Monthly Archives: January, 2012

Fantastic Location: Rime Tower, Part 3 — Implementation

Finally, I am in a position to describe Rime Tower in (hopefully succinct) detail.  I started more than two weeks ago looking for Inspiration, applied some Perspiration, and now move to Implementation.

Potential (because I’m not describing them now) other entities are highlighted in bold.  Text in <angle brackets> indicates a placeholder — I am not defining or naming fully the entity now, but I expect there would be one.

Okay, ‘succinct’ got stabbed in the face.  I have not tried for evocative descriptions here, since this format is usually better suited for reference notes.  I also have written more than the notes I might normally have kept for myself, since I am trying to be more clear than I need to jog my own memory.

While there are still a lot of questions to answer (yay!  Stuff I can make my PCs look for) and gaps to fill (ditto!) I have enough that I can use this in scenario or setting development.  This will undoubtedly fill in some holes and open some others (just why is that character the commander of the port of Evermelt, and why doesn’t the bay there ever freeze over?), but to me, that is a good thing.

Rime Tower



Bastion of good, protectors of the icy north from the warm landers who would invade.


  • Constantly vigilant against the warm landers, sometimes invade (or ‘counter-invade’) to limit staging opportunities by the warm landers.
  • Rime Tower is located over a place of power held in high interest by Count Linnorm of the Frost Court (a faction of the fey found locally).  Linnorm may be interested in gaining control of this place of power, though the cost he is willing to pay — or to see paid, if he can avoid paying it himself — is not known.
  • One of the <royal cousins> was sent here to gain seasoning and credibility as a leader, so he can be a worthy contender for the throne when the king dies.  He is ambitious but honest and frankly somewhat naive, and may be overzealous.  He rarely lacks incautiousness, but has so far been lucky enough that he is gaining something of a following among the Tower defenders.
  • Various local creatures.  Pretty much all creatures appropriate to Cold terrains (especially mountains and forest), though most of the actually evil ones will have been eradicated if possible.  Many have the (Cold) subtype (either naturally or through templates).


Fantastic Location: Rime Tower, Part 2 — Perspiration

A couple of days ago I came up with the idea of Rime Tower.  I started basically from a blank sheet of paper, some dice, and a small (mmm… about six-inch) stack of RPG books and went looking for ideas.

I ended up with a rough idea of what I was going to build– Rime Tower, a tower of ice where a band of divine champions… does something.  At least some of them having flying mounts of a type not yet determined, they probably have some abilities relating to the sun and to winter and cold.  I have identified a number of other potential entities to consider and questions to answer, including:

  • Obsidian Spire, and the followers of the Sunlord there
  • The Sunlord himself
  • Smaller bastions of the orders of Rime Tower and Obsidian Spire.
  • What kind of opponents do they face?
  • What precise goals?
  • Prestige classes (or talents, in Echelon).
  • What kinds of mounts do they use?  I feel like I don’t want a ‘normal’ or ‘common’ flying mount.
  • What other affiliations and associations do they have?  Check other terrain types, climates.

In short, while I now have an idea where I’m going, I’ve got a fair bit of work ahead of me.


Links of the Week Delayed Again

… but this time it should be less than last time.  I’ve got things tuned so I can cover more ground when I’m reading.  I should have a post in the hopper in the next couple of days, no labs to do this week.

Whither B/X?

I’ve been reading B/X Blackrazor since I really started getting into RPG blogs, and I have a copy of a Companion set, but… where can I find the base set?  Context suggests it’s a specific rule set, but my google-fu is failing me and I have been unable to put my hands on it.  I suspect I may have misunderstood and it is a generic term used for OSR-style low-level D&D rules and play, but I don’t really get that feeling.

Can anyone help me out here?  Thanks.

Falling off the RNG

‘Falls off the RNG’ is an expression many designers use to describe designs that cause two characters of comparable power to have large enough differences that they exceed the size of the random number generator (RNG, usually dice in a tabletop RPG).  At this point it is impossible for the lower-score character to defeat the higher-score character on the relevant check.  It can be impossible to find a challenge that one will find interesting (i.e. some chance of success and some of failure) that the other either will not fail automatically or succeed automatically.

Many people consider this a bad design.  I am no longer convinced.

Comparing Existing Editions

I will start with a summary comparison of three editions of Dungeons & Dragons.  I am not so familiar with D&D 4e so I had help from Nik (thanks Nik!), D&D 3.x I’m quite familiar with but stuck mostly to core, AD&D 2e I have not played in somewhat over a decade but do still have the books handy.

The details behind the values described below (‘showing the work’) can be seen in Falling off the RNG (Heavy Lifting).


Falling off the RNG (Heavy Lifting)

In order to simplify my Falling off the RNG post, I removed a lot of the detailed calculations.  I felt they detracted from the post itself.  However, they may still be of interest (and I’d hate to throw them away after the time and effort I put into them).  I’m putting them here for those who like to see the work behind the conclusions.

Comparing Existing Editions

To start, I’m going to look at three different editions of D&D.  Since I have Nik on IM (hi Nik!  Thanks for your help) I’ll cover 4e first, then 3.x, then probably AD&D 2e (I have the books more or less handy).

The calculations and meandering thoughts below were used to find the values described in Falling off the RNG.


Fantastic Locations: January 26, 2012 Roundup

Heh, cool.  Almost half of the first two pages when I google ‘fantastic locations’ have to do with this carnival.  Throw in ‘rpg blog carnival’ and it was page six before I started finding more than one or two per page that weren’t directly related.  Sweet!

Here is this week’s roundup for the RPG Blog Carnival: Fantastic Locations.  In fact, this will be the last weekly roundup for this carnival, there is less than a week left before it’s over.

Which reminds me, I still need to finish writing up Rime Tower.

I don’t know if David Guyll is aware of the Carnival, but this post at Points of Light about a Sundered World: The City by the Sun certainly fits the bill.  There are similar posts for Thunderspire and Acamar, the Corpse Star (though he doesn’t say much about the latter, since it’s intended to be something of a surprise for his players).  He also describes the Drafting a Sundered World for us, including his base ideas and how he plans to go about it (at a high level).

Tonybro001 from roleplay-geek reminds us of Mega City One, the setting of Judge Dredd.  Definitely a fantastic location by my standards, and I’d completely forgotten it.  To be fair, though, it was somewhat over twenty years ago and only about three or four sessions before we moved to another game.

Fitz of the Gassy Gnoll spends some time pondering What Makes a Location Fantastic.  Like several other posters on this topic, he favors a minimalist presentation to his players and to let them bring forth the fantastic.

Ameron of Dungeon’s Master describes Toronto’s PATH, a subterranean semi-labyrinth (they aren’t trying to be confusing, and post maps so you can find your way, but it can be disorienting) that joins up a significant amount of downtown Toronto.  This idea excites me; Vancouver has something like this, but it sounds much smaller than Toronto’s.  I can easily see how this can be a source of inspiration for gamers, without the dangers of abandoned steam tunnels.  I’m almost tempted to go to Toronto to check this out (and just realized — a GPS would be no use here).  Exploring the tunnels, even well-lit, and finding the various exits (into large courtyards — nice image, Ameron) and landmarks and whatnot… fantastic location indeed.

I almost missed Ravyn’s posts this week — in fact, I ended up going specifically to her site to see if there were any (the pingbacks didn’t reach me this time, weird).  First she talks about Marring Perfection, taking a setting or location known to the players and changing it dramatically for greatest impact on the players.  The second is on Impractical Applications (Variations on a Perfect Location), describing how a the feel of and reaction to a place can be changed dramatically in more than one way merely by shifting a few details.

A lot to think about in this week’s posts.

Links of the Week: January 23, 2012

Okay, I’m caught up through January 17, I’m going to call it a wrap for this week’s links.

Topic: D&D Fifth Edition

… but they’re not calling it that.  Wizards of the Coast announced they are working toward the ‘next iteration’ of D&D (they are being coy about calling it 5e, but many people aren’t).

To anyone likely to be reading this blog, it is unlikely to be news.  As expected, this has pretty much set the RPG blogs on fire.

I do not expect to be posting much about it, though I have been invited to a playtest group from someone I respect and I plan to take part.  However, when I find a particularly insightful post I may mention it here.

Topic: Node-Based Navigation

This week I’ve stumbled on three posts describing managing overland travel using a node graph rather than just the pictorial or hex map.

The weird thing is that I have designed my scenarios and campaigns for years using node graphs, but I had never considered exposing that to the players.  Blue Boxer Rebellion, Hill Cantons, and Twenty Sided all describe using such maps in relatively transparent fashion, and it makes sense to me to do so.  You could hide it so the players have to crawl through the hexes in order to get where they are going, but I’m at a loss to say why this is a good idea.

Kickstarter Projects

Monster Stand-Ins (Plastic Card Miniatures)

This project is almost half way funded, and there is still more than two weeks left.  The project is half funded, and I’d really like to see this one come through.

Here is a picture showing examples of what you can expect to see on the tokens.  They are not necessarily to scale (I’m pretty sure those dragons should be bigger compared to the smaller humanoids).

Amalgamation of Monster Stand-Ins
Amalgamation of Monster Stand-Ins

As best I can tell, this will be some pretty solid quality and good volume for the price, and I expect to be able to put them to good use.


Fantastic Locations: January 19, 2011 Roundup

Not so many posts for the RPG Blog Carnival on Fantastic Locations this week, but some quite good ones.  I had aimed to post every day myself, and that plan was pretty solidly kicked in the teeth about this time last week (I’ve given up on the Links of the Week post that would have gone up three days ago, it’ll be rolled into the next one).  I still want to finish my work on Rime Tower from last week.

Houserule’s podcast on January 13, 2012 (Episode 18: Old Enough) discussed (at length; I make it about 50 minutes of the 70-minute podcast) fantastic locations, including reminiscing about fantastic locations and incredible encounters from their own gaming past.  I am particularly tickled that they never made it to the third topic planned, not because the third topic got dropped but because they just… never got there because they were spending so much time on this one.

Thanks to Greg Christopher for bringing this to my attention.

seaofstarsrpg brings us the Snowfall of Irasosia.  Literally a cool place, there is a ‘waterfall of magic snow’.  Interesting, integrated with the world (drives an entire industry), and inexplicable.  A good combination.

I even enjoyed it despite having our first snowfall of the year last night and spending two hours making our driveway passable (and two hours with a snowblower is a long time).

I’m not entirely certain Ravyn ever sleeps.  She’s posting other material to her site, and three more articles relating to this carnival.  First is a discussion of Perfect Locations, discussing the ideal form of each location and how to present it, along with considerations of how to vary from that ideal.  Seeing the Light explores the use and description of light in setting a scene, and Who’s There? talks about how some scenes and locations have little meaning without people present.

I’m glad you’re enjoying yourself, Ravyn.  Your posts are quite different from what I expected to see in this carnival, while remaining solidly on topic and making me think, and that delights me.

On Alignments and Energy Types

Bruce Cordell asks at if the ‘radiant’ and ‘holy’ damage types should (poll actually says ‘can’, but conversation at google+ says he really means ‘should’ if it makes more sense) exist in the same game.

I didn’t take part in the poll because I think the poll is poorly worded, but I think the underlying question deserves a response.  From my comment there:

It used to be that ‘holy’ was divine power (usually good), while ‘radiant’ would be positive energy, a fundamental building block (literally so) of the universe.  One exists because of powerful will, one just exists.  They are different things.

True, there is often presented an overlap between them, in that ‘good divine power’ seems to draw on or make use of positive energy… but I don’t see it as a necessary thing.  I can imagine an evil god calling on positive energy (radiant power) to create, or damage, something.  Similarly, a good god calling on negative energy (‘the merciful, the ender of pain’) isn’t beyond my imagining.

I’d say they are different things, there is just often a correspondence between them.

As far as preference is concerned, I like the division — positive and negative energy is just that — energy.  It just is, without the alignment weighting ‘holy’ or ‘unholy’ would give it.  I don’t want to require a divine relationship to use it, and conversely I don’t think I want to lose the option of ‘divine power’ for ‘just energy’ anyone can handle.

I see value to having them distinct.  In fact, what I would really like to see is multiple energy types that have specific effects.  I don’t remember seeing differences in energy effects beyond what defenses work against them, and who is particular vulnerable to them.  Fire, cold, electricity… it just depends whether you have red, white, or yellow protection to shield you from them, or if you have the red, white, or yellow vulnerability that causes you to take more damage.  That seems kind of weak to me.