a waste of time. I am afraid they might make this trip. If they do, it might put a wrinkle in the story, and I will have to adjust for it.

Currently in the Running

The party was able to kill the Mage in a battle but then discovered that it was an Echo Clone. Early they had encountered an Echo Clone, but it didn’t really click with them that he had them out in the world. They know the Mage has a powerful amulet, so they are sure that when they kill the real Mage, they can identify them by this item.

The party has been able to steal a key component in the Mage’s plans. They have learned that he is out in the wilds forging his item. They have been trying to figure out the best tactic to use having this item against him. Some want to attack him during the forging while others think they should wait.

Next Time

It will be interesting to see what they choose to do next time we play. My group bounces back and forth between two GM because we have such busy lives.

I missed a session two weeks ago, so they moved forward with another story that has been running for a while. This other story has been a long drawn campaign. I am in no rush to get back to my running as I have more work to do on version 5. When it is ready, we will switch back and hopefully finish this adventure arc.

Harvesting!

I saw an FB post about a Hero who killed a Lizardman and decided to skin it. He was going to wear the leather, and the GM was wondering how much of a bump should it give. They were playing 5e, so he was thinking of making it AC 12+dex. Making it +1 leather.

Now he wasn’t excited about this prospect, but he thought he needed to reward the skinning.

I thought this was nonsense and destructive.

When Heroes are harvesting the dead monsters, beasts, and even people, the GM needs to ask themselves why the world isn’t currently doing this? Afterall Lizardmen have been around for thousands of years, this PC is the first to think of skinning it? That makes no sense.

The award for harvesting is an idea the GM must tread with extra care.

I do not recommend giving awards of this nature lightly. I have all sort of valuable goods that players can harvest from the dead, but each of them I carefully consider.

Let’s take the +1 AC Lizardman armor. If this were the case, Lizardmen would be extinct. Like the buffalo of the American plains, there would be wagon trains sent out to kill them. It wouldn’t be hard to raise an army when the enemy is weak, numerous, and produces +1 armor!

And +1 leather would be typical. A nation would enslave the lizardman making them work and when they die, harvest them for their armies.

The GM has to make a lot of choices on the fly so you cannot think of everything. But with that said…

The GM needs to ask why isn’t the world already harvesting this then?

If the party is in permafrost fighting a silver dragon and wants to harvest it, that makes sense. A dragon is a rare beast, mighty, and already has a ton of lore and myth about it. I would think the world already harvests dragons (when it can) and therefore I would give all sort of goodies.

I would ask myself: How is having dragon scales produce magical armor going to change the world? It is unlikely a King will raise an army to hunt dragons in the permafrost for a few magical scale mail. The cost of soldiers dying to dragon’s breath isn’t worth it. Yet, the world knows dragon scales is valuable, so there is a demand. This all makes logical sense, and therefore it is added to the world.

In my world, I have the deadly male Baskilisk. It is an alligator-like monster that has natural magic allowing it to paralyze with a stare, harden itself to stone for a few moments, and pass through magical barriers. Hunting the Baskilisk is risky business. But it can be harvested for a high-quality leather (+1 AC).

Even though they are powerful, the Basilisk is hunted. There is an industry, much like Whalers who search for the beast and kills them for hides. It isn’t a big industry, but parties often encounter hunters in their travels. And Adventures hunt them too. When the party has enough levels, it is a famous monster to search out and slaughter.

The male Basilisk has become a great addition to my world. I have had to build a whole industry around the finding and killing of the Basilisk for leather. It has become a good starting point for some nights of adventuring. Heroes can have backstories about working in that trade.

My point is that all of them came from a thoughtful choice in world design. And if I had done it on the fly, I would have later gotten to this point afterward by thinking about how my world would respond to the Basilisk.

In the FB post, where the GM was like “I guess I am going to make it +1 AC,” did not sound like a thoughtful choice. And doing so, if their players make the connection that a standard monster is walking loot, look out! That could become the campaign. Now he has to either backtrack (you killed a rare and random special Lizardman) or let the world become a less logical place.

What I told him was to make the leather of poor quality. That is the gut instinct the GM must develop to make a better world.

The instincts of the GM should be not to reward but to withhold.

Now killing Lizardmen is a lousy deal. One less reason to go fighting Lizardmen. Now it makes more sense for them to exist. “King, there are Lizardmen in the bogs!” The king thinks, “They have nothing and are worth nothing; why lose soldiers killing them? Perhaps if I ignore them, they will go away.” He orders a post placed at the bog that reads: DANGER LIZARDMEN! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED. In his mind, problem solved.

Harvesting Beast is a big part of my game!

I have been building a list of valuables to harvest from dead monsters. I have a whole skill for harvesting. There are alchemists in town waiting to buy the hearts, livers, and eyes the party remove from various monsters. Most of the products harvested are for components of artificial and potion making. But it can lead to some adventure hooks and starting points of some adventures.

Add harvesting to your game. Just stop and think about what the monsters hides are worth before giving it out.

Sardusa and the Nagas.

The Mothergod planted the seeds of life which birthed the animals and plants.

It is easy to forget that it was the daughters who designed the seeds. One of these daughters was Sardusa. She designed the scaly beast of snakes and lizards. She took pride in her work and when she finished her chores, she went to heaven to marry.

Unlike the other heavenly gods, Sardusa was restless. She would wake and spend long years alone, while her husband slept. During this insomnia, she would sometimes watch the happenings on the Great Disk.

When Lura, the goddess of Nature, and Sardusa’a sister, created the Anquis she was delighted. The Lizardfolk were a fine people and she could see her design in them. One day, she slipped away from her husband’s bed to visit them. But when the Anquis did not know her, she became jealous. The Anquis worshiped Lura and Attune. Like most of the gods, Sardusa was unknown by the Nine Clans.

Unable to contain her passions, she decided to craft her own people. After all, she too was a Life god. Her first creation was the Medusa, but this was a failed people. Strong and powerful in Echo magic, the Medusa lacked a structure to them. Easily distracted and cruel, Sardua had no passion for them. She abandoned them to the wilds.

She had other failing but then she gave life to the Naga. The tall, four-armed snake people were a perfect rival to the Nine Clans. To Sardusa they were better than the Anquis. They were organized and devoted to Sardusa. Unlike the Nine Clans, she had given them the amount of Reason she desired but were immune from Attune’s influence.

On the eastern shores of the Great Disk, Sardusa had her people. They were of an orderly hive mind with their goddess as their god-queen. For several hundreds of years, they expanded their lands pushing back the Satyrs and humans of the area.

At some point, Lura discovered the Naga. She was both amused, proud, and yet felt slighted. However, this was during the early days of the God War and she was too busy to address any wrongs committed against her. She was fighting with her brother and wanted her sister’s Naga to join her cause.

Sardusa was not interested in Lura and Attune’s squabbles. Lura tried to steal away the Naga but failed. The Naga were programmed to see no other god but that of Sardusa. Lura lost interest in the Naga and returned her attention to the God War.

For a short time, the Naga flourished. Sarduda protected them from her siblings fighting. They staked out their own region and protected it well.

Then one day, she heard her husband wake from his slumber. He was calling for his wife and wonder where she could be. Longing to be in his arms once again, she decided to return to heaven to be by his side. She left the Naga to their own fate but vowed to one day return. In heaven she is believed to sleep in her husband’s arms, but will she become restless again?

Without the goddess to protect them, the Naga lands were divided by the Satyrs and the Humans during the war. They were killed by the Bow and Sword and their great city burnt. And so, the Naga have been forgotten about as they have had no significant presence in the Great Disk for two thousand years.

But there are still pockets, in the wilds, where the followers of Sardusa can still be found. There are tales of the Snake people of the forest and of a goddess who promised to return to them.

I am running my campaign and the Heroes are now adventuring into the old territories of the Naga. This is apart of the lore of the Wildworld. You can find the rest of the creation lore here. It is all apart of the world setting for Age of Swords.

Google Translator

This is one of the better tools available for a GM.

On the forums I visit, all the time people asking how to come up with names. Mostly names of NPC, but on occasion names for class, places, spells, items, etc.

In these cases, I like to use Google Translator for inspiration. I will assign an Earth language to a race, region, religion, etc. Then start doing some translation. In this way, the different names I come up with all have the same feel.

In the Wildworld, this is the world setting for my game Age of Swords, here are some of the languages I use.

  • Centaur is Polish.
  • Elven is French.
  • Orc-en is German.
  • Anquis is Latin.

Here is an example from my own life. The following is an adventure I plan to run soon. It is about in an ancient temple devoted to a forgotten evil god. I think the Heroes will be in the area for a while, and so I want to have put in some details. This area will have lots of goblins and other villains the Heroes will interact in and out of combat.

I go to Google Translate. I pick a new language, I choose Indonesian.

The Story

A village hires the Heroes to go kill some goblins who have been raiding their crops. The village has little to offer the Heroes, but sad faces and “pleases.” The Heroes go into the jungles to kill goblins.

After killing lots of goblins, the goblins surrender to the party. They beg them to come speak to their chieftain Besar (boss). Besar tells the party that in the ancient temple known as Yang Buruk (bad place), there is a human named Bajingan (asshole). That Bajingan has been killing their hunt, and they are starving. This is why they have been leaving their homeland in the search for food. If the party will go into the depths of Yang Buruk, kill Bajingan, they will award them their most prized possession. This is a magical club called Menghancurkan (crush).

Yeah, it can be hard to pronounce these, but they can be shortened. I would change Menghancurkan into Mengcurk. But the point is that there is a flavor to the naming that is constant throughout. And if the Heroes decide to return to the shadow of temple Yang Buruk one day, any name I come up with will come from Indonesian.