Wednesday, February 29, 2012

What do you mean, the gnolls ate your brother???

Since I’m late to blogging, I’m late to chiming on my place among the D&D Generations. According to Cyclopeatron, I am solidly a "4th Generation" D&D player, although I did start with the 3rd generation box sets, especially the famous Red Box.

My mom bought me the Red Box, I’m guessing for my 12th birthday, which would have made it 1990 - a bit later than most, but I suppose some surplus materials were still kicking around South Jersey's gaming stores. I had only been a solo “player” before that, building armies conscripted from a friend’s Monstrous Manual (1988). So getting the Red Box was my first chance to actually play for real… but who would I play with?

Fortunately, our family had an awesome tradition: every Sunday night was Family Night. The kids would take turns choosing a game for the whole family to play, and then we would watch the Sunday night Disney movie. So one evening in early 1990, I became Dungeon Master for the first time and made my whole family play Dungeons & Dragons. It was great.

I don’t remember many details, but I do remember the coolness of my parents breaking out of jail and slaying orcs. Also, at some point my brother decided he was bored and didn’t want to play any more. He announced that his character was charging ahead while everyone else snuck about, and then he went off to do something else. A couple minutes later he came back wanting to play again. I said he couldn’t because he had run off into the gnolls’ lair and gotten eaten. This upset him, which upset my mom. Fortunately it was about time for Michael Eisner to come on and we had to wrap up. But my first session of D&D ended with my mother yelling at me for allowing my little brother to be eaten by gnolls.

Whatever. It was his own fault.

Over the next few years my brothers and I took turns creating terrible dungeon crawls and amassing untold fortune. Eventually, we conquered the world using said fortune and the aforementioned Monstrous Manual Army. I remember reading through the various boxed sets, but never had the chance to actually play them. When I got to high school, I found that my friends were into D&D, and we played AD&D 2e pretty regularly, which is what makes me solidly 4th generation. I never got my parents to play again, but my mom would ask after our adventures, and laugh as the same guy had to roll up a new character every session (“How’d you kill Taylor this time?”).

But anyway, I guess I fall into that “small number” that was introduced by the boxed sets, but invested heavily in the 2e merchandise – just as TSR had hoped!

Sunday, February 26, 2012


So here are a couple maps of Kimatarthi. The first one is just your simple, MS Paint version. Actually I scanned a hand drawn version, and then painted over it in Photoshop.

Players Map of Kimatarthi

 This is another one that I did with a cool mapping program called AutoREALM

Kimatarthi Map made with AutoRealm
As you can see, I’m not a great artist. And you can probably do much cooler things with AutoREALM if you’re skillful. You can definitely do cooler things with Photoshop.

Also, they are not quite the same. So what gives? I don’t think it matters too much because maps are so rarely accurate, so why would I give players a perfectly accurate map? I mean really, take a look at an old map – any old map. Look at how crazy and distorted everything is. No wonder it took them so long to find America – they could barely draw Europe and they lived there.

The Fra Mauro map - Earth doesn't look like this.

I feel perfectly fine producing inconsistent maps for players. Not only is it a cop out for me—I can change my mind with impunity—but it also reflects the subjective and imperfect knowledge of the characters and their society.

So the maps are a conversation piece. They are not reality. They're not even fantasy reality.

I think I actually have the original map of this world that I drew up. If I can dig that out, it’ll make another interesting post on the evolution of a concept. It’s DEFINITELY not like these two.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Land of Kimatarthi

It has been nearly a century since the great Goblin War brought the Dark Age to the land of Kimatarthi. The capital city, Markaz, is still pocked with empty quarters where so much of the population perished during the goblin siege. Only the wit of the ruling family and the courage of the Rangers saved human civilization from total destruction. Most cities were completely destroyed, and only Mudun in the foothills of the Eastern Mountains was rebuilt. Spared from the horrors of the war, the shire of Bryss flourishes far to the south.

It was the Bakdunis family that rescued civilization as we know it. Though they continue to rule, rebuilding has been difficult. Even today, few dare to stray far beyond the city walls, and only fools would do so unarmed. Because of the constant goblin threat, all are conscripted to serve in the Markaz City Guard for one year in order to hone their battle skills.

But even life in the city is dangerous. Markaz is full of bandits, thieves and murderers. There are even goblins who find shelter in the Empty Quarters. Yet the most feared threat of all is the dark art that the goblins introduced to humanity: Magic. The world changed when the goblins brought their evil magic, and though some have been lured by its mystery, practicing magic is an offense punishable by death.

There is very little in Kimatarthi beyond the city walls. Goblin dens are plentiful in the wilderness, and cities provide the only refuge. The cities themselves are distant and nestled in the cool mountains, away from the arid Lowlands. From Markaz, Mudun is nearly 2 days’ travel to the East, and Bryss is more than a week to the south. The Western Desert is separated from the central lowlands by the Great Rift and the High Mountains. The impassible Eastern Mountains provide shelter to the goblins. Travel far enough in any direction, and you will reach Land’s End, a dangerous, wraith-infested region where terra firma gives way to cloud and mist.

Post Number One

This blog is an experiment in fantasy world creation. Actually, it’s about the creation of a world that I have been exploring in my mind for quite a long time. However due to circumstances, I’ve never actually run a game in it. For many years, I simply fell out of gaming, and now that I’m back in, I have only have so much time. Also, I’ve never really decided on what game system to use to run a campaign, which is kind of important. Finally, I don’t want to force a campaign on my gaming group, since we’ve got several awesome campaigns running now. So I can wait. But in the meantime, I’m going to try using this space as a whiteboard for my ideas.

The idea for this world came about well over a decade ago as I was sitting and watching the fog roll through a valley in Vermont. What if this mountain I was sitting on was actually an island, surrounded by fog? And so the idea came to me of a mountainous world that is bounded by an impenetrable mist. Perhaps it’s toxic clouds, perhaps monsters live there—I don’t think it really matters: no one goes past the Land’s End.

The world evolved from there. Gradually, it became more rugged, less like rolling hills. It became populated with places and plot hooks. At some point, the world became rather dangerous, making it very difficult to live outside of a handful of cities. I’ve had to stock the place with creatures and monsters, but without any player characters, it has pretty much lacked people. The challenge has been to paint a rich setting full of adventure while keeping it an open world where the players can explore freely and make their own stories.

So, this blog is a place for me to lay out ideas and watch them evolve somewhere other than a sub-folder on my hard drive. Many of my ideas have shifted over time, often changing dramatically. I make no promises that what appears here will be what actually shows up in any future game, but I will try to be consistent. Also, don’t expect any spoilers here. This space is for describing the setting, and anything that shows up here could probably be considered common knowledge for characters. So, while I may mull over interesting plot hooks and devices, there will always be something else behind that. Check out an introduction here. I hope you enjoy exploring.