Thursday, February 24, 2011

5 Senses Room Descriptions

Boxed text in adventures are a bit of a mixed bag for me. On one hand, they're classic, which I know doesn't make something good, but it makes it stick in your mind. On the other hand, it's hard to convey a room properly with boxed text for every group out there. Some people may just want to play to kill things, so the players are drifting off as your describe the smell in the air and paintings on the walls. Others are trying to map every detail and anything left out of boxed text will mess them up. Other times, boxed text comes off as ridiculous, as several sentences describe the craggy walls, dripping water, and odd smells and end with "and a huge minotaur stands in the center of the room!" as if that wasn't the important first detail...

Many adventures that do away with box texts (especially more modern ones) give the DM little description of the room save for what can kill a PC or be killed by a PC and expect the map to handle the killing space (what the rest of the room looks like, who cares? As long as I know where I can stand when I hit things with my axe). Others might give a sparse description, but leave out details PCs may want to know about.

For our room descriptions I've come up with something I've tentatively called the "5 Senses" model, where in each location will be described using the 5 senses. Each sense entry won't be boxed text, it will be up to the DM to decide what to reveal and what not to reveal based on what the PCs are doing. Special provisions for the Demi-Humans and their special senses would also be included, such as describing the room by sight if only using infravision or things noticeable about the architecture to a dwarf.

Sight would concern itself mostly with the room size and locations of exits, I feel a good description of dimensions and ways in/out are important for mappers, as well as all the other descriptions most often found in traditional boxed text; unusual features on the walls, the materials/look of the walls themselves, large pools of water, paintings, etc. etc. As mentioned above, it would also include anything that may appear special via infravision, or perhaps an elf would notice that the room is dessigned in an elven style.

Sound would be useful not only for flavor, but the go-to entry for those adventurers smart enough to remember to listen at a door.

Smell and Taste don't often come up in room descriptions but I feel they are something that can really help set the scene. They are strong senses we use in real life that are oft neglected when describing something (be it a novel, dungeon, or even recounting a memory), but when are used often provoke an instant response from those listening to the description. Taste, as you may imagine, wouldn't come up too often, unless the adventurers go about licking the walls, however sometimes odors are so overpowering they have a "taste" to them, as to rooms and places that are overly stuffy, old, dusty, etc.

Touch/Feel is another thing often neglected, but can be important, be it the feel of soft ground under the adventures feet or the cold draft the chills the skin the second the door is open. It can even be used to describe the feel of the walls as adventurers run their hands over it looking for secret doors.

These don't only apply for the room of course, things in the room can get that treatment too, from inhabitants (the look of the monster is that much more memorable when coupled with its smell and sound) to items the adventurers investigate (the rusty squeal of an old suit of armor being moved, the smell of the odd liquid in the beaker on the table).

These won't be written to be read aloud, but rather, they'll be descriptive and thorough, with this system the DM can use as much or as little as he wants, depending on his players. He may stop at just the basic room description by sight for players who want to move along to the killing, or leave out parts the party hasn't discovered yet because they haven't fully walked into a room or the light hasn't hit that one corner with the weird pool of liquid (even though they can still hear and smell it). Also, each detail that only a certain race would sense/know about will be distinctly called out so that the DM's can adjust to what the party consist of.

For now, it's just an interesting concept, I'll put it into practice on the revised write-up of the first level of the dungeon and run it by my group for their thoughts on how well it works or if it's too much or not enough. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

More Updates

Have begun work on the DM side of Issue 1, hopefully with some other stuff out of the way, the freelance article on the god of law will be showing up soon.

Starting to think about a ToC for Issue 2, have a few ideas, will put into a more concrete idea later. My articles for Issue 1 will be going off to be read by several people to act as editors, you can't edit your own work, it just never works out.

I may have an artist, I wasn't really looking for one, but sometimes things fall into your lap, which is always a good thing.

Finally, I have an idea on a "5 Senses" approach to describing rooms in a dungeon, I'll elaborate more in another post tomorrow when I have the idea better hammered out.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Progress Report

Everything for the first issue on the Player's Side of things has been written, save for the God article which should be showing up soon.

On the DM's side of thing, the two articles explaining the rough backstory of the dungeon as well as a overview of what's on each level so DM's can begin building subplots and such is being roughly put together. Later this week I'm having a good friend and fellow gaming conspirator listen to a few of my ideas and act as a sounding board. He always tends to enhance my level of devious plans and provide some of his own that blend in perfectly with my ideas.

With any luck, those should be written soon afterward and I'll start editing and laying out the articles, all the while getting things ready to be written for Issue 2 so we can try to maintain a monthly release.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Regional Overview

The Telstara Region of the Valadian Empire is so named because of the port city of Telstara, the largest and most important city within many miles. Situated on the coast of the Mære Ocean, Telstara is an important trade city with many Imports and Exports leaving its docks nearly every hour of every day.

To the north, the great Ellengæst Peaks rise majestically along the city's horizon. Once pocketed with several dwarven strongholds, they were abandoned as the dwarf populations dwindled in the face of their mysterious curse. Now, many people of the Empire have begun to explore the strongholds, seeking out lost treasures and veins of precious metals. Forge's Claim is the first mining town to grow around such a claim, but are more are sure to follow. These mountains are surrounded by the Hebban Highlands, a hilly region left relatively undeveloped in the west. It is here that several tribes of monstrous races call home and occasionally head out to prey on the good peoples of the Empire.

To the east and west, two great forests stretch on for miles, much of which has been unexplored. The woods grow thick and dark the deeper one travels within and rumors of fae, elves, and far worse keep most people out and dissuade the establishment of any towns on the forests' edge. Lone woodsmen or small groups may establish a few camps along their borders, but the last long term settlement attempted to be established was razed to the ground soon after completion by large group of halflings. It was here the people of the region learned that those halflings left abandoned to the woods have banded together and formed some semblance of a community. Many cursed with halfling births now killed their child quickly, but there are still those that cannot bring themselves to such actions and continue to leave their deformed children along the wood's edge, hoping they'll taken in by those that live in the woods. Thus, the halfling bands continue to grow.

Two great rivers, along with their branches, wind their way though much of the grasslands of the region, providing many nutrients as well as irrigation opportunities to the land. This, along with the temperate climate and ample rainfall coming off the ocean, means there is a great amount of agricultural development around the city. Vast farmlands, dotted by occasional farmhouses, water mills, and barns and stables can be seen for miles around the city itself. While the occasional several storm coming off the ocean and being trapped in the region by the mountains may wreck havoc on the farms, the people are hardy and swiftly rebuild and carry on their lives, making the region very prosperous. Telstara is mostly self sustaining and relies on few imports, meaning it prospers from the taxes of the amount of goods coming out of and into the city that they don't need themselves.

The importance of the city as a trade port meant the Empire commissioned a great road, the Telstara Run, to connect Telstara to the rest of the Empire in the north. This two wagon wide, cobble stone paved road is well maintained and patrolled, making it one of the safest and smoothest roads in the Empire. Fort Renault sits in a hilly region of the road, flanked by treacherous, mountainous terrain to the west and a tangled swath of forest to the east making it highly defensible. From here, riders head out along the road to keep it clear of highwaymen, ravenous beasts, and monstrous creatures. It is also the only viable land route into Telstara for trade caravans, giving the soldiers an opportunity to check traders for illegal cargo as well as impose a tax for passing through the fort, much to the chagrin of traders and the joy of Imperial coffers.

The only other places of note in the region is Ashencor and the Tel'ur'Rath. Ashencor a small village situated on the banks of the Nædre River and nestled in a valley between two hills. Generations ago this was a sacred site, a monastic order built a monastery atop one of the hills that has long since been abandoned. The village continues to live on however, offering a good resting point for those traveling the Run, and sitting in the shadow of the old abandoned monastery. The ruins of an ancient fortress, Tel'ur'Rath sits along the southern edge of the Grénian Forest. Much of it has been explored by Imperial scholars, though their are rumors that there are entrances to areas beneath the ruins not yet discovered. The name comes from a bastardization of the elven words for Old Tower, after the scholars noted much of the architectural design is similar to that of the elves. Those elves who have seen the ruins say that, while their are similarities, the actual design and fading decorative work is not truly elven design but something different.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


The ability to wield arcane magic is a powerful one. Unlike those blessed with divine abilities, magic-users gain their power through study, routine, and sheer force of will. Magic is not a mysterious force to them, but instead a tool used to shape and mold the world, like a blacksmith uses a hammer to forge metal. While a magic-user may not fully understand the powers he wields, his ability to wield them show a great amount of tenacity, will, and intelligence.

Arcane magic is often looked up with suspicion and fear, those who study the art often do so in secret. Unlike the guilds dedicated to teaching fighters and delvers or the great temples where clerics train, magic-users do their study in secret. The amount of focus and training involved means that most magic-uers are taught individually, conducting private lessons away from prying eyes. Rumors persist, however, of great cabals or magic-users teaching groups of students in hidden places far from civilization. Common folk speak of these places in secret, in fear of a great army of spell-casters intent on ruling the world through magical power. Most magic-users are not power hungry however, but are instead inquisitive, seeking to discover the deeper meaning to magic and its place in life.

Magic-users are usually not welcome among the common folk. The powers of their abilities and the mystery in which that power comes from is the exact opposite of the religious qualities of divine magic. To most people, magic-users are trafficking with dark creatures, manipulating powers that were not made for them, or simply too powerful to be trusted. Most magic-users avoid civilized places whenever possible and when they must travel there, they do little to reveal their abilities. Even those that travel with other adventurers will hide themselves in plain site, often pretending to be a hireling or guide for the party so not to bring down unjust paranoia and prejudice against the group.

Why They Adventure: Because there is no unified teaching for magic-users, nor, seemingly any limit to their power, much of the secrets of arcane casting has been lost to time. There was a point in history when magic wasn’t so feared and many ruins that dot the landscape are rumored to contain magical secrets. Many magic-users travel among more physically hardy adventurers to seek out these places and new avenues of study. Magic-users are often inquisitive as well, the ability to manipulate magic and power beyond the physical realm requires such a mind and dungeons, with their many secrets and hidden threats often offer a challenge to such minds.

Role-Playing Tips: Magic-users wield a great deal of power, of which few fully understand. Most magic-users seek to understand why however, meaning they are inquisitive and often curious to a fault. Most magic-users are taught that magic is a powerful force and not to be used lightly, indeed, the fact that most magic-users cannot handle the ability the power to cast more then a few spells a day, means most respect the power they have and do not waste it. Magic-users are also feared by most common folk and though they are no match for a caster, especially one among an adventuring party, eventually numbers always win out and a whole town turned against a magic-user can make it a very unpleasant stay. Often other adventurers do not fully trust a magic-user either, either due to growing up among the same tales the common folk have or because of the magic-user’s lack of understanding their abilities, as opposed to the understanding the other classes have on their unique gifts. This mistrust often means that magic-users are withdrawn and quiet, either trying to avoid attention, or dealing with the emotional weight of having a world against them.

Monday, February 7, 2011


Fighters are the masters of armed combat, trained in the use of nearly every type of weapon and armor produced by humans. Pushed to the limits physically, drilled in a variety of tactics, and taught the quickest way to kill, these are highly specialized warriors and no mere city guard or militia.

Fighters are taught in a variety of private run guilds as well as local sponsored war colleges, each very exclusive clubs that only the most skilled, hardened, and most importantly wealthy are admitted. Trained for years about the intricacies of a large variety of weapons and armor as well as put through a variety of physical tests and strengthening exercises. Many drop out before training is over, those that graduated are strong of mind, body, and spirit. Fighters take great pride in the guilds and war colleges they come from and often incorporate the colors and symbols of their guild or college into their arms and armor to show which school bred such a fine warrior.

Fighters are often welcome in towns and treated like celebrities. Where as those who cast magic are either seen with holy reverence or fear and delvers are often seen as nothing better then desecraters and tomb robbers, fighters are often heralded and treated as heroes, especially if they offer protection to the town. This worship combine with a fighter’s physical abilities sometimes creates a sense of superiority in a fighter and they treat many commoners as lesser beings barely worth notice. Fighters who let this ego get out of control may become a terror in their own right and the town they once welcomed them soon fear the monster they helped create.

Why They Adventure: Fighters most often adventure for riches, fame, honor, or most likely a combination of all three. Few can afford their training outright and take up adventuring to help pay off their loans while bringing glory to their guild’s name by performing heroic deeds. A fighter is much too well trained to be a simple city watchman or would grow too bored being a caravan guard. Their abilities can only be properly tested in the face of danger that adventuring brings.

Role-Playing Tips: Fighters never forget they are the best trained in the area of martial combat nor do they forget that they are physical specimens far beyond others, including other adventurers. Fighters are often worshiped as larger-then-life heroes by common folk and most fighters will take the adoration to their heads and act larger-then-life, especially when trying to impress nonadventures. Weapon training and combat tactics were drilled into a fighter’s head for years and few see a reason to try to settle anything without use of such things. Fighters often have little other hobbies or topics of conversation as well, which can sometimes grate on other more rounded adventuring types. Fighters from different guilds or colleges can’t help but compete with one another, usually on a friendly level, but competition can heat up quickly among those that know little outside of combat.

Sunday, February 6, 2011


Delvers are often what the common folk think of when they think of an adventurer. While a cleric may dedicate time at a temple converting people to his faith or a dwarf may travel village to village protecting them from bandits, a delver is trained and is skilled primarily in one thing; to explore lost dungeons, monster infested caverns, and ancient ruins. To a delver these are the ultimate test of their wits.

Delvers are trained in a variety of guilds scattered through out civilized land. These guilds are often funded by historians looking for more information about the past, archivists trying to share and preserve history, or simply private collectors looking to add old artifacts to their collection that no one else owns. The investors to the guilds often get first pick of those items a delver finds of historical value, and delvers who try to strike out on their own after their training soon find themselves on the run from those the invested time and money without compensation. Because of this, many delvers will collect things that most other adventurers would consider junk. Guilds train delvers who to properly navigate the winding halls and crumbling corridors of a dungeon, avoiding traps laid out by those that built the place or those recently moved in, spotting hidden passages and buried secrets, and defending themselves against those that have taken up the dungeon as a lair. Delvers are of one of two personalities, or of rare occurrence both, those that share the inquisitive nature of their patrons, always curious as to what’s behind that next door or what bits of past they can discover and those that need a near constant danger in their life, looking to satisfy their craving for adrenaline and the rush of near death.

Delvers are viewed with trepidation by the common folk, they don’t usually offer the type of aid that a fighter or cleric or dwarf could nor are they as feared or misunderstood as elves, magic-users, or halflings. Most people believe that they skills a delver learns to get into and out of dungeons both in secret and with a handful of stuff could be equally applied to any home or shop and some delvers do indeed use their skills like that. However, most delvers see little challenge in taking something from a farmer’s home or from a noble’s pocket. Others feel what a delver does is disrespectful and desecrating. While many adventurers journey into ancient ruins or hidden dungeons, most do so to root out evil or threats to civilization while a delver usually does so to take something back out with him that didn’t necessarily belong to those evils that inhabit it. Even delvers who do so for noble purposes, to help learn about ages long past or discover clues about civilizations that had come before that could provide help to those that exist now, still can run into trouble from those who believe the past should lay undisturbed lest you rouse those that rest there.

Why They Adventure: Delvers are trained to adventure, it is their sole means of both sustenance and entertainment. A delvers skills apply directly to the exploration of hidden places and they would have little use of them elsewhere, or atleast not enough use to justify the training they went through. Delvers don’t often adventure for the same reasons as many other classes, a delver’s pursuit is usually material, while most others do so to protect against evil or to discover hidden knowledge. Delvers will not shy away from those other pursuits and their are many noble delvers who wish to help people and many inquisitive ones that wish to learn ancient secrets, but both do so on top of acquiring anything of value they find. Most delvers will travel with other adventurers for protection and preservation, even if it means splitting up the things they find down there.

Role-Playing Tips: It takes a unique type of personality to be a delver. More so then any other class, delvers understand how cheap life is among adventurers, a swift death can await behind any door, or come from the door itself. Yet delvers not only train for those situations, most can’t wait to meet those situations head on. Delvers often live for the moment, not too concerned with the future and only concerned with the past in how it may help them past an obstacle the currently faces them. Delvers are usually bold, boisterous, and aren’t known to shy away in the back of a group when standing out in front and waving their arms gets much more attention. Many a farmer’s son or daughter has fallen for the charms of a delver and their nomadic lifestyle, or angry fathers, means delvers make for strong memories instead of a reliant companion. The delver’s outspoken behavior and dangerous living often endears him to dwarves and garners him the disdain of elves. In dangerous situations and their chosen environment, they are not suicidal, indeed, escaping with one’s life is the ultimate challenge, but, they are not cowardly, as that means they won’t get to see what’s behind the next door.

Rule Changes: Delvers retain all the features of the Thief class as presented in Labyrinth Lord with the follow exception: Languages: Delvers speak Common only. 

Thursday, February 3, 2011


Clerics are both divine emissaries and holy warriors, looking to spread the word of their faith and seek out anathema to that faith and smite it, in particular the undead. To all religions and faiths, undead are a mockery of the gift of life, and must be vanquished whenever possible. To that end, all clerics are trained in weaponry best suited to combat these mockeries as well as the possessing the ability to focus their faith in a holy light that can banish or even destroy the undead.

Legends claim that at one time the clerics were but an Order of one faith, who’s name is lost to history. Their intense training, combat prowess, and array of divine spells began to win over the people of the land, and causing the other faiths to grow jealous. To that end, many other religions lured away clerics and their teachers to covert to their faith and teach to their faithful. Today, nearly every faith has cleric training, all culled from the same roots, accounting for the similarities in abilities and martial skill among all clerics.

In most civilized places, clerics are welcome with open arms. Divine magic, especially of the healing kind, is looked upon in wonderment and awe, instead of the fear and mistrust of arcane magic stylings. Cleric abilities granted by the gods, one of the few observable signs of their power, is revered and honored. However, some question the true roots of a cleric’s power, citing the lack of other divine manifestations as well as the disturbing similarities of abilities dispersed among the many faiths. Those people theorize that the power does not come from the divine, but something far more sinister, in a bid to cause complacency among the populace.

Why They Adventure: Clerics adventure mostly for one reason. To seek out those that are a perversion to their faith and destroy them. This holds particularly true to the undead and those that use the undead, a common foe among all clerics. Besides that, clerics adventure to help spread their faith, as adventurers often travel the length and breadth of the world and this allows the cleric a chance to introduce settlements throughout the land to the miracles of his religion. Many faiths do not sponsor a cleric after his training is complete and the fortune found in adventuring can help keep a cleric on his tasks. Other faiths send clerics out seeking old artifacts and relics lost in crumbling ruins that hold import to their religion as well.

Role-Playing Tips: Don’t forget that a cleric is, above all, dedicated to his faith. He should never hesitate to speak the tenets of his religion or call upon his gods whenever possible. Nor will a cleric not take an opportunity to attempt to convert others to his faith. Training as a cleric takes years of dedication and an unshakable faith, clerics should pray or institute other traditions of their religion during rests and at night and may even hum hymns or quote passage from holy scriptures. Incorporating their faith into all they do should be second nature to a cleric.

Rule Changes: Clerics retain all the features as presented in Labyrinth Lord with the follow exception: Languages: Clerics speak Common and the Alignment Language of their deity.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


Humans are the dominant species of the realm, their vast Valadian Empire stretches far and wide throughout the land, laying claim to all that they can see. Humans are creatures of quick wits, strong minds, and deep emotions. Unlike the distant elves or stoic dwarves, humans are not afraid to allow their emotions to guide them, using them to endure and persevere where the otherwise frail and short lived race would surely perish. Because of this, they have quickly dominated the lands around them, continuing to expand their borders while the other races dwindle into nothingness.

Physical Description: Humans of the Valadian Empire are primarily olive skinned, with dark hair and dark eyes. They average around 5’5" for males and 5’2" for females, weighing an average of 155 lbs. and 115 lbs. for males and females respectively. Due to the vast reach of the Valadian Empire, there are many physical variations among humans, especially as one moves further north and south. The further north one travels, humans begin to lose color in their skin, hair, and eyes, with rare strains of pale skinned, blonde haired, blue eyed humans existing in further norther reaches of the empire. The further north one goes the taller and broader humans become as well, to help survive in the harsh frigid reaches. Skin color begins to darken as one travels do the sun baked southern lands, and humans are often much more leaner, though increased muscle means they do not always weigh less then the average citizen. Humans live an average of 70 years.

Why They Adventure: Humans are nothing if not curious creatures, a mentality that leads many on the path of adventure. The sense of discover, the rush of combat, and the fame brought on by protecting the weak is a lifestyle desired by young humans. However, the physical demands, inherent danger, and social stigma that comes with such a life means few ever become those heroes they fantasize about.

Role-Playing Tips: Humans are the easiest race to role play, as they are essentially the same as the players. Though they exist within a fantastical setting, the human condition changes little, and thus, playing a human is no different then putting one’s own mindset into the game.