Traversing the Mists – Ramon’s Research of Ravenloft

Castle Avernus | Tertius: Ravenloft Redux | Obsidian Portal

The journeys through the lands of the mists continue.  I find myself lost after leaving the dark clutches of Inza.  It wasn’t my place to fully stop her.  While the Black Rose is distant and gone, maybe someone else will thwart the usurper.  In the meantime, the strange powers that be seem to carry me, as if they too wish to see my quest for knowledge fulfilled.  But, they have an ulterior motive, for they never help one for free.  Perhaps I can be of use to help put Darklords in their place?  Given how I haven’t done much of that before, this is likely not the case….  But, something to ponder about later.  Something to deeply ponder about.

The meddlings of displaced Kargatane is most disconcerting.  Tales tell of Azalin’s meddling in an attempt to escape.  And yet, I have successfully escaped… all the more reason to use me in an experiment.  I’m not sure if I’m at the agenda of the dread lich or the Dark Powers.  Either way, it’s likely that little good will come from this, save for me documenting these awful places for posterity.  With any luck, I will be granted the same courtesy as before.  Every time though, it feels like escape was from sheer luck of nothing bad happening or just the smallest window of survival.  We shall see what awaits me then.  With any hope, I can evade these agents of the lich for as long as possible.  If I benefit with learning along the way, that’s certainly a positive, no?

Author’s Note: Ravenloft had a tendency to make crossovers with other settings.  So, let’s pull from their dip into Dark Sun as well as Spelljammer, even examining a possible domain from Eberron!  In addition, I look at a cluster I very much enjoy.  Also, what is Ramon seeking?  Why does he hide from Azalin?

 

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Drawn back to The Mists – Ramon’s Return to Ravenloft

The Ravenloft (setting) thread | RPG PUB

The Demiplane of Dread, house of the Castle Ravenloft and the prison of countless conniving souls.  It called to me once more.  I find myself not in the known lands, but a different cluster set.  Words and people tell of creatives whose processes lead to their own dooms.  Tales of toy makers, playwrights, sculptors, painters and even bards…  All of these haunt me more than they would the layman.  But, what goes beyond this troubled region?  Whose to say?  With any luck, I’ll find my escape beyond the Lands of the Mists in due time.

Author’s Note:  I wanted to bring things back to Ravenloft, as last post showed.  Like before, I wanted to bring in a mix of my own content and the classic domains of the campaign setting.  In time, I might supply more from my own, fleshing them out much like I did for Dawnsveil.  In the meantime, take a look at a domain cluster dedicated to artists and other crafting geniuses gone horribly wrong.  And on top of that, my summary of some other domains that I love.  Also, another shout-out to Knott’s Berry Farm!  2020’s Scare might be cancelled, but you remain an amazing inspiration for me.  Some day, I’ll actually be able to attend the Halloween seasonal attraction…

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Blackmoor Week 2020: Blackmoor, Into the Future

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Blackmoor week celebrates the birth of Dave Arneson and his creation of the Blackmoor setting.  As the co-founder of the game and other grandfather of roleplaying games, he deserves some love as well, hence this week on the web.  You can click the image above to see more of what Blackmoor Week has to offer.  But, should you be interested in my own mad ramblings and homages to Arneson’s setting and beyond, do continue here as well!  Doc’s Laboratory awaits!

Since its inception, there have been a number of iterations of the lands of Blackmoor.  The ones most tied to Arneson were the first and last incarnations.  And to an extent, even the alteration into Mystara’s history counts.  My experience with Blackmoor started mostly with the final versions, the 3rd edition and 4th edition source books provided by Zeitgeist Games at the time.  While I knew it was put into the distant past of The Known World and beyond, I never had a chance at the Mystara friendly version of it for a while.  None the less, I favor a blend of the classic vision with the Mystaran one.  It even factored into a game friends took part in long ago.  Said game was a multiple campaign arc in Mystara, with tons of crazy time travel and other antics with reality.  The last game ended after our travels back and forth into Blackmoor’s history.  For numerous games, we were called to deal with progressively evolving threats in the kingdom-turned-empire.  However, our final threat was something we weren’t prepared for, a Blackmoor in the modern age.  Sadly, the campaign ended as we caught a glimpse of an imposing and bleak city over the horizon.  Mind you, this was during the days when many of us still thought Blackmoor would be fit in the Broken Lands, before we realized that later developments changed that.

This isn’t the end of Returned Blackmoor, just it in active campaign form.  Years and years passed, before the Mystara Reborn Facebook group became the encouragement I needed to give life back into this new Blackmoor.  With old notes in hand and scrambled bits from the rest of the old table, I cobbled together an image of what a Blackmoor might look like if it used time powers to survive its doom in the Mystaran world.  It turns out, having your land rotated into a frigid wasteland can massively throw one off.  This, combined with plague and political instability lead to a trusted member of the military staging a coupe and establishing a harsh dictatorship.  While the arcane-infused high technology of Blackmoor recovered and developed anew, the culture became far more stagnant and stale, as leadership forbid it to develop further.  As the decades passed since it leapt into the near-present, the leader began to lose a grip on reality as well as physical health.  Ultimately, he would become something of a quasi-undead cyborg, a major campaign reveal.  (A brain-in-a-jar piloting a robot body, a staple science fiction trope.)   Meanwhile, movements arise in the shadows to oppose him, some more extreme than others.  Other forces stir, many of which driven by wicked ends.  All sorts of enemies roam this new Blackmoor: wasteland raiders, rogue robots, mutant animalmen, atomic undead, acolytes of new dark Immortals or even the slumbering Egg of Coot!  Those are only a few examples.

Now, how does this involve the players?  Well, many games could involve them in the mayhem and wonder of this forbidden land.  For starters, they could help shape an uprising against the corrupt usurper state.  Heroes may choose to help remnants of the old ways help restore classic order within the realm.  They might consider radical change instead, favoring one of several other factions, ranging from reformists to new potential overlords.  They might even earn the trust of the regime and become ambassadors to the greater world.  Over time, the current ways of Blackmoor may become less extreme in their own way.  For the more Arneson approved old school experience, there are a number of dungeons both classic and infused with gonzo science-fantasy, even Castle Blackmoor has received modifications over the eons.  It seems with time that many of the kinks that caused Blackmoorian tech to go haywire are more properly ironed out too.  Or at least, more attention to potential sabotage.  Potential for larger plots exist too:  Blackmoor trying to integrate safely into the greater world, the Immortals having none of it and punting the land into the Hollow World (alongside the Blacklore Elves), a massive war risking a Greater Rain of Fire, the rise of a new Blackmoor Empire and much more.

To dive more into Returned Blackmoor, check out Threshold Magazine!  Issues 20, 22 and 26 (edited) have articles by me.

The Editor’s Expansive Sigil Expose – Part 1

The Factol's Manifesto | Forgotten Realms Wiki | Fandom

Greetings, reader.  There is no Ramon to worry about this time around.  He is fine, my cohorts have seen to that.  However, his journal is just too valuable to fall into the clutches of some grabby faction or offended primer.  By all means, let me contribute!  For the purposes of this document, this is an addendum to a magnificent tome that will damn you just by thinking about it.  I speak of the most infamous tome in Sigil and maybe beyond, The Factol’s Manifesto!  The pages within, adorned with flavour and flare by yours truly, describe the deeper details and dim dark on the factions that populate the Cage!  Read no further, lest a basilisk of the mind take you!  Once you go in, your mind will never go out.

Good, you’re still with me.  Let us speak more of the infamous Factols’ Manifesto!  The following pages are but supplements to inform you on some background groups attempting to politic and tinker with the workings of wider society all the same.  I sense that you’ll ask a question, “Editor, how do I know you’re from Sigil when you don’t speak in Cant?”  Well, my scrutinizing friend, one can choose to take a break from such slang terminology.  Doing so can allow even the most oblivious of Primers to comprehend forbidden things that could either save them or… well… see above.  So, take heed that all you see before puts your life on the line much like it does my own!  With that dire warning, continue and be educated!

Author’s Note: Writing in the style of the Factols’ Manifesto, what fun!  I’ve made a number of sects and the like over the years, also playing with other ideas.  Plus, here’s a chance to spill the rest of the beans on the Acts of Balance “Faction” I’ve been teasing for a while.

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Ramon’s Guide to Realms of Order vs. Anarchy

Image result for AD&D cosmology

“Law and Chaos, two diametrically opposed sides, no one will refute this.  However, what oddities and secrets do they hold?  Why, I’m happy to show you.  While I have covered a little on Pandemonium and Acheron, it’s only fair to look at the other mostly-neutral planes of Law and Chaos… plus a few looks at other related realms, and a few returns to some less than savory burgs and blights.  But, all in the name of granting knowledge to you, fair scholar!” – An introductory speech for Ramon’s Lecture on Planes of Law and Chaos, at the Civic Festhall, in the Clerk’s Ward of Sigil

Planes of Law, rules taken physical form!  While Acheron has shown the order of war at its most harsh, there is far more to explore within the possibilities of Law.  One must account for concepts of atruism, unity, conformity and direction.  While these topics can overlap between planes; they all have their respective places.  Likewise, their inevitable counterpart is the eternal testament to disorder.  The Planes of Chaos are a lack of rules turned physical.  Chaos need not be just madness, like Pandemonium.  Plenty of free thinkers are driven by many other passions.  These don’t have to be completely selfish either.  Some people just want a good time, consequences be damned!  Others just want free reigns to express themselves, judgements be damned.  So, as these two forces butt heads, let’s take a deeper look at some overviews as well as some of my own dug up finds.  Join me as I return to the planes once again!

Author’s Note: More Planes!  This time Law vs. Chaos.  This was a fun chance to revisit my fey post from last Summer!  (Shout out to Brynvalk for partially inspiring this brief revival!) Also, yes, Augmental probably won’t see use in MOST sane campaigns, considering it’s supposed to be a blend of Phyrexia, Hellraiser and H.R. Giger art in a blender.  Though, I can hope some more tongue-in-cheek segments make up for my usual delves into grimdark.

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New Year, New Me?

We made it to Cyberpunk 2020!  Happy New Year!  Happy New 20s!  Anyway, I needed a break from gaming stuff.  I’ll be back soon enough.  Plus, I’ve been rereading some other RPGs.  I think for a new year and new decade, considering other systems might be in order after all.  To be pretty honest?  I’ve been feeling a bit tired of D&D 5th Edition.  Will 2020 be the finale for 5E content?  I’m still deciding.  In the meantime, I will roll out a few neat posts about the glories of the Lower Planes, maybe something else when they reveal the Spring 2020 big adventure thingy that I won’t buy…  Who knows?  It’s a new year/decade of possibilities!

Ramon’s Guide to Alternate Realities

Image result for The Upside Down
Upside Down, I have heard of this.  I hope to never go there.

The multiverse is already a confusing concept.  Now, couple that with the concept of parallel realities?  Your hurting mind now roars in a throbbing migraine at the thought.  But, believe me, such things are fact.  Many can attest that traveling through time is just the creation or accessing of a different reality.

Author’s Note: Oh boy, here’s a complicated concept I’ve been eager to tackle.  Also, here’s a chance to pay homage to various What If articles/adventures as well as fan-created takes on settings and lore.  Also, what if The Grand Conjunction succeeded?  Strahd and Azalin aren’t even the worst of it!  And, save for one published article or concept; all these make homage to some work of sci-fi or horror.

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Ramon’s Guide to Gothic Terra

Masque

“I came to, a willingness to survive kicked in.  When I swam above the waterline, I wasn’t greeted by Lamordia, by a mist-cloaked land anew.  Surely, this was but a trick of The Dark Powers, once more?” – Ramon DeLeon, wandering bard and planes traveler

Planet Terra.  It has been referenced in many planar logs.  Many worlds tell of a mythic world of great humans who fled the oppressive horrors of their old world of many names.  LaTerre, Uerth, Gothic Earth.  These names and more have been given to this world by many a scholar of Wildspace and The Planes.  Despite its mythic past, much of its fantastical glory days are over, with only dark shadows looming over the present.  The present, according to the widely used calendar of its people, is 2012.  The common people either mistranslate old calendars as prophecy or completely brush off any fear.  The reality of the matter is so much worse…

Author’s Note: Credit where credit is due!  A big thanks to Rucht Lilavivat of the Fraternity of Shadows community for his creation of Gothic Earth Eternal, a pathfinder mod that brings Masque of the Red Death into the Modern Age.  In my case, this is my means of highlighting a variety of chilling tales.  In the world of Gothic Earth, they’re most likely true!  Also, this is not the Earth you are used to, but one more akin to the gothic settings of the World of Darkness roleplaying game.  Life is deadlier, the aesthetics are grimmer and the world in general is far more sinister. Plus, I have an excuse to tie in Alternity Dark*Matter RPG’s Hoffman Institute and the forces of Shadow from D20 Urban Arcana, which are both canon in D&D.  I know Masque of the Red Death doesn’t traditionally have standard Domains, but this concept takes place over 100 years after the main campaign.  Anything can happen, right?

Also, this gives me the chance to showcase some disturbing stories through a supernatural lens!  The fate of the SS. Morro Castle, Jane and the Starving Period of Jamestown, fell curses in the Payton Randolph house, the murder of George Wythe, tavern tales of devil pacts and their supposed results, government conspiracies, southwestern ghost towns, real life camp killers and the infamous murder hotel.  Now, save for a tavern tale or two; the majority of the topics mentioned in this are real or are based on real events.  I don’t mean any offense or disrespect when adapting these events to horror fiction.  If anything, reality is far scarier than any fictional tale we could come up with.  None the less, I realize this one will be rather controversial.

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Divine World Building – Arothe

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Say hello to the “Overgod”

The RPG Blog Carnival for January 2019 is more or less concluded, but I wanted to return to it once more with my own home setting.  I’ve talked about tons of aspects of the world already, but not too much in terms of “the divine”.  Though, to be fair, that’s a bit of an odd subject for my universe.

Similar to Mystara, deities are much closer to the “Immortals” of that world.  Heroes train, prove themselves and ascend beyond the prime material.  Out of a pact with other “Ascended”, interaction with the mortal plane is rare and only in dire emergency, where it can’t be helped.  Upon ascending, they become the embodiment of the ideals that they believe in, empower those who follow such beliefs and ethos.  Unlike the traditional D&D worlds, believers connect on a level of domains and ideology.  Those who try to directly connect to an Ascended usually go insane, as they’re unable to comprehend the sheer power and form that such beings wield.  Most religions of the world have adapted to fit this harsh truth.  In fact, most religious revolve around various metaphysical concepts as well as ideals.  Like with other traditional worlds, one could still see various religious groups inspired by a cause.  However, this world will not have them tied to a deity, unless they’re a mad cult.

But, what came before the ascended?  And what helps them move beyond mere mortality?  To answer both questions, one must look at what came before.  Arothe was created from an experiment on another world, trying to use transdimensional technology to create a wholly new universe.  The same laboratory reached out to countless realities (including a few versions of Earth).  Something terrible resulted in multiple malfunctions in the experiment at once.  Multiple old realities collapses and folded on themselves, while being absorbed into the new one.  A strange energy was discovered thanks to the experiments though, psychic power.  The power preserved the millions of minds of the victims, binding and bonding them to a single entity.  The mad hivemind eventually formed into a chaotic and discordant entity within the new universe.  Basically, a psychic powered Azathoth that’s too confused and lost to be fully aware of what it does.  However, this doesn’t mean that the Ascended escape its wrath.  Those who ascend are tethered to this mighty being.  And, in the off chance that they are slain, they can be eaten by this star horror should it desire more power and minds to sustain itself.

As for reality building itself anew, the hive at the center of the universe mostly shaped things from afar.  Terrain shaped itself naturally, as forces and energies of life spurred on evolution.  However, the hive itself influenced sentient life forces through subtle implanting of thoughts to outright bizarre visions.  As much of the hive is composed of former Earth humans, subjects of the world are slightly pushed in a direction similar to Earth’s many cultures.  Some mortals feel that they’re being manipulated by something, but few can ever prove it.  Many take the visions, strange dreams and signs as their own creations and go from there.  But all along, distant thoughts from Earth from equally distant sources find their way into the life of this strange, but oddly familiar world.

So there you have it, a little insight into how divinity works in the weird world of Arothe.

IMAGE CREDIT: Azathoth – Andy Tantowi