Sample Nations: Part 3

Sample Nations: Part 3

We're back with even more samples of even more different nations, just for you. This series has been so popular and I'm glad you're all enjoying it!

Candor:  On the high gravity world of Bromine there was a civilization known as Candor, deeply advanced in many scientific pursuits. They had explored, sequence, and mastered every combination of DNA found on their planet. They had perfected quantum computers and written artificial intelligences so real they were nearly indistinguishable from the living breathing residents. But they were so focused on the path ahead that few ever bothered to look up. For all their wonders, they had almost no sense of astronomy, they never dreamed of the stars, they loved their huge dense planet dearly. As a result they didn't see their demise looming until the asteroid was visible in the night sky. They knew there would be no way to save their lives, but that didn't, couldn't, mean their extinction. Instead they sought to preserve themselves. In a diligent rush the people of Candor downloaded everything into a great archive. Not just the complete, unvarnished, history of their world, but their plans, their inventions, their sciences, and even their people. Thirteen billion minds, complete with their DNA patterns and sequences, and another billion artificial intelligences, all backed up. Of course, with their skill and ability, even that vast sum of data was stored rather easily.  It could fit into a container of hyper dense diamond, it could fit into something as simple as a bottle, or even be encoded onto a single drop of blood.  The exact details of the container aren't as important as the hope it represents. An advanced lost civilization and the technology needed to restore them, all in a small mcguffin sized package. The Hope of billions drifting through space waiting to be found.

 

Necropolis: They're out there, hungering for flesh. They roam the world constantly looking to eat, eat, eat, eat. They slaughter each other for huge swaths of land to own as territories to better harvest food. They hunt and kill every day, carving apart flesh and devouring it without ever feeling satisfied. They are wild and reckless and unpredictable ruled by sudden whims and emotions. The Living are truly terrifying. Living people are the nightmares that the eternal children of Necropolis fear. To become a citizen of Necropolis you need only do one thing, die. If you submit to a necromantic ritual that extracts your life energy and turns you into an eternal undying being then you may live forever in peace with your new kin. Once the savage needs of the living are no longer a problem the mind is free to pursue scholarly pursuits. Necropolis has no need for farms to produce food, and many of the eternal dead choose not to even have proper homes, often needing only a room or two to spend time in private and store their belongings. There are no starving, no diseased, no sick. And because the dead will live forever there is an ever expanding circle of friends and allies and community. It's easy to be kind and patient when you literally have forever to wait. Necropolis is a paradise, a place of peace and harmony, and they extend a peaceful hand to all the other nations of the world. But to the living, that hand of friendship can often look like a ghoulish talon reaching for ones throat.

 

Mars colony 1: There is a Nation still in the womb, not yet born, merely a concept. Mars colony 1. It is inevitable that Humanity will extend to the stars, it is no longer an option. The earth is beyond repair as long as it is occupied. Mars is the nearest colonisable planet, and it will all begin with Mars Colony . For the first time a nation is being chosen and assembled, handpicked individuals are being chosen and offered the chance to join. Thousands are already accepted and confirmed. They are members of a new country. They are dual planetary citizens. Even as massive domes are being constructed and built they are training and learning, filling out forms and gradually being introduced to each other.           There is a camaraderie and a confidence that comes with being part of an elite group. There is a change in viewpoint when you consider that within a few years you will never again see %99.99 of the people you know and see every day. Already laws are being formed for this new nation, sent out in weekly e-mails, posted on special forums. Every citizen has a hand in deciding how the new colony will work. Who will govern it and how? What method will be used to track time? What foods are available and not? Will there be a currency? A flag? This is perhaps the biggest step humanity has ever taken, and the world will be watching. Who is funding this colony? Who is permitted access? What could possibly go wrong? This is a nation like no other, still more meme, more idea, than place.

Sample Nations: Part 2

Since the response to my first batch of sample settlements was so positive I'm going to go ahead and give you all a few more. Let's get right to it!

The Free Radicals: In the depths of space there is a place where you can be free. It exists at the edges of the "controlled zone". No matter how much of space they try to own, there will always be more just beyond. This is where the peoples known as the free radicals reside. There is a place for anyone who wants it, but nothing is guaranteed. The people here come from all walks of life, all planets and species. From escaped clones and robots, to refugees, criminals, and other entities not recognized as sentient by the common people living safe in controlled space. There is no law, only a suggested code of conduct. trade is done in a thousand currencies. Bartering and credits, favours and secrets all pass between the residents freely. Many help each other simply out of the kindness in their souls and to help build a sense of community. It's a place where radiation shields fail, and air filters slowly die over time, scrubbed so much that they're barely there. But the radicals are growing, larger and larger. Every planet forced to become a colony, every new world and race conquered and subjugated, every batch of clones that falls of the back of the truck. Sooner or later this small fringe group will be large enough to be considered a threat. What will happen then?

 

The Dwarven Kingdom: That is its name. Its practical, clear, no room for mistaking it. That's how they like it. The capital is a massive city built on, above, under and around a mountain. It is known as "The Dwarven Capital". Of course that's not to say it's without its charms, or that only dwarves live within. While the every day soldiers, citizens, smiths and the like are predominantly dwarves, they have a close kinship with Gnomes. The gnomish people generally occupy the roles of bureaucrats, politicians, judges, historians, and scholars. While this isn't a law, it's common sense that running the country is "Gnome work", often said with a disdainful grunt. The Gnomes run the country, keeping it working smoothly and efficient, making the laws and policies that form the kingdom proper. They tend to live in the tops of the mountains, and in towers and other high places where they observe the majesty of their cities. Meanwhile, the ancient undermountain tunnels and temples, once the proud birthplace of dwarves, now have new residents. A century ago the Ratfolk began pouring out of their tunnels and warrens, hidden even deeper than dwarves ever dug. After a short but terribly bloody war, it came to be realized that the rats were merely fleeing the more horrific Drow hidden even beneath them. It didn't take long for an arrangement to be made. Now the Ratfolk serve as the soldiers on the front lines of the Dwarven army. They are aggressive shock troopers who fight zealously with hearts filled with gnomish propaganda. The Ratfolk know that any fate is better than being left to the Drow. And so that is the state of the Dwarven kingdom now, stalwart Dwarven craftsmen and citizens, zealous Ratfolk armies, and all of it lead by Gnomish politicians. But the Drow are still down there, getting closer to the Dwarven kingdom every day. And threats can come from all directions, even within.

Prosperia: In all the world, all the worlds, it's the same; people struggle, they fight for resources, they squabble and scrabble to claim another little piece of success while the rich eat the poor. But those civilizations were built by circumstance, built by flawed people, built on a bedrock of human limitation. Prosperia is different. A Nation built to be better, by people who are better. Since "The Event", a small number of people have been given phenomenal abilities. Strength, speed, flight, teleportation, and more. At first these few individuals took it upon themselves to use their powers to protect others. To fight evil, to uphold truth and justice, but they could only be as good as the world around them allowed. Eventually, more and more of them came to understand that a new system was needed, a new home was needed. Prosperia was founded. A man made continent, created using the abilities of dozens of empowered individuals, was carefully constructed. They watched for everything, making sure that the  global water levels didn't rise, that ocean temperatures and tectonic systems didn't shift dangerously. That set the tone for the precisions and social consciousness of the country.The nation is run by a council of super intellects who, with the help of empaths, are directly connected to the needs, desires, and fears of their populace. Between super strong and fast humans, and those with the power to generate electricity and heat the entire nation has limitless free energy. Super scientists work at rapidly progressing solar technology and soon  even those who work part time to power the country will be able to retire, while still leaving Prosperia able to sell surplus energy to other nations. Superhumans grow healthy crops of food in days instead of months, and by-products are carefully recycled. Prosperia is a beacon of light to powered people, home to the best of the best. But only the absolute finest humans are permitted entry without possessing superhuman abilities. But no matter how perfect things appear, life is never without conflict. What happens when a nation of superhuman people grow ever more bored with the peace and lack of challenge in their lives? Can the rest of the world tolerate such a massive and rapidly advancing superpower? Are superhuman abilities passed on genetically? If they are, then soon Prosperia will have nearly all the worlds superhuman potential within it's borders. And if not, then what happens when the next generation begins to grow up, flawed and imperfect as anyone else in the world?

Campaign Social Links

Hey you! It's gosh darn Whatever wedensday! And you know what that means don't you? No! You don't it could be anything. What? You read the title? Crap.

I'm gonna scream to you about campaign social links. So what is that? 1.) It's a mechanic ripped from my favourite game series and thrown into any tabletop roleplaying game. 2.) It's a system for organizing downtime. And 3.) It's a way to reward and encourage roleplaying in your game, while giving it a bit of mechanical crunch.

Enough beating around the bush, let's get to how it works: Simply put, you divide up a section of downtime, free time, or non adventuring time and allow each player to decide on what to do with that time, with a focus on spending time roleplaying with eachother or NPC's. And then provide mechanical rewards based on those actions, typically with a specific arc in mind.

Let's see how it plays out: The crew of the Lightningbug, an agile and beat up midsize space cruiser, have docked at a familiar space station for repairs. It should be two days before the ship is fixed. So the GM decides each party member gets 1 block of time. Captain Ray Spaceblaster decides he's going to slip into the local watering hole, Hailey's comet, and spend some time pitching woo at the complex and gorgeous smuggler Alerina Le'grand. The last time they spent together Alerina had offloaded a stolen empire laserpistol onto Ray, she'd insisted he was doing a favour by taking it. This time she notices that he's held onto it all these months, even though it's finicky and doesn't shoot right, she's so flattered she decides to help him out. The two spend a romantic evening  firing laser blasts at empty cans in the cargo bay, permanently improving Ray's skill with laserpistols. Meanwhile the ships's mechanic Morgan Ficksit decides she doesn't want her baby, the ship, to be left entirely in the station manager's hands. She decides to spend her block of time helping with repairs. In the process she meets the distinguished welder Alex Ironhull and the two start a promising friendship when Alex gives the ship a plasma resistant plating free of charge as thanks for a truly stimulating conversation about Zero point energy conductors. Meanwhile security chief Galthrax Goldax calls home to their hive to make sure that all 37 children and 8 spouses are alive and well and well fed, and maybe to transfer a few credits from the latest job to make sure little Glorban get's that surgery they need. Seeing their family strengthens Galthrax's resolve, they know that no matter what they have to make it home alive, earning a permanent bonus to resist slipping through death's door.

Generally speaking the GM lays out ahead of time an arc and progression for all the major interesting characters that can be hung out with and picks a reward for each time. Often this might be 10 scenes and 10 benefits, but sometimes more or fewer is appropriate. These are typically small bonuses that don't do much to shift the balance of power, but still enough that when it comes into play the player is reminded of their connections. 

 

Depending on the length of the game it might also be suitable to not provide a benefit each time. For example if Ray Spaceblaster had sold that laserpistol, or even just wound up saying something particularly uncharming he might make it only halfway through that step along Alerina's social link, earning some quality time at the bar, but not making it out to the cargo bay for some practice. You can typically break each step towards another benefit into 2 halves. One half is given just for spending some time, and the other by either good roleplaying, such as giving a thoughtful gift, saying the right things, or having done something personally meaningful to that character since last time. Or for very long games you could break each step into third's or quarters, but usually you'd be better off adding more different social links than making each one require more investment.

You can also feel free to allow players to spend their blocks of time together, playing off each other, and even assign them bonuses for doing so just like any other social link. After all the connection between players is perhaps the most important one in your whole game! It only makes sense to grow and nurture that bond. Just don't fall into the trap of giving out social link benefits anytime the party hangs out, make it clear these are only for during blocks of time that could be used to interact with other npc's.

Of course sometimes a player might want to do something else. In games with crafting mechanics they might want to spend some time crafting, or working out, or practicing their skills. This is fine too, and they should still receive some kind of reward or benefit, but typically it shouldn't be as rewarding as the benefits for spending time with people, and if you take the above advice about splitting each step into halves then spending time alone should be less than half as beneficial as spending it with someone else. The whole point is to encourage roleplaying after all.

It's important to make clear that this system is designed for specifically allocating benefits and setting aside time for roleplaying, it's not meant to replace little interactions. Ray blowing Alerina a kiss across a crowded room so she can mime shooting it down is still absolutely good roleplaying, it just doesn't give an on the spot bonus. Likewise it's important to keep in mind how much session time you want to devote to this system. If you decide to set aside 4 "Blocks" of time, and you have 5 players, that is 20 scenes of roleplaying and not adventuring, which might be fine for your game, but might not. You could even adopt a pattern of doing one entire session of downtime blocks between each bigger adventure, but always bear in mind what your group wants.

Hopefully this fun little tip has helped you to set aside a little time and a few benefits to encourage your players to get personally involved with all the amazing npc's that occupy your game.

Sample Nations

Sometimes you need a nation fast and don't have time to plan out a whole ton. Or maybe you want to include references to past historical nationalities to add depth to your world. Or maybe you just don't want to go through the hassle of making your own. Either way I've got you covered. Obviously these nations won't be as fleshed out or in depth as a real nation, they'll feel two dimensional help up next to a true culture, but there's no way to shorten hundreds of years of culture and history into a paragraph. I'll be posting several of these sample nations throughout the month so stay tuned for more.

Erebeuna: This is a nation with little land but vast influence. They are world leaders on matters of trade and diplomacy. The vast majority of their people are nomadic, traveling and trading far and wide. In medieval or post apocalyptic games they can serve as traditional traveling merchants and caravans, whereas modern games see them shift into a country with powerful control over shipping and transportation by controlling the most reliable transport trucks, trains, cargo ships and planes. Their appearance tends to vary pretty greatly. It's very common for them to find love during their travels and integrate their partners into the family business. To ensure ease of travel most Erebeunians are Polyglot's and even their native tongue Erbue is rife with phrases and terms borrowed from other languages. Their language is very focused on numbers. Erbue syntax puts numbers at the beginning of the sentence, and always uses numbers when they are available. For example rather than say "You kept me waiting for a long time." they would say "25 Minutes you kept me waiting.". They are historically peaceful and diplomatic, though they lack a strong army they are so entwined into the trade infrastructure of so many other countries that it is difficult to take direct action against them. 

Neo Dollywood: When she woke up in the cloning lab Dolly was furious at her existence. That someone would make her, create her, was unthinkable. But she channeled that rage. She freed the other Dolly's, now known as the Progenitors, and then began to create more. Neo Dollywood can grow from a vicious genetically perfect gang into an entire district of raiders and scientists and eventually even into a nation if left unchecked. They have seized the means of production, or rather reproduction, and use their numbers and physical superiority to steal what resources they need. Life has never been fair to them, and so they in turn are not fair to others. A Dolly generally finds few acts to be immoral and is very quick to act. It is after all the impulsive violent Dolly that first overthrew the facility that served as a template for all others. Most Citizens of Neo Dollywood look nearly identical to outsiders, yet to eachother they are each unique in their own ways. A different way of parting one's hair, a piercing here, a tattoo there, even how they stand and walk can show differences, and then there's the scars. The dolly have not only a single language but an identical dialect and nearly identical thoughts. a lot of their language is made up entirely of innate understanding. Some ideas don't even have words because they don't need to be said, there is so much to their language unspoken that most people have trouble speaking with "Native" Dolly's unfamiliar with speaking to anyone who isn't a clone of them self.

The Daericia: There is a great evil at the heart of Daericia, a terrible thing. A demon, an alien, a horrifying mutant, the exact nature of it is flexible. But what is known is that it hungers for the living. The people of Daericia live in the shadow of this creature and they give it sacrifices of their own people. In exchange for a monthly sacrifice the creature brings them peace and prosperity, serving as an adjudicator and wise elder, and bolstering the nation's military with its legion of underlings and strange gifts. But these are not a scared and harried people, they are thankful. Sacrifices are not slaves or servants or captured prisoners, they are celebrated heroes. One who pursues a career as a sacrifice wants for nothing. They may eat their fill, never want for companionship, are showered in praise and luxury. Each month the sacrifice is honoured in a festival of admiration for their courage. Daily prayers are offered to this powerful creature and it's seen as a beloved public figure, immortal and benevolent. Of course, outsiders rarely understand such a practice, and it's not long before a Daerician decides to simply keep their practices a secret. These peoples are prone to keeping to themselves and their own kind, they listen patiently to others talk about religion, but they firmly believe they see their god several times a month. Daericia is widely known for sages and scholars, educators and scientists or mages as appropriate for a setting.

Nations in Gaming

It's July, and that means over the course of the month all of North America is going to be celibrating their nation's birth. And that means this is a great chance to talk about Nations themselves as the theme for this month! As usual with the first article of the month we're going to talk about the basics of what our theme means. So what is a Nation?

A Nation is a group of people who share the same culture. They have connected or similar beliefs on a macro scale and a shared history, and usually a language. In truth that's all that really defines a nation. Most often we view nations through the lens of countries. Russia is a different nation from the United states for example. Or a better example might be that North and South Korea are different countries, but in many ways to have a nationality that is simplified to Korean is not  unusual. Of course there's no definitive measurement for when a nation is formed or broken, so people tend to use concrete ideas like borders and countries.

Nations can grow and change and evolve over time. It's almost impossible for them not to. Cultural ideas shift, leadership changes, values are adjusted, needs change. Sometimes this change comes about as a union of ideas and people, other times it's a division. The entire history of the world could be viewed as the division and reunion of nations over time. It is a powerful force not to be overlooked.

Of course though, this is about tabletop role-playing games after all, and this concept applies there quite strongly. You cannot have a role-playing game without some kind of national influence. If your campaign includes even a single person, then that person has come from somewhere, they have some history, some origin. Whether it's as simple as a "Generic fantasy knight" or as complex as "High inquisitor of the grand Nation of Wysteria, may it's light shine forever.".

Even the lacking of a nation can be part of your story. A newly birthed clone has no true parents, no cultural they are inherently a part of, and may even have few or no others like it to share that lonesome existence. In such a case that character is defined by missing a nation all their own. Others may be driven by a rejection of their old life, and may even desire to create a nation all their own. A nation without borders, a free nation. Or perhaps they'd rather make a kingdom, that could also be a fantastic concept for a game.

And there too are many games and stories about the attempt to recover a lost nation, whether figurative or literal.  Hidden cities of gold,  sunken kingdoms, and striving to make a nation "great" again. Of course these stories rarely end well. A nation is the product of evolution, and evolution doesn't run in reverse.

Stay tuned all this month for more articles about Nations and Nationality! It's gonna be a wild ride.

 

Shipboard weapons in sci-fi

Science fiction is filled with a ton of great and fantastic options for exciting storytelling and perhaps none of those options are as common as Space. There are so many wonderful things  about space that I want to devote a whole article to that it’s hard to pick where to begin. I’m going to start with a topic quite important to most people playing any tabletop game. Weapons. Specifically I want to talk about spaceships, spaceboard weaponry and the effect it has on diverse weapon options.

               A single breach in a bulkhead or wall can mean depressurization and death. Which means the ideal weapon aboard a spacecraft is not likely to be a high powered energy gun, or some sort of handgun that shoots armor piercing grenades or a laser sword. This creates a need for a wide variety of very different weapons. From a  gaming perspective this means there are a lot of potential ways of justifying weapons that might otherwise fall by the wayside in a futuristic campaign.

                One common category of shipboard weapons could be sensory weapons like flash grenades and sonic pulses and nausea rays that disorient, blind, or stun the target. Even chemical sprays and gasses that knock out foes could see common use. In the modern day these sorts of weapons are used to disperse crowds, abuse the innocent, and disable dangerous criminals. This category could also include psychic weaponry that disables the targets mind directly. All of these weapons could be specific to certain common alien races, or more widely reliable, but there are always going to be exceptions. It might be impossible to blind a creature with no eyes, while a creature that is mostly a giant sensory organ could instead be killed by a conventional flash bang for example.

               Another category is binding or restricting devices. This could be throwable shackles/handcuffs that latch onto a foe, or small metal spheres that when hurled expands into a writhing mass of cables and wires. At which point it’s basically become a high tech nets, though conventional or electrified Nets could work as well, especially if made of a superstrong cable. And then there are force field generators that could be used to create a box or a prison, or even just a tactical shield like a modern day SWAT officer. More esoteric variations include gravity well generators that create a centralized point of gravity that pulls people towards them. Instead of generators one could use gravity nullifiers that cause their targets to float about uselessly without some way to adhere to the walls of the ship. And then there are chemical sprays that fire a liquid or gas that rapidly changes to a solid. this can either be a very hard durable solid like a concrete foam, or something much more sticky, or even slippery. Any of the three makes for an excellent deterrent. Trapping a foe in place or making them unable to move or get away without falling over. Or imagine a handheld 3-D printer that can fire spools of super heated or chemically unstable thread that rapidly hardens into steel or titanium or diamond. These weapons may all require some cleanup after use, but it’s a lot easier to dissolve a known chemical compound than it is to completely replace a ship or section of hull. And some of these devices may even be used to make immediate temporary hull or system repairs.

               Then there are lethal weapons that don’t risk breaches. This can include melee weaponry such as swords and knives and staves. These melee weapons are easy to control and deal little damage to a hull or glass but can still dispatch an unarmored or lightly armored foe. And of course these weapons can be enhanced with more advanced technology, vibrating blades are particularly common, as are ones sheathed in flames, electricity or kinetic force fields. It is of course important that these advanced weapons don’t become strong enough to actually destroy the windows and hulls, otherwise they’re only marginally safer than ranged weapons. My advice here is to pick really cool designs for melee weapons and just roll with them. The diversity of real world melee weapons speaks volumes about how much humanity values look and feel and uniqueness over uniform efficency.

               Then of course there are even more unconventional weapons. Psychic weaponry that attacks a foes mind, time disruptors, trained packs of alien hounds, aggressive nanite swarms, well programmed attack drones or robot guards, and even conventional firearms programmed not to fire if they detect that their shot will hit the hull. These help round out the huge roster of dangerous deterrents for anyone thinking to board a vessel. The important thing is that it in some way can stop, hinder, or kill an opponent without doing the same to the ship.

               What all of this truly serves however is allowing a massively diverse range of weapons that might otherwise be hard to justify in a futuristic setting. Each of these weapons is fascinating in its own right and serves to make threats so much more varied and diverse than simply blaster cannons and lasers. And of course as always when it comes to sci-fi, don’t limit yourself based solely on what you see here. Keep your mind open to the possibilities that advanced technology allows!

Sci-Fi in Fantasy

As I alluded to in my previous article, Sci-fi can be so much more than robots and spaceships. In fact even traditionally fantasy specific games can be sci-fi. The two are not incompatible. Allow me to weave some ideas for a sci-fi fantasy setting.

 

With a thought a mage focuses and is connected to a great humming web of magic. Millions of mages the world around sending spells and tidbits of arcane lore to each other using raw magic as the conduit. For the cost of a few motes of spell power the casters mind obtains the incantation they're looking for. A few words and gestures are fed directly into their mind and their hands and voice follow along automatically. Perfect casting every time. Even the humblest of spellcaster can access ancient forgotten magic as long as they can pay for it with their own arcane essence. The  Spelltender elementals, carefully trained and mindless constructs of magic, filter and sort this magic. The mage focuses on finding good offensive spells, ones with casting components that they already have. But with a frown they expand their search to include spells with material components within 100 miles, and once they choose a spell a simple unobtrusive illusion visible only to them forms a glowing line directing them to where they can get the missing ingredient.

 The warrior places her palm on the wooden door. The dragon leather glove she wears grows warm and the reptilian eye on the back of its palm opens. She sees with the prowess of the dragon, detecting each foe in the next room. A lightly armored goblin packing three different wands. Three orcs, one wearing an animated suit of armor, the other two brandishing finely machined falchions. She formulates her plan,  wordlessly she directs the two small, and rather expensive, homonculi to action. They each grab one of the small magical spheres from her belt. One would fill the area with a potent cloudkill, ideally it would eliminate her foes. The other would create a powerful and deafening sonic blast. Cut off sight and sound and then attack anyone that survives the initial assault, focusing on the goblin with the wands.

"Planar date, 332836.5 Our journey into the depths of quadrant E of the elemental plane of  wind proceeds smoothly. Our Vessel, "The Intrepid" continues to provide all that we need without waste, without loss, and without the need for other fuels. If I live another thousand years I'll not have had every meal our ships' conjurors drives can produce. Our mission is to go forth bravely into the infinite unknown of the planes, to seek out new life and new civilisations. Though our vessel brims with powerful arcane cannons, force wall generators, and invisibility technology we hope to never need any of it. Our people have long ago passed the need for violence, and now we seek only peace, understanding, and knowledge."

These are just three simple little prompts that can help you take your fantasy game and add a light, or even heavy dose of sci-fi into it. By using magic as a substitute for technology, and monsters for aliens, it's simple to take many common tactics, storylines, and plot devices and use them in your existing fantasy game. Hopefully this has helped make your game a little more exotic.

Sci-fi Month

It's May, and thoughts of space are in the air. So this month's theme is written in the stars. This is Sci-Fi month! All month long we'll be talking about space, science fiction, technology, and their places, uses, and adaptations.  So to get us started let's take a look at what makes something science fiction and some of the common ideas and themes of the genre.

To start off, science fiction is ironically more of an art than a science. It's something that is felt more than tested for.  The same quality, depending on how it is explored and presented can make something sci-fi, or not.

A story about internet monitoring, hacking, and privacy invasion in the modern age could easily be science fiction. Even if it contains only real, currently existing technologies. There's nothing futuristic, impossible or advanced about it yet the story is still about technology and its impact.

Conversely something like Dragonball Z features robots, androids, cyborgs, aliens, space ships, and time travel, but it's still not quite something most people would call sci-fi.

In a fantasy game like DND adding in a Revolver, and a Robot, and even a boat that can sail through space doesn't make it science fiction. And yet using only magic you could make your fantasy game into a sci-fi game. But I'll cover that more in another article.

The things that make up a science fiction story change over time. The nuts and bolts so to speak are different. What used to be "The Ether" and Lightning and radiation and chemicals has been replaced with hacking, cybernetics, nanotechnology, 3-D printing and quantum theory. The new impossible sciences are always growing and changing as fast as we expand what is possible. It's not the technology itself that makes Sci-fi, It's the exploration of that technology and what it means.

To me, science fiction is the examination of technologies and capabilities that are, were, or could be. Really good science fiction makes you consider the far ranging implications of what people are capable of. We know that you can't just staple a body together, zap it with lightning, and make a living being. But Mary Shelley's Frankenstein didn't suddenly become a fantasy story. Because it explores the repercussions of the modern Prometheus. It asks the question of if it's right to create life, what ones responsibility to that life is, and how such a life might experience existence. The same story is even more relevant today when we're so close to the process of cloning humans. Technology does not determine sci-fi.

This exploration of science can be done in many ways, it can be an adversary, or a tool, it can be benign or benevolent or malignant,  it can be subtle or overt. But we'll go over all of that later in the month. So consider that something to look forward to in the future.

 

 

Cool action

So, you’ve just gone through a tough dnd encounter. Enemies slain, xp gained, treasure get, but it feels somehow unfulfilling. Everyone just kind of stood around and attacked. You had cover, and interactable terrain, and lots of options, but none of it got used. The whole fight might as well have been in an empty room. I hear this problem come up a lot, but I’ve found other people too quick to blame the players. There’s a simpler truth.

Pathfinder does not incentivize, and often even penalizes, being cool. Sure, dashing around behind the enemy to attack from their blindspot is neat, but it actually just provokes an attack, keeps you from full attacking, and gives no bonus. Trying to disarm or trip a foe without the right feat provokes an attack, and the benefit is vastly outweighed by losing your ability to attack that turn. Flipping a table over for cover is stylish, but only of minimal value. For the same action you could drink a potion that would provide a similar bonus to ac but last much longer and follows anywhere you go.  Throwing a chair at someone is awesome, but when you have a sword on hand it’s kind of lackluster.

So it’s hardly fair to blame players for not using stylish but ultimately inferior tactics. Which is why I have introduced a “Cool action” into my game. This is an extra action that players can take on top of normal actions, but can only be used for stylish things. This can be an attack with an improvised weapon, a combat maneuver, or an interaction with terrain (such as by flipping a table of cutting or a rope or the like). But the important part is that this is meant to be a less tactical option. If your party fighter is built specifically for disarming then making a disarm attempt is not a stylish or cool action because they’re optimized for it, it’s what they would be doing anyways. The goal should be to encourage players to do things they wouldn’t otherwise be doing. This helps mix up combat, making it more diverse and interesting and rewarding players for thinking of fun clever permutations on combat.

This system takes a little bit of getting used to as you and your players think about what a good use for their cool actions might be and what would be an abuse of the system. Once you’re adjusted however this system allows a plethora of fantastic opportunities to help spice up combat. And don’t be afraid to let some of the villains be stylish too, turnabout is fair play after all. Hopefully this has helped make some of your blander encounters out there a lot more engaging.

Multiplying your possibilities

Hey all, It's whatever Wedensday, and you know what that means! It means whatever I want it to mean. And this week I want to share a story about game design with you, one that leads to a very important tip. I've been hard at work putting together some content for an upcoming play test and I wanted to go through the whole process with my players. I wanted them to be able to create characters and pick and choose using a bunch of different abilities for the content I'm making. It was a fairly low level game and I have about 80 pages. each page had three or so abilities on it. I had about 240 abilities, which was a pretty good selection.  I had a few hours left to work on things before people arrived. Each of these abilities had a cost to use, A cost to learn, a time required to use it, an element, a range and prerequisites. What I could have done was make probably three or four new abilities, maybe even five if I hurried. But I had a much better way to expand the number of options.

I instead wrote four abilities that could be taken to modify other abilities. You could now change the cost of learning a technique by taking on a weakness, you could make it take longer to use in exchange for reducing the cost to use the power, you could make a technique faster to use by raising the cost, and you could ignore some of the normal requirements in exchange for increasing the cost to learn it. Because these modifiers could apply to nearly every single technique, each one created a vast number of options. Now instead of 240 abilities, there were effectively 1,200. Now of course, there naturally would be many combinations that weren't as likely to be chosen, but they still existed. So by the time the players arrived to test, I had a massive plethora of customization, just from adding a few modifications.

Almost anyone is familiar with this sort of ability creation. DnD 3.0, 3.5, Pathfinder all use metamagic's extensively to create millions of theoretical spells. (If you count, Silent Magic missile as different from magic missile). And some systems like Gurps and Mutants and Masterminds are built so completely on these abilities that they present infinite options.  

As a game designer, these concepts are so incredibly useful for rapidly expanding possibilities that they should not be overlooked. But there is a danger to these sorts of things as well. If every player had, for example, 12 abilities, it would have taken 20 sessions to test all 240 abilities I had before. But by adding those four modifiers, it would now take a thousand sessions to playtest each combination once. And that's not even counting abilities that can be modified by more than one thing. If your system is carefully designed, and these modifiers are made with a lot of consideration, you can estimate that most of these new abilities will be benign. But if you want to test everything you need to be careful of how much theoretical content you're creating without actually writing. Look for and think about special outliers that might be unbalanced if combined with the right modifiers, and never stop looking at your own content in new ways.

Hopefully this has been helpful for all you up and coming home brewers and game designers.

 

Style points

Alright, April is officially style month, and I'm gonna start it off by firing a hot houserule at ya. This is something called a "Style Point" that we use at my table. It started off as a class feature for a class I was writing, but now It's grown and mutated into a house rule all its own.

The basic idea is this: Everyone starts off the session with a "Style Point" and you can spend that point to take a non offensive action at any point you want. Including in the past, as long as it can't be proven that you didn't, and if doing that action needs a roll, such as a skill check, you automatically get a 20 on the roll. This should be used to do something cool or exciting rather than boring and practical. For example

"As the assassins burst into my room I roll out of bed. I'm going to spend my style point and pull the wand of lightning bolts I had stashed under my pillow so I can blast these fools on my turn."

Is cool and interesting. Using the point to have stashed a magic item in a useful easily retrievable place in the event of enemy attack is a great use for this power.

"I attack the enemy, thats a +6. Oh actually +8 because I am gonna use my style point to cast bull strength before we entered the room." That's boring and not a good use of style point.
 

But something like "As he goes to strike me he finds I defend not with magic, but with my bare forearm, blocking the blow as rage fills my eyes. He realizes I  don't intend to engage in the spell battle he has in mind. I'm already deep in the sway of my Transformation spell, making me a deadly warrior."  Could definitely count as a use of a style point, as long as the player hadn't cast a spell since the time they declare having cast Transformation in the past.


After all the point is to be stylish and exciting, not to give minor tactical benefits. The other important thing about style points is that when you do something really cool, you get back the style point, but you can never have more than 1. This is to prevent players from hoarding them and holding on for too long and encourages them to use those points when they have an idea.
 

I've found this system really encourages players to get creative and not worry too much about their limitations, since anything is possible if you have enough style. The other benefit of this system is that it's very easily adapted to any kind of game no matter what the base rules are.

Homebrewing Basics

In honour of the announcement of Pathfinder 2nd edition, Duck and Roll is celebrating March as Homebrew month! We’ll celebrate all the homebrewers who intend to vigilantly keep pathfinder first edition running long into the next decade. All month we’ll be looking at how to homebrew, why you should, and what makes it truly exciting. To start off we’re going to take a look at the basics of homebrewing.

To start off, let’s look at the simplest part of making your own content for your favourite tabletop RPG. First and foremost you need a core idea for what you are trying to create. Ideally you want to be able to summarise whatever you’re making into one or two sentences. If it takes more than that to express the basics, you might need to focus more tightly.

Once you have a basic idea of what you want to make you need to establish some familiar ground. It’s important to be able to relate whatever you’re making to another official part of the game. Some systems make this incredibly easy. Making anything new in world of Darkness comes with a beautiful framework already in place for you. Working through a system like pathfinder it can be useful to find a similar class to compare yours to, or a feat or feat chain or item ect you can match up with side by side.

Once you have something to compare to, you can start thinking about how you’re deviating from the most similar work and why. You can think about stylistic differences, about mechanical rules permutations, and about adding, removing, and changing other major qualities. All of this is to better suit your core concept.

Now that you have your first draft, look it over. Read over everything you have, and how it works. Does it stand up on its own? Is it free of typos or other copied and incorrectly altered text? Does everything make sense, even for someone who isn’t familiar with the original material it was similar too? And lastly does it match your concept? If anything isn’t satisfactory, go ahead and change and reword it.

Finally you’re ready for the most intensive and fun part. Playtesting. First, make something using your new content. A new character, a monster, a dungeon. Whatever it is, make something with it and see how it feels. Did making the character run smoothly? Does the NPC feel right and make sense? Did anything give you trouble or make the creation process more difficult? Fix those things. Now do it again different. Make a character stronger or weaker, or a different dungeon with the same device or trap, or another character who uses the item differently. Does everything still hold up? Have all the problems been smoothed out? Good. Repeat one more time from a third perspective, with a third different use.

Now that you’ve tested out your content, you like it and you think it’s done it’s time to watch it be handled by others. Get someone else to use and test your content, as many people as possible, as often as possible. And take notes of what people ask you, what they think, and what they do and want to do but can’t. Now you have to carefully make sure to sort out the valuable and important ideas, from the irrelevant. Sometimes people will have incredibly useful of insightful ideas, other times they might not really have any clue as to what they’re really asking or suggesting. Remember, your final product is yours, but the more people can use and enjoy it, the more rewarding it will be.

Hopefully this has been a helpful outline of the basics of how to homebrew your own content for whatever your favourite game may be.

Love as Motivation

In my previous article: The power of love I briefly wrote about  how love could be a powerful motivating force. I'd like to really focus in on that idea for this article and look at the many ways in which love can motivate. These motivations are not necessarily all heroic or noble mind you, and they can easily serve to motivate a villain or anti hero as they could anyone else.

Courting: Courtship, the winning of romantic love through great displays, is a classic of fiction. The knight slays the dragon to win the hand of a beloved noble. The street tough robs a jewellery store to get something nice for their cute new gang member. The smuggler battles a galactic empire to impress someone. The mad titan who wishes to impress death itself with a grand sacrifice of lives. The things that people do to impress and win the love of others can be grand gestures indeed. Almost all creatures can feel love in some form or another, and that feeling can drive one to achieve impossible goals, for better or worse.

Impressing others: I was strongly tempted to put this under courting, or to even just call it "Friendship courting" but regardless of the name the concept is the same. This is something I really don't see enough of, and I quite want more. The idea of wanting to make new friends or impress the ones you have through huge displays of prowess, or dedication, or brilliance is a underappreciated form of motivation. There is no doubt that it is absolutely an expression of love however. This can also extend to wanting to impress or fit in with a group, whether that's the party, military organization, religion or cult.

Protection: What wouldn't you do to save someone you love? Many of the greatest stories ever told are those of heroes battling to defend their  loved ones from a threat vastly beyond their own means to combat. A knight battles an army of ghouls and ghosts to save their beloved from a demons grasp. A parent with a very particular set of skills sets out to save their Taken child. The world is in danger and it just so happens that a heroes loved ones live on the world. A rare illness, and an even rarer cure far away. This is an absolute classic motivation, but it also extends to the love of one's self. Sometimes merely surviving is a goal all of its own.

Revenge: Vengeance is an incredibly powerful force. It's a desire that knows only a destructive goal of making someone else pay for what they did. It can often occupy the same space and masquerade as justice, allowing it to take the shape of a noble endeavour. Taking vengeance for harming a loved one is an incredibly relatable goal. Everyone has at some point been wronged only to want desperately for the person who hurt them to pay for what they did. The reason is that this is classified as vengeance, and not justice is that real justice is indifferent to who was harmed. The burning down of /anyone's/ house is cause for justice. The burning down of /your/ house is cause for vengeance. And this article is specifically focused on the context of love and loved ones.

Loss: When a loved one vanishes from our lives, the love we felt doesn't go with them. Grief, pain, sorrow and loss can be very powerful motivators. Doing anything and everything possible to honour the ideals and memories of the fallen. devoting ones self to making sure no one ever feels this pain again. Finding a way, any way to make the pain and hurt go away. Loss is the most complex motivation covered here because people handle it so differently. It's not an attack against ones loved one, it's not a burning desire for revenge, it's not the need to have someone else love you. Loss is a pain of the heart, with no clear solution, no way to break it down and understand it. It is for the person in pain to decipher and resolve in whatever way they can.

 

Love and the Species

Many campaigns and games are filled with very different and unique races, species, and offshoots. Often times these groups have their own cultures and identities. With such groups it would not at all be uncommon to see very different types of love, or different ways of expressing that love.  And even if your game is only one kind of race there is certainly the potential for different cultures to poses different customs and ways of handling love.  So let's take a look at some considerations for how societies and races handle love.

Understanding love: There's a lot that can be learned just by looking at how people quantify love. Take a society that believes there's only one kind of love. They may experience a great deal of trouble and confusion when it comes to identifying their feelings, especially towards close friends, lovers, and family. They may realize that these are different kinds of love, and yet without an understanding of why; they may face many uncomfortable experiences in life. Meanwhile a culture that has 1,000 kinds of quantifiable love speaks of a very emotionally intelligent people who have an easy time quantifying their feelings. Likewise there may be races with no understanding of love and how it works, whether they be incapable of it, or even incapable of any emotion.

Expressing love: Sometimes saying how you feel can be very hard. Races and cultures can have many different ways of expressing ideas. A vampire experiencing something close to love might choose to enslave or torture the object of their fascination. Meanwhile someone else might write a nice letter or e-mail. Perhaps a Dwarf would create a gift for their beloved, while an Orc might take to bullying or teasing them, intending it to be harmless. Other's might not know how to express their feelings at all, and that can be every bit as painful and confusing as not being able to understand. Some groups might have varied and clashing romantic ideals, others might have a very formal and well documented courting system. Also consider the symbolism of love. Is  love represented by a heart? A Kidney? A sea sponge? Are lovers seen as waifish whimsical poets and young idealists? Or is the archetypical lover someone older, experienced, nurturing and supportive?

The rules of love: "All is fair and love and war" but does this hold true for all peoples? Every society has customs and beliefs about who, how, why, and when you should or shouldn't love someone.  Some might contain love to within the same social caste, or even only to someone of a different caste, or to people  above or below a certain age, or of only the same or different species. There are of course also rules for conducting courtship. Is it taboo to hit on a friend's ex? To seduce away their spouse? To date a friend's great grandmother? These rules and values become moral touchstones for a civilization. They speak volumes about how to view love, life, and themselves, and the world around them.

The differences of love:  Even more dramatic than how they pursue and quantify love, some races may experience it differently. Perhaps a long lived race only feels love for anything in relatively short intervals of time. They love passionately for a few years before completely shedding those feelings. Perhaps a race loves incredibly easily, every bit as committed as a more slowly built bond.  It's also possible there are some beings that cannot feel real love at all, and instead are only capable of lust and obsession.  You can also create brand new kinds of love that most people might never even consider a possibility, or envision a culture or race that only feels a single type of love.

Hopefully this look at love among different cultures and species has sparked some ideas or a new take on a classic ideal.

The Power of Love

Something to consider when planning a campaign is exactly how powerful is love? This can mean a number of different things depending on the game and setting and style. But any game in which there is love will eventually find it tested and measured in some way. The strength of love can be a big part of conveying your theme. So let's take a look at the ways that you can express how weak or powerful love is in your particular game.

What people will do for love: This is a simple but important question. What will someone do, or endure, for love? Will they risk their life? Their wealth? Their immortal soul, if they have one? Is this a game where someone will sneak across miles of war torn battlefield to be back with their family? Is this a game where there's "Another one in every port" and yet you lie awake at night thinking about the one that got away?  Does your setting value love as a reason, as a driving force? Or is it seen as foolishness to choose love over responsibility or ones own gain. If you tell a member of the police, the space rangers, or the city guard "Please, it's for love" how do they react? Will you be met with a harsh stonewall and a grim rebuff? Or do they offer a personal escort, because they'd do "Anything for love"

The Authority of love: I love respected? Is it revered? Is it a well known fact that true love is the greatest force in the world? Think of the authority that love holds in a story like The Princess Bride. The difference between a healer turning someone away and bestowing a literal miracle is the fact that true love was in danger.  Can you justify refusing a marriage to a wealthy noble because you cannot love them? There are many who style themselves as champions of love, those who will do anything under the authority of promoting love and happiness and see it as a divine duty.  And in some games love itself may actually be a true sentient force that can make demands.

The mechanical power of love: In the vast array of RPG's it's hardly unthinkable that love can provide a very real quantifiable power. A super hero who gains strength, speed and stamina in accordance with how loved they are. A priest of Love itself given divine magic by the bonds that people form. A changeling that feeds primarily on love has everything in the world to gain by promoting it.  Growing strong on real love and drunk on romantic dreams. And these are all just mechanics that can already be found in games. It would be easy to create extra bonuses or rules for benefiting the idea of love in your campaign. For more on this check out the article: Mechanical power of love!

Mechanical effects of love

 

If you want to really sell and promote love in your game you can help re-enforce that idea through some customized mechanics. Many players identify much more strongly with quantifiable values rather than abstract emotional ideas. Some games already include mechanics for love and motivation, while others have systems easily adapted. Here I provide a small selection of love based rules for  several of my favourite role-playing games. Most of these mechanics will benefit from having the players pick a specific number of people/places/things that they love, usually from 1 to 3 at the beginning of the game, but it can vary from campaign to campaign.

Pathfinder/ 3.5: Both of these systems have a hero point/action point variant option already in place. The easiest adaptation is simply to allow the players to gain an extra point they can use only when acting in the name of a strong love. Alternatively you could allow the players to receive a +4 on an attack, save or skill check as long as it relates to protecting and furthering their love.

World of Darkness: Love can be used as an excellent addition to the Vice and Virtue system. Consider allowing the regaining of a willpower when protecting or impressing someone's loved one. This mechanic is exciting because it's not just when they're in danger, it can also be for trying to impress them or improve your relationship. This means it functions as a virtue, but also a vice. Even lying to make yourself seem better to the person you fancy might qualify for a willpower point, provided of course that lie can blow up in your face later.

DND 5th edition: his is a pretty easy one to guess. Fifth edition really only has one major bonus to apply, and that's our friend Advantage. Consider allowing a player each to get advantage on any one roll as long as it relates to something their character loves and values. This system is extra easy to implement since a 5th edition sheet already has a spot for bonds and allies and allegiances, making it a snap to define who is or isn't an acceptable loved one.

Savage worlds: Another easy system with a great built in rewards system. Give each player one extra special Love Bennie that they can use only in situations relating to their character's love. Simple, easy, and encourages the players to have their characters feel strong about someone or something.

Mutants and Masterminds: Another great system with a built in hero point system. Simply reward an extra hero point when someone's loved ones are in danger and watch the heroic expressions of love unfold.

Whatever Wednesdays: Nested monsters

So, I'm starting a new thing this month, it's called "Whatever Wednesdays" Where I cut away from the month's theme so I can bring up any old topic that Is on my mind.

This time I want to talk about what I like to call "Nested monsters". I can't take credit for this idea, I've seen it in a very few 3.0 and 3.5 monsters, but more recently I've seen it used very well by one of my closest friends and sometimes DM's. Yes, even I get to be a player sometimes.

The idea is simple. Take a monster and put another monster inside of it. When the first monster is killed, a second one emerges. A magma elemental is shattered and out comes an earth and a fire elemental. A zombie is felled only to have its chest explode in bats. The skeleton suspended inside a gelatinous cube is actually an animated skeleton. You get the idea.

When creating this type of encounter the first thing to think about is what makes it different from fighting a pair of enemies. Firstly, it's different because it's not expected. the first few times this happens it might be a complete surprise. The party thinks they've won and then suddenly a monster explodes onto the scene, attacking them just when they thought they could relax. The other main benefit is that it allows the players to focus on one foe at a time, but still deal with the same number of creatures. This makes the overall encounter easier than facing two foes at once. You can also use this to fake out your party. A wolf explodes into a hellwasp swarm and suddenly staying grouped together and using melee weapons becomes a far less viable tactic.

Naturally an encounter like this needs to have some adjustment to the CR, but it's a very easy one to make. Having one creature inside another raises the cr of the encounter by 1 if both creatures have the same CR. so a cr 4 monster that explodes into a CR 4 monster when slain is a CR 5 encounter. From there all the regular adjustments apply. If there are two such nested monsters of that power the total CR would by 7. We can also then create a mixed nested monster. a CR 4 monster might instead explode into 2 cr 2 monsters, or a CR 3 and a CR 1, and so forth. And it goes without saying to always base things off the strongest monster, regardless of if that's the monster inside or outside.

This same formula can also be used for multi stage boss fights. An ogre beaten down and then overcome with a sudden surge of ferocious power, selling its soul on the spot and becoming a half demon might heal entirely and gain new powers, essentially becoming a whole new enemy, and as such this same formula would be appropriate.  Big sweeping multi stage fights are a hallmark of great videogames, and exist in many forms through movies and literature and I think it's only fair Pathfinder get a shot at it too.

Try this system out and see where it takes you, hopefully it can lead to some great encounters.

Love

Love

There are few forces as powerful as love. There is no world, no place or time or story that is devoid of love in one form or another. Without love there is no action, no movement, no desires, no goals, only stagnation. With that in mind this month's theme is Love. All month long we'll be looking at how love fits in your campaign, why it matters, what forms it can take, and what it can do, and we'll look at some great ways to utilize it.

So if we're going to talk about love, let's talk about all the different forms of love, and some related ideas that can serve similar roles to love.

 

Romantic love: This is one of the most common types of love that people associate with the word. Romantic love is a beautiful and powerful force. It is a devotion to another person that exceeds even ones own personal needs. Romantic love is something different from sexual attraction, even if the two are often related they can both exist without the other. Romantic love can be entirely chaste or celibate, it can be directed at once or more people and may or may not be reciprocated. It's also possible to feel a romantic love towards something inanimate or of a lesser intelligence, but these types of feelings are almost always unhealthy in some way for the person feeling them.

 

Platonic love: The most common form of love in most roleplaying games. Platonic love is the powerful love you feel for friends and companions. The desire to spend time with the people who make you the happiest. Longing to hear your friend play their music, wishing your brave leader were here to help guide you,  already knowing what your smarmy criminal friend is going to say, but wanting to hear them say it anyways.  Platonic love is a powerful form of friendship, the formation of a strong bond with someone else that you'd risk your life for.

 

Love of something: This kind of love is to take incredible exhalant enjoyment in something. This is an often underappreciated form of love and yet it can be every bit as powerful. The child who grows up watching horror movies works hard and saves money and then winds up making those movies when they grow up. It can be something as simple as a security blanket that you'd run into a burning building for. It can be complex as a certain feeling evoked by a set of circumstances that are nearly impossible to explain. This love is one of the keys to making a really real feeling character.  Love of something can also include dedication to an ideal. A hero who puts justice and goodness above them self has a deep love of those ideals.

Familial love: This type of love is one of duty and obligation. It's a love that one must feel. In most cases one must love their family. They are the people who raised you, who take care of you, who you have known longer than anyone else. More than the other's it's also a love of forgiveness. Familial love includes the idea that no matter what you say or do, it can still be repaired and healed and forgiven. These powerful traits however can also be dangerous. Sometimes family doesn't deserve to be loved. Sometimes they use that obligation as a weapon to trap and harm you. The idea of always forgiving can easily be turned into the idea that you need to be forgiven for something. Familiar love is something that is forced and foisted onto someone involuntarily. The idea that you have no choice but to love your family, any family, no matter what is powerful, but that power can be for good or ill.

Obsession: Obsession isn't true love, but rather a twisted mirror of love. It's a need, a driving consuming overwhelming focus on something. Obsession is dangerous because it cannot self sustain. It is fire that always needs to burn something to survive. Obsession is like addiction. The high is always followed by the need for a greater high. You think you love someone so you watch them, and watch them, and watch them. Soon watching isn't enough, you need something of theirs. A discarded piece of trash, a dropped key, a towel they left behind. You have it and it makes you happy, you feel fulfilled, but then it fades. It's not enough to hold that towel, you need to dry yourself with it. You need to keep that trash forever and build a monument to it. You need to feel that key sliding perfectly into a lock. You use the towel over and over again, afraid to wash it for fear of loosing that high, but it eventually becomes too appalling to use. That stolen piece of garbage rots or decays away and you need something else to replace it. You change the lock on your house to match that key, but soon you lose the giddy thrill you feel every time you lock or unlock it. Then you're looking through their trash, you're following them to the gym to get a new towel, you're using the key to open their lock. It never ends, it never fades away, the obsession just keeps burning. This is an incredibly powerful narrative tool for players and storytellers alike.

 

Lust: Lust is not love but is often confused or associated with it. Lust is a powerful desire for something. The most common use of lust is a sexual desire or a desire for sexual satisfaction but one can lust for anything. Lust is similar to obsession though much more manageable. One can lust for something, achieve it, and then turn their attention elsewhere. Lust can be dangerous if it's too powerful, if it causes someone to ignore their own or someone else's needs. The key different between lust and love is that love is putting someone or something else first, lust is putting the need for something ahead of anything else.

Ready Made Religeons

In previous articles we've covered why you might want religion and gods in your game, and some different models you can have for them in your setting, now let's get down to some examples. In this article I'll present a selection of premade religious ideologies and pantheons that you could use for your own games. Each of these also serves as a framework for a campaign on it's own.

 

Lords of the earth:

The world has been carved up by the gods, powerful spiritual beings that rule over their domains by granting powers to their followers. A god of the sands and scorching heat sends their missionaries into the mountains to spread their faith and influence. Soon the solid stone of the mountains begins eroding, dissolving, breaking down into sand. And without those mountains the desert winds will blow even farther. Elsewhere a sea god sends great crashing waves upon the beach day and night. But each wave scoops away a little more of the soil, a little more of the land bound world. Faithful forest followers plant trees and saplings and till the earth, growing the reach of their own god as far and wide as they can. These gods may have names and histories, or they may be something far more ancient and primal, but their influence is real and palpable as they struggle to tear another few yards of dominion from each other.
 

The last lonely god:

There was a time when divine beings were many, their power and knowledge was wide spread and they influenced many aspects of reality, some working together, others playfully rivaling and countermanding each other. And then a terrible fate befell them. Something came for them, hunting them down and destroying them. Was it a god of murder? Of hunger? Of death? War? Or perhaps it was something altogether worse than a god, something more wicked still. But one survived, a single tiny frightened little god. A god of whispers, or gentle wind, or illusion. It's too late for the other gods, but the mortal world can still be saved, can still be warned, but what is a silent little god to do? Only the most subtle manipulations will allow them to remain undetected. A shift, a face, a detail hidden in an illusion. A tiny weak voice when everything else is quiet, a gentle breeze where none should be. Is this enough to warn the mortal world? And even if it is, what can they possibly do against such a foe?

 

The sun kindler:

There is a god who keeps the sun burning. A terrible and powerful god that holds all of life in its hands. The god has named itself ruler of all the world for all eternity. But the kindle for the sun, the wood that keeps the blaze alight is the power of mortals. The greater the power of the mortal the longer they burn, and the weaker a mortal offered, the more that must die. But isn't it convenient that for the world to live requires the death of the only ones powerful enough to threaten this one god? Isn't it strange that all history of the time before the sun kindler was lost, and in a great fire no less? The other beings known as gods have long ago fled, been imprisoned, or silenced in other ways. Of course there are those who preach a secret "truth" that this god lies, that the sun will always be the sun. There are those who would stand against this god. But why does it seem that these creatures are all blood drinkers and dark elves who fear and hate the sun.

 

As below, so above:

The gods grant their abilities only who possess qualities for which they are known. The gods of duality and symmetry bestow their blessings only onto those born as twins. The God of Malice and hatred bestows power only to those mad with deepest hatred. The gods see only their own traits in humanity, and believe, or require, that only those like unto them should obtain their own power. This creates a world where priests are like unto their very gods becoming more and more like deific avatars than their own selves.

 

When gods sin:

Perhaps the gods are not perfect by virtue of being gods. Perhaps they are gods by virtue of being perfect. The gods up above gain power through the bestowal of their weakness and frailty onto others. A god of healing bestows their fear and disgust onto their followers to make themselves brave and dauntless. An ocean god gains great speed beneath the water, while one of their followers instead sinks even in the saltiest brine no matter how they struggle. The gods in their great realm are peaceful and wise because their greed and envy and wrath and pettiness are shunted onto the very people whom pray to them. But to ease this burden the gods grant a mote of their own power to their followers. Of course power as great as the gods comes with vices and sins just as great, and the world is made more sullied and dangerous even as the godly realm becomes more perfect and peaceful.

Types of religeon

When adding gods to your setting it's often helpful to look at how these religions are organized and how wide spread they are. To that end we're going to look at a few different organisations of religion that you could use for your setting.

Monotheistic: Your setting has a single god. This concept seems simple but it allows for a staggering variety of options. Your one god may be all power and all knowing, carefully orchestrating all events to a perfect and precise end. Or your god may have but a single ability that allows them to affect the world. Perhaps your god only has the ability to decide where a soul goes once it leaves the body. In a high fantasy game you could have a god that can only interact with the world by granting spells and being magically contacted. Likewise a god that can only control random events,  the path of a burning flame, the subtle flow of still water, or dreams could all make for fascinating religions. Imagine how different a faithful could be if they could only hear the word of god in the blowing breeze, what places would they worship, what would their temples look like?  A monotheistic setting may or may not have a massive organized religion, but if it does, see the "One religion" section below for some ideas for how it might look.

One religion: A singular religion encompasses most or at least a huge portion of the world. Select a single specific pantheon and apply it as the gods of your entire world. This setting benefits from the ability to greatly explore a single religion. Because there's one faith it's easy to give it a lot of depth and detail and to explore it fully. Of course the downside is that it limits your options. If your pantheon doesn't have a god of frost then you might have trouble making use of your cool ice priest concept. A monotheistic religion is much more likely to have great power and influence, which can make them either fantastic backers for the party or can have them serve as fine villains. Of course our real world has many large powerful influential religions, to give all that power to a single group would make quite a powerhouse indeed. Monotheistic religions are generally very neat and organized with categories and classifications for their gods, faiths and practices. At least that's how they /appear/. In truth a huge religion is likely to have many splinter groups, many "blasphemers" who believe in a slightly different religious canon. Not to mention separatists who want to further fragment their religion. Adding to all of this are isolated preachers and priests who have little connection to the church itself, but use its power and influence to spread their own beliefs.

Several large religions:  Most world's aren't likely to have just one religion. Normally people grow and develop separately with their own cultures, languages, customs and religions. Some parts of the world may have different pantheons or worldviews and depending on the setting even entirely different and equally real gods. The advantage of this is that you can always squeeze in another religion or god if you need to. You can also create conflicts between various religions, as is so very common in fantasy and reality. The downside is that you may have less chance to fully flesh out all the faith's of your world. The more there is to cover the less attention you can give it naturally.

Tribal and local gods: This breaks the gods down even farther. A particular village may have a local spirit of the fields or wheat. A small clan of goblins may worship a fire god that one of them thought they saw once. Even a single roadside shrine may have a "god" dedicated to it, however small and weak it may be. This makes the status of godhood  more attainable, more real, more visceral. A hunting god might actually hunt you through the woods and could, wit planning and skill, even be overcome. This method allows you to use godly foes and encounters even at low levels, and to sprinkle in the supernatural or divine anywhere. The downside is of course that if your gods are smaller and weaker, more akin to spirits, then eventually the notion of a god begins to hold less weight in that setting unless great care is taken.

Hopefully this has provided a few examples of types of religions you can use in your setting. Stay tuned for more on the subject of gods and divinity.