July 2017 Blog Carnival – Conflicts in Dark Worlds and Genres

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Welcome back, gamers!  I usually homebrew stuff and this is a complete change of pace for me.  That said, I’ve been meaning to write pieces examining things within games in addition to homebrew.  As it is, I’ve branched out with gaming recaps and those seem to reach some sort of audience, so I’ll continue to experiment.  That said, homebrewing is still my prime focus.

Back on topic, last time I opened up the carnival by looking at why I think people like darker genres and topics in their games!  Today’s post is deeper focus on dark settings in regards to conflict; whether it’s problems from society, the self, the environment or even forces beyond our control.  One can’t have a darker story without extreme conflict, to the point it’s usually quite oppressive, or repressive in some cases.  Sure, there are more examples than what I’m talking about, but I could go on and on about that.  Also, I like rambling some anecdotes about old games I’ve played it, because I really love sharing gaming stories with everyone when I get the chance!

Author’s Note: I know, it’s a change of pace.  Like I said, I’m not abandoning homebrewing.  I promise.  Also, this one is a little more mature oriented than other posts, touching upon rougher subjects.

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Plantfolk, Revised

Image result for plant people

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Born (Or Reborn) among Wild Realms

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The Plant Folk were created within another reality known to scholars as “arcadia”.  What exactly is this realm?  Not fully known, except it is the origin source of several types of magic as well as the fair folk.   Besides the native denizens, many fantastic creatures have been created through use of their alien magics.  Among these mystical sights and strange places is the Wyld, a sprawling plane of untamed wilderness.  Its alluring and inspiring atmosphere is quite deceptive, as terrible monsters and far worse curses dwell within the spacious demiplane.  Those who become trapped are doomed to become one of the many kinds of wildlife that inhabit this realm.  The plant folk are one such creation.

Native to a domain known as the “Wylds”, a planar place of natural beauty and (at times) savage brutality, the plant folk are at home within the bounds of their typically serene wilderness.  Like the beastfolk, many of these created beings weren’t originally humanoids.  In their case, they were merely plants that were animated and given new life through powerful sylvan magic.  Many have taken after the realm that created them, in hopes of creating a utopia of the organic, while defeating the inorganic.  Despite this, many are by no means evil and aggressive, some don’t even follow the cult-like ethos of their home plane.  Many grow tired of the semi-comprehensible rules, hidden behind the alien chaos of the primal realm.  As such, they’ve set out to explore other possibilities within known (and unknown) reality.  Some still retain attachment to their original home, but hope to “put down roots” elsewhere.

Author’s Note: Looking back at what I made last year, I was wasn’t satisfied with my concept for races of magical plant people.  They seemed really derivative and some decisions felt like rehashes of previous posts, with a different theme.  Now, I’m still struggling a tad with the concept, but here’s my updated take on the idea!  Some of the ideas are something I wanted to try and might be revised in another draft.  Also, I’m sorry for that one pun…  Really, I am.

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Monsters in Space! The Sequel: Star Dragons (and Dragon Variants)

“How could such an environment lead to this?  Is this a dragon?  It barely seems to qualify.  Unlike others, it shoots a strange, destructive light from its mouth…  It baffles the mind.”- From the journal of a traveling scholar.

Star Dragons, born from the deep cosmos, are a rare draconic breed.  Some think they are crossbred between a true dragon from another realm and something truly alien.  Others believe that they are another reality’s manifestation of dragon.  They could very well be an evolution of primordial energy from the distant depths, gaining awareness as it gained form.  None the less, such a creature is capable of unleashing a fearsome power that is true to their kind.  Unlike any element, they can release a matter consuming light.  Few are sure if it is a kind of radiation, a laser beam or something else entirely.  On top of that, it is said that they hold the ability to phase through reality and travel among the stars themselves.

Those who have encountered them have either contended with a brutal foe or an incredible ally.  Indifferent to plights, powers and people; the star dragons prefer to distance themselves from conflict.  But, if one is convinced to aid, they will become an invaluable source as long as there’s something in it for them.  In fact, they’re more likely to remain away from plane jumpers and ships alike.  Those who interact with such travelers always have a personal agenda in mind.  Despite this, they are not typically egoistic, as they often have a communal aspect to them.  They travel the stars in pods, similar to whales in the sea, doing all they can to prevent anyone from falling behind in the galactic reaches.  Protection of clan and extended family is an important virtue for such creatures.

Author’s Note: I wanted to do a little bit more with my list of classic D&D monsters ported over into the realms of science fiction…  Well… science-fantasy.  Will these manifest in something else at one point?  Most likely, yes!  Anyway, here’s my take on a cosmic dragon that was scrapped from last week’s post due to time.  Also, I’m going to be taking a little break from planar/science-fantasy.

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Strange Things in Bloodied Wyvern Peak – A Mini Adventure for 5th Edition

https://i1.wp.com/pre01.deviantart.net/f1e2/th/pre/f/2013/104/d/b/spaceship_by_meisl-d61olcv.jpg

“That’s… not supposed to be there.”

Background:  All of you have been summoned on account of a king’s desperate plea for aid.  Resources have been running low for his people and attempts to trade with outside lands has been shut off completely.  The routes you’ve all taken are too unwieldy and out of the way for caravans to use often, in part because it is longer, far more hazardous and ideal locations for bandits.  All that is known is that the wider passage ways to Bloodied Wyvern Peak have been sealed off and going there is far too dangerous.  Attempts at leaving have been, more often than not, futile as the people feel trapped in their once cozy land.  To make matters worse, the soil and water have slowly been poisoned by something in the mountains.  King Orvalt Delinandor will reward handsomely for your efforts.

Inside the lavish meeting room, a temperamental man in kingly garb fidgets with his fingers as he attempts to give off a composed look.  He ushers each of you to take a seat at one of several ornate chairs, adorned with plush cushioning and fancy stitched patterns.  He rises from his comparatively large chair, himself, as to make a grand speech.

“I would like to thank all of you for making your way to my great kingdom.  Forsaking the usual pleasantries, I’d like to get to addressing our main concern.  The prime routes for trading and traveling has been completely cut off in the last couple of weeks.  Why?  I can’t really say, as most of my scouts haven’t returned for many days.  And those that are either died moments after returning or worse…  On top of that, imports are running low as our commerce has been thrown into peril.  Our soil has also turned bad, poisoning those who have used it.  Any mining operations have been halted, due to reports of collapsed tunnels and monsters.  Any workers, traders or scouts that came back alive from the mountains have returned scarred, plagued or driven mad.  Worse yet, entire towns have vanished lately.  People proclaim they see horrible things and disappear instants later!  Please, explore the cause of this; whether it’s bandits, monsters or worse!  Some blame our miners for unearthing something foul, but I have my doubts.  I’ll award a bonus if you bring any captured subjects back… dead or alive.”

After the meeting with the king, his guards escort you to rooms to equip all of you with proper provisions; climbing equipment, coats and other survival essentials.  After everyone is set with equipment, everyone is taken outside where a carriage sends them towards the outskirts of the mountain.  This ride take about 1 hours time.  The landscape changes from a bleak winter forest into jagged mountainous rock jutting from the earth.  The carriage driver indicates on a map given to you that the route follows the dirt path ahead, in through a canyon-like divide.

AUTHOR’S NOTE:  Inspired by my Barrier Peaks conversion and Epicroll’s short adventure, as well as a lot of retro/pulp sci-fi, here’s my take on the classic sci-fi spaceship into fantasy world crossover.  This adventure is meant for characters of 7th level.  A WORD OF WARNING!  This module gets more and more deadly as time goes on.  Some encounters aren’t meant to be fought, but are meant to be part of a puzzle.  Either way, this is a bit of an experiment for me.  Enjoy.

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Goatfolk – A High Dwelling race for D&D 5th Edition

“A Beast?  A Fiend?  I’ll show you both…”

 “I’ve seen it, a spawn of the Demon Prince of Beasts!  It walked like a man, but looked like a goat.  The creature carried strange sorceries upon them too, like nothing of this world.  Surely, there must be more…” – A traveler’s encounter with a fiendish-goatfolk warlock.

Born from the Planes

Many rumors have spread of a race of beastly creatures born from demons.  They have prominent goat features and walk upright, with a strange speech that’s a cross of humanoid and animal.  In truth, the origins of these creatures have nothing to do with fiends at all, but the fair folk or the fae.  The ever dubious and tricky denizens of the wyld plane are known for creating strange things on a whim, sometimes using outside creatures mutate into new ones.  The goatfolk is one such case.  During a fight between the unseelie and fiendish powers, warped goat-like creatures known as “hooved horrors” were unleashed as infantry forces for the fiends.  For the most part, the creatures were vanquished.  Those that were captured were used by the fey for experiments.  Most of them had their fiendish corruption purged as they were made into protectors of the Wyld Plane.  However, some still had a lingering fiendish essence that festered and manifested in later generations.

Swift and Athletic

The Goatfolk tend to dwell in steep crags, harsh mountaintops and rocky hills.  Many are adept at jumping about the otherwise dangerous surfaces.  As such, they value dexterity and maneuverability as important skills within their society.  Ironically, their strange hoof-like fingers make them less likely to train in ranged weapons.  However, those who have had success with such weapons are regarded as near-royalty.  For those who aren’t disposed towards weapons, sorcery is more than common upon the goat people.  This is likely the result of their distant underworld heritage, though the tampering of the fey could have caused a magical awakening all the same.  However, magic users are seen as eccentric and strange within much goatfolk culture.  Many see it as an unnecessary oddity, especially when physical prowess is held in such high regards.  Some even see it as cheating one’s way to power or improving themselves artificially.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: GOATS!  Sure, the connections to devils and the like was a bit easy, but I wanted to roll with it as a player option.  I guess it fits under the anti-hero category because of that, but whatever.  To be fair, this started as a variant tiefling option… which is also below.  Also, I guess I owe a minor apology to the many people who wanted content that could translate into Undertale… especially when I either didn’t deliver or was crabby about it.  (In short, I’m not a fan of Undertale.  I just couldn’t get into it.)  No matter, here’s my early Crimbo present to you!  Or should I say, Merry Krampus!

But yes, come for the goat race, stay for the Tiefling options!

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Plant Folk – A Flora-based Race for D&D 5th Edition

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“Don’t worry, we’re not all born this ugly… I’m just really unlucky…”

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Born… or Reborn from Strange Realms

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The Plane of the Wyld is a strange realm of relentless nature.  Beauty is balanced by all natural brutality.  To those of us well accustomed to civilization, such a realm is almost alien in nature and psychology.  It’s a realm that preserves the world of the organic, while trying to purge the world of the inorganic.  Not evil by any means, this misguided concept of nature taken life has been alluring to countless factions and disturbing to countless others.  Among one of the more notorious products of the Wyld are creatures it forcefully mutated into something for fitting for its image.  These beings were typically kidnapped from their own realm and forced to live in this strange new world.  Those cursed  by the Wyld are typically associated with savage beasts.  However, not all afflicted become like untamed fauna.

Some take the characteristics of flora instead.  The many that weren’t kidnapped were plant life that was forcefully changed into a walking and talking being, in an attempt to infiltrate and assimilate into civilization.  Such creatures made in this manner had no concept of sentience, let alone much thought at all.  Unlike the mutants, most of the grown plant folk served with rigid obedience.  However, becoming a new form of life proved to be too much for some.  Many went insane from their revelations and new found abilities, as with mutants that cracked under the cruel side of the Wyld.  These broken ones were dejected, much like the beasts who broke free of the Wyld’s grasp.

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Earthy Explorers

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The Plant Folk are the survivors of such mad experiments.  Many become brainwashed by the mad auras and powers of the Wyld.  Those who break free suffer much like the Beast Folk do; attempting to reclaim their lives, start new ones or craft an identity all their own.  More often than not, they adapt to environments suitable to their plant-forms on the material plane.  More adventurous among the plant people seek out realms beyond comfort and try to understand the dangers of the mortal plane.  Some have reconciled with their dark faerie overlords, while others loathe the very fiber of their beings… despite technically being fey beings themselves.

Being creatures made of earthly matter, they are more attuned to the world around them.  As such, many consult them as guides and trackers.  Some try to push their abilities, becoming seers who read the very dirt and underbelly of the world itself to better understand reality as a whole.

Author’s Note:  I’ve made plenty of beast races, so I wanted a change of pace.  Why not a race inspired by various kinds of plants instead?  Besides, plenty of creatures in myth take motifs of plant life, such as the Dryad.  I figure it’s a niche that has been much ignored by the game in terms of player content, for the most part.  No matter, enjoy.

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Baba Yaga and her Dancing Hut

Baba Yaga's Dancing Hut by noahbradley

Looks friendly enough.

The all powerful queen of Hags is a force to be reckoned with.  She can traverse reality, utilize powerful magick and is said to be immortal herself!  To many, she resembles the archetypal hag like any other, but this is far from the case.  She’s the most powerful of all hags.  Some say she’s even the progenitor of hags as a whole.  Her dark spawn fill countless planes and spread her dread curse upon many realities. Her motivations are shrouded in eons of mystery.  Perhaps she fancies herself as a Queen of Magic itself, seeking to one day control the powers she has long since mastered.  Perhaps she wants to make all realms her home, unleashing horrible spirit creatures and dark energies to terraform the planes.  No one for certain knows, nor do they want to find out.

To those who encounter her, the best course of action is to avoid at all costs.  For if she doesn’t attack directly, her magical hut will.  To those who can manage to defeat her hut, facing her within her own domain is a far more challenging task.  It is said that she rests deep with the Spirit World of Arcadia, as a means of recuperating from epic conflicts on the Material realm.  It is also said she has connections to lands of the dead and the Otherworld.  In fact, part of her existence is stuck between the Grey Wastes and Gehenna.  It is rumored many magical secrets of the yugoloth come from the Hag Queen herself!  However, it seems as though she is more than capable of appearing in multiple places at once, all while her hut contains several worlds in one.  Her motivations for collecting pieces of worlds are just as vague as her reasons for committing vile deeds.  Few mad scholars assume she has a sentimental attachment to the places she visits, collecting bits of them as a visitor would take a souvenir as a means of making memories.

However, Baba Yaga has a strange side as well.  While associated with absolute wickedness, she can show signs of kindness… when it benefits her.  Those who show her respect will usually be shown some level of respect in return, even her acting grandmotherly towards adventurers who follow her rules.  Sometimes, she observes the world around her through her various alternate forms of Maiden, Mother and Crone.  Perhaps she desires love, perhaps she wants to learn about a world she’s visiting, perhaps she’s seeking out a weakness so it’s all the more easy to take what is rightfully her’s!

AUTHOR’S NOTE:  As per request, here’s my take on Baba Yaga!  For inspiration, I sampled various tales on the fair folk as well as traditional Slavic folklore of the hag queen herself!  Of course, the classic adventure for AD&D as well as the Reign of Winter adventure path played their parts too.

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