Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Trying on a New Skin

Well over a decade ago I fell in love with Dungeons and Dragons and Role Playing Games in general.  The action, the adventure, the magic.  But most especially: THE MONSTERS!  Over the years the depictions of the monsters in the Monster Manuals have become iconic to gamers. These depictions have been scattered over every gaming table around the world and represent the institution that Dungeons and Dragons has become.

While this is amazing and has created this wonderful background that every gamer can share, it also makes these monsters less unique and less gratifying to slay.  Think about the first time you played D&D and your dungeon master brought out the first goblin you ever slew.  It was frightening and exciting.  You didn't know what to expect.  Every game should be like that.

But once you have played the game a few times you know already that goblins are merely canon fodder for most adventurers, even at first level. Unless you are taking on the entire tribe, goblins don't typically prove much of a threat for very long. This is when reskinning comes in.

First off, what is reskinning?  Simply put it is when you take one creature and describe it differently.  You leave the stats the same, so you can run it them same if you wish, but with the creature looking completely different you have a completely new creature.

Take the Goblin from my campaign Verdenheim.  In the 3.5 Monster Manual the goblin is described as such:
"Goblins have flat faces, broad noses, pointed ears, wide mouths, and small sharp fangs.  Their foreheads slope back, and their eyes are usually dull and glazed, varying in color from red to yellow. They walk upright, but their arms hang down almost to their knees.  Goblins' skin color ranges from yellow through any shade of orange to a deep red; usually all members of a single tribe are about the same color. They wear clothing of dark leather, tending toward drab, soiled-looking colors" 
  While this is an interesting creature the first time, it becomes a trope and quite clich├ęd after a while. In Verdenheim the goblin analogue is described as 
Goblin by DavidRaporza
"These small dark creatures are from the under side of Verdenheim, made of magic and shadow. Basically humanoid, they are 3 feet tall and have oily green tinted  black skin. These creatures are not very intelligent but are very cunning. They will set traps and sneak up on unsuspecting travelers.  The creatures only make use of the simplest weapons, such as clubs and daggers, if anything at all. They will rely on their very long, strong claws.  These creatures do not have a formal language that can be discerned but have a guttural animal howl that they use to communicate with each other." 
The Goblin has no gone from being a tribe of cannibalistic pygmies that got hit with the fugly stick, to being a frightening, slavering creature with which the players are completely unfamiliar.   These creatures will be completely new and exhilarating to encounter adding that much more enjoyment to the game.  All you need is a new skin.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Seven Wonders of Verdenheim: Woodhall

The wood has progressively become denser, gently but firmly herding you to this one path, surprisingly clear of brush or debris.  Suddenly, you realize you are in a corridor made of the trunks of trees so closely grown as to form a solid wall. Down this strange wood corridor there is the soft orange glow of firelight. 

As you approach the firelight you hear melodic voices and song.  As you come to the end of the corridor you enter into a room as strange as any as you have ever seen.  The trees extend out to the sides opening into a large room, a hall really.  Fifty feet wide and twice as many long.  Strewn about this hall are small hillocks with mossy caps and felled logs, many with an elf perched upon them.  Some speak among themselves, others sing beautiful ballads while others still just sit back and listen.

A handful of younger elves around a small wood fire close by look up and smile at your amazement.  One of this group, a beautiful elf lass, stands and approaches you.  She extends her hand in welcome.  "Be at peace and take a respite, welcome to Woodhall, stranger."

Woodhall is a large opening in the forest. The massive oaks spread their branches and leaves forming a vast canopy overhead. The trees are so close they form solid walls and create pillars running the length of the hall. The effect is much like the grand halls of man but seemingly natural. Woodhall is nothing short of magnificent and beautiful. Rocks and logs and small hillocks form benches and seats to either side while a forest path runs straight and true down the middle of Woodhall like an aisle in a building. Woodhall is a beautiful place shaped and cared for by the elves near the Elfenbend

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Seven Wonders of Verdenheim: The Chasm and The Elfenbend

There is a vast chasm separating the lands of the Humans and Dwarves from the lands of the Elves. The once grand and majestic Elfenbend bridge spanned the Chasm for centuries until a few generations ago the bridge was destroyed in a great earth shaking, and all that remains are the arches of the bridge jutting out hundreds of feet into the Chasm. The Elfenbend is masterpiece of ancient construction. Erected by the Elves, Dwarves and Humans it represented an alliance between the races that is now a sad distant memory.  
Near the Southern Sea the Chasm floor is filled with dense rain forest, and is the home of dragons and Wilder Elves. More on Dragons and Wilder Elves in a future post.   

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Seven Wonders of Verdenheim: White Tree

White Tree is a dense wood in the North, just south of Sonderlund. The wood is full of mostly Pine and Ash Trees.  The expanse of the wood has never been fully mapped and many legends surround the wood.  The most prominent legend gives the wood its name and concerns a single tree, taller than the rest, that is solid white.

The White Tree stands nearly half again as tall as the other trees in the wood and is a brilliant shade of white so pristine it looks as though it is coated in frost.  White Tree is completely barren and leafless.  It bears no fruit except one brilliant red apple at its top most branch. The apple is said to be delicious and have curative properties that could bring a man back from the brink of death.

Many men have gone in search of White Tree, though none are known to have succeeded.  It is a common occurrence among the Sonderans for the young men to go off in search of the White Tree Apple during their trials for manhood.   Though none succeed they return hardened and ready for life among the warrior people.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

First! and The Dry Docks of Lariat


Welcome to The Adventuring Archives.  A year and a half ago my wife and I discovered we were going to have a child and I knew immediately that my gaming days were numbered. Now, don't get me wrong, I am a very happy and proud papa, but I need my gaming fix. I am not much of a video gamer, though there are a couple that can hold my attention (i.e. Assassin's Creed and Dragon Age: Origins). So I cannot get my gaming fix that way.  I don't like the idea of online chat based games, so that is out.  Also, one of my favorite parts of Dungeons and Dragons was the creation process.  Creating new people, new worlds. I sit at work, at home, where ever and I just write. Just little bits here, a paragraph or two there.  Notes of things I was going to include in my next game. A new monster idea. A great trap.  A tricksey puzzle.

But that next game never came. I wrote my notes on little slips of paper, post it notes, copy paper.  Whatever was handy.  It drove my wife NUTS! I didn't realize it at first but my little papers were everywhere! My bookcase was full of them.  My desk was covered in them.  Even my night stand next my bed was littered with these little notes with ideas that were going to be in my upcoming game.  I felt bad for my wife.  It looked like trash.  And it was. Though they were covered with many interesting ideas, they weren't being put to any use.

I couldn't just throw them away though.  These little slips of paper representing something to me.  An outlet.  My fix.  They were the only way I was satiating my thirst for gaming. So I continued.  I tried organizing them.  I gathered them up and put them in a folder.  Copied some down in a college rule notebook. Still these pieces of paper keep turning up.  I can only buy so many notebooks.

So I finally decided.  A Blog! I will take the notes I have and record them here online.  Plus I can take a little extra time and expand on some of them.  Give a little insight.  And once I am done recording that note?  I can finally throw them away.  Get rid of this clutter.

So without much further ado, here is my first note.  My take on The Seven Wonders of the World for my homebrew gaming world, Verdenheim.  I will start with one for now

The Seven Wonders of Verdenheim: The Dry Docks of Lariat (and Docktown)

Lariat used to be a very wealthy port city on the western edge of Verdenheim.  The Docks of Lariat were huge, beautifully crafted stone structures with amazing maritime reliefs carved into its sides and rails. Some time ago, in the last age, the western seas retreated from the coast of Lariat, leaving a drying sandy clay soil in its wake.

The City of Lariat remains, still prosperous but no longer a port city, the nearest coast now a hundred miles to the west.  Lariat is now the source of the finest pottery and porcelain on Verdenheim.  The clay soil is harvested in mass quantities and made into great pieces of art and china. The citizens of Lariat became known as the finest and most sophisticated merchants around.

The fact that Lariat is a port city with out an ocean brought adventurers and the curious alike to see the mysterious Dry Docks of Lariat.  Dozens of feet high, the docks offer a spectacular view.  They are beautiful and engaging.  But most only see the sights from the top.

Not many make it down to the base of the Docks, where lie the lean-to's and huts, collectively known as Docktown. Dozens, even hundreds of these little shacks strung together, one built against another, bonfires and garbage pits strewn around. Filthy, unwashed bodies packed under the docks which provide what little protection from the elements they have.

Docktown is a completely different animal from the city of Lariat.  These dregs of society are mostly indentured slaves, forced to work harvesting the clay by the wealthy.  To the Dockers it is just mud, since there are Screws who go around Docktown making sure the Dockers don't take home any clay mud that they could turn into pottery or anything they could earn a few gold by selling.