Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Gods of Ardis - Human Deities

So, Krohll is one of the elder gods of Ardis. In general, they have to do with creation in one aspect or another. Krohll, being a kin-creator, is one of the lesser of the elder gods.

Most human gods are not among them; for the most part, these are the younger gods.

Many of these gods are what happens when wizards or heroes become powerful enough. None of them - not even the elder gods - are anywhere near omnicient. They might notice when they're invoked, especially if the ceremony is attention-grabbing enough, but they do tend to be more watchful in their spheres of influence.

For most of my lesser gods, I like to pull characters from modern myth.

For example:

Errol of the Sword A hero's god. His sphere of influence is victory through dramatic flair. He favors the boldly good. (He won't help much with healing or planning or wisdom, but if you're about to swing from the rigging of a burning ship with an oil-drenched sword in your hand, he's got your back.) The darker side of Errol is that his high rites require propitiation of his darker aspect, Errol of the Cradle. (These rites require the assistance of one or more more-or-less-willing virgins.)

Orson of the Pen A god of creativity, drama and perfectionism; a meticulous planner. Orson's younger manifestation is the patron of painstaking creativity. Wizards like him. Given that most gods are created in the image of their worshppers, most of the gods are creatures of great mediocrity. It is said that the incompetence of the gods caused Orson to rage and storm off; he only returned after taking his manifestation as Orson of The Jug, who is the patron of wine.

Since gods are almost as common as villages, there's really no limit to this sort of thing.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


So, for the longest time, I only played T&T using solos, because I didn't have a regular gamer crowd. Also, for a long time, I wasn't anywhere near a game store that carried T&T and I didn't have much in the way of disposable cash anyhow, so I actually only had two solos: Buffalo Castle and Sorcerer Solitaire.

I treated both those solos as "testing grounds" for new characters, and then ran them through randomly-generated solos of my own device, or based on the random dungeon in That Other Game's GM guide... but this led me to try to open things up a bit by, well, I guess, cheating.

Things I've done:
I've run rogues through Buffalo Castle (forbidding them their magic.) Likewise, wizards whose fighting chops seemed sufficient.

I've had my own wizards sell spells to rogues. Extortionately, but they've done it.

Oh and! I tend to allow myself one re-roll per game.

Things I need to try:
Thinking in terms of solos, like Sword for Hire, where the delver gets a companion  for the journey, I'm thinking it's not to big a bend of the rules for most solos to bring in a hireling or two, derived as per the book.Such an arrangement would only work for hiring bring-along muscle for fighting: the player would still have to take point (any hireling taking point would certainly run more risk, and rate better pay, and would in any case benefit from most of the magical gimmies.)

There's a nifty card game called Space Pirate Amazon Ninja Catgirls which breaks the game up into "capers," each caper has a loot reward for success,  and is broken up into four "challenges." It seems that a sort of abstract solo could be handled the same way:

Each "adventure" has 1-6 challenges.
A challenge can be 1-3 a monster encounter, 4-5 a "trap", or 6 both.
Each challenge may (1-3) have treasure

Upon defeating all the challenges, the delver(s) receive a further treasure.

Higher levels bring tougher monsters and higher level saves for the "traps"; also, more treasures.

Traps represent puzzles, traps, or other obstacles: roll 1D to determine which Stat it should be based on. The player chooses the adventurer to attempt the task: failure should result in taking hits, at the very least.

More as I think on it...

Friday, April 6, 2012

Gods of Ardis - Krohll

Famously, T&T has no gods and no specific rules for dealing with them. But I like having them in my game, so I'm adding them. Ardis is simply crawling with gods, godlets, god-kings and death-lords. I'll elaborate on them as time goes along - starting with:

Krohll. He built the forge that burns in the foundations of Ardis, and whose smokes and fires can be seen in volcanoes. That was his first work. For his second work, he made the breastplate of the sun-god, and all of the gods admired it. Drunk on ambrosia, he rashly vowed that he would make a treasure for each of the gods, each unique. The assembled gods mercifully tried to let him off the hook, knowing the task to be impossible, there being an infinity of deities. But Krohll raged at them, saying, "Am I a coward, that I should forswear myself thus? What I have spoken, so shall I do!" And forthwith, Krohll forged for himself a chain, his third work, and bound himself to his forge in the deep, and began his labors, which continue to this day: not without complaint, for Krohll is a wroth god, and his cursing makes the ground shake, especially when he hits his thumb.

Krohll figured that though he had to make the treasures himself, he didn't have to do it without help: so he made the dwarves to be his servants. They dug his ores, coal for his forge, for so long that they eventually came out into the sunlight. They multiplied, so the labor became lighter, but Krohll's faithful -virtually all dwarves- are never quite certain that they are not about to be set to hard labor again. Dwarves call on him, but do not really expect aid: they're supposed to help him, not the other way around. In the face of misfortune, a dwarf is apt to shrug and say, "Krohll is busy." Oaths invoking Krohll are SERIOUS business: There is nothing more likely to bring Krohll's wrath than breaking or neglecting an oath.

Virtues: Strength, endurance, steadfastness, oath-keeping, and technological cunning all fall within Krohll's sphere of influence.

Sacrifices: Treasure, basically: very worshipful dwarves make a votive hoard dedicated to Krohll; dwarvish craftsmen will dedicate a masterpiece to Krohll which they then keep in, or on, a shrine to the god in their workplace. After quenching a blade, As a token of this, a dwarf will throw a coin down a well, or flip a coin over his left shoulder. Picking up s"Krohll's penny" is widely considered to be bad luck.

Game play ideas: An adherent of Krohll seeking the god's aid must perform a ceremony rather like a potlatch, wherein no less than a tenth part of his wealth is expended, either in coin or metal goods. These should be buried in stony ground, marked with one of the god's symbols: a hammer or anvil, or a chain. Oaths taken in Krohll's name must be kept: saving rolls will be missed, consistently, if the character is not doing something to fulfill his oath. It is best that such oaths be specific.

"By Krohll's chain! I will drink more beer this night than any man at this table, or I will dance naked upon it before you!"
"But Helrig! You already do that... both of them! ALWAYS."
"Never swear to ANYTHING by Krohll that you don't know you can do for certain." 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Monsters in Ardis 1: Hobs and Draugr

 Heck, there are lots. But I've got to get cracking on some beasties that aren't standard fare: So far, my players' foes have been pretty well-known: A fair number of goblins, ogres, the odd troll; a specter or two; a horde of rats.

There's been magically animated plate armor: hard to crack in a straight fight but not terribly dangerous, easy to defeat once you get the knack of it, but very VERY noisy. Sort of an armed doorbell.

Hobs: I get a little squirrelly at the term "Black Hobbits" in the sample monsters listed in the 5th edition rules, (the same reason I get squirrelly about "Yassa Massa") but I do like the idea of tweaking Tolkien and villainizing halflings, at least to some degree. So yeah, I'll have villainous halflings - Hobs will do- and yeah, they'll go in nice big packs. But I'm inclined to stat them out using Peters-McAllister, at least in rough rather than go for MRs: Like all hobbits, they're puny, but they're very sturdy, and they're very nimble. They're not going to charge in and attack tooth and claw: they haven't got claws. They've got knives, for the most part, and they've got bows. And they've got stealth.  Encountering Hobs in the field, the first sign of them might be a hail of arrows.

And I like the idea of a lot of them, LOTS of them, being adherents to a horrifying spider goddess - which might be a good way to add hobs to a game without coaxing the party out into the woods to be slaughtered by silent guerilla archers. "The Temple of the Patient Weaver"  has a nice ring to it.

Draugr: These Norse undead appear to be the source for Tolkien's Barrow-Wight. Draugar live in the graves of important men - indeed, they are the re-animated corpses of those men. A draugr's mound emits a great light, like a large will-o-wisp or marsh gas. The graves contain burial treasures, and the draugr jealously guards them. They're very strong (STR + CON x3. )They and stink of death, though they don't exhibit rot. They can increase their size at will, though this does not change their attributes otherwise. They can rise from the grave, even through solid rock, as wisps of smoke. They attack individuals physically, crushing them, devouring their flesh, swallowing them whole. They can attack slowly at a distance by driving their victims mad, especially by entering their dreams. Animals feeding near the grave can be driven mad; even birds will drop dead flying over the grave.

Anyone approaching the grave, or sleeping nearby, must save IQ, or wake berzerk - either fighting, or running themselves to exhaustion. They can be calmed by any non-berzerk making a save on CHA.

Some draugar can shape-change or control the weather, in the immediate region; they have been known to cause (local) eclipses. (if their IQ is above 10); they will often claim to be able to see the future, and the more clever and charismatic may try to fool victims into thinking this is so. They can also cast a Curse You on their victims: one point per day per victim. Some can cause disease to villages.

They are immune to mortal weapons: they hurt, and work defensively, but will not wound them. Bare hands, sufficiently strong, will work. A party can wrestle a Draugr down barehanded if they can withstand him. If they can wrestle him into his grave, that will defeat him temporarily. The only permanent solution is to obliterate the body with fire and scatter them wide, preferably in the sea.

Anyone killed by a draugr may come back as one.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Oh, Bondage! Slavery In Ardis

When I were a tyke, first learning Tunnels and Trolls, I remember being off-put by the presence of slaves in the game, both in terms of the ones a delver could buy by the point and the ones who could be enslaved with the awkwardly-named "Yassa Massa."  (Actually, I am still off-put by "Yassa Massa" - not the presence of an enslavement spell, but by its invocation of the awful "Stepin Fetchit" stereotype. I think a superior name for the spell might be "Charmed, I'm Sure," or "OBEY." Or "Simon Says." Anything, really.)EDIT : I 'b'lieve I saw on someone's blog that the name has been changed to Spirit Mastery... Correct? Not a bad name, though I should have liked something closer to the flavor of Take That You Fiend while avoiding the wincing qualities of the original...

Back then, I tended to play fairly egalitarian, neutral good type characters most of the time - even in the absence of official alignments- and so I found the whole idea of slave dealing abhorrent for my characters. So I tended to ignore the whole thing. (Now, hirelings I did indeed hire, and they tended to die like flies while my goodygoody heroes somehow survived. How is this better, I ask myself?) 

But now, here we are in 2011, I've a sight more history under my belt, and the idea of slaves happening to one extent or another in a T&T setting makes more sense to me. Most of the historical periods modeled in heroic fiction had slavery. Most raiding societies captured slaves; Rome was heavily slave-based; slavery continued to happen throughout the middle ages all around the Mediterranean. Really, most peasants could be construed as slaves, tied to the lands of their feudal lords. And as far as the pages of heroic fiction are concerned, there's plenty slaves to go around, and not just the Barely Nubile Slave Girls dancing in the Adjective Animal Inn. Leiber's  underground city of Quarmall was chock with slaves, many of whom were there just to carry torches. (Now that, I thought, will come in handy next time I'm a delver...)  Plus, the heroes Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser themselves have slaves: Ourph and his companion Mingols, their lives spared in return for life service.

SO. Yes, Virginia, there is slavery in Ardis. Many of the galleys plying the inner sea have slaves at the oars. Most of the big cities have arenas. The Volods' lands are mostly tilled by peasants; the granaries of the cities of  Angapam and Khurasan are all filled by slave labor in the fields.

The berzerk tribes of Ys enslave one another constantly as their feuds broil back and forth from fjord to fort.

Galiana's fields and vinyards are cultivated by tenant farmers more than not: but their quarries and mines are often worked by gangs of enslaved goblins and orcs captured in the incessant war with the hordes of the Dire Mountains.

The brutal poverty of almost all the cities and towns drives many to sell themselves into slavery, if only to eat; Elves, Fairies and Leprechauns never find themselves in these straits and are never to be found enslaved except by magic. Humans, Hobbits and Dwarves are not always so fortunate, and can be found in chains.

As alluded to above, one result of the endemic conflict between monsters and the "good" kindreds is that defeated monsters get brought into slavery. Aberrant monsters, dragons and other higher, magical monsters won't be: but goblins and orcs are virtually always slaves to begin with. Indeed, the great goblin armies of the northwest are made up of little more than slaves, as the whole hierarchy of goblinish society is based on enslavement by fear and force.

So should a character be inclined to buy a slave at market (by the point) they are constrained only by budget, conscience, and their ability to control their charges: a slave that can easily overpower its master is swiftly gone! Many characters, I think, will blench at enslaving a human, dwarf or hobbit - but not be so worried about a goblin slave; on the other hand, a warrior intending to employ a slave as a torchbearer in a dungeon excursion might be more inclined to buy a wretched human than to trust a goblin in the depths.

Bringing a slave along on an adventure is a dodgy business, though. What's to stop them from running at the first sign of trouble, or deciding to help out the opposition? The slave-owning delver will certainly have to make saves on CHA of appropriate levels whenever the slave has an opportunity to break for it, or turn; good treatment might help; promises of reward - either of creature comforts or emancipation - might instill a degree of loyalty. Mistreatment, a history of promise-breaking, or exceeding risk will work the other way around. I'm away from the rulebook just now, and forget whether it said anything about arming your slaves or having them fight for you; I'll think about that for later...

Friday, March 30, 2012

Historical Models for a T&T World

As a young gamer, which I no longer am, I was entranced by the extensive ironmongery list offered in 5th Edition Tunnels & Trolls, and I still find it entertaining. As I grew more aware of history and various cultures, I saw that the weapons list taken as a whole was an Anachronism Stew: a first or second century pilum and gladius might appear in the same adventure with a 16th century zwiehander; western european broadswords share the stage with subcontinental hardware like the madu, pata, katar and kukri. A berzerker warrior (11th century Northern European) might take time after slaughtering an orc (20th century high fantasy) to clean the gore off his grand shamsheer (18th century Persian) and slather on a new coat of curare (indigenous South America).

But I like all that stuff, so I'm inclined to make Ardis a world where that can happen.

Everything on the central part of the main continent south of the Teeth of the Gods is modeled on 16th-17th century Persia and India; it's the heart of civilization in Ardis and so all those wacky, curvy swords and knives tend to crop up in all the big cities.

Vladria gets its model from 15th and 16th century central and eastern Europe: Lots of the halberds and elaborate plate armor crop up there.

Ys, and the rest of the extreme northlands, are an unabashed melange of 8th to 13th century Scandinavia. I like having hairy berzerk northlanders, I read too much Fritz Leiber not to (hence my albeit unconscious robbing of The Trollstep Mountains; they're too good a name for the place to change it now.)

For the southwestern part of the main continent, Galiana, I'm thinking of drawing heavily on the 15th century Mediterranean: Italy, Spain, southern France: touchy swordsmen.

Traditionally "Roman" weapons like the gladius and pilum will be found either as ancient artifacts or in the hands of monstrous armies: goblins, orcs, and whatever else comes boiling up from underground.

Any thoughts? 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Musing on Melee

To start, I'd like to draw your attention to The Push Of Pike:

Otherwise known as "Bad War." Two relatively evenly matched masses of footsoldiers armed with pikes or polearms, locked in combat until one side or the other is overwhelmed. As soon as I read about this, I instantly thought, "Wow. Tunnels and Trolls combat isn't so unrealistic after all, is it?"

I read further. The push of pike was a big problem on the battlefield, and armies of the day (fifteenth, sixteenth century; right about where my more "modern" peoples in Ardis are situated) were hard pressed to figure out how to undo stalemates like this. German mercenaries, the Landsknechts,  employed soldiers armed with two-handed swords to break into the entangled front lines, break the opposition's pikes, and cut down the front line of pikemen (who were ill able to defend themselves against anything in closer quarters.) Spanish armies became well known for employing a combined formation of pike, sword and arquebus to break up opposing pike or halbard-squares.

This is all very easily translated into T&T combat. Suppose we have two bands of warriors, each armed with pikes and comparable armor: their fight can be handled with straight melee, and it's liable to be a long one if they're evenly matched. Even if one band is twice the size of the other, if geographical or dungeon features limit the number that can reach the front of the fight, numerical advantages are neutralized: what we have here is a Push of Pike.

Supposing, then that either or both side has warriors armed with closer-reach weapons - say, a broadsword or a two-hander, or a dwarf with an axe. If those warriors can get inside the effective range of the enemy pikes, they should be able to deliver any hits they can. A suitable save on dexterity should do the trick! If BOTH sides have this idea, depending on the breadth of the line of battle, either both swordsmen should be wreaking havoc on their target pikemen, or they could form a little sub-melee underneath the pikes. As a matter of fact, a pikeman faced with an onrushing warrior with a short sword might be afforded the option of dropping his pike and drawing his own blade to defend himself: perhaps another save on dexterity to pull it off. And not just swords: Look up at the engraving, in the foreground: a fellow's got his poleaxe gripped up high, in order to engage a foe at closer quarters.

As I think of it, the option of trying to get inside an opponent's guard should be available where practicable: A hobbit with a dagger against a giant? Certainly.  A man with a short sword facing another with a greatsword? Probably - but a more challenging maneuver, calling for a higher save. Doing this with closely matched weapons - say, rapier versus rapier - would be much riskier. Your warriors are barely holding on in a melee with a passle of orcs - can the fairy zip around back and hamstring one of them with her little hatpin sword? Why not?

Delvers should always try ways to break through the push of pike - especially when they're on the losing end of it!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Ideas for Proper Dungeons

The individual hoard, even one guarded by a draugr, dragon, leprechaun or other such, is but a small adventure, or even just a lucky find in between adventures. Your adventurer happens across it, defeats the guardian, maybe falls afoul of the curse set on the loot, but then that's that. Maybe an evening's entertainment! But we do love more involved adventures, be they ever so chestnut-ty. Only just let them have a rationale.

What was the purpose of the dungeon? Is that purpose still fulfilled by the place?
Did the denizens of the dungeon build it themselves, or did they find it and fill it?
Are the denizens of the dungeon organized? How? Why?
Are the denizens the proprietors of the dungeon or are they in some manner employed by another?

A common trope following Tolkien's Moria is that of the abandoned Dwarvish mine:
The dungeon is a complex of tunnels and shafts dug under a mountain, deliberately, in order to mine ores, gems, truesilver, whatever. At some point the dwarves are set upon and driven out, either by dragons or by orcs or by elder creatures awakened by the deep delvers. Since the dwarves were eaten or driven off, the complex is now the dwelling of a broad array of nasties filling its mazy ways.

A temple complex is a classic sword and sorcery trope. Ardis is chock full of temples, because it's chock full of gods. Quite often there's a good deal of gold, silver and gems involved in the altars, ceremonial gear, offerings, and other accoutrements. Less popular gods are typically less powerful, but their temples tend to be poor. The richly-appointed temples tend to belong to more powerful gods, who can be counted on to have: A) fanatic followers and priests defending the temple B) enchanted or demonic guardians defending the temple C) elaborate traps defending the most sacred treasures D) tombs, either of key priests, prophets or the god itself and E) fabulous wealth for anyone wishing to dare the above along with F) the lasting disfavor of the god itself.

This stuff can be strung out over campaigns beautifully: the party either is tasked or undertakes on its own nickel to rob the precious jewelled idol of Nisshur-Telpec from its temple complex; the job goes down easily but as they travel to deliver or fence the idol they find themselves continually harried by the black-robed, fanatic followers of Nisshur-Telpec, who seem to unerringly find them wherever they go - even after disposing of the idol in whatever way they do. (Perhaps if the party researched and found that Nisshur-Telpec was a god of eternal vendetta, they would have picked another target...)  

A dedicated tomb complex (closely related to the temple, possibly one and the same) works too: especially if the goal was to bury the deceased (or is it!) particularly deep. I have in mind Ardis' ancient history of wizard-wars: think of one of the great god-wizards, defeated and imprisoned in a deathlike state far below a mountain. The tomb becomes the heart of a vast underground - were the tunnels the work of the god-wizards who won? Or were they dug by the minions and descendents of minions to worship and perhaps one day free their master?

More to come as it occurs to me.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Why Is There Treasure? Notes on loot and where it comes from.

Note: I've been re-reading a load of Fritz Leiber, and since this posting have been reading Stardock - wherein our heroes dare a fearsome mountain climb in the hopes of winning fantastic gemstones at the top. Prior to the climb, they dig a cairn, and bury their heavy gear there for safekeeping: swords, helmets, armor, and supplies for the hoped-for return trip. In short, a traveler's horde. 

Why should there be treasure hoards just waiting to be ransacked, guarded or not? History helps with this, actually: there's plenty of reasons for treasure to be gathered together. I assume a few things first: banking in Ardis is primitive, where it exists at all. It's mainly confined to the great coastal cities south of the Teeth of the Gods. In Vladria, there's banks in Valdosk on the shore of the Black Sea but for the rest of that vasty place there is no banking as we'd recognize it. So those who have money have to keep it safe themselves. For the Volods, this is an easy matter: they have a keep, and soldiers to guard it. Such merchants as there are have their wealth in their wares, and have strong rooms in their shops to keep their valuables safe. Peasants don't have much wealth, but what little they have must be hidden: their shacks are easy to break into and plunder.

There's support for hoards being left by merchants traveling in dangerous places. Villages would hide their valuables when threatened by attack by invading armies, or raiders. Historically, such hoards would be protected only by secrecy. In a world with magic, there might be charms hiding them more completely. A particularly valuable hoard might have some manner of trap to protect it as well.

And since we posit a world fairly thick with adventurers, we can assume that they themselves hide a fair amount of loot. Most are wanderers and have no homes to speak of: where do they keep all their gold when they go adventuring? Bors the Bold has some hundreds of silver and gold from his last venture: does he schlep it back underground with him the next time he goes delving? If he doesn't drink it, or spend it on weapons or women, he's going to have to hide it somewhere. And supposing he dies in his next adventure? There that gold will sit - until it is found.

Think of Beowulf's dragon: the singer tells us that the hoard was left by the last survivor of a defeated people, and that the dragon finds the hoard afterwards and settles there to guard it. Now, a dragon isn't going to show up for some merchant's buried strongbox, or an average delver's plundered coin. But other critters might! Leprechauns, for one; No less authority than W. B. Yeats ascribed their wealth to "treasure-crocks, buried of old in war-time" and found by the gold-loving small folk. Ghosts and other undead types might guard in death treasures buried by them in life.Certainly, many of the man-like monsters can be counted on to dig things like this up to add to their own treasure.(More on this, later.)

Then there's burial hoards. On one end of the scale are vast tombs of ancient kings, priests or wizards: these can be elaborate affairs, thick with traps, magics and votive treasures, and guardians both living and dead.Egyptian tombs make a fine example, but think also of viking ship burials, Tolkien's barrow-downs, and the like. Think too of the burial-places of travelers, or adventurers. Looting a buddy's corpse is not cool! One might expect to be burned, or buried, with one's possessions - especially if no known heir existed. Such a grave might well be haunted by the adventurers' ghost, or invaded by a ghouls, or dug up by beasts!

The undead guarding a funerary hoard, or even a traveler's hoard, are a natural development: the monster's motivation is tied to the death of the previous owner.

Many monsters guard treasure as part of their nature: dragons, for example, are notorious for jealously guarding treasure: they guard treasure until their greed is outmatched by their hunger, and when that is sated, they return to their hoard.

Many "mannish" monsters assemble hoards as well: Ogres are downright vulgar in their acquisition and display of wealth. Trolls and giants usually have something in the way of treasure, though it tends to be incidental to their hunting. Social monsters like goblins and orcs gather treasure and display it to show their power; within their tribes they take from each other: the stronger have more because they take it from the weaker; the weaker will give tribute to the strong for protection.

Beastly monsters - giant spiders and so forth - may have treasure, but only in the sense of "leftovers from victims." The same with demonic creatures: they have little use for gewgaws: if a demon has a treasure, it is probably something that the demon has been bound to protect: a powerful talisman or other such.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Musing on Setting

So, I've set up a general world map; I'm adding some detail here and there but I haven't been inclined to go into great depth yet. I don't want to lavish too much detail on any one area where it's unlikely that I'll ever have delvers! I'm running a game set in Vladria now, and I'll be adding some detail there in due course, but it's so far not really necessary: they've happened on an adventure traveling between volods, and the precise nature of the local color is not germaine to that adventure. I'll be needing it eventually, though.

What I'm more interested in thinking about now is feel. The last time I ran this game, I did so with a relatively high-fantasy theme: there was the seed of a fairly sweeping quest that never really got off the ground, there wrongs to right, and so on.

I want to keep things as episodic as possible this time around, and that doesn't lend itself to grand Tolkienite quests. It lends itself better to pulp, to low fantasy. Conan. Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. That sort of thing.
Now, low fantasy generally isn't exactly crawling with Elves and Dwarves and Hobbits and so forth: It's mostly about MEN, confronted with the uncanny. Well, T&T is chock full of Elves and Dwarves and Fairies and Leprechauns and Hobbits, and there's uncanny everywhere. So it's a bit of a challenge taking that stuff down a notch and putting things more in a framework conducive to pulpiness. Some of the players may be a little high-minded for that: we'll see. I'll add more here as I get time. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Vladria Overview

From Cosmographia: "In the middle part of the world are the Dwarvish mountains, so called because it is said that of old the dwarves first came to light from beneath their peaks, in the first age of  The Kindreds. But since it has happened that the old dwarf-kingdoms have been scattered, and the mountain fastnesses have been taken by crawling things, it is more common to refer to these mountains as The Teeth of the Gods, though it ought to be thought that the teeth of the Gods were neither so crooked, nor so riddled with cavities...

...let it be described here Vladria, the land west of the storied Trollstep mountains, and north of the Teeth, and yet east of the Alderwod. It is a hundred leagues broad, and somewhat more than two hundred leagues north to south. These are truly the foothills of both the aforementioned ranges, and are variable and rocky; the valleys betimes fertile, and with many forests about. Rivers there are, that wind north to the Frost Sea, or south and east to pay tribute to the river Argrar, which flows from the north reaches of the Trollsteps. Chief amongst the kindreds here are Men, though the other red blooded kind there also are. The people of these parts are ruled by many lords, who are called Volods, none of whom give way to any, and none of whom rule over the others, notwithstanding their pride and desire for domination. For the lands there about are difficult for great armies to move free, and none can build them great armies that their neighbors and rivals cannot see them. And though some of them be greater and some of them lesser, and at all times they press on each other, none may press so hard as to weaken their own strong place and be prey to yet other foes. And by virtue of these little wars, and the nearness of the Beasts of the mountains and the forest, and the Barbarians of the northern wastes, the warriors of Vladria are doughty and proud, and forward in battle."

Friday, February 17, 2012

Excerpts from "Cosmographia": The Whole World

Ed. Note: Cosmographia, widely know as “The Book,” is one of the most widely printed books of the known world: it is published by the Collegium (widely known as the wizard’s guild) and is viewed – in the civilized world – as the birthright of the trained mage, and the core text of any educated person.

Most mages are concerned primarily with the second “book” of Cosmographia, collectively known as The Spell Book. While the book alone is not enough to open the secrets of magic to a novice, for a trained wizard it holds both the basic spells of a wizardly repertoire and the key to understanding more. Many wizards unwisely ignore the pedestrian content of the early chapters: copies of the second book can be had without the earlier volume, though they usually show considerably more wear; complete volumes of Cosmographia virtually always have more damage (tears, bloodstains, burnt pages) in the later part of the book.

The first part of the book, however, is useful. It is a description and a rough history of the known world, describing its several ages. The book was available as a manuscript throughout the fourteenth century, and it was committed to type in 1482. It was little revised, so much of the information is a century old, and out of date. Its most interesting – and most often missing – leaf is a woodcut map of the world. (see previous post)

The world:
            "...Ignorant persons have it that the world is flat, or that it is set upon the back of a great elephant, or that it is in a bubble, or some other such nonsense. Any who have seen a ship sail off in the distance (as foolish an act as that may be),  can reason that the world must be round, and so it is. One could then make them a model of all of Ardis, in the form of a ball, if one could but know the form of the rest of the world. It is possible that The Dragons do know, for they alone have crossed the outer sea.
            "The continent of Ardis can be considered in four parts: The Southlands and Northlands, divided as it were by the Dwarf Mountains, are two parts. The Frost Sea, the Elves' lake of Eilin Ened, and deep Zilar mark off the west part of Ardis, and that is the third part. The Dragon Kingdom, the great Trollstep Mountains, and secret-shrouded Sset all lie beyond the Eastern mountains and the Black Sea and these are the Fourth part. All Ardis is bounded by water: To the south is the Inland Sea, where men and elves go in ships. The east and north are close set by the Outer Sea, where mariners cannot go. Also forbidden to the kindred of Ardis is the Sea of the West, though the elves say their fathers sailed across it in deep antiquity.
           "The Sea of the West and the Inner Sea are connected by a narrow strait, and the Wine Sea. Across it is the only other continent known to the wise, which is Qesh, which has two parts: Upper Qesh, which is a great desert, and Lower Qesh, which is a terrible forest. Mariners report no cities on those coasts, and none have reported that they have sailed far south or west along them."


Oh Hi!

Okay, I've been worldbuilding again: Fantasy this time, instead of Sci Fi; Tunnels & Trolls instead of Traveller. I'm starting with the BIG map, then drilling down: starting with the biggest picture I'm prepared to contend with, knowing I'd never ever use all of it, so that when I do detail I can have it be in context.

The whole world is Ardis.

The year is 1520.

And here's the world map, circa 1482: 

I'll post a bigger one later.

The known world is BIG: almost three thousand leagues wide, a bit larger than Eurasia. For some fantasy perspective: I've just been rereading Fellowship of the Ring, and the distance from Caradhras in the Misty Mountains to Mordor is about three hundred leagues. So I'm figuring the largest practical adventuring setting is liable to be about four or five hundred leagues in breadth, about the size of Western Europe, or India - and generally speaking, only a small part of THAT will ever have to be shown in detail.

I'm leaning towards two settings, here. There's a mountain range right in the middle of the map. I haven't named them yet - for now I'll call them the Dwarf Mountains, because I know that once there was a dwarf-kingdom there, and in antiquity it was destroyed and scattered. Their tunnelings have since been taken over by goblins and other nasties. So I want to stay close to those!

Just south of the mountains are the kingdoms of Khurasan and Angapam; rough analogs to Persia and the Mogul empire. That, in Ardis, is CIVILIZATION. The most cosmopolitan cities are along the coast of the Inner Sea, in the south. The northern reaches, in the foothills of the Dwarf Mountains, are more hinterlandish, and good adventure fodder. So that's one choice.

The other region that's attractive is Vladria, to the northeast of the Dwarf Mountains. Further east are the Trollstep mountains (full of monsters, good adventuring.) To the north are berserker tribes (good adventuring.) And to the west is a great huge forbidding forest (more good adventuring.) I'm picturing Vladria being heavily forested and broken by high hills and low mountains - not good for big kingdoms, but favorable for lots of little baronies.  And THAT'S good adventuring. So I'll think about both.

There's a lot of the game, at its root, that is based on Tolkien, and it's hard to get away from that. Elves, Dwarves, Hobbits all exist in T&T and all owe much to J.R.R.. Some of that I'll keep, simply because so much of what makes these critters is dependent on what's gone before.  But I'll try to recontextualize that stuff.

I'm going to try to incorporate a certain amount of the wackiness that's part of T&T's charm, but that's liable to be down on the very micro level: the broad context doesn't need to be silly - at least, no more silly than the whole RPG thing is in the first place. 

So, welcome to Ardis.