Saturday, May 29, 2010

Dark Sun Previews


For those of you  who don't know by now, Wizards of the Coast are re-releasing the Dark Sun Setting in August.

Here is a primer to introduce the setting:

Welcome to Athas: A Quick Player’s Primer

The world of the DARK SUN Campaign Setting is unique in several ways. Many familiar trappings of the DUNGEONS & DRAGONS game are missing or turned on their heads. Athas is not a place of shining knights and robed wizards, of deep forests and divine pantheons. To venture over the sands of Athas is to enter a world of savagery and splendor that draws on different traditions of fantasy and storytelling. Simple survival beneath the deep red sun is often its own adventure.

Newcomers to Athas have many things to learn about the world, its people, and its monsters, but the following eight characteristics encapsulate the most important features of the DARK SUN campaign setting.

The World is a Desert: Athas is a hot, arid planet covered with endless seas of dunes, lifeless salt flats, stony wastes, rocky badlands, thorny scrublands, and worse. From the first moments of dawn, the crimson sun beats down from an olive-tinged sky. Temperatures routinely exceed 100 degrees by midmorning and can reach 130 degrees or more by late afternoon. The wind is like the blast of a furnace, offering no relief from the oppressive heat. Dust and sand borne on the breeze coat everything with yellow-orange silt. In this forbidding world, cities and villages exist only in a few oases or verdant plains. The world beyond these islands of civilization is a barren wasteland roamed by nomads, raiders, and hungry monsters.

The World is Savage: Life on Athas is brutal and short. Bloodthirsty raiders, greedy slavers, and hordes of inhuman savages overrun the deserts and wastelands. The cities are little better; each chokes in the grip of an immortal tyrant. The vile institution of slavery is widespread on Athas, and many unfortunates spend their lives in chains, toiling for brutal taskmasters. Every year hundreds of slaves, perhaps thousands, are sent to their deaths in bloody arena spectacles. Charity, compassion, kindness—these qualities exist, but they are rare and precious blooms. Only a fool hopes for such riches.

Metal is Scarce: Most arms and armour are made of bone, stone, wood, and other such materials. Mail or plate armour exists only in the treasuries of the sorcerer-kings. Steel blades are almost priceless, weapons that many heroes never see during their lifetimes.

Arcane Magic Defiles the World: The reckless use of arcane magic during ancient wars reduced Athas to a wasteland. To cast an arcane spell, one must gather power from the living world nearby. Plants wither to black ash, crippling pain wracks animals and people, and the soil is sterilized; nothing can grow in that spot again. It is possible to cast spells with care, avoiding any more damage to the world, but defiling is more potent than preserving. As a result, sorcerers, wizards, and other wielders of arcane magic are generally reviled and persecuted across Athas regardless of whether they preserve or defile. Only the most powerful spellcasters can wield arcane might without fear of reprisals.

Sorcerer-Kings Rule the City-States: Terrible defilers of immense power rule all but one of the city-states. These mighty spellcasters have held their thrones for centuries; no one alive remembers a time before the sorcerer-kings. Some claim to be gods, and some claim to serve gods. Some are brutal oppressors, where others are more subtle in their tyranny. The sorcerer-kings govern through priesthoods or bureaucracies of greedy, ambitious templars, lesser defilers who can call upon the kings’ powers.

The Gods are Silent: Long ago, when the planet was green, the brutal might of the primordials overcame the gods. Today, Athas is a world without deities. There are no clerics, no paladins, and no prophets or religious orders. In the absence of divine influence, other powers have come to prominence in the world. Psionic power is well known and widely practised on Athas; even unintelligent desert monsters can have deadly psionic abilities. Shamans and druids call upon the primal powers of the world, which are often sculpted by the influence of elemental power.

Fierce Monsters Roam the World: The desert planet has its own deadly ecology. Many creatures that are familiar sights on milder worlds have long since died out or never existed at all. Athas has no cattle, swine, or horses; instead, people tend flocks of erdlus, ride on kanks or crodlus, and draw wagons with inixes and mekillots. Wild creatures such as lions, bears, and wolves are almost non-existent. In their place are terrors such as the id fiend, the baazrag, and the tembo.

Familiar Races Aren’t What You Expect: Typical fantasy stereotypes don’t apply to Athasian heroes. In many DUNGEONS & DRAGONS settings, elves are wise, benevolent forest-dwellers who guard their homelands from intrusions of evil. On Athas, elves are a nomadic race of herders, raiders, peddlers, and thieves. Halflings aren’t amiable river-folk; they’re xenophobic head hunters and cannibals who hunt and kill trespassers in their mountain forests. Goliaths—or half-giants, as they are commonly known—are brutal mercenaries that serve as elite guards and enforcers for the sorcerer-kings and their templars in many city-states.
 Anyone else as excited as me?

Addendum: Rodney Thomsan will be doing a monthly article in Dungeon Magazine on Dark Sun, starting in June

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Game Inspiration - Creatures


More websites to provide inspiration for gaming.  This time focusing on the monsters your valiant adventurers will be facing.

The first one, Creature Spot, features artwork of fantastical and futuristic creatures, including concept art from games and movies.  Lots of interesting images to base creatures off and the commentary by the artists is very insightful.  I found this site via Dark Roasted Blend

The Second, RPG Creatures, features the work of illustrator Nicholas Cloister along with stats and powers for the creatures he has drawn.  These stats can be fairly easily converted to your favorite system.  I found the site via NewbieDm's twitter feed.

So, which blogs do you follow for interesting creature and monster art?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Help WotC Improve Their Adventures


Rodney Thomson, one of the developers at  WotC (Wizards of the Coast), has approached the roleplaying community with a request for ways for WotC to improve the quality of their adventures.

WotC have been plagued with a generally poor public of their published adventures and Rodney is looking for suggestions and insight to what is lacking or substandard in their adventures.  You can give feedback on his blog at or Enworld.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Game Inspiration - Dark Roasted Blend


There are many wonderful websites where one can go find inspiration when putting together a session, a campaign or even homebrewing a setting.

 One of my favourite websites to find such inspiration is Dark Roasted Blend which provides a daily posting of related or unrelated images of the weird both real and imagined. 

Whether you are looking for surreal futuristic cityscapes, abandoned buildings for a post apocalyptic or cyberpunk game,  weird ancient ruins for a fantasy or pulp game or more go have a dig through their archives.

Which sites do you look at to provide inspiration for your games?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Upcomming RPGA Cape Town Events


Sorry about the silence over the last while, Mass Effect 2 has been eating my free time, and alongside Dragon Age Origins.  Both these games are master classes in setting design, which I am planning to blog about later today.

I am involved in the RPGA in Cape town and we have some events coming up that I would like to highlight:

20 Feb 2010: Intro to D&D 4th Edition

This event is aimed at people who are interested in D&D and have never played before, or who are interested in seeing the 4th Ed ruleset in action.  Modules with pregenerated characters will be provided, see the Facebook event for more details.

20 March 2010: Word Wide D&D Game Day: Players Handbook 3 Launch.

After having 3 successful Game Days last year, the PHB3 day features new classes and races from the PHB3, including the new Psionic power source.  The module, Beneath the Lonely Tower, offers an opportunity for new and current players to test the abilities of the new classes, as well as affording roleplaying opportunities.

More details in the Facebook event.

RPGA Cape Town has a group page on Facebook where we keep event details up to date, as well as a group in Wizards Community.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Upcomming D&D 4E Products or My Budget Weeps


The 2010 roundup for Wizards of the Coast has just finished.

Some of the upcomming products and highlights:

Martial Power 2, will contain 2 new ranger and warlord builds as well as a new one eachfighter and rogue, weapon style feats and martial practices (rituals for martial characters)

Players Handbook 3 introding Psionis and the full Hybrid rules as well as skill powers.
The Harrowing Halls tile set includes 3d elements


Monster Manual 3, more fluff heavy than the previous 2 with flavour text and story hooks.

Psionic  Power, giving new builds and more options for the psionicclasses introduced in PHB3

Dark Sun , consisting of a Campaign Setting Book as well as a monster book this will see the return of one of my favourite settings

Castle Ravenloft Boardgame, another item high on my radar, featuring modular tiles and a variety of scenarios this is a co-operative game for 1 – 5 players.  13 Adventures, 13 tiles sheets and 42 minis.

Gamma World, using a modified D&D4e system this is a return to a future world which has been blasted back into the middle ages, of intrest is a random mutation card deck, with boosters coming out later.

D&D Essentials – released at various times

The D&D Essentials line is designed to ease new players into the game, but also includes new builds and feats for existing players.

Red Box (September): Based off the classic “Red Box” including a solo introductory adventure is designed to introduce new players to D&D

Rules Compendium (September): Collects all the rules into one book, includes the errata.

Players Essentials (September): Builds off the Red Box and covers the basic classes – Fighter, Cleric, Wizard, Rogue, Ranger with new builds not in the PHB, the Feat chapter is all new.

Dungeon Masters Kit (October) Includes the Rules Compendium, Monster Tokens, 2  postermaps, sample adventures and more

Players Essentials Heroes of forgotten kingdoms (November:) new builds for paladin, druid, ranger, rogue and warlock. Another Essential book.  Also focusses on the lost empires of old:Human, dragonborn, tiefling, half-orc, drow, half-elf.

Essentials Monster Vault (November): Boxed set with new monsters and tokens for the monsters

Master Tile Sets

Master Tile Set (July) Basic dungeon tiles and group should be able to use, will remain in print
Master Tile Set The City (October) Basic city Tiles, with the dungeon set provides a nice baseline for a Dm to build a tile collection.          

So that is a brief overview of what is coming up in the next year from WotC, lots of interesting things, nice to see some effort being putting into putting out product to attract new payers to the RPG hobby

Thursday, January 7, 2010



WOTC have released the second part of their articles looking at using a Warlock’s Patron in a campaign to help provide and move plot points.  Very interesting reading if you have a DDI subscription.  The articles are available here and here.

This got me thinking into other classes in 4e which don’t have the built in Patron.  Here are a few ideas for both a player and a Dm to look at when designing a character.

Here are a few ideas for Patrons:

  • Guild – An organisation that takes in youngsters and trains them, they typically require some kind of loyalty in return for this training as well as assistance where they have influence.  A guild will also generally have allies and enemies where it is situated, as well as competitors.  Benefits for staying in the good books of a guild can include influence within an area, access to goods and services as well as information, help in quests and extra manpower for specific missions.  However, falling afoul of the guild can make life difficult where they have influence, higher prices, ambushes, refusal of service.  Also not all guilds are too happy to see people leave and might exact vengeance.  Fighters, rogues, wizards might typically come from a guild.
  • Master – A powerful person might take on apprentices to teach and provide help with his work.  Apprentices will be treated similarly to the master, respected if he is or possibly despised and loathed if the master has a particularly loathsome reputation.  Similarly to guilds the master might expect services from his apprentices.  Depending on the master, there might be several apprentices who might be encouraged to cooperate of compete for his attention.  Wizards, rogues, rangers, sorcerers and bards might be trained by a master.
  • Noble Patron – A rich noble might hire talented young artists, warriors, woodsmen or arcanists and provide them training.  This might be purely philanthropic in nature, looking to provide for talented youngsters, or for the gain of the noble, being able to show off a particularly talented bard or have a well stocked and protected hunting area.  Does the noble consider the character to be his slave or property, owing him for the elevated status?  There might even be something more sinister at work.  If the character leaves the employ of his sponsor is it on good terms? Would the sponsor harbour a grudge believe the character not to have shown enough gratitude, or might he even be paranoid, worried that his onetime shining star might sell information about his estate and affairs to rivals?  Bards, rogues, rangers, druids, wardens or fighters might have a noble patron.
  • Cult – A cult might take in promising youngsters to train for their own purposes, which might not always be nefarious in nature, a cult dedicated to the old religion might train druids, wardens, rangers and seekers.  Cults tend to have both public and hidden agendas and the character might not be aware of the true nature of the cult.  Depending on the cult, most character types could be trained by one.
  • Church or religion – A church could act like a guild or cult in training a character with a divine power source.  The allies and enemies of the church or sect within the church can be used to help or hinder the character.  Divine characters are obvious scions of a church, but fighters and rogues are also a possibility.  IF arcane magic is under the political control of the church then arcane characters might also fall into their domain.
  • Primal Spirit – a primal character could have a close association with a specific spirit who manifests in his powers or as his spirit companion, this kind of bond might be interesting to do as a boon from DMG2 or as an artefact with a concordance rating.  The happier the spirit the more it will give the player.

Having a patron in the characters back story come into the game can help give a player a sense of belonging to the campaign world.  The patron can help by providing quests or hints.  Where the patron has influence things might be easier with access to rare and expensive goods.  Allies, enemies and competitors to the patron can involve themselves in the affairs the of the characters, either helping or hindering them.

If the characters find themselves at odds with their patrons there should be repercussions, depending on the patron, can they come to an amicable agreement?  Will the patron be overbearing and demand the pcs tow the line?  Will the pcs have enough influence with the patron to be able to convince the patron that they are in the right?  Will this lead to a falling out with more dangerous repercussions?  Previous allies becoming active foes or just hindering or refusing to aid the characters?

Dragon Age uses patrons and organisations in your companions backgrounds in their personal quests, which helps bring the world to life.

Many thanks to Rechan from Enworld for some inspiration

How have you used patrons in your games?