Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Common Tongue


I've seen a good deal of pontificating about alignment languages over the years; seems silly to me. What really gets overlooked is the concept of Common as a language spoken throughout a campaign world. As anyone who has run a globe-spanning campaign set in a historical era of our world can tell you, it is a huge pain to juggle who can understand what based on where the players are and where they're from. Common side-steps all of that.

But where does Common come from? It seems miraculous, really, so why not give it a miraculous origin? Here's how I explain the existence of Common in my Ulverland setting:

Every civilized man and woman in the world speaks the Common tongue because of the existence of the Lexicos Spire in the Martyrlands. In the Ancient Era the Spire was erected by wise Matriarchs who performed a ritual upon it that grants the world's denizens knowledge of a shared language. Unfortunately, this shared language has done little to end factionalism and war as the Matriarchs had hoped it might.

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Farthingholme Mystery: A Mysterious Light



New to the Farthingholme Mystery? Read this first. Previous episodes can be found by following this tag.

Jeanne walks deeper into the darkness of the house, hoping to find where her classmates are taking their supper. But as she attempts to navigate her way through what feels like an impossible sprawl of hallways and locked doors, she becomes hopelessly lost.

At last, she arrives at a large door paneled with glass. Night has fallen. Jeanne cups her hands 'round her eyes and peers through the door's panes. She must be looking at the area behind the house; it is part lush garden, part hedge maze. To the side of the maze's entrance is a small wooden shed.

A light, possibly a candle, flickers in the shed's window.

Thinking that whoever is sitting beside that candle can direct her to her dinner, Jeanne eases the door open and picks her way to the shed. The night air smells of jasmine, but it's almost sickly sweet.

Jeanne knocks on the shed door.

No answer.

Knocks again. Nothing.

She eases the door open and calls out, "Hello? Can you help me?"

No answer. She steps inside, finding a neat room piled with gardening implements. There is a door at the back of the shed--it must be a larger building than it appears to be from the outside. There is no one in the shed that she can see, but a lone candle does flicker on the sill.

And then she hears it. A bestial howl that breaks the silence of the night, and then..breathing, heavy panting, nearby. So close it makes the fine hairs of her arm stand at attention.



What should Jeanne do?
 
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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Imagining Around the Art: Sahuagin vs. Kuo-Toa

In D&D sahuagin and kuo-toa occupy much the same niche: they're both evil fishmen. How do you imagine them to be different in an interesting or evocative way?

In my mind sahuagin look like this:


And kuo-toa look like this:



Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Best Things in Life Are Free: Random Name Generator




What's in a name? 

Who cares, but it's super inconvenient to have to come up with a bunch of names on the fly in the middle of a game. 

Use this awesome random name generator

Two ways to go about it:
1) Use it while you're prepping to come up with the names of important characters the players might meet and interact with when you're stumped for a good name.

2) Make a list of names from generated results that you can assign to characters you need a name for but didn't plan on RIGHT NOW.

For example, if you're running a game in Ravenloft and the characters are hanging out in Tepest...you know that Tepest is a pseudo-Ireland so you can just generate a bunch of Irish names to use when you need. Hell, throw in a Scottish name or two for variety or "remix" the names a bit to give them some edge.

This also works a treat for historical games, obviously. Characters headed to China but you don't know anything about Chinese names? Well, you know what to do.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Imagining Around the Art: Preparing Spells

None of the art in any core D&D book really captures how I imagine things in game. (That might require a PHB illustrated solely by Stephen Fabian's Ravenloft pictures or something.) That's not to say that I think the art is bad; in fact, I think 5e might just have the best art of any edition I've seen yet. I like the diversity and I like the execution. It just doesn't look like how I picture things, especially since I don't really do the whole "medieval fantasy" thing in the games I run.

These are closer to what I envision a wizard preparing spells to look like:
















Tuesday, September 2, 2014

A Weird West Appendix N

As the summer heat burns itself out before autumn, I find myself thinking again of the Weird West...


Novels & Anthologies
John Joseph Adams (ed), Dead Man's Hand
K. J. Bishop, The Etched City
Emma Bull, Territory
Richard Brautigan, The Hawkline Horror
Nancy A. Collins, Dead Man's Hand
Felix Gilman, The Half-Made World and The Rise of Ransom City
Stephen King, The Gunslinger series
Louis L'amour, The Haunted Mesa
Joe R. Lansdale, Deadman's Road and Flaming Zeppelins
Joe R. Lansdale and Pat Labrutto (eds), Razored Saddles
Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian
L. Wyatt, The Terrible Tale of Edgar Switchblade and The Dreadful Death of Edgar Switchblade




Film & Television
The Adventures of Brisco County Jr.
The Burrowers
Dead Birds
Dead Man's Gun
El Topo
From Dusk 'til Dawn 3
Jonah Hex
Gallowwalker
The Good, the Bad, and the Weird
High Plains Drifter
High Plains Invaders
Purgatory
Ravenous
Silent Tongue
Tremors 4
Undead or Alive
Way of the Warrior
Wild Wild West




Graphic Novels
Billy the Kid's Old Timey Oddities
Cowboys & Aliens
Dead Irons
Dead West
High Moon
Jonah Hex
Justice Riders
Pariah, Missouri 
Pretty Deadly
The Sixth Gun
Strangeways
Tex Arcana
The Wicked West

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Farthingholme Mystery: Late For Dinner

 

New to the Farthingholme Mystery? Read this first. Previous episodes can be found by following this tag.

Jessica shows to Jeanne to a room at the end of the hallway, then leaves her to her own devices. The room is small, but neatly appointed. The furnishings consist of a wardrobe, a bed, and a small vanity with mirror. Jeanne notes that someone, undoubtedly a servant employed at Farthingholme, has already unpacked her belongings.

Wait! Headmistress Crowley told Jessica to take Jeanne down to dinner once she had been shown her to her room, but the rude little snob has already fled the presence of a girl she feels is beneath her. It wouldn't do to miss dinner on her first night here; Jeanne does not want to be seen as an unruly girl who breaks the rules. At least, not yet.

Picking her way back down the dark hallway and down the stairs, Jeanne finds herself wondering where to go in the silent, brooding heaviness of the house. She could go down a hallway toward the back of the house, pursue another hallway to the house's left wing, or attempt the right wing of the building.

Which way should Jeanne go?
 
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