Monday, October 29, 2012

Standard Kit

Okay, so you're an adventurer. One would presume that you have equipment and so forth that you would consider pretty much "standard" for that occupation. The proverbial-to-literal D&D standard 10 foot pole. A light source. Some rope. Other things. You could spend a lot of time on this sort of thing when prepping for a session, especially if it's just one part of character generation.

I came up with one way to accomplish this when playing Dark Heresy. I simply gave the players a shit with "standard" gear and a list of other items from which they could choose a limited number. It looked about like this:

Starting Equipment for  Inquisitorial Acolytes

Backpack (50 kg capacity)
Rain Cloak
0.5 kg
0.5 kg
1 kg
2 kg
Basic Weapon/Pistol
of choice (Las, SP, Flame, Melee, Shock)
Belts, scabbards, straps, holsters, bandoliers, maintenance kits, or
whatever seems "basic" to the weapons owned by the character.
Ammo (if appl.): 10 SP clips, 5 Las power packs, or 24 shotgun shells
5 Frag/Krak grenades
Armor: May select up to 100 GT worth of armor pieces.

Momento from Homeworld (Roll)

Career Momento (Roll)

5 Ration Packs

5 "Common" or "Abundant" Drugs/Consumables

&Two of the following
-Weapon Upgrade  (melee or ballistic)*

- Auspex/Scanner
0.5 kg
-Auto Quill

- Combitool
1 kg

4 kg
-Pict Recorder
0.5 kg
-Psy Focus
-Infrared Goggles
0.5 kg
- Multikey  
0.5 kg
-Recoil Glove
0.5 kg
-Vox Caster
4 kg

*May use this to add features, like sights, monomolecular edges, etc., as well as to buy higher (i.e., "good" or "best") quality weapons. If "best" quality weapons selected, or if two weapon upgrades are selected, then they count as both of your "Two of the following."

Looking at that makes me feel like maybe I'd want to do it differently next time. I might, for example, make items worth a certain number of points. Then, depending on the party I'm putting together (0-level, low-, mid- or high-level), I could give them a more extensive list, more or fewer points with which to pick, and so forth. But spending points is like spending money, and could result in a drag on the process of getting ready to kick some ass.

Here's what I think might work. 

Expendables (ammo, rations, etc.).

A character automatically gets 20 units of ammo, 1 week's rations, and 3 torches. 

By expending a General Equipment slot, a character can get another unit of these.


Assume that a starting character gets a basic weapon at start, and only one.

Above 1st level, you could add additional weapons, maybe let them choose 1 additional weapon every 2 levels. 

This doesn't mean that the character couldn't buy such a weapon him or her ownself. It's that you're trying to get ready to game, and don't want to fuck around. It's time to rock.

So, make it easy: 1st Level Characters choose 1 weapon. 3rd level can choose 1 more. 5th can choose 1 more.


This is even easier. 

At 1st level you can choose either leather armor or no armor. If you chose no armor, you get to choose 1 additional piece of equipment from any other category. 

At level 3, you can choose chain mail. If you choose a lesser armor or no armor, you get to choose 1 additional piece of equipment from any other category.

At level 5 can choose any armor up to full plate. If you choose to go with chain mail, you get to choose 1 additional piece of equipment from any other category. If you got with leather or lower, you get 2 additional pieces of equipment from any other category.

General Equipment

This category includes everything from  rope to 10 foot poles. As a rule of thumb, this is anything costing 10 sp or less (10 gp if using gold standard)

This category does not include things like thieves' tools, lanterns, apothecary kits, healing supplies, and things we might associate with a class (thieves, clerics, mages) or specialized profession (jewelers, carpenters, etc.).

The 1st level character can choose 3 items from this category, plus 1 item for each level above 1st.

Specialization Item

If a character wants something something special, he or she can get it by sacrificing 2General Equipment slots.

These might include thieves' tools, holy water, a holy symbol, tack and harness for riding an animal.


Anything that GM thinks makes sense. This could include, for example, a riding animal or beast of burden, some other form of conveyance, etc. Just remember that there are others who (if they  feel they are able) will try to take such things from weaker characters.

So, I'd be interested in what others might make of this. Also, I'm sure this has been done before, elsewhere, so feel free to offer any links to comparable systems.

Reminder: Next installment of Metal Gods of Ur-Hadad DCC

Peoples! Your attention!

Just a reminder that my next session of my (and Adam's) Metal Gods of Ur-Hadad DCC campaign will be on Thursday at 7:30 Eastern U.S. time.

If you are interested in playing, but have not yet done so, just go on over to Purple Sorcerer and generate some 0-level characters. Choose "Option Awesome" and be sure to look at the average and modifier information in the top left-hand corner of the character sheet. If the numbers are significantly below 10.5/+0, then re-roll. I they're close, keep it. It'll work.

Also, to new and current players, we will be using some adjustments in our game.

First, during combat each player gets to act with one PC. You may have as many as four PCs, but you choose which will act. Some discussion of the reasons for that change occurred on this blog already. Just read it. Also read Adam's take on many of the same things, here. I think our viewpoints are more or less the same.

Next, as a result of that thing I just said, combat is going to get a bit deadlier. The NPCs and monsters will act more often. However, I will tend to have them act against whoever just attacked, unless there is some compelling reason not to, or a compelling reason to attack someone else.

Also, we should be able to move a bit more quickly than last time. I think we all know the Roll20 interface a bit better, now, and the pace of action is going to accelerate because there's not really going to be any travel/downtime in this session.

Finally, we're getting ready to do some good old-fashioned dungeon crawling... with EVERYTHING that implies. Be alert. Watch each others' backs. Remember that the monsters aren't the only things you need to fear.

I wish we were playing today, frankly, because I'm ready to go! See you Thursday.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Using Roll20 and Google+ Hangouts: Some Observations

Harley Stroh asked me to share a bit of my experiences in using the Roll20 application for gaming in Google+ Hangouts. I'm happy to oblige.

First, I'd like to say that Roll20 offers a lot of supercool tools for your gaming experience, including a great mapping tool, a very flexible die roller, a variety of free-to-use tokens, a whiteboard feature, and some very useful chat options. I've been favorably impressed with the whole package.

Though it can seem a bit overwhelming at first, it's pretty easy to use once you have the basics down.


The Roll20 app is driven by two distinct tool sets, in two menus. On the left you find a set of tools for interacting with the virtual desktop: Selection Arrow / Layer Chooser / Zoom/Ruler / Fog o' War / Turn / "Normal" Dice. You will use these the most. On the right are a set of tabs: Chat / Art Library / Journal / Juke Box / Settings. These are used less, and probably you'll only really use the chat while in-game.
Map Tools

The map tools allow you to do a lot of things. Remember: You don't have to do all of them. Use only what you need. They include three different layers with three different functions (Map, Tokens, GM Info). These layers can include all elements (tokens, line drawings, other map stuff) in any layer, and allow for selection of movement of objects between layers. For example, you can take something in the GM Info layer (say, a secret door and room) and promote it to the Map layer when it's discovered by the PCs. All you have to do is go into the GM Info layer, use the selection arrow tool, right click on the object in question, and use the "Layers" option to select Map and Terrain layer, and then your players will be able to see it. If you keep it in the GM Info layer, they can't.

There's also a "fog of war" element that you may want to use. It allows you to hide or reveal sections of map as they are explored. U

There's a ruler tool. Click and drag to see what the distances are between two points. Very handy.

Die Roller and Chat Window

There's an integral die roller in the chat bar. It's very flexible, and allows for any number of sides for dice, multiple dice, modifiers, hidden rolls, etc. Great tool.

Token Library

Token library is useful but limited. It's certainly enough to get the job done. I think you can import your own tokens. You can buy them in the marketplace as well (but it's not necessary, really).

Things you should do:
  • Sign up for an account if you are the GM. Players do not have to do this. 
  • Launch your G+ Hangout from inside the Roll20 application. It's designed for this and works just fine.
  • Be sure to view all of the tutorial videos, both Player and GM versions. They show you relatively quickly how to do important things in the application. They take a little while to view, but will take less time than the useless fumbling you would do without them. So, rather than me putting up a bunch of screenshots on this blog, I'll assume that you will do this thing instead. It's worth your time.
  • If you're using it for the first time, then take a few days to make your maps. When you make them, remember that each grid square is 5 feet (not 10), and each hex is 1 mile.
  • Get familiar with the use of the three layers used for mapping (map-background/tokens/GM Info), and how those layers should be used. 
    • Do the map first, and do it in the Map and Terrain layer. The polygon tool is the best for this. Use long rectangles for hallways
    • Once the map is in place, change to the GM Info layer, and put in things like secret doors. 
    • Only then should you place tokens, and you should be sure to switch to the tokens layer before you do so. 
    • The payoff is a map with each layer of information serving its best function. The only way you mess this up is to put things in the wrong layer. If that happens, you can fix it by right-clicking on the object in question, clicking on "Layers" and sending it to the proper layer. 
    • REMEMBER: Be sure to to do this according to a plan, and stick to it--Map first, then GM Info, then tokens.
  • Test it out with a friend, to ensure functionality from both sides of the screen. 
  • Make time at the beginning of the session to help the players familiarize themselves with the interface, especially the dice roller. Again, it's not that difficult, but it will take a while for people to "get."
  • Pay attention to the players' use of the chat window. You can miss important things if you don't.
  • If you need to select something, use the selection arrow tool.
  • Kick Roll20 a little bit of money for their awesome free app. It gives you a couple of perks, and helps them continue to develop it as a useful tool for gaming online.
Things you shouldn't do:
  • Don't use too many tokens in the zero-level funnel. It gets confusing very quickly. If you're in a zero-level funnel, and want to represent all of the PCs, have the players use tokens that are distinctly connected to player rather than character (i.e., a particular theme or color for each player's tokens). Another option is to use a token for each player (not each zero-level PC), and allow the player to determine which of his or her PCs acts in that round.
  • Haven't found anything else, really, but I'll update as I do.
So, yeah, all in all this is a great tool, and I highly recommend it.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Metal Gods of Ur-Hadad (Session 1)

So, last night was my long-awaited foray into Dungeon Crawl Classics, with the Metal Gods of Ur-Hadad campaign. I've covered most aspects of that in other posts, so I won't belabor the point here.

I played with Gabriel, Wayne, Adam, and Bear last night. Thanks to them for taking part and I hope that they had enough fun that they'll return.

So, the adventure I ran for them was Crypt of the Lizard King (or, possibly Lair of the Lizard King, as Jez Gordon suggested--he's dead, so it's a crypt, but "lair" adds some alliteration, so should not be dismissed out of hand). This is an adventure where I used the presence of Lizardfolk in the pre- and present history of Ur-Hadad as a plot hook. I wanted to make allusion to the fact that their civilization was extensive, and they (dinosaurs, frankly) used to rule the earth. Also, Jim Morrison, dead rock star, is called "The Lizard King." Given both those facts, I had my concept, and I also had a way to structure the adventure: With Doors song titles. It worked for the writing process, as you will see. In the following sections, I'll put in the plan an then what actually happened (actual chunks of the module follow):

Crypt of the Lizard King
A Zero Level Adventure for Dungeon Crawl Classics (with apologies to The Doors)

Ship of Fools

You are captives and rowers aboard the slave ship Sea Pig out of Ossary, and bound for Ur-Hadad (formerly known as Tarantis).
This happened. I really didn't need to do the slave ship thing. It served no purpose, and sort of delayed the beginning of this adventure, and to no good purpose.

Riders on the Storm

During passage, a terrible storm rose up and swept your ship before it, ultimately driving it upon the rocks somewhere around Ur-Hadad, the storied First City of Men.

This thing happened.

Land Ho!

As dawn breaks, the few surviving captives and crew are picking through the wreckage of their ship and its cargo. The captain and most of the crew have perished, but the first mate and the cabin boy have survived. The adventurers party consists of the now-freed prospective slaves. Those who are not PCs will take rooms at the village inn for the next few days, drinking away the profits from their newfound trade goods. 

This is where I (for no reason known to me... maybe I had stage fright? I dunno...) sort of blew it with the opening scene. In any case, I decided to make them role-play this. With 16 characters. What the hell? We resolved it relatively quickly, but questionable choice for intro scene.

Waiting for The Sun

As dawn breaks, the PCs see the village about a mile distant. If they head that way, they will find it coming to life, as the people awaken and go about their business.

This is where I should have started.

A group of villagers is standing near the public house. And a man is talking and gesticulating franticly.
The PCs will get some suspicious looks and some will put hands on hilts or pitchforks, or whatever they have for weapons. None of them will attack first, for they are probably not the bandits everyone is worried about, but will regard them nervously.
  • The frantic man went to go see the healer (look at this rash!) but she wasn't there.
  • Another guy says that she and her daughter were out gathering herbs and other items for their apothecary cabinet, yesterday. He saw them go, carrying their baskets.
  • Maybe they were taken by those bandits (at this point the villagers look over at the PCs suspiciously and a bit nervously).
  • A hunter offers that he saw horsemen in the hills about five miles distant, while he was hunting this morning. Some believe that it's the bandits, for they are reputed to have mounts.
  • "There are those caves over that way," says another man, and then there follows some discussion of that point, trying to figure out which of approximately three different caves or hollows would afford shelter for them, should they be there. They all agree that the old wolf den is most likely.
  • Someone bemoans the thought of losing their healer, and recalls that the last time they had to find a new one, it took nearly five years. The oldsters in the gathering crowd nod knowingly. "That's so," says a older woman.
  • Another old woman suggests that the healer is a witch, but is shushed by those nearby her, but in a way that suggests that they think she's full of shit, not that they're hiding something.
  • During the opening of the discussion, an older man (Ariz) bustles up and takes in the tableau for a moment. The others look to him, but continue the discussion. He stands and listens to the discussion for a couple of minutes and then begins asking for clarification of some points. 
This was actually pretty good. I just wish I had a better way to introduce this material.  I thought of it as eavesdropping, but it didn't seem to work well. I just had to narrate it. I'm hoping it didn't sound too hokey.

The Offer

Then he turns to the PCs to ask who they are, and whether they might have seen two women nearby. They have not. He notes that they seem like stalwart warriors, and inquires whether they would like to accept a bounty (3 silvers a head for the bandits) and a commission (find the healer and her daughter and bring them back alive, for which they are offered an additional 2 silver). The PCs should probably drive a harder bargain

I cannot fucking believe they didn't even try to haggle. Don't they realize that everything here is a rip-off?
 But seriously... Haggling is the mini-game. Play it.

The Bandit Cave and The Crypt of The Lizard King

Prologue: Moonlight Drive

The PCs head northeast of the village into the hills. The rough, muddy path leads along the Redflood River, which is in flood right now, sometimes coming within about 50 yards of it. They must travel 16 miles or so before they reach the old wolf den that the villagers believe might be the bandits' refuge.

During the trek, make 5 Wilderness Encounters checks (see table at end of module).
As the PCs approach the entrance to the bandits' hideout, another storm is rolling in from the west. On a DC 10 Luck check they can see some fire or torch light from inside. It's dim, and mostly blocked by the brush growing outside of the cave, but potentially visible.

No encounters. Boooring! 

They arrived at the cave, but had made good time. No nightime sky. No darkness. Thanks infravisoin.

Area 1. Light My Fire

The entrance to the cave system is relatively narrow, but opens rapidly into a large room with a dirt floor. Inside, to the southeast there is a relatively large fire. There are two bandits near it (6 & 7 HP), playing dice and "guarding" the entrance. If the characters pass a DC 12 Agility test, they can sneak up on the guards. There is a pool in the northwest corner about 2-3 feet deep, and an alcove in the northern wall where horses and mules are hobbled. A character with a farm background, or something to do with horses should be able to tell they're spooked about something. There are also two freshly dug graves in the southeast corner of the room.
They were genius here. A PC snuck in, assessed the situation, but alerted the guards when going back out. He lured the guards out. The party killed them in very short time.

Area 2. The Spy

Bandit guarding entrance to narrow tunnel (9 HP).  He is nodding off, but is armed.
He was woken, came to investigate was attacked, ran away, and died.

Area 3. You're Lost Little Girl

Bandits gathered round table. Healer shackled in corner. There is food, and some weapons and loot here.
Three bandits, including bandit (6, 5, & 9 HP).
In this room are some food stores (2d10 iron rations, 5 water skins, some clay vessels of wine, and even some spices), as well as a lantern (full, but with no extra lamp oil) and 1d10 torches, and a coil of rope (1d10x10 feet).

If the PCs defeat the bandits, the healer will ask if they have seen her daughter, and ask them to rescue her if she's in danger.

The running guy alerted the other bandits, but the PCs quickly flooded the room, and then killed them all except for the leader. He asked for quarter, and it was granted. There was talk of selling him into slavery.

We ended there. Total XP: 3. 

From my side of the GM screen it seemed, frankly, awkward. Most of that was because we were using a new system (DCC), a new application (Roll20), and haven't ever gamed together before. Running a funnel is challenging, to say the least, and requires a different approach. This was something I didn't anticipate, or at least didn't anticipate it in useful ways. Adam, who has been through this before, was incredibly patient and constructive in his criticisms. For my part, I am someone who welcomes any information that will help me run a better (more fun) game. So, after we were done, I asked for a review, and then Adam and I had a skull-session to hash out a few things. Here are a few lessons I've learned:

First, when you have 16 (or so) zero-level PCs, it's important to balance the players' ability to play their characters with the ability of the system and the GM to adjudicate encounters in ways that, frankly, work. When we got into combat, for example, having the PCs win initiative allowed them to attack the baddies 16 times. They, surprisingly to me at the time (but not so much in retrospect), kicked the baddies' asses pretty easily. Truly, the gods are on the side of the biggest legion, not the best one.

Adam's suggestion (which helps both map and turn management) is to allow each player to act once per round. That is, pick a character, and do somethign with that character. That way everyone can do something useful, but it doesn't end up being the equivalent of the PCs standing in a line and taking turns whacking their enemy upside the head until he stops twitching. Good rule. It also helps to simulate the difference between trained NPCs (with classes) from untrained PCs (with no class). Pun intended. The PCs may mill about in a big clusterfuck of good intentions to do harm to the NPCs, but they don't really quite have their shit together like a trained NPC. They're simply less efficient. This rule shows that difference, and makes it mechanically impactful on gameplay. This will be used.

Also, I probably should not have started the adventure in the way that I did. It drug things out a bit much. I should have simply left out the slave ship bit, and had them arrive at the village. The ship wreck was fine, but the rest of it was rubbish, and not necessary to the plot. Then we could have simply jumped into the stuff that mattered. This is something I should have anticipated, frankly, but didn't for some reason.

Now I have to look at the rest of the adventure. Is it too easy? Hmm...

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Metal Gods of Ur-Hadad Starts Tomorrow!

Just another short note to pimp my campaign with Adam M., The Metal Gods of Ur-Hadad.

Who: Edgar Johnson and Adam Muszkiewicz will alternate as player/GM every two sessions.

What: Dungeon Crawl Classics set in the Wilderlands of High Fantasy Wilderlands of Low Fantasy/Sci-Fi. The basis is Wilderlands of High Fantasy setting from Judges Guild, but extensively reimagined by myself and Adam.

When: Beginning Thursday, October 25th @ 7:30 p.m. Eastern U.S. Time, and every Thursday thereafter.

Where: Google+ Hangout

Why: Why not? How about because it will be freakin' awesome? I guess we all have our reasons for gaming, but we hope that having a good time is the main one.

How: Just email me at revdoctoredj AT Geee Male DAWT com, and I will send you an invite.

Other info: 

  • We will be using the Roll20 application for this game. You will not need to create an account or log in, as it's already supported within Google+ Hangouts. It's a pretty neat widget, and from the testing we've done so far it looks like it will work just fine for this game.
  • You should go over to Purple Sorcerer's website, and create a group of 0-level characters, save the PDF, and send it to me at the email address listed under "How," above.
  • We will have a handout with additional information later on. This is pretty much all you need to know for now.
So, now you know what to do. So do it! See you at game time.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Upcoming DCC Constant Con Game: The Metal Gods of Ur-Hadad

It's been a little bit since I posted, so I thought I'd update. I've been working on an adventure for my upcoming Dungeon Crawl Classics campaign, which I'll be co-running with Adam from Dispatches from Kickassistan, using his Ur-Hadad city setting mixed with a little bit of stuff from Purple Sorcerer, a bit of Wilderlands of High Fantasy, and a lot of other stuff.

The aesthetic we're going for is both a bit grim and a bit gonzo. We're aiming for something very much in the vein of R. E. Howard, but with admixture of other Appendix N sources, and some other elements that influence us. I, for example, am a huge fan of Glen Cook, among others. Here's a bit more of the stuff we've got worked out. This is an actual ongoing conversation about the setting, from the google doc we've been working on. It'll give you a better sense of where we might be heading with this, if you are interested in joining us for the game (which will run on Thursdays, 7:30 to 10 p.m. Eastern U.S. Time). I'll be running it for two straight weeks, and then Adam with do two weeks, and then back to me. Should be fun. 

Below, my original ideas are in white, Adam's follow-ups in green, and my follow-ups in orange.

Some Assumptions about The Game World

·         This is low fantasy (a la R. E. Howard's Conan). It is somewhat human-centered. The other races exist, but tend to glom together in their own places and way.
Other authors to strongly look to for inspiration are Clark Ashton Smith, HP Lovecraft and Michael Moorcock. I look at the setting as mostly (rather than somewhat) humanocentric. I personally do not plan on trips to hobbity shires or elfy forests. Maybe a dwarven mine or two,  but not many. 

I can see this. This works great. Add Harlan Ellison and Glen Cook to this. Two of my influences.

·         Humans threw off the rule of the Elves only 500 years ago. The elder races (elves and dwarves) view humans as upstarts, and only the weirdoes among them tend to associate with humans (roughly 10%).
I can get behind the 500 years thing. For my home game, this might be a little too soon (there it’s at least 1k years, if not more, kind of murky in a “that shit happened a long ass time ago” way), but I think this works well for making the point of how far mankind has come in a relatively short period... and has managed to completely fuck it all up. I like the idea of “elder races,” those races being the masters of the world that held humanity in chains. I do think that it’s important that serpent men and lizardfolk are categorized as elder races, possibly along with races that are even more alien that mankind has managed to forget in 500 years.

1,000 years is a good number, too. Also it sounds a lot cooler than 500 when you say it or write it. It has gravitas. Let’s go with this. Here’s maybe a good continuum of The Struggle. Various avatars of Law and Chaos are playing a long, long game. They created the Old Ones. The Old Ones created the Fae, including the elves, the dwarves, the lizardmen, as well as various other races. We’ll maybe have to figure some of this out. The Elves raised up the Humans (from apes) to be their slaves. These are the Dark Elf/Melibonean types who did this. The Dwarves had nothing to do with humans for the most part, and didn’t go in for much sorcerous experimentation of this sort. The Halflings were created out of human stock, but enhanced (see below) in various ways, and made to be wee little creatures, because... CUTE! BUT DEADLY! (say the Elven freaks who made them.) Humans finally went all Planet of the Apes on their Elven oppressors, oh it must have been 1,000 years ago.

·         The Halflings are a constructed race, made by conjoined twin wizards. The halflings came on the scene shortly after humans, through the tampering of mages. They were bred for stealth, ambushes, and pack fighting. They are not inclined to fight, but perilous when roused. They live about 150 years, and do not suffer from normal diseases, though magical ones can affect them. They are exceptionally lucky.
I’m not really sure what to make of halfings. I like the idea of halfling adventurers being anomalous to their society and thus outcasts (rather than just eccentric normal folk); I like them being dissidents, the disaffected youth, the castoffs of society. Normal halflings can have their hobbitholes and roaring fires and “charming” local scenery, but these adventurer halflings don’t care for any of that and want to LIVE damnit! This is the primary reason that I identify adventuring halflings with the second-wave ska & rude boy movement of the 70’s & early 80’s; I imagine young, disaffected haflings stealing bottles of ale, breaking into old tombs and mingling with other peoples just for the thrill of it and that, in and of itself, is enough to get their community in an uproar. I tend to think of halflings as Thatcher-era British conservatives and adventuring halflings as the subversive element that would become the punk and ska scenes of the time. I just have a hard time picturing punk halflings, so they end up rude boy halflings. I think it’s the suspenders. That and your typical concept of a halfling (the Tolkein one) doesn’t fit in my conception of a Metal world.

Oh, I love this conception so much. I can totally get behind it. The odd reference I’m making here is to my post about halflings. I think both of these could be worked in, though. Just make the twin wizards Dark Elf types, and assume that they were simply bored with normal humans and wanted to play with something new. Here’s my take:

·         Halflings and Humans: Halflings get along better than any of the other races, and often are well-represented in human towns and villages.
Could it be that, early on in their racial friendship, humans and halflings banded together, even in their smaller communities, due to an external threat? Maybe it’s the threat/apocalypse that recently ended the human domain of Ur-Hadad’s influence over much of the world. (Still not sure what that should be... ravening Chaos hordes?)

I think it may be more that to the Elves, Lizardmen, and Dwarves that halflings are as close to human as you can get. The elves resent them particularly because of their lucky nature, and this violates their presumption to be favored among the Fae. Oh, shit! Not another upstart race! Really? Weren’t men bad enough? Who ordered these? Elric did you do this? Oh, it was The Twins? Shit. They are so trite sometimes, I swear.

·         Elves: They are members of the Fae. Beyond that fact, don’t make any assumptions about how that works, or who else might be included in that group, or their politics. This is not lifted from another model.
I very much like the idea of the elves being otherworldly, ancient and far more sophisticated than humans. Perhaps they came to the planet from a different dimension and that’s why they're so alien? Here’s what I see as a rough outline of elfiness: Elves come to the world from some other dimension or plane of existence (this is the “Elfland” that the patron the King of Elfland is from; humans don’t know what it’s really called) and carve out an empire for themselves. Their major competitors are the elder races, and the different factions often war against each other, enslave other races with impunity and largely do whatever the fuck they want to whomever they want. Chaos, what? The elves -- who might have originally come to the planet to save it but instead become corrupted by it (Old Ones’ influence? Chaos Lords?) -- enslave man much like humans enslave apes in that one Planet of the Apes movie (Return to the Planet of the Apes?) because they seem so similar to elves themselves and therefore feed the elves’ vanity. As for general flavor of the elven empires at their height, I think of Melnibone from Moorcock’s Elric novels. Vast, powerful, sorcerous, decadent, Rome on magical steroids and so fucking high that it doesn’t care if the empire burns around it. So, at some point, the humans revolt (taught how to do so by the dwarves), and cast the elven empire down. In fact, a large group of elves led by the King of Elfland (who had been basically holding down the home front while the magic and slavery orgy was raging on The Planet [until we name the damned planet, if we ever do, I’m just going to call it The Planet or something like that when talking to you]), turns on his brother elves and sides with the humans, realizing that the elven empires have gotten it all wrong and have been corrupted by something. Some of the Empire Elves survive and call themselves something to that effect to this day but everyone else calls them Dark Elves (again, more Warhammer dark elves, not drow, I fucking hate drow). Modern elves don’t hold the stigma that imperial elves would have, since most of the ones around today stem from Elfland or, if they were imperial, switched sides at some point.

I can get behind all of this. I think, though, that I’d like to go more with the Old Ones than with the Chaos Gods (too Warhammer-ish for my taste). The Elric model helps us get to Dark Eldar, but doesn’t require that we embrace the rest of it, I think. I particularly like your idea about Planet of the Apes. That’s golden, and helps to explain why humans were enslaved. How about this?

When the Old Ones disappeared (they sleep, it is said, and will return one day) from The Planet (what’s the Elven word for “dirt,” anyway? That could be the name.), it created an imbalance of some kind. The original Elves and the other fae, their retainers and henchmen, came in to address this problem with magic and technology and whatever else, but became trapped here after their war with the lizardmen who were the original inhabitants, and the first Elder Race. The gate is still open, but the Elves cannot cross back, nor can they communicate with their home. They can only receive messages, messages that seem increasingly alien as the millenia pass.. As a result of being cut off from their people, they began to experience cultural drift away from their traditions. Factions among them have gained influence, and championed the darker influences of those traditions--the ones exalting the Elven race. This alienated them from the other Fae to some extent, at least the ones who are less likely to kill and enslave, but gave free rein to the Elves’ darkest impulses. The enslavement of the humans, the wars with the Dwarves, and the descent of the Elves into an empire of savagery and Elven supremacy, among other historical events, spring from this cultural drift and the reactionary politics that became supreme after The Separation.

·         Elves and Humans: To many elves, humans are the merely dangerous savages, to be tolerated (at best) and more likely useful for cruel sport.
Yes. The thing is, elves do not give a shit at all about humans. They did not side with the humans out of respect or brotherhood or anything like that. They would have sided with anyone who was against the imperial elves because the imperials were WRONG and CORRUPT. Touched by something unnatural and not-elfy, in that “Elfland is another dimension that our mortal minds cannot comprehend” sort of way. Humans generally distrust elves because, well, they’re elves. Mysterious. Superior/arrogant. Likely traitors to civilization itself. 

This is something that certainly can be added to the stuff I noted immediately above. I think this is good. I like that they are divided. However, i think being trapped here on The Planet is a good reason for their division.

·         Dwarves: Dwarves are reclusive and territorial. They are exceptional miners, engineers, and crafters. They dislike open spaces for the most part. They do not like the Elves overly much, but they haven’t warred with them in recent memory. They reproduce through crafting copies of themselves (Stolen from James Mal:
Okay, let me pause this train of thought right here. I have never been one of the “dwarf ladies gotta have beards” group, and I do think that there’s a strong place for females in dwarven society. And so, I want to keep dwarven ladies and normal-type reproduction in. That having been said, I LOVE the idea of “created” dwarves. Forgeborn? Stoneborn? Something like that. Right, here we go. Although now considered one of the elder races (humans and halflings being the young races), dwarves were once the slaves of the elder races, just as humans were. Their cruel masters made the dwarves toil under the earth in mines and forges; while much of the wealth that they wrested from the deeps adorned serpent man palaces, elven spires, lizardfolk ziggurats and the dens of fouler, more bizarre races, so too did the dwarves keep much for themselves, including ancient technologies and magics from bygone races that were old when the universe was still young. In this manner did dwarves first construct their original automata and gradually developed the forge-magics to turn these automata into proper, living dwarves. Deep beneath the surface of The Planet, the dwarves built the first Soul Engine, a method for recycling (“resmelting,” they call it), the souls of fallen dwarves into new bodies. The souls resmelted in such a manner do not stay intact and, as such, retain no memories or skills from their previous lives; they are as if born anew. When the dwarves had built several Soul Engines and placed them -- along with attendant automata -- in key positions around the globe, they struck out against their masters, casting off their chains. Or something like this. 

Thus, dwarves quickly sided with rebellious humans against the elder races. 

Oh, this is the best. Seconded!

·         Dwarves and Humans: Dwarves and humans have some connection through the Metal Gods, but very few humans are considered "real people." Usually, the these humans also are morose, bearded, and tend to work with metal or stone in some way, and are considered (by humans) to be exceptionally skilled.
While technically allies, dwarf-human relations benefit the most from a certain amount of distance. Though they certainly agree on particular parts of common culture (booze, singing, booze), dwarves regard humans as being too flighty and tempestuous, whereas humans regard dwarves as far too serious and gruff. One sticking point could be a vast difference in political structure. I really liked 3e’s Chainmail reboot where the dwarves were communists. Or maybe the dwarves don’t respect political power that isn’t won through martial or craft skill and thus piss off human nobles. One thing I think can be a sticking point is the traditional “dwarven greediness;” I think that it’s largely pointless and doesn’t serve much of a point other than to make humans feel superior to Tolkeinesque caricatures. 

I agree with all of this. I’d also add that the eternal questions (among the other races) about the nature of Dwarven reproduction and the status of Dwarven females, is an incredibly sore point, and makes the dwarves incredibly secretive and suspicious of others’ motives, even of their allies.

·         This world is post-Apocalyptic: The Elder Races are not the first to walk the planet. The First City and the Sunken City are examples of the Old Ones' architecture, though they have been built on top of by the Elves and Humans in the last several tens of thousands of years.

Not just post-apocalyptic, but cyclically post-apocalyptic: every few thousand years, some huge disaster happens that destroys the dominant cultures on the planet. Man is the most recent of these disasters... OOOOOOHHHH! Mankind as a weapon of the apocalypse! Old Ones using mankind to destroy the world? Or Chaos Lords out to shake up existing power structures? Or Gods of Law trying to bring about the destruction of the Chaotic and decadent societies that existed before Man? Anyway, mankind is only the latest disaster. Countless civilizations of every sort that our sick little brains can come up with have existed and crumbled into dust from their own personal armageddons

How about factions of mankind being used as pawns in this eternal struggle, sort of like they were by the Vorlon (forces of law) and the Shadows (forces of chaos) in Babylon 5. In fact, that might be something to mine for some of the sci-fi aspects of this world. We might also want to throw Harlan Ellison in as a literary touchstone in our first part, about the Appendix N stuff. Further, the Old Ones may just be their pawns as well, remnants of the struggle during other cycles. So were the Elder races. There are always leftovers from those struggles, and they form the sources of much that is weird and alien in this world. They also tend to produce other struggles, between those remnants of the previous cycles.

·         The world consists of howling wilderness, punctuated by different definitions of civilization (kingdoms and a very few city-states), none of them particularly influential outside of their spheres.

·         Societies tend to be feudal in some ways, though mercantilism, religion, and rebellion have sowed many seeds in the old human order.
“Feudal in some ways,” is key. There is no systematized order of feudal caste, even if we use typical feudal titles. I king in one place might have no more clout than a baron in another or a Grand Voivode in yet another. Usually, peasants will have someone to protects them, but that someone isn’t always a feudal lord. In fact, something that I was going to write up about Ur-Hadad is that the nobles of the city, while usually having traditional title to lands beyond the city itself, often have no domains in those lands to enforce their title; no fortresses, no encampments, no towns, no villages. For now, their interests lie no further than the city walls. Why would they want to leave? There’s nothing out there for them! A lot of how I envision the world strips a LOT of the traditional Medieval-ness out of the fantasy milieu. No kings in castles, no knights in big ass armors, no maidens on unicorns. Instead, it’s barbarian khans in hide yurts, savage cataphracts in bronze cuirasses (I hate pronouncing that word, sounds like I’m a homophobe), and spear-sisters on shaggy mountain rams. Or pashas in palaces, cossacks in leathers and harem girl assassins on camels. 

I can also get behind this. I think there should be *attempts* to impose feudalism, here and there, but they are the exceptions rather than the rule. I also like the idea of their being mercenary companies like The Black Company, who become influential, and, because of that, get embroiled in the politics of whereever they happen to be working at the time. Add Glen Cook to Appendix N stuff. Oh, and unicorns are evil and carnivorous and hate everyone. Gotta have that.

·         Slavery is common, though more in the form of indentured servants than bondsmen. Slavers are a danger to travelers. Some tribes and groups take slaves and wives and children in raids.
A-yup. Furthermore, I would suggest that selling other people into slavery is a common practice to settle debts, such as one’s spouse or children. It sounds icky, I know, but it was, at one point or another in real history, common enough. Remembering that this is a world where life is cheap, slaves are slightly more valuable than worthless, particularly since no person of merit in society would want to do any manual labor himself. 

On top of that, escaped slaves often become the source of rebellion in this world, and are the source of many mercenary companies’ and pirate crews’ recruits. They get new names and new lives, and some of them harbor in their hearts the lust for vengeance.

·         Merchants are increasing influential in the towns and cities. This is troubling to the nobility and priesthoods.
I would add, :”and thus often subject to terrible sanctions and crushing fatwahs.” These adverse conditions easily foster the corrupt atmosphere needed for thieves guilds to prosper. 

Perfecto! Merchants also are largely mistrusted by the people (many of them are foreigners, you know!), and demonized by the entrenched powers as upstart pretenders to nobility  and dangerous, corrupting influences on society, culture, religion, and, of course... the children. And gypsies are even worse, but that’s another matter entirely. (kidding)

·         Other, less savory, powers exist (organized criminals of all stripes, associations of sorcerers, and so forth).
Let me change that to “associations of cultists of dark powers” or something like that. I’m making a clear division (if only in my head) between those who truly command arcane power (sorcerers, wizards and the like) and those who derive their power from an outside source (cultists and even clerics). The way I’m looking at things, the self-empowered wielders (wizards, et al.) are not likely to work together at all unless under extreme duress. Cultists, on the other hand, band together to worship their masters and earn favor. Tiny detail, I know, but it’s a point I feel I have to make. To me, it makes the “mad wizard in the dark tower” trope much more feasible than “and he goes over to Steve’s house for bridge club every second Tuesday.” Jealously guarded secrets and insane cackling into the night is essential to me for some reason. 

Add in the lizardmen, and we’re in business.

·         Mercenary companies are fairly plentiful, and will take able bodies of all professions.
And often can’t afford to argue with clients. That said, successful merecenary companies often face the temptation of rebellion and/or conquest, as they gain power and influence. This of course leads to their brutal suppression, but the cycle repeats itself frequently, and sometimes the mercenaries win and become warlords and rulers (King Conan, Croaker of the Black Company, etc.)

·         Nobility is grasping, venal, and jealous of their status, power, and prerogatives. It is dangerous to affront them. In most towns and cities, they control the local law enforcement.
Spoiled fucking brats with no right to command anyone’s respect. Joffrey Baratheon from Song of Ice and Fire. 


·         Piracy and raiding are problems.
And typical careers for adventurers. 

Hard not to pass up the opportunity when there are so few chances to raise one’s place in normal society. Add to this the ever-presence of thieves and assassins guilds and societies of various stripes.

Poverty is the common condition. Not being poor is exceptional.
A+ for brevity and precision. 


If you've made it this far, and this sounds at all interesting to you, leave me comment. I'm eager to get people involved with this campaign on Google+, and eager to make it as awesome as possible. Given all of the discussions Adam and I have had so far, I think it's going to be quite a ride.