Monthly Archives: May, 2011

Threshold d20 Review: Goals

Don’t worry, I’m not abandoning Echelon d20, or even renaming it.

I’m reviewing Threshold d20, one of John Reyst’s projects.  It’s somewhat similar to Echelon, and after discussion I decided to review Threshold to look for stuff I can use and provide my comments to John for his consideration.  I understand he’s planning to do something similar for Echelon.

In this post I examine the goals of Threshold d20.


Threshold d20 Review: Introduction

Don’t worry, I’m not abandoning Echelon d20, or even renaming it.

John Reyst, like me, evidently doesn’t have enough things he wants to work on.  In addition to working on (and winning a silver ENnie for), he’s working on a d20 variant system tentatively called ‘Threshold d20‘.  It seems to be closer to using Pathfinder System Resource Document (PFSRD) as a base than the System Resource Document (SRD) or Revised System Resource Document (RSRD) directly.

We have discussed collaboration – we have some shared goals – and for now I think the best way forward is cross-reviewing each others’ work.  I’ll be doing so over the next little while as I look for ideas to stea… erm, do research using his site.

As part of this review work, I’ll compare what we’ve each done or are doing.


Campaign Setting Design: Putting it all Together

So far, these articles have focused on definitions and theory. This article shows how they can used together to actually craft something.

Summary of Steps

  • Develop the setting, so the campaigns have a place to happen.
  • Develop campaigns, so the player characters have long-term goals and to provide a general direction.
  • Develop scenarios that align with the campaigns, so player characters have short-term goals that take them toward their long-term goals. Not all scenarios need lead toward the long-term goals, there can be benefits (story and otherwise) to scenarios that are not directly related.
  • Develop encounters in the scenarios so the player characters have specific tasks and challenges to meet and complete in achieving their goals.

Each of the steps above gets expanded on below.


The Rule of Three

The number three seems to have a strong cognitive effect.  Hearing something three times can help someone remember it, we usually need at least three observations to predict a pattern, and we seem to be able to easily remember about three things about a subject.  Listing sets of three is a classic speech and rhetorical device for this reason.

It may be that slightly fewer than or slightly more than three would be a more accurate description of the cognitive relationship, but “The Rule of Two to Five” doesn’t make for such a good article title or simple guideline.

This can have some useful implications with regard to setting and scenario design.  I’m sure it’s no coincidence that three primary ones come to mind almost immediately.


Kreshtar Tribes



Horse-riding nomadic orcs (elites ride pegasi).


  • Homeland plains are encroached on by the Empire of the Sun.
  • Blood feud with the Ssthar tribes (ancient enmity, and relatively recently the Ssthar managed to wipe out the Kreshtar pegasi – and the son of their leader, who was one of the pegasus riders


  • Regularly hire out as mercenaries.


  • Former ruling tribe over all the Thaar tribes, ‘kingdom’ collapsed under its own weight.  No longer want to rule, more isolationist (willing to let well enough alone… mostly).
  • Primary inhabitants of the Kresh Plains.

Description and Identification


Humanoids, a little taller than most humans and lean, wiry figures.  Olive skin, usually tanned rather darker.  Dark eyes, dark hair (both usually black) tied in a topknot.  Usually lightly armored, use big axes and shields (or greataxes), mounted combat by preference.  Females generally favor mounted bows (short bows or composite/recurve), smaller melee weapon (short sword or shortspear) as backup.


  • Large axe wounds, lots of arrow-filled bodies.
  • Shamanic magic and trappings (signs of rituals and/or fetishes); land more fertile than might be expected due to long practice of enhancement.
  • “Herd of horses” prints, but other evidence (such as horse dung) usually removed for later use.


Plains of Kresh (tribes), almost anywhere (mercenaries).


Campaign Setting Design: Scenario Structure

This process owes its genesis to ideas I had while reading Justin Alexander’s Node-Based Scenario Design essay.  This essay formalized processes I had been applying and helped focus my mind on them… and led to me to some abstractions I hadn’t considered before.

An adventure, a scenario, can ultimately be seen as a collection of related encounters and events where (and/or when) things happen.  Being related encounters and events, there should be links between them.  These links may be as simple as physical proximity, or might be based around clues found that guide player characters along, or could be something else entirely.

This collection may be represented as a directed graph, as Justin describes in his article (linked above).

The arrangement of these nodes and the edges between them can make a profound difference in how a scenario plays out.