Monthly Archives: March, 2013

Seekers of Lore: Spell Books As Rewards

I was thinking recently about spell books — arcane and divine — and realized that the structure of Seekers of Lore could make good use of them.

Seekers of Lore

Seekers of Lore

I don’t know precisely how I will incorporate them, and I’d welcome your thoughts, but here are a few things I’m thinking about.

  • Spell books make a wonderful reward for casters. New spells are always welcome.
    • Spell books could contain ‘common spells’, but those are likely to be relatively worthless (in the ‘commodity’ scale, as much as spell books can be).
    • Spell books with uncommon spells (those not in the core rule books, say) are likely to have higher market value.
    • “Uncommon spells” might be just reskinned common spells, or they might be new spells altogether (or at least, taken from non-core books).
  • Spell books are, in classic D&D, noted as being in part “wizard’s notebooks”, and include other information of value.
    • Item creation ‘recipes’.
    • Alternate applications of magic (which might act something like metamagic feats or allow other tricks).
    • Obscure knowledge (bonuses to knowledge checks, or specific information).
  • Call of Cthulhu Call of Cthulhu Call of Cthulhu!
    • I may or may not involve madness and horror rules. I think I don’t expect this to be that kind of campaign.
    • “Famous books”, however, are entirely appropriate.
    • Language should probably be significant. I like the idea of having to meet certain requirements (whether just language or something else) in order to use a book.
  • Books might have several levels of mastery. These may have different effects.
    • Totally unmastered, never even read.
    • Reviewed, where the book has been read and the contents discovered but not learned.
    • Studied, where the book as been read in detail and certain elements (spells, processes, etc.) learned.
    • Mastered, where the entire book has been read in detail and all elements learned.
  • Copying books or their content might not be as simple as transcribing them. I like the idea of each physical book being a relatively unique item. It might be possible to copy elements from a book that you have studied, but without mastering it you cannot recreate it well enough that someone can gain the benefits of mastery from your copy.

If I had a local group I would be very tempted to produce physical books to hand out as props. Probably printed 5.5×8.5 (letter paper folded in half) and stapled, 12-16 pages (6-8 sheets of paper, plus cardstock cover), first page outlines the content (including common spells listed by name, uncommon spells, processes and techniques, and formulae), uncommon spells in normal format, descriptions of the processes, techniques, and formulae, and so on. Considering the “multiple pages per spell” guidelines the physical book I describe should be enough to handle the “100-page standard spell book”.

Heh, I’m honestly tempted, if I get this going regularly as a Hangout game, to print and email these out to the people who find them.

Wandering Gamist’s “Adventure Template Library”

I can’t help but think that John’s idea of an Adventure Template Library is a damn good one.

I propose therefore the creation of a cross-edition open-source adventure-template library, comparable in purpose and workflow to sourceforge. Someone (or several someones) creates an adventure for their game and decide to upload it. They strip out edition-specific elements, creating a ‘template’ of maps, NPC personalities, room descriptions, and other invariants, and throw that into the web licensed such that it can be fully modified with attribution. Other users go “Man, that’s a nice backbone for an adventure” and fill in the edition-specific gaps, then upload their modifications.

A repository of detailed adventure outlines that just need mechanics added. This has the potential to be an excellent resource.

I find that the most complicated part of adventure construction is determining the scenario itself, the major figures, the situation, the relationships, and so on. This is why my Campaign and Scenario Design articles focus on those elements — once they are determined, producing the mechanics for any particular system is a largely mechanical exercise.

I don’t want to say at this point that I’ll provide anything to add to it — I’d like to, but I’m busy enough that I can’t really make any commitment to it at this point. I look forward to seeing where this goes.

500 Random Old-School Adventure Sites

My colleague and collaborator GreyKnight told me this morning that he is building a megadungeon.


I thought I’d give him a bit of a nudge, and ran a little random generator I’m working on to build a set of 500 Old School styled adventuring sites. The tables originated with Matt Finch’s excellent Tome of Adventure Design, applied a little differently than described in the book, and I’m working on rolling my own… but this might help as a start.

Normally I generate about fifty at a time and cull, but I figured since GreyKnight’s likely to want a few more locations than I usually look for, and will likely want to look for several that seem somewhat related, I’d give ten times as many as I usually work with myself.


  1. Skeleton Jars of the Bridal Perches
  2. Deceitful Breeder of the Unfinished Cradle
  3. Chaos-Simulacrum of the Undead Prince
  4. Mantis-Tribe of the Skeletal Mummy
  5. Sinister Abbey of the Poorly-built Galleon
  6. Bandit Troll(s) of the Death-Yeti
  7. Draining-Forge of the Howling Apparition
  8. Resurrected Cleric of the Madness-Cairn
  9. Mutation-Wheel of the Horned Wizard
  10. Harmonic Dancer of the Industrial Bridge
  11. Bone-Bazaar of the Eye-Globe
  12. Horrific Collector of the Discord-Globe
  13. Guard-Ovens of the Arachnid Haven
  14. Monastic Sanctuary of the Ant-Burrower
  15. Dark Slime(s) of the Dragonfly-Sisterhood
  16. Cunning Marsh of the Leech-Wyrm
  17. Genius Centaur of the Sapphire Labyrinth
  18. Enchanted Slime(s) of the Shadow-Rafts
  19. Slime-Kiln of the Brain-Disk
  20. Blood Rat(s) of the Feral Hydra
  21. Granite Megalith of the Plague-Statue
  22. Eldritch Necropolis of the Mutant Hybrid
  23. Flame-Eye of the Carnal Witch
  24. Crypt-Crown of the Deadly Pits
  25. Dragonfly-Witch of the Pattern Pools


Comment Spam Actually Relevant to my Interests

Probably the most transparent comment spam I’ve had to filter ever

{I have|I’ve} been {surfing|browsing} online more than {three|3|2|4} hours today, yet I never found any interesting article like yours. {It’s|It is} pretty worth enough for me.
{In my opinion|Personally|In my view}, if all {webmasters|site owners|websi

This especially amuses me because I am currently working on random table construction and string substitution templates

Seekers of Lore: Campaign Cosmology Redux

I always find it fun when I talk to someone and it leads me to ideas I wouldn’t have had otherwise.

Seekers of Lore

Seekers of Lore

Last night at dinner my son asked if I’d written any more for my campaign. I told him about the campaign premise for Seekers of Lore, including the campaign cosmology, the difference between sandbox and not-sandbox play, and my plans for granting experience points (rewarding the behavior I want to encourage, discovery and recovery of what was lost).

He’s a quick young man, he generally anticipated exactly what I was going to tell him about. Which suggests it may be cliché, or just that it is a natural next step.

For instance, when I was describing the setting and how so many things were lost, he immediately asked if they could be found again. Well spotted, that’s the point.

Similarly, when I described how the elemental planes were formed, he asked if they were concentric spheres, with fire surrounding air surrounding water surrounding earth.  Viewed one way, certainly… but considering the number of dimensions involved, they could be viewed in a fashion that means they aren’t.

He surprised me with an idea, though. I had earlier described how Amorphia changes things, Elder gods can survive direct contact with Amorphia, greater gods have the power to push it away (enough that they can create planes), lesser gods can hold it away from themselves enough to protect themselves for a time, and intermediate gods are a little more powerful, enough to protect themselves and shield others for a time, but not enough to create planes. During major Amorphic events the gods have much more power to work with individually, but may be forcibly changed by it, and possibly destroyed.

He later asked how big gods are, and I told him “probably as big as they want to be”. Here’s the bit that surprised me: “What if they are always the same size? What if they can’t change themselves? They can create chairs, but can’t become chairs. They can create worlds, but can’t change themselves at all. This might be why they don’t change back after Amorphia changes them, why they want to hide from it, to have shelter from it.”

I… huh, wow. That explains a lot, actually. I like it.

Kamiwaza — “Godly Skill”

“Kamiwaza” is a Japanese word meaning “godly skill”.

This video is a little over twelve minutes long and shows the winner of a ‘Kamiwaza contest’ (I don’t read Japanese, so I’m largely inferring from observation, and my wife confirmed that that’s more or less what’s happening here).

This person basically builds a large mobile in his hand… and caps it with another balancing feat, then demonstrates how little room for error he actually had.

My reactions along the way:

  • Hmm, what’s this?
  • Okay, this is cool.
  • No way, this is crazy.
  • Ha! he missed one… no, no way.
  • That is badass.
  • It would be cool if he… yeah, that close.

I’ve seen a few comments along the lines of “I think I just held my breath for twelve minutes”, and it does feel kind of like that.

Seekers of Lore: Finding XP

The campaign premise I posted earlier was prompted by an idea I had regarding an alternate set of goals characters might have, and how that might be encouraged.

Seekers of Lore

Seekers of Lore

Early editions of Dungeons & Dragons focused character advancement largely on treasure acquisition — you got most of your experience points by escaping with treasure, and you could get some by defeating various monsters and the like. The treasure was generally worth several times as much XP as the monsters you might encounter, though.

Second edition AD&D added class-specific rewards to encourage certain class-oriented behavior — thieves got bonus XP rewards for stealing treasure, fighters for killing things, wizards for creating magic items and researching spells, and so on. I don’t know how much these rules actually got applied, we quickly decided they weren’t worth the bother, but they were on the books.

Third edition D&D and after, though, most of the XP rewarded came from defeating monsters. Treasure wasn’t really work anything toward advancement, and in fact it was generally considered a good idea to constrain how much treasure PCs had access to because it became problematic if they had the wrong amount (too much or too little).


Seekers of Lore: Campaign Premise

I’m planning a new campaign, to be run as a open table sandbox in the West Marches style.

Seekers of Lore

Seekers of Lore

Almost nine years ago, I wrote about a campaign cosmology that has sat at the back of my mind since.

The gods created Paradise in order to avoid the effects of Amorphia, primordial chaos. Because Paradise was built as it was — in a damn hurry, that is, with additions as Amorphia surged and new gods were created — it was never fully stable and was subject to Amorphic events. The gods present joined forces to build a new structure (the elemental, ethereal, and prime planes) that would be more resilient and give them more shelter, but were interrupted before they were finished and the project had to be abandoned.

At the same time, Paradise shattered and the outer planes were formed from the remnants as the desperate survivors tried to save themselves. Many were destroyed, popped like bubbles, many survived, all were changed.

The project to create the Prime Plane was nevertheless a qualified success. The structure had the resilience to withstand the maelstrom that tore apart Paradise, even as the gods abandoned it to try to save themselves… but because the job was not completed, it lacked the ‘strength’ to actually support the gods being present. They had built a more or less safe shelter for mortals.

Before the maelstrom, mortal creatures had come into being. Some were deliberately created by the gods, some were more or less spontaneously generated as the consequence of the powers being manipulated to create and shape the planes. Some gods were interested enough in them to study them (“the spontaneous generation of bio-social structure” was a not-uncommon topic of conversation between some gods), and they were sometimes useful to the gods, sometimes a nuisance, sometimes entertaining, but most of the time generally considered not worth the trouble to destroy. That could always be done later if needed.

Sometimes entire civilizations might be destroyed if it turns out, for example, that “that continent is in the way right there, so just push it down half a mile or so for a few decades and get it out of the way until we need it”, but for the most part mortals tended to prosper.

When the maelstrom struck, however, and the gods had to drop tools and run, things got a little messed up. New mountain ranges formed, rivers changed course, time sometimes ran backward, things like that. Much, possibly most, of the structure that had been formed or used by mortals was lost. Not necessarily destroyed, but much of it was no longer accessible, and in many cases the location of various things might no longer be known.

For most mortals  life basically continued on. Changed, but survivors survived and continued to prosper, more or less, rebuilding civilization.

For some mortals, though, the stories of lost wonders is something of a draw, much as a candle is to a moth. They want to find out what is over there? and how did this happen? and what does this do?

These mortals are the adventurers, who seek lost marvels and to bring back the wonders told of in stories.