The Great Divide

The World

The Great Divide is a massive valley surrounded by huge five mile tall cliffs, made of basalt and granite. Fully 29 leagues (100 miles) across the depth of the valley leaves it dim with light, and in the olden days it is said the most powerful gods made a pact with the force of creation to provide light to their peoples, so called the Pact of Solar Creation. Any place where the 10 or more peoples of the world gather a god would become a sun. Now the cities and villages of the Divide are lit by blazing suns hovering a mile overhead, each sun growing in size with the population of its settlement.

These suns dot the valley, hovering over cities and villages and even a few tiny fortified castles. Civilization is never hard to find. But in the lands outside safe walls the heat of the suns have created a barren dust bowl. Water is scarce and shadows can be very deep. Many city states war over sources of water and the oases around them, protecting natural wells and ample rivers with every ounce of strength. Through it all runs the River Thirst, a torrential series of falls at the highest end of the valley from the Wyrm Mountains, and barely a trickle at the lowest where the last bit of moisture evaporates in the Great Salt Sea.

Monsters

The suns light might cover the centers of civilization, but they also cast long shadows behind the craggy rocks within the Divide. These places are called the Shadows, and it is here that the most danger lurks. Monsters find the places where the craggy rocks of the valley cast their long shadows away from civilization. Some say there are humanoids out there too, goblins, beastmen, and far worse who hate the sun, they travel constantly, keeping to small bands to avoid the creation of new suns. They try to destroy human settlements to return night once and for all.

To defeat these horrid beasts the civilized races have made use of Sun Metal, the harvested cores of old suns that have fallen from the sky when cities crumbled. This metal retains the light of their orb and cruelly punishes any shadow monsters that come into contact with it. Sun metal weapons are sought after by any and all who wish to be strong in the Great Divide.

The Gods

No religion is stronger than that of the Suns, the worship of those Arch Gods who sacrificed themselves to light the world. Paladins and clerics of the Church of the Sun practice healing and preach the way of light, smiting the shadow monsters and driving the heathen shadow walkers from the world. Whole crusades have been known to have been led by brigades of Sun Metal wielding paladins into the dark.

Since the Arch Gods made their deal with the power of creation, the demi-gods still persist, using their much smaller powers to protect their domains. Many thrive in the compact cities finding worshipers amongst the desperate and the down trodden. These demi-gods wield all sorts of power, from the grey goddess of beggars, to the saucy god of drunken nights. Their shrines are found in many nooks and crannies and they can give blessings to those who enjoy their niche domain. There are nearly as many demi-gods as there are pigeons in most cities.

Finally in the Shadows some say that there are worse gods, things that like blood and torture. Arch Gods who were too cowardly to accept the deal, or demi-gods who control the domains of petty evil things. Cults sometimes spring up in cities where the Church of the Sun are least vigilant attempting to bring eternal night to the Divide.

The Solar Races

The Church of the Sun rates the races of the Divide in two sorts, The Solar Races, otherwise known as Sun Touched, and the Shadow Races, the goblinoids, demons, draconids, and beasts.

Of the Solar Races there are mainly Elves, Humans, Dwarves, but since then interbreeding has spawned the half elves, and the creativity of dwarves has forged the slave races of gnomes and halflings, which have since been partially freed and now live amongst the rest.

Solar Race: Solar races do not have dark vision. Furthermore they can fully heal and refresh all spell slots only upon resting for 8 or more hours within the rays of a sun.

Elves and Half Elves

The valley is at a midpoint in time. Once the Divide was ruled by the vast Old Kingdom, builders of marvels, huge cyclopean statues and massive ornate gardens, watered by intricate water systems. But, though the cause is unknown, the Old Kingdom collapsed, leaving their ruins scattered across the Divide, the suns that lit its cities left to fall amongst the masonry. Those that weren’t resettled have become spawning grounds of monsters. Others now house prosperous city states.

Of the people of the Old Kingdom remains the depleted tribes of elves. The last few most ancient elves try to engineer a rebirth for their race, while the youngest see potential in mixing their blood with humanity. The Old Elves are constantly watching the younger of their race, attempting to manipulate marriages and blood lines; they keep extensive records and do their best to produce the strongest lines of elves. Through their wealth and lies they have installed themselves in the noble lines of many of the city states, bank rolling human endeavors in exchange for safe places to tug on the fate strings of their own people. They are nobles and bankers as well as ancient.

Meanwhile the younger elves try to adapt to their new existence alongside humanity. Many younger elves find companionship with their more adaptable human cousins and a new race of Half Elves has been created to the horror of the Old Elves. Conflict has arisen in some places between the Old and the New to the confusion of the humans around them.

Elves benefit most from the suns, finding the rays refresh their youth, give them powers over the arcane, and healing all wounds.

Solar Race: Solar races do not have dark vision. Furthermore they can fully heal and refresh all spell slots only upon resting for 8 or more hours within the rays of a sun.

Fed on Sunlight: Elves are especially empowered by sunlight, when in the rays they heal 1d4 each day and gain an additional spell slot for every level of spell they can cast.

Humans

Humans are resilient, able to exist in the light and dark, and they are ambitious. After the Old Kingdom vanished it was humanity who resettled the ancient places, fought wars over the water sources, and scavenged Sun Metal for the first time.

Humans habitually form city states, settling new lands and expanding when they can. However the nature of the Solar Creation causes cities to be naturally independent, their own growth needing to be strictly controlled. This causes empires to fracture quickly leading often to rebellion and in fighting.

The insatiable ambition of humanity is partly what suits them so well for life in the Divide. No matter the danger humanity drives outwards, the most brave or foolhardy choosing lives as treasure seekers, monster hunters, prospectors, and cartographers.

Factions form around the different trades travelling from city to the wilds to make a profit. Wyrm Knights roam the upper reaches where Wyrms wiggle in the skies killing the creatures from the backs of their dire-cats. The Prospector’s Charter strictly controls the stakes of hundreds of foolhardy folk who seek precious sun metal from ruins of the Old Kingdom. The Settler’s League pays bounties for clearing areas of beasts to allow new settlement as well as arranges protection to supply caravans. Rumor’s abound about a thieves guild, all the better to rob the Merchant Bands, and the Noble Houses. And amongst all that mercenaries abound, working for whichever purse is the biggest.

Solar Race: Solar races do not have dark vision. Furthermore they can fully heal and refresh all spell slots only upon resting for 8 or more hours within the rays of a sun.

Dwarves

Next come the dwarves with their affinity for ancient stones; they were once the builders of the Old Kingdom, quarrying the basalt and granite from the cliffs of the Divide itself. The ancient experiment in architecture is long over, instead all dwarves work towards what they call The Grand Project, the excavation of a tunnel through the cliffs of the Divide to the Other Side. No dwarf knows rightly what they will find there, but they have many theories.

This project would be completed all the sooner if dwarves could agree on one theory, instead some claim the Grand Project must be dug upwards, to the edge of the crust, others think that a horizontal path will eventually enter a new Divide. One dwarf faction is even known for trying to create an explosive powered vehicle to leave the Divide for good.

Equally dwarves are split in how to treat with the Suns. Since their cities are built into cliffsides the suns burn into the very rock. Some dwarven factions harness the sun within great machines, others treat it like a source of materials, burrowing into it with maniacal drills. Some forbid the touching of the Sun.

For the Grand Project!: Once per session if you convince the GM that an action is either benefiting your chosen Great Project or that you are an expert at the action because of your work on your Great Project, then you automatically succeed the roll.

Solar Race: Solar races do not have dark vision. Furthermore they can fully heal and refresh all spell slots only upon resting for 8 or more hours within the rays of a sun.

Gnomes and Halflings

Long ago for the Grand Project the dwarves created the gnomes and halflings, smaller slave races to mine and wiggle through the cracks of the cliff sides or to serve as servants in dwarf homes. In some cities these creatures still toil, though in many dwarven settlements the smaller races have been freed or escaped in great enough numbers to revolt. At least one dwarven fortress is currently ruled by a gnomish band. Escaped gnomes and halflings have fled to human settlements and live alongside the taller folk, often constructing small huts directly onto human or elven homes. They offer services of cleaning, ale making, or cooking in exchange for protection from the Dwarven Slave Hunters. Others consider service of any sort a grave insult and fight for the freedom of their siblings. Horrifically there are human led slave trading bands as well, keen to profit from the dwarves’ deep pockets.

Solar Race: Solar races do not have dark vision. Furthermore they can fully heal and refresh all spell slots only upon resting for 8 or more hours within the rays of a sun.

The Half-Shadow Races

Finally are the half-shadow races looked down on by all others. These are the half races, spawned by desperate romance in the Shadows. In those darkest places, the criminal, the treasonous, and sometimes simply the discriminated members of the other races were driven by their fellows. Those exiled found their homes with the goblinoids, and wyrms and the devils of the Shadows. Not all lost hope and some found love. From these unions sprang the Half Orks, the Dragonborn, and the Tieflings. Other half races sometimes emerge to the wonder of civilization, how could someone love a monster? Perhaps an easier answer than most would like to admit.

Those half-shadows that look to the civilized with interest find themselves often in the clutches of the adventuring factions, made to work against their monstrous kin for profit and acceptance. It is not a kind life. Some hope to find a way to end this war and bring some sort of peace between the lands of the Sun and the Shadows.

Shadow Race: Shadow races have darkvision. Furthermore they can fully heal and refresh all spell slots only upon resting for 8 or more hours within pure darkness.

Sorcery

There are many mysteries within the Great Divide, but none is so contested as that of sorcery. The Church of the Sun preaches that it was created by heretical elves who breached the sacred spirit realm. Wizards teach that the gate was always open for the using. Ultimately everyone admits that magic is useful, no matter how dangerous it can be. Every city state attempts to employ at least one sorcerer, if not a whole troop. The first move of any conflict is the attempted assassination or infiltration of your enemy’s magical circle.

The Church of the Sun claims that the elder race committed the Elven Heresy, using the Arch-God sun’s power to unlock a gateway to the spirit realm. It is from that realm that magic stems, and no matter its many uses it is this that the Sun Cult holds up as its excuse to persecute elves and any who make use of magic. They cannot deny that magic is useful, but they restrict it where they can.

The Adventurers

You take on the roles of brave adventurer mercenaries, making your names and your fortunes in the dangerous wilds of the Divide, plundering ancient ruins, braving the Shadows, and protecting the ever travelling caravans of settlers hoping to form new sun blessed cities.

Generally you are apart from normal society, something stops you from fitting in. City folk are likely to be impressed but they seldom understand your choices. It may be a case of discrimination, hatred even, or just a difference in perspective. It could be as dangerous as enemies who don’t want you to have a moment of rest, or an old crime you have to work to redeem.

Besides whatever sets you apart is the drive that causes you to seek fortune and glory outside of city walls. No one would leave civilization if they were not forced if they didn’t have a mighty need.

Set Apart: Choose one thing that makes you unique. It can be something that defines the rest of the world (ie. You are the only dwarf that doesn’t have a beard) or something fully unique to you. It can even be an item.

Fulfilling Destiny: Once per session if you convince the GM that you have either achieved something that furthers your goal, or roleplayed an aspect of your character that sets them apart from normal civilization you gain inspiration (one advantage die to use at any time this session).

Into the Wyrd and Wild: Character Creation

To get my players into the word of Into the Wyrd and Wild I decided to try out something new. Instead of presenting the players with rules and hoping they’ll figure out details about the world, I devised a choose your own adventure style series of choices with powers and stats attached to each.

At the table I handed around a print out of these choices and let players go through them. I think next time around I’ll go even further and have them play through it (yes even starting from their birth) while I summarize and read out the options, thus letting them take in the details of all of their choices, not just the ones with the powers they like the best.

To further ingrain the word of the game into their characters I based the creation around a series of Village leaders who each embodied different skills and knowledge. Each choice represented an important event for the children but also the village and thus they grew attached to the community.

So for your enjoyment here is the complete series of choices:

The Village Leaders

  • Elain, the Smith

    A beefy woman with dark skin and long braids of orange hair tied into a pretzel behind her head, though they are often stained black by the forge soot.

    She is not a permanent resident of Lampbater, but has been here the last four years. She will soon move on. Smiths live a restless life, pulled by the forces of their forge. Smiths see things beyond mortal ken and must go where they are needed.

    Elain has liked her time in Lampbater, despite the mistrust of the other Elders, and has devoted herself to training an apprentice. She is confident that the young are the way forward.

  • Maddox, the Bard

    Maddox keeps the library of Lampbater, scrolls of story and song. A pale man with a crooked nose, he works hard to keep records of the village, though many of the town have begun to fear he has taken to record keeping better than entertainment as the post is meant to be.

    He frustrates most of his disciples, but the old stories around him can’t help but enchant others. Perhaps his lack of imagination comes from his fears that the Wild will call to him if he is not careful. Many bards are driven to venture into the Deep Woods and he hopes to avoid such a fate.

  • Iolo, the Priest

    They are an elfin figure, tall and obscure. But they are full of good cheer, advice, and spiritual guidance. They manage the town’s allegiances and bartering.

    Iolo has always been supportive to the younger people in town, teaching diplomacy and the ways of the church.

  • Afon, the Hunter

    Bronze skinned and long armed, Afon has kept the town fed with fresh meat and clothed in strong leather. The goods of the Wild are at her fingertips at the cost of scars and horrors. Better than the other Elders she knows the dangers of the forest.

    She teaches the butchery of animals and the tracking of signs. She focus on survival and navigation before killing however. She specializes in killing from afar, never closing in until the prey is safely weakened.

  • Gwil, the Miner

    Head of the quarry, Strong Arm Gwil wields hammer and pick to take precious metals and hard stone from the crag walls. He is a little strange with the rock dust, pale with limestone powder and rusty with iron oxides.

    He often breaks up his sentences with odd snatches of song, and he seems to think the limestone is alive. He disdains the trees and wood of the village preferring the solid stone to the mysteries of the Wild. Perhaps he is more Wyrd in the stone ways.

  • Efa, the Goatherd

    Smelling of turpentine and wool, Efa is grandmotherly, greying, and tanned into a leathery nut brown and is never seen without her black cat curled around her shoulders. She grins widely showing off her missing teeth and can whistle a flock of goats into procession within seconds.

    She is kindly only in her own way, showing love through hard work and harsh lessons. She handles children and apprentices just like her goats, with a strong grip. But she knows a lot, about sheep and how to cure them, and the odd goat potion works on most people too.

  • Cadfan, the Falconer

    A willowy man with thin lips in his bleached face. His grey hair grows in a shock twisted by the wind that whips the tops of the Crags. He walks and hums with a long stride. He has seen much from atop the crags and sends his falcon Siôr into long killing strikes.

    He has spent a lot of time observing the Wild from above and has come to long complicated theories of its plans. He often foretells events and insists on strict adherence to the prophesies of the Crowmen.

At the night of your birth you parents asked…

  • For the Smith to make you a dagger out of meteorite iron. He spent the night hammering it into a spike and set it into a handle of walnut root. After you accidentally cut your finger on the blade Elain made sure you were taught its dangers and uses.

    Aware

    +1 Wisdom

    Once per session you can declare an unusual use for your dagger and gain +2 on any associated roll.

     

  • For the Bard to find you a poem in the ancient log books. Maddox sighed as he went to shuffle through the scrolls, but when he emerged he produced these lines:

    +1 Intelligence
    (I never got around to writing a bard power for this one…)

  • For the Priest to concoct you a prayer to the Human Gods. They grinned and locked himself in their hut with a bottle of acorn wine. In the morning they produced this prayer:

    To the morning mists, may the sun rise ever on your child’s face.

    Blessed

    +1 Constitution

    On a 20 you may declare a Human God’s intervention and you may change one element of the current encounter per the GM’s judgement.

  • For the Hunter to carve your name in the bark of one of the trees in the Wilds. By now the tree must be very tall indeed. Afon told you once that she had to fight off a flock of Quilluffs to finish the last letter. She still has a scar from one of the quills.

    Known

    +1 Strength

    Once per adventure you can claim a creature or tree recognizes you from your name.

  • For the Miner to listen for your name in the Stone’s music. He shook his head as if it was a poor idea but went into the dust anyways. An hour later Gwil came back with a smile on his face, the Stone’s hadn’t learned of you yet

    Unknown

    +1 Charisma

    Once per adventure you can negate the effect of the Wyrd.

  • For Goatherd to create a horoscope under the Stars. But Efa said no. She said your fate is your own, and that you’d make your own way. However when she got back from tending the flock that night she whispered to your mother to keep you out of trouble.

    Fateful

    +2 Will Power.

    -1 HD.

    Reroll one roll per session.

  • For the Falconer to give you a lucky falcon feather. Instead of plucking one himself Cadfan let you try to pluck one. After stroking the bird of prey’s head you took a long feather from its tail in one clean pluck. Cadfan patted you on the head and smiled past his scars.

    Feather Catcher

    +1 Agility

    Once per session you may make an incredible catch that seems impossible.

The festival of the Blood Moon, once every seven years is held. While waiting for the horrors of the Wilds to be calm you shelter in the Long House and listen to stories and song. You couldn’t drag yourself away from…

  • The travel poems of the Itinerant Smith. Elain has taken every path from the Ribbon Tree from here to there with her tools on her back. She recites her poems about her adventures, tricking bandits, running from Feral Knights, or befriending a Gastropal.

    Bewitched by the Road

    +2 Intelligence

    You gain an advantage die on any roll to do with finding your way.

  • The drunken battle chants of the Bard. Taken with the acorn wine Maddox begins calling up the ancient battle chants of the old Lampbater warriors stored in his ancient scrolls.

    Something in the old songs makes your blood pump.

    Blood Rhythm

    +2 Strength

    You gain +1 on all combat rolls.

  • The dirty jokes of the Priest. Sometimes Iolo recognizes the need to distract instead of to sermonize. You may not have understood all of the jokes at first, but they’ve continued to grow with your own retellings.

    Wit of the Damned

    +2 Charisma

    You gain an advantage die if you make the GM laugh.

  • The animal calls of the Hunter. You giggled yourself silly listening to Afon’s animal imitations. The hunters pass on information and warnings with their calls. After that long night you did your own copying.

    Animal Voiced

    +2 Agility

    You gain +1 on rolls to perceive or preempt danger and can transmit this knowledge to your companions non-verbally.

  • The Wyrd Songs of the Miner. Most folk avoids Gwil’s table, but you like the little tunes he sings from half remembered tunnels. You watch his lips in his dust powdered face and mouth along to the strange notes.

    The Wyrd Tune

    +3 Will Power

    -1 Charisma

    You gain advantage to resist the Wyrd.

  • The whistles of the Goatherd. With one lip pursing Efa enchants the goats into lines and packs. When she wants to she an make people dance or follow her around all night. She can whistle a breath of wind around the Long House beams and makes pipe smoke into amazing shapes that her cat bats out of the air.

    Summoning Breath

    +2 Constitution

    Once per session you can summon a small wind or creature.

  • The Falconer’s language. Talk of hunting birds is always in double, lingo in a strange tongue, and metaphors for other things. You became enchanted in figuring out what the long legged men means. Somehow those odd words begin to recall ancient battles and old failures.
    Between the Lines

    +2 Wisdom

    You gain a +1 on any roll to discover a deception.

Every child in Lampbater is apprenticed on their 10th birthday. You chose to go to…

  • The hot smithy of Elain. You’re face got used to the soot stains and your hands grew as callused as Elain’s black palms. You learn to turn metal to liquid and form it into a hundred new forms. To create is its own magic.

    You become a Smith.

    You gain advantage against breath weapons.

    Choose a weapon that you have forged yourself.

    Liquid Metallurgy

    Some of the forges light seems to have gotten into your hands. With some kneading you can melt metal into a liquid that you can meld into new shapes. You may take any metal object or objects and melt them into new shapes. The shape may not be very complex and might become weaker in the process.

  • The dusty library of Maddox. While Maddox obsesses over boring lineages you delve into his boxes of ancient legends and stories of heroes past. Quite a few came from Lampbater once upon a time.

    You become a Bard.

    Choose an instrument. When playing it you may choose one person to receive a +1 on their rolls. The effect lasts for 10 minutes.

    The Heroic Lore

    You studied harder in your idle moments than at Maddox’s lessons. You know the obscure and unknown ways of heroes.

    Whenever encountering a creature the GM can remind you of an obscure fact or method for dealing with it used by heroes of old.

    You gain an advantage die for any action based on that information.

  • The Sunny chapel of Iolo. You helped clean the altar, keep the flower beds outside weeded and tend to the graves. The Human Gods like the quiet places in the world.

    You become a Disciple.

    Choose a name for your chosen Human God.

    Once per long rest you may invoke the name of your god and add +1 to one of your stats for 1 hour.

    Ears of the Gods

    Iolo has taught you well, their quiet moments seeping into your soul. When you find a quiet place in the Wild you may take a moment to pray and they will answer.

    Once per long rest you may pray and the GM will answer three questions truthfully as the Human Gods.

    There is no rules against them answering in obscure ways.

  • The moss lined paths of Afon’s hunting grounds. You begin to feel odd without a bow in your hands. You learn how to get the best parts of a corpse. You know how to stalk and follow your prey.

    You have become a Hunter.

    You gain an advantage die on all Tracking rolls.

    Moss Padded Feet

    Long weeks spent hiding in the woods has paid off. You may once per encounter in the Wild define a feature of the forest and how it helps you and gain an Advantage die on a roll to use it.

    Some examples are:

    1. A pile of fallen trunks from which you can leap down on an enemy.
    2. A small creak that you can walk through to loose a pursuing tracker.
    3. A large tree fallen over a cairn of boulders that let you climb into the trees to observe the surrounding area.
  • The cramped crevices of Gwil’s quarry. The strength of a pick fills your arms, but it’s the Wyrd that fills your mind. You begin to hum the little tunes you hear in the dark and you learn the secrets of the Stones.

    You have become a Wyrdling.

    Wyrd Ear Worms

    You can call up the Wyrd with a song. You may cast a number of spells per day equal to your will power +2. You know Word songs of your choice with a total level of 3 with a level no higher than your own.

    Sap Blood

    Speak with Fungus

    Bark Blast

  • The craggy fields grazed by Efa’s herd. Out on the grassy cliff tops grow dozens of herbs and weeds. Each one has a name and a dozen more uses. Efa teaches you each and how to use them on goats first and humans later.

    You have become a Herbalist.

    You gain advantage against poison.

    Capra Herbalist

    You know how to use plants in their many forms. During any night of rest in the Wilds you may collect plants and create a potion of 1d6 doses with the effect of:

    1. Healing 1d4 hp.
    2. Poison that acts as a tranquilizer. 1 dose needed per 2HD.
    3. Improving all senses by +1.
    4. An effect agreed upon by the GM.
  • The windswept cliff tops where Cadfan’s falcon dives. The Falconer teaches you the names for each dive and each wind. He gives you a chick to raise and in a few years its wings span longer than you are tall.You become a Beastmaster.

    Feathered FriendYou have an animal companion. It can attack for 1d6 damage once per round with a fighting skill of +3. Once per long rest you can use your falcon to either:

      1. Spot a nearby danger,
      2. Track prey,
      3. Or find a place of safety

The massive head of a Skaal falls into the village walls. Its horns have been messily hewn from its head. You are the children splattered by its dark blood.

Horrified the village leaders meet. From the outskirts of the circle you listen to…

  • Elain’s careful concerns. She says she will consult her Forge, but that the village should not be too hasty. The other leaders shake their head in disapproval.

    Concern for Others

    Once per encounter you may grant a companion +5 AC for 1 round.

  • The portents of Maddox. He reads out from the old scrolls, when such an evil sign comes to the village the Crowmen must be consulted, the young must be tested.

    Soon to be Fated

    You may choose another companion to gain +1 on any one stat.

  • The worried silence of Iolo. Never an openly devout man Iolo is in silent prayer, eyes flicking from the sky of the Human Gods and to the tall trees of the Wilds.

    Beyond Worry

    You gain advantage on save vs hold.

  • Afon’s bestiary knowledge. She explains that the Skaal are ancient creatures that learnt even before  humanity the power of Song. They are extremely dangerous and their songs can fell even the most powerful hunters. But their horns are extremely valuable.

    Best Bits

    Advantage on butchery rolls.

  • Gwil’s rambling gossip. Who could want the Skaal’s music? Something that wants that information, a Child of the Wood on a quest from its godly parent? A hunter hoping to fulfill a Devil Stag’s bargain? Or something even weirder?

    Wild Preparation

    You gain a bonus on (uh… guess I didn’t finish this one either.)

  • The folk superstitions Efa remembers. Their constant music made them deaf to each other, making it impossible for them to mate, so they live in miserable loneliness. The Wild usually leave them alone.

    Old Wives’ Tales

    Advantage on camping rolls.

  • Cadfan’s experienced plans for defense. He sets out the rusty weapons, asks for time to repair the wooden walls, and looks steely when Maddox says the young must be taken to the Crowmen.

    Steady Defense

    +2 AC

There have been noises from the Wild. Elain  consulted her forge and it told her it was time to move on. As she passes the rotting skull in the village square she gives each of you a gift. To you she hands…

  • A set of tools, hammer and tongs. With a forge you may create weapons and armor. In the Wilds they will allow you to hone or repair armor. During a night of camping you may improve a weapon or armor and give +1 to damage or AC. Each item may only be improved once.
  • A spear carved with an old poem. The head is new, the haft is old. Use agility or strength to attack, and it does 1d4 damage, but when pierced a creature must roll 1d6. On a 1-3 its is paralyzed until the spear is removed.
  • The symbol of the Human Gods in silver. An injured person touching the symbol is healed for 1d4 hp.
  • A bow and arrows designed by Afon for the hunt. Use agility to attack, each arrow does 1d6 damage.
  • A hammer fit for smashing rock and skulls. Use strength to attack, does 1d8 damage.
  • A sling fit to keep away any wolf. Use agility to attack, each rock does 1d4 damage. You do not have disadvantage to called strikes.
  • A sword only a little rusty, repaired with a band of shining silver. You were disappointed until you found the seal of the Old Army on its hilt. Use strength to attack, it does 1d6 damage. Any human will recognize the seal.

Seven years since the festival of the Blood Moon you catch sight of the leaders meeting secretly at night. Sneaking closer you hear…

  • The smith is gone.
  • Traditional rules of the village from the Bard. The youth at 18 are meant to see the Crowmen, but with the Skaal head and the calls from the Wilds it behooves the village to see what the Crowmen say now.
  • Tired acquiescence from the Priest. There is nothing to do but see what the Crowmen say, perhaps their future sight will let them protect the village.
  • Shacking rage from the Hunter. If only the hunters could discover the source of the noises they could let the children live in peace, but the Wilds never like the young.
  • Forgetful confusion from the Miner. Danger? It can’t be that bad. Do the dogs bark at night? What of the flowers? The limestone is almost quiet during the day.
  • Helplessness from the Goatherd. What can we do? At least the Crowmen can see ahead when we can’t see anything.
  • Potent righteousness from the Falconer. It is high time something is done. For the village’s safety.

 

Keep an eye out for an Into the Word and Wild character sheet that works with this character creation system, and a full Free Adventure from the explorer’s birth, to their exile!

 

 

 

Books are Tricky: Bookhounds of London (2/?)

I’ve been running Kenneth Hite’s fantastic Bookhounds of London for the last year.

I’ve learned a lot from the game and next time I run this game I’ll be way better prepared to run this game.

Honestly Bookhounds is a hard game to run. You center the game around books more than any other CoC scenario and you have to plan for the dynamic shift that comes with that. I wasn’t prepared.

Check out Part I for tips on building books with structure. So here’s some tips on making a great Bookhounds scenario.

Books are Tricky Part II: Scenarios

In the previous section I laid out how books could be summarized by the answers they provide (new information or follow up from questions posed by previous books) and questions (providing further investigation and a reference to where it might be found).

This system provides a natural framework for a Bookhounds scenario. The Bookhounds come into contact with a book or are hired to research a topic by a client. They discover an initial tome easily and its answers provide an introduction to the weird or horrific elements that they are about to encounter (foreshadowing) and the questions provide a lead on where to look next.

My advice would be to lean into this element. Choose whichever book will be the focus of the scenario or campaign session and have all the clues lead to that book. The earlier books filled with questions and only a few introductory answers should be easy to find, or already at hand in the bookshop (use those Stock rolls!) and the action can revolve around searching out the book.

Example Scenario Structure: The Underkings

Books:

  • Tales of the Arabian Ghouls – Answer: ghouls are a rave of subterranean creatures from Ancient Persia said to eat the dead. Question 1: The author mentions the book Travels of the Anostos and quoted that a posse of ghouls were taken to London. Question 2: Several times the book relates the Middle Eastern tradition to the European stories of ghouls and quotes Cultes des Ghouls, a French volume but determines there are several differences, how would Middle Eastern and European ghouls interact?
  • Travels of the Ansotos – Answer: an English merchant captain smuggled a court of royal Assyrian ghouls into London in the 17th century. Now they rule over the sewers and tunnels under the city. Question: What gods do they worship? The captain was worried that the new court might be calling up some strange old god and was looking for a copy of Cultes des Ghouls to answer his questions.
  • Cultes des Ghouls – Answer: The French nobleman author was assimilated into a ghoul tribe that was at war with an ancient Assyrian ghoul who had been imprisoned and eventually freed from the Templars during the crusades. While the Assyrian ghouls hate humanity the European ghouls see them as a necessary nuisance to feed from. Answer: These Assyrian ghouls worship an ancient flame goddess and they hope to bring her back and scorch the surface free of humanity.

Outline

Grant Llyelwn, a member of the Young Men’s Society of Windsor has recently noticed his boyfriend Will Rochester and founder of the society has been acting weird. After ditching Grant during two different dates, Grant broke into Will’s apartment and found a strange book: Tales of the Arabian Ghouls. The volume is scribbled with annotations in Will’s hand and it seems he was using it for research.

  • Grant remembers that Will had been talking about the Underkings, a enigmatic occult group, as a source of power.
  • Will has been seen frequenting several dive bars and taverns by the water.

Tales leads to Travels of the Anostos, which is either in the bookshop’s Stock already or can be found easily in a different bookshop or library. These both in turn lead to a search for Cultes des Ghouls.

The most recent sale of the Cultes des Ghouls is to a woman in an old apartment overlooking a park in the South End. But when they arrive it seems she’s been murdered by a pack of dogs.

  • Clues lead to tunnels to the Underking’s lair. Filled with ghouls this is far too dangerous to actually explore.
  • Further clues show that she had recently sent the book to a friend after receiving several threats from a stranger.

Tracking down the friend results in a siege like attack as the ghouls try to follow the Bookhounds to the house and destroy the book. After reading it the Bookhounds learn a charm to repel ghouls and that Will and the ghouls are planning to summon a goddess of fire to destroy London.

  • Connections to the Great Fire of London should be rife.
  • Will can be an active enemy, source of info, or even ally, depending on the tone of game, but he is an excellent agent for action.
  • Grant likewise could secretly be a traitor working with Will to gather sacrifices, or otherwise is a likely target of the ghouls who are trying to keep their existence a secret.
  • In a longer campaign the Underkings could be a dubious ally, working to gain knowledge of modern London while harboring a desire to destroy it.

 

Stay tuned for Part 3, Books can be Tricky: Campaigns!

 

Books are Tricky: Bookhounds of London (1/?)

I’ve been running Kenneth Hite’s fantastic Bookhounds of London for the last year.

I’ve learned a lot from the game and next time I run this game I’ll be way better prepared to run this game.

Honestly Bookhounds is a hard game to run. You center the game around books more than any other CoC scenario and you have to plan for the dynamic shift that comes with that. I wasn’t prepared. So here’s some tips on making a great Bookhounds game.

Check out Part II.

Books are Tricky Part I: Structure

Man books are tricky things. At worst they’re boring and the players just never read or remember them. I’m the middle players will read them but only really process it as an info dump and forget it.

So how would I do this better? Next time I think I will try to break books into information answers and questions. Depending on the scenario and the purpose of the book, a given volume might have more answers or more questions.

Answers are straight information. Of the scenario is standalone or used to introduce a new feature to the game these answers will present new info that the players didn’t know about. Otherwise the answers should solve questions from other books. Note that players needn’t find the books the corresponding question is in.

Questions on the other hand should almost always lead to new books. In fact I would make it a rule that either the book presenting the question straight up says what other book the answer is in, or the Keeper should insure a PC has the skill/knowledge to figure it out quickly. Questions could sometimes be enigmatic but generally they should be logical to follow (ie. an authors name rather than an exact title).

Example:

  • Tales of the Arabian Ghouls – Answer: ghouls are a rave of subterranean creatures from Ancient Persia said to eat the dead. Question 1: The author mentions the book Travels of the Anostos and quoted that a posse of ghouls were taken to London. Question 2: Several times the book relates the Middle Eastern tradition to the European stories of ghouls and quotes Cultes des Ghouls, a French volume but determines there are several differences, how would Middle Eastern and European ghouls interact?
  • Travels of the Ansotos – Answer: an English merchant captain smuggled a court of royal Assyrian ghouls into London in the 17th century. Now they rule over the sewers and tunnels under the city. Question: What gods do they worship? The captain was worried that the new court might be calling up some strange old god and was looking for a copy of Cultes des Ghouls to answer his questions.
  • Cultes des Ghouls – Answer: The French nobleman author was assimilated into a ghoul tribe that was at war with an ancient Assyrian ghoul who had been imprisoned and eventually freed from the Templars during the crusades. While the Assyrian ghouls hate humanity the European ghouls see them as a necessary nuisance to feed from. Answer: These Assyrian ghouls worship an ancient flame goddess and they hope to bring her back and scorch the surface free of humanity.

 

Things I’ve Learned From… NCIS

  • Witnesses with knowledge about something in an investigation can be anyone. Connect them to a PC or a reestablished NPC will deepen a story, interconnect plots and make players think.
  • Kill a main character early on and put the fear of death in them.
  • Only show the moments of challenge or emotion. It skips many scenes where an agent goes and finds information or arrests a subject where there is no challenge. They simply have already figured it out, or arrive with suspect in tow. The show only focuses on the discussion of clues, the moments where there is actually challenge for the characters, or there is an emotional moment.
  • Put characters in difficult positions unflinchingly. If they can’t make it out, they can’t make it out. They should have to work for it.

Into the Wyrd and Wild is Amazing!

So I try not to write “reviews” since I don’t feel qualified to tell people what is and isn’t good. But I sure as heck can tell you I am enjoying Into the Wyrd and Wild!

Go buy it ASAP and stay posted for a longer write up of Things I’ve Learned and Try Something New about this game.

Bravo!

Thing I’ve Learned From… The Adventure Zone: Amnesty

As I said last week The Adventure Zone, by the ever charming McElroy brothers and dad, is one of the best actual plays that I’ve enjoyed.

I’ve consumed it so fast I actually ended up catching up, something I almost never do with podcasts. So

I am waiting with baited breath for the next installment. To tide me over here are a few things the esteemed Griffin McElroy has taught me.

Failed Rolls are an Invitation

When a PC chooses to make a roll you should consider it an invitation to get stuff moving. Plenty of people say “fail forward” but Griffin uses the horror system of Monster of the Week to facilitate action at every turn through using the players bad rolls as an invitation to bring down bad stuff.

I think you can credit Monster of the Week with this but if clever design but Griffin’s game is a master class. It really feels like every time the PCs do an action that leads to a roll it becomes a gambling moment.

Will they succeed and proceed as they want, or will their action bring disaster? Either way the action moves forwards and the players choices to roll are what generates the pace and horror feeling of the game.

This produces a “fail into action” which drives a lot of the “horror” and action of the game.