Saturday, 29 March 2014

The Ice Grill of Dis

The bards of the coastal city of Dis are known as much for their ostentatious and flamboyant style as they are for their cruel wit and quick fire verse. The gaudy wordsmiths are notorious for possessing a savage competitive streak that often results in epic feuds. Magicians of Dis work in tandem with the cities booming jewellery industry to produce unique (and incredibly expensive) items that give the bards an edge in their poetic battles. The Ice Grill is one such piece, gifting the bard with the ability to literally freeze their opponents in place with nothing more than a well timed insult.

Description: The Ice Grill appears to be a mould of an adult humans upper teeth, carved out of solid platinum. It is inscribed with tiny, intricate runic etchings that glow with a blue flame when the item is activated. It is worn by being inserted onto the upper teeth, and will magically tighten or loosen to hold firmly in place when in a wearers mouth.

Effects: Once per day, a bard wearing the Ice Grill may pick a single sentient target that can understand the language the bard is speaking as the subject for their vicious rhyming insults. They roll to affect the target as if using the bardic ability Charm. If the target is affected they are paralysed for 1 turn per level of the offensive bard, and may not move, speak or cast spells, attack or take any action except defending themselves with their AC modified -2 [+2]. If the player can successfully improvise a 4 line rhyming insult tailored to the target that makes the table cheer, then the AC modifier is increased to -3 [+3].

Friday, 28 March 2014

Parker's Pipe

This is the famous pipe of Captain Pineas Parker, believed lost in the elven raid that destroyed the trading colony on Crab Shanks island. Parker was renowned for his habit of crumbling coral from the reef around Crab Shanks into his tobacco before smoking, an affectation that he described as 'victuals for the sharp mind and a tonic for the shaky soul'. Survivors of the colony have suggested that this habit was also the catalyst for his eventual horrible death at the hands of the elves.

Description: A long handled ivory pipe, carved from the horn of a narwhal. Delicate grooves circle the slender handle, and the bowl is carved with the face of a jungle puck.

Effects: Parker's Pipe is inhabited by a capricious sea daemon that hates the elves and poisons the mind of anyone that uses it. When used to smoke crushed coral from an elven reef, it will increase the users Intelligence score by +1 and give magic users the ability to memorise one more spell per day up to the highest level available to them. This effect lasts for 24 hours or until the pipe is smoked again, but bonuses do not stack. Each time the pipe is smoked, there is a cumulative 5% chance that the daemon will be activated and begin to affect the mind of the smoker. Once the daemon has been activated, the bonus increases to give a +2 Intelligence score to the user and the ability to memorise two more spells per day, but this only lasts for 4 hours before the pipe must be used again. The activated daemon will whisper secret recipes to the user, suggesting that using the pipe to smoke elven flesh along with the coral will bring further powers. Each time the daemon activated pipe is smoked the user must make a saving throw or be possessed by the subtle devil for the next 24 hours, during which time they will quietly seek to murder, flay and smoke an elf.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

The Illume Chisel

The Chisel is the grand prize at the Illume, the annual art contest in honour of Easel, God of Artists and Corruption. It's entire purpose is to give the winner an unfair advantage in the next years competition. The Illume gets incredibly vicious, as judges are bribed, works are destroyed, artists are assassinated and backs are stabbed. The Chisel gives it's wielders supernaturally attuned senses when carrying out the dark deeds necessary to assert their artistic dominance.

Description: A steel headed chisel. The handle is made of smoothed and polished onyx, carved with beautifully illuminated images of artists at work.

Effects: The Illume Chisel may be used in combat as a Dagger +1.

When holding the Illume Chisel, a character who does not have access to Thieving Skills gains the use of Thieving Skills as if they were a Thief at ½ their current level (example; a 4th level Fighter wields the Illume Chisel. He may fight as if using a Dagger +1 and gains access to Thieving Skills such as Climb Walls, Hide in Shadows and Open Locks as if he were a 2nd level Thief).

When holding the Illume Chisel, a character who does have access to Thieving Skills (Assassin, Monk, Thief) increases their effective level when using Thieving Skills by 3 levels (example; a 5th level Thief wields the Illume Chisel. He may now use Thieving Skills as if he were an 8th level Thief for as long as he holds the Chisel).

In addition, the Illume Chisel is a masterful tool for sculpting. It has a particular affinity for any work which sucks up to Easel, God of Artists and Corruption.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

The ruins of Crab Shank's old town

 A couple of hexes from the Isles of Fire and Cruelty


18.15 – 19.14 – 19.15: Ruins of the old town

Crab Shanks Isle is located on the south east of the archipelago. The last Edge Landers to set up shop here angered the elves at 25.06. One night the whole tribe mobilised and attacked, wiping out the entire settlement. The elves burned the buildings, tore up the agriculture and tortured and killed everyone they found. Most of the bodies are gone now, decomposed, washed away or eaten, but the charred remains of the town are still standing.

A brave (or reckless) Hungry Keeper seeded a dungeon in the ruins at 18.15, dedicated to Shut Lung. It is inhabited by a school of deep ones in the waters below, tended to by a motley cult of brainwashed and traumatised human survivors. The deep ones are paranoid and careful not to alert the elves to their presence, and are planning to escape to less hostile waters if they can manage it without incurring the wrath of Shut Lung.

The ruins at 19.14 has attracted a crew of outcast Puck treasure hunters. The diminutive fae have modelled themselves on Edge Lander dungeoneers, and as such are violent, amoral and lustful for gold. They have adorned themselves with whatever accoutrements of the gold hounds trade they can scavenge or jury-rig.

In the ruined port at 19.15 lives the ghost of Captain Pineas Parker, former governor of Crab Shanks. Horribly tortured before his death at the hands of the elves, Parker is tied to this plane by the continued existence of Parker's Pipe, a magic item now in the hands of the elves at 25.06. Destruction of the Pipe will free Parker to the aether.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

"Elf Island" - Sandbox / Hexcrawl Preview

I've been playing about with Hexographer recently and I've put together this little map, a Far Flung Island inhabited by warring Elves, mischievous Puck and a nervous Edge Landers trading colony.

I'm planning to write this up as a sandbox / hexcrawl module, including such highlights as;

- Warlike tribes of vindictive Elves, bearing centuries old grudges and savagely cruel imaginations.
- Mischievous villages of creatively genius, but morally bankrupt, Puck.
- Sea Devil infested marshlands.
- Dormant volcano. Dormant volcano. Volcano!
- A newly settled trading colony.
- A recently destroyed trading colony.
- Dungeons and not-dungeons galore.

I'd love to hear any suggestions you guys have for things to put into the island, monsters you'd like to fight or locations you'd like to adventure in, as well as any hints + tips on making better maps next time round!

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Houses of Waste and Plenty

An example temple and festival for each of the major Hungry Gods that plague the Edge Lands.

Portly, God of Feast and Famine

1: A squat golden dome located in the centre of a meat packing district. Starving pilgrims from across the Edge Lands bring offerings of raw meat, which are thrown onto a barbecue kept burning by well fed priests. The dome has no windows, only a handful of small entrances and a single inefficient chimney. Smoke fills the room, along with the mouth watering smell of cooked meat. Hungry visitors tempted to steal food sometimes end up on the coals themselves.

2: This month long festival takes place in a remote monastery. Devotees and priests of Portly are locked away in cells and starved for 6 days. Then on the 7th day they feast, throwing themselves into an orgy of food and wine and sex and drugs. The next day the cycle begins again. Many die from starvation or over consumption, lose their minds to drug abuse and isolation, or commit suicide or murder.

Rasping, God of Greed and Gold

1: The Counting House, great temple of Rasping, is located on Crestbourne's western tip. It is where all of Crestbourne's gold goes before it is consigned to the abyss. Priests of Rasping toil night and day, ritually counting and recounting the gold whilst preparing ornately illuminated lists of purchases that the wealth could be spent on. Then they burn the lists and pile the hoards onto the sacrificial boats, destined for the Edge and oblivion.

Unhappy priests of Rasping, hard at work counting gold and illuminating redundant shopping lists.

2: My Desires Eve is Crestbourne's anarchic festival of theft. Law is suspended from nightfall until morning, during which time devotees of Rasping are expected to take to the streets to pillage and loot from their neighbours. There is no legal recourse to recover any property, virtue or honour stolen during My Desires Eve, and not taking the annual opportunity to seek possession of the things you lust after is considered both sacrilegious and rather rude.

Tumble Down, God of Fate and Gambling

1: The Wheel is a great golden spire connected by eight spokes to a massive hollow wheel which contains the most dangerous casino temple on the Edge. Priests of Tumble Down collect wagers and determine the odds on games of chance that range from the mundane to the deadly. The Wheel is a sacred ground, and admission is open to all. Riminal children are warned early about the dangers of the Wheel, as there are well documented cases of reckless youths losing their liberty, their lives or their souls during a childish game of knuckle-bones or conkers.

Cheating is a risky business in the casino-temples, but losing is even more so.

2: Dice Day is a festival of luck. The festivities begin in the early morning, with wild games organised in the streets, dancing and feasting. Devotees of Tumble Down are required to attend temples where they roll dice under the watchful eye of the priesthood. The results might be good or bad - lucky winners could be handed gold coins and sent back to the party or given free reign of a pleasure barge, whilst unlucky losers may be publicly flogged or press-ganged into serfdom for the day.

Easel, God of Artists and Corruption

1: The opulent former residence of a Lip Bound nobleman, converted into a vast studio. Artists from the Edge Lands are 'invited' by Easel to attend the studio, where they are tasked with producing works that please the God. Their canvases are the living flesh of priests that have displeased Easel.

Penitent priests of Easel

2: The Illume is an annual competition of artworks devoted to Easel. Priests and devotees are expected to pick entrants and scheme towards helping them achieve victory by any means necessary. The competition gets incredibly vicious, as judges are bribed, works are destroyed, artists are assassinated and backs are stabbed. And woe be to Riminal if the winner of the Illume is not to Easel's taste.

Horn, God of Lust and War

1: This amphitheatre is the stage for elaborate competitions and displays of prowess. Horn demands exhibitions both erotic and violent, but has been known to change his mind about which he wishes for midway through a performance. One may witness stunning sexual athletes thrown weapons mid-coitus and tasked with fighting to the finish, whilst lethal gladiators toss aside their weapons, drop their armour and fuck furiously, all for the fickle favours of the God of sex and death.

2: Healing is free at the temples of Horn during the Feast of Fist and Bottle, with only one caveat – if you take to the streets, then you have to fight. Children fight children, men fight men, women fight women, and grandparents fight grandparents. If an Unfallen is in the streets and they come across a peer, they must fight with their fists or be shamed in front of the community. The drinking holes and restaurants fill up with fighters taking a rest, as the open public spaces of Unfall become one huge, rollicking, alcohol fuelled melee. The harassed clerics of Horn move amongst the wreckage, dispensing healing spells and (in rare cases) resurrections.

The Feast of Fist and Bottle

Lisp, God of Lies and Public Speaking

1: The Pandetorium was once a public forum where the citizenry gathered to discuss politics and elect officials. It is now a sort of speakers corner, except that many of the speakers are priests of Lisp who lace their rhetoric with just enough truth to suck the listener into the web of falsity. Whole doctrines have sprung up around the most charismatic and subtle of these orators, and passionate citizens crowd the Pandetorium daily, arguing furiously over the finer details of philosophies bred from falsehood.

False wisdom and subtle half truths hold sway in the Pandetorium

2: Chaos reigns at the Great Masquerade, during which no Unfallen may be in public without wearing a mask, and no enquiries may be made as to a persons true identity. The Masquerade is held on the hottest day of the year, when tempers and passions are at boiling point, and inevitably the feasting and merrymaking of the day gives way to anarchy come nightfall. This is the day when young Unfallen traditionally lose their virginities, and it is notorious for leaving a tidal wave of cuckolded husbands and scorned wives in it's wake. The truth is considered gauche at this festival, and a state of high alertness is required if you wish to keep an eye on a wayward spouse or disobedient offspring.

Stutter Eye, God of Voyeurs and the Deranged

1: A prison laid out like an ants nest, full of two way glass, open topped areas with viewing platforms, and arcane methods of scrying upon the inmates. The lives of the prisoners are studied and documented religiously, and whenever there is a lull in activity the priests will instigate drama, stoking the fires of conflict and changing the rules at random. Devotees sometimes volunteer for imprisonment, tasked with keeping the human show interesting for the Peeping God.

2: Devotees of Stutter Eye are notorious for carrying out pop-up theatre shows in temples to the God and other public spaces. Attendees are often drugged with mind altering hallucinogens,  before being exposed to bizarre and horrific avant-garde dramas. These shows are incredibly popular amongst Overpeakers, and young dramatists will scheme viciously to secure a casting audition.

Theatre in Overpeak is hallucinatory, intense, and reliant on audience participation.

Shut Lung, God of Drowning and Visions

1: These public baths have been converted into a series of drowning rooms. Devotees of Shut Lung come here to be ritually drowned and (hopefully) resuscitated by the priesthood. The lucky survivors report fascinating visions of their pasts and futures, insightful messages and signs from the God. The less fortunate do not.

Fingers crossed for a vision, eh?

2: The Feast of Descension is a grand festival, when the citizens of Overpeak take to the waves in their thousands. Galleys and gondolas, warships and pleasure barges, all are packed with revellers and socialites, devotees and priests, the brave and the curious. The boats set out at first light and approach the Edge, vying amongst themselves to show their bravery and recklessness as the wine begins to flow and the captains sail nearer and nearer the squalls that could drag them over the side of the world. There is feasting and entertainment and speeches from the great and the good. At sunset lots are drawn and unlucky souls from the grand boats are thrown overboard, destined to drown if they are lucky or to be sucked over the Edge still alive if they are not.

How Peakers let you know that the party has finished.

Monday, 10 February 2014

The Puck

There are children in the morning...


Little cousins of the elves, the puck were born within the savage beauty of the islands fauna, elven magic mingling with jungle wildlife to give a spark of life to these tragic creatures. Elves have the advantage of limitless life to spend on their whims. Pucks will rarely live longer than thirty years. They burn brighter than any of the young races, all the more so for their proximity to the inhuman revelries of the elves.

Pucks are tiny winged terrors, barbarous and beautiful and utterly fascinated by every aspect of existence. They are prolific creators, their inland strongholds oases of stunning artwork carved out of the very stuff of the islands. It is for puck handiwork that the young races have ever risked coming to the lands of the elves.

Puck jewelley

Puck sculpture

The puck dress themselves in elaborate creations carved out of the jungles. They petrify petals and wear them as jewellery, bleach the bones of the islands vicious mega fauna with dyes of vivid colour and wield them as weapons. They stitch together human sized clothing of such detail that they are prized by the nobility the world over.

The puck are notorious for their self flagellating behaviour. Their limitless imagination for self expression does not limit itself to creative urges. They have little impulse control, and destructive and wanton behaviour pours forth when they are struck by the need to break something. They torture themselves with elaborate body modifications, mortifying the skin and adjusting their souls, remaking themselves with magic and crude surgery to better fit the self image that their fickle mind has thrown up.

Whilst it is a rare elf who leaves the islands, the puck are driven by a deep and powerful wanderlust. When traders arrive upon the shores of the island they will inevitably be leaving with a pack of puck,  regardless of whether they would like to or not. Puck are fecund and lustful beings, but they have no concept of family ties or anything properly approaching duty or commitment. Their loyalties are reserved for those that they choose.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Island Elves

There are heroes in the seaweed...

Before the Edge Landers, the people at the furthest reaches of the world were the elves. An ancient and nigh-immortal race, the elves were born in the crushing depths of the sea, birthed in the stunning, shuddering coral reefs. They gestated in the dark and then burst forth into the light, bringing all the colour of the rainbow with them.

Elves are savage and serious in war and sport, mercurial and ecstatic in all else. They build little, instead growing their living weaponry along the coral reefs. They armour themselves in bark and shark skin, stringing teeth and pearls around their necks for jewellery. Their hair and skin are shocking canvases, their clear bronzed skin sprayed with splashes of vivid colour, shards of coral and sea weed growing from their scalps.

For millennia the elves of the Far Flung Islands have lived their simple and inhuman lives. They see the younger races as tormented creatures, chasing obsessions of such crippling grandeur that they cannot hope to achieve them within their minuscule life spans. Elves are creatures of passion and nothing else. For creatures of such lengthy existence they are insanely near sighted. They experience life as a series of barely connected events, tied together only by the cosmic bonds of their own personality and whims.

Elf revelry

The elves are loathe to go more than a day from the sea, and it is a rare creature who will sail away from their coral reef birthplaces. They call up elaborate castles of glass and sand along the coasts of their island strongholds, dancing around great fires at night and striking out into the crystal seas come sunrise in search of prey.

Homes of sand and glass

Elves are known for monstrous cruelty. Before the Edge Landers carved a path through their ancestral homelands, the elves might as well have been the edge of the world for all that it mattered to the younger races. Elves rarely leave the islands but when they come en-mass it is almost always for war. The creatures might remember a slight hundreds of years old and muster for revenge, mounting up in great war parties that will strike out across the ocean in an orgy of torture and murder, utterly oblivious to the fact that the objects of their sudden anger are centuries buried.

Into the Castra

In recognition of reaching 333 views of the blog, I'm uploading Into the Castra, the first Uncharted Empires adventure I ran my poor players through. You can find it at Into the Castra along with the Uncharted Empire playtest files I used to run the game. It's all pretty rough and ready at the moment, but I'm sure any evil minded GM can have fun with it.

Friday, 7 February 2014


Across the Unknown World there are places of lost wealth and hidden power. The ruins of ancient civilisations, perhaps even the old cities once abandoned by the Edge Landers. Forbidding fortifications of unfathomable military cultures, the laboratory-homes of strange and terrible magi, forgotten battlefields and forsaken temples. Some hang in the sky with arcane energy, some thrust from the ground and dare the brave to enter, some sink into the dirt and hide their secrets in the dark. All may be of worth to the Edge Landers, all may hold wealth and wonder and maybe even the secrets of reversing the curse that threatens their homes.

But they are not dungeons.

Dungeons are a sickness, inflicted on the world by greedy deities who lust after sacrifice and struggle.

Dungeons are a virus, mutating and spreading, taking new shapes to combat the antibodies that may seek to destroy them or plunder their wealth.

Dungeons are alive and asexual, multiplying impossible cultures within themselves, all for the purpose of lengthening the pain deemed necessary for a worthy sacrifice.

Dungeons are where the gold grows.

Before the Edge Landers abandoned the Unknown World, they were voracious capitalists. Hoarders and marauders, they were notorious for their asset stripping culture, warring and empire building in order to collect mineral and material wealth. They felt confident to turn away only when they had gorged themselves already, when their coffers were bursting and they could spend generations building a new homeland of sparkling spires and glimmering streets.

But their greed and hubris did not go unnoticed by the Hungry Gods. Those vicious and venal divinities let the Edge Landers wallow in their perceived victory for a century or more. They watched as the Glittering Cities went up, shining beacons of man made decadence at the edge of the earth and the Abyss. They watched as the Ledge Hangers leaned over the Edge and learned of things that man should never learn. They saw the Lip Bound tie themselves to their hard won new lands with arrogant rituals of the earth and sea. They laughed as the Vergers imposed a policy of isolation, all the while patting themselves on the back at having won at the game of the world.

And then they sped up the oceans, twisted the tides, and pushed the onyx city of Abyssire over the Edge of the world.

The Hungry Gods are not particularly subtle, only covetous and cruel. They demand worship, and they are happily going about the process of punishing the Edge Landers for denying it. They have conditions for sparing the Glittering Cities the fate of Abyssire, and those conditions all hinge upon supplication and sacrifice. The Hungry Gods adore idolatry and cultism, they lust after pageantry and surrender, and so they do not care one jot that their worshippers absolutely detest them. They are shallow and grasping, and they are punishing the Edge Landers now because they have embodied exactly those qualities so well.

The Hungry Gods want gold, and they want it great quantity. They know how the metal causes a madness of greed and lust within the mortal cultures, and so they want it unspent and thrown away, tossed into the Abyss with the right measure of pomp and ritual. They have already overseen the building of ridiculous temples in their own honour within the Glittering Cities, and were it not for their own absurd pleasure in the gaudy decadence of the Edge Landers architecture they would have demanded that the precious metals and priceless artefacts that are the building blocks of the cities be forfeited as well. But instead they have inflicted a terrible curse on the wider world, and tasked the Edge Landers with returning to places that they long ago abandoned in order to once again strip them dry.

Dungeons are self perpetuating hell holes, often deep underground, but at the very least out of sight of the sun - almost certainly to avoid the attentions of gods greater than their Hungry creators. Within them grow all the useless trinkets that man lusts after – gold and jewellery, silver and gemstones. The Hungry Gods like to seed them with powerful magic items and other useful prizes, in order to further increase the desire of those who are now forced to seek them out. But wherever the greatest rewards may be found, so too will the greatest dangers. Agents of the Hungry Gods have been placed within the dungeons, tasked with tailoring them with the most malicious and spiteful traps and pitfalls they can devise in order to lay low the gold hounds. The Hungry Gods demand sacrifice, and so within the dungeons they will receive it, all to lead on to further sacrifice as the Edge Landers weep whilst they commit fortunes to the aether. And so too have the dungeons been seeded with the base creatures and the low, the bloodthirsty and the terrifying, with the wicked tomfoolery of the goblin and the pitiless little mind of the bugbear, the pathetic cruelty of the kobold and the comedic savagery of the orc. One dungeon may bear the mark of a vindictive intellect, tailored with an eye to the ecosystem most likely to crush the resolve of any adventurers who get caught within it, a self contained cultural maelstrom of vehement intent. Another may be incomprehensible in it's manner and methods, peopled with such a mind boggling array of weird and horrific denizens so as to stun the senses of even the most hardened delver. It is rare that the Edge Landers know what they will find when they adventure into a dungeon, only that there will be these three things for sure – monsters, traps and treasure.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

The Edge Landers

Having won an e-bay auction to grab a copy of the Moldvay Basic D&D set (crayon and dice included!), I've been brainstorming a setting that justifies near continuous dungeon crawling, a lust for gold for it's own sake, and a reason to have constant travel in order to not get bogged down in a single location.


They live in glittering island cities, perched on the Edge of the world. Beneath them, the waters run fast, dragging their homelands inexorably towards the Abyss. They angered the Hungry Gods centuries ago, and this has been their punishment, a slow slide towards doom. Whole islands have slid off the Edge already, and the rest will soon follow unless they can appease the Gods with the only things that can satisfy their greed - sacrifice and gold.

Approaching the Edge

The Edge Landers turned their backs on the anarchy of the world a long time ago, sickened by the insatiable appetites of the Hungry Gods and their spawn. The earth is cursed with a sickness of dungeons, pits of evil created by the Gods in order to give the Free Peoples a means with which to offer up the struggles they desire. Knowing the lust of humanity towards gold, the Hungry Gods like nothing more than to watch mortals struggle for the precious metals that grow in abundance in the dungeons - to struggle for it, and then cast it into the Abyss as an act of worthless supplication.

So the Edge Landers must strike out from their strongholds once more and return to the hostile world they wished to leave behind, in a desperate attempt to appease the very Gods they sought to escape. Brave souls - adventurers - must delve deep for the gold that their shining homes require if they do not want to tumble over the precipice of existence.

Edge Lands Gold Hound

The City Fleet and Town Ships

The bickering cities of the Edge Landers traditionally spent their time and energies in a state of cold war, espionage and social one-upmanship against their neighbours. However, with the impending threat of cataclysm and annihilation, they have had to begrudgingly work together for once. The result has been the City Fleet, a floating microcosm of Edge culture that has struck out into the Unknown World in search of gold.

The City Fleet is an armada of vessels bound together with arcane technology and desperate ingenuity. It is a self contained society, capable of supporting itself at sea for long periods of time, with food production, manufacturing and entertainment all available. Each of the Glittering Cities is represented upon the Fleet, although the entire thing must return to the Edge intermittently in order to elect a new Admiral.

Town Ship

The City Fleet is a monstrous beast, miles across, a veritable man made island. As such it must live upon the high seas, and cannot reach into the waterways and coastlines of the Unknown World. To this end, whole Town Ships will split away from the Fleet when necessary, striking out on missions of greed and adventure into the many strange lands and cultures that the Edge Landers left behind when they abandoned the world.

The Glittering Cities

Crestbourn: Most stable of the Glittering Cities, the waters of Crestbourn are not as treacherous as those that are pushing the others towards their doom. Of course, nobody now trusts the Crest Born, convinced that they have struck their own bargains with the Hungry Gods and are stockpiling gold and treasure for themselves and their salvation alone.

Crestbourn has been coerced into building the largest temples to Portly, God of Feast and Famine, and Rasping, God of Greed and Gold.

The Crest Born are the richest of the Edge Landers. They are renowned for decadence and opulence, bloody minded business tactics and sharp politicking.

Crest Born

Riminal: Furthest from the Edge, the Riminals have a reputation for open-mindedness and a curiosity about the Unknown World. Of course, nobody now trusts the Riminals, convinced that they hoard knowledge of the Unknown World and strike bargains with the monsters and dungeon denizens for their own benefit.

Riminal has been coerced into building the largest temples to Tumble Down, God of Fate and Gambling, and Easel, God of Artists and Corruption.

The Riminals are the avant-garde of the Edge Landers. They are renowned for creativity and criminality, wild adventures and vicious gang wars.

Riminal artists

Unfall: Unfall came close to going over the Edge along with it's twin city of Abyssire, but the waters shifted and pushed them into relative safety at the last minute. Of course, nobody now trusts the Unfallen, convinced that they must have sacrificed Abyssire to save their own sorry skins.

Unfall has been coerced into building the largest temples to Horn, God of Lust and War, and Lisp, God of Lies and Public Speaking.

The Unfallen are the militants of the Edge Landers. They are renowned for warfare and treachery, unbridled aggression and deceitful romance .

Unfallen warband

Overpeak: Overpeak has always been dangerously close to the Edge, and is the home of the Ledge Wizards, alchemists and arcanists who stare into the Abyss and draw power from it. Of course, nobody now trusts the Peakers, convinced that it is their infernal magicking that has drawn the ire of the Hungry Gods.

Overpeak has been coerced into building the largest temples to Stutter Eye, God of Voyeurs and the Deranged, and Shut Lung, God of Drowning and Visions.

The Peakers are the intellectuals of the Edge peoples. They are renowned for magic and madness, genius creations and insane experiments.


Wednesday, 22 January 2014

What I gone and done this week

Wherein I lead a group of 4E players and newbies into a hellish abandoned fort in 500AD Britain.

I ran my first play test of Uncharted Empires this week.

Test group were four guys from my regular 4E group and two new players (new to the table AND brand new to tabletop RPGs in general). After apologising to the newbies in advance for what I was going to put their characters through (my 4E group have played Unknown Armies with me before, they knew what they were getting themselves into), we settled down to play.

Things that happened;

1) The party were shanghaied by the King of London (I will admit, there are certain historical inaccuracies in my setting) into chasing a Roman codex hidden in an abandoned fort on the Isle of Dogs.

The Castra, including the positions of guards and ghouls - I'll post the adventure once it's been tidied up a bit

2) Half the party proceeded to LOSE THEIR FREAKIN' MINDS upon encountering a gang of ghouls chewing on the remains of the last guys to come looking for said codex. However, with the general consensus being that FRENZY was the most sensible reaction to the foul beasts, the ghouls got massacred.

3) There was a slow and methodical exploration & attempted looting of the fort, as to be expected from the murder-hobos in the group, and sincere role playing and character exploration from the (surely doomed) RPers.

4) An encounter with the ghosts of the fort's previous inhabitants, only witnessed by the more sensitive and new-age souls in the gang.

5) One of the newbies (a merchants son in nominal charge of the merry band) got greedy at an ominous statue and picked up 2 cursed gems which promptly turned into worms and burrowed their way into his body, despite half the party pulling out sharp implements and digging in to try and get them free. It was at this point that the character asked how many hit points he had lost, and I replied by telling him that his hand was half off, there was a hole in his forearm and his skin was itchy and crawling with disgust, so please make a stress check not to lose your freakin' mind. He passed, and the group decided to let the worms be (the 2nd option was on the spot amputation, but they decided against that for the time being.)

6) A descent into the depths of the fort yielded zombies (missing a variety of limbs before meeting the PCs, missing all of them shortly afterwards), more trapped jewels (which they wisely smashed), potentially priceless Roman scrolls (which they wisely stole), and a savage cultist in possession of both the codex they were after and a spell that caused the worms in the newbies body to burst explosively to freedom, resulting in the first of two player deaths at the table that night (the 2nd fell to disembowelment by zombie).

The group snatched up the codex and made their escape, and we called it a night.

Thoughts on the first session;

1) Britain circa-500 AD is a beautiful setting for the sort of game I'm after. It's an almost post-apocalyptic society, warring tribes fighting it out over an incredibly depopulated landscape. Tons of built in 'dungeon' environments - Roman ruins, burial mounds, (Stone)henges. Plus, it's the 'Dark Ages' - with so little concrete information on the period, who's going to notice the odd historical inaccuracy or anachronism between friends?

2) My party love sanity mechanics. They're awesome in capturing the present day, post-modern horror of Unknown Armies, and they seem to work just as wonderfully as a kind of ready made morale system in a hack n' slash fantasy crawl. But - in Unknown Armies you get to choose your reaction to failing a stress check, which resulted in a lotta frenzied frenzying on hapless ghouls and zombies during this session. My group suggested that they should lose some control over their reactions to losing sanity. As random effects and emergent game play are something that ties in nicely with the old school fantasy elements I'd like to include in UE, next session I'm going to mock up a randomised table for failing sanity checks and see how it works.

3) Percentile systems work great for eyeballing characters attributes and capabilities. It was as easy as asking 'Who's got a Spirit score above 50?' to know who would encounter the ghosts and who would be left scratching their heads at the rest of the parties sudden strange behaviour.

4) Traps are fun. Traps that reward unbridled greed with body horror and self inflicted injury are fun.

It's a trap!

5) Not knowing your hit points gets a unanimous thumbs up at my table. A little extra book keeping for the GM, but well worth it for the immersion. The look on the new players face when I described how his character FELT rather than how much HP he'd lost was priceless.

6) Everyone enjoyed fighting tough, dangerous enemies like the zombies. I'm working on a grid based combat system for UE which I'll be talking about more in the future, but for now I'll just point out a few highlights. It's an opposed roll system where attacks are declared, then defence is chosen (block, parry, dodge, retreat for now), then both parties roll and compare results. There's a lot of fun stuff I've been able to play with even at this very early stage - high dodge creatures like the ghouls were bouncing all over the place, retreating and then striking out, whereas the zombies didn't even TRY to defend themselves - but without having to face morale checks or worry even a little bit as more bits of themselves were hacked off, they became the most dangerous enemies the group faced in combat this session.

Plus, there was a cheer when the cultist's nefarious magicking was interrupted by a well placed spear throw, highlighting the high lethality of the system against people who choose to run around a battlefield wearing little more than bad attitude and a toga. 

Plate mail next time

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Uncharted Empires

I'm currently working on a fantasy mash up of Unknown Armies and D&D 4th Edition, inspired by the OSR, with a dash of Cthulhu and just a hint of Warhammer thrown in for good measure.

I've been fortunate enough to come back to RPGs after a hiatus of some 13 years or so. I play in an awesome D&D 4E game - Forgotten Realms, high fantasy, it's great. But I've been blessed with a group who are willing to let me try out all my gaming experiments on them, so I've also been GMing the odd one shot of Unknown Armies for them.

For a group of Forgotten Realms players, some of whom had never been in a game before our 4E group got together - I think they took the madness meters and psychotic magick of Unknown Armies VERY well.

So I've been inspired by a number of sources, to work on something that captures a certain feel, that emphasises and encourages a certain emergent style of game play, but is also something that matches up with my particular tastes.

  • Unknown Armies: My favourite game by a country mile. I love percentile based systems, I love the obsessions, the passions, the madness meters and the universe.
  • D&D 4th Edition: For the exciting tactical combat. Some people hate grid based battle systems - I'm not one of them.
  • The OSR: For the sheer inventiveness, the seriousness of the fun mixed with the gonzo and outre elements, and the sense of danger and risk of sudden death at low levels.
  • Medieval History: Because it's so goddamn fascinating. 
  • Cthulhu: Because everything is better with the Great Old Ones.

So this is what I'd like to put together with this mash up; a percentile based system, with mechanics for pursuing obsessions and passions to the point of madness. A tactical combat system that can work with a grid and minis. A system easy to mod and play with, a system that can scale up and down to fit in all the creatures and monsters and spells and worlds that our fevered imaginations can come up with. A game that encourages dungeon delving and treasure hunting, but can work just as well for political intrigue and exploration of the unknown world. And if I can fit evil books of magic and macabre Chthonic gods in there, all the better.


Hello, and welcome to Uncharted Empires.

I'll be talking here about role-playing games, my experiences and experiments with them. 

Hopefully I'll have something interesting to say, or you guys can kill me and take my stuff.