Thursday, December 30, 2010

Languages of Valador: Common Languages

The three most prolific races of Valador, the humans, elves, and dwarves, have each developed their own unique tongue. The languages are very indicative of the races that created them and their development was done with little influence from the others. Because of this, each language is very distinct and separate from one another.

The Common Tongue of the Valadian Empire: Often referred to Valadian or simply Common, this is the language of Valador's most dominant species, the humans. Valadian formed from the various tribal dialects of early human cultures and much of that is still reflected in the language today. Valadian is a very harsh and guttural language, with short, sharp words and an aggressive sound. Due to human's penchant for wanting to quantify things, Common has many words in its vocabulary, creating a new word for each new thing discovered, instead of simply identifying it with previous descriptive words. This process confuses the other major races, which often dissuades them from using the language unless absolutely necessary.

Elvish: Elvish is a derivative of the Fey language, brought over with the elves when came from "beyond the horizon." Like the Fey tongue, it is a flowing almost song-like language, developed to allow words to easily flow into each other and be carried lightly on the wind. However, over the years, the elves formed the language into their own, creating something distinct from that of the Fey. Because of their interactions with the races in Valador, Elvish has become much more truncated then its Fey origin, ideals that may have taken hours to express in Fey now only take several minutes in Elvish. Still, the language tends to be very long winded and the need for properly controlling the pitch and tone of one's voice in order to speak it correctly means that only those from other races with much patience can ever master even conversational levels of Elvish. This make Elvish the least spoken of the three common languages, something that suits the elves perfectly.

Dwarvish: Once considered a closed language, spoken only by the dwarves, Dwarvish has begun to spread beyond its native speakers as they've begun to interact with the rest of the world. Dwarvish is a simple language, with direct and straight phrasing, devoid of metaphor and complex structure. The language would be considered beautiful if not for the manner in which it is spoken. Like all things they do, dwarves speak loudly and with great passion, speaking even simple instructions with pride. It is not proper form to speak Dwarvish softly and the concept of whispering is lost to them. Many scholars of other races who learn the language are often embarrassed to speak it due to its boisterous inflection.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Languages of Valador: Alignment Languages

Each branch of the official religion of Valador has its own language to recite lecture and prepare scrolls and scripture, the languages of the gods themselves. It is rumored that the languages were rooted from a common theological tongue, formed centuries ago by the earliest unified human religion. Today, the three main faiths of the Valadian Empire each have their own distinct tongue and despite their shared ancestry, the languages today are so far removed from one another that a person able to speak one cannot understand another. This is particularly frustrating for adventuring clerics who, upon discovering an ancient spell scroll long forgotten, are dismayed to find it written in a holy language they are not familiar with. Because of this, many clerics learn alignment languages that are not of their faith. Alignment languages are taught by the church to only those of faith or of learned men of great renown (and great wealth). Not everyone of a particular alignment knows how to speak an alignment language and no non-human would ever be taught that language of the Valadian Empire's gods.

Lawful: A complex and wordy language, Lawful uses a vast array of words to convey and thought or action as detailed as possible while trying to do so in a very ordered fashion. Lawful is not a flowery language, but instead one that pieces together many words to create new words, mashing together adjective and nouns to create a single many syllable word to describe something as detailed as possible. Many scholars and burgeoning engineers learn Lawful in order to express detailed history, theories, and instructions. Lawful is the most widely learned of the alignment languages for those not within the clergy.

Neutral: Neutral is the most succinct of the three alignment languages and also contains the smallest vocabulary. Neutral conveys thoughts quickly, with small simple words that are devoid of personal feelings of a situation or object. Neutral has no words to describe personal feelings, instead relying on words that state absolute fact without bias. Because of this, Neutral is sometimes used in larger cities for the creation and documentation of laws, so that misinterpretation can be avoided.

Chaos is ever evolving and changing, it is a language with little stable form. It is impossible to convey the rules of the Chaos language, for there is none. The language is fluid, a flowery language with complex rules for conjugation can shift into a curt monosyllabic language devoid of inflection within a few decades. Words change their meaning, drop out of the language entirely, or shift their pronunciation within a few years, making it a very hard language to master. Because of this, very little of the language is preserved in written form, and those items that are, can take a skilled Chaos linguistic many months to decipher. It is said that many Thieves' Cants, used by many thieving guilds throughout the land, were developed from Chaos.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Hiatus Brings Inspiration

Well an interesting series of real life events has taken a good hold of my time these last few weeks. In the end, it all lead to very good things and was well worth any distance from the internet world and my projects that came from it (and really, there's some awesome stuff out there that's not the internet... I know, I didn't believe it either).

However, I didn't lose all interest in my Megadungeon, in fact, I came up with a few solid ideas while I was away.

The most important? I've decided to take all the collective work that I've been developing for the MegaDungeon to be run and put it together into .pdfs to share with the world!

Inspired by reading through one of Paizo's Adventure Paths, each release would be broken into two files, the Player's Section and DM's section. The DM's section would mostly contain a particular level or subsection of the Megadungeon as well as any DM only type articles, new monsters, background of villainous organizations, the truth behind an ancient mystery. The Player's section, meanwhile, would stick with things more useful for player's trying to develop their characters, articles about the various religions of the world, a nearby town described in detail, an article about dwarven holidays, etc.

I would like to see them published once every month, though the first one would not see print until after a few levels of the Megadungeon was run through by my players (free playtesting!) and would hopefully stay behind them as we went on. This also gives me time to back log several articles (especially as topics come up in play) so I'm not scrambling to come up with articles and authors last minute.

Hopefully I'll get some of my group in one the writing as they'll be contributing to the world building as I set out to do when I first started. We'll see if I can "force" them to be creative.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Thought: Languages

I don't think I like the vast amount of languages demi-humans get, I think I'm going to restrict that to the bare essentials and maintain bonus languages based on INT.

May look into sorta "defining" how the languages sound to let people build on the concept.

Monday, December 6, 2010

World Building 1.4 and 2: Delvers and The World!

The Delver has (finally) joined the rest of the human classes as having full rules written out for him, there is one small tweak in his rule set, we'll see if anyone notices.

More importantly, the Wilderness Area in which the megadungeon is set has been made and posted by yours truly. Not only will you finally see where Ashencor and Telstara are, but also a few other places named as well. These places may never be visited, or the PCs may want to take a trip to one or more of them, at which point they'll be further developed, for now, they're just tantalizing points on a map. Most importantly though, the world itself (or atleast the region occupied mostly by humans) has gotten a name, the lands of Valador! Many thanks to Sean for being the only one to suggest something and winning by default, couldn't do it without you!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Laying Down the Rules: In All Their Various Forms

As I mentioned, I've been collecting the rules for how we're going to play on the Portal Page itself, rather then just having people refer to Labyrinth Lord and a house rules document/page. The interesting side effect to that is the ability to "clean up" the rules and present them in a way that's easy to reference and recheck. Yes, I know that sucks some of the charm out of Old School products, were rules were often woven into exposition and descriptions were enough to get your started. However, we're playing online, so beyond the distance between us making it harder to quickly compare notes, I have no clue how distracted the players are while we play (if they're listening to music, if they have several web tabs up and browse things while we play, etc.), something that isn't an issue when at an actual table. Because of that, I think calling out each rule for ease of finding (and linking) helps keep the game flowing.

Another interesting side effect is that, in an effort to keep the rules as "proper" as possible I've been looking at the multiple versions of Basic Dungeons and Dragons to see each one's wording on a particular rule or class ability, from Labyrinth Lord to B/X to BECMI to the Rules Cyclopedia.I still use LL as the default, but I may take a description from B/X as a basis for my own flavor or a sentence from the Rules Cyclopedia if it clarifies how something works (getting both the flavor and gameplay rules for the cleric's Turn Undead ability is a good example of this). There are some very interesting differences between editions (which could have its own blog just to point out) and melding them into a set of rules I like and thinks works best will make for a version of the game that is not exactly like any one edition but still true to all of them. So, it's pretty much how everyone who sits down to play does it, we all have our own take on game or opinion on an official ruling, and I think that looseness to the rules is what makes Basic D&D great, this is not for tournament play, this is so you can sit down with your friends and have a good time.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

World Building 1.3: Delvers and Magic-Users

The final two class descriptions, Delvers and Magic-Users, are finally up and read to be read. Yes, took a bit to finish, but there was some silly holiday that up and got in my way.

With that out of the way, I'll be putting together the rules, weaving in house rules throughout so that everyone has the same set of rulings on the Portal Page in case a dispute comes up. Also, the few house rule ideas I've put out here on the blog (found here and here) are starting to get feedback, once all the players weight in, or it looks like they won't one way or another, we'll see what makes the cut. Meanwhile, I'll fill in the few red world links that are scattered about, with just the small bits of information that is known about them so far.

On the actual MegaDungeon creation side, I'm pleased to say that the first level (in terms of character level's challenge, there are many ways up and down in this MegaDungeon and the simple "each level deep is a higher level of difficulty" doesn't fully apply) is fully mapped and stocked and the ideas of the theme, tie-ins, and basic layout of the next is under way. Also, I'm beginning to put together Ashencor, though the level of detail will be the subject of a forthcoming post, stay tuned!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Question: Other House Rule Ideas

Besides the house rules we've already used before and enjoy using as well as two other proposed house rules/game play ideas (still waiting on thoughts from the players on those), I have two more proposed house rules and curious to player's thoughts:

If casting a spell, a character is allowed no other actions, including movement. Should characters be allowed to move and cast spells or does that give an advantage to an already potent ability?

Should we use variable weapon damage or stick with the "every weapon does 1d6 damage" original rule? If we choose the standard damage across the board, two-handed weapons would always strike last but if a hit is made, the player would roll 2d6 and keep the higher result.

I'm off to cook and eat way too much, but more things to think about as the game comes together.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

World Building 1.2: Clerics and Fighters

The fighter and the cleric entries have been added to the Obsidian Portal page. Again, this is just expanded information from my original thoughts on the classes from earlier, but it's hopefully helpful stuff for those playing in the campaign. I've been having fun with the "Why They Adventure" and "Role-Playing Tips" sections, as I try to figure out exactly why said classes do indeed do what they do.

I've also been having fun trying to find pictures that best fit the concept of the characters I have in my head while avoiding and actual standard D&D pics (be them old school pics or ones from newer additions) where ever I can. I hope the slightly different graphical representation of each class (and race as class) helps provide inspiration as well.

Delvers and MUs will get their turn next.

Monday, November 22, 2010


What megadungeon would be complete without an introduction? Consider this the text on the front cover of the module and hopefully let it set the scene for an epic crawl:

The small village of Ashencor lies nestled in a valley between two hills, atop one sits an old crumbling monastery. Once a sacred sight to an ancient order of monks, the sight was abandoned after the monks mysteriously disappeared generations ago. Considered of low strategic value to the Valadian Empire, the place was left to fall into ruin and the village, comprised of descendants from the monk’s families, were left to live off the land. The monastery was considered cursed and none dared ventured within its halls, letting it sit upon the hill, silent, like a hawk perched high looking down on its prey.
Then, a week ago, lights were seen in the monastery at night and fear ran through Ashencor. None were brave enough to investigate though the town watch upped its patrols and the villagers barred their doors at night. Three days ago, the two awoke to screams and found two of the town watch slain as well as the graveyard by the temple desecrated, bodies stolen. Fearing for their lives, the baron of Ashencor dispatched a runner to the city of Telstara, three days to the south. There the young lad travels tavern to tavern, looking for brave adventurers willing to save the helpless village.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

World Building Part 1.1: Races

The Races section for PC choices is complete over at the Portal page, this sheds a little more light on the base descriptions I gave earlier. If you allow me to gloat for a moment, I find the halflings particularly well done, the concept sort of came to me as I was developing the other two demihumans and I just had to run with it. I think its a interesting take on the race and the most radically different from the "Tolkien Standard" that is expected from the classic D&D races.

The Classes will follow suit soon after and I may get the "Player Introduction" down sooner rather then later as it provides the last piece of pre-game world building I need to do before the campaign can begin.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Question: World Bui...Naming

The world needs a name, not the whole planet necessarily, but atleast the region in which the game is taking place.

Forgotten Realms has its Faerun, Dragonlance has Krynn, Dark Sun has Athas, and even Mystara has The Known Realms.

Hmmm, someone give me a name for this place...

Question: Early Thoughts

Thoughts on two "house rules" an their inclusion in the campaign:

Do I use prebuilt maps and line of site/darkness via MapTool like earlier games? Or do we stick with the old school (and official ruling) of describing the areas and having the player's map them?

I've seen this house rule of "treasure = experience"out an about and kind of like the idea. As James from Grognardia puts it:
"I'll also note that the "Dave Arneson rule" for converting gold into XP is working beautifully. I only give XP on treasure that is spent. This means that every time they find gold or gems or whatever in the dungeon, they have to use it to buy things for themselves, whether they be scrolls, new gear, hirelings, or just a night out on the town if they want to gain experience points from them. This has served two purposes: 1) They must return to Adamas if they want to spend big sums of money and 2) They are perpetually poor. I am very satisfied with this, as I am with the campaign in general -- an excellent session overall."

World Building Part 1: Character Classes

Since the players will need to pick their classes before play starts (imagine that!) giving a brief description of how each class (and race as class) fits within the world falls upon my shoulders. Not only is it the first bit of world building, but it lays the foundation on how the rest of the world works, as the concepts and tone of the classes reflects the overall concept and tone of the world. Let's take a look:

Clerics: Clerics are divine emissaries, sent to spread the word of their religion and smite undead where ever it may lie. Players creating clerics are free to invent their own gods and religions based around those deities. The gods and religion are very much a part of the world, however, the gods do not take the active role that many do in other fantasy settings. Much like real world religion, gods are not expected to perform miracles or send down angels to protect man. Because of this, not every person (no matter what race) is as religious as they are in other worlds. In fact, the idea that every cleric, no matter what god/religion he belongs to has the same abilities and spells like all the rest have some people speculate that a cleric's power doesn't come from the gods at all, but some far more sinister, dark, and secret power. Clerics are not always welcome in some places and the word of their god may invoke little fear and have little meaning in some civilizations.

Fighters: These guys are pretty classic; trained at various guilds and war colleges, fighters adventure for riches, fame, honor, or most likely a combination of all three. Fighters are the most tolerated of the "adventurer" profession by the common folk, especially when they are hired to save them from some rampaging menace. A fighter's ability with all manner or weapons and armor, combined with a healthy stamina and oft times macho attitude means that sometimes the fighters themselves can be the rampaging menace as they often look down on the common folk.

Magic User: Arcane magic is not nearly as trusted as divine magic is, mostly because of its potent offensive capabilities in comparison to the more benign (and more helpful to the "common folk") form of casting a cleric does. There are no great magic guilds or great wizard towers in the center of cities, instead, magic users are taught in secret, mostly in underground areas or far from civilization. Magic users are ambitious, inquisitive, and not content to live life without asking why. Many religions don't like a magic user's desire to learn the "deeper meaning" to everything and the more zealous man may burn a magic user at the stake lest he can prove that the gods don't exist.

Thieves (Delvers): There are thieves throughout the world, often in urban areas where prey is most plentiful. Many form guilds in order to regulate their "trade" and work together for bigger profit. These thieves are not the ones that are out adventuring however. In this world the "thieves" available as characters are known as delvers and they are the equivalent to a tomb raider like Indiana Jones or Lara Croft. They are the ones investigating old catacombs for ancient scraps of text and hidden treasure or running the goblins out of an old temple to preserve the artwork still left inside. Delvers share an inquisitive nature with magic users and the two often get along in the pursuit of similar hidden knowledge, atleast until both want to possess the same ancient manuscript.

The above are all human classes, of course, and humans are the de facto dominate race on this world. In the area in which the megadungeon is located the vast Valadian Empire holds sway of much of the land, claiming all they can see as belonging to the humans. However there are the race as classes available and each has a slightly different spin then their Tolkien inspired classic counterparts.

Dwarves: The dwarves are a dying race, many of their females are barren and unable to conceive and even among those that can, many children are stillborn. The once vast dwarven clanholds now lay mostly empty as the race dwindles in number. Ever stubborn, if the dwarves cannot pass on their legacy through offspring, they have chosen to do it by deed. Mix Klingon with your standard barbarian fantasy troupe and add a little dash of Warhammer Slayers and you have the dwarves of this world. They look to die gloriously in combat, preferably after saving nations or the entire world from unspeakable evils. Dwarves are well respected in the human communities and would be a welcome part of them, if the dwarves weren't so insistent on moving on to the next area of trouble, always looking for a glorious death.

Elves: Elves are alien and distant in comparison to humans. They are immortal and not born of this world, instead migrating from the land of the fae for reasons unknown to all but them. Humans to them are simply a curiosity, short lived, seemingly impatient, but possessive of fierce emotions that an elf could never replicate. To the humans, elves seem cold, distant, and often times uncaring. An elf can see a plan work itself out in the span of centuries instead of days, and see no issues with sacrificing the lives of short lived creatures (intelligent races included) to further these plans. They are master of both marital combat and arcane skill and are often called the Eldritch Fae. Elves most often adventure out of sheer boredom or while on the hunt for (by human standards are) ancient artifacts lost to time. While tolerated in human lands, both races tend to agree to disagree and not deal with one another if possible. The exception is other adventurers as they can prove useful to a elf's plans. Players wishing to play elves should really try to separate them from just "graceful humans" and play up the alien, detached nature.

Halflings: Halflings are born of human parents and are often seen as a curse laid down upon those that have sinned in some way. Halflings that survive to adulthood are stunted, thin, and often the host or one or more physical deformities, be it odd skin pigmentation, patchy hair on their bodies, a small vestigial tail, misshapen hands, etc. Most halflings are put out into the woods to die of exposure, though some parents take pity on them and raise them. Others have survived in the wilderness and now live on the outskirts of human settlements collecting those halflings left to die by their parents and raising them into adulthood. Halflings can never produce offspring of their own as they're born sterile. Halflings are rarely accepted in human society (outside of entertainers of the "freak show" variety or jesters for nobles) and many look to adventuring as a way to sustain themselves. Adventurers are already often seen as outcasts of society and many are much more accepting of halflings then the common masses.

Those will get cleaned up and transferred to the Portal in due time and provide players with both a first look at the world and hopefully some inspiration for character concepts.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Shared World Building

So what is this Shared World Building I speak of?

Well I'm using my own created world for the Megadungeon, as well I should, in order to avoid mucking up anyone else's canon and just going with what I want to put where.

However, this isn't a campaign setting in the sense that I'm going to have a 300+ page tome with a detailed history of every town down to the dietary habits of each citizen. No, instead, I'm going to build each part of the world as I need it, and then fill in the blanks as they come up. If a player wants to know the tenets of a certain god's faith, I'll tell them on the spot, then take notes about it to use it later. What's the name of the river beyond the hills, well, I'll come up with one when someone asks. It makes for a more liberating experience and is the DM's equivalent of growing a character organically; i.e. coming up with one or two concepts and letting it blossom as the game moves on.

But I did say "Shared" didn't I? What that means is that the players are fully encouraged to build the world right along with me. If someone playing an elf decides that all elves sing battle hymns while in combat, then that's how elves work. As long as there's a fun reason for it and it still "respects the setting" (not trying to be wacky just for the sake of being wacky), then bring it on.

There's a real possibility of creating something far better then any pre-thought out world ever could be.


My current online gaming group is pretty awesome and as we approach a 1 year anniversary of us playing, I can say we've tried several different things.
We've started long running campaigns that imploded due to TPKs and shifting players. We've attempted to mix and match systems and rule sets. We've played games other then D&D (or LL as the case may be). We've played one shots, on-goings, limited series, and revolving cast games. But everytime, atleast on the LL front, we've always done it with a prewritten adventure.

Well, inspired by some reading of the various OSR blogs out there, I've decided to change that. I've decided to build and run my own Megadungeon. I've also decided I need to catalog the process somewhere, hence, this blog.

Now, since this will be seen by my players, this will be spoiler free, no secrets to what's going on. However, you can watch the creative process of Shared World Building and check out Play Sessions in the (hopefully) upcoming weeks. And of course, what campaign of mine would be complete without an Obsidian Portal page?

So welcome and enjoy your stay!