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 Adam Dray
20 June 2010 @ 01:17 pm
ThadeousC on Twitter posed the following problem:
I really didn’t think my thoughts would turn into such a big deal; when I shared them on twitter they sparked a discussion spanning a few hours time. The frustration with the 140 character limit had driven me to bring the conversation here to my site.

What was said? I initially posed a question: “In OD&D running from monsters is often a valid option over fighting, does it ever happen in your 4e game?” and I followed up the question with my own reply: “In an attempt to run a more open game my players are allowed to go where they want. Which means they might end up over their heads.”
I'm joining the fray of his "blog carnival" with my two cents and my own rules. I can't understand theirs but you can read some responses to ThadeousC here and here.
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 Adam Dray
19 June 2010 @ 11:00 pm
I promised a rewrite of Magic but I've been sick today. I've managed to write something Caldera-related every day since I started, so I hate to miss a day. I decided, since I'm not feeling well, there's no better time to write about... disease!

Since Caldera is an urban setting, I couldn't imagine a better opportunity for weird and fantastic diseases, and D&D 4E has pretty cool disease system.

Dwarf Sickness
Common to dwarven miners, dwarf sickness affects people who explore the dark, tunnel-like streets of the depths of Caldera.

Level 5 Disease
Attack: +8 vs. Will
Endurance: improve DC 22, maintain DC 18, worsen DC 17 or lower

The target is cured<Initial Effect The target feels out of breath. At the start of combat in any passage less than two squares wide, the target suffers a -5 penalty to initiative.<>The target believes it is Large sized and cannot enter any space less than two squares wide. If the target ends up in such a space, it becomes dazed.>Final State The target is catatonic and unable to take actions.
 Adam Dray
18 June 2010 @ 11:42 pm
I still owe a rewrite of Magic, but that will be tomorrow. Today, I talk of the Benevor caste.

Merchants and Artisans

The Benevor ("good men") caste is comprised of two groups: the Fiasi ("Makers") and the "Ventheros" ("Sellers"). The Fiasi are the only citizens who can buy permits to build and make things. The Ventheros are the only people allowed to buy and sell large quantities of goods, own stores, and import and export goods.
Benevor caste members tend to be skilled laborers and they tend to come from a dozen or two large and wealthy mercantile families, operated much like guilds, but much more like an olden-day Mafia. However, individual members don't necessarily share their family's wealth and are expected to prove themselves without help from the family. Also, only a small percentage of a guild are actually members of that family, and those family members tend to fill the leadership positions.

Each individual guild has its own requirements, but they all tend to have some variation of these four rules:
  • Your first allegiance is to the family/guild.
  • Obey the rules of the guild at all costs.
  • Do not make or sell inferior merchandise.
  • Maximize profits.

Rules for D&D 4E

Each caste and group has its own caste benefit, which replaces a character background (the way Forgotten Realms' regional benefits replace a character background, as described in the Player's Handbook 2).

Magicforger: You are a member of the mercantile Benevor caste. Through your family, you have access to fine magic items. Whenever you level up, you may trade in a magic item for one a level higher but within the same magic item slot (armor, weapon, gloves, etc.).

Feared: You are a member of the mercantile Benevor caste. People fear your name. You gain a +4 on all Intimidate checks.
 Adam Dray
17 June 2010 @ 08:47 pm
The world has always had magic in it, but not a lot. Often, when people gathered for some great cause, when they wanted something with all their hearts, miracles happened. They thanked their gods and goddesses for these miracles, and made great sacrifices in their names, so that the next time they needed to call upon their divine protectors, their prayers would be heard.

When people began to build great cities, the magic got stronger. It took many centuries for the scholars to figure out that there was something besides the divine at work--and, really, the debate rages on. The leading theories explain that masses of people living close together releases magical power from the earth. This is partly true.
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 Adam Dray
17 June 2010 @ 08:38 pm
I realize that I asked you if you wanted to hear about Caldera's politics, and then I fed you a bunch of stuff about Caldera's government. I know the difference. I just forgot what I was supposed to be writing.

Part of the problem is that it's hard to talk about the politics without the government. Government is the structure and politics is what's happening in the structure and how people are using that structure to achieve their agendas.

The rest of the problem is that I am a creature of abstraction, an INTP by Meyers-Briggs description. "If I just sketch out the boundaries and write down the rules, the details will be obvious." Well, the details aren't always obvious.

This is where it's important that I define my goals and audience. If I'm just creating a game setting for my personal use, abstract is fine. I can fill in the details when I run this thing. Why post in LJ then? Well, it creates a sort of accountability for moving forward and it gives me a sounding board.

However, I'm creating a game setting for eventual publication, so my readers will want specifics. I think the specifics make a setting engaging, so I need to create them.

Describing politics is tricky. Paragraphs of text will not best convey the complex machinations of people and factions. I think some lists of people and their primary goals or alliances, combined with some relationship maps, can better convey the political situation in Caldera.
 Adam Dray
16 June 2010 @ 10:19 pm
This is continuation of my discussion of Caldera's social castes, which I started with Caste Arima. In Caldera, people are born into social castes, distinct strata that are nearly impossible to change: warriors & leaders (nobles), mages & priests (scholars), merchants and artisans (skilled labor), and workers and farmers (unskilled labor). This is a look at Caste Kura.

Priests and Mages

The Kura caste is comprised of two groups: the Chantos ("Those Who Pray") and the Oribili ("Circle-Drawers"). The Chantos are the only people legally permitted to hold a priestly position in one of the temples, and the Oribili are the only people allowed to study arcane magic in the Temple of Mysteries. Note that divine and arcane spellcasters of all types exist outside the Kura cast, but they must hide their magic.

Upon reaching adulthood, members of the Kura caste (whether they command magical power or not) swear an Oath, with four tenants:
  1. I shall use my power to the better of the city.
  2. I shall never use my power to harm the city.
  3. I shall use my power to protect the city.
  4. I shall hunt down those who misuse their power.

Rules for D&D 4E

Each caste and group has its own caste benefit, which replaces a character background (the way Forgotten Realm regional benefits replace a character background, as described in the Player's Handbook 2).

Oathbound: You are a member of the priestly Chantos caste (Kura). You have sworn an oath to protect the city. As long as you do not break this oath, your spells have greater power. Once per day, force an opponent to reroll a saving throw. If you break your oath, you lose this power until you atone and become right with your Temple (at the DM's discretion).

Binder: You are a member of the wizardly Oribili caste (Kura). You have sworn an oath to protect the city. As long as you do not break this oath, your rituals have greater power. Your effective level for casting rituals is one level higher. If you break your oath, you lose this power until you atone and become right with Caste Kura (at the DM's discretion).
 Adam Dray
15 June 2010 @ 08:53 pm
So, unless you've been in a dark cave (or you've clicked on a link that miraculously brought you to my blog), you know that I'm working on a new fantasy setting, Caldera. I thought I'd change things up and not talk about Caldera for a bit. I want to talk about creating settings, in general -- specifically, creating settings for D&D.
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 Adam Dray
15 June 2010 @ 08:01 pm
Caldera was not a planned city. Its roads wind around the small cone and the bumpiest terrain inside the crater. Still, there are some key geographic features obvious to anyone who studies the city.


The city has two main sections. High Caldera is the part of the city built on the flat top of the small cone. Beneath and all around High Caldera is Low Caldera, though everyone just calls it Caldera.
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 Adam Dray
14 June 2010 @ 10:09 pm
The city of Caldera is an enormous, "stacked" city built around a small, secondary cone of an enormous, dormant volcano crater. Before history, a volcano exploded violently, blowing off the top three-fourths of the mountain. Much of it collapsed in on itself, leaving a fairly flat plain inside the crater. Over time, a smaller volcanic cone grew inside the crater (a bit off center). A few thousand years ago, Tarisian horse nomads built a fortress here and over time this grew into the megacity called Caldera.

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 Adam Dray
13 June 2010 @ 03:42 pm
This is a look at the races of Caldera. By "races," I mean D&D races, not cultures, though I think the two go hand-in-hand and probably ought to be considered together. I'll tackle these alphabetically from the core rulebooks, but Humans get to go first, out of order. Also, I might mention a couple races from sources outside the core rulebooks.

In general, I have never felt that I needed to allow players every possible rules option into my fantasy settings. But then dikaiosunh pointed out that I wouldn't be able to play my beloved cardinal kenku in most DMs' worlds, and that struck a chord with me. Now I endeavor to at least accommodate the more unusual race choices, even if they're not established cultural icons.

Things ahead to watch for: gargoyles and ratlings as PCs, the dual nature of all elves...
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