Links of the Week: September 19, 2011

Let’s see… I seem to have a lot of campaign setting posts in this week’s link list.

Age of Ravens

The Road to Doubtfall: A Microscope Alchemical AP


Lowell is working on an alchemist-focused campaign.  This post describes a Microscope session he ran with his wife regarding this campaign.

For such a short article, it outlines a rather intriguing timeline for the setting.  I agree with him, though, Microscope really does work better with a somewhat larger number of participants.

Atlas of the Flanaess


This site describes itself as

The most ambitious attempt to map the world of Greyhawk ever undertaken. Enter and you will find a repository of Flanaess maps unequaled anywhere in the known planes of existence. Fantasy maps done to give you inspiration and information to run better Greyhawk campaigns.

This work is done as a tribute to the creator of the World of Greyhawk – Gary Gygax.

From what I can see, there is a significant number of very pretty maps here drawn by Anna B. Meyer… and everyone knows how much I like pretty maps.

Blood, Sweat, and Dice

Interweaving Combat and Narration


Matthew dissects the Inigo-Rugen fight from The Princess Bride as if it were a D&D 4e combat (adding annotations to the segment as it plays at YouTube).  I got here from his post on Deadly Dungeons & Dragons, below.

DD&D: Deadly Dungeons and Dragons


Matthew discusses different levels of grittiness and danger in RPG combat.  The video shown in this blog post is taken from a Game of Thrones scene and fighting is very, very vicious compared to Princess Bride… I really need to watch this series, I think.

He also describes changes that may be made to the D&D 4e rules to make it better suit this style of combat.  This is done in basically three steps.

  1. Lose the level bonus.
  2. Make hit points work more like the old days (with a nod to the 3.x Unearthed Arcana rules)
    1. At 0 hit points you’re out of the fight (not dead, and reaching negative hit points equal to your negative bloodied value doesn’t kill you)
    2. Bloodied condition is no longer based on hit point total, but on having taken any vitality damage.
    3. You have vitality score equal to your Constitution score; any damage taken to vitality gives you the bloodied condition, zero vitality means unconscious and saving throws to stay alive, and vitality below zero means dead.  It looks like you potentially take vitality damage on any and all hits (damage from hit – (targeted defense – 10)), with coup de grace attacks doing their full damage to vitality.
  3. healing rules unchanged, but vitality heals much slower.

If I understand the normal D&D 4e rules, this will make for very short, very vicious fights.  I’d be willing to give it a try for a short game, but suspect it would lead to Harnmaster-style play (“whatever you do, don’t get us into a fight!“… to the point where a character who wandered away from camp at night and got ambushed by three goblins led to the rest of the party carefully extinguishing our fire and spending the rest of the night huddled in fear that the goblins were going to come looking for us after we heard them kill the moron).

In other words, rather a different experience than is normally felt in a D&D 4e (or D&D 3.x, but maybe not AD&D 1e) play.

Division Nihil

Campaign Concept: The Natives Are What?!?


An interesting twist on ecology… just where do dungeons come from?

Are you now, or have you ever been, Chaotic Evil?


A discussion of alignment (as admitted by the author, even), but one I found worth reading.

Disease is the Cure (version 1)


Marshall is a pretty reliable source of links.  In this post he considers how various ‘undead’ and monsters might actually be relatively normal creatures affected by disease — in this case, different strains of rabies.

Incidentally, the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews (Magic Bites, Magic Burns, Magic Slays, etc.) explores this very idea.  Vampires and werecreatures are both infected with different pathogens (mutually exclusive) that cause the physical changes present in each group.

Dungeon’s Master

The Honor System


This post looks at honor (as opposed to alignment), but they are related topics.

The Dungeoneering Dad

Lazy Friday Fantasy Metal Post: The Sword – “Night City”


Old-school metal, video shows guys fighting with swords?  And a space ship with a city-destroying laser?  Has my attention.  I think I might look these guys up.

Dungeons N Dragons

Counting the Calories in D&D


Shades of nethack!  Add in “eat the corpses of your enemies” and you’d be almost there (would need that you could gain intrinsics from doing so).

I can see how simulationists and other modellers might be attracted to this, I think it more hassle than it’s worth in-game — as does the author; he presents it is a potential interesting option for those who swing that way.

I’m unlikely to use this in any practical sense, but I did find it an interesting read — and may well use it elsewhere.  In fact, as I mentioned above it feels like it could be an idea to include in a nethack-based campaign.  I’ll have to bring this to GreyKnight’s attention.


Atlas of the Flanaess: Ahlissa


This post is “little more” than a link to a cartographer drawing very, very nice maps of the Greyhawk setting… and pretty maps are always on-topic for me.

Greywulf’s Lair

A Beginner’s Guide to Superhero Gaming, Part One


I’m linking to this article not because I want to play a supers game but because the style of play sounds, honestly, something like what I expect high-level Echelon play to be like — over the top, all around.  This should be a reminder to check the Mutants & Masterminds rules for ideas of suitable abilities.

Hack & Slash

On Slaying the Quantum Ogre


On Resurrecting the Quantum Ogre and Having Him Over for Tea


Two more articles in a series about player agency, related to the article “How an Illusion Can Rob Your Game of Fun” I linked to last week.

On the Thursday Trick, Vents, Sprays, and Agency


The key bit in this post for me is his description (in a comment) of describing an environment:

  • If it’s a trap, there will be clues to the trap.
  • If there’s a monster they will see signs or a reaction roll will be made.
  • If it’s a trick, there will be clues to the trick.
  • If there’s treasure, it may be hidden.  It may require some work to get it back to town.
  • If it’s an empty room, there will be a variety of things there, just like one of the other encounters.

In other words, there is almost always some indication of what’s there.  He mentions a related PDF that I’m going to look for when I get a minute.

The Hopeless Gamer

Dragon Age Set 1 – Have I finally found my fantasy RPG? (Part 3)


The Hopeless Gamer describes Dragon Age set one (which covers levels 1-5), with a high-level overview of some of the mechanics.

I have been hearing some good things about this game and have both box sets, still sealed, on the shelf to my left waiting for me to give them a look.

Land of Nod

Shades of White


Matt’s continuing series of variant dragons, this time he adds half a dozen pale greys (presumably ‘Shades of Black’ will cover darker greys).

  • Achromatic Dragon
  • Cinereous Dragon
  • Ghastly Dragon
  • Isabelline Dragon
  • Ivory Dragon
  • Pearl Dragon


Travel Back in Time to USENET 30 Years Ago


Old school USENET, being replayed in real time.  I suspect that with a bit of digging we can find Sea Wasp….

The Mandragora

Building an RPG, pt 2


I posted a link to part 1 of this series last week.  This post discusses alignments in Ashes of Freedom (the RPG being built in this series).

North of Nowhere

Reflections on Using Google+ and Twiddla


Using Google+ and Twiddla to Game Online


Two articles on playing RPGs online using… yeah, Google+ and Twiddla.

Given my current situation it’s pretty difficult for me to RPG face to face, so most of my gaming in the last few years has been done online.  I’m always happy to see new ideas and tools that can make it better.

The Player’s Side of the Screen

Breaking the Game?


Carpe describes a customizable boardgame (RISK: Legacy) wherein you’re given the board and a set of stickers that get applied to the board as you play for the first fifteen games, and selectable modifications to the rule book, eventually resulting in a unique version of RISK customized to the group playing.

Fascinating concept.  I’m not sure how it will work out in practice, but I’d be interested in hearing about it.

Sevilla 111 Gigapixels


Touted as the “World Record Panoramic Photo”… 111 gigapixels worth.  This might take a while to download.

The Spirits of Eden

The Empire of the Ashura


As with Tales of Kaelaross (below), Spirits of Eden posts often describe some element of an incredible campaign setting.  I really need to find some time to find more time to review the material here, because it is excellent.

In this post, Dennis describes a Pellucidar nation under the Five Nations of Adel and the empire that exists there.

Stuffer Shack

The One Real Problem With Magic Items (And How To Fix It)


Jonathan describes a perceived issue with magic items in D&D and what may be done to address the issue.

In some ways it rather reminds me of the Earthdawn rules for legendary items, though the article itself lacks the applicable crunch.

Swords & Stitchery

The Wolverine Trailer 1975 [Clint Eastwood]


Okay, I’d never had cause to go looking, so I shouldn’t be shocked I’d never heard of this movie, but damn.  I think I’d like to see if I can track this down.  Clint Eastwood as Wolverine, Steve McQueen as Sabretooth, and Bill Bixby as Bruce Banner and Lou Ferrigno as The Hulk (I remember this pairing from when I was a kid)…

Aw man.  From comments at the actual YouTube video, this is a recut/pastiche (didn’t find it at IMDB, either).  I’m horribly disappointed.

Sycarion Diversions

Where Primordials Reside


A suggestion from John’s young son sparked his imagination and led to the creation of ‘primordials’, creatures made of “fundamental stuff“.  Not just fire and water and so on, there are ice cream primordials — creatures made of fundamental ice cream, or essential ice cream, actual atomic ice cream that (presumably) cannot be subdivided into such things as cream and sugar.

In this particular post, John describes where fire primordials come from.

And Now The Water Primordials


After the description of the previous link, this one shouldn’t need much explanation.

The Tales of Kaelaross

Demons in Kaelaross


I keep meaning to find time to go back and read more of this site.  It’s full of fascinating campaign material.

In this article John identifies demon types associated with various chaotic deities.

This reminds me quite a bit of the Demons series of supplements from Mayfair Games (Role Aids product line) that identify each fiend with the ‘area of interest’ (sins of the flesh, sins of the heart, and so on, though this is something of a simplification).  I’ve got the entire series on my tablet now for review when I get some free time.

Tower of the Archmage

I see you shiver with anticip-


Cygnus is taking part in Asshat Paladin’s OSR Short Adventure Challenge (write 25 short-format adventure summaries, aimed to take characters from first level to twenty-fifth.

This post happened to land on Tim Curry Tuesday.

This adventure is an incredibly thinly-disguised adventure summary based on the Rocky Horror (Picture) Show.  I cannot describe how this tickles me.

Heh.  Right.  ‘Free time’.

Underwear on the Outside

Hack and Slash: Relationship Mapping and You!


Joe describes how relationship mapping can be used in Mutants & Masterminds to good effect.  The concepts (if not necessarily the mechanical effects)will readily work in other game systems and settings (a similar idea is used in Spirit of the Century, for example, in character creation).  I think I would implement the specifics slightly differently, but overall I use similar techniques in my campaign setting design methodology — the maps are drawings of relationships identified in each entity’s definition.

Wrathofzombie’s Blog

You Either Die a Hero… Or Live Long Enough to Become the Villain


This article looks a reasonable consequence of PCs as superheroes.  In a world where most people are low level (as is supported by the actual effects of low-level vs. high-level play in D&D 3.x), high-level characters are going to be rather fearsome to the normal man.

Sure, it’s nice that they got rid of that worrisome dragon that everyone has been scared of… but these are people who killed a dragon!  How comfortable would your typical farmer really feel around these people… and how comfortable would the king feel?  There’s probably a reason they get awarded land far from the capital — they can expand the kingdom, way over there.

This fits pretty well with Echelon rules as well.  In a setting where “most people” are low level and live in safe places, having high level (and thus, really quite dangerous) people gently invited to live elsewhere makes a lot of sense.


  1. Ooo, I like the nutrition post! I made a try at expanding it here. Among other things, I adjusted the size of a nutrition point so that combat hunger could be measured in minutes (for obvious reasons). Also made provision for more NetHack stuff!

    The other links look interesting but will have to go on my list. I still haven’t read half of the ones you posted from September 5th!

  2. I’m glad you liked the article! I try my best nowadays to do my worldbuilding separate from systems, so anyone can play them with their favorite games and some tweaking. I’m glad to see people who play all kinds of games are enjoying it.

    I’ll be looking at the Kaelaross site, always good to compare and contrast your format with others doing similar things.

  3. Hi Dennis,

    I’ve been watching Spirits of Eden for a while, your posts on setting show an inspiring level of detail about the specific topics you’re posting on (including, as I recall, one a short time ago on marriage and sexual attitudes among the various nations). It is evident to me that you put a lot of work into your world building.

    I think world and system have to have some good relationship — a gross mismatch gives you a game that is hard to play. GURPS is a fine system if you like it, but there are some worlds it would just not be suitable… and the same can be said for d20-based systems.

    My own campaign, I’m working on Echelon d20 for the system and expect to keep most of the setting details here (or at Obsidian Portal when I actually get the game going again)… but that might be a little more separation than you’re talking about.

    However if you look at my Campaign Setting Design articles here, you’ll see that when I write up an entity, the mechanical information comes last (both in the definition of the entity and is usually actually written last). To me it’s honestly, most of the time, the least interesting bit of the entity definition.


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