Showing posts from March, 2010
A Crisis of Population Density
A static, hereditary aristocracy seems illogical in a world where adventurers accumulate wealth and power in epic proportions. My aim is to describe a setting that is much more an extrapolation of the D&D rules, rather than an emulation of a pseudo-Medieval, low fantasy setting.

Which is not to say that Helsmuth and Eastrealm do not contain pseudo-Medieval elements and an aristocratic class. However, that is not the driving force of civilization. Instead, the basic building block is the adventurer who achieves "name level" and establishes a stronghold. This harks back to 1st edition AD&D, which is part of why I like it, but is still just as relevant in 3rd edition (particularly with the Landlord Feat as described in the Stronghold Builder's Guidebook, and the Leadership feat as described in the DMG).

Many sourcebooks such as A Magical Medieval Society: Western Europe and Dungeon Masters Guide 2are founded on the assumpti…

My D&D Campaign

Actual Play thread at

The thread begins with session #30, which is admittedly suboptimal. Older sessions, including James Thomson's awesome module the Maze of Screaming Silence, are available on my campaign wiki.
I haven't written AP reports for every session, which is why I chose to do it that way. I still have my notes for most of them, though, and do intend to write them up at some stage. The November 2009 session, when the party slays a black dragon, is still a work in progress.
The game started out as an attempt at an urban sandbox (session #1, July 2005 => session #6, August 2006). However, that fell pretty flat with my players, who felt that they really didn't have enough information to make meaningful decisions about what to do. When I introduced the plot hook for the Maze of Screaming Silence (one of the characters began having foreboding dreams) they jumped at it.
Most of the next 9 sessions were spent in transit, since the maze was located "at th…
En Route
Preventing an overland journey from deteriorating into a tedious succession of random encounters has always been a struggle for me as a DM. Therefore, when the player characters found themselves over 300 miles from the next plot point in the main storyline, I was keen to try out some of Penumbra's mini-adventures:

Dancin' The Night Away 
"A travelling party is charmed into serving at a pixie's dance and must escape." 
very harsh: all of the DC 20+ Will saves are not something that I would want to inflict on my players very often. If you take away their ability to act, then you reduce them to a passive audience. They are sure to find this trying on their patience. However, it is in keeping with the reputation of the fey as enchanters and illusionists. Gwydd and his band of cheeky tricksters are only after a bit of fun at the adventurers' expense, but their ploy stands a significant risk of backfiring. The player who heard Amadan's warning should have …
Fields of Blood: The Book Of War
Eden Studios have created a truly impressive pen & paper resource management sim. They describe in detail how a DM and players can incorporate these rules into their D&D 3.5 campaign. For 10th-20th level characters who decide to establish a stronghold and raise an army, this book provides a comprehensive, coherent basis for adding wargaming to your roleplaying.

However, there are aspects of these rules that are unsuitable for my own game: the rules operate on a fixed level of detail and impose certain assumptions on the way that settlements function.

Mass combat involves units of 100 basic troops, or their equivalent (a handful of giants, or one dragon). Resource management employs hexes with maximal diameter of 12 miles (just under 100 square miles in area). Since the empires in my game span millions of square miles, it is infeasible for me to describe every hamlet and outpost in such painstaking detail. Likewise, clashes between armies of thou…

Encounter Distance

Maximum spotting distance in the DMG goes up to 6d6x40ft on the plains, for creatures up to Colossal size. However, some Spelljammer ships are even bigger than that. Also, unless you are in an asteroid field or close to a planet, there is nothing to obscure vision. You don't even have the usual limit of the distance to the horizon, which is an important factor in naval combat.

In real life, the main difficulties are the contrast/lighting conditions (wooden ships wouldn't reflect much light, but the white sails of some vessels would) and the angular size of the object.

A medium-size creature (say, 6ft in height) between 240ft and 1440ft away would have an angular size of between 14 and 86 arc minutes. It is a DC 20 Spot check to notice the creature at that distance.

A Drow/Neogi Deathspider with 175ft beam length would appear to be the same size if it was between 7,000ft and 43,000ft (8 miles) away. So if the lookout succeeds at a DC 20 Spot check, then he or she would notice the …