Saturday, December 31, 2011

Points of Darkness

Last night I was getting ready to create this post, when I thought I'd google "Points of Darnkess" to see who else had considered the idea. Not surprisingly, I'm not the first. Here's a recent post from Untimately: Points of Darkness.

The idea behind Points of Darkness is that the world basically feels mundane. The Sun rises in the morning, things fall when you drop them, and the world is heavily populated compared to say, Middle-earth. Rather than its inspired namesake, Points of Light, where isolated pockets of "light" (civilization) are scattered amidst vast wastelands populated by monsters, Points of Darkness are areas located just on the fringe of normalcy. They are the stuff of horror. A "point of darkness" could be cobweb infested basement, a mausoleum in a graveyard at the edge of town, or the last cottage on the left. It could be any one of the crumbling ruins dotting the hilltops which overlook the fertile valley where life is pleasant and trade is swift. It could be just a mile or two from town at the bottom of plain looking well, beside which lingers a curious looking old woman.

Calabria is primarily a "Points of Darkness" setting. Life in the Merchant's Republic more closely resembles Tolkien's Shire than it does some blasted wasteland with marauding orcs seeking the next village to plunder.  The vast majority of people have never seen an orc, giant, dragon, or other typical "monster", nor have they seen elves, dwarves, or any other non-human. Trade routes are dependable, travel is safe for the most part, and war is uncommon.

Yet the masses do not doubt that these unseen things exist. Nearly every abandoned building is believed to be "haunted." Folk magic is routine, with potions, charms, protections and the like relied on on a daily basis.

The dead do not stay so easily in their graves. The Bogeyman really is in the closet or under the bed. And Goblins want to steal your child.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Heroes need a World!

I responded to the I need a Hero post over at Tower of the Archmage, and it got me thinking about heroism in RPGs. The Archmage laments "It’s rare to find big damn heroes in classic Dungeons and Dragons. The entire game is designed around tomb robbers. Occasionally players will take on “altruistic” causes, but this usually involves their being able to keep a percentage of treasure that they find (aka loot)."

While it is common enough to have a world that needs heroes, my thought is that the real problem is that heroes need a world. That is, if participants want more heroism in their games, the game world should reward heroism. But before rewarding heroism, the game world should provide opportunity for heroism.

I think part of the problem with heroism in fantasy RPGs is that the worlds themselves tend to be anti-heroic. Compare lets say, Medieval France, in which the Arthurian tales of chivalry captivated the imagination of the people, with something like Mad Max. When adventuring becomes more about sheer survival than it does about being a champion of the people, opportunity for heroism can be limited. A world in which warbands of orcs control the wastelands is one that suggests survivalism more than heroism. However, a world that is densely populated with lots of farmland, small villages, and quaint hamlets offers opportunity for characters to right small wrongs; to be involved with the day to day affairs of the people who could really use a hero.

I think one of the reasons Pendragon plays as more heroic isn't so much the system, but the trend for most of the challenges to be about other humans, rather than monsters. Arthurian England is fairly heavily populated compared to the average fantasy game world. It contrasts to the "points of light" style of setting, with small pockets of civilization in a vast wilderness. You sort of have to go off the beaten path in order to find yourself in a wilderness.

When the adventurers are more likely to run into people than they are monsters, opportunity for heroism increase. After all, heroism is about aiding people who are in need. When their opponents are more often people, rather than monsters, opportunities for honor and courtesy increase. Adventures can become about things other than killing and looting and tomb robbing.

Once the opportunity for heroism is presented, then one can ask "What is the reward for heroism?". Aside from a warm and fuzzy feeling, the game world should react to heroes in a positive way. Fame should precede the heroes in all but the most isolated places. Small rewards should be presented in nearly every village and town. The world should be a more friendly place to heroes.

From a mechanic standpoint, experience should be rewarded for acts of heroism. Ignore body counts, gold pieces, and similar means of figuring experience. Award experience for acts of honor, selflessness, courage, courtesy, and diplomacy. You don't need a specific system to do this. You just need to decide to do it.

Of course, if you are looking for more of a Road Warrior type of feel to your game, ignore everything I just wrote.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Thanks to Tower of the Archmage!

David at Tower of the Archmage announced his contest winners, and was kind enough to have three winners. Thanks David!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Wolf's Ascent:A Calabrian Tale of the Clans of the Men of Old

The Gryphon spread its wings catching the updraft of the winds, the gift of Aeros, Lord of the Air. The beast felt the familiar and comfortable grasp of the knees of its rider, hugging its sides. The rider's chest was pressed tight against the Gryphon's back, the arms wrapped securely and lovingly around its neck. The Gryphon knew no days without its companion, and seldom took flight without her upon its back.

The beast's keen sight spied what perhaps no other creature in Calabria saw. Over a mile below, a blue Wolf crept to the edge of the Greenwood. Blue is perhaps as valid a color as any, for in the sunlight the Wolf glistened, the silvery pelt matching the blinding highlights of the stream; and out of the sun, the Wolf became one with the shadows for any lesser eyes than those of the Gryphon.

As the Wolf reached the edge of the cliff, a subtle transformation occurred. Surely a man of the civilized valley of the Merchant's Republic would have questioned what he saw, had he been able to perceive it at all. In a flash, the Wolf was standing on its hind legs. Where a moment before a lupine crouched, now stood a gracefully muscled Man. His hair was black, and his keen grey eyes gave a quick glance up in the sky towards the gryphon and rider. On his calves and forearms he wore leather greaves and bracers, dyed to a grey luster. A matching leather doublet protected his torso, and on his back he wore the grey fur of a wolf. A dagger at his side was his only weapon.

Fingus glanced up in the sky, and thought he could make out the silhouette of a Gryphon, dotted against the clouds. He had more immediate concerns, such as making the ascent as quickly as possible. He reached up, and grabbed a familiar handhold. He had climbed this cliff many times since his youth. It had been during one such climb that he met her. But never before had he climbed has high as he was going to today.

His well toned muscles and years of such activity, as well as his acquaintance with the cliff face, made the first part of the ascent nearly effortless. His brothers often goaded him as being lesser than themselves when it came to fighting. But he knew that none of them could climb as quickly as he could, nor could any of them climb as high as he was going to today. As for the commoners of the valley, there were few among them that would have any hope of such an ascent.

He had been to the valley. The people of the small hamlets were pleasant enough, and welcomed him graciously, if somewhat suspiciously. But he had only been to the Village of Harrow once, where he was greeted with a combination of fear and derision. From the village he looked upon the walled town of Carrnach in the distance, and could only imagine the reception he would receive there were he to stroll the paved streets.

The sun was well past the highest part of its arc in the sky when Fingus neared the top of his ascent. He welcomed the heat of Pyros against his back as he climbed, and his hands were grateful for the warmth of the rocks on this autumn day. The winds of Aeros increased as he approached his goal; a flat ledge some thousands of feet above the gorge of the Red River. As he brought himself up upon the ledge, he took a quick glance around.

The entrance to the cave was where he expected. The songs of old held many secrets, and he had hoped that his interpretation of the songs was correct. The cave entrance was a good sign. He looked back towards the gorge, and could see the Gryphon turning on its wing. From this distance, he could make out a rider, one of the Gryphonym, clinging to its back.

Steeling himself, Fingus crept toward the opening of the cave. There was a foul stench about the area, and the cave entrance was littered with bones. He crouched for a moment, but dared not disturb the bones for fear of making the slightest unnecessary sound. There were bones of Goats, Men, and creatures he could not identify. Some of the bones were larger than his entire leg. He was certain now that this was the place.

He crept forward, slowly and carefully into the cave. He was relying on every skill and instinct he had learned since his youth. The smallest misstep could spell his doom.

As he rounded a corner, and his eyes adjusted, he could see a large cavern, lit by smokey torches. He was grateful for the smoke, as it would make his concealment easier. He followed the irregular patterns of wavering shadows. He could now hear the unmistakable snoring of a very large creature.

Continuing stealthily across the chamber, he could now see the shadow of an immense manlike form against he wall. The chest was rising and falling steadily, if at a much slower pace than that of a sleeping man. He knew his goal lie in the opening at the far side of the cavern, and continued on his way.

Reaching the opening, he stepped into the darkness. At this point he knew he needed to risk some light, and nervously reached for his flint and tinder. Three times he struck before he was able to light the candle he had brought. The Giant's snoring became fitful.

Before him was a wondrous sight. Coins and gems. Swords and shields. Crystals and objects of wonder.
But he did not come here for any of this. His goal was singular. The songs told of it. Of the hero Brian Convel, and how he had lost his life in this very cave. The brooch he wore to hold his cloak had to be here, somewhere in all this clutter.

Fingus said a prayer to Phanes, Lord of all creatures, both beasts and men. He then closed his eyes and relied on his senses... his sense of scent. Even after all this time, surely the brooch would still hold a scent of his people? Slowly, one by one, he blocked out his other senses. The snoring of the giant faded away. The red beyond his eyelids turned to black. The salty taste of the deer meat he had eaten earlier in the day melted to nothing. Even the firmness of the stone beneath his feet became numbness. All there was was smell. Hundreds of smells. Thousands of them. But somewhere, mixed in with all of them, was the smell he was searching for. He caught a waft of it, and stepped towards it.

The smell grew stronger and stronger. Now it was before his nose. He opened his eyes, and was staring at a small pile of treasure. He had to reach in, to move it about. Carefully, one by one, he set aside jewel and coin, necklace and dagger.

And there it was. A pair of diamond eyes glistened at him in the candlelight. His heart raced as he beheld the visage of the Wolf. He reached for it, and as he tugged on it, the entire pile of treasure came cascading down to the floor.

He had no time to lose now. He dropped the candle, tucked the brooch in a pocket of his doublet and raced out of the small cave. Too late, the Giant stood now, blocking the exit to the large cavern. It held an immense club, and was just waiting to swing at him.

Fergus darted this way and that, and the Giant's club came crashing down inches away from him. Before the creature could take another swing, Fergus tumbled between its legs, and ran for the cliff with every bit of speed he could muster.

He heard the Giant's steps close behind. He dared not look back, but trusted in the friendship he had kindled in his youth, and forged through his adolescent years. He ran. Ran towards the brink, which dropped thousands of feet to the Red River below. He ran. And he leapt.

A bone came whizzing by his ear as he fell gracefully into nothingness. He panicked for an instant in spite of himself.

Then he felt the immense talon of the Gryphon grasp around his waist. As the beast turned into the sun, carrying him effortlessly, he could hear the endearing taunting of her voice from above its back. "You didn't think I wasn't going to catch you, did you?"

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Short Adventure: The Stolen Child

This adventure is written as an entry for the Ruin Givaway over at the Tower of the Archmage.

The adventure is set in Harrow Parish in County Carr of the Merchant's Republic.

Harrow Parish, County Carr

The adventuring party is strolling along the road between Harrow Ferry and the town of Carrnach, when a frantic woman approaches from a lane to the north. The town of Carrnach (population 7000+/-) looms up to the right. To the left, the hilltop ruins of Harrow Keep offer a silhouette against the sky.

The woman explains that a child has gone missing in their hamlet, which lies about a mile to the north on the southern shore of Harrow Lake. The child is a girl, age 8.

Following the woman up the lane, the party is informed that the girl was discovered to be missing at dawn, as the fishermen were getting prepared for their day's work. The entire village has been searching for hours.

Questioning of the girl's parents will reveal that she has not been sleeping the past week or so. Further questioning will reveal that she was obsessed with the "Red Man", who wanted her to come with him. She had also taken to singing a lullaby over and over:

"Time to play, oh child!
Awaken from your nap
You've soft and lovely hair
You have dye for my cap"

The adventure will take a bit of investigation. A tracker among the group will be able to tell that the girl walked barefoot to the shore. An organized inquiry among the townsfolk will reveal that a small boat is missing.

The lake is a large area to search... over a mile wide and some three miles long. There are numerous small islands in the lake, more than one of which contain ancient ruins. A search of the lake will be fruitful in 1d6 hours, and reveal a small boat on the shore of one such island. The Island is overgrown, and contains the ruins of a small tower. All that remains of it is the lower level of the stair tower. The stair is home to a giant spider.

Prize being given away at TofAM!

Section of Tower as it was Once Constructed

The stair tower, about 30 feet in diameter, was once part of a larger tower, which had a 30 foot diameter interior room, with 10 foot thick walls. With searching, the remains of the larger wall are discernible through the dense briar growth that covers the area. There is a small (halfling size) tunnel through the briars, which is discoverable by a tracker. The party will have to hack away the briars to follow the trail of the tunnel. Forcing one's way through the briars results in 1d4 hitpoints damage for anyone over halfling size. A halfling would have to crawl to get through the tunnel.

The tunnel ends in the center of the larger circle. A  3' x 3' door is hidden in the ground. This was once the bottom floor of the tower, and the door led down to the dungeon.

The door is locked from the inside. It is stone, inset into the stone floor,  which is covered with centuries of soil and growth, and will have to be forced open. Opening it reveals a dark hole 5'x5' going down into the ground 10 feet before opening up into a larger chamber. A foul smell comes from the hole. Characters will need a rope or ladder to descend.

Lowering a lantern down will reveal a floor some 30 feet below. The room is 30 feet in diameter. There is assorted debris on the floor.

Dropping down to the floor, the party will see that the debris includes bones of animals and people (ranging from children to adults). There is a ladder propped up against the wall. The roof of the chamber is domed. The side walls are 8 feet high, and it is 20 feet up to the top of the dome, with the 5'x5' chute in the center. The walls are carved from solid bedrock.

Rats will swarm into the room from cracks in the walls and attack ferociously. They behave as a swarm from Varlets and Vermin from Rolls, Rules, and Roles

After dispatching the rats, a search of the room will reveal the presence of a secret door on the north wall. The door has no obvious way of being opened. As the door swings outward, it can't be forced by strength.
Singing the children's lullaby will open the door.

"Time to play, oh child!
Awaken from your nap
You've soft and lovely hair
You have dye for my cap"

Otherwise, the party will have to wait until nightfall to open the door. Trying to break through will take more than a day, as it will require returning to the town of Carrnach or the Village of Harlow for proper equipment, then require a total of 20 man hours of labor to break through the 18" thick granite door. (20 people working for one hour, 5 people working for 4 hours, etc...)

Opening the door can have three results:

1) Party waits until nightfall:

As the sun fades from the sky, the door pivots open with a rumble. The room is cast in total darkness as Continual Darkness is cast. The party is attacked simultaneously by the returning rat swarm, and the inhabitant of the tower, a Red Cap. (Move 90, AC 4 (due to high dex) Attack 1, Dam 2d4 (axe), save F2).

The Red Cap will get +2 to its AC and +2 to hit while the rat swarm is attacking. It also gets an AC bonus due to the Continual Darkness (treat as blind fighting), but can see through its own spell. The Red Cap gains strength through dipping its cap in fresh blood, so for each  point of damage it deals, it will gain 1 hp.

Defeating the Red Cap disperses the swarm of rats. The girl will be safe, dirty but huddled against the far wall as described in result 2.

2) Party opens door by singing the lullaby

The 5' wide door opens into a passage 15 feet long. At the end of the passage is a room that is 20 feet in diameter. Huddled against the far wall is the girl, unharmed. A perception roll will discover she is looking up over the character's heads. Otherwise, the Red Cap surprises, leaping down from a ledge above the entrance onto the third character to enter the room. (If there is no third character, the Red Cap flees out the entrance). It will fight ferociously, but will flee as soon as possible. (It will have to set the ladder in place unless the party has already done that. Setting the ladder will require one turn).

3) Force the door open with tools

Unfortunately, this will result in the death of the girl. As long as the party is hacking away at the door, the Red Cap will not come out. Just as the party breaks through he will douse his cap in the girl's blood, giving him the following temporary stats: (Move 120, AC3, Attack 1, Damage 2d6, Save F4). If it is night, (50%) chance, he will be able to summon the rat swarm and cast Continual Darkness.

The Red Cap has a treasure of 132 gp, 236 sp, three gems worth 20 gp, 80gp, and 100 gp, and a +1 dagger. His axe radiates evil, and does 2d4 damage. Using the axe for a prolonged period of time will turn the user into a Red Cap.

Edit: If the death of the girl is too intense for your game, an alternative is to have one of the fishermen beat the party to the Island. In this case, there would be a second boat moored on the Island. The fisherman's tracks would lead to the tower, where he would have been dragged through the briars by the Red Cap.

When the party breaks through the door, it is the blood of the fisherman the Red Cap bathes his cap in, leaving the girl unharmed.

Stolen Child Adventure Map

Mapping: Rural Population Density

In my post Mapping: Representing Civilize Areas, I was toying with icon use for representing population density in rural areas. Thinking that the population of villages and hamlets would range from perhaps a hundred or so up to nearly a thousand, I was wondering if a single icon could effectively communicate the varying population densities. I'm rather happy with the way this turned out.

Each dot represents 50 people. Small clusters of 100 to 200 people are spread out every mile or so along the rivers and roads. The village of Fenrow hosts about 850 people. Even if that number were not known by the person reading the map, they would still get a very good sense of relative population density. It would also be easy to "tweak" populations for campaigns that were more sparsely populated, merely by lowering the number of people each dot represents. The large brown hexagons represent towns with populations in the thousands. The icon in the hex is intended to represent a stronghold, but I'm toying with it representing a thousand people. There would be one to ten thousand people in a town (an so, one to ten icons).

One "dot" = 50 people

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Ten Thousand Adventure Sites

In my post Mapping Wilderness I estimate that there could be a good adventure site for every 9 square miles of wilderness. In a wilderness that is 300 miles by 300 miles (90,000 square miles (about half the size of Spain), there could be some 10,000 adventure sites.

Smaller countries make for more nimble adventure design. It doesn't require a three week trek to get from adventure location "A", to adventure location "B".

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Mapping: Wilderness

I just put this map up today over at the Shatterworld Campaign Blog. It is created at a scale of 1" = 3 miles, and covers an area of roughly 800 square miles. There are two villages towards the bottom of the map, but otherwise the map is 95% wilderness.

One of my contentions is that fantasy lands don't have to be enormous in size, and there doesn't have to be hundreds of thousands of square miles of wilderness in order to have adventures. Things a few miles outside of heavily trafficked areas can be quite "wild".

The Greenwood is divided into three main sections. The Weald of the Merchant Princes is the most "tamed" of the wild areas. It was once known as Kingsweald, and was the private hunting grounds of the king. Today, it is a free territory, but the members of the Merchant's Republic police one another to prevent exploitation and destruction of the resources. This area is roughly 150 square miles.

The Clan of the Wolf is one of the Clans of the Men of Old. Their territory spans from the Red River to The Greenrush. It covers about another 150 square miles. The clan has a timber steading hall, inspired by the mead hall Heorot from Beowulf and halls from the Ulster Cycle:

Craebruad was the best known of the 3 great halls at Emain Macha. It had nine rooms of red yew, walls of bronze, and King Conchobar's apartment had a silver ceiling and bronze pillars topped with gold.

The second hall, Craebderg (ruddy branch) contained the treasure house that held, among other valuables, the heads of slain enemies.

The third hall, Tete Brec (twinkling hoard) held the weapons and armor. 

Wolves are honored and protected by the clan, so anyone foolish enough to kill a wolf in their territory is asking for trouble.

The Clan of the Bear is quite similar, and controls the area from the Greenrush to the northern edge of the forest.

Now, just because they control the territory, doesn't mean that if you step into the shade of the trees you'll meet one or more members. Generally, if you spend more than a day in the woods, they will be aware of your presence through tracks, litter, campfires, etc...

They also don't "own" the woods. There are a lot of other things besides them that call the woods home. Hobgoblins and Bugbears are likely candidates. Wyvern Falls is hunting grounds for more than a few Wyverns. And there are certainly the usual suspects like giant spiders and other forresty creatures.

A mere 10 miles west of the forest is Gryphon's Spine, a ridge with an elevation of some 10,000 feet, which the Clan of the Gryphon calls home. Just a few miles away from the ridge is Barech's Peak, which is "said to be home to giants". While the Gryphonym can fly over to Barech's Peak in the twinkling of an eye, to actually travel on foot from the ridge to the peak would be about a two day trek.

Maren Vale is a cozy place, only a mile or so wide and six miles deep, but it is a "valley of the dead", housing tombs of Imperial and pre-Imperial rulers. Any one of these locations should provide multiple adventure sites. I would estimate that there should be at least 75 to 100 good adventure locations somewhere on the map, or about one every 8 or 9 square miles. Adventures can range from boar hunting and tomb robbing, to dealing with some type of Giant. Who knows, there might even be a Dragon sleeping in there somewhere.

It would take about 100 maps this size to cover the whole of Calabria.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Random Town Generator from the Nine and Thirty Kingdoms

The Nine the Thirty Kingdoms has been doing a nice series on small to modest settlement generation. Impromptu Towns is a great on for determining what kinds of services might be available in such settlements. Here's a sample Talysman gives generated from a table he has created:

Ducksborough (Small Village)
exports: duck meat and bags of down
has: food/down packer, blacksmith, weekly market, tavern, priest, posse when needed
trades: 2

Highly useful stuff!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Mapping: The Castle Tower

I've been playing around with 3D modeling on and off for a decade or more. A couple of years ago a friend told me about Blender, which is wonderful free 3D modeling program.

I've created this image in Blender. There is no photoshopping done. I had to tweak lighting, layers, and textures to get it go behave the way I wanted as a playable battlemat. If you print it out at a scale of 1" = 5 feet, the interior of the castle room should be 6" for a 30 foot diameter room. The walls are 10 feet thick (2"). The staircase is 5 feet wide (1"), plus arrow slits. That funny little room to the right of the staircase is the garderobe. It would actually protrude from the castle wall so you could dump your dump, if you know what I mean.

Castle Tower, 30 foot interior, 50 foot exterior

The little square in the upper left is a fireplace. I've shown light from a torch to either side of the door, with light coming in the arrow slits and the big window in the room. My goal was to indicate shadows where a thief might hide. For instance, if a guard were coming up the stairs, a thief could potentially hide in the lower right arrow slit space, and the guard walk right by him. The garderobe is also a good place to hide, as long as that isn't where the guard is going!

Note, the only part of the tower that is wood is the floor. When the tower deteriorates, the floor would be the first to go. When all the floors and roof rot out, you have an open space the full height of the tower.

Also note that the large window ledge is 10 feet wide, and about 7 feet deep. That is virtually a room unto itself! Wall construction would have been a course of stone on the inside and outside of each wall, with rubble in the middle. I've made this rubble section 5 feet wide, which is plenty of space to hide a secret passage.

The funny area to the outside of the wall is supposed to be the tapering of the wall outward at the bottom.
Don't count that as part of your 10 foot wall thickness. Enjoy!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Mapping: Representing Civilized Areas

So I've been toying around with my latest map, which is on a scale of 1" = 1 Mile. I've been looking at Google satellite imagery, and you can see quite a bit of detail at this scale, including individual fields in farmlands. With that in mind, I actually snagged one such image and used it as texture to overlay my farmlands. Now, the farmlands I used are modern day, so I imagine back in the day, the fields would have been a bit smaller. But I like the feel this gives me. It certainly evokes a sense that the lands are "civilized".

I also like the little brown dots. They give a sense of population density. I've set it so that each dot represents 50 people, except for in the Village of Harrow. Those dots represent 100 people. I don't know if I should keep it at 50 per dot, or use a different dot to represent more people (sort of like Risk, where you get a "10" piece that is kind of star shaped). I think there is an advantage to keeping it all at one symbol, because it can give you a quick visual on relative population density, even if you don't know what the actual numbers are that the symbol stands for.

Another neat thing about this map is that it gives you a real sense for when you are going off the beaten path. Up top there, between the Greenrush and the Red River, there is some farmland, and then a another little hamlet about three miles up the road with some 200 people. Think about this in terms of today's travel. It is an hour's trek by foot. So, imagine driving an hour into the countryside, to a little place where the nearest people are an hour away. That's pretty isolated. I'm imagining that the people who live there cling to some really old traditions, and are considered "peculiar" by everyone else around.

It is about three hours to the Greenrush from the town of Carnach. Then you have to take a boat, and cross the Greenrush to get to the isolated hamlet of about 250 people. Then another hour up the road to find that old woman who has just the right ingredient for that potion your client is trying to make. But first you have to get through her brothers. And cousins. And uncles. And there is probably a lonely sister or two.

Here's a great post from the Nine and Thirty Kingdoms that ties into this post nicely!

Hamlet, Village, Town

Friday, December 2, 2011

Spell Flavor: Detect Evil

Detect Evil is one of those enigmatic spells that can be practical and useful, or it can be an over-the-top game ruiner.

My own take on it is that it detects powerful psychic energy of malicious intent. Powerful meaning it is a lot more than just a guy thinking about doing something bad. Powerful in this case means it is energy coming from a powerful spirit. "Negative energy" is one way to describe it, but I think that is limiting.

In Shatterworld, since nearly all magic is performed by the summoning of spirits, and those spirits generally resent being summoned, it seems that "Detect Evil" would detect the presence of most spells. It wouldn't be too far from detect magic. An Unseen Servant, a Phantasmal Force, an Interposing Hand or Clenched Fist are all high candidates for emanating "evil". I'm thinking maybe the issue it the very definition of the spell. To me, something called "Detect Other" seems more like what I'm going for. It gives the power to detect a presence that is unnatural. Maybe simply "Detect Spirit". And the spirit gives off a vibe... angry, sad, etc...

Likewise, instead of "Protection from Evil", it would be "Protection from Spirit"

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Mapping: The Adventure Zone

The map below is at a scale of 1" = 1 mile. At 8-1/2" x 11", this makes the map 8-1/2 miles by 11 miles.
It should take about four hours or so so travel from one end of the map to the other, terrain notwithstanding.

Harrow Parish, County Carr, Merchant's Republic: 1" = 1 Mile
The a winding road climbs up to the fortified town of Carrnach, which sits perched atop a hill overlooking Harrow Lake. This road happens to be part of the paved Via Imperium, a relic of a fallen empire. A smaller road continues west with several forks. There is a small fishing hamlet on the shore of Harrow Lake. South of Harrow Ferry, another small hamlet hugs the Greenrush river for about two miles. The Village of Harrow is on an Island in the midst of the Greenrush, accessible by ferry.

Harrow Keep is a ruined keep dating back to the days of the empire. Beyond the keep (ah! just caught the typo!) on the north shore of Harrow Lake lie two small hamlets, fairly isolated even though one of them lies within two miles of Carrnach. Across the Greenrush are two more small hamlets. It is quite conceivable that the people who live there have never been to Carrnach, even though they can see it in the distance on a clear day.

There are numerous opportunities for adventuring in such an area. Besides political and commercial  involvements with the town, village, or any of the hamlets, there may be numerous ruins to explore or discover. Harrow Keep is the most obvious of the ruins, as the crumbling towers can be seen from miles away, but there may certainly be others along the river. The Greenwood and the Dire Bogs can hold all sorts of adventure worthy secrets, and there may even be forgotten caves or dungeons in the hill beneath Harrow Keep. Perhaps there are submerged caves within Harrow Lake. The Islands up the Red River are substantial in size, and any one of them could be the home to an inhuman host.

The adventure is in the space between... in what is not shown, rather than what is shown.