Friday, October 28, 2011

Realms - The Decaying Fields of Forever, Part 2

Welcome back. Last time, we took a look at the bizarre realm of perpetual rot and entropy, The Decaying Fields of Forever. We got our Real-Life Inspiration and Theme worked out, but hadn't yet gotten to the Archetype or the Twist, so let's strap on our thinking caps and work on those.

The Archetype of the Decaying Fields of Forever is pretty much Hell. The notion is a place of perpetual torment, where the inhabitants are always in pain, always dying but never dead. A blasted landscape, post-apocalyptic if the apocalypse were not ongoing. However, the difference—perhaps the horror of the place—is that the suffering are not sinners, have done nothing wrong to deserve their pain.

This begs the question of tormentors. Are there demons in this Hell? Creatures who either are immune to or simply take advantage of the Fields' unique properties, allowing them to lord over the rest of the population? There's not logical reason for them to be there... but there certainly is a thematic reason. On the other hand, I don't want to turn the Fields in a pure Hell-analogue (where's the interest in that?) Perhaps there are some denizens of the Fields who have learned how to work with the properties of decay—they are careful not to injure themselves, they have grown used to food not sustaining them properly, they survive with the simplest of technologies.

And they hurt. So they hurt others.

Twist: I think the question of the twist in the Fields is why would anyone come here? Masochists maybe, the truly guilt-ridden perhaps... but most people would avoid this place at any cost. Which means, of course, that the Fields are the perfect place to hide. You can't do it too long, or whatever it is you're hiding will fall into uselessness, but as a rest stop on the way out of a heist? Who would look for you there? Who would be willing to travel to a world so filled with pain and hopelessness? Not many people, and so you'll be safe... for a given value of safe.

Next time, we'll examine a new Realm, the non-world that is The Gap.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Realms - The Decaying Fields of Forever

Welcome to our second entry in our second foray across the Realms. Last time, we examined the fairly mundane Realm of Taluna. Today we'll examine a place altogether more elemental and alien, tentatively named The Decaying Fields of Forever.

This will be one of those fairly stream-of-thought, making-it-up-as-I-go-along sort of posts, because I know nothing about the Fields but the name. I've always meant for the Realms of The City of Lives to be unusual, fantastical, and elemental in nature. Unfortunately, I have a tendency to over-analyze, and to try to lay everything out in internally consistent, very "science-fictional" worlds. They all seem like real places... but I really want some unreal places as well, places where the laws of physics bend and twist, and narrative causality trumps Newtonian causality.

So, knowing that much, but having no real ideas that hadn't already been done more completely by Planescape , I decided to start with a name, as so often works for me. No names appeared to me, so I went to and used an "outer planes" generator to give me a name in the appropriate style. Most of the results were unsatisfying, but the Decaying Fields of Forever struck me as interesting.

Let's examine it, shall we? After the jump.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Realms - Taluna

For the next few posts, we're going to examine some of the otherworldly Realms that will appear in the new Treasure Hunters for Hire campaign model, exploring the far-off places that were hinted at but never visited in the previous City-focused campaign.

The first new Realm we're going to examine is Taluna, the site of the Treasure Hunters' first adventure. It is a simple place, designed around the problem that the PCs will encounter rather than as a complete world—which should hopefully make it a good starting point!

Archetype: I wanted to start off the treasure hunting with a classic dungeoncrawl, in which the hunters are searching for a specific item. Since I am terrible at map-making, I used a random dungeon-map generator (which I would link to, if I remembered which one I used) to put together a series of branching passageways and rooms. In traditional "dungeon" fashion, these would be ruins of an ancient city, that left behind dangerous traps and monsters to guard their treasure. Not the most original concept, but I wanted to start off simple. To populate this archetypal dungeon, I pulled up Maptool, the virtual tabletop program my group is using, and looked through the monster "tokens" included in the program (not unlike sorting through a random pile of miniatures and grabbing a few interesting examples).

See the rest after the jump

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The City of Lives new campaign premise

As I've mentioned over the last few posts, I'm starting up a new City of Lives playtest campaign. Now, The City of Lives is about politics, espionage, and class warfare, as I've explored in the previous campaigns. However, there are also a multitude of other Realms out there, worlds filled with strange and exciting adventure. This new campaign explores the possibilities of the other Realms, in a model I call "Treasure Hunters For Hire."

Inspired by Warehouse 13, Indiana Jones, Star Trek, and, yes my own Terra Incognita, the premise for "Hunters" is simple. The PCs are an elite team of "retrieval specialists," trained to travel to distant Realms and locate powerful magical items—known as "relics"—and return them to their employers for use, storage, or destruction. The notion is that every adventure will take them to a new Realm, each with its own strange physics and socials structures that they have to negotiate (like Star Trek), while tracking down magic items that are ruining everyone's day (like Warehouse 13). It's an opportunity to explore my universe more thoroughly, and to experiment with different play styles.

My first City of Lives campaign started out with a very traditional D&D setup: the PCs were all called together for a job, and ventured into a dungeon (for lack of a better word) to locate a particular treasure. However, I cocked it up, not understanding how dungeon-crawls are meant to be run, and letting my players fill the party with strong-willed, volatile characters who had no reason to stay together whatsoever. As the campaign went on, we abandoned the dungeon-crawling and monsters, and ended up exploring some of the less interesting parts of the City. It wasn't a complete failure, but it certainly wasn't a great success.

Next was the espionage-themed campaign, focused on tightly-knit characters and social conflicts. The stories centered heavily around the City and its themes, with only one (much loathed by the players) venture out into the Realms. This was great fun, and highlighted the themes of the campaign setting. However, my players grew bored with "only fighting regular people," "having everything be political," and "never leaving the city." And hence, our new campaign model.

The most difficult part of this so far is coming up with something new for each adventure as I start planning things out. Entirely new worlds and magical relics each week... it's a tough mandate. For the earlier CoL campaigns, I relied on stuff I had already worked out about the world, and for Terra Incognita, I based everything on existing myths and legends. I worry that I'm not going to come up with anything terribly interesting, and end up with a series of worlds that all look like British Columbia (as in Stargate SG-1), with relics that come down to various kinds of doomsday devices. I'm going to have to work very hard to keep things fresh.

Next time, we'll start examining some of the Realms I'm going to use for the new campaign, in the same format as our handful of Realm examples from earlier this year. See you there!