What Cha Working On Boss?

Hey everyone,

I wanted to let you know that yes, I am busy. Things are pretty hectic and I wanted to give you a brief update.

Currently still working on Salamanders of House Draax sourcebook for Anointed: Mantle of the Gods and New Gods of Mankind. This will bring one House and society of the Salamanders to life. Since Draax is the Dragon God of the Boiling Seas, expect to see the salamander version of marines to fight. Here is some stats for you to chew on.

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I am testing out these marines and the whole house with a great group of gamers including Sean over at https://heavymetalgm.wordpress.com/ I appreciate them putting up with all the new content while I work it out for publication.

Also a second book with detailed career paths, domains and powers filled out will be coming too. Currently working on a Witch Anointed Character and adding in some cool, low level Cantrips as a single power to work within the system.

Speaking of new stuff.

Currently working on a card game called Giants of Klundynn. It is a 2-4 player game where each player takes turns as a Giant with an army of elite smashing another player’s village and followers. Four types of decks will be in the game: Ogres and Humans, Trolls and Orcs, Minotaurs and Beastmen, Behemoths and undead. The whole game is meant to feel like you are wrecking total devastation like in a Godzilla movie.

Playtesting happening soon.

Still waiting for edits and proofreading on the novel, Dragon Gods Rising. I plan to release the novel in June.

I will be running lots of Demos on @roll20 or live in San Antonio at your local game shop.

Going to find a few things to write about this weekend for sure. Expect a couple of nice blog posts.

Catch you guys later.

 

 

Barbarians at the Table: Exploring Hack and Slash Gaming

Gaming is a form of escapism. A way to leave the dull confines of our day jobs, school and life in general. Even though we humans have conquered disease, viruses, mass genocide (in a significant portion of the world) and our own madness, we still desire to leave behind our boring lives and explore. It is our unbridled lust for exploration of new places and desires to act out our inhibitions that powers the gaming movement.Gaming has swept the modern world, even putting other forms of entertainment to shame. We humans desire to hack and slash. We want control over our world and to rule ourselves by the sword.

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It is when we escape through gaming that we often “do” things we normally would not even consider in our modern society. Acts of power and violence are tossed around as we delve deep into the game we want to explore. We do not hold back from pickpocketing the town guard. Our trigger finger is ready to blow apart Stormtroopers, Nazis and the nearest obstacle in our way. In Table-Top fantasy games we often slaughter wholesale orcs and trolls without a care for consequences. It is this, shoot first and ask questions later many game masters have a problem with. The barbarians are at the table and ready to play. Can you game master with people whose primal instincts are in full swing?

We will explore in this article several reasons why we should entertain these barbarous gamers. Also we will look at the dark side of humanity, shunned, but still there in all of us. In our last few paragraphs we will explore ideas on how to incorporate consequences and alternatives for our barbarian gamer friends.

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Artwork by Frank Frazetta

Noted psychiatrist Carl Jung spoke about “the shadow” in each and every person. This is something we deny exists in ourselves and we project on others. It can take on a life of its own called “The Other”. Anthropologist have found in every culture we humans portray some very dark elements. This list includes

 

  • Aggression and Proscribed Violence
  • Jealousy
  • Lies and Manipulation
  • Shame

 

The Greeks had a term for outsiders and people who acted primarily on the dark side of their nature, barbaros “barbarian” which is an antonym of the word polites or citizen. Often Greeks would hurl insults at each other with this term. We can see the barbaric nature of man is in all of us. Yet we strive to be good citizens, not giving in to our dark nature. But early man could not survive without these traits.

It is therefore good for humans to explore the dark side of their nature. You cannot know what to resist if you have no idea what you are resisting. Our highly civilized society has no room for random acts of aggression that lie within all of us. But growing up we find no outlet for our dark selves. Gone are the days of playing cops and robbers in the neighborhood. Gaming, can and should be used as a healthy, modern outlet to explore the dark nature of man and ourselves.

Game Masters should entertain tabletop barbarians for several reasons.

 

  1. It is a healthy outlet and exploration of the dark part of our nature.
  2. Our better selves can know what these acts feel like without actually performing them in real society.
  3. Healthy role-play of different personalities leads to empathy.

 

The last part must be emphasized. In order for us to be great citizens of the country we belong to, we must learn to practice empathy. What is empathy?

Noun: The ability to understand and share the feelings of others.

It comes from two Greek words, em- in and pathos –feeling.

Why do we need more empathy?

So we can understand each other and live in a civilized society. You can find a great article about empathy here.

While it is good to understand our dark nature, it is not good to have players run around without any consequence of their actions for many sessions. We are creatures of habit and game masters who constantly allow for players to do what they please without consequence miss a great opportunity for exploring our inner selves.

Just as in real life, if we rob a liquor store, we should expect jail time. In our table-top role-playing games we should allow consequences to happen. Players who go into a dungeon, kill all the orcs and leave with the loot should know there will be reprisal. The orcs should have relatives and clans with kin. They will be looking for blood. Also if the orcs robbed the dungeon from someone else, like a necromancer, this necromancer will come back to get his gold. This can be played off as cursed gold, marked by the necromancer and it allows the party to be tracked. The entire point is, make sure actions have consequences. This way you can show all sides of a player’s actions. Too often we get into a kill zone and just play out a slaughter-fest. If this is what you intend, then by all means go for it. But if you want your games to impact a player’s life, bring consequences into the game.

Another area to explore while delving into our dark selves is our ability to care about others. Motivating new players to care about their actions goes with consequences. Often we think still in family terms and keep our ideas about who counts as family at a tribal level. Give players a tribe to belong to. Even if it is a society of misfit adventurers it gives a sense of belonging. Often the dwarf berserker will not care about the elf minstrel. If the dwarf berserker joined a league with the elf whose uncle is a necromancer, that will give some reason for the dwarf to care about his elf friend. Bringing family and friend groups into a game raises the whole role-playing session to another level. It helps us practice empathy and find reasons to practice caring.

We all have a barbarian lurking inside of us. Denying this will not vanquish the dark part of our nature. It is healthy to explore this aspect of us through table-top games. The theater of the mind is a great simulator of life. With the right game master and players, a collaborative environment of storytelling and exploration can commence in a simulated place. Do not worry about new players smashing through everything. Encourage them to feel comfortable in their role and allow for them to explore who they are role-playing. Without this discovery within table-top games we cannot grow as mature, empathetic beings. Role-playing games can be a great way to create bright, empathetic citizens of our world.

 

 

International Table-Top Day April 30th!

Ladies, Gentlemen, Gamers of All Ages,

April 30th is a special day set aside for Table-Top games. Come and get your game on at one of many marked and unmarked locations. Everything from Board Games, Card Games to Table-Top RPG games will be covered. Just about every game store will be doing something for that day. If you are looking for an international location participating with Geek and Sundry’s Table-Top Day you can click on this link here.

Geek and Sundry will be live broadcasting on their website. You can hit their Twitch Feed here. For more information on Geek and Sundry, go here.

Why do we need such a day?

So we can celebrate a hobby that unites the world in game. For one day millions of gamers will rise up and role dice, drop cards, move tokens, place miniatures and flip through rules. It is a day to wave your geek flag high. If you love games, it is nice to have a special day set aside for Table-Top RPGs.

This blog and the writer has his own personal reasons to love this day.

New Gods of Mankind

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Check out the full line of PDFs for your next table-top game on RPGnow and find our new sets on Roll 20. We have a free sample PDF you can download now here.

If you have no friends nearby to game with, just log into Roll 20 or Fantasy Grounds and find a group.

Actualizing Antagonists and Villains

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Creating memorable antagonists, be they heroes, events or villains, anchors your game or story with a personality. A foe in direct conflict with the players. Dungeons and bosses, storms and rivals vie for the chance to put an end to your player’s current state of livelihood. Often building an implementing such a fiendish creation requires much time and preparation. After creating a tavern and quest plot, this should be the main focus of any game master. When you create an antagonist, you should keep in mind their looks, personality, motivations, ties to the players (direct or indirect) and flash. This applies not just to evil liches, but a paladin from a rival order, a dungeon keep belonging to a dead uncle or a huge blizzard filled with horrible creatures.

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“The steam slowly showed her form incarnate within the Celestial Garden. A serpentine dragon, with folded wings and long sinuous arms and legs looked back at her. Beautiful, iridescent aquamarine scales covered her body, capturing the sunset’s eternal light here. Dark, electric plum eyes stared back at her with yellow slits, brimming with fire. Delicate fronds covered her long neck made of silver blue. Her long snout held a perfect symmetry and her two prominent fangs rested on her lower jaw slightly. Deep blue claws covered in an iridescent coating retracted and expanded. Draax knew her beauty for this meeting could not be matched. She worked hard preparing for each god and their personality. Her quips and barbs matched the temperament and mood of each dragon. Often she spent seasons having internal arguments, playing Fate, playing the role of one of her rivals, twisting logic, making sure everything, every thought was covered.

 Draax had nothing to lose and everything to gain at this meeting.” (Dragon Gods Rising A novel I am currently editing)

The physical description of the main antagonist must be accurate, detailed and evoke a response from your characters. Too often a storyteller will just describe the highlighted main bad guy as “a tall person dressed in black armor wielding a great sword.” Or a huge dungeon sprawling across the underbelly of a city. Color in your antagonist with feelings you want to illicit from your audience. Each color contains a lot of deep meaning. You can find a whole chart of emotions attached to colors here. I recommend throwing in the color red, orange or yellow somewhere, even if it is small. Make sure the personality you give matches the description you are about to relay to your players.

Loki

Creating a personality for your antagonist often involves going into dark territory. Fear and hatred often come up along with greed and lust. If you want more information on dark personality traits go here. Even the most armored saint like paladin will show some type of negative trait which they try and justify. Objects and events can have personality as well. This should tie directly to the emotional reaction your party will have towards the event. This reactions colors the personality of the event or object.

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Motivations often come into play when dealing with main antagonists. Game masters should lists the goals of their main antagonists and ensure they are marching towards them in every game session. This allows the game to be more dynamic and not so player centered (although the players are the stars of the show, but the world must continue to grow and revolve). When you seek to give your antagonist a goal, make sure it is one many people will oppose. This will create the conflict needed to create interesting drama. An excellent article breaking down motivations lies here.

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Tying the characters to the antagonists can take your story to the next level. The scorned, necromantic uncle creating an army of undead can fuel many hours of game time. Giving your characters a personal stake in the game allows for players to follow the given plot course without railroading. This is important as too often players will complain of game masters ‘forcing’ them to do a dungeon. Sometimes even an indirect motivation helps. Let us say the necromancer is not related to any of the party, but has a need to destroy a town in which a player’s aunt lives in. Again this ties the players into the plot. Feel free to experiment with this but be careful of player’s emotional responses. Storytellers walk a fine line here.

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The final topping on this antagonist dessert is flash. Flash means an invoked magical, technological or appointed special use of an object, clothing, weapon or spell. This ties in to description but deserves its own special paragraph. Often one can remember a foe by the way they carried their beautiful dragon emblem sword. Or maybe a rival wizard loves to shoot dark purple fireballs that explode with a hellish screech. Maybe the cloak a paladin wears is corrupting the otherwise virtuous paladin and now has latched on with a life of its own. Do your best to create a dazzling idea your players will not forget.

Creating a memorable story is the goal of any game master or writer. Take care in creating your antagonist and you will be over halfway to creating a fun night filled with conflict and challenges. Feel free to send over your ideas for an antagonist to share with everyone.

 

 

Tips on Creating Inns and Taverns

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Original Artist here

Adventurers, in any genre, game or story need food and shelter. A good portion of your beginning and ending to a table-top game will take place in an establishment where drinks, food and shelter can be found. Some stories revolve around a saloon or bar. From a mining colony close to the Kuiper belt  to a historical inn set in Oxford, England, characters will come into these establishments made for travelers and wayward souls. One can find a plethora of information about inns and taverns from the past here . Inns, bars and taverns serve as the cornerstone to any gaming or story universe and should be crafted with care. Some game masters or writers will simply grab established material such as The Three Feathers for Warhammer or bring to life the Friendly Arms Inn found in Forgotten Realms . But most writers want to create their own ideas. Every place characters go should be stocked with interesting personalities, descriptive drinks and food, paid services and a small stock of goods to purchase and plenty of quests, game ideas for many nights of gaming. Maps of the place may, or may not be needed so keep in mind what type of game you are playing. Seedy bars with lots of fights will often need to be mapped out.

Below I will give you some great tips on making your own establishment for your next story or game.

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Cool mixer and music for image found here.

Inns and taverns get their personalities, backstory and looks from their owners. Creating the barkeep, servants and owner is essential and need to be top priority. When you describe the building you will be describing a part of this character as well. Approach this task from a perspective of character creation with a twist. Usually tavern owners are much older and have tons of life experiences behind them. Craft your establishment owner using a history of adventure. Tie them into specific events occurring in a timeline within your world. Older, experienced adventurers usually make up two thirds of inn keeps. Give them at least two different classes (or jobs) with a few legends. Tie at least one story to the founding of the bar. Once you create the owner, create her family as well. Most inns are family ran. Some inns do have an owner not in attendance with a small, poor family running the show. Make sure your barkeep, waitress, and stable-hands/ servants can answer the following questions:

  • What do you have to drink?
  • What kind of food do you serve?
  • Do you have any room to sleep?
  • Can you stable our mounts/ Room to park our vehicles?
  • Is there anyone hiring?
  • Are there any rumors going around? (Quest Related questions)
  • Do you have any goods/services to sell?

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Artist here

Food and Drinks further define the reputation of the tavern that might stand on its own or be a part of the inn. I highly recommend watching a few shows on foods especially for a fantasy game such as Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmerman and Booze Traveler If you have multiple non playing characters staying at your inn, tell your players what they are eating/ drinking. A lot of information about what type of person they are can be gleamed from their food choices. Fantasy species such as dwarves and elves have their own types of particular foods. If an establishment carries delicacies for a particular species it might give the players more information to enrich the gaming experience.

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Creating the inn itself should be the next item in your mind. A short paragraph describing the establishment always comes in handy. Take into account where the staff and owner sleeps. Also determine if the place is near a city or serves as a small in-between location. When you figure out where the exact location of the inn is, you can determine what type of trade agreements have been made to keep the place stocked with food, drink and goods. Think about the logistics of this establishment as it could come into play later on. Helping the bar owner with a problem involving her shipment of hops and barley would benefit players in many ways.

The tavern/ bar/ inn should be a place chocked full of ideas and one shot games for your players. Understanding the local economy, trade, wildlife and weather will give you much to go on. Local big personalities should flock to the place in order to recruit for dangerous missions. In a sci-fi campaign big time smugglers and crime lords could recruit here as well. It is important to throw down many seeds for adventures. By exploring the area around the Inn you can ensure the nearby graveyard might pose of interest to the adventurers.

By now your head should be brimming with ideas. This place of rest should be your number one area of generating ideas for adventures within the campaign setting. Creating a city is nice, but can be extremely cumbersome for people pressed for time. Try and localize the action and realize less is truly more. The typical bar and inn might be a well-worn troupe but it is quite effective in creating one shot or campaign games. Use it to the fullest and reap the rewards of happy gamers and game masters for a focused, small effort.

 

Recruiting Fresh Blood For Your Next Table Top RPG

As game masters we get a burning desire to tell stories, run games. Often it hits us like inspiration hits writers. We could be browsing through the latest at Drive Thru RPG. Or we might have finished a great book we bought off Amazon. Sometimes a simple article might set us off. Whatever the case when we get the urge, we want to game. The first and foremost problem game masters have is recruitment. How the heck do you find someone willing to play a table-top game with you? First you need to decide where you want to run the game. If you want to run it live, then below I have several suggestions for you. If you want to do it online, I can give you some tips on where to go and how to run your game.

Wiining

Recruiting live players can be difficult. A bit of extroverted charm along with a likeable smile can go a long way. But to find fresh blood for your next game requires the proper location, timing and social skills. Your current job, transportation and living location will determine who you can recruit. Availability for gaming is crucial and often it can be difficult to coordinate a schedule with like-minded players. You can learn social skills. Several techniques exists you can use to become more extroverted. and get the players you desire for your next game.

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Being in the right location for gaming is critical to ensure success in finding a group of live Table-Top gamers. Sometimes you can find someone nearby using a website like Nearby Gamers. If this first stipulation cannot be met, consider looking online for a game. Living in a great location for gamers helps a whole lot. Seattle, Washington is a mecca for people who love table-top game in the United States.  Las Vegas, Portland, Atlanta, Sacramento, Minnesota, Boston and Miami are great cities filled with geeks. If you live outside of the US, Germany has a TON of board gamers who are eager to play table-top RPGS. You can attend Spiel and check out all of the games for yourself. London has many shops catering to table-top gaming as well. Brazil has many table-top gamers if you find yourself in South America. If you work in the military, you have the best chances of finding a group of players within your company. Personally, I ran some of my best games within the ranks of my unit. Local comic shops and hobby stores are great places to find other players if you do not live in one of the geek cities. Classmates and colleges have many players just itching to get their game on. Living close to a local library, you might want to check out what transpires on the weekend. Another great place to recruit players is local comic conventions. Sometimes the small ones with a few hundred people will have those few gamers looking for a game master.

Timing is everything and this must be factored in for live player recruitment. In today’s society we work longer, odd hours which factor in to our gaming experience. Some people might not be able to game during the weekend. If you have such odd schedules, you should wait to set up a gaming event until you can clear a weekend. The best time to game is the weekend and this has not changed. Thursday night to Sunday afternoon remains the prime time to run a table-top game in North America. Only on holidays or during the summer months will you find games being ran at odd hours. This timing schedule applies for online and some international gamers. If you need help scheduling games I would recommend using Warhorn or better yet just set up a google calendar invite. Facebook groups also serve as an excellent way to schedule games for multiple players.

Gaining and using socials skills is critical to finding and recruiting live players. Here you will find an excellent article pertaining to training your social skills.In my humble opinion, you need to be a social animal in order to be an effective game master. The wonderful thing about table-top games is it gives you chances to practice skills you normally would not try. Game masters should have a good grasp of several skills: empathy, non-verbal communication skills, spoken communication and assertiveness. As a player you get to work on all these skills while playing the game. If you do not feel ready for the mantel of game master, you probably are not. That is OK. But take time to study what everyone else is doing at your next session. Take time to study your current game master. If you need some online examples, there are plenty of group sessions found on You-Tube.

Running an online game is similar to a live session with several pros and a few cons connected with the activity. The fastest growing and most popular online table-top gaming platform is Roll 20 and Fantasy Grounds  I recommend both. Fantasy Grounds has more content for paying users. Roll 20 is free to play and you can create a game quickly. It is super easy to get a roll 20 game going for just about any type of table-top game out there. The pros for running a game online is the flexibility of hours so you can find odd hour games and location is not a factor. The biggest con is not being there live. Players and game masters miss out on lots of non-verbal communication cues. Cheaper alternatives for people with established groups consists of Google Hangouts and Skype.

Finding a great group to belong to and game with is essential to a proper gaming life. Creating a great social network with many friends enriches our lives and enhances who we are. Take care on who you invite into your social circle. Make sure if you are a narrative styled GM, you keep pure mechanical gamers away from your table. If you enjoy simulations or pure gaming, make sure to recruit to your style of game.

Stay on Target: Keeping Distracted Table-Top Gamers Engaged

If you ever played a table-top role-playing game you understand about distractions. Endless diversions hampering plot, game play and flow. Sometimes you get together and it seems as if you might as well meet at a bar and get it over with. The game master and several players might enjoy a few straying conversations. But often too much conversation not related to game will dampen everyone’s fun. Lighthearted conversations and off topic jokes CAN kill game sessions, ruining the fun for everyone.

I have a few suggestions on how to keep everyone on target and working towards a fun night of gaming.

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(The fantastic Larry Elmore)

Set a time limit for players and game masters This can be controversial in some groups. Combat and non combat encounters are different beasts. The game master (dungeon master) must be flexible and know what type of players he has. My suggestion for combat is to set a 2-4 minute timer for each player IN COMBAT. Game masters must interact with each player in a ten minute period in a combat setting. Non combat portions of the game heavy in role-play should have limits as well. Set a max time limit of ten minutes per player. The game master should speak with every player first before going back to player 1. This time should be agreed on by everyone. Stress the emphasis of flow and getting in fun for everyone. No one wants to sit around and diddle their thumbs in boredom.

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Make sure everyone has something to do!!!! Sometimes you will run a game sessions and a character dies. No backups are available and now you have a good friend stuck out of the game. What the heck are you gonna do? Give them something PRONTO! Often I would pull in some extra NPCs and let the player run them. This way the player has something new to do and can be a boon in most cases. Make sure you run with extra characters to compensate for any deaths in the party. If you are running a dangerous situation as a game master, make sure you have back up plans and ideas for a party wipe or a few deaths. The worst thing you can do as a game master,leave someone out of the party. After all it is a party and we all want to have fun.

Wiining

(Armando Gil)

Keep your party’s goal in mind as a game master This does not mean railroad the party. It means to read your players and see what their goals are. Your goals should be their goals. It is not a competition. When you create or use a dungeon, make sure the final treasure is something the player has in mind. Know the characters and make sure you understand how the player is interpreting their role in the party. Your goal as game master is to see their efforts come to fruition. If the part sets a goal, make sure they stick with it. When the party wanders aimlessly, this can lead to a joyless, soul sucking session. Talk with your players, directly or indirectly through NPCs (non-playing characters).

Ensure everyone gets involved, directly or indirectly in non combat encounters The dreaded shopping session can suck the joy out of any group. Players will get super bored waiting for that one friend out to get the best armor and equipment. It can drive people batty. This is a difficult task but one the game master must ensure does not bore people. If one player is shopping for new armor, give the other players something else to do. Let them participate in the gladiator pits. Wizards should go off to a local college and engage others of his profession. Clerics should have small encounters at a local temple. Thieves should be trying to rob local marketers. It is hard but not impossible to keep track of everyone. But the game master must balance time between each character. Do not allow more than 10 minutes max to go by without engaging every player.

Staying on target, keeping players involved in a game session is crucial to running memorable games. Being a game master is no easy task. But the great thing is, learning and using time management skills can make the difference in dungeon mastering. Learn to pay attention to each player. Sum up their goals as a character and make sure you can get everyone to agree on a destination. Never let a player fall behind. If a player dies, give him something else to do, even if you reincarnate them as a ghost! The main mission is to have fun and play together as a group, creating memories.

The World of Naalrinnon: The Northern Continent of Naalgrom

Ar-Naluun

Ar-Naluun, a frigid, ice-choked sea, is an area of tense calm in the Known World’s volatile oceans. These waters are filled with arctic animals such as sea lions, whales, and other aquatic mammals and fish. Ar-Naluun is famous as a hunting and fishing area for humans and salamanders. Undines frown upon such activity and attack human or salamander ships that actively hunt their kinfolk. Most of the time, humans, salamanders, and undines pass each other without incident, as the area is so vast and the harsh environment limits travel. Storms occur throughout the year and can start unexpectedly. During the winter months, most of the sea is clogged with ice and no ships can pass through. Many boats have disappeared into those waters.

The waters of Ar-Naluun are the coldest in the Known World, with many ice storms, cold currents, and glacial flows. The frozen teeth of Plthunlos, a collection of icebergs and sheets of broken ice anchored atop an underwater mountain range, is the most dangerous area in the seas of Ar-Naluun. Another well-known spot of contention between undines and salamanders is the Rift of Draax, an underwater hot vent that spews new land mass into the ocean. The rift is forming a small chain of islands off the coast of Sssnamon; Sssnamon’s salamanders regularly skirmish with the undines. The undines’ main city lies in the green cliffs called Nesh. Undines call Ar-Naluun their home, but salamanders and humans constantly arrive from Sssnamon, Samona, Sssthra, and Frinth’s north coast to plunder the area.

Undines from this region often have skin colored in deep purples and blues with dark wavy seaweed for hair. Humans here are light-skinned with thick, dark wavy hair. Salamanders are white to tan.

Many gods, demons, and spirits stake their claim to this territory. The undine gods Plthunlos and Celundynn and the salamander Dragon God Draax all have followers here. Legend says that Plthunlos and Draax clashed here in ancient times, creating the Rift of Draax and the Frozen Teeth of Plthunlos.

Ar-Feslynn

The Gulf of Ar-Feslynn hosts the largest undine population in the north as well as many human and salamander ships. The cool blue waters and mild seas make for good fishing. Temperatures rarely drop to freezing, allowing year-round activity. Near the Horn Mountains lies one of the oldest undine cities, Jaash. In the gulf’s center is one of the undines’ primary holy reefs: Ur-Celynn, also called Burial Reef. At the center of this reef is the ancient tower Morsuuth, which the First Ones created. Many fishing and trading boats from the human cities of Hrace and Laanad travel these waters, as well as salamander raiding ships from House Draax.

The undines and humans here coexist peacefully, but salamanders from Shha-narath create tension. Their raiding ships are on the constant prowl for new slaves and trade goods.

Undines here bear skins of blue and purple, with lighter skin tones than those of Ar-Naluun. The gulf’s humans are fair-skinned with light hair.

Celundynn, the undine goddess of the seas and cliffs, carries heavy influence in these waters. Gods of the human nation of Hrace also hold sway here, particularly Baesop, God of Storms.

Atanastan

In Naalgrom’s far western corner, where few sane men travel, is the cold, boggy land of Atanastan. Most of the area is wet marshlands with swamps, bogs, rivers, and lakes flowing around twisted, sagging trees and long, spear-tipped reeds. The temperature gets hot for a few moons during the summer, but shrouds up in a cold fog for most of the year. Sleet and hail are common in winter.

Seer Lake is a pilgrimage point for all races, as its waters bring visions to oracles and priests. Next to this holy lake is the human city of Atan, a thriving metropolis filled with cutthroats, pirates, and shady merchants.

 

Most Atanastan humans are short, light-skinned, and civilized. They live off their wits and cunning. Dark curly hair and bright blue eyes set off their round features. A few cannibalistic human tribes live on the land along the coast and rivers, cooking their civilized brethren in their dinner stews.

 

No gods claim this region, though many have tried, and their ruined temples attest to their fleeting influence. The locals claim that a demon host called the Laaistru haunts this land, possessing the local tribes and anyone who wanders too far into the swamps.

Jasinu

Between the lands of Kathonia and Samona lie the flat plains of Jasinu. Known for its vast expanse of endless rock, short grasslands, and shrubbery, Jasinu is a featureless land with little in the way of trees, hills, or anything to break up the horizon. Only one location stands out in this prairie—the Crater of Lugos, the sylph god. A small series of caves stretches within the crater, including a small city filled with sylphs. Legend says that the sylphs who live in the crater watch over a god who fell from the sky.

Jasinu’s mild temperatures and even seasons make it an ideal home for nomads, who hunt the vast herds of animals that roam the plains. Buffalo, elk, deer, and other wild game can wander here, as do small packs of wolves and wildcats. Near the sea are several small beaches with a few human tribes living off the ocean’s bounty. A small human city, Laanad, lies near the coast. The city is a small fishing community that maintains trade with several human cities, including Hrace.

 

 Humans both primitive and civilized Humans inhabit this region. Sylphs live here as well, and the two races share trade and commerce. Sylphs do no allow humans to live in the Crater of Lugos, but may go there to barter and trade.

Humans from this region are light-skinned, freckled nomads with brown to reddish-blond hair. Sylphs of these lands vary in color but maintain a dark, flat, skin complexion of leathery brown, jet black, or indigo.

 

 Lugos, the sylph god of the wind and whisper, rules this land. The humans here have no gods of their own for now and give limited fealty to Lugos.

Jurel

Jurel, an icy realm on the northwest strip of Naalgrom, is filled with giants and monstrous creatures. Ice and snow covers the area, with the occasional mountain, hill, tree, or obelisk that marks where the Jurelian tribes perform their rituals. Fierce blizzards and hailstorms haunt the land, and avalanches near are common in the Ice Crown Mountains, though summer carries an occasional reprieve from the harsh climate. One of the Jurelian giants’ main areas of worship is the Grun Circle of Stones, where they sacrifice people of other races, creatures, and rival tribesmen.

 

Jurelian giants are fearsome creatures, intelligent to a degree but lost to primal instincts and uncontrollable rages. They stand two to three times as tall as a human. Jurelians have three eyes and long shaggy coats of fur colored in whites, browns, and blues. Four large arms connect to the hunched-over torso, and strong trunk-like legs propel the creature.

 

Tales say that several minor gods call this land home, with each tribe worshipping its own deity. The most notable of these Jurelian gods is Thuun, Lord of Destruction, who holds sway over several tribes and demands constant sacrifices. The sylphs believe that a god named Grun once existed, and that he ruled all the giants until the other gods exiled him.

Kathonia

Nestled in the Horn Mountains beside the Celestial Lakes is Kathonia, a series of rivers, lakes and marshes home to a great variety of reptilian creatures. The temperatures are semi-tropical, with mild winters filled with rainstorms and scorching, humid summers. The Celestial Lakes to the north are home to several human tribes. Further south are the marshlands, which are filled with large reptilian creatures. These creatures are wild variants of the reptilian mounts salamanders use. Local humans tame some of them, while salamander hunters train some of the rarer species, turning them into highly prized mounts. The flying lizards are some of the most popular.

 

Humans and salamanders roam this region, and a few human villages and salamander forts dot the perimeter. Humans here are primitive and fierce, as they are constantly at war with their surroundings and the salamanders. They are olive-skinned, with dark wavy hair and deep-brown eyes. Salamanders who hunt in this region are from the land of Zzzalon, and come to gather the beasts and humans for sale.

 

Within the Horn Mountains are inner cliffs, which form a holy place for salamander priestesses. Kathonia is called the Nest of the Ancient Dragons of the World and the Birthplace of the Dragon Gods. No human or salamander god dominates this region, though rival dragon gods contest it.

Kybel

The frozen land of Kybel is a barren waste where harsh people and creatures struggle to live. Crystal growths stand throughout the region. The land is home to many strange spirits and demons who are exiles from elsewhere. It is a place of fallen gods and vengeful ghosts. Few things grow in Kybel, as ice storms and subzero temperatures envelope the area year round. Kybel humans have little farmland or livestock and look elsewhere for sustenance.

 

Few people live in this area. A couple small villages stand amid the snow, filled with outcast humans in ice huts, insane sylphs who burrow deep in ice caves, and the occasional gnome hermit. The humans here are blue-eyed, fair-skinned specimens with blond hair. Most attain their food and resources by raiding southern lands, then return north in the winter.

 

Many gods, spirits, and demons haunt this region, possessing those who live here. Once, in the days before Hrace was built, a human army marched into the land to bring forth a lost ancestral god, but never returned.

Rhok-Drunnor

Rhok-Drunnor is a cold mountain realm, home to the largest population of gnomes in the Known World. The mountains vary from purple to gray to brown, with white snow-capped peaks that are the tallest in all the realms. North of the mountain range is a multitude of lakes called Gnorr’s Lakes, after the gnomish god Gnorr, God of Mountain and Stone. Each lake is rich in the same minerals, gems, and ores that hide within the mountains. Gnorr’s Lakes are also called the Night Sky Lakes, for at dusk or dawn one can see the wealth of uncut gems and precious metals shining in the depths like the stars at night.

To the south of the lakes is the main gnome city, Rhovma. At the tip of the eastern mountain range is a stone temple facing north; it is Fallen Hero Temple, and it is dedicated to the gnomes who fell during the war between salamanders and gnomes. The Great Temple of Gnorr stands inside a hollowed-out mountain near Rhovma.

 

Only gnomes line here, along with a few humans learning the craft of metal, stone, and gem working. This is the home of the Stoneborn an elite society which creates the laws for all gnomes. Gnomes here have golden hair and crusty light-gray or light-brown granite skin.

 

Gnorr rules this land with an iron fist, allowing no interlopers to defile it. Ancestral gods also have influence in this region, but it is limited.

Rhok-Galenth

South of Rhok-Drunnor is the gnomish kingdom of Rhok-Galenth, a land under the constant threat of war. Its mountains and passes are easier to navigate than those in the north, with less snow and troubling storms, but the milder climate allows salamander and human armies to march into the realm unhindered.

Two towers, the East and West Ward Towers, fortify the land. Each tower hosts a small army of gnomes fully armed and ready to defend the passes. The mountains are not as high as those of Rhok-Drunnor, allowing scouts to maintain outposts near the peaks. Rhok-Galenth contains several iron and gold deposits and is nearly as wealthy in minerals and ore as Rhok-Drunnor.

Another Gnome city, Gaaldor, lies in the mountains’ center. It is a city dedicated to metalsmithing, including weapon and armor smithing. Unlike their northern kin, Gaaldor’s gnomes are battle-hardened and tough. Salamanders have laid siege to the area several times, more recently with the help of human tribes, but Gaaldor remains inviolate. In the past, a Hracian human army invaded the land, but the gnomes defeated and decimated the force. Other creatures, such as Jurelian giants, try to traverse the wide passes, but gnome defenders slay them quickly.

Temples to several ancestral gods stand deep within the mountains near Gaaldor. Rumors say that magical weapons and armor hide within Gaaldor’s halls.

 

Gnomes here differ from their northern cousins, with copper-colored wiry hair and reddish-brown skin. Some of the northern gnomes also live here. Humans and salamanders are unwelcome in Rhok-Galenth; the gnomes eliminate all those who threaten their realm.

 

Gnorr, God of Mountain and Stone lays claim to this region, but so do the salamander gods who wage war for this land.

Rhok-Kanmor

West of the Celestial Lakes is Rhok-Kanmor, a gnome-controlled mountain realm filled with minerals. It is a nearly impassable mountain range smaller and more secluded than Rhok-Galenth and Rhok-Drunnor. The Frost and Sea Ward Forests act as natural barriers to those wishing to conquer the gnomish kingdom, though only a single city, Pothma, sits at the heart of this realm. Near the city is Firewater Lake, known for the searing temperatures it draws from an underground hot spring. Tapping the lake’s rich deposits, Pothma’s crafters create fantastical furnishings, jewelry, and other items from diamond, jade, amethyst, ruby, emerald, and sapphire as well as the granite veins within the mountains. The mountains contain little else, and Pothma imports iron, copper, gold, and silver from the other gnome kingdoms.

 

Nymphs live in the forests surrounding the mountains and are avid defenders of their home. On occasion, Jurelian giants emerge from the north to raid in the mountains. Humans and salamanders speak of a jade city rich in gems hidden deep within the mountains.

Rhok-Kanmor’s gnomes here have long, shaggy bronze hair and crusty purplish-brown skin.

 

Besides Gnorr, several ancestral gods call this land home—mostly those associated with minerals.

Samona

Samona is a long rolling grassland dotted with several human tribes and the human city of Hrace. It is a fertile plain, with rich soil and the large Silverline River running through it. Humans cultivate the land, with many farms and grazing pastures enabling civilization to spring forth. Seasons are normal, with many large coastal storms raging inland from the gulf of Ar-Feslynn. A large spring-fed lake, Silver Lake, lies to the north. Samona also plays host to the largest human city in Naalgrom: Hrace. Hrace is home to the only civilized nation of southern Samona and sits at the mouth of the Silverline River. The city is only two hundred summers old, but it is one of the richest cities in the Known World.

 

Humans inhabit the land along with a few odd creatures. Before the land became civilized, a large gathering of tribes made war upon the gnomes of Rhok-Galenth and the undines of Ar-Naluun. Three hundred years ago an army of humans, gathered from all the tribes of southern Samona, marched into Rhok-Galenth; the gnomes defeated the army after several seasons of battle. Afterwards the undines, gnomes, and humans signed a peace treaty, and trade now flourishes among the three races.

The humans here are tall and well-built, with fair skin and black, blue-tinted hair.

 

Several gods inhabit the land, including the Hracian gods Baesop, God of Storms and the Sea; Andelmar, God of the Sun and the Hunt; and Shenna, Goddess of Home and Harvest.

Sssnamon

The easternmost edge of Naalgrom is a bleak wasteland called Sssnamon. It is filled with rocky soil, salamander outposts, and struggling human tribes. Wedged between the eastern sea and the cold land of Kybel, Sssnamon is an isolated area with little life in its dusty soil. The weather is harsh, with fierce rainstorms in the summer and blizzards in the winter. Few trees grow in this rocky land due to sparse soil and high winds.

Two salamander outposts, Xila and Qann, stand in this land. Also in Sssnamon is the main temple to Draax; Qann is dominated by Draax warriors, traders, and craftsmen who build the salamander fleets. The salamanders here have white to tan-colored scales and deep red eyes. They are unsure of the threat that demands their presence, but legend says that an army from the east once came to the lands of Naalgrom and destroyed everything in its path.

 

Sssnamon’s humans are primitive nomads who struggle to survive on fish and starving herd animals. Their features include light bronzed skin and sandy-colored hair, with thick ruddy features and heavy-set bodies.

 

Several spirits have wander to this land from Kybel. Temples to the dragon gods stand in the salamander outposts: one dedicated to Maathenos in Xila and to Draax in Qann.

Zzzalon

In the eastern lands beyond Rhok-Galenth is the rocky region of Zzzalon, a barren land that the salamanders of Shha-narath call home. The land gets little rain except in the fall and winter, when the weather turns to drenching downpours and icy sleet and hail. Snow falls in the deep of winter. Vegetation is sparse: mostly low-growing plants adapted to the semi-annual rainfall. The Hills of Fhha-rath stand near the mountains of Rhok-Galenth. Also known as the Blood Hills, they have seen many gnome and salamander armies clash in their constant war.

Two salamander outposts, Phaa and Shaa, stand in this region; the salamanders also have a single city here, Shha-narath, in the middle of the land beyond the hills. Deep within the hills near the mountains are the slave mines of Maathenos, where human and gnome slaves dig for ore to supply the blacksmith priests of House Moorhanos. Besides the Salamanders, the only people to live in this land are human and gnome slaves.

Salamanders here are colored dark brown and red with yellow eyes.

 

The salamanders worship all their dragon gods in this land, but Moorhanos of the Melting Ore and Maathenos of the Burning Moon rule. Xethalchoate and Xtheni, both Dragon Gods of War, also have a presence here, for this land is filled with salamanders looking to wage war on the hated gnomes.

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New Gods of Mankind Spirit World Part 8 The Nature of Fate

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      Fate is a cosmic force, personified in the Sprit World as a cloaked figure with an incorporeal, upright body and able to take the form of any spirit or creature who addresses it. Its goals are hidden. It uses no name; the name of “Fate” was given to it by the deities it governs. In the Courtyard of Fate in the Celestial Gardens, it passes judgment on spirits, gods, Leviathans, and demons. Fate can be at many places at once, collecting rogue spirits with help through its army of Grapplers. Fate is not omnipotent or omnipresent, as many demons, rogue spirits, and Leviathans escape its grasp. Fate’s powers are vast, but it uses them sparingly, mostly to steer events away from catastrophic conclusions. This powerful demiurge has no friends or allies, only subordinates who carry out its will.

      All spirits have met or will meet with Fate. Doing so is unavoidable, as Fate governs the Celestial Spheres and the Known World. Though gods describe it in this way, they use the word “govern” lightly, as this being is more of a steward of souls and the afterworld. Some mortals call Fate the Grim Reaper, Destiny, Death, or the Creator. It is none of these as it does not reap souls, decide other’s fate, kill, or write the laws of the universe. It is only Fate.

Deities meet often with Fate in its courtyard to discuss matters of the Known World and the Celestial Spheres. Spirits passing to their god’s heaven or hell, as well as souls returning to the Well of Souls, meet with Fate before going on to their destinations. Enraged souls, powerful Leviathans and truant demons try to avoid Fate, hiding in the dark corners of the Veil of Dreams and the Known World. Eventually Fate’s Grapplers or a vigilant god brings the offending spirit to Fate’s justice, and Fate sends these twisted souls back to the Well of Souls to be reformed. Fate is patient, for time is on its side.

      Meeting with Fate is an intensely personal experience, as its appearance and personality varies based on the being with whom it speaks. Many spirits who pass on to the Well of Souls describe Fate as a shadowy, faceless elder of their tribe or nation, an elder who speaks in whispers—disturbing, yet comforting. Some see Fate as a beautiful member of the opposite sex; some see it with wings (of many types), guiding them to their proper heavens. Other souls describe Fate as a merciless beast with snarling fangs and many tails, dragging their souls to a hellish land. Gods view Fate as a giant being of the deity’s parental race, who sits on a bright golden throne with a golden crown and staff, robed in a dark sheet that constantly changes patterns and colors. Leviathans and demons see a similar sight, except the being is usually feminine and filled with wrath. No one can pin down this being’s natural form — no one even knows if it has one.

      The matters over which Fate presides are vast and ever-changing, according its plans’ whimsical, calculating nature. Fate always anoints new gods, as it makes the final decision to allow a spirit full access to the Celestial Spheres and the Known World. The punishment of rogue spirits, demons, and Leviathans is also Fate’s jurisdiction, and the sentence is usually a return to the Well of Souls.

Fate sends most homeless spirits to the Well of Souls to be reborn again in the spirit waters. Gods sometimes choose a few special souls who remember their past lives as they are reborn. These beings are the gods’ earthly champions, blessed by Fate.

Fate does not interfere with most matters in the Known World, and the elder gods hold much sway in earthly matters, checking the activities of other gods and Leviathans. Fate becomes involved in worldly affairs only when catastrophic changes pose a threat to its eternal plans. Since no one knows what these are, gods can create horrible events with impunity. Even by the elder gods have few records that speak of Fate interfering with matters in the Known World.

Grapplers

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      Grapplers are creatures that Fate creates to retrieve rogue spirits and demons. They are dark, oddly-shaped beings which hunt in both the earthly and celestial realms. Shaped like a cross between a worm and an octopus, a Grappler has a sectional body ten arm-spans long and three arm-spans wide. Its sections bear splotchy patterns that are ever-changing, except for its underbelly, which is lighter and more constant.

Near the creature’s “head” is a gaping maw of a mouth much like that on a lamprey or suckerfish, allowing the Grappler to swallow spirits and store them for travel. Tentacles of indeterminable length surround the mouth and upper sections and are able to grasp matter and incorporeal forms. Grapplers can scent spirits, as each spirit has aromas according to the emotions that it displays or on which it feasts.

Grapplers are not the most intelligent of creatures, nor are they as powerful as gods and Leviathans, but they are loyal and obedient to Fate. Grapplers are capable of defeating spirits and some demons, but they alone cannot overcome Leviathans and powerful demons. These strange beings bring many foolhardy spirits and demons to the Courtyard of Fate, but many more escape them.

      Who can know the thoughts of a being not of the Well? All we can do is listen and hope.

 

A Final Note on the Creator

 

      The Creator is even more mysterious and unknown than Fate, even to the Gods of the Known World. No being in the heavens or on earth has ever met the Creator, except, possibly, Fate. What we know is that, in the beginning, there was the Void and Thought. The First Thought, as legends proclaim, created everything in existence.

Many deities have asked Fate about its master. Some have been answered. What these gods asked and what Fate replied remains a secret, for neither the gods nor Fate wish to discuss it. The secrets of creation and its author are buried deep in the myths and lore spread throughout the Known World and the Celestial Spheres.

      May this recollection of my experience guide you, spirit or mortal, through the coming struggles that define life.

New Gods of Mankind Spirit World Part 7 Diplomacy of the Gods

All know that war is not the only avenue to a desired end. All spirits use diplomacy, from the eldest of gods to wily demons, stately spirits to new deities. Only Leviathans refuse to use diplomacy, for it rarely produces Terror and they cannot enter the heavens (where they might converse with gods) in any event.

 

Meetings of the gods are carefully arranged affairs filled with subtle meanings and hidden motives. When a god wishes to speak with another god, an avatar or chosen spirit usually represents him. This representative travels to the heavenly abode of deity with whom the god wishes to speak. During this initial meeting, the god and messenger make agreements for further meetings, which usually take place in the Celestial Gardens. Fate allows all deities to visit the Gardens and even work Miracles. However, if any deity violates the Gardens in any fashion, Fate’s retribution is swift.

 

These meetings can last for ages, as even now the elder gods still meet in private locations to discuss matters in the Known World. Demons and spirits are also allowed to meet with the gods here before their appointment in Fate’s court arrives.

 

In these meetings, deities discuss anything they wish. Popular subjects include mortal followers, heroes, and the lands in which they live. These discussions can lead to peace agreements as well as war pacts and trade permissions. The gods represent their nations and national interests. Gods are much like kings and queens, controlling their followers’ fortunes and lives.

 

Sometimes when diplomacy does not work, gods go to war in the Celestial Gardens. Since deities may not violate this place’s sanctity (and in any case nothing important can be permanently created or destroyed in the Spirit World), their mortals battle for them in the Known World. Gods support their mortals with Miracles, and all beings in that area of the Gardens observes the battle. If the opposing gods disagree with particular vehemence, they leave for their celestial abodes to continue the war from their estates.

 

Every so often, opposing gods confront each other directly, manifesting in the Known World and clashing with divine, earth-shaking weapons. Such duels can have lasting repercussions. Fate does not intervene, unless the Miracles in the war create irreversible damage to the Known World or affect the Spirit World.

 

Fate moves in its own way, always in secret and with ulterior motives.