Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Silver Standard

I was going to write a long post about how I keep going back and forth on whether or not I should switch the Garnia campaign world over to the Silver standard for coinage. There are pros and cons to doing so, the biggest con being the work involved in switching prices over, but I have already done a lot of that in repricing things in gold anyway, and I had set at one point gold to silver at a different exchange rate than the 10:1 or 20:1 that it has been in different editions of D&D. Now I feel like I am just jumping on a bandwagon though, because I read they were switching all of D&D over to the silver standard in 5th edition. Any thoughts?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Intelligent Apes?

Sentient Apes as citizens of the Roman Empire? I ask because I forgot about these guys:

I thought they were some pretty cool miniatures and I like to support the company that makes them, Black Orc Games. That's just a random selection of miniatures from their Roman Ape line which was designed for their own in house miniature wargame. I started buying their stuff for my own Oriental Adventures games but they have a pretty wide selection of cool stuff. The Roman Apes actually intrigued me some time ago and I never really got around to planting them into a game anywhere, but since we're rebuilding the Garnia campaign world now AND we have decided to keep the Roman Empire I tacked on in the 1990s, I suppose we could retcon them into there without too much difficulty.

Opinions? Too weird fantasy? Awesome? Something else?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Goblinoids in Garnia

Goblinoids in Garnia are, as I envisioned the setting originally, the first of the Evil invaders of the world. I always pictured them Goblins, Hobgoblins and Bugbears as different stages of guided evolution of the original Goblin species. Whatever force of evil ultimately owns their home plane, their "God", has tinkered with their species to make the perfect race of evil servant-soldiers to conquer in his (or her, anything is possible I guess) name. I never even considered going the Tolkien route and having Goblins just be corrupted Elves, and Orcs just being a different name for Goblins; besides I really want to go with a more mythologically sound version of Elves, where I get to kind of mix the Gaelic Sidhe and the Norse Alfar into a blender; I feel it makes for a more interesting campaign setting and more interesting Elves.

I see the Goblins as the base species, fairly weak, but they are Evil and cunning, fairly well organized, if none too bright and they breed quickly. Hordes of these can be raised in say a decade or so. I assume they were originally bred to fight the Dwarves and followed them here from their world for two reasons; first they are a primarily subterranean race and get a -1 to attacks in full sunlight, and a bunch of Dwarf type bonuses regarding mining and underground construction, and second, they attack Dwarves on sight. This is all based on the 1st edition AD&D Monster Manual, but, once again, that's Garnia's roots. They also hate Gnomes, but in 1st edition AD&D Gnomes are essentially a pretty distinctive sub-species of Dwarf, so that makes sense, and I axed Gnomes from Garnia in the early 1990s when I realized that no one had ever played one.

Hobgoblins then are the next toughest Goblinoids, and are probably the crowning achievement of Goblin genetic engineering. There are only about 1/2 as many encountered, which tells me they don't breed as fast or they have higher mortality rates or something, but they are bigger (6'6" average as opposed to 4' average), stronger (1d8 damage vs. 1d6), faster (MV 9" vs 6"), tougher (1+1 HD vs. 1-1HD) and harder to hit (AC:5 vs. AC:6). They are just as well organized, maybe better, since they are specifically mentioned as living in a military hierarchy. They also will organize Goblins or Orcs to do their bidding. They don't have the sunlight penalty, but maintain the underground/mining bonuses and they have a marine genetic variant, the Koalinth. My assumption about Hobgoblins is that they were bred for fighting here on Garnia because they have an inbred hatred of Elves rather than Dwarves.

Now we move on to the Bugbear, the wacky cousin of the Goblin family tree. They look like what would happen if you took a Goblin and stretched it to nearly twice it's normal height (7'+ Average) and covered them in long fur. They are described as having a "shambling gait", but are actually rather quick (9" MV) and stealthy (50% chance of surprise). They are the biggest, strongest (2d4DMG), and toughest (3+1HD) of the Goblinoids. They can throw any weapon up to 40' (with 20' considered short range), I think they might be the only monster with that peculiar ability. They are so tough that even their women and children get to fight, as if they were Hobgoblins and Kobolds respectively. Their AC of 5 is OK, matching the Hobgoblin, their dual weaknesses are their lack of organization (due to their Chaotic Evil Alignment) and their small numbers (6-36 vs 20-200 Hobgoblins or 40-400 Goblins). My Garnia specific assumption about Bugbears is that they were an early experimentation with the "build a better Goblin project" from Evil forces R us, and they just went too far to the bigger, stronger, more aggressive end of the spectrum with their super-Goblin serum. They make good shock troops for Evil forces though, even if they can be a bit difficult to control and often run off the reservation; anything that screws over the Elves, Dwarves and Humans is a good thing for Evil incorporated, right?

Thursday, January 19, 2012


What do we think of the Rakasta? I was reminded of them while I was watching my kids play Skyrim, which has a race of cat people, although I never caught their name. If you all don't remember them, they were an anthropomorphic feline race introduced in the 1981 Expert Set module X1: The Isle of Dread. I actually had thought they were in the Expert book, but they weren't, I looked it up. I always had rather liked them as a species and thought it was kind of a shame they never made the jump over to AD&D. Anyway, they are pretty cool. They are nomadic cat people that ride Saber-Toothed Tigers, shall we introduce them to Garnia? I only ask because I was considering that they might be a playable race.

Apparently they got their own D&D module at some point, but they don't look as cool here as in the Isle of Dread illustration

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Maps, pt II

Ok, decided to get on this map thing. printed out the maps available onto hex paper for comparison. Looked at the comments section of my last post about maps, relevant material quoted here:

I think we still need to work on scale and redraw maps. I never really envisioned Garnia for instance being much larger than, say, France or maybe Germany, but merging the old maps together makes the various nations huge. The steppes should be immense, I have no problems with that. Khazarak should be like the Himalayas and Hindu Kush mountains or more. Tirnakaur should be the size of the Iberian peninsula roughly. Frodia is slightly smaller than Garnia and Wodanslund is 1/2 the size of Frodia.

Based on the scale of the original maps, Garnia has a size of roughly 1000 miles by 700 miles (700,000 sq. mi.). France is 260,558. Germany only 137, 847. The Iberian Peninsula is roughly the size of France, 224, 507. So if Garnia is the size of France, it needs to shrink to about 36% of its current size.

On the other hand, Alaska is 663,268 sq.mi., roughly the size of Garnia on the ancient maps. My point is that leaving the countries with the scale that already exists in the old maps is not an unworldly concept. Even if the land area of Alaska is only 571,951, surely some of Garnia is water as well... Texas is #2 for US states at 268,580, about 40% of Alaska, so roughly in line with your ratio of Garnia:Frodia. (Frodia on the maps is actually about 800 by 500 or 400,000 or about 57% of Garnia). I envision Frodia with more water area than Garnia though, so land mass area (on the old maps where inland and coastal waterways not shown very well) of Frodia:Garnia could very well mimic that of Texas:Alaska.

The old map is drawn as if the rather boxy landmass now called GW is largely surrounded by water, but this is likely not true, and easily attributable to the vagaries of early cartography, perhaps coupled with relatively little long distance shipping. Assuming that the old water boundaries are, in fact, largely continuations of various land features (for instance the steppes continue to tundra to the north, with a possible polar ocean largely covered with icecap) and extension of the western landmass (which you have effected with the placement of the Romans in the far west, essentially "off-map" for the ancient maps) which would logically extend south some. Quite simply after sailing along to the south and east of the great desert a spell, our ancient cartographers extrapolated, mostly incorrectly.

I extrapolated the size of the Himalayas at about 255,000 sq.mi., so if we use the smaller sizes and use the Himalayas (although in a less spread out kind of more bunchy way) as the guidelines for Khazarak, that works. If we go bigger, then the mountains of Khazarak are either roughly 3 times bigger in area than the Himalayas, or there is some non-mountainous terrain over in there somewhere that our ancient cartographers misrepresented, or Khazarak is simply not as big as the old timers believed, and some of the western territory is in fact the Romans.

I am in favor of the original scale. This makes the "known world" roughly the size of the United States & Canada (together about 7,000,000-ish) and makes it easier to expect that in 1000-2000 years these far flung cultures mostly have not encountered each other. If we shrink it, using your still-not-perfect-but-more-to-scale map the whole thing (including the Romans) comes in about the size of Alaska - about 798,000 sq.mi.

My point is, I am going to draw it at the large scale for a new map and a globe, and I guess this was my reasoning why...

Friday, January 13, 2012

Giants in Garnia

Darryl and I have skirted around this topic a couple of times and never come to a definitive answer as to the wheres and whys of Giantish origins on Garnia world. We have also done a little wrestling with Dragonish origins too, but that can wait for another post. I spent a little time thinking about this today and came up with the idea that maybe Giants are from a plane/planet/sphere/whatever called Jotunheim; all of them, Good ones, Evil ones, smart ones, dumb ones, two-headed ones, et cetera, probably Ogres too, since they seem to be just a runty, stupid, Evil race of Giants. I decided on Jotunheim because, hey, maybe the Norse were right, eh? I mean this is pretty much Alfheim, right?

Now the thing about Giants in AD&D is, and remember Garnia was originally designed as an AD&D game world, that they are pretty much attached to some natural feature or elemental force, so I guess that means that Jotunheim must be a pretty elementally connected plane of existence. There are six types of Giant in the 1st edition AD&D Monster Manual- Cloud, Fire, Frost, Hill, Stone and Storm. Each type of Giant has some pretty amazing abilities, even the weakest, the Hill Giant, can hurl boulders up to 200' for 2-16 points of damage, and they come in groups of 1-10, larger groups (more than 4) have women and children and have a 50% chance of having Dire Wolves, Giant Lizards or Ogres as Guards for their lairs. Tougher Giants get better special abilities, immunities to, or lessened damage from certain types of attacks, better guards that are generally more suited to their elemental type, and seem to have a more magical, elemental connection.

So that's the where they came from anyway. Why are they here? At a guess I would say that the Good aligned Giants were happy to trade/communicate/cooperate with the Sidhe when the Sidhe more or less invented planar travel. That said, it doesn't have to be a magic belonging only to the Sidhe either; there's no reason why magically powerful Giants could not have invented gates too or at least used spells for planar travel. Aren't Titans just a type of Giant? They are really smart, use both Arcane and Divine magic, and Psionically* talented too. Anyway, maybe they came here for company, maybe they came to join the fight on either side once it got underway. They're here, that's the important thing; they're none too common in any variety, but they do exist.

*I dislike Psionics, but there's no reason anyone else running a campaign in Garnia couldn't use them. I never specifically disallowed them in the old days, they were just really hard to get and most people never thought to try.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Quick Addendum to the Roman Post

Just a question really, I am interested to know which of the two Fantasy Roman empire campaigns you all liked better? Which you found more interesting as a play environment really I guess is what I am asking.

The older one was mine and Darryl's collaboration and done pretty quickly, it had some pretty interesting elements to it, I thought the explore the wilderness/conquer in the name of the empire/age of colonization thing was pretty compelling. I also liked very much the Humans only aspect, with Dwarves as magically mutated Humans being the only other race. Except for the home islands, the core of the empire, the rest of the campaign world was a tabula rasa for Darryl and I to work with as we saw fit. I can say honestly that, despite being designed with 2nd edition AD&D, it really reminded me more of the feeling I got from the Expert book and the Isle of Dread back in 1981.

The second campaign was designed much like Garnia was from the start, only with Romans instead of Celts. I had certainly read Harry Turtledove's "Misplaced Legion" and whatever other Videssos books were published by then, all of Katherine Kerr's Deverry books published to that date, as well as Jerry Pournelle's "Janissaries", so I was kind of jaded by the concept of Humans being whisked away to another world, whether it was by magic or aliens didn't really matter. I put them into a pretty carefully crafted pseudo-Mediterranean area and stocked it with some standard AD&D races, which is probably why it fits so well into Garnia. It was designed mostly for the sake of adventuring inside the empire though, although I did leave a "Dark Continent" to explore to the south too; and it had Dinosaurs.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Polls Closed

What did it tell us? When the voting was taking place there were 10 followers/members of this blog, 7 of us voted. On the plus side we had a whopping 70% voter turn out rate, so kudos to us for being so civic minded :) The downside was the sample size was really small, so I am repeating the poll on my other blog, because even if only 1/2 of the people following the blog answer the poll that'll be more than four times as many as we have here. I probably should have thought of that before I put up a poll here.

All that being said, the most popular choices were Norsemen and Neanderthals tied at 5 votes each. Then in second position in the poll the Byzantine Greeks, Turks & Mongols and Arabs tied at 4 votes each. The Romans, Han Chinese, Japanese and Hindu all got 3 votes. The Aztecs and Romany each got 2 votes. The Kung San, the Basques and the write in candidate Iroquois each got 1 vote. The Kushites got 0 votes.

Did the Norsemen get a boost in the polls because everybody likes Vikings or because they got a write up during the polling time? Neanderthals were pretty much a shoe-in for making it into Garnia World's reboot anyway, because they have been in every incarnation to date; it is nice to see that most people think that they were a good idea though.

All of the second place people were a little surprising to me. Arabs have been there all along, even if I did forget about them. Turks & Mongols have been canon since the late 90s, but I had to work to find them a homeland on the map. Byzantine Greeks were invented as an "off-map" place to develop at some nebulous point in the future for my Norseworld campaign before it was part of the Garnia campaign world, so they have really never been developed at all*.

The third tier were all more canonical, more recently than some of the stuff that beat them. I was also a little surprised to see the Romans do as poorly as they did. The Han Chinese were the most canonical of the third tier, being the third major ethnic group in the Garnia campaign region. The Japanese were another "off-map" group, but, to be honest, they were about to invade Ming Liang (the Bright Empire) and win the mandate of heaven. Mostly because I found it easier to run a straight Oriental adventures campaign set in Ming Liang that way, with a Samurai ruling caste and all, but still. The Hindu people were mixed into the same area with the Arabs, and ruled over by the acolytes of the Necromancer.

Honestly I wouldn't miss either the Aztecs or the Romany, but they both provide some pretty good adventure opportunities. Aztecs are a good example of an evilly aligned Human empire, yes I understand it's ethnocentric to say so, but I believe that Human sacrifice on an industrial scale is probably evil. Gypsies as a fantasy trope are well played, but they are a cliché for a reason, the cliché works.

Kung San and Basque can probably go, I guess they were just there for their value as exotic cultures and the fact that I felt bad for how bad they got hosed here on earth. Iroquois are a good candidate to add, they are a super bad-ass culture of Native American Indian warriors and I know quite a bit about them, owing to the fact that I actually live in Iroquois country and am related to them. I don't know why I didn't think to add them before, probably just because they are too close and familiar.

The poor bloody Kushites got 0 votes in the poll, was that because I admitted that I just added them as an after thought because I realized there weren't any black people in my world? Or are the Kushites really that boring? Or too obscure? I had really wanted to use the Zulu but they were way too late in history for my purposes and required adding either time travel or some other type of paradoxical issues. There are other black African cultures I could export to Garnia World I suppose, but I am not an expert on African history, particularly not sub-Saharan Africa, and I was shooting for ancient, particularly pre-Christian and/or pre-Islamic peoples, although I guess that's not the deal breaker I thought it was going to be. But I still think the more ancient the people the better.

* Other than their name, The Trebizondic States.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

My Fantasy Roman Empires

Rome holds a pretty strong grip over all of western culture despite having fallen more than a millennium ago, it is the civilization that all later civilizations aspire to be despite being both repulsed by and attracted to the more exotically barbaric aspects of their culture. The similarities between the ancient Romans and ourselves make them easier to understand than our more immediate medieval ancestors, but the strange differences we find compelling; they are like a distorted mirror of ourselves. We consider ourselves to be more civilized than the primitive, superstitious Romans, but they had some pretty direct comparisons that could be made between their culture and ours, essentially only the level of technology available has changed, and when it comes down to it even that isn't that great a change.

Now, as a medievalist, I am not going to say that technology stagnated and disappeared during the "Dark Ages", it didn't; there was a significant drop in literacy and learning though, and a lot of infrastructure was destroyed across Europe, particularly in the western empire and Britain, with the barbarian invasions and there weren't people that knew how to fix it or the manpower, resources or desire particularly to fix it. Barbarian conquerors didn't know how to repair aqueducts, hypocausts or roads and didn't really see the point for the most part. That said, they muddled through and made gradual, steady improvements to technology throughout the medieval period in fields from agriculture to architecture to engineering; yes, some technologies were lost in the transition from the Roman to post-Roman world, but it wasn't as bad as Renaissance propagandists made it out to be.

I just had to get that out of my system to clear up historical misconceptions about the medieval period, now back to Rome. I am an American and we have a strong connection to the concept of the Roman Republic, and a fascination with it's fall. Every great power since Rome ruled the western world has felt they were the heir to Rome, the Byzantine Greeks had the best claim, since they actually were the eastern half of the Roman Empire. The French under Charlemagne staked their claim to Roman imperial glory, it passed from there into German hands as the Holy Roman Empire, even as the Byzantines still existed. The Russians staked a claim based on the fall of Constantinople to the Turks. The British have made the claim on scantier evidence that they should be the heirs to Rome, apparently just because they were once in the Roman empire and they built an empire of their own. The US makes a claim, more or less, depending on who you talk to and how religious they are, based on our "spiritual" link through our constitutional republican form of government and the fact that we threw out our king. Hell, it's not even just Europeans that want the mantle of heir to Rome for themselves, the Seljuk Turks formed the Sultanate of Rum to claim that they were the true heirs to the empire, in the name of Islam.

Why are we all fascinated with Rome and her empire? For the better part of a thousand years, give or take, Rome represented both civilization and governmental legitimacy, but I don't think that's all of it. The mention of Rome evokes different things to different people at different times, depending on the context of the conversation you are having. Rome might make one think of Caesar, the ides of March and the senate, Spartacus, or the all conquering Legions, or gladiators fighting in the arena, or chariot races, or the the crucifixion of Christ, or orgies; and those are just the popular ones, less popular, but still likely, are Nero fiddling while Rome burns, persecution of Christians and feeding them to lions, Constantine's conversion to Christianity, Caesar's conquest of Gaul, Hadrian's Wall and the fall of the empire (just the west, we always seem to forget that the east held on for another thousand years, give or take). I thinks we are entranced by the differences between us and them, yet enthralled by the similarities. Their paganism, slavery, casual brutality and unabashed sexuality are compelling and repellent to us, as we can easily see by the success of movies like "Gladiator" or television series like HBO's "Rome" and Starz "Spartacus", which is about to start it's third season despite having lost it's star to cancer.

Now, all of this immense preamble is just to explain that this has been a difficult post for me to start to wrap my head around to begin to write; at the dawn of the 2nd edition AD&D era, shortly after our first and only trip to Gencon, when Darryl and I designed our first "Roman" campaign world it started with a single concept: Romans are cool. To elaborate, Romans are cool and everyone has done medieval to death in AD&D, we should start with a classical world setting and the Roman empire in a fantasy form seemed like a cool concept. He and I spent a week or so spit-balling ideas back and forth at each other and created a world where there was, in the fairly distant past, an invasion of humanoids that overran the majority of a Roman/Latin empire on a unique game world. Before the last, core area of the empire was conquered, the priests performed a ritual that actually tore the remaining piece of their empire away from the continent that it had been attached to, and moved it hundreds of miles out into the ocean, where it then survived and thrived. The people; almost all Humans, Dwarves were a player character option also, but they were a re-imagined race, that I have covered before; slowly forgot about their old empire and the humanoids and everything more or less receded into a "Time of Myth and Legend". Anachronistically, they maintained a late Roman republican government, mode of dress, religion, and military technology, but they advanced significantly as seafarers over time to a late renaissance/early modern level of sailing technology, which allowed them to have an "Age of Discovery", which was where the campaign started.

We had planned on running this as a dual-DM campaign, so both of us would get some DMing in and both of us would get some playing time in, it seemed like the perfect solution to DM burnout issues, never getting to play/DM, and only having one ready group of players (at the time) that didn't want to have to switch characters for different DM's campaigns. Darryl ran the first game, I got to play my character Gaius Flavius Maximus, Priest of Neptune, one of very few Clerics that I have ever played and a pretty high concept character in his own right. I based him on none other than Gaius Julius Caesar as my inspiration. My thinking when I made him was that Caesar had not really made anything of his life until he was older, so instead of starting my character out as a teen-ager, like most D&D characters, I made him 36 years old. I assumed that he had been in politics and the priesthood back home, before moving to the colonies as a priest and adventurer to advance his career. That would make him older and more savvy and dignified, but still 1st level.

Anyway, I thought it would be a cool campaign, an age of discovery and colonization with Romans and magic. The PCs would get to tromp around the vast wilderness and discover ruins of elder civilizations and their artifacts, kill some Orcs and Goblins, Ogres and Trolls, maybe some Giants and Dragons on their way to becoming masters of their own domains in this wilderness, or using the proceeds of their expeditions to fund their political advancements back home. Anyway, like I said, Darryl ran the first game, and he had us shipwrecked on a desert isle with a single pyramid on it, obviously we needed to search the pyramid for a means of escape from the island. The pyramid, of course, was the tomb of an alt-Egyptian Pharaoh, but not all full of Mummies like you would expect. I don't remember most of the adventure in as much detail as I would like, but I do remember the highlights included being shrunk down and inside an ant farm, a trapped statue of Zeus that shot lightning and a White Cloak that I got as treasure that allowed a Priest to Commune with Zeus once/week.

What I thought was cool from a design standpoint about this world was that all the players were Human, even the Dwarves were technically Human, and that there were only vague maps. There was a pretty decent map of the homeland, and a rough map covering some coastal areas, islands and a little bit inland of the couple of military colonies the Romans had founded, everything else was ready for us to flesh out as we needed or if we wanted to. That was a world designed for exploration and exploitation, for carving out your own domains and ruling them in the name of the empire.

Sadly, part way through the first game, one of the players*, Danny N., mentioned that he knew another guy that wanted to join our D&D group. This guy was Jamie W., Danny gave Jamie a call and Jamie came over to watch the rest of the game that night. After the game broke for the night, we were in pretty high spirits, everyone but Jamie left my house. Jamie spent the next three hours explaining to me in great detail exactly what was wrong with this campaign concept, and how I could fix it. Mostly he wanted me to change it back to standard AD&D, but he also wanted me to let him play a 1/2 Ogre. He so thoroughly drained me of any enthusiasm for this campaign that we never played in it again, much to the disappointment of the other participants. I'd like to think I could give it another shot now, I am older and more secure as a DM, I'd just turned 21 then and Jamie was older than me by a couple of years, plus he really seemed to know his stuff when it came to D&D.

Oddly enough, I spent much of the 2nd edition AD&D era gaming with Jamie (and Danny, who I should really blame for this I guess), most of it as a player, but also as a DM, and I never let his attitude poison me towards a campaign afterwards, so I guess it was just the effect he has the first time you meet him, like I gained an immunity after that. Also noteworthy was that he would NOT leave, I literally stood in my doorway with him for over an hour trying to usher him out that night. He kept me up until almost 3:00AM and I had to be to work at 7:00AM the next morning. Oh well, there are so many Jamie stories, some good, some bad, Lance likes to say "There's a Jamie in every group", I add the corollary "If you can't figure out who it is, it's probably you". I haven't seen Jamie now in probably over a decade, we just fell out of touch, I did see his parent's at my parent's Christmas party this year though, and I hear he's doing well. He is married and has a daughter, they told me, which was rather shocking news to all of us that knew him back in the 1990s.

My second Roman campaign came about in the 2nd edition AD&D era too, this one was in 1995 or 1996, it was after TSR put out the Roman Campaign Sourcebook and probably inspired by my "Roman" semester of college. I was living with Mona then and she was the only player** that played in both Roman campaigns. I spent a while constructing this world, a fantasy analogue of the Mediterranean for my Romans to live in, and unlike the first Roman campaign, these were explicitly Romans, not just maybe Romans or parallel development or whatever that was left completely unexplained, these guys had been seeded here, Garnia/Stargate style. They were not the first humans seeded to this world, ancient Egyptians had been, but they had been completely conquered by goblins***, who, over generations, exterminated them. There were also extensive Dwarven kingdoms at the mountainous east end of this alt-Mediterranean.

This campaign also only lasted one session, but I learned a lot from it. First, it's possible to have too much cultural realism in your AD&D games. My girlfriend, now wife, Mona hated the world because it frankly sucks to be a woman in a realistic Roman world, your adventuring possibilities are quite limited. Second, just because it's in a TSR published HR series book doesn't mean it's a good idea to use in your game, the first couple of HR books were pretty good, but the later ones were rush jobs pushed out on the same cookie-cutter mold, just with different cultures/time periods. GURPS supplements are much better and they're still not perfect. The one adventure I ran there I used a heavily converted B series module that took place in the city of Specularum, which I had standing in for my Nova Roma. I don't honestly remember the bulk of it, but the highlights included a lisping Goblin slave NPC at gladiatorial ludus and Lance's character leaping through the seat in a public toilet into the sewers to evade pursuit.

The second Roman campaign had the advantage of my more extensive education and a TSR sourcebook to help me out, I eventually retconned it into Garnia proper at the western edge of the mega-continent and made the Dwarven kingdoms at the east end of the alt-Mediterranean sea just the western edge of Khazarak, the maps fit together perfectly as though I had planned it that way from the start, all though I had not, and the similarity in theme; Humans transplanted to a world where there are monsters and magic works, was identical to the origin of Garnia proper anyway. I never set another campaign in that area, but I always liked the idea that I could. There was a compelling "Dark Continent" to explore to the south of the alt-Egypt the Romans had conquered anyway, a huge Congo basin/rain forest/jungle area I had planned to stock with ancient pre-Human lost cities, wild savage Goblinoids and dinosaurs. I still like the area, but I clearly need to rethink my plans for keeping strictly to historical Roman social values, particularly with regard to gender roles. Mea culpa. I also need to redesign based on what I think is necessary rather than some TSR design specs, not a problem there I have been designing and redesigning stuff for Garnia for a long time now.

*I actually don't remember who all of the players were in that game, or what characters they played, I do remember that my wife Mona was a player, but that was long before we started dating and her boyfriend Bill N. played too, Bill and Danny were brothers. So with me, there were at least four players, but I really think I am forgetting at least one player.

**The other players in this game were Lance and Marty.

***Who then adopted/assimilated to their culture and were in turn conquered by the Romans. Goblins had originally enslaved the Egyptians and ruled over them as a master caste, unfortunately for the Egyptians, Goblins are largely carnivorous and breed quickly, and while they managed to ultimately civilize them, it was too late to save themselves from extinction at their master's hands.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Quick Update 04 JAN 2012

From the poll it looks like we are more interested in adding to Garnia World's various human populations rather than taking any away (except the Kushites). I like Darryl's suggestion of the Iroquois, but I am from Iroquois country so that may color my opinion. I just wish I'd thought of them myself, I mostly was sticking with old world cultures. Does anyone else have any suggestions for cultures they'd like to see added?

I am going to try and get some information about the Roman side of the Garnian mega-continental mass up tomorrow if I get time, things have been hectic here this week.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Magic and Orcs in Garnia World

The art and science of magic, how it is influenced by the powers of good and evil and a few other notes on it's relative effectiveness.

After talking with Darryl on the phone the other night we had a pretty productive talk about magic, the how and why of it, both divine and arcane; honestly not my favorite topic, but it was a breakthrough conversation. What it all comes down to is that Arcane spell-casters of the traditional variety are like magical scientists. Divine spell-casters tap into the same source of magic through their faith. The magical power is the same in both cases, it's just how it is accessed that is different. Darryl also postulated that there could be and should be natural spell-casters, like the Sorcerer class from 3e; I actually don't really have a problem with this, but it is going to require some creative working in on my part, or our parts, to make it fit a more old school D&D system; by which I mean create a Sorcerer class for B/X or AD&D. I suppose the key important note here is that it means that there really doesn't need to be a separate spell list for each class, although that option remains available if, as DM, you want it so.

Now, the parts that are less well thought out, but still noteworthy. We mentioned before that there were magic rich, magic poor and magic dead areas in Garnia World. This isn't a unique idea, they had them in the Forgotten Realms too, so I should probably look into how they worked there and see if I can just copy that system or if it was stupid and I'll have to make my own. I was thinking along the idea of Ley Lines, and that Frodia, in particular, just happened to be sitting at a strong conjunction of Ley Lines and that's why the Sidhe empire built their schools of Wizardry there, and why the Frodians are such powerful Wizards themselves. I am also thinking there may be "Magic Tides" for lack of a better term, times when magic across the world is either at stronger or weaker levels, but this is a level of detailed complexity that can be left up to an individual DM running a Garnia campaign to track if he wants to.

Good and Evil zones; EGG mentions these in the 1st edition AD&D DMG, mostly about how it's harder to turn undead or make saving throws in an Evil temple, I expand this a little bit in Garnia to include some larger geographical areas that have been corrupted by the forces of evil.

Ritual spell casting. Honestly I don't know why this has been absent from D&D since the dawn of time, but I understand it is present in Carcosa and in 4th edition D&D (neither of which I have, although I understand Carcosa is a very good product), I intend to bring it in to Garnia. I sent Darryl a link to someone's website where they had essentially stripped 4th edition's version down to an OD&D context and it ended up looking a lot like Chainmail's Fantasy Supplement Rules for spell casting, I am not sure if that's the take on it that I'd go with but if I can dig it up again I'll take a look at it and give it a test; as I recall it was mostly that it cast directly from the spellbook any spell and cost extra time and money(components). I was also thinking of an evil variant where you could recharge your magic through sacrifices, but I haven't worked it out at all yet. I got the idea from watching my son play Skyrim and he recharges his Mana all the time with the souls of his slain enemies, it creeps me out.

Now, this all makes the Orc kingdom in what used to be part of Northern Garnia make a little more sense, if you take a few things as given. First, that Orcs are tougher than standard Humans and both Breed faster and grow to maturity quicker (remember this world was built on 1st edition AD&D at it's core, so some of the AD&D-isms just aren't going away no matter how RPG rules neutral I try and make the setting). Second, Orcs are LAWFUL Evil, which means they are well organized. Third, and I have always made this assumption, some Orcs can level up; it makes sense, they get tougher tribal leaders and their bodyguards/champions (Fighters) and both Shamans (Clerics) and Witch-Doctors(Cleric/Magic-Users). Fourth, they have average intelligence, although leaning towards the low end, so probably a -1 on their INT stat.

So, if we add the magic rules proposed, their religion is evil. They live to dominate and love cruelty, so that could taint an area with their foulness rather quickly. That gives them an Evil bonus in their geographical area. If they get the bonus of ritual casting, they could be practicing foul rituals pretty much non-stop, to protect the area they control. If we give them the proposed Evil sacrifice bonus, then that probably makes up for the fact that their spell-casters are generally going to be not as proficient as Humans, they can recharge more frequently for more effectiveness to protect and expand their domain. Add on top of that they can breed with pretty much everything*, the only thing specifically excluded in the 1st edition AD&D MM is Elves, and they have a ready 5th column of spies and assassins** to extend their reach and the more powerful hybrids to help defend their lands. I also kind of leaned a little more heavily towards the Uruk-Hai version of the Orc than the standard AD&D version when I made these guys a kingdom, so maybe they should be considered more like 2nd edition Orogs instead? Not so much because I really need them to be tougher, but because they have an above ground kingdom and having a -1 to hit all day, every day pretty much sucks; although their infravision means that night time raids are going to be both common and effective tactics, so maybe that cancels out.

So, the only question then is what do we name this Orcish kingdom? I was thinking Ríocht na Fir Muc (Kingdom of the Pig-Men), because I am firmly in the Pig-Faced Orcs camp, or Talamh Chaill (Lost Lands), because it's kind of sad and poetic. Both of those are modern Gaelic and will need to be Garnianized, but they are close now for comparison.

*Specifically mentioned are Goblins, Hobgoblins and Humans. The Ogrillon in the FF is an Orc/Ogre cross breed that passes for Orc. The Mongrelman in the MM II is specifically mentioned as being part Orc. EGG mentioned in his Gord the Rogue books that Orcs bred with Baboons to create "Losels", appearing in the "Mammal" entry in the 2nd edition AD&D Monstrous Manual. Apparently Orcs are worse than drunken frat boys and 50 times as fertile. For the purposes of Garnia, lets assume that they can't breed with Dwarves or Halflings or any other inherently Good Aligned race, it seems logical, all of the examples of their cross breeds are either from Evil species or Neutral ones, Humans included.

**10% of 1/2 Orcs pass as members of their non-Orcish parent species.

And now, a bunch of pictures of what Orcs are supposed to look like, rather than that Games Workshop or World of Warcraft nonsense.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Wodanslunder Poetry

The art is "Ride of the Rohirrim" by bintavivi on deviantart, used without permission.

Forst sceal freosan, fyr wudu meltan,
eorþe growan, is brycgian,
wæter helm wegan, wundnun lucan
corþan cibas. An sceal inbindan
forstes fetre felameahtig Þunor;
winter sceal geweorpan, weder eft cuman,
sumor swegle hat, sund unstille.

In English-

Frost shall freeze, fire consume wood,
earth produce growth, ice form a bridge,
water wear helm, wondrously confine
the young sprouts of earth. One shall unbind
the fetters of frost, Thunor Almighty.
Winter shall pass, fair weather return,
summer hot with sun. Unquiet the sound