All posts by Chuck

I've been a gamer, a geek and nerd for about 30 years. Any questions?

Painting With Broad Strokes: Gods & Magic

Whenever I start thinking about a fantasy world, I start with the big picture. Mainly, the gods and also how magic works.
This just makes sense to me. How the gods are portrayed and their relation to the world set up so many things. How clerics work. The role of various Outsiders (like angels, demons and devils). And you can’t have gods without having religions and we all know what kind of effect they can have on government, society, culture and day to day life. It’ll also bring up that infamous, what does Alignment mean debate.
For this little world (Damn, I still need to come up with a name for it.), the gods are pretty much hands off. Yeah, in the old days all the cool kids killed at least one god during a campaign. But I like the idea of the gods as being off stage and pretty just letting the chips fall where they may. As far as angels, demons and devils go. Well, they’re just alien beings from another plane with strong moral views. And evil gods. They kind of need to be there. But they still need to have a place that is more than just a bunch of evil cultists for the player characters to kill.
So here’s premise number one: There is one pantheon of gods. They are known by many different names by different cultures but they are still the same gods. The so called “evil” gods get just as reverence (out of fear) than the “good” gods. A village will do a ceremony to appease the evil god of disease to protect itself from a plague. You get the idea. I can see temples erected in a particular god’s name tended by faithful priests or supplicants. People will pray to whatever god they need to in order to get the results they wish.
But what about insane Lovecraftian gods from beyond the universe? OH yeah. They need to be there but list the description says insane and from beyond this universe. Many of these entities are on par with the power of the gods but they aren’t the gods of this world. There will be the occasional cult. But the goal of reaching beyond this world (and universe) for more power is more the purview of Wizards than Clerics. So more about them when I arcane magic in a later post.
So how do classes fit into this big picture?
I’ve played many clerics in my time. There’s one thing that’s kind of bugged me. The Cleric of X mechanic. In this little game, I want clerics to be servitors of the entire pantheon. Clerics are a special type of spell caster. They can channel the power of the gods. Any of them. And another thing. I never liked the wake up in the morning, pray for a specific set of spells and then go about the day. It’s just not how I imagine it. I see the cleric loudly proclaiming a prayer to a particular god for a particular purpose when he needs it. So yeah. Clerics need to be spontaneous casters of a sort.
Now Druids are special case and I’ve pretty much brainstormed on the direction they are headed for this little project.
So what does that leave us with? Paladins. That’s right everybody’s favorite douche bag class. Which brings us to our first point. Alignments are just right out the window. I’ve always felt it was kind of a crazy mechanic and had the amazing ability to be both vague and specific at the same time (Don’t worry. This will all be taken up in a later post.) So with no Alignments, where does that the poor Paladin? Well, they really aren’t Clerics. And if Clerics can simultaneously serve all the gods at once then it kind of puts the Paladin in an odd situation. So stepped back and looked at what I thought the Paladin had evolved into. Paladins are zealots. It may not be the power of the gods that drive them but their belief that they are protecting the world. Depending on where they are Paladins can be viewed as heroes or dangerous vigilantes. So there, Paladins get a major work over later on.
So there you are the ideas for gods, clerics, druids and paladins.

Catching Up & Building Worlds

Yes, I have neglected this blog for too long. I have this little weakness. When I’m not playing a game sometimes I just don’t feel like writing about it plus I’ve been busy running my Dresden Files campaign. So the best thing I can do here is use to start building my “perfect” world. Hell, I’ve got the time, it’s not there’s a deadline looming over my head. Plus I figured it would fun to drag along a few readers through what passes for my creative process.
To put it bluntly, I’ve grown a bit weary of thinly veiled Middle Earth (Tolkien) inspired fantasy worlds. I want something a little more warped. More Sword & Sorcery than High Fantasy. I want a world that’s dangerous, exciting and just a bit frightening. I not want to tear a part some of the tropes and tweak a few things that have always bugged me deep down. I want to make a world of my own that isn’t just another cookie cutter fantasy world.
For the crunchy bits, I’ll turn to my holy trinity of OSR games. Castles & Crusades, Swords & Wizardry and Lamentations of the Flame Princess. I also plan on throwing in some healthy inspiration from other great games like Arduin, Empire of the Petal Throne and ACKS.
How long will this take? Damned if I know. How far will it go? Don’t know that either. But it should be pretty fun. So stay tuned, kids this is going to get interesting.

Undead as Divine Retribution

Why do undead always fall into the evil things that just need to get killed. Yeah, I know it’s pretty easy to pigeon hole them into that category but I was staring blankly at the wall the other day a little thought crossed my mind.
Why can’t undead also play the role of harbingers of divine retribution? I’m not a zombie plague or anything like that. I’m talking Odin sitting back and slamming a few brews with a bunch of fallen heroes in Valhalla. He looks down on the mortal world and sees a bunch of “his” people slouching around like a bunch wily nily pansies and he decides to a little fire under their butts and weed out the weaklings. Unleash the souls of the Fallen Heroes.
Now we ain’t talking no hippy gods with this one. We’re talking angry mean warrior gods. You know like that Crom.

A Quick & Easy Way To Make Freaky Monsters

Just a little idea that popped in my head to easily twist monsters and just maybe throw something weird at the players.
Step One: Pick a random encounter table, roll on it. Get Monster A
Step Two: Pick another or same random encounter table. Get Monster B.
Step 3: Cross Monster A with Monster B.
It doesn’t have to make sense but just make it interesting and weird.

Don’t get lazy with fluff

Let’s face it I think too many of us are kind of getting lazy when it comes to fluff. There really isn’t that much deviation from the standard fantasy world formula.
I know that there are certain built in expectations and that as DM the more time you spend on fluff the greater the chance that your players will ignore it. But after this many decades, it’s ok to bend or break the mold. Take a world, ditch elves and dwarves. Make some of the iconic “baddies” into allies and not villains. Mix and match ideas. Make new and interesting monsters. Make races and places that are new. Not Ancient Evil Lost & Forgotten Temple Number 37. Don’t be afraid to add a little spark and gonzo to a game. Different characters and different campaigns can still start to run together after a while.
And that is my bitchy rant for the day.

So Many Games, So Many Choices

OK, that’s really common complaint but when it comes to OSR stuff a lot of quality stuff is good.I don’t think that there ever will be that Holy Grail of the perfect game or One Game To Rules Them All. Now, every game has its own feel and nuances and everyone has their own tastes. And that is why we kit bash.
And this may really silly but kit bashing let’s you sort play more than one game at time. Pull a chunk here, a juicy bit there and mix thoroughly. So let me guide you through the insane maze that is my mind. I happen to like Swords & Wizardry (And Crypts & Things) but also there’s a certain fondness I have for Castle & Crusades and Lamentations of the Flame Princess. The single Save Mechanic from S&W and the basics of C&C make these two pretty much kissing cousins. One of the nifty things about C&C is that there’s a butt load of classes, almost too many for some folks tastes. So take the surgeon’s scalpel to them, trim the fat and slide into S&W core mechanics. What about Lamentations? I really like this game. Lamentations is about the feel of Weird Fantasy. Much of that comes from the totally awesome spells. Tweak them around and make them fit into your world.
And there you go.