Thursday, 23 April 2015

Building a Sandbox Campaign, Part 9: Magic and the Fells

fairy Circle by T.H. Thomas, taken from British Goblins

One of the cornerstones of The Fells as a campaign world was that there was to be an actual, physical in-game divide between the mundane world of civilisation and the magical wilderness of adventure. Since I've now reached the stage where I have a map, I should like to take a moment to explore where that barrier lies and the effect that it is.

The Fells campaign is loosely inspired by the sidhe of Irish mythology, and  the broader, Germanic-Celtic folklore of northern Europe. A common feature of these myths is the idea of a faery kingdom or fey realm, to which mortals might be transported, either willingly or unwillingly. Further myths and legends abound concerning ancient sites and faery rings that act as a gateway between the two realms. In the realm of The Fells there are points where the Otherworld of the Ao Sith and the mundane world are one and the same. At these points, there is no divide between the mundane and the magical.

It makes sense to me that such points would correspond with the sites I've selected for various adventures (lairs & ruins), so I shaded these off on my hex-map accordingly. Of course, some of those lairs might be home to more mundane creatures, but I can change my map later. I've also decided that some of these lairs are locations of veritable fey dominions, and so the surrounding hexes for certain locations are shaded, too.


Now, in the post concerning campaign tone I wrote that as well as a mundane and a magical realm, there should also be a hinterland between the two. In campaign terms, this represents a point where the Otherworld's influence is strong, magic works and fey creatures can travel, but it is the two realms are still essentially separate from one another.

Using my hex map above, I then began to shade in all hexes abutting a fey hex, identifying them as on the fey "hinterland". I then shaded in a few extra hexes to link areas together, producing this quite pretty map below.

The Fells- areas of magical influence.

PCs wandering through this map never leave the mundane world: instead, the pass through parts of the mundane world which are also part of the Otherworld, or are particularly close to it. The two worlds are parallel, but largely independent: entering a magenta hex does not mean the character is free to explore the realm of the fey, that would require special enchantment. Likewise, a fey creature can never leave the Otherworld: they might sometimes wander into areas were the mundane and the Otherworld are the same, or close to one another, but if they wander into a mundane hex, they vanish from view. This reinforces my conceptualisation of fey creatures described in this post.

The hinterland squares have special characteristics, for here the Otherworld can be seen but not touched. Henceforth it shall be known as the halfworld, for although it is mundane it is neither here nor there. Here. inhabitants of the Otherworld appear like wraiths or shadows and, if they desire, may fully manifest in this magical part of the mundane world. They may just as easily leave, whereupon they once again take on a semi-corporeal form, appearing as harmless ghosts.

This gives all fey a horrifying power of mundane creatures: they may enter and leave certain parts of their world at will, steal from or harm its inhabitants, then return to somewhere humans will never be able to reach them.

Pan's Labyrinth... scary faeries...

Magical creatures are often protected by an immunity to conventional weapons, and in the Otherworld the majority of creatures experience a boost to their immunity, so that a creature normally vulnerable to silver weapons will only be vulnerable to a +1 magical weapon and so on. Fey creatures without invulnerability can only be hit by silver or magical weapons in the fey realm. In other words, a fey creature is at full strength in the Otherworld, but whilst in the Halfworld it is weaker and more vulnerable.
eg. Naimbh the Bold encounters a band of malevolent redcaps whilst exploring a strange forest in the Halfworld . They attempt to lure her into the Otherworld realm by taunting and attacking her. Because they are not very powerful, she is able to wound them with her mundane sword, Brechwingamen, so the Redcap hop between worlds in the hope that she will not kill them.
They successfully lure her to a point where the Otherworld and Mundane are one [a magenta hex]; here, there powers are augmented and Naimbh's sword appears to pass through them without causing any damage. Remembering the legends concerning such creatures, Naimbh pulls a silver dagger from it's sheath and is able to inflict harm on them.
Overpowered, Naimbh flees, with some of the Redcap in pursuit. They follow her for many miles, but as soon as she leaves the Halfworld, they are unable to maintain chase: fey creatures may not enter the mundane.
Spell casting and magical powers are also affected by the location of the creature. Magic in this campaign is drawn entirely from the Otherworld, and so is at its most potent in that realm. In the mundane world it is subject to severe restrictions. In the Halfworld, where the influence of the Otherworld is strong, magic follows conventional game mechanics.

The full details of the effects on spell casting are listed below:

The Mundane

  • Magical scrolls require an additional round to activate. All spell scrolls will have a 50% chance of summoning a creature.
  • Rods, staves and wands require an additional round to activate. All spell like effects will have a 50% chance of summoning a creature.
  • Potions either operate at 50% efficiency or have their duration reduced by 50%.
  • Katadru (cleric analogues) and other faith-based casters are unable to cast spells;
  • Magic users and Keiwosithe may cast spells but with the following restrictions:
              1. At first level they may only cast read magic.
              2. At 2nd level the may cast read magic and one other first level spell with a 50% chance of failure
              3. At 3rd level they may cast read magic and one other first level spell without restrictions. All other 1st level spells have a 50% chance of failure. They may not cast any second level spells.
              4. At 4th level they have the same restrictions as 3rd level, but may cast one 2nd level spell at 50% chance of failure.
              5. At all subsequent levels the pattern continues: they can cast one spell without random failure at each spell level they know, apart from the highest level. They are unable to cast any spells of their highest level unless they are "usually" able to cast until they learn one more spell at this level, which will have a 50% chance of failure.
              6. All spells, once cast successfully, have a 50% chance of summoning a creature.
The Halfworld
  • Magical items and spell casting function as usual,
The Otherworld
  • Katudru and other faith based casters awaking in the Otherworld may prepare two additional spells for each spell level they know, apart from spells of the highest level they can cast. They may prepare one additional spell of their highest spell level. These spells are lost if they leave the Otherworld.
  • Magic users and Keiwosithe entering the Otherworld automatically gain the ability re-cast one already-prepared spell at every level they have memorised. Additionally, they may spontaneously cast one spell they know (but not necessarily prepared) at each level they can cast except for their highest level spells. This ability is lost if they leave the Otherworld, and not regained until 24 hours after they have left.
  • Magical items function normally.
Example:
Gwyn is a sixth level Soit-alo. She begins the day in a woodland in the mundane world, and prepares three first level spells (read magic, magic missile and Sleep), two second level spells (Invisibility and Detect Evil) and two 3rd level spells (Fly, Dispel Magic).
Whilst in the mundane, Gwyn may cast read magic without restrictions. She may cast one other first level spell without restrictions, and one with a fifty percent chance of failure. She may cast one second level spell without restrictions, and one with a fifty percent chance of failure. She may only cast one of her third level spells, and it will have a 50% chance of failure.
Gwyn casts no spells until her party enter the Haunted Forest, which is located in the Halfworld. Here, she may cast her spells with no additional restrictions. During an encounter with a group of bandits, she uses magic missile and sleep.
As her party venture further into the wood, they become aware of an unusual magical presence. They have entered the Otherworld. Shortly, they are ambushed by a group of goblins. Gwyn is able to re-cast one of her spent first level spells, and may cast one each of her second and third level spells again. She may also cast one first level and one second level spell she knows spontaneously for as long as she remains in the Otherworld.
Next time, I will be looking at providing further detail for the base town, Mutshud.
  
 




Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Building a Sandbox Campaign, Part 8: Adventure Sites


Map of the Fells with ruins

Following Bat in the Attic's example, once a regional map is drafted the following steps are to be implemented: 
  1. Decide to place Population Locales note their race this includes social monsters
    1. Decide to place Lairs (locales that revolves around a home of monsters)
    2. Decide to place Ruins (locales that revolves around a site)
    3. Decide to place miscellaneous locales. (anything that doesn't fit a above.
    The Fells is a campaign set in the magical wilderness beyond civilisation, amidst the various ruins of the vanished Land of the Giants. These ruins represent adventure locations where ancient artefacts, hidden treasures or hideous monsters might be located.

    This is a Sandbox campaign: where the PCs venture to is up to them. But some guidance should be provided- not to rail-road the PCs, but to give them some choices about where they might wish to head. Nearby ruins might be well known to the inhabitants of Mutshud (our AdventureTown TM.), whereas the location of more distant ruins might be more vague, with clues, hints and maps obtained during preceding encounters.

    Map of the Fells with ruins and lairs

    Of course, in addition to these ruins are the locations of various lairs. These could be the hideouts of local bandits, the den of unearthly monsters or even whole villages of Keiwosithe. Unlike ruins, there's no obvious geographical features to mark these out, and PCs will either stumble upon them or seek them out based on rumour. Rumours could cover anything from information obtained from random encounters (Bandit: "Look, all I know is that things were fine until those other crooks showed up, about 12 miles south of here"), local heresay ("There been strange creatures spotted in the marshes... weird, unearthly creatures...") or even just the name of geographical features ("The forest, south of here? Oh, you mean the haunted woods...").

    Each of these lairs and ruins I've populated (to larger or greater extents), but shan't go into detail here for fear of future players unravelling their secrets. But each lair or ruin also is accompanied by site-specific random encounter tables in their immediate environs, which may give PCs clues as to how to find the lair/ruin, and what they might expect to encounter there when they do....

    Tuesday, 21 April 2015

    Building a Sandbox Campaign, Part 7: The Map


    Thus far I've been posting a log of my world-building activities, closely following the template set by Rich Burlew over at Giant in the Playground. Burlew's collection of articles concentrate on creating a viable campaign world for publication, but my mission from the outset was to create a world for a sandbox campaign. It's time to say goodbye to Burlew (for now) and to have a look at some of the other sandboxing advice available on the internet.

    Bat in the Attic is a great online blog by a seasoned RPG fanatic, very much of the old school. His (I'm assuming the author is the same Robert S. Conley of Bat in the Attic Games) advice is incredibly thorough. I shan't be posting of step of the process here, as I hold out the hope that I'll be able to get an actual campaign out of this one day with real players, and so I want to keep a little back.

    Conley advises beginning with a continental or world map, sketching out a bit of background and then zooming in to "sandbox scale"- a regional map approximately 100 by 200 miles. I'm going to more or less skip the first part: I want to keep the general background vague. We've established that the action is to take place on the hinterland between the Fells and the Valley Kingdoms, and that across the sea to the west lies the civilised realm of the western continent. The above map shows the region of the Fells and the Valleys, and what follows is half a page background on the campaign world.

    The region shows The Valley Kingdoms and the Fells, situated on the Isle of Brythar. Recorded history began roughly four hundred years ago, when traders from the mainland established the town now known as Mytholm. According to them, the local inhabitants were an uncivilised and barbaric bunch, but were incredibly talented potters and weavers, and the wool of their sheep was highly prized. The broad river plains were also extremely fertile, and the lands were coveted: waves of invaders attempted to establish permanent settlements, but the “painted men” (as then they were called, for their habit of tattooing) proved resistant to raiders. The Kintu, as they called themselves, were tenacious warriors, and were dispatched with waves of would-be conquerors. They did allow small groups of traders to remain, and these pioneers gradually brought their continental ways. valuing stability, the settlers covertly engineered the succession of a native overlord and, 150 years ago, Drustan I was crowned the first High King of the Valleys.

    Oral tradition tells a slightly more interesting story. According to legend, the Kintu ("the first") all dwelt in the fells, having been made in the image of their masters, the cruel giants. It was an age of monsters and magic, and the giants ruled all the many creatures of the Fells with an iron fist. Legends tell of a great hero who untied the Ao-Sithe and the Kintu, leading them into the valleys. For a short time the fey-folk and the first men lived in peace, but the giants returned, with an army of foul creatures, led by great dragons.

    Many humans fled across the sea in boats, become ancestors of the westerners. Today the terms “western”, “coward” and “foreign” are synonymous (conversely, east means “strange”, “evil” and “terrifying”), for the men who fled to the west left their brothers and sisters to die at the giants' hands. But the Ao Sithe and the first men fought bravely together, and with powerful magic defeated the monstrous hordes, driving them deep into the Fells. The fair-folk made a pact with the men: they would keep the monsters of the Fells at bay, if men promised to forsake magic.

    For most of the people of the valley, these tales are nothing but that- tales. But in the town of Mutshud, they know differently: they know that the monsters are real, and the dalliances of men with magic or drawing them out of The Fells




    Monday, 20 April 2015

    Building a Sandbox Campaign, Part Six: Non-Playable Races

    Queen Mab, by Henry Meynell Rheam

    The Fells is a sandbox campaign in which PCs have forsaken the relative mundanity of the medieval-Celtic Valley Kingdoms to explore the mysterious highlands, home to lost treasures and strange magic. What is the nature of the inhabitants of the Fells? What creatures inhabit this wyrd realm?

    Let's start with what has been established so far:

    • Humans inhabit the Valley Kingdoms. Magic and wyrd creatures are part of their mythological traditions, but largely regarded as superstition.
    • At society's hinterlands, belief in magic and minsters is more widespread, They've seen stuff.
    • According to ancient myth, humans were once the slaves of a tyrannical precursor race who were overthrown by an alliance of fey creatures and humans.
    •  These fey creatures are said to live in The Fells, a realm where magic is very real.
    • The Keowosithe are an elf-like, iron age people who keep a close eye on their human cousins. their heritage is a mixture of magical fey and mundane humans.
    • The Keijuk have a similar heritage, but were created by the precursors as a slave race (presumably they rebelled at some point). 
    Let's establish the following founder races:
    • Fey- ancient, magical beings inhabiting a world parallel to that of humans.
    • Humans- mundane beings that rule the Valley Kingdoms, former slaves of the precursors who created them.
    • Keowosithe and Keijuks born of mixed fey and human blood.
    • The Precursors, a tyrannical race who once ruled over all the other sentient species.
    Ultimately, all "humanoid" types have their origins in either the fey or the precursors, or both. In the earlier piece regarding setting the tone, I looked at Rich Burlew's assumptions about standard fantasy settings:

    • There are hundreds of intelligent species, but 99% are monsters

    • ...and responded to it thus:
      •  There will be many humanoid species, but...
        1. Most of them will be treated as "fey"
        2. They will have more magical abilities (even kobolds)
      In Rich Burlew's article on world-building he is reluctant to include a panoply of humanoid races, on the basis that civilisation should be the purview of the campaign's dominant species. The subtext here is that humanoid creatures are essentially battling for the same ecological niche, and it undermines the verisimilitude of the setting for there to be hundreds of such sentient races. Furthermore, he wishes to preserve "the medieval feel, for monsters to be Monsters-creatures [sic] that are unknowable and frightening...".

      I like this philosophy but tackle it from a different angle. Rather than living in independent, human-esque societies, why not return dome of these creatures to their mythological roots? Goblins and kobolds were thought of as malevolent sprites, a kind of anti-fey rather than organised cultures. I'm picturing two "courts" under the jurisdiction of the fey: one of high elves, sprites and the like, dwelling in the Otherworld; and a shadowy, malevolent court of dark elves, goblins, kobolds and the like, dwelling in the Netherworld. Following the loose naming conventions established in previous posts, I shall name the "light" fey the Ao Sithe and the "dark" fey the Dao Sith. The light and dark analogy is probably not to clever, given that all faeries love moonlight. Good and evil doesn't cut it either, given that both groups operate outside of human moral paradigms. I'll stick with light and dark for now, if only on the basis that the Dao Sith prefer underground tunnels.



      One thing that's been buzzing round my head is that whilst these monsters might be "amped up" somewhat, especially in terms of things like natural spell-casting abilities, they will also suffer restrictions. I'm absolutely forbidding these creatures to enter the mundane realms, unless summoned by a magician or somesuch. So, whilst a party might suddenly find the spell-casting, teleporting-at-will goblins a tougher prospect than a standard goblin encounter, they can always retreat to non-magical territory if the encounter gets out of hand.

      The exception to this rule would be those hybrid races already mentioned: the Keowosithe and the Keijuk. This is in part born out of their status as playable races, but justified in terms of their mundane heritage It follows that there might be other creatures created by the precursors who are similarly able to traverse the world of the magical and the mundane. This gives us the option of adding more conventional humanoid races.

      Finally, I've been using the word precursor a great deal, and my employment of this term has been somewhat disingenuous. The implication of this ambivalent term is that I have not yet decided on the nature of these semi-mythical beings, when in fact a fairly clear idea developed as soon as I started to consider the setting. These creatures were giants. This is by no means an original idea, but it tallies nicely with precedents in various RW folklore and myth, from the classical titans to the biblical nephilim to the Irish fomoire.
        
      In laying down the ground rules in broad strokes I have left many questions unanswered, but that shall be the subject of further updates. For now, I must press on with the design of the sandbox itself.





      Sunday, 19 April 2015

      Building a Sandbox Campaign Part Five: Playable Non-Human Races

      I've been making regular posts about creating a fantasy world for a sandbox campaign, and so far have been following the example set by Rich Burlew in his series of articles on world building. I've adhered to the initial stages of his process quite closely, because these steps provided the broad strokes necessary to establish the basic framework of the setting. Subsequent posts will look to other guidelines, concentrating on setting up the sandbox itself, but prior to that it will be necessary to examine the demi-humans and humanoids that inhabit the realm.

      Before proceeding, it is important to understand the core philosophy behind this setting: creating a genuine sense of magic and mystery in a sandbox-style campaign. From the outset I've stated that I want monsters, demi-humans and humanoids to have a special sense of "otherness", and so will be making several modifications.

      Let's start with the playable races.

      Elves:

      Ängsälvor (Meadow Elves), Nils Blommér, 1805
      There's a fantastic Wikipedia entry on elves in folklore and popular culture, from Norse mythology through to Tolkien, which I recommend reading. The article notes how the role and nature played by the figure of the elf has changed according to society's requirements and beliefs, and how the popular conception in fantasy role-playing owes a huge debt to Tolkien and the earlier romantic revival. Given the diverse range of definitions for elf, I want the word to represent a kind of catch-all term for any kind of fey creature.  These creatures had a significant role in the shaping of the world of the Fells and the Valley Kingdoms, and the site of the sandbox can be considered to be a kind of crossover between the physical world and that of the fey. Given the Celtic-inspired background for the setting, this term could be used interchangeably with sithe, my own bastardisation of the Gaelic sidhe.

      As stated, within the campaign, few mortals tread beyond the boundaries of the civilised world and experience such creatures first hand. However, one creature that they might come across, perhaps unknowingly, would be the Keiwosithe. I want a stand-in for the conventional elf class as listed in Dark Dungeons to provide an additional playable race. I like the idea that in ancient times, when fey creatures and men were united against their evil masters, their was inter-marriage between the species, creating the keiwosithe (a bastardisation of proto-Celtic- effectively "man-elf"). These people have accepted the role of guardians of the border between the Valleys and the Fells, and intermittently keep an eye on their human cousins.

      Physically, I envisage them to be slightly shorter than humans and slighter of stature, with the classic pointed ears to boot. No earth-shattering trope-usurpation going on here, but it's good to include some familiar elements, especially as this is supposed to be a revitalisation of conventional fantasy tropes, though I'd like to add some additional cultural flavour. Because of their origins, the keiwosithe possess a culture more akin to iron age Celts than their medieval human allies. There's also no formal ties between the realms of the keiwosithe and men, the latter being secretive and isolated up in the fells.

      Elves in Dark Dungeons are a class unto themselves, possessing both fighting and spellcasting abilities. I'd like to provide them their own spell list and remove the necessity of spellbooks, but these are details that can be ironed out later.

      Dwarves


      Two Völuspá Dwarves by Frølich
      Like Elves, conceptions concerning dwarves in contemporary fantasy RPGs (including the pluralisation dwarves instead of dwarfs) are inspired by the works of Tolkien, As a result, dwarves are often descried as avaricious and crafty (deriving from their Germanic mythological manifestations), with additional nordic-warrior attributes taken from The Hobbit and LOTR. In a nutshell, they're greedy Vikings that live underground, with no magical attributes.

      I like dwarves, but I'm unsure as to how well they will mesh with the setting I envisage. For starters, I'm edging towards the idea that most- if not all- humanoid or demi-human creatures are somehow connected to they fey, and dwarves aren't really in that category. However, I like the idea of the crafty, greedy and mischievous dwarves of Germanic folklore, which is perhaps a little closer to my concept of fey humanoids. Perhaps this role could be filled by a gnome type race. I'll leave dwarves for now and come back to gnomes later. There's a sentence I wouldn't have thought I'd ever write...

      Halflings

      Bilbo in his hobbit-hole, original LOTR illustration by J.R.R. Tolkien
      Before I go into my third polemic against the tolkienisation of fantasy role-playing, I should make a statement. I loved Tolkien. I still have the copy of The Hobbit my parents bought me for my eighth birthday, and the epic scope of LOTR was a hugely inspirational, for all sorts of reasons that are too multifarious to properly dissect here. I genuinely believe that without Tolkien, Dungeons and Dragons would never have been created, and there would be no such hobby as fantasy role-playing. That's a vaguely contorversial stand and not one I wish to analayse here... perhaps it would be suitable for a future post.

      That said I'd like to avoid using some of the elements of the archetypal fantasy setting that cleave to keenly to the work of the great man. Halflings (and to a lesser extent, orcs) are almost trademarks of Tolkien (indeed, in the original D&D halflings were called hobbits, and experienced a name-change as a result of trademark regulations). In my Celtic inspired campaign, there's no room for bare-faced plagiarism (though plenty of room for "affectionate homages", this is just for fun, after all), so I'll drop halflings from the roster.

      That said, I've only sketched out the outline for one playable demi-human. Furthermore, with the keiwosithe being a single class species, I only have five playable classes. I feel I should expand the available options.

      In addition to all the million-and-one creative projects I have on the go at the moment, I'm building a CRPG (it's called Birchwood, since you asked) using RPG Maker 2003. The protagonist in this little game is an elfin fighter-sorcerer called Ursula. As I began to fill in the details for the world in which her adventure takes place (a world quite different and separate from The Fells, I hasten to add), I decided to make her a member of a race unique to that imaginary setting, and am considering importing them to The Fells, with some modifications.

      An Additonal Playable Race..

      The appeal of the keiwosithe was the fact that they could walk between the world's of fey and humans, and retained some magical powers from their fey heritage. Their powers, culture and appearance are rationalised by a the vague, in-game history in which their ancestry is both human and fey. I would like to create a new race along similar lines.

      In  Birchwood Ursula looks a little like an elf: she has point ears, fair complexion, and fine features. However, I made her character a little stockier and hardier (she wields dual hand axes) and kitted her out in outfit similar to a siberian nomad. The concept sketches I drew were inspired by the various (unrelated) nomadic peoples of the arctic circle: Sami, Inuit, and the many historical Siberian nomads.

      I quickly started to imagine a culture of albino, Arctic elf-dwarf hybrids, though in a setting in which neither dwarves or elves operated. I imagined them living in the inhospitable territories beyond the very limits of human civilisation, herding reindeer in the tundra, ice fishing, hunting seals and occasionally trading their immaculate craft items with human communities.

      "Three Sámi Lapp women, c1890s" by not listed - j.cosmas. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons
      Before I go on I just want to qualify that I'm well aware of the unique cultural identities possessed by the communities I have described. Furthermore, I am aware of the prejudice minority peoples of the Arctic circle encounter (and have encountered), including patronisation as a "magical" race. I'm designing the campaign setting for a game, and am drawing inspiration from the aesthetic of this diverse range of peoples as I create an entirely fictional race that inhabit a fantasy world. I write these words in the hope that I won't cause any offence to members of these communities.

      The elf analogue inhabiting the plains, the keowosithe, were born of a marriage betwixt humans and fey during their struggle with an oppressive precursor race. I would like a similar background for my ice-elf-dwarves... actually, now's a good point to come up with a name. I usually turn to Google translate, so attempt to find out what elves (or their cultural equivalent) in Sami. Unfortunately, Google translate does not have an option to translate into the Sami language but I'm going to go with Finnish. I know the cultures are very different, but Finnish (Suomi) is a language of unique origin and will provide a good contrast to the largely proto-Celtic/Gaelic/Brythonic naming conventions I've utilised so far. This gives me keijukainen, which I shall shorten to keijuk, which I think has no meaning in Finnish but is not too difficult to pronounce whilst maintaining an air of exoticism.

      So. like the keowosithe, the keijuk are a hybrid of human and fey, but one of less joyous origin. Whilst the keowosith were born of voluntary union between man and fey (or woman and fey), the keijuk were created by the precursors as a slave race. In the vague, imagined history of the Fells, this would have occurred before man and fey were united. The precursors sought the magical power of the fey, and in their efforts to subjugate them they first fashioned man, a being without magical power. Having achieved some success, they were able to create the keijuk: tougher and haardier than normal men, they also possessed some of the sithe's magical abilities.

      The saves, stats and abilities will need to be refined, but the Keijuk have an established aesthetic. Resembling short (around 4'11" to 5'4"), stocky humans, they possess some "dwarven" characteristic, including a penchant for axes. Unlike dwarves, the Keijuk never grow facial hair. They have incredibly pale, almost pure white skin. Their eyes are red, pink or occasionally mauve. Their ears are pointed like elves, and they dress in animal skins.

      I'm considering making two classes of Keijuk available: a spell-casting seer and a fighter-based warrior. As I say, more refinements will be made, but I'm happy with the broad defintions of the playable races.




      Saturday, 18 April 2015

      Building a Sandbox Campaign Part Four: Classes (cont.)

      Having rationalised various class decisions about the nature of clerics in the campaign world of The Fells, it now befalls me to address the issue of the magic user. The campaign world is not low-magic per se, but it has been established that magic operates with great limitations in the mundane world of the Valley Kingdoms, becoming more powerful as one delves deeper into the fells. Given this, how do ordinary humans achieve magical power and attain the class of magic user?



      I'm very happy with the role of the druid as a professional, priest-type class and hoarder of occult knowledge in the mundane lands. The adventurer class that most closely corresponds to the cleric is a kind of martial druid, a devout guardian of this knowledge who has travelled into the Fells as a kind of adventurer pilgrim. Magic users, I have decided, also have their origins in the druid caste. Whilst some druids are charged with refining, applying and managing technical knowledge such as law or engineering, others keep track of more ancient lore: the myths and histories of the Valley Kingdoms and its antecedents.

      Given that the druid class has evolved from an ancient, nature worshipping cult with magical ties to the fey, it follows that within the body of occult knowledge they possess lurks hints and fragments of the magical power they once wielded. In this campaign world some individuals, through scholarship, have obtained a small insight into the extent of this power, and now seek to enhance and research it by adventuring into the fells. These individuals may have been cloistered in monastic-style orders hidden in the wilderness, or college-style institutions in the major towns of the Kingdoms. Their research has led to them obtaining a hand full of spells which they have faithfully transcribed into their grimoire.

      A possible background for the party (if one is required) might be that a young druid and would-be sorcerer has been sent by his master into the Fells to retrieve magical lore. The party might consist of his bodyguard (the martial druid/cleric or katadru ) and other hired hands to assist them (or maybe they just tagged along).

      Alternatively, for players wishing to create more exotic origins for their character (and by leaving the western continent blank, they're given free reign to come up with whatever cultural background they wish), their character could be a university student or sage who has similarly obtained esoteric knowledge and is looking to advance their powers. I'll do a post about character creation and backgrounds later, but for now that will suffice.

      So far I haven't decided on things like how spells are learned or acquired, nor the precise effects of the Fells upon magic use. For now, I have enough fluff to justify the basic "crunch" of the two main spell-caster classes, leaving the remainder of the classes from Dark Dungeons to be addressed.

      Dark Dungeons is a retro-clone of the D&D Rules Cyclopedia, and as such demi-humans are treated as classes unto themselves. As such I shall be dealing with them in the next post concerning races.



      Fighters are obviously in, with no special modifications. In terms of background fluff I imagine that fighters in the Kingdoms are part of a warrior-caste, similar to knights. PCs could be members of a chieftains guard, or soldiers from a major town. In Dark Dungeons, 9th level fighters have the option of taking knightly vows. This "prestige clas" is similar to paladins or avengers, and one can envisage that these individuals are perhaps in the service of the druids- or even the court of the fey.

      As with magic users, players wishing to create a character with a background from the western continent are free to come up with their own flavour of fighting-adventurer.

      Mystics I am vetoing. Though I would like to provide players with the opportunity to create whatever backgrounds they choose for their characters, I feel that introducing a conflicting mystical philosophy to the world of The Fells would undermine the character of the campaign.
      Thieves are drawn to the Fells by rumours of treasure, or perhaps to escape the authorities in their home town. I'm also working on a wilderness rogue/ scout type character to act as an ersatz ranger. Furthermore, a bard variant is in the works, though I'd like to also tie this to the druidic orders in some way, so I shall leave it for the time being.

      In summary, the currently available human classes are as follows:

      • Fighter either a warrior of one of the nobles of the kingdom (kenget), or a foreign adventurer.
      • Soit-alo A druid with arcane knowledge seeking to become a powerful sorcerer.
      • Tagat a thief seeking their fortune in the ruins of the Fells, or on the run from the authorities.
      • Katudru a martial druid on a pilgrimage to the lands of myth, or entrusted to protect a soit-alo

      The next post will examine the non-human cultures and the rational behind any selections or omissions, plus which of these will be available to players as playable characters.

      Thursday, 16 April 2015

      Building a Sandbox Part Three: Classes

      Following on from previous posts on this series, I'm going to once again use Rich Burlew's excellent articles on building a campaign setting as a guideline for my own paracosmic activities. Taking a lead from Burlew's article on character class decisions, I'll be discussing how the classes from Dark Dungeons will be utilised in my campaign setting.

      Rich's article riffs principally on how divine and arcane spellcasters are distinguished in his campaign setting, and I shall pick things up there before spiralling off on my own tangent. The Fells campaign takes place in a magical region of an otherwise mundane world: in the mundane realm, magic is far from an everyday commonplace occurrence yet in the fey-world of The Fells it is very real. So how does this affect choices concerning character classes?

      Druids as depicted by 18th century romantics, 21st C WotC artists and and 20th C Belgian cartoonists...
      My relationship with the Dungeons & Dragons cleric class has always been conflicted. I like the idea of magical powers being granted by divine powers to their devout followers and I recognise the historic precedent of men-of-the -cloth also being men-at-arms (and the precedent set by the bishop in chess). But I've always been uneasy with the idea of character levels corresponding to position in a church's (or other religious order's) hierarchy, at least with regard to NPCs. Think about it: characters mainly accumulate levels by killing other beings. Is the all-powerful yet gentle patriarch of generic lawful good church really a mass murderer? Furthermore, do all members of the priestly caste (or profession) receive training in arms?

      The mundane world that complements the magic one of The Fells is modelled loosely on an early medieval, Celtic society. I envisage a medieval Scotland, Wales or Ireland (or maybe even Brittany or Cornwall) where there was no Roman invasion, and no subsequent "christianisation". It would therefore make sense to extrapolate the pagan practices of Celtic cultures into a feudal setting. Much of what we know about the religion of the pre-Christian Celts is drawn from three sources: the piecemeal archaeological record, the unreliable accounts of classical scholars and romantic medieval literature (principally Irish in origin). The latter of these sources was also the inspiration for much of the 19th century Celtic (and pagan) revival, upon which contemporary lay understanding of Celtic culture is founed. As unreliable as these sources may be, the are to be an inspiration for an interesting backdrop rather than an historically authentic reconstruction.



      What is at least partly clear is that a significant figure in the religious life of the Celts was the druid. By all accounts druids represented an educated class occupying positions as divergent as priest, doctor, advisor, astronomer and sorcerer. The conceptualisation of druid in D&D as some kind of magical guardian of nature was most likely inspired by the aforementioned 19th Century romanticisation of Celtic culture. Having said that, it could be postulated that historical druids may well have evolved from a prehistoric shaman-type figure closer more akin to the familiar figure in D&D.

      Pseudo-intellectual conjecture aside, let us contextualise this in terms of the campaign world of The Fells. In my brief outline of the mystical origins of the campaign world, the druids may have acted as ambassadors from the human world and that of the magical fey, and played an integral role in bringing about the ultimate liberation of both parties from the tyranny of their as yet unidentified masters. The Fey may have granted them magical power (or guided them in how to access the power of "nature i.e. the fey world" ), as well as knowledge of herbs, medicine and perhaps things like writing (ogham runes) and primitive crafts. This would have made the early druids important figures, as well as guardians of occult knowledge.

      Unlike their RW counterparts, the druids of the valleys/fells never experienced persecution by a imperial power (i.e. Rome), nor were they sidelined by a militant new religion (i.e. Christianity). As such, it can be envisaged that the druids would have assumed a more secular role within society, alongside those sacred duties (the sanctification of marriages, births and deaths; confirming divine approval to rulers) that would otherwise be accorded to a priestly caste similar to the medieval Christian church. Note that this evolution would have been parallel to the decline of magic in the Valley kingdoms, as the fey withdrew to The Fells.

      The druids in the Valley Kingdoms function as a unified order with a hierarchical leadership structure. Though they originally venerated nature and the mystical power of the Otherworld, this has evolved into a polytheistic religion, whereby heroic figures from the near-mythical past have been conflated with the lords of the fey and worshipped as gods. There is still a loose association with nature in rituals and philosophy, but perhaps it is symbolic, similar to the pastoral motifs (the lord as shepherd to his flock) found throughout the new testament.

      Because all technical knowledge is considered to be of divine origin, provision of this knowledge is controlled by the preistly caste, i.e. the druids. Everything from mathematics to metallurgy, literature to lore, medicine to masonry is managed by various orders of the druidic council.

      Phew. If you're reading this as an OSR or sandbox-play enthusiast and are thinking "what the fuck is all this special snowflakery bullshit?", let me explain myself. This post is very much a journal of the thought processes that are helping me to make decisions about the role and "flavour" off clerics in the campaign world of The Fells. I have no intention of shoving this down the throat of prospective players. Instead, a brief series of bullet points on the classes restrictions and background would suffice. I promise.

      Druids Inciting the Britons to Oppose the Landing of the Romans, Cassell's History of England.
      Now: resisting the urge to make a comprehensive list of druidic orders (complete with Gaelic-inspired name, colout-coded hood/cloak combos and area of responsibility), I'll return to the issue of how this affects the cleric character class in The Fells. It stands to reason that the druids are keen to preserve the exclusivity of the knowledge that they hoard. If their secrets entered the public domain they would lose their position of power and privilege. There would need to be a martial order to serve as custodians of the ancient teachings, an order whose loyalty was beyond doubt. What better way to ensure loyalty than to sanctify their duties? These warrior-druids would therefore be amongst the most devout, a facet that I will use to justify their uncommon spellcasting abilities. Furthermore, the oaths of the druid-warrior might also preclude the use of certain weapons (or necessitate the use of traditional or ceremonial weaponry), a parallel to the conventional rule of clerics being unable to use blunt weapons.

      In the mundane lands of the Valley, being a druid does not automatically confer magical powers. Pragmatic druids may privately dismiss belief in magic as superstition, and concentrate on their area of mundane responsibility. The warrior-druids (and I will need a better name for them- let's say katadru, from proto Celtic) believe in all the myths. They honour the gods, but recognise the gods as emanating from the Otherworld. They know most of the great myths of the The Fells, and truly believe in the power of the fey. For this reason, when a katadru first prays to the Otherworld when entering The Fells, they find that they have been granted spellcasting powers. These powers are not manifest in the mundane realms. 

      Wednesday, 15 April 2015

      Building a Sandbox Campaign Part Two: Selecting a Game System

      In the previous sandbox building article I closely adhered to Rich Burlew's article on establishing Purpose and Style for a campaign world. As I begin to bring the concept of my campaign world, The Fells, to fruition I shall continue to follow his steps, though not in a linear fashion. In the fourth article in his series The New World, The Right Tool for the Right Job, Rich Burlew rationalises the adoption of D20 Modern as his preferred gaming system for his dark ages campaign, as it fits in with his low-magic tone of his world. What follows is a (very brief) outline of why I've opted for Dark Dungeons as the preferred system for the theoretical campaign...

      The D&D Rules Cyclopedia
      In my post Memoir of a Failed Campaign I I alluded to my first foray into campaigning using the D&D Expert Set and, later, the Rules Cyclopedia. Call it nostalgia, but for me this represented the definitive D&D experience: the rules were easy to grasp without being simplistic, and like all systems could be augmented with house rules and. Most importantly, the entire game was contained in one volume, a far cry from the splat-book bonanza of 2nd edition and beyond. 

      Dark Dungeons- Downloadable at gratis games

      Sadly, my copy of the Rules Cyclopedia disappeared (along with pretty much everything I'd accumulated in my short life) at some point in my early twenties. Reading around the OSR online community, however, has exposed me to a whole host of free-to-download retor-clones, including Dark Dungeons, pictured above. This volume faithfully replicates the mechanics of Cyclopedia-era D&D whilst containing all the spells, monsters and rules needed to run a sandbox campaign up to 36th (!) level.

      One of the attractions of this ruleset is the limited range of available classes and the limitation of demi-human races to a single, racial class. This later feature is somewhat mystifying to anyone unfamiliar with "basic" editions of D&D, but for me this dovetails nicely with my desire to restore a bit of the magic and mystery to a campaign. Demi-humans and humanoids aren't simply analogues of humans, happily (or unhappily) rubbing shoulders with their human cousins. Instead, they're enchanted creatures with unique abilities, advantages and limitations.

      I am a fan of 3rd edition D&D (despite the complexities of organising combat, especially at higher levels), and from what I've read I think I'd enjoy WotC's 5th edition, too. However, from a sandbox point of you, the simplified mechanics make it much easier to knock out encounters and NPCs on the fly, something that should be integral to a sandbox campaign.

      With an established rules system I'm now given a framework within which the mechanics of the game can breathe life into this burgeoning world. In the next two articles I'll be picking up Burlew's baton once more and having a look at character classes and races in The Fells respectively.

      Building a Sandbox Campaign Part One: Setting the Tone

      Because I'm not participating in a campaign at present, and because I'm spending an inordinate amount of time thinking about running a campaign, my energies are naturally diverted to setting up the kind of campaign I'd like to play. World-building has been a hobby of mine since I was very young, but not wishing to fall into the traps which have derailed my efforts in the past I've been reading up on the advice of one or two more experienced DMs.



      The three articles (or series of articles) that have caught my eye are to be found at Giant in the Playground (home of the impossibly good Order of the Stick webcomic), Bat in the attic and The Hydra's Grotto. I've selected these three because the run the spectrum of approaches to setting up a campaign, with Rich Burlew's articles focusing more on a building rich background, Hydra's Grotto is more about setting up an out-and-out sandbox, and BitA lurks somewhere in between.

      Both Hydra's Grotto and Bat in the Attic advocate starting with a map. Burlew, on the other hand, begins his first post by talking about purpose and style. Now, perhaps I've fallen at the first special-snowflake hurdle by adhering to the latter path, but I've already started to set the tone for the campaign in my previous post. It would be disingenuous of me to start sketching out a map without acknowledging that I've already approached the task with some presuppositions. Besides, things like climate and geography determine the tone of the setting to a great extent. So I'll begin with the idea that this is a campaign setting designed for an (as yet undiscovered) gaming group, rather than a publication, and take things from there.

      Looking down on the civilised lands.
      Seeing as this is to be a sandbox setting, I don't want to impose a grand narrative or over-arching story. The idea is to avoid rail-roading PCs along to some ultimate goal. Instead I would like them to establish their own goals, to explore and interact as they see fit. I would like to incorporate some of Chris Kutalik's ideas about player driven mystery.

      Because the proposed sandbox takes place outside the mundane realms, it is intended that the politics of that realm do not generally interfere with event within the campaign world. This is not to say that NPCs don't have plots and schemes, but that these manifest in line with the interests and goals of the PCs.

      Having previously established that most of the campaign action takes place in an area of desolate, highland moors and the occasional soaring peak, I was inspired by some of the landscapes of my home country, the United Kingdom. Taken this inspiration a little further, I think a celtic flavour to the campaign setting would be fun to explore, especially given the idea of the magical fells (like the realm of the sidhe or the fey). That said, I don't want to get too bogged down in fleshing out the mundane world, and seeing as most RPG mechanics suit a medieval setting, I'm picturing a world much like early medieval Ireland: an insular culture with some connections to (a perhaps more sophisticated) continental culture. Seeing as the magical realm is in the highlands of The Fells, I'm going to locate the mundane realm in the lowlands. It shall be known as the Valley Kingdoms.

      As well as dividing the world into the mundane and magical, I'd like to establish a hinterland between the two. These three distinct zones have an effect on the performance of magic, including magical items and creatures. 

      Taking Burlew's advice, I'm now going to look at eleven assumptions about a fantasy setting, and see which of these I would like to keep, discard or subvert. This list is lifted directly from Burlew's article The New World: purpose and Style.

      1. Humans dominate the world
      2. Gods are real and active
      3. Magic is real and can be used by anyone who learns it
      4. Opposites alignments fight each other
      5. Arcane and divine magic are inherently separate
      6. The wilderness is separate enough from the cities to justify three wilderness classes
      7. There are hundreds of intelligent species, but 99% are monsters
      8. Arcane magic is impersonal, requiring no "deal" with a supernatural being/force
      9. Beings from other planes take an active interest in the mortal world
      10. Magic items are assumed to be available
      11. Magic is consequence-free
      For brevity's sake, I'm going to deal with each item sequentially and in an identical format:

      1. Humans dominate, but campaigning largely take place in a non-human setting, 
              1. This non-human setting is The Fells
              2. It abuts the known world yet is avoided by most humans
              3. The human lands are known as the Valley Kingdoms 
      2. Gods may or may not be real, but are impersonal and archetypal
      3. Magic is real but...
              1. It only functions "normally" in The Fells
              2. It requires sufficient learning or devotion to harness
      4. Alignment is more to do with personal philosophy than allegiance
      5. All magic emanates from the supernatural energies of The Fells, distinctions are aesthetic
      6. Potentially... though I may begin with the most basic set of classes
      7. There will be many humanoid species, but...
              1. Most of them will be treated as "fey"
              2. They will have more magical abilities (even kobolds)
      8. There will be many routes to obtaining arcane power, some may involve "pacts"
      9. Other-worldly beings inhabit the planes, and have their own motives and desires. They are not godlike, though they are supernatural.
      10. Magic items are rare, and function differently in each of the three zones (mundane, borderland and magical).
      11. Magic manifests in different ways in each of the three "zones", and may have different additional consequences in each. One idea I'm toying with is that if someone is able to harness magic in the mundane realm, it summons a random magical creature...
      I think that's enough to be getting on with. Before I settle down to drafting a map, I'm going to look at a few more of Rich Burlew's stages of world creation, and continue posting at this site.



      Tuesday, 14 April 2015

      The Weird, Wyrd, Wilderness...

      In the short time that this blog has been in existence I've heavily referenced the Hill Cantons blog and for this I make no apologies: both the quality of the writing and the ideas found at this site are exceptional, and have there's a great deal there which has inspired my current musings on the direction I'd like to take a future campaign.

      In his post Tekumel and the Use of the Weird in Campaign Settings Kutalik addresses the negative effect of ubiquitous magic (or, more broadly, the weird and the wonderful) has on a sense of mystery in a fantasy campaign setting.

      The divide between the mundane and the magical...
      I shan't spend too long summarising the content of the post (I strongly recommend that you have a look for yourself), instead focusing upon how this could be realised in a sandbox setting. Broadly speaking, Kutalik argues that the distaste experienced by some players and DMs for idiosyncratic fantasy worlds such as Tekumel is due to a lack of contrast with the mundane. Kutalik, inspired by an article by Douglas Bachmann in an early edition of Dragon, of dividing the "wyrd", "magical" or "fey" realms from the mundane. The concept creates sufficient contrast to maintain that sense of wonder, as well as encouraging thrill-seekers to explore the sandbox instead of the "human-dominated civilized world ... so dull and stolid".

      Indeed, rationalising the contrast between the mundane and the magical justifies some of the tropes most discredited in traditional RPGs. Thus the classic "adventure town" is the last outpost of civilisation at OrdinaryRealm's frontier with the weirder-ness. One can imagine a world in which tales of magic and monsters have slipped into legend or even myth, yet at the periphery of mundane society those legends are still pervasive. Perhaps it is here that the near-mythical demi-humans make occasional contact with their human cousins, or those humans curious about magic come to find rumoured artefacts or specimens for magical research.




       Image: Wikipedia / Tobias Klenze / 
      Returning to the idea of the weird wilderness and the outpost idea, an scenario that I've had brewing for some time is that of The Fells. "Fell" is an English term for a high, barren landscape such as moor-covered hills, originating from the Old Norse fjell. Perhaps this bleak, mysterious landscape was once home to the ancestors of the contemporary humans and their mysterious masters, but long ago they migrated to the fertile lowlands of the river valley, leaving the realm of magic behind. This realm is the site of various myths and legends, but is considered of no interest to (most) civilised people, and taboo for more superstitious folks.

      Perhaps geography could have a specific magic effect, i.e. it actually explicitly functions as a divide between the magical and non-magical. Tying this in to the preceding legend, perhaps the ancestors of modern humans overcome their masters with the help of magical assistance (from elves or fey or somesuch), and these magical saviours keep the forces of darkness (for want of a less clichéd term) at bay for as long as humans do not dabble in the dark arts.

      Without wanting to go into too much "special snowflake" back story, we've set up a scenario whereby pure magic and mystery is confined to the Fells. Moreover, the concept of precursor race and a vague, historical/mythological backdrop means we can stock this area full of ancient ruins, forgotten monuments, magic forests and abandoned caves. All we need now is a base of operations.

      Mutshud is the last point in the fertile river valley of the Great River before the land rises dramatically into the mysterious fells, the last outpost of the (relatively) peaceful Valley Kingdom. Here the superstitious locals are fearful of the weird world lurking at the periphery of the settlement, but the adventurers have been drawn by the prospect of pillaging the ruins of a precursor culture that once inhabited the peculiar region of the fells. Rumours abound of great riches and mysterious artefacts to be found in the ruins of an elder race, but that these ruins are also home to a host of foul and horrific creatures.

      The adventurers have sailed westward, to this backwards realm, with only rumours of what my lie beyond...

      Monday, 13 April 2015

      Isles of Dread Sandbox


      Original X1: Isle of Dread cover art
      ther related concept would be the idea of the adventure island. Whilst searching for the cover art of the Isle of Dread adventure module (not the original image above, the one I used in this post), I came across this post on the Hydra's Grotto. As the author rightly remarks, the Isle of the Dread represents a great potential sandbox setting. As well as the rich variety of lairs, settlements and weird encounters (cannibals! Kopru! ankylosaurs!), the island is actually much bigger than might be assumed. The real world analogy used here is Ireland, and the author notes that this demands the Isle of Dread be treated as it's own campaign setting. 

      (As a side note, a fantasy Ireland during the era of St. Patrick would make a great sandbox- the mythical realm of the sidhe representing a "feywilde" that could play foil to the mundane, christianised territories).

      "Adventure Island" can be somewhere the characters visit to seek their fortune, with only a rough map to guide them (the module includes a player handout depicting only the coastline) to potential treasures and mysterious locales, buoyed by the rumours of sailors and pirates. Perhaps the adventurers set up camp in the village of Tanaroa (which though exotic, is inward looking and conservative and fearful of the weirdness lurking beyond the boundaries of their territory).

      Saturday, 11 April 2015

      Day Seven, the Final Day: Journal of Hikikomori

      The final day: will David renounce his lifestyle? Or will his obsessions prevent him from re-entering society? Are the two mutually exclusive? Created using the pen-to-paper RPG, Hikikomori.



      There is not a surface in my house which is not now covered in perfect graphs. The challenge now is to create smaller graphs to fill in the gaps, so that they will tessellate. I can almost see it in my mind’s eye- it’s beautiful…

      When Lin woke up she made us some instant noodles and watched me work for a long time, in silence. We ate the noodles and then, finally, she spoke. She said that she’d never forget what I’d done for her, but she had to go back to the real world. I was confused, I didn't understand- we’d only just met and already… well, I had graphs to draw, and that’s what I did.
      Later in the afternoon there was a knock at the door. The old woman, Han, was there. She came in to see me, explaining that she knew all about me and had been watching me for some time. She asked me about the graphs: I couldn't explain, I just said “I like them, I think they’re beautiful”.She spoke for a long time about how I had a bright future and there was much for me to contribute to the world. I smiled, it was nice of her to say all of that stuff, but she had no idea what my place in the universe is.When she left I thought about Lin for a while. At first it made me sad, and then I remembered how I’d enchanted her in the first place, and what Han had said. It gave me an idea.I still had some woodfilla in the cupboard under the sink. I went downstairs to my neighbours door, carefully repairing all the scratches I’d made a few days ago. It made me sad to erase the perfect graph that I’d put on his door, but I knew that he’d like it. While the filla dried I gave my own simple flat a thorough spring clean (keeping all the perfect graphs intact, of course) and hid what few belongings I had into the cupboard next to the door.Returning downstairs, I rubbed my neighbours door down with sandpaper and gave it a really nice, new gloss coat. It would be dry by the time he got home. I placed a note beneath his door, it said: “EXHIBITION, 9PM TONIGHT: DAVID’S APARTMENT, ALL WELCOME”. I made more copies and slid them under the doors of my other neighbours, including Mrs Han.I still had one secret ingredient beneath my kitchen sink: glow-in-the-dark powder paint. I rubbed the powder into every etched surface in my house, then turned on every single light I had to “charge” up the paint.When my neighbours arrived, they were wary at first, but they seemed… overwhelmed. “Just like Lunar New Year!” said one of the kids, beaming. Mrs Han smiled at me, and I felt a strange feeling inside.Once everyone left I felt something that I haven’t felt for a long time: loneliness. I felt sad that Lin had gone, but also that Mrs Han and my crazy neighbours had gone, too. I hope I might see them again tomorrow.
      --MECHANICS--

      DAY 7 STATS

      HOPE:                            2d10

      TRAITS:                         
      Obsessive Hobby:           (9d10)       42
      Real Friend (Lin)            (5d10)       31
      Rescuer (Han)                 (3d10)       22
      ---------------------------------------------------
      Delusion (paranoid)        (2d10)       8


      TRAIT ACTIONS
      • Hobby: 38- indulge in hobby, lose 2 actions, gain 1 die
      • Real Friend: 29... friend outgrows me (that didn't last long)
      • Rescuer: gives some cheer, but little else.

      PLAYER ACTIONS    
      Just one action, because of my hobby...
      • Use hobby for good: 58!
        • "You truly touch some lives, in a way that makes you re-evaluate your life.
        • Hope & Hobby gain 1d10
      With all that down, all that remained was to roll on the end game table. My 3d10 came up with 16, meaning that nothing has changed. After all that David’s been through, he’s really not got much further: his made a friend, lost her and gained a rescuer. His psychotic delusions were overcome and have been supplanted by paranoia… his hobby is getting increasingly out of hand, but it seems to enable him to make connections with people. Maybe it will offer him a way out, or at least a way for others to come in.

      FINAL STATS

      HOPE:                            2d10

      TRAITS:                         
      Obsessive Hobby:           (11d10)     
      Rescuer (Han)                 (3d10)       
      Delusion (paranoid)        (2d10) 

      Looking back on this exercise, I admit I'm a little bit disappointed by the quality of the writing, and with how I dealt with re-telling the dice rolls in the context of the story. The temptation to re-edit it was strong, but that wouldn't really be in keeping with the purpose of these posts.

      I developed quite an attachment to David, and was disappointed he never found a way out. It's important, however, to remember that David was merely a fictional creation. RPGs are great because players are able to immerse themselves in the skin of someone else- but it's important not to lose sight of who you are! Ewen Cluney sums this up beautifully in his rules to Hikiokmori:
      Once you have all that figured [the final outcome of the game] out, write an epilogue. Once you’ve done that, take a moment to pull yourself back into reality as thoroughly as you can. Even if you’ve been thinking about things you might not have ordinarily, you are who you were before you started. Now think about how you can make your life better. It’s in the rules of the game so you have to do it