Wednesday 21 May 2014

Getting Bothered on the Street of Most Gods

In my Mad Archmage campaign I have recently found it appropriate to represent the nearby Grey City by inverting Greyhawk Grognard's reconstruction of Gygaxian Greyhawk, from several sources. However, the players had previously run across a "Street of Most Gods" that did not exist canonically, so I had to take a sparse quarter just south (formerly north) of the Citadel, draw in some buildings, and designate it thus.

"Most Gods" excludes the obviously demonic and Chaotic cults, the beast cults, nature and druidical religions (some have shrines in the park), gods of faraway nations (some shrines in the Foreign Quarter) and various other misfits. The gods themselves are a mixture of historical, fictional, and the best of Greyhawk. Some, like Crom, Ygg and various saints, have a long pedigree across my campaigns.

The key to the Street may also be used as a botherment table. Roll d% on it, with the stipulation that 31-40 involves a vicarious conflict between two or more religions (roll twice, and twice more if 31-40 show up, etc.) A result of 1-30 means you are approached by a proselytizing member of that religion, who makes a morale roll to determine dedication (low: easily dismissed; medium: moderately patient; high: dogged and annoying) and a reaction roll to determine approach (low: overbearing; medium: reasonable; high: ingratiating).

1. The Grey Goddess (One of the two patrons of the city, beloved of the common folk and of those grander folk running for office, she watches over the river side to the west. Her clergy are not against trade, but tend to support aggressive policies regarding the neighboring towns and regions.)
2. The Lake Goddess (As the Grey Goddess but watching over the lake side, and with a more conciliatory, free-trade politics. Supporters of the two goddesses sometimes come to heated discussion and blows, especially at sporting events and festivals. )
3. Ishtar (Childbirth, motherhood. Propitiated in the practicalities of bearing and raising children.)
4. The Cyprian (Love, sex, prostitution - the latter two of which are carried out as sacraments within. Unspeakable carvings and murals on the temple facade mean that chaste folks often enter the Street through the southern entrances).
5. The Iron God (Metallurgy, endurance. Little is known of this mysterious deity except for the large and curiously stylized iron statue that dwells within.)
6. Arcade of Petty Gods (Storefront chapels, rented by the month. Choose or invent an implausible yet sometimes-useful deity on the spot.)
7. The Sisters Three (Freya, maiden; Urda, mother; Yaga, crone. These are a trinity of Northern goddesses with a grim and fatalistic outlook on life, but nonetheless they help those who deserve it.)
8. Ygg (Knowledge, at any price. This Northern god of caves and valleys exhorts his followers to seek out experience and understanding, but seems to be open to all kind of legends and hearsay. Priests rise in the ranks by telling of seven wonders they have seen since their last elevation, undergoing a physical ordeal that gets tougher as they rise higher.)
9. Crom (Strength and self-reliance. This Northern god is the rival of Ygg and prefers a straightforward approach, being associated with bare skin, big weapons and mountain tops.)
10. Dame Fortuna (Fate and fortune. A remote goddess who supposedly controls all manner of fates, dooms and coincidences. People propitiate her and her insane consort Tirtir of the Wheel, in spite of the general belief that doing so has no effect on the ordainments of the future.)
11. Ralishaz (Bad luck and tragedy. Often an offering to Fortuna will be followed by a visit to this temple, adjacent, to ensure the avoidance of misfortune as well as the courting of good fortune. Invoked in the same spirit as our world invokes Murphy's law.)
12. Diabolic Cathedral (Closed by decree of the Council, ostensibly because it was being operated as an untaxed saloon, prostibulum and gambling den, in spite of  -- or because of? -- its dedication to the netherworld forces that justify Law by tempting man to sin and punishing him for it.)
13. The Reaper (Serenity in death. Opposed to Chaos, demons and the undead but not strictly lawful and more than a little evil. Assassins, morticians, mourners and the suicidal are the congregation. Self-sacrifice is a common rite.)
14. Hextor (Violence, brutality, war. A god of the Great Kingdom, formerly Great Empire, to the east. The cruellest of the three gods of war, worshipped by soldiers and bodyguards.)
15. The Silent God (Commerce and crime. This huge and wealthy temple shows the effect of pitting merchants and thieves against each other to gain the Silent God's favor in their struggle. Together with Grey and Lake Goddesses, one of those deities worshipped chiefly within the Grey City.)
16. Bellona (Strategy, competition, war. A neutral presence worshipped mainly by mercenary officers, as well as by game players, suitors, merchants, and politicians.)
17. Pholtus of the Blinding Light (A Lawful god whose followers believe other gods don’t exist, and are most intemperate in their fanaticism, especially towards other "backsliding" Law believers.)
18. Hieroneus (The Lawful god of holy war, righteousness, the brother of Hextor and another Great Kingdom god, worshipped by paladins and the self-styled righteous.)
19. St. Cuthbert (A Lawful saint of tradition and determination, known for a curmudgeonly outlook.)
20. St. Gary (A strange but Lawful cult of self-knowledge that for a fee will characterize you in terms of "alignment," "abilities," "level" and other abstruse and divisive concepts. Their gospel of success and self-improvement appeals to entrepreneurs and adventurers.)
21. Great Brigid (The patron of sanctified motherhood. She is the Lawful alternative to both Ishtar and the Cyprian and her clergy pushes a judgmental, marriage-and-chastity line heavily.)
22. St. Eulena (A Lawful figure of mercy, all-forgiving, compassionate and nonviolent, which would be great except she expects you to behave the same way.)
23. Celestian (An old and benevolent if remote god, associated with night and stars, cosmic vision, and far travels. The dome of his temple is an observatory, and the spire a curious structure rumored to be a dock for some kind of aerial vessel; the interior continues the cosmic theme.)
24. Fharlanghn (God of the road and terrestrial journeys, kind but not lawful. Merchants, teamsters and adventurers honor him. His temple has many entrances, and devotion is shown by walking the paths within correctly.)
25. Tritherea (Goddess of the three beasts, which represent land, sky and sea. She promotes heroism and freedom, appealing to Robin Hood types and those who stand to benefit from such activity. Viewed as subversive by the Council, the temple stands under constant surveillance and possibly infiltration.)
26. Arcade of Dead Gods (Eerie and mostly deserted enclosed arcade memorializing gods who have died, or at least vacated this plane, due to lack of patronage. Clergy are usually lone individuals who seek to re-awaken the god through group worship.)
27. Arcade of Apocryphal Saints (Maintained by popular contribution and studiously ignored by the Church, this arcade holds chapels to popular but un-canonical religious figures such as SS. Hermas, Eracle, Uncumber, Gumption, Guinefort the Hound, Foutin, Amaro, Santa Muerte, etc.)
28-30: Grand Cathedral of Law: dedicated to the Spirit of Law, to the Pancreator, and to all canonical saints and Lawful gods without a separate temple.

Friday 16 May 2014

Earth World

The first of four d20x3 tables with predictable themes ... if not content.

Me, I want to see me some Aristotelian elementals every once in a while: Hot, Dry, Cold and Wet. But cliches must be served!

Thursday 15 May 2014

Saints, Gods and Pretty Pictures

Thought I'd share a long-standing illustration I've been using to introduce players to the canon of saints and holy days in my original campaign world (well, original in the sense that it's yet another way to present Is-Europe-Is-Not-Europe) ...

Click, enlarge
This approach leads me to think how else illustrations could be repurposed by a world creator in need of a quick and dirty pantheon. For example, Sidney Sime's illustrations could illustrate an exotic, Tekumel-like religion ...

Not the god of square dealing
But a surprisingly good resource is the Marvel universe, in particular searched under "gods." Thor over the years had dealt with many other pantheons, and the more obscure of these make great god-fodder for an original campaign ....

And if you can stand this level of comic-bookery then maybe you could just cut out the middleman and have your world worship one of the more obscure groups of superheroes. Like for example, I dunno, the Young Gods:
In fact, names like "Highnote" and "Splice" are just begging to be filed off, and I'm not sure how even as actual superheroes, these people can face the modern world they never made each morning. She's the sun goddess Zos, he's the moon god Elu, together they fight crime. Much better.

Tuesday 13 May 2014

Another Greyhawk-Chicago Correspondence

Yes, it's widely known that Gary Gygax explicitly said that the city of Greyhawk in his original campaign was located on an altered map of North America where Chicago was, and Dyvers, likewise, was based on the location of Milwaukee.

But I don't think it's been observed that when it came time for him to draw the city ...

(based on the map from City of Hawks, which he approved)

it looks a bit like an upside-down map of Chicago's downtown area, "The Loop," with a large body of fresh water on one side and a smaller river curving around to enclose the city proper:

This also lends credence to the idea that on a larger scale, the World of Greyhawk more or less corresponds to an upside-down North America, with snippets of right-side-up geography like Lake Superior thrown in.

Thursday 8 May 2014

Bite-Sized Camping Idea

From Notes on Camp to notes on camping ... I guess it makes sense. Inspired by this post of Telecanter's I boiled down a simple rule for the wilderness.

A tense camping situation is one in which you are foregoing the normal comforts of rest time - song, chatter, fire - in order to be inconspicuous. In this kind of situation, cowering silently in the dark, you only recover 1 hp / night no matter what your level. Bear in mind that I see hit points as intangible shielding against serious physical injury.

In a normal camping situation you incur a greater risk of encounters but sleeping recovers you 1 hp per level per night. In a sense the higher level characters get more benefit from whistling past the graveyard and living large.

In some of my previous games I tried and failed to grant this rate if you were not keeping watch -- it just didn't make sense in the wilderness and I could never get players to see that not keeping watch is a sign that you are feeling secure. So now, I'd say that if you have a normal camp you can keep watch and that might even help people feel more secure.

Now, for parties that insist on keeping watch when they are guests in an inn or someone's house... In civilization the expectations are different, and keeping watch (like CCTV cameras) makes you feel less safe, not more safe. So reverse the roles -- paranoid behavior at an inn will bust you down to the lower recovery rate.

Sleeping in armor definitely means you are not having a comfortable camp, no matter where you are.

Tuesday 6 May 2014

Today You Need A Maltese Name Generator

As the action in my Band of Iron campaign promises to shift to the fake-Mediterranean island of fake-Malta

if Malta were brachiated instead of compact and huge instead of tiny and populated by dragons instead of rabbits and the battlefield between three faiths some of which have cannons and some of which have dinosaurs

here is an edited-down version of a list of Maltese surnames I found online. It is perfect for generating slightly off-Mediterranean nomenclature for memorable characters and gadabouts.

Click to generate in a pop-up. Copy and paste the link location for a peek at the table.

Thusly, your next five henchmen can be Medati, Cauchi, Segond, Ciarlo and Xuereb. Fiorentino is already spoken for; taken on for great toughness and a willingness to reconcile his own belief in the Platinum Dragon with his orthodox Militant boss' devotion to St. Gonsalvo.

Friday 2 May 2014

One Page Dungeon Contest Entries!

Once again ... wow.

Some evaluations from a superficial run-through.

Joe Bloch gives us the Black Reservoir, I mean Black Lake, from Castle Greyhawk, I mean, Castle of the Mad Archmage. Yes!

Some great presentation/mechanics combinations. Outlaw Shrine in the Prehistoric Camp of the Mermen Maiden (whew); Amid the Reaper's Scattered Bones; The Shattered Temple; Bloodberries; The War of the Wolf; Island of the Lizard God; Ballad of the Bonny Bard's Booty; Castile Zela; Dire Briars; A Deadly Catch.

Some great gimmick ideas: The Crucible; The Great Stag; Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Tower of the Fox, Devil's Teapot; The Astral Prison of Urash Myrr; Bioprospecting Report 976 (not a new idea per se but a very good implementation); Follow the Gold.

Some great artistic presentations: Tower of Nicanor; Well of Souls; Stellarium of the Vinteralf; The Long Fall.

And many, many that are solid and good. I don't think I'll be wanting for one-shot adventures in the coming year.

(oh yes, there's my entry, and my article about it in case you were wondering about some of the oddly specific references)