Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Elves of all kinds

Between myself and a player in my campaign, Elves have made an appearance in Angadurgh. They are different - both from Tolkien's and "standard" D&D. The notion here is that the Elves are pre-downfall (of the drow). That there are no hard and fast lines between the various types (Eladrin, Elf and Drow) - but rather the various powers and characteristics are blended in many different combinations.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Moving Poles (and some theory)

The frigid polar region corresponding to the Earth's Arctic Circle (that area which receives at least one 24 hour day of full darkness) is about 4,000 kilometres across. This zone shifts constantly at about 100 km per year, meaning that over an average person's life-time (say 70 years), the climate can shift from polar Arctic, to sub-Arctic and into temperate zones - or almost two full climactic zones. There can be one zone-shift in as few as 40 years, or a zone could persist as long as 120 years, depending on how obliquely the zone moves over the observer.

However, it is possible (and quite likely) that the pole will transit obliquely to any one spot on the surface, and not pass directly over that spot for hundreds of years. This could mean that a particular climate could be over one spot for a considerable period of time - perhaps centuries, or that more likely, an area oscillates around 2 or 3 climates for a few centuries before being thrown into the deep freeze.

The poles oscillate (or wobble) about the surface of Angadurgh in an overlapping sinusoidal fashion, ultimately tracing the entire surface over time. The appearance of the planet from space (if sped up) would look like a spinning top as it decays - wobbling in a circular fashion with a certain pattern to its seeming chaos.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Dying Cities

Jak dove to the ground in mid stride hauling his sister down behind the fallen log, as he wrapped his cloak around her face to muffle her cry. He struggled to control his own ragged breath as he took out his Gun and removed the oily rag covering the priming pan. The things that hunted them were far enough away (he hoped) that they would not have seen them drop out of sight. Jak and his sister had been running for the best part of an hour, deeper and deeper into the forest. The shadowy creatures followed, always at the edge of vision, flitting from tree to tree, ever closing.

It seemed like ages had passed since they had been sitting together in the family tower. Jak leaning against the window and gazing over the interminable forests as his sister bemoaned her fate. Their step-father, never the diplomat had announced her betrothal just the day before, with the wedding itself to be in two weeks time. Just long enough for the groom's family to travel from the nearest city-state rival, Kellinstat. Jak had always wondered what lay beyond the next hill. What it meant to survive beyond the walls and confines of the dwindling citadel. He hadn't really thought Sarei would agree to his suggestion when he challenged her to run away with him. Right now, he wished she had put up some more resistance.

The cities hold the last libraries above ground, as well as tight clans of old families, generally inbred as well as dangerously paranoid and xenophobic. Around the towers of the highborn cluster ramshackle cottages and tightly packed terraces of houses, where dwell the serving classes, artisans, and merchants who deal with the outside. Highborn of the cities tend to be educated, and have access to certain technologies such as arcane magic of the Wizardly variety, and alchemy such as black powder, steel, primitive steam driven machinery and coal-gas. Use of these and other technologies is by no means widespread in the cities, but neither is it unheard of. Most of the tools and dies used in the creation of the technological items are ancient beyond knowledge, and cannot be re-created by any techniques available at present, but there are dies and diagrams for making crude pistols and blunderbusses, as well as single-piston reciprocating steam engines, crude airships and a terrifying inventory of torture devices.

Rumours exist of even more exotic artifacts in the holding of some of the oldest families - weapons so terrible that whole armies might be vanquished if they only had the key to their function - or the fuel they required.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Divine characters

I have mentioned already that the deities in Angadurgh will be fickle, egotistical and not particularly reliable (although still very powerful).

I see this playing out in a way that divine characters will have to make "concordance" checks, much like those for artefacts. Being "in concordance" makes it very likely that ones divine powers will work as usual. Being out of concordance will make it unlikely. I would actually recommend that players build hybrid characters, so that they can at least draw from their non-divine class when the gods fail them.

The mechanic would be based on a modified d20 roll at the beginning of each encounter (or before using any divine powers such as rituals outside of encounters). If the roll succeeds, all is well, divine powers will work as expected. If the roll fails, then divine powers will be "variable" in result. A roll on a table will determine what happens when a power is used. Results will range from "works as usual, but with a minor non-mechanical side-effect, through simply not working at all, to wreaking significant damage and/or conditions to the caster and those around her.

As for following the wishes of the deities, the DM will have to follow/create plotlines for them. Using their personalities, and some pattern of events taking place in the heavens, one can create a dynamic that would have the Gods demanding certain actions of their mortal followers as they (the deities) jockey for position, carry out vendettas, or vie for prestige in their heavenly realms.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Savage Races

Angadurgh, with its shifting climactic zones and occasional sudden upheavals has destroyed entrenched civilisations, and snuffed out nascent ones. However strange and exotic niche races have found room to persist, if not thrive. I have mentioned the Sky-pirate flying elves. Now I come to the Sasquatch. Indeed, bigfoot is alive and well - albeit as reclusive as ever. The legendary Sasquatch live in and around the islands of freezing polar climate. They seemingly come in two varieties - the high-mountain or sub-polar white Sasquatch, or Yeti, and the more commonly encountered brown furred variety that inhabits the surrounding sub-arctic and cool temperate zones.

These heavily furred, tribal humanoids are strong and enduring, as a race that preys on the giant Mastodon - while avoiding the Sabre-toothed Tiger would have to be. Averaging 7 feet tall and 300 lbs, they tower over their human cousins although they can disappear in a trice in their natural habitat.

This rounds out the main playable races that have already been assigned a place in Angadurgh. Doubtless more will come to me as I flesh out other parts of the setting (or would be players plead for their personal favourites).

Monday, June 14, 2010

A Nod to Tolkien

There is one place where I would like to see a concept lifted almost whole cloth from the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. I have always loved the Dunedain - the long lived, super-human humans of Numenor of whom Elessar, Aragorn was born. To me it is something of an omission that their representation in D&D is as the Ranger character class. I see them as a race and a lineage and Angadurgh has a place for them. They are the people in whose tongue Angadurgh is named - the Durough E'na An - the people of the land as they are known in their ancient language.

They originate before the calamity, and are one of the peoples responsible for the marvellous but decaying cities that form oases in the ever changing landscapes of Angadurgh. Their closest D&D analog would be the Deva, or Aasimar. A noble but diminishing race "never more, but sometimes fewer". Like the Deva, I see them as being reborn over and over - perhaps by some ancient magic, or even a lingering divine connection.

No one knows exactly how many there are - perhaps one or two thousand Durough E'na An in the whole of Angadurgh, and they are rarely found in gatherings of any size. Twenty Enaan (as they are known in the common speech) is considered a host - and would never be seen except as some great event.

Although as a people they are slowly diminishing - every generation or so some few fail to be reborn for reasons unknown to outsiders - they are not resigned or bitter. Rather they labour seemingly tirelessly on great tasks and quests known only to them and perhaps a few scholars. They are known to maintain the library city of Engedda - although few outside their ranks can read the tomes stored there, and the Enaan themselves seem to read them only occasionally.

Underground Race

So many people love Dwarves, incuding myself, that I couldn't bring myself to leave them out of the setting.

Using my initial ideas about Angadurg's climate, this would have some indirect effect even on underground dwellers. Instead of isolated, dwindling clans, the decay of civilization on the surface, caused in part by the rotating climate actually allowed Dwarven clans to survive, and centralize. Without technologically advanced surface dwellers competing for minerals and metals, the Dwarves were able to grow and prosper. Of course not all threats were reduced, and the Dwarves are as ever militaristic and organized. In fact, they have taken advantage of the lack of organization amongst most surface dwellers to control many mine access point on the surface even in the midst of nominally human lands. As the surface dwellers struggle against predators and competition, the Dwarves would arrive with large, well formed armies and "negotiate" their terms for "mutual cooperation" while they extracted the mineral wealth of the area.

Indeed, the human villages would thrive under Dwarven protection. Their populations would rise as agriculture could proceed largely unhindered by the ravages of savage species or vicious monsters and a new merchant class would be allowed to deal with other human settlements for sale of precious forged metal tools and weapons. Few human settlements have successfully resisted Dwarven economic colonization and gone on to successfully exploit their own resources. Generally, the relationship can be seen as symbiotic, although as in most business dealings, it seems to favour the Dwarves in the long term.

The Dwarven military is somewhat modelled on the ancient Roman style. Much like the Romans, they bring fine engineering works such as roads, aqueducts and fortifications wherever they go.

In terms of beliefs and culture, the Dwarves believe that their attitudes and practices are manifestly superior to those of most any cultures they meet, since they are so obviously successful in the only ways that count to most Dwarves. In other words, they believe it is the manifest destiny of Dwarves to either succeed over, or ultimately control all other intelligent races. That said, they are somewhat xenophobic, and the increased contact with other races that their expansion has incurred is making many in Dwarven society very uncomfortable. While not as a whole directly cruel or evil in intent, many a Dwarf views other races as at least mildly inferior, if not with outright contempt.