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.

The Power of Random

I may have mentioned that my son and his friends are interested in playing Pathfinder RPG.  I offered to run a few sessions, and realized this is a good opportunity to get my West Marches-style sandbox off the ground.

I broke out some old tools, including a random-table-roller I built… 12-14 (d3+11) years ago, maybe? and constructed a set of tables out of Matt Finch’s Tome of Adventure Design to get some ideas of places to put in the sandbox.  I messed with things a little; instead of just the three sets of tables provided, I mixed and matched between them.

The first fifty results I got:

  • Birthing-Boxes of the Carnal Horror
  • Blue Isles of the Ancestral Frame
  • Breathing Dungeons of the Flame-Hunters
  • Bronze Jungle of the Guard-Farm
  • Brooding Cellars of the Bandit Nomads
  • Calcified Garden of the Flying Tribe
  • Calcified Pits of the Witch Caverns
  • Circuitous Sanctuary of the Jewel Titan
  • Clay Mansion of the Lion-Wizard
  • Collapsing Edifice of the Feral Guardian
  • Collapsing Island of the Elemental Minotaur(s)
  • Confessional Game of the Monkey-Golem
  • Confluent Portal of the Howling Druid
  • Crude Grotto of the Cockroach-Hybrid
  • Crumbling Outpost of the Loathsome Goddess
  • Crypt-Fountain of the Flame-Tribe
  • Crypt-Swamp of the Centipede-Manticore
  • Cursed Foundry of the Hyena-Spawn
  • Cyclopean Barracks of the Vampiric Centaur
  • Dank Cocoon of the Elephant-Horde
  • Dank Prison of the Winged Mother
  • Deadly Isles of the Reaction-Connector
  • Ectoplasmic Rune of the Howling Ooze(s)
  • Entry-Cells of the Sabertooth Gargoyle(s)
  • Eroding Barracks of the Killing-Organs
  • Factory-Keep of the Heart-Combiner
  • Filth-Vines of the Monkey-Efreet
  • Fossil-Orb of the Imprisoned Society
  • Fossil-Pools of the Ice Rat(s)
  • Fossil-Wards of the Loathsome Seed
  • Ghoul-Tower of the Leeching Golem
  • Granite Dimension of the Massive Wizard
  • Horned Sanctuary of the Reaction-Gallery
  • Hunting Dens of the Skeleton Swamp
  • Lethargy-Church of the Dragonfly-Cannibal
  • Lethargy-Haven of the Brain Octopus
  • Mud-Pits of the Ice Combiner
  • Prayer-Cairn of the Bat-Chieftain of Goblins
  • Sacrificial Statue of the Snake-Rakshasa
  • Sentient Pyramid of the Lava Warlord
  • Shadow-Harvester of the Army of the Alchemist
  • Skin Bowl of the Mad Warlord of the Orcs
  • Teleportation Rafts of the Dragonfly-Keeper
  • Teleportation Spouts of the Master Congregation
  • Three-Part Cliffs of the Sacrificial Barge
  • Toxic Halls of the Spell-Hatchery
  • Unreality-Token of the Elemental Whisperer
  • Unthinkable Brewery of the Jade Displacer
  • Vision-Incubator of the Blood Crown
  • Vision-Preserver of the Elemental Priest(s)

Obviously not all are usable as they are, but an impressive number of them will need some consideration before I cull them.

This has some possibilities.  Let’s see where this goes….

Variant Specialist Wizards

I have always liked the idea of specialist wizards, but have never really been fond of the implementation.  A couple barred schools of magic (only one if specializing in Divination, because it sucks), in exchange for an extra spell slot per spell level and a +2 bonus to Spellcraft checks relating to spells of the specialized school.  As I recall the AD&D Second Edition specialist wizard was ever so slightly more school-specific, but not enough to really matter.

It might be possible to get more formulaic and boring, but if that happens I’d prefer to not see it.

I’ve long wanted to run a campaign where all wizards were expected to be specialists, and really want to for my West Marches-style sandbox campaign.  I don’t have the heart to make my players take on the lame implementation from the core rules.  I’ve taken a couple of runs at improving the situation but never got around to wrapping it up.  At some point I’ll dig through the archives to post here what I had written.  I remember there being a prestige class solution (that was never really completed) and a feat-based solution (that had a lot of feats that could encourage or help specialization) that never got tried for real.  Neither of these mandated specialization, they merely rewarded it.

I want to see specialist wizards that are notably different from each other.  They are based on the same framework, but do somewhat different things.

There are a few sources of inspiration (or at least ideas) that could help here.

  • Unearthed Arcana provides some tools to help with this, alternate class abilities suitable for specialists that take the place of standard or specialist abilities.  The bonus feats, familiar, and bonus spell slots are all subject to replacement with these new abilities.  I don’t necessarily like all of the suggested abilities, but they do provide a starting point.
  • The Dragonlance core book has the White, Red, and Black Robe wizards.  Each group specializes in different schools of magic and must choose from specific opposed schools, and at higher levels they may specialize in two schools of magic (at a total cost of three or four barred schools).  I will likely want to review this material later.

For now I’m leaning toward the meta-class approach, using the wizard class as a framework for building actual specialist classes.  A character may be a member of only one of these classes and may not be a generalist wizard.

20 Quick Questions: Rules

Brendan at Untimately posted a list of 20 Quick Questions about rules as applied in your campaign.  I’ve put this off for weeks, but here are my answers for my next campaign.

Keith’s Westmarch-Style Campaign Rules

I’ve spoken before about wanting to run a Westmarches-style sandbox campaign.

I was planning to keep close to RAW (closer than I usually would, in order to minimize learning curve for new players and to reduce the time spent on rules-mods — I’ve got Echelon d20 for that.

Here are 20 rules clarifications that are likely to be needed anyways at some point.

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West Marches-style Sandbox Campaign

Earlier this week I read about Ben Robbins’ West Marches sandbox campaign, and I won’t lie, the concept and structure excited me.

I no longer live near my old group, in a way that makes tabletop gaming practical for me — especially when you realize I get up at silly o’clock (5:00 AM) for work each day.  Driving home from the game on a work night leaves me way too short on sleep the next day (and would require that I drive down on the day, cutting into my “doze on the bus” hour each morning).  Add in my family commitment time (Monday through Wednesday evening I hardly get home before 8:00 PM, and usually not before 7:30 PM Thursdays) it’s difficult to find time to even look for anyone more local for tabletop play.

Online, however, the audience is somewhat larger, and the tools have been getting much better in the last while.  I’ve played using a combination of IRC and maptools, and I’ve been hearing some very good things from people using google+ and related tools for gaming.  I’ve had some difficulty in the past with keeping a consistent group together, but Ben’s West Marches campaign actually accommodates that rather well.

I propose to run a sandbox campaign in a West Marches style.

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