Blog Archive

Sunday, 19 October 2014

At -9 and dropping

(written for my Pop Lit Class as part of character death & attachment module a few years ago.)

Warning, personal cathartic rant begins right now, look away, it gets ugly:

I keep a side of my personality hidden away from my coworkers. In a closet in my house there are books, maps and dice, I game. I admit it, I am a gamer, role playing table top, or better known as D&...D, shadowrun, gurps, and a dozen more well and much less known games. Many or the best
nights of my life, was around a table, books, pop, chips, dice - most times around friends that were also my enemies.

Not only did I play these games, I usually ran the game. I was the story-teller, (Dungeon-
master, Game Master or referee depending upon the game system.) I created the back-end of
the story so the players could adventure. Dice determined success of their choice, but mostly
it was the players, they did and sometimes they did not. I swear best nights of my life.

Together we created a shared storyline. It had everything, pacing, setting, acting, chaos (i.e. dice)
& characters. In fact, in most ways, the characters were the key ingredient, for as story-teller
I created the background but the individual players created their characters. And believe me, they owned the characters. Often setting them up to mirror their favorite TV or movie characters or something else entirely. Yes, it was the gamut of tolkien fantasy (warriors, thieves, wizards, elves, dwarves...) but it was also personality and history and flaws and chosen quirks. sometimes, players could take many hours to sculpt the character on paper. Characters most often kept the characters until the dice failed them, and in the line of duty they died, and then they created a new one unless by circumstance or level they were raised to life to continue their epic journeys. Did I mention you before that these were the BEST nights of my life?

Believe me after months of a journey, in a continuing story arc, finding clues, defeating minions, until they come to the BOG BAD BOSS (C) it all comes down to 1-2 hour game session event, where no holds were barred. I used every dirty sneaky but fair trick. The players worked together, planned, sweated, took chances and it came down to rolls, where players were standing around the table, and their fates (sorry their characters fate, along with the princess, or magical artifact or city or even their world) came down to a roll of the dice. nights...of my old life. COME ON TWENTY!!!!!

Often, using the game design quirks players could master a particular skill, say tripping an opponent...then they would do this skill non-stop until I started to throw crazy stuff in to let the player know, stop it, this isn`t fun to do...not for me and not for the other players. Understand success was awesome, but, it was more about the fun we had around the table. And if they kept doing the same thing repeatedly to challenge them, I had to do stupid stuff that limited my imagination, once others players realized it, it lost its appeal....because something of the story was compromised. Some pretty good nights there.

And sometimes after weeks of game story, of doing their leveling and journeys and when they faced the big baddie something wonderful happened. players sacrificed their characters. They jumped into the dragons breath, bear-hugged a demon and jumped into a dimensional portal, cracked their magical sword releasing stop a BAD THING (C) from happening. Why? Because story matters. They were involved and wanted to stop that pretend BAD THING from happening, and they were sacrificing a character that they may have used for years.

From this I had an amazing revelation - character is secondary to the story. PERIOD. Stop, read it again.

Character is secondary to the story.

This is important. Actually this is my only point here. You only like a character in the first place because the story captured you. Without the story, the character is meaningless.

If players who had created the characters were willing to sacrifice their pretend characters to a pretend danger, then so should authors and screenwriters. They don't because they care too much for their pretend characters and that is horrible. That is putting something else (fans, characters, sequels, money) ahead of the story. Some DM should throw a blue lightning bolt from the sky at them for cheating (I'm sure the Lightning Lady could do it.)

Thats why I love character death, or injury or throwing crazy stuff into the mix. When the creator is respecting the story and doing the bad stuff they are also respecting you as an audience. They are not pandering to you; they are being true to their vision. and if, if you actually liked the story...respect the author, respect the story regardless of what happens.

Game players respect the story enough to sacrifice their character. Believe me, characters who are sacrificed are way better then those who retire or go on. But for us players, the real people rolling the dice and having fun, creating new characters to have more new fun, we remember those good times regardless of the numbers.

And though none of you know him, I still have to say this - this was for Rob, miss ya bud.

/end cathartic rant now.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Bishollo - People of the Codex

Everyone on Nyssa has heard the ancient tales of Hembria - the infamous wizardly nation that most people believe inadvertently started the great winter. While virtually all peoples of the domain fell under the chill not all did, out of these renegade nations, only one still stands, Bishollo - the people of the Falls live on.

West of the "old south", East of the Ferrensil Forest stands this ancient land. Starting square in the middle at the Great Falls - its temperate forest and gentle surging rivers expand and cross the whole sub-continent. Dire animals are believed the greatest threat here, and no dragon or other great beast stalks the land, even Rowena’s minions are rare in this realm, the standard undead types are found here, but none of the powerful ice variety. There is only one city, Vromel, and all peoples owe fealty to the ruling Prince of the city.

How and why these people are protected from the cold is the basis of their culture and way of life...The Codex. From the onset of civilization people have argued over who the gods were and how best to represent them. The obelisk is an universal Nyssian symbol of faith and devotion, and in all other places of the domain, each religion has their own obelisk a free standing monument to the one ideal, to one divinity. Not so in Bishollo, here the gods are not seen as distinct but as a unity. The idea of many obelisks is foreign, all gods sit at one heavenly table thus all people worship at the one obelisk, and this is the mile high Codex. This is the core of all Bishoolian peoples and races, their faith, their magical energies and their protection from the cold.

The people or Bish as they usually refer to themselves as share most of the views on the frequency found elsewhere, but here they call it the Surge. Anywhere else on Nyssa, the frequency emerges from an obelisks, spreading randomly like the wind, blowing without form or order. Here in Bishollo, mana emanates outward from the one giant obelisk, the frequency gushes out seen as a colourful wave, repeating several well-known patterns, dispersing mana to the mortal world. Near the Codex the strongest known magical energies in the domain exists, and at certain times spells can be cast with spectacular results. This ever-circling frequency is so overpowering that most clerics spend their lives in Bromel, at one of the many temples that reside around the Codex. Here they worship their divinity, with powers of incredible insight at their calling.

Proximity to the Surge has many other consequences, because the surge comes from the gods, anyone of piety can cast a spell at least once in their lifetime. These "free magic’s" are a thing of wonder and many people await their whole lives before approaching the codex and asking for a "favor" or spell. But just because one asks, doesn't necessarily mean that the favor asked is the one requested, nor even if one may be given at that time. Often those who just lost a parent or lover will come asking for fates to be reversed, only to find no deity is listening to their prayer. Others have their wish granted, not just once, but many times, who or how these spells are granted are beyond a mortal to decipher.

Another affect of the Codex is the closeness of the faiths. All of the gods have open, non-walled temples, facing the obelisk and in the path of the surge. This means that they can all cast-enhanced spells at their temples, but because their traditional enemies can as well, magic is not seen as a destructive force, merely one that gives aid and succor. The light and dark here are more of competitors, and few priests dare use force or violence in their contests with the other followers of the gods. This unity has created a great upheaval in the political power the clerics wield. They control Vromel's army, bureaucracy, major guilds, educational facilities and most importantly the monarchy. They control the city and do so to benefit themselves, the ruling theocracy. Openly, it does not matter which god you worship, as long as you are able to summon priestly might. Secretly, however, wars of favor are still played out by some "holy" and "unholy" men for positions of prestige.

In all of their secretive campaigns, one foe remains true wizards remain anathema - enemies of the state to be purged, at any cost. No spell tower has arisen in Bishollo in over eight thousand years, and public executions are still permitted when one is caught casting an arcane spell. The reason for their mistrust is the same as everywhere else - the Great Winter. It came here, catching everyone unaware, and plunging the land into a long deadly winter, but here the ice retreated back past the mountains, never to re-appear. However, their mistrust has not abated, these people view arcane magic as disgusting and sinful, and if they do not try to destroy wizards outright, they will certainly thumb their noses at the individual, or alert the Standing Knights. Wizards from the outside world are usually arrested upon arrival, thrown in jail or seized by manacles and subjected to torture to find out why they are there.

Sorcerers do not fall prey to the same mistrust, for while wizards must deliberately choose the evil and arcane arts, sometimes individuals are blessed with a natural aptitude for casting magic, and this is not to be shunned, rather it's to be celebrated as a gift from the gods. There is always some hesitation at first, did the individual seek out the magic or otherwise attempt to steal it from the gods, spell-casters must go through an arduous process if they wish to reveal their unique abilities as sorcerers. The most celebrated sorcerers are those infants and teens which manifest their powers, because they are too young to have studies the magical arts, it is always assumed that these individuals are the "real thing" and are not subject to the same scrutiny as their elderly compatriots. There are many folk tales which tell of sorcerer-heroes, given their power from the gods, come to save the people during great crisis. Always the hero has red hair and from a barbarian tribe.

The priests may control the city, but warriors maintain peace in the hinterlands. Rangers, paladins and even barbarians are tremendously important in the regions and towns, and except for a wondering monk, few preacher-like types are rarely seen. In fact, there is little magic outside of Vromel, and few divine spellcasters ever bother to go adventuring. This creates a huge problem for the outlanders, for while powerful magics can be cast in the city; outside they are left defenseless to creatures that cast spells. It is due to the loyalty of the people that they work together to end these threats.

None of the “popular” races are enemies with each other, but some like or dislike each other more than the others, and of course, there are always those who are hated even by their own kind. Humans, who call themselves the Bishine, are the most dominant spell-casters and merchants, and they rule their six provinces from the capital, Vromel. Conflicts between the provinces are outlawed, but flare-ups sometimes occur for lucrative property (especially mines and the rune forests) between local Lords. Officially, all owe fealty and their taxes to the Prince of the City – but most leaders do not attempt to force taxes on any province except for Pron – the Prime. Four other confederate nations exist on the Bish peninsula; all are organized along racial lines. While all of them are considered allied nations, each of them (non-officially at least) realize that Vromel rules and go out of their way not to antagonize the military masters of the realm. While not this patriarchy currently ruling some human empires have invaded the smaller nations to eliminate a perceived threat.

For all their "unity" there is a great deal of threats to Bishollo. While dire animals are the worst known to the commoner there are far greater secrets known to the royal hunters and knights. The bleaklands, the northern-most region, has for thousands of years been covered gray-black stone is emerging from the bowels of the earth, which destroys all plant-life. The Bish have lived their entire history near the aside this barren land, as it acted just as much as a protector as a threat. Recently, the bleaklands have begun to expand, and many strange chaotic beasts capable of performing terrible spells or brute acts of force are appearing. It has taken the army some time to determine what they have known now, and the theocracy knows nothing of the approaching danger. While some of the citizens are aware of what is happening, few consider it a threat as the Knights and the Codex have long protected them, and most feel confidently that they will continue to do so.

Animals: Boars, Shard-Birds, Shard-Bullettes, Kazurn hounds,
Steeds: Horses, Hederaks, Griffons
Races: Human, Jivine Elf, Ubine Dwarves, Tenderfeet (Halflings), Gnoll, Quillian, Kinzarri (Phaeton), Ogre, and Lizardith
Known Threats: Shard-beasts, Prisms, Cult of the Vine, Curse of the Gorgon, Gobbers, Kenku, Hand of the Shadows

Ubine: The Bish Dwarves reside in the south, throughout the Thunderlands and the Therrik Mantle. They are a rich race with connections to many other races and groups in the peninsula. They have a healthy mercantile tradition, and readily use the cat-kin and Oromian merchants that come to them for trade. In times past, the dwarves were more ready to take to the caravan, but this has steadily decreased over the last hundred years.

The noble families Shield, Stone & Barrel speak and vote as a single voice, and this block is one of the first the Imperial League attempt to sway in military matters. They usually double the numbers required by the Treaty for the Border Patrols. The Ubine does not elect non-Ubine to the speaker position, however, other clans can beseech this dominant clan, and is tradition for the Ubine to respect the requests by the other dwarves.

Jivine: These elves are perhaps the longest continuing inhabitants of the Bish peninsula, as their monuments from the past dot the landscape. However, out of all the major races, they are rarely seen out of the Jesh, their forest homeland in the northwest. While some sages claim that their numbers have dropped in the last hundred years, the elves do not divulge the truth. They show their loyalty to the Senatas in the means dictated by the Treaty, but they steadfastly refuse to allow anyone inside the forest. Bish Elves are wild elves, which have ranger, rogue and sorcerer as their preferred classes. Their Vilne emeralds are considered the best spell-gems in the world, and they sell them to their allies. They do not send representatives to the Senatas, Their high noble families are called Root, Fey and Vine.


Annash: Gardens that temporarily arise; harvest is magically enhanced, similar to potions
Battery: places, usually caves, where Iron-hearted are located until called upon to serve in battle
Bish: The subcontinent; anything from here is Bishollo
Bleaklands: Dead lands, they border to the outside world and are home to many evil creatures
Blessing: Ability to cast a spell or a wish granted by the surge when at the Codex
Circle: Druidic cult that attempts to create nature sanctuaries and protect animals
Code: The list of laws and traditions that knights follow
Codex: Mile high obelisk located in Vromel
Cult of the Vine: Cults that cause wild drunken orgies that sometimes cause great destruction.
Curse: Lycanthropy, it is punishable by death; sometimes known as Curse of the Moon
Dral: Good aligned, black-skinned elves, tremendously respected by the Bish
Fentorrik: An Iron-Hearted warrior that once commanded an army that destroyed Vromel
Ferric: Iron Mines in the eastern province well infested with gobbers
Gray: Creatures that come from the bleaklands
Gromwell: Legendary canyon homeland of the gnomes.
Hands: Members of the faithful
Handmaidens: Term for priestesses of Quanna
Hunters: Rangers given permission by the crown to hunt in the preserves
Iron Hearted: War forged, created for war. Hundreds sleep ready to be awakened for service.
Jesh: The “Sleeping Forest” of the Jivine elves in the north
Knights: Well-respected cavaliers that serve various groups, some take the Paladin prestige class
Legion: Elite warriors that continually patrol the bleak borderlands
Mandorrian: War-like nation across the eastern sea, that often act as mercenaries
Muse: a fey being that inhabits the body for a brief time for an artistic performance. “Calling for a muse” is a dangerous thing, as the results are unpredictable at best.
Oasis of Thought: Scattered monasteries that promote unarmed combat
Order: The nomenclature of the noble families that rule Bish, Order of the Green, Order of the Feather, etc
Oromians: Bearded merchants across the eastern sea that also control jammers (flying ships)
Patriarch: Leader of the council of churches; only the Prince holds more political power
Rage: A drug that causes bloodthirsty madness
Red Haired: Spellcaster or more specifically a sorcerer
Rez’l: Titanspawn, a powerful lich hundreds of years ago that seized control of the iron forged
Rowena: Evil Goddess of the cold & undead, colloquially known as the Ice Bitch
Rune Forests: Forests that contain magically enhanced wood used to create ceremonial tokens
Scarlet: Knights that directly serve the Prince of Vromel
Senatas: The ruling body, where the noble families meet to rule
Shadowy Hand: Group of cultists that kill good aligned clerics and paladins
Shard Mage: Outcasts sorcerers who travel to the bleaklands to gain power at a tremendous cost
Silver Claws: Group of good aligned gnolls that help to protect roadside shrines
Standing Knight: Knights who help protect the nation from wizards and outsiders
Surge: Magical energy, sometimes known as mana or the frequency
Thunderlands: Volcanic territory controlled by the Ubine Dwarves
Titan: heretics that actively attempt to destroy obelisks and kill anyone that serves the gods
Titanspawn: created creatures that serve the Titans, or, mortal followers of the Titans
Teeth or Tooth: Slang for rouges and thieves.
Treaty: The agreement that forged Vromel as the capital, it sees each province and neighbouring nation pay tax as well as provide soldiers to help keep the border peace
Trueborn: Creatures born without a hint of stain or impurity. These can transform individuals (race, class, belief or alignment) during rare or important events
Vilne: Emerald spell-stones
Vromel: The capital city near the center of the nation