I LIVE… AGAIN!

“Open for Business!”

So, what gives? I vanish from you fine people for a long time with barely a word.  Well, I owe at least some explanation.  In short, things have not been exactly exemplary, tearing me away from creative stuff.  Lots of personal problems I may divulge in another post.  On top of that, being hardcore burned out on D&D has made things a bit rougher in general.  Either way, I’m back with a bit of an announcement.  Without telling you too much about my life, things have been a bit hectic during my semi-hiatus from the page here.  But, I’ve still kept busy with at least something.  

So with that, I’d like to inform that my contribution for Threshold Magazine is nearing completion.  The theme?  More victims of the Dark Powers hailing from the world of Mystara.  Read the frantic notes of the Black Rajah of Jaibul as he tries to make sense of his own situation.  Dare to seek more on other prisoners of the mists, even a word on Meredoth of Nebligtod!  While two of these domains are based on previous creations seen on my blog, this article expands a little on Vasfar and Ylar.  Joining them is a domain that connects to the mysterious pocket domain of Acotlaza.  This is the Scarred Crags, a mockery of Tiger Clan attempts to conquer their siblings of the Atruaghin Clans.  While the themes of fighting lycanthropy, colonization and oppression are no strangers to the Demiplane of Dread, hopefully this new Darklord’s pain pleases the Dark Powers.  And likewise, I hope that those reading this are just as eager as I am to make some more mad creations for the Demiplane of Dread.  Should things prove popular enough, this might continue.  Beyond Threshold, I might make a follow-up for Fraternity of Shadow’s Quoth the Raven or perhaps Threshold once more.  Likewise, musings on converting Ravenloft content to BECMI.  The Darklords and related creatures get only minimal mechanical considerations in the current article though.  In the meantime, the mists are parting once more and something dark lingers nearby.

Burn out never, Steam Forever – More Steamspace

The Aftermath by RhysGriffiths on DeviantArt

Steamspace, that which holds the greatest minds in the greatest crystal sphere.  Should you seek glory, invention and the power of a new age; Steamspace is for you.  Consult with the Steam Corps Recruitment Agency, found next to Lorenzo’s Museum of Wildspace Weaponry.
– From a flyer posted around The Rock of Bral

Steamspace is an odd land of many extremes.  There are miniature worlds with diametrically opposed harsh weather.  There are havens for artifice, but one of the most hostile refuges of nature found in the multiverse.  Ideal landscapes for urban empire exist in some realms, such as the Moon of Victoriana or the world of Valiance.  For the rest, it is a testament to ingenuity and innovation; powers of arcane engineering battling the deadliest that nature and the supernatural have to offer.  Beyond deserts of sand, icy tundras, wastelands under darkness and strange seas of green; there are other perils too.  Shadowy drow conspire while ancient elves channel forces of the light.  Battles still wage for the powers of lightning to some day overthrow dependence on steam.  Many mysteries line the sphere too.  The most advanced of the people here are actually ancient tribes that once belonged to a unified world, long blown up by mysterious tragedies.  Numerous societies hoard secrets on the creation of deadly weaponry that could risk annihilation of whole regions.  Many hide the literal deeper layers and depths to even their cities.  None the less, this does not dissuade brave souls looking to reinvent both themselves and reality around them.  Should success come to all and peace ring true, then there is hope for these wondrous creations to spread to the multiverse.

Author’s Note: One more for Steamspace!  Yes, I realize that Bashar and Destiny Expanse are getting a fair bit here.  Beyond that, references to silent horror cinema, Stephen King and various dystopian fiction.  Just because I’m not letting this get too dark doesn’t mean I won’t stuff plenty in there.

Continue reading “Burn out never, Steam Forever – More Steamspace”

Spelljammer’s Steamspace – Beyond Steam Titan

treasurepl1.jpg

The Steam Titan is a curious host. The world itself is hostile to most life, but its moons offer a diverse array of habitats and beings. None the less, the gases within the world have proved most useful in propelling already technical societies far forward, with fascinating innovations. But, what of other worlds within the sphere?

Author’s Notes: To keep in line with the fiction of the era, many of the worlds refer to various dime novel/pulpy tropes and then some, such as the lost world, masked heroics, divine revelation, proto-cosmic horror and then some.  Likewise, a poke at the genre mashup and rules-Frankenstein needed to make all of this possible.  Hell, one of the worlds is even more tie-in to my RavenScape stuff.  Anyway, here’s a post JAM PACKED with content!  Enjoy!  Perhaps at some point, I’ll return to Steamspace.

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Within Doors of Darkness Everlasting – Misty Prisons within a Misty Plane

Horror House by Metalius666 on DeviantArt

Dare you seek shelter in places where solace cannot be found?  They have roofs and walls, but they are not homes.  They are prisons all their own, where cries of horror and derangement mix with the maniacal methods of their overseers.  Enter through these doors and never leave, for your caretakers have other plans for you now.  Below are a few buildings designed to ensnare, persecute and afflict.  They are not prisons in the traditional sense, but the dark powers have a habit of changing all to accommodate the punishment of another.  Some existed prior, such as a place of holy contrition and a house of state security.  Others came about as domains are built from a darklord’s sins or as a consequence of them.

Author’s Note:  This one slides a bit into mature content, warranting a word of warning.  As it is, one of the domains was built on a dare to make something quite disturbing.  It is disturbing.  Is it wholly original?  Not really, it’s basically The Golden Cat from Dishonored meets dark aspects of Planescape and Ravenloft; plus the House of Lament.  Will I use it for something?  I don’t really know, but it’s now a piece of the Demiplane either way.  Likewise a few other things slide well into proper Ravenloftian grimdark.  Debauchery, zealotry and totalitarian horror await.  For what it’s worth, more Planescape and Mystara references are here as well.  And while I’m at it, very very few WotC-era references, hehe.  But, even if this version is slightly tamed down, some viewer’s discretion is advised.

Continue reading “Within Doors of Darkness Everlasting – Misty Prisons within a Misty Plane”

Worlds and Cosmos of Spelljammer – Fantastic Space!

 

Spelljammer" cover art by Jeff Easley. | Scifi fantasy art, Dungeons and  dragons art, Fantasy art illustrations

Arcane Space, a strange place for those not initiated.  Plus, for those lacking the essential tools of travel, it’s deadly.  There is no natural air here, likewise the heat is very unnatural.  This is especially the case within the traveling warp known as the phlogiston, a realm of burning energy that can shuttle protected spelljammers in rapid time.  Yes, it truly is wonderful.  And for many, it’s a far more logical alternative to the planes beyond.  Why discover what lies beyond life when you can learn all that life truly has to offer?  There are countless worlds already out there, all within the Prime material.  Plus, the metropolitan space hubs prove far less pretentious than the likes of Sigil anyway.  No weird slang to make yourself feel smug.  Or well, less of it.

Author’s Note: Spelljammer?  But of course!  October will probably make a shift back to Ravenloft, but Spelljammer always needs love.  And past that, more Docker’s Catch, crossover with other settings and a massive reference to Sea of Thieves (again). So with that, have a double post… IN THE SAME WEEK!  Give or take.

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Barmy Kips and Dark Locales – More Curiosities of Sigil

door at end of dark alleyway | Dark alleyway, Dark street, Anime background

Oh, so you’re in need of a tout?  Yeah, I could do that.  What’re in the need for, chummer?  You gave the jink tip, so I’m all bone box gab.  Juggling Monk Way holds the chant on good eats and bub, little cost.  You gots yourself 3 different taverns, all good options.  What’s next, yes?  Oh, Easy workin’s.  Aye.  You can help patrol against Cranium Rats.  Yeah, office right down where I’m pointing.  There’s also the labor yard, a bit more north in the Hive here.  They need bashers to haul bunches o’ junk, probably for trade.  But, real thrills?  Follow me down this burned alley, I gots something that’s a real once in a lifetime treat!  Promise ya that!  Haha.

Author’s Note: Continued influence from Eberron, the High Society and the near-end of the Antorek metaplots.  And just below, things deep in UnderSigil.  I know I brought that blasted mad dragon and his fey helpers back, but this is what happens when you port Mutant Plants and Mutant Animals from Gamma World into AD&D… among other things from Gamma World.  The Bathysphere is from that too, as well as some planar weirdness.  More is on the way, as things have been split up once again.

Continue reading “Barmy Kips and Dark Locales – More Curiosities of Sigil”

Grim Rumors Eternal – More Ravenloft Plots and Places

The Darkness lasts forever!  Don’t think the Light is still your friend though.

Author’s Note: Mystaran homage, more lands based on Philippine folklore, more on the undead of Rockbaecche and a native of Kalidnay experiencing Abaddon.  Also, two more references to the excellent Prisoners of the Mist server for Neverwinter Nights.  If you love the Campaign Setting, it’s one of the best sources that keeps it alive.  Also, I’m aware that referencing Abrahamic religion in D&D is controversial, but thanks to Prisoners of the Mist, it could be a fascinating thing to examine in brief.  I should really pick that up again, it was good fun.

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Gazing upon a Misty Void

TAE _ - Sea Zombie-2

“This is the Alleigosto Exploration Team, is anyone out there?  Anyone on the Cog Auditory-Wave Line, please respond!  We are lost on the Ichthyan Sea.  We’ve observed and overheard terrible creatures.  Send help immediately.  These waters are dangerous, arm yourselves by all means.  I repeat, arm yourselves.  Air waves will remain open, in hopes of response.” – The distress signal of Her Heavenly Embrace, sunken wreck

It is time once again to gaze into the mists and see what gazes back.  I bring you tales and people traversing the mists, woes of the occult, crime never paying, schemes of a warmonger and rising spirits assembling a demonic gallivant.

Author’s Note: More ambitious conquering for Drakov, Victorian spiritualism, Japanese ghosts and more on a thieves haven homage to Yojimbo.  That is what to expect from this post!  Also, I know I’ve griped about it before, but I feel like I should cover and flesh out my own worlds.  I don’t really want to play D&D anymore, even though I like pondering about the settings.  It’s this weird paradox for me.  I have more posts I want to do, so we’ll see how quick I can get over this funk.

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In Which Calamity Reigns – More Planescape Lore

Street Riot | MTG Arena Card Library
“To the Armory, CHAAAAARGE!.”

“Those Anarchist twits, sparking more violence within The Cage.  They think they’re turning the people against the factions, all of them…  Not quite.  It all plays into our hands.  Besides, this has lead to our greatest dabbling, remote shops to distribute weapons from The Armory better!  Tuck them under the Legals’ noses, give ’em the laugh at the right moment!  The smell o’ fresh blood wafting along the Lower Ward smog, ain’t it just grand?  Besides, nasty things are brewing in the planes, it’s best for the locals to arm themselves.  Bloody shame with those pirates though, I wish they were working for us…” – From the letter of a Sinker, commenting on recent “acceleration” within Sigil

Horrible things transpire across the planes, but what do they mean?  Likewise, dread things from realms unknown have found their way into The Cage.  The few paranoid greybeards within The Dark point towards The Demiplane of Dread and its machinations.  But, they can’t say for sure and can’t say why.  Through the Prime Fabric, a version of Terra languishes at the wrath of the planes beyond too, something that should be impossible.  As it is, rising tensions within Sigil point to something grim.  Some figure that Factol Darkwood is up to something, but he has been on the hush since violence against any faction/non-guild has been on the rise.  Even laws passed and enforced by the “lawful three” have been subverted and sometimes abolished by outside forces.  The Lady, as always, has remained silent until her call to action draws near.  In the meantime, both Anarchists and Indeps are getting much of the heat of the blame, alongside various Guilds of the Guildhall and Market Wards.

Author’s Note: This post is all about two themes: darker things in the planes… and war.  By war, I mean urban warfare, world war, proxy war, war of ideals/words and war over technology.  But also, we have more Planescape content, as well as potential “Ravenscape” material.  As always, references galore!  This includes some personalities in real life.  Shout-out to The Foxy Bard of Renaissance Faire performance fame.  I still say if you toss on a monocle, you could rock a Harkon Lukas cosplay!  Mind you, Lukas was an inspiration for my character too.  Also, this one is a smidge rougher based on looks at an apocalyptic Earth, as well as uproar in the Cage.  Keep an eye out for many, many callbacks throughout the post.  I love to self-reference.

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Of Lands Beyond Castle Ravenloft – More Domains and Dread

“I must apologize for speaking to you on such short notice, my Count. Please take whatever comfort in my quarters that you require. My scheduled appointment was far later and I must thank you for willingly meet me within my own home. You are likely aware of why I’ve requested to see you. The crazed arcanist, known as ‘Azalin’, has-“

At the mention of his nemesis, Strahd twists like a gust from his seat, staring at the Burgomaster in contempt. A stare of shock and rage quickly transforms into the cool and collective grin shown to friend and foe alike. “Do understand,” Strahd calmly verbalizes, “such a name causes contention within my land. You should know that more than anyone. But, I rudely interrupted you by my reaction. Please… continue.”

His commanding words pierced the burgomaster harder than arrows or even the count’s hidden fangs could. As if he too was hit with a shocking statement, the burgomaster jerks back a bit. He sighs, trying to cover it up as the airs leaves his lips. Eyeing Strahd, the count simply raises an eyebrow after casually reclaiming his seat. After a few seconds of stammering, leading to the count’s arched eyebrow rising further, he continues with a hint of shakiness.

“-has been seeding the lands with spies to gather any information possible. He is plotting something big, but I shall rally the land to your aid. I am a patriot to Barovia first, and thus I shall heed any call to action. I know these matters cause a great deal of grief to you, but I hope to take some of the strain off of your shoulders.”

The count leans in, like a predator readied to pounce. “Yes, very fair. Now, out with it.”

The burgomaster visibly gulps his own spit while refraining from further stutter. “Several informants have reported to me, currently stationed at makeshift barracks by the village. They’re recanted some strange activity that might relate to Barovia and that other figure of contention. Fortunately, the rebellions of the subdued rival populations have been met with appropriate force. The rumors of their ruler’s return are grossly overstated, a mere distraction as an attempt to scare us.”

The Burgomaster twitches and fiddles in his seat, sweat drops gathering in more number like the growing armies he promised. The Count stares deathly upon the simple false ruler of the village, before his intrigued expression flattens into something more playful and cruel, “the active vigilance of a patriot should be rewarded. The call to action will begin soon, but first these informants of yours need my acquaintance. I must thank you for your service.” The Burgomaster shudders, while attempting to stiffen his stance in pride. Without further word, Strahd lifts himself to his feet and leaves toward the home’s wooden door. “And another thing, you would do best to find any spies and eliminate them quickly. I *shall* keep my trust in you.” As the door slowly shuts behind Strahd, the Burgomaster deflates into his seat from his received threats.

Author’s Note: Big thanks to P.N. Elrod, who inspired the intro blurb after a good rereading of “I, Strahd.” Likewise, big thanks to Ari Marmell for a reinvented version of Winding Road. Here’s my more constrained take, a pocket domain that links to Barovia… and possibly other domains as well. And a thought experiment gone wild, The Rule of Threes Cluster. One of the concepts is a call-back to a Planescape creation that felt right at home in the Mists, so here we are! As for the original Chaotic domain, Point Barmy was going to be it, but I was dissatisfied with it… and thus it was my April Fool’s post for how crazy it was. So, instead, here’s a domain inspired by the bank collapse of Florence. Also, I know I said I’d stop using Barovia, Gundarak, Darkon and Invidia… and yet here I am, haha.

Also, let me respond to a request I’ve gotten a few times. I won’t do a review of the new “Ravenloft” book for 5e; it’ll be dismissive, biased and angry. I’ve seen enough of it, I won’t enjoy it. Even pirating doesn’t feel like it’s worth my time.

Continue reading “Of Lands Beyond Castle Ravenloft – More Domains and Dread”