24 July 2014

The Mercian Elves

The Kingdom Gilead was born when elves arrived in the lands far north of Weyland. Like the Elves of Cadiz, they arrived mysteriously. Unlike their cousins to the south, they did not come as conquerors. They adopted a more exploratory attitude, befriending the native humans and beginning an exchange of goods and ideas that eventually led to degrees of assimilation and cooperation on both sides. Rumors persist that the Mercian elves were fleeing persecution by the Elves of Cadiz. That might explain some of the lingering animosity between the two; animosity that manifests itself in the various struggles over the Western Barony. 

Traditionally, Merican elves also worship Jad, though many also see aspects of the sun god in the moon, which becomes personified as Selus, a figure vague in face and gender. The Cult of Selus may have been responsible for the split between the Cadizian and Mercian elves, contributing to the Merican’s fleeing their homeland. Most of this is mere speculation, however.

Symbol from DeviantArt user dreamingnoctis: http://www.deviantart.com/art/Sun-and-moon-symbol-335915612

Mercian Elves correspond to wood elves in the Dungeons and Dragons Basic Rules.

22 July 2014

The Elves of Cadiz

They came in tall ships, with golden hair and sparkling eyes. They came wielding magic as easy as they breathed. They came. And they conquered.

Elves in Weyland are not natives, they are descendants of the explorers and conquerors who arrived at the continent some 900 years prior to the present day. Here, in the south, they razed entire civilizations, enslaving the native humans in their quest for gold and magic. In the north, elves arrived later, building a relationship with the native humans that culminated in the Kingdom of Gilead. 

The southern elves are better known as The Elves of Cadiz. What, exactly, Cadiz means no one seems to know (or the elves aren't telling). Most believe Cadiz refers to the great elvish homeland across the ocean, but there is some debate about that. Granted, elves leave in ships and never return, but no non-elf has ever seen the elvish homeland. The Elves of Cadiz correspond to the "High Elf" subrace in the D&D Basic Rules, with all the associated bonuses and proficiencies. For a historical analogue, think 16th Century Spain. They tend to be fierce warriors, cunning wizards, or fanatical clerics. 

The Elves of Cadiz are quasi-monotheistic, worshiping Jad. 

Jad is personified by the sun, which features prominently in the church's iconography. The Jaddite Church is theologically large and sprawling, with sects devoted to certain aspects of the sun (like dawn or dusk) or venerating past heroes or kings like saints. Initial forays into the area that became Weyland were largely church affiliated, which resulted in many missions dotting the Barony. Many of these are now abandoned as the influence of the elves has waned, yet most humans in Weyland ostensibly belong to the Church of Jad.

The Cadizian Elves feel Weyland is theirs and have tried numerous times to retake it. They have been stopped by the native humans and dwarves, together with the forces of Gilead. Many Cadizian elves still live in the barony, some openly armed and advocating independence or a return of elvish rule.

Influences -- Spanish history (especially their conquest of Mexico), Texas history, Pelor from various incarnations of D&D, The Lions of al-Rasan by Guy Gavriel Kay, Tolkien

21 July 2014

Weyland, or The Western Barony: Introduction

Rugged mountains hiding deep dwarven ruins. Grassy plains populated by wild horses. Worn hills where creeks empty into deep, still pools. Shady forests of oak, hiding forgotten settlements. Chalky desert where bones erode under the incessant wind. Broken lands which hide those who don’t want to be found. This is The Western Barony.

Many, most call this borderland by the name of it’s capital and largest city — Weyland.

Weyland is the Western Barony of The Kingdom of Gilead. It’s a borderland, far from the machinations of the Kingdom, visited by caravans and traders. It’s a place of exile. Those fleeing trouble in the Kingdom find there way here, at the far reach of the King’s Law. Once, it was a place of penance; prisoners were sent from all over the kingdom to the feared Stonegate Prison. Nominally ruled by a Baron, few of his laws make their way into the lands beyond the capital. 

Conflict is everywhere. The Elves of Cadiz have long seen Weyland as theirs by right and conquest and have sparred with the forces of Gilead over the region. The native humans, those who haven’t been assimilated into the ways of the kingdom, keep to themselves, but many still harbor just resentment of both the elves and Gilead. The exile dwarves are often hemmed into ghettos in Weyland and the other cities, never speaking of what drove them from their mountain homes a generation ago. Halflings remain as servants to the elves, but many have gained their freedom and try to lead quiet lives. Gnolls and bugbears menace ranches and caravans, with whispers of darker beasts creeping down from the mountains. 

Opportunity awaits the brave, lucky, or foolish. Caravan guards, prospectors, treasure seekers, and even headhunters ply their trade in the canyons and deserts. The weak and unprepared need their defenders. The outlaws need to be brought to justice, especially when little has been heard from Gilead.

It’s mythic Texas meets The Dark Tower meets Blood Meridian. It’s Weyland.

02 March 2012

A Nice Quote from Adventurer, Conqueror, King

My gaming reading lately has been Adventurer, Conqueror, King.  I'll post more detailed thoughts soon; I really do like it, even its many "fiddly bits" as my friend Risus Monkey would say.  But I did come across this quote last night and wanted to share it right away.  It's from the section on dungeon construction and traps.
To kill adventurers with unexpected traps is a hollow pleasure for the Judge; to kill them with traps they decided to trigger, despite every warning of the lethal risks, is deeply satisfying. (p 241)
If nothing else, that demonstrates the Old School roots of ACKS. :)

01 March 2012

The Pathfinder Character Decision

Thanks to all the people that commented on the post wherein I asked about what I should do with Culver, my Pathfinder bard.  Most people said "go rogue" (heh), but I ignored them all and stayed with bard.  This decision was made largely due to some advice given via Google + and my find of a "guide to bards in Pathfinder" netbook via the Paizo forums.  I did go back and retool him with some different skill, feat, and spell choices.

The netbook was especially helpful for two reasons.  First, it helped me better understand some of the bard class abilities, when they could be used, and how to get the most out of them (yes, optimization).  For example, I did not realize the Well-Versed class ability let me use my Perform (oratory) skill in place of diplomacy and sense motive.  Thus, there's no point in putting ranks in those skills.  With a better understanding of what he could do, I was able to go back and reskill and re-feat him.  I feel a lot better about how and when he is able to contribute, even though there is now some overlap between this bard and the party paladin, skill wise.

Second, the netbook gave three different ways in which the bard could be configured to be useful in combat.  I hate the term "builds," but that's exactly what these are.  Given Culver's poor strength, the one that made the most sense was a missile-weapon sort of bard.  I really didn't have to change much about the character to make that focus happen; I just made sure I ended up with the bunch of magical arrows we found in the previous adventure :)

Armed with this advice and resource, I went back and rebuilt Culver from level one.  I was careful to make sure he could still do all the things he had done in his past advenures, but did make some changes.  I feel much better about him in terms of his mechanics and how he ought to contribute to the party.  His personality is still emerging, but last weeks session could likely have have a signficant imact on Culver, who he is, and his place in the campaign.

29 February 2012

I guess I took February off

It was unintentional.  Just caught up in life and trying to figure out how, when, and where to spend my Social Media Time.  I am not sure I've really figured out the later, but will be back to posting some gaming related stuff here in March.

Here's a quick rundown of a few gaming happenings in my world:

  • I resolved the Pathfinder character dilemma, but we've really only played once since then.  That session wasn't the best for testing out my choices.  In fact, it was very frustrating in many ways.  But it did feature one of the coolest moments I've ever been able to pull off in a game as a player.
  • I participated in North Carolina game day.
  • I bought the PDF of Adventurer, Conqueror, King.  I haven't finished it yet, but really like what I have read.
  • I came up with a cool campaign frame for an ACKS game; I am trying to see if it will fit with the desert setting I keep tinkering with.
  • I've played few games via G+ Hangout and have enjoyed them.  

26 January 2012

Why Less is More -- My Pathfinder Character Dilemma

I'm currently playing in the serpent's skull adventure path and having a lot of fun.  My group is solid, the adventure is a nice blend of mystery, exploration, and combat, and the DM does a great job.  We've just completed the first book of the AP and are currently gearing up for a trek into the Mwangi Expanse.  Now, let me tell you about my character. . .

Really, what I want is some help with this guy.  Culver Farwalker is an adventurer's adventurer.  He's motivated by finding lost ruins, discovering new knowledge, and, yes, gaining some loot in the process.  One of his major goals is to become a member of the Pathfinder Society.  He's mostly heroic when it comes to his friends, but is certainly more motivated by uncovering relics than any sort of greater good.  Indiana Jones is certainly an inspiration.

Is this slight of hand?  But then how do I get weapon specialization: whip?

All of this is great and I feel pretty comfortable with Culver now after some initial misgivings.  But notice something about the above description -- it has nothing to do with class or abilities.  He could be anything!  So I am having trouble figuring out what he should be.  Technically, he's a bard, but I don't feel terribly comfortable with that choice.  I've been given permission to "reskin" him into a different class.  This leads me with a problem and some observations.

Problem:  What should I do with him, class wise?  The party has a fighter, cleric, paladin, and a wizard.  The wizard's player isn't very experienced, so doesn't make the best choices regarding spell choice and use.  He also misses some games due to work.  Thus we have a 30% wizard.  What can he be that will help the party, be fun to play, and not, well, suck?


  • I can't help but think that, in Old School sorts of games, this dilemma wouldn't be an issue.  That is, the choice of race/class wouldn't matter as much because of all the things we know about old school gaming (no skills, player skill matters a lot, party balance and composition not as important, etc).  But these things DO matter a lot in Pathfinder, so I can't help but engage in some sort of character optimization.
  • Boy, Pathfinder has a lot of options.  Just in the SRD, there are core classes and base classes.  Each one of those, in turn, has archetypes!  Some, like the sorcerer, have further options like bloodlines.  I know many people see this as a feature, but I can't help but be struck by option paralysis as I try to see how all those things could be combined to fit the concept.  I want Culver to know things about history, ancient cults, and the peoples of Golarion.  So do I need to take a class that has a lot of skill points so that he can put some into various knowledge skills?  But just knowing things makes for a somewhat crappy character in a game where one fights monsters and runs into traps, so how do I get some combat ability out of this guy while still allowing him to do the things that no one else in the party can do -- like disarm traps?
  • The above, especially, has led me to the conclusion that comprehensive skill lists are much more of a hindrance than a help and I vastly prefer systems with few or no skills.
Since I can't make Culver into a fighting-man, what am I to do?