Death of Winter

Current Project

So the last few weeks my work schedule has had me up earlier than usual. I work a “flexible schedule” [sic] and my hours typically changed from week to week. Lately however they’ve been very consistent. This isn’t an inherently bad thing, but the early morning shifts have altered my sleep schedule so that I have been up early every morning (typically between 3 and 4am) With the extra time in the morning I started to write an adventure module.

Library_Dark_Scene_v01This adventure has so far been penned entirely by hand, and as of this writing has just topped 110 pages in a standard composition book, including sketches of maps (which I will recreate in full color), and countless notes penned into the margins. The adventure is tentatively titled “Death of Winter” In a nutshell the story is about a small village stricken by a disease and the struggle to discover the source and find the cure. I haven’t been this engaged in a single project in ages, and am very pleased with some of the surprises I’ve come up with.

The adventure is set in my setting of Veyrn, but the setting elements have been toned down so that it could very easily be adapted to any setting. It contains a strong emphasis on roleplaying and exploration, but contains enough combat to keep a dedicated fighter entertained. Things the characters do or don’t do will have consequences throughout the story, and will force the players to make some very difficult choices. I hope that GMs and Players enjoy it as much I have enjoyed writing it.

When do we get to see it?

I’m still working on completing the rough draft, but am in the final stretch. Being written by hand I will be typing it up and revising it as I go. The second draft of the writing should be complete in a few weeks. After that I must go through my sketches and create all the maps I will need to accompany this tale. Once all the needed material is written and created, I will put together a working copy of it for playtest purposes. All in All it will still be a couple months until the project is ready for others to see, though I may share it with some trusted friends for initial feedback. It may not be pretty but it will be functional.

Playtesters Needed…Eventually!

I do plan to playtest this adventure as much as possible, both by myself and through  other interested parties, I need more people to gauge difficulty, clear up any confusion, and otherwise make this product the best it can be. This will be my first published work and as such I want it to be the best I can be. I will be posting more information at a later date if any of you are interested in participating, along with more information on my expectations, what I hope to get out of the play test process.

That’s all I have for now, I’ll share more as I progress!

 

 

The Fae

The Fae, Faeries, The Fair folk

Little Thumb 2In Veyrn most make very little distinction between the fae and other spirits. In some places they are considered superstitious nonsense or dangerous threats. Modern depictions of these beings have diluted them in film and television, and they are often seen as lighthearted, silly or just a bit mischievous. The original stories were a bit darker, and the tales were heavily influenced by the arrival and conversion of the native peoples to Christianity.

The Seven RavensThose fae that currently inhabit the world were descended from powerful beings that once sought to conquer and rule the world. Most see them as just stories, but to the people of Falta they are a frightening reality. While not every fae bears malicious intent, all of them are potentially dangerous and known to react violently for even a slight insult. This has caused the people of Falta to become fearful of the unknown, and every ill both natural and unnatural is often attributed to these beings. Homes are often decorated in iron, a substance known to keep them at bay, and occasional offerings are left for them, to placate them and entice them away from their homes.

Perhaps the biggest impact the fae have had on the world of Veyrn was the introduction of beings such as they elves and goblins. These two races once served as loyal generals and foot soldiers in the strange faerie armies. After their failed attempt to conquer the world, they remained behind and are now for good or ill, a part of the world.

wood-3072434_1920To the south of the nation of Falta, rests the forest of Dormach. This massive forest is a dark and foreboding place, rumored to be inhabited by strange faerie creatures. It is also the home of the Feituwatha, a race of elves who were unwilling to turn from their old ways and abandon their ancient masters. They work in secret forging bonds with the fae who remained and trying to find away back to the strange realm the elves know only as The Grey. This twilight realm is said to exist between the borders of our world and the world of dreams, much like the fae themselves. It is a strange mercurial realm bound to whims of its masters. In times past great conflict existed between the Feituwatha and the druids of Falta. It ended after much bloodshed, and a pact was made, stopping all aggression between the two people. Unfortunately, the powers of the druids have begun to fade, and conflicts with other nations only serve to embolden the Feituwatha. Some say these elves seek to return to The Grey, others insist they wish to hand the world over to them as an offering or proof of loyalty. Only the Feituwatha know for certain.

Changing the way we think about Alignments

On one of the groups I belong to their was recently a discussion on alignment. In the discussion the OP was trying to use alignment to justify various factions in his world going to war with one another. It was an interesting discussion, and felt it a good subject for my thoughts on the subject.

What are they?

Most of you are likely aware of what alignment is in regard to gaming and rpgs. For those new to tabletop gaming alignments are a set of moral guidelines or outlook to aid in roleplaying the character. Examples include Lawful Good, Neutral Evil, Chaotic Neutral. They represent the players views in regards to law and chaos, and good and evil. Some like them, some hate them. I don’t personally put much stock in them as I find them to be poor motivators for good roleplaying. Many of them are reduced to types of stereotypical behavior, and not (in my opinion used how they should be.)

How some use Alignment

Many players new and old alike fall into the trap of restricting their characters behavior based on their alignment. Or on the flip side, giving them no restrictions and using alignment as an excuse to do whatever they please (looking at you Chaotic Neutral).  You can often find phrases such as “my character wouldn’t do that because of her alignment..” or “Your alignment is good, you can’t murder a peasant.” There are some reasons for this, and I would agree a good character wouldn’t commit heinous acts, such as murder. I find however that it is often used as a way to permit or deny player actions, because these actions are against their alignment. Alignment here being used as a tool to decide what a character may or may not do.

Changing the way we think about Alignment

What I propose, and what I hope others do as well, is to look at alignment from a slightly different perspective. Rather than look at it as a way to judge what a character will or will not do, look at it as how they will do it. One should look at the goal of their character not their alignment for determining their actions. Take a step back and look at the bigger picture. It’s a subtle difference, but to me an important one.

For Example:

Consider the following scenario:

A local lord of a city has recently enacted some laws, which increase taxes on the poor or in some way limit the freedoms of those living under their rule. First examine the situation and determine what your character wants to do about it. Perhaps you decide that limiting the freedoms, or financially punishing the poor is unacceptable and that something needs to be done about it. Your character’s backstory and personality will likely factor into this decision, but the specifics of what your going to do shouldn’t be decided at this point. Keep your goal vague, and flexible before you bring alignment into it.

Now we look to alignment to determine the course of action. Say your character is Lawful Neutral, meaning your more interested in law and order over concern for good or evil. You might decide that these new laws will lead to undue strife or chaos if not revoked. Using your alignment as a compass you decide the best course of action is to speak with the Lord and his aides, going through proper channels to have the laws changed or revoke. You wouldn’t break the law or encourage other to do so, but would acknowledge the harmful effect they can have on the stability of their society. If you fail with the lord you may takes steps to ask a duke or prince any higher in station to legally intercede on behalf of the people.

Now we’ll look at the exact same situation, this time from the perspective of a character who is Chaotic Good. This alignment favors doing what is right, without much regard for law and order. This character might try to organize the people into a protest or if that fails organize a revolt to other throw the unjust laws of the local Lord. They might try to use the system first as with the above example, but are just as likely to take matters into their own hands to correct the perceived injustice.

Conclusion

 Alignment doesn’t need to be a straitjacket or a means to enforce behaviors onto your characters. See it as a tool for roleplaying, a way to show how your character acts and not just a rigid code of behavior. Use it to breath life into you the personalities we bring to the table both as players and game masters. Try to think more of how and less of why. Alignment should be a means to an end, not the entirety of determining our actions.

Progress Report

Updates

I’ve shared a few bits and pieces of my work over the last few weeks, but I feel I should talk a bit about what the status of the project currently is and what I’ve been spending my time on. I would expect to have most of the groundwork complete by the end of the year, and a “working version” of the setting by spring. I’ve been putting a great deal of time into various pieces, laying a foundation I can build from as the work continues to narrow in focus.

 

Progress Report

ZayreDetail

The Region of Zayre

A lot of my time the last few weeks has been spent working on the map for the main continent, Reghal. I’ve worked and reworked the map, adding more details as I go, and making minor improvements based on feedback I’ve received from various cartography pages on Facebook. I’ve found these communities very helpful and they’ve help me to improve my skills with Campaign Cartographer 3+. I don’t yet consider myself an expert, but my work has improved substantially over the last few months.

I’ve been keeping a OneNote notebook to keep track of my work. As of this writing it contains about 15,000 words. This includes notes on nearly everything from nations to races and cultures, religions, and a sizable chunk (8 pages and counting) of history and time lines. I don’t expect to use every word (nobody wants to ready 10 pages of just timelines, right? But it gives me a good starting point and backbone to build a narrative from. Not included in this word count is two pieces of original fiction I’ve written based on this material. These are short works of about 2k words each, and may be used to add fluff to the setting and break up and add depth to the “crunchier” bits of the book.

Moving Forward

In the months ahead, I expect to add more meat to the skeleton I’ve been constructing over the last few months. I will likely take a more focused approach picking one nation at a time until I have a basic framework for each. In the spring I will start a campaign in this world, using my own group to playtest the world and tweak it or add additional details as the campaign progresses. I will be starting with the Kingdom of Zayre, as it will be the most “traditional” in terms of setting. Early next week I will be posting some more fiction, and will continue to keep posting updates as work progresses. I may release a guide to Zayre as a sample this spring before the start of my next campaign.

 

Thanks for reading!

-Patrick Harron, Triple Moon Games

Building a World #4: Concepts in World Building

Approaches to World Building

There are two main approaches to world building. Inside out, and outside in. Both have their merits and flaws, and both allow a potential world builder to create a living, breathing world. I will go over the basics of each here briefly and then discuss my approach and how I’m building my setting, Veyrn.

Inside Out

With this approach, the storyteller or game master starts small, and works outward. Usually this means detailing a starting location, and the surrounding area. Then expanding upon this as you craft a campaign, and the players outgrow the starting area.

This approach is great because it requires less work than crafting a whole world upfront and allows the GM to spend less time on the setting and more time on telling a fantastic story. The only time problem will arise from this approach is when the players ask about the world at large. If the GM does not yet have an idea of what lies outside the area they’ve crafted it could leave them unprepared when the players ask unexpected questions (and they always will).

When using the inside out method, it’s best to at least make some note on the other areas of the world, even if they aren’t completely fleshed out. This will help avoid the aforementioned issues that may arise.

Outside In

Naturally this is the exact opposite of the method I previously described. With this method you start with the whole world then proceed to add smaller and smaller details are you continue to flesh out your setting.

This method is great because it starts you with a whole world, fleshed out and ready to go, you will have all the details ready to go should the players ask questions, or go in unexpected directions. The downfall is that it requires significantly more work for the GM and may delay the start of a campaign, particularly in the GM is under pressure from other responsibilities and cannot devote much time to a particular project.

What about Veyrn?

For the Veyrn campaign setting, I’m actually using a bit of both. This project is an expansion and revision of my home setting, and as such I had quite a bit of material to draw from. Giving me a good starting point, if not a complete world. (I’ve added a LOT to my original setting, and in many ways almost feels like a completely new world.) I used the material I already had as a basis laying down a framework, before sketching out  the rest of the setting. For the most part I used an “outside in” approach, as I created concepts and major locations first. I will soon begin going back and adding in details of the many peoples and places I have added to the world and the maps I have put many hours into the last few weeks.

What’s Next?

I’m currently working on finishing my over world maps. I’ve spent literally hours painstakingly constructing a map using CC3+ and have received a lot of positive and constructive feedback on the results, allowing me to improve it even further.

VeyrnRegionalDetailtest8

Current Map of Veyrn (Still a work in progress)

Once this is completed I will begin detailing the locations, for each nation. I will also be working on lore, mythology, and other bits of fluff to add depth and detail to it. I can’t wait to show you all what I have come up with, as I’m currently sitting on pages and pages of notes, with many of them regarding the history of Veyrn and its people.

Deities vs. Faiths

As I continue to build the world of Veyrn, I’ve been giving a great deal of thought to the religious belief and practices of the various cultures of my world. There are many campaign settings out there and nearly all of them have their own pantheon of gods. Much of the time you see them with brief descriptions usually with domains, alignments, and powers associated with them and their followers. Rarely do you see much detail given to what their followers believe or much in the way of practices or beliefs, unless that detail is relevant to a particular adventure or supplement.

When creating Veyrn I’ve been not only thinking of who the Gods are, and what they are associated with, by why they are worshiped, how that faith evolved and how their followers honor or revere the Gods.

I will include the usually material for Deities in an rpg guidebook. I will have symbolism, that they associated with, and everything needed mechanically to build a follower of that faith. I will also include information of the beliefs, rituals, and practices of those followers, along with major religious festivals and “holy” days.

One thing I AM actively avoiding is alignments as applied to the Gods. There will not be “good” or “evil” deities. Though some may be considered such by the people of the world. Such black and white morality in my mind is far below the notice of divine forces. Such polarization won’t exist within the deities themselves, though it may be imposed by their followers of the followers of other gods.

I will give some examples of some of the kind of things I’m working on over the next few weeks. I hope you enjoy it.