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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Another geographic note

Okay, so this time let me hit on the oceans and seas.  Its understandable that orientation to Arduin would be a little confusing without some good references.  Until I can get a rough map posted online let me at least give you the oceans to go with the continents from the last post.

The great oceans are the Northern Seas, Southern Ocean, Orichalcum Ocean, Western Ocean, Crystal Ocean, and the Frothing Cobalt Ocean. Every one of these is made up of dozens, if not scores of smaller seas, which are frequently more known than their broader appellations. Where possible, the most prominent or well known seas are included as well to fully delineate the oceans.

The Northern Seas lay south of the North Polar Cap, east of Extaercara, and north of Laenkrwat were it meets the Frothing Cobalt Ocean.  

The Southern Ocean holds two distinctions: the water it covers is the second of two circumpolar oceans (the first the Northern Seas) and it is the largest of all oceans in Khaas. Its expanse covers all the water south of the Khaora, Archaela, Laenkrwat and the waters around the South Polar Cap.

The ocean stretching between Khaora and Archaela is called the Orichalcum Ocean or the Eastern Seas.

The Western Ocean covers the island dotted waters between Khaora and Laenkrwat.

The beautiful waters between Extaercara and Archaela are called the Crystal Ocean.

Pressed between the Northern Seas and the Southern Ocean and spreading between Extaercara and Laenkrwat is Frothing Cobalt Ocean. The ocean here is exceptionally turbulent and achingly blue.

Friday, December 30, 2011

A quick note on Arduin/Khaas geography

A quick note to answer a couple of questions I've received recently.

Arduin (or Khaas to be truly honest and name the planet) has seven continents.   The one we mostly talk about is the third continent or Khaora.  Its the home of the country of Arduin and the hub of activity in the world.  the other continents are Winter Crown, Fhedlspaera, Extaercara, Archaela, Laenkrwat, and the Southern Polar Cap.  They are just as frequently referred to as the first, second, third and so forth continents as well, depending on the culture and language. The southern polar cap has never truly held a distinctive name like the others. The name of the sunken second continent, Fhedlspaera, is an ancient name dying out from common knowledge.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Dowry of Menwy the Fair

On 12 Ator 303 CY, Menwy Rhys Goldenlock, also called Menwys the Fair and Menwys of the Lightfoot  (as a daughter of the noble house of the same name) married Arthwys Rivensteel in a celebration that clogged the streets of Khurahaen for days.  They say the minor goddess Laetitia even showed up to dance and celebrate at her wedding.  Among the many events that occurred over the six day celebration, the unveiling of the bride's dowry was said to have been the event that shook the proceedings.  Storm birds and Phoenix were said to have fought in the skies as the dowry was unveiled and several lobotomized minor demons were used for security.

Many things were reputed to be among the dowry but the below list is spoken of as the most accurate though greatly incomplete.

  • Zlondel’s Boots of Legerity
  • Nine seedlings from the Heart Tree of Augwlinin
  • An apple from the Grove of Lleluool Ceownynch
  • Four of the Nine Jeweled Eyes of Thooqualia
  • Light Tiara of the Burning Falcon
  • Shyndelmere’s auburn horse, gifted to Meklmyne, thought lost but truly alive
  • Living Memory from the Nexus Wars wrapped in a null shroud
  • Preserved Tentacle from the Unnamed Beast Ceadeal la'Matirine unleashed in the Cerulean Sea during the Misty Mountain Wars.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Quest for Four Feet

At one point David Hargrave published something known as the Arduin Chronicles.  Typewritten and chock full of information, it was a handy and useful Arduin reference.   As it is all but lost to time, I'm reposting it here for everyone to enjoy.

There is a place, they say, beyond all reason
where winter is home regardless of the season
and darkness kisses the land.

God's feet walked it some say stayed
to see, tis said, where the White Unicorn played
and the Great One has made its last stand.

Legends tell, bards do sing, all to say about some Crooked thing
and Rhyffkynd's Eye hath saw what Megalon's Benefits did bring:
Four from Dark.

Myths do speak of the Star Maiden's Gift, pleasing yet arcane
no match for an Infinite Edge, every creatures' bane
but to me, now all yet hark.

Sage Maker will tell the tale needful speaking
of high cleft valleys upon mountain, misty peaking
and the Bones of the Eldest Black.

To succor the finding this telling binding, seek the softly spoken trees.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Rhyme of the Staff

At one point David Hargrave published something known as the Arduin Chronicles.  Typewritten and chock full of information, it was a handy and useful Arduin reference.  This rhyme is but one of many things he shared with fans.  As it is all but lost to time, I'm reposting it here for everyone to enjoy.

Blue slim staff, red glow summit
Keeps all of the evil, fairly from it.

Yet again and more its powers are,
Ranging close, and travelling far.

Wang's it was, Thakk's it is now,
But even more guarded it is, by another's vow!

The ogres four, no less and no more
Point the way to the one true door.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Ghost River

A part of history and legend, a whispered rumor with a grain of truth.   Much is said though little true about the Ghost River.  The little heard says it runs through the lands of death, through harsh domains of the afterlife.  Still other tales place it as a stream of spirits wending through the soil; a titanic ley line; a series of nodes and junctions; a nexus of sorts, one that pulls one along instead of transitioning from one place to another.

A discerning few, with the right research or information gathering skills, will find that whatever it may be, it was a part of history.  During the reign of the Margalen family to be exact.  Whereupon it was used, it was rumored, to secret away those who were too powerful or treasured to kill.  In their shadowy prison, their dark cell that has never been found: the Gaol.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

For Christmas, a few sayings of Arduin, or should I say about Arduin and its world.

For instance, many refer to Ithalos as the "Fading Jewel of the North".  Very handy if you are trying to figure out some of the riddles, songs and tales about Arduin.

Another, often heard one is "The Silver Lady glories in a circle of friends".

Have a good Christmas!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Glass Door of Arduin

A jagged spur of glassy crystal that protrudes from the center of a still lake in the south of Arduin.  Its roughly 14 ft in height and an antenna for nexus activity.  It drags nexus to it and pulls them into the lake or into its crystalline structure.  Said activity has been noted numerous times and is the subject of study from the College of Magik in Talismonde, Melkalund and Falonde in Falohyr.

No one to date has been able to touch it or even get within a couple of feet of the crystalline structure as it pulls nexus to it on such as frequent basis.  Various scholars have ascertained it extends beneath the surface of the lake for at least twenty feet.  Studies have been interrupted in the last couple of years due to the flash cult that came into being surrounding the crystal door.  The cult has taken to surrounding the lake and defending it furiously against all who come to its shores.  When questioned they say the door has taken to whispering to anyone that stays the night on its shores, speaking softly and beseechingly in a woman's voice.

A few months past, CY 325 Ator, a priestess of Diora summoned forth a powerful minion of Diora through the Crystal Door seemingly shattering it in the process.  However, the crystal grew back rapidly, reforming in a few days.  Seeing this as a sign, the cult has blossomed in size, growing to more than a two hundred in number.  Whether or not Diora is actually related to the cult or the Crystal Door is a subjective one.  Diora seems mute on the matter.

Friday, December 23, 2011

A Day at the Plateau of Forever Part II

Cade was not disappointed. As he had strode across the grass towards the mustering field men seemed to appear out of the wind. By the time he had made it to his customary spot, nine-tenths of his company had appeared. Cade ignored them as they milled around and jostled into position to his right. Keeping his eyes straight ahead he studied a simple square of dressed stone, cut with spiraling whirls of rune etching. Lieutenant wasn't in place yet. He peered out of the corner of his eyes to the left and sighed inwardly. The men were milling about like a bunch of like traipsing green-eyed fae.

Cade barked out an order. Without thinking the men to his right snapped to attention. Cade felt an inward sense of satisfaction that didn't touch his face.

Stone faced he marched forward two steps, made a sharp right turn and marched a few more steps to be about center of the company and turned sharply toward them. For a moment he let his eyes glance over them. Over a hundred men...well, men in a general sort of fashion, the Arduin army meaning of the term. The company was a mixture of races, of which men were a component but others were in unequal portions as well. Burly Urukks with long weapons, a brace of Throons for the heavy weapons, some Elves for arcane support and even some of the newer gnomic mind mages that had migrated out of Falohyr a decade ago. The usual little bit of this and a little of that.

Cade opened his mouth to bark out the order for them to open ranks when the peals of a bell sounded across the plateau. He sighed. Inside of course. Wouldn't do to show his irritation outside to the men. Speaking of, not a single of them twitched. That made him smile, a trace of which he let show for a scrape of a second.

Looking past them over their heads he could see the blue-black pillars of the monolith were lit up, strobing in rhythmic blasts. A number of the cavalry group were already in the air around them, wheeling in circles on pegasai and one on a baby wyvern. Green fire burst from the air shimmering between the monolith's pillars and rolled down the pitted basalt steps that led down to the dirt of the plateau.

Cade quirked an eyebrow. He looked left and saw the pennant for his company rise above the headquarters tent. He glanced back towards the monoliths just as the air exploded outward from them, pushing out, buckling the air like water. The alarm grew shrill and soldiers began scurrying around the camp.

Cade looked at his men, who to their credit had yet to blink even a single time. He smiled broadly, showing all his silver teeth.

Men”, Cade said, “It looks like you get out of muster once again. I hope your equipments in good form because you are about to use it. Now fall out and get to it!”
Past the lined up orderly queue of men, a mass of blood red tentacles had followed the buckling of the air and were snaking their way down the basalt steps. The company dissolved into action, several taking to the air while others ran, jumped, and strode towards the monolith and the bizarre, blood red tentacles snaking from it. The air between the pillars groaned and cracked, and a harsh, biting purple mist issued forth.

Cade looked at the chaos, occasionally adding to it as he barked out one order or another. He watched the tentacles wrap up several soldiers and just as many others cut them free. It seemed like their was no end to the writhing red things. Magic, lasers, lightning, bullets, blades and claws seemed to destroy them but a wave of more gushed forth.

Ripping away a mass of them that attempted to circle him, Cade used his blade to call out several razor edged wedges of air. They satisfactorily sliced through more tentacles and Cade used the pause to gauge the situation.

A Cthonic, I'd bet, Cade snorted to himself.

I didn't get enough coffee for this kind of work.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Explanation of Artifacts (AE style)

It was only after I posted an artifact yesterday that I realized that we don't have a breakdown of all the information given with them.  Well, we do, but its in the Bestiary and Treasures book.  Sooooo, see below:

APT:  For GMs who desire a limit on magic artifacts, your APT is the total amount of magik you can put on your person (passive or otherwise).  The amount listed here counts against your APT total; if you exceed your APT then an artifact quits functioning.

TD:  Arcanalogy, Knowledge, Noetics, Pnuema or like check to identify the artifact.  Typically, arcane artifacts use Arcanalogy, psychic ones use Noetics and so forth.

DUR:  How much damage said item can take.

VALUE:  The general, legal current market value

CONDITION:  A limitation that exists on the artifact, such as usable by a certain profession, race, locale, etc.

POWERS:  Its powers or abilities.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Random Magik Artifact Madness: Necklace of Irinius the Bold

A random magic artifact of the day, this one for courtesans only.  Very useful from a courtesan's point of view.

Necklace of Irinius the Bold
APT: 4
TD: 152
DUR:  33
Value:  18,000 GS
Condition: Courtesan only
Powers:  When worn, no entity that the wearer has wooed, taunted, used allure on, and performed other “social” skill uses on will not listen to another being's social attempts (automatic failure, regardless of roll) as long as the courtesan is within sight.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Personality Profile: Dvin Nojus

Dvin-Nojus (day-vin know-us) was a farmer in Falohyr whose life was turned upside down by a fire that slew his parents and new wife.  Discarding his past life, he took up the weapons of his grandfather and learned the art of fighting.  

He traveled from Tharkhalla to Arduin throwing himself into harm’s way, somehow managing to survive and come out a little wiser.  He joined the Pearlhouse Sawbacks (those famous nine stalwarts) in their journey to the Great Wurm Road and like them, disappeared from the face of history.  He left his famous cloak, the Dvin-Nojus Wrap in the Sawback villa outside of Pearlhouse but it was stolen along with much of the Sawback’s goods roughly 3 years after they departed.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Nobility vs Siege Lords

Lords of the land (in the Country of Arduin only) come in fundamentally two varieties: those with lands and those without. Those without lands have titles only and possibly some pension based on service or family tithes from commercial or military outlets. The landed nobility all hold lands outside the royal or crown lands, and are either situated near civilized centers or in areas granted by the crown for various reasons.

Seige Lords are considered lesser nobility (lowest rank), but in actuality is a title bestowed upon those qualifying few by the crown. Those mentioned in the AGs are all placed within the boundaries of the nation of Arduin and are an important part of the strategic placement of military units between potential adversaries within, and without Arduin. A few, have analogs of similar names in other nations (areas) of the world.
Arduin (country of) has lands held by the crown (including both developed and undeveloped wild lands), siege lords, landed nobility, and lands held by races in treaty. Check out AG IX or the World Book of Khaas for more on that subject and the organization of the kingdom.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Swords and Dragons

Swords and Dragons is a card game peculiar to the fantasy realm of Arduin, played in taverns, gambling halls and among the snobbish circles of the elite. Games are for both fun and hard coin, and the cause of more than one bar room brawl or duel among the nobility. Presented herein is the commoner version of the game, rules held by all the classes and races of Arduin with little or no dispute. It is played the same whether on the hard wood of wagons along dusty trails or in the carousing vulgar drinking halls of the towns. Popularized shortly after the events of the Black Queen’s regime, it is a game that has seized the hearts of Arduinian’s and foreigners alike.

Played with a fantasy-inspired deck of 108 cards (eight suits of thirteen cards with four Dragon cards), Swords & Dragons is like Poker or Euchre with unusual twists. The game is typically “tabled” with 2-10 players, with each player assuming the guise of a Noble House during the time of turmoil under the Black Queen. The object is to be the player with the most points at the end of her reign. The victor in points overthrows the Black Queen (also called the Mad Queen) and assumes the Throne as King (or Queen) of Arduin. 

Swords and Dragons (S&D) a popular game and often used as a teaching tool to educate people about the events during that dark time in Arduin history.  Not to mention just played for fun!  The Nobility especially enjoy this game, though are more likely to be found playing the poker-styled version. Regardless of the gaming style they choose, Nobles in Arduin play with deadly intensity, involving the myriad tangles of their intrigues and politics in the weave of the cards. It is a tool among them, since most of the houses are still galvanized along lines for those for the Queen, those against and those who stand neutral. 

 Some very fantastic games have been played in battles fought with keen wit and agile use of the cards to humiliate or defeat rivals. Not all of them for political gain either. After all, who doesn’t remember the game Audreil Ethriblad played in the under warrens of Talismond√© to save the soul her son?**

The Cards – The eight suits (Swords, Eagles, Skulls, Sceptres, Coins, Chalices, Shields and Talismans) consist of thirteen cards, ranked in value from highest to lowest as follows: an Ace, three “court” cards (King, Queen, and Knight) and nine “number” cards, 10 on down to 2.  Also, there are four Dragon cards that function as wild cards and take precedence over the values in the other suits. In order of strength, they are the Wrathful Dragon, Guardian Dragon, Sea Dragon, and Sleeping Dragon. The suit of Swords is the “Trump”, the best suit in the game and follows the Dragons in power. As unique cards, the Dragon cards often gain monikers to describe them in different locales. For instance, the miners of the Salt Mud Flats call the Sea Dragon card Ifinbraxus after the dragon of the same name that dwells there in the salt dunes. The Elves of Mistwood call the Wrathful Dragon card Arlin-Mainthiu after a local legend of a yellowed dragon that twined itself around the armored foot of a godling. The full legend is carved in picturesque graphic along the length and breadth of ancient tree in the village of Treehaven.

Special Cards – Certain cards within the deck, such as the Ace of Swords or “The Black Blade” if you will and the Knight of Eagles or “The Eagle Lancer” as it is known, have a special “sobriquet” or nickname in Arduin. Each is indicated on the cards if it holds a particular familiar. These are monikers that have latched on to the particular cards and are used by all. In game play some of these sobriquets have special significance attached to those named cards. In certain hands, some sobriquets hold boons, others bane.

The Noble Houses – All the Noble Houses of Arduin are generally used in play but the Houses of Margalen, Black Hydra, Borthos, Lazirur, Naskillion, Storm Crow, Silver Mountain, and Golden Lion feature quite often. Those of the elite always play their house even if it did not exist during the time period. It is considered very gauche and offensive to assume another’s house, even in jest.

Initial Draw – The owner of the game is always the first dealer or may choose to pass it over to the player who wins by highest draw. This is done by each player drawing one card from anywhere in the deck and revealing it, high card determining the first dealer. After this initial round, the deal moves clockwise to the next player and continues so until the end of play.

Shuffle & Cut – Dealer shuffles the cards and the player on the right cuts them, dividing the deck into two or more groups and regroups them.

The Deal – The dealer deals cards, one at a time working clockwise. Each player receives 10 cards and the remainder is set aside until the end of the round. After each hand of play, the deck is reshuffled and deal commences as outlined.

The Rules – Play covers a 10-year period broken into hands, each divided into 2-year lengths and built of 10 rounds (3 months Arduin time). A round is where the dealer places one card on the table and other players (moving clockwise) must follow suit. If you do not have the same suit the round is started with then you can play any card from your hand. 

You may only lead with a dragon card if you have no suited card to play. Those challenged by a leading Dragon card do not have to play a Dragon card in turn but may play from any suit. 

The player with the highest card wins the round and collects the cards at the end of the round. The only thing that beats the highest card in a suit is a Trump card and the any of the Dragon cards, listed in order of power above. 

Each round takes one card from a player and the round’s base value is 1 point, modified only by the special rules governing each hand of play. There are 5 hands played to a game, each covering 2 years of the turbulent time of the Black Queen’s dominion. After the initial hand, the succeeding hands have special rules as the Black Queen takes steps to consolidate her power against the murmuring distress of the people and the nobles. Each hand's rules are mutually exclusive and do not carry on to succeeding hands. The winner of the game is the Noble House with the most points at the end of the fifth hand.

Second Hand – In the history of this turbulent period, the Mad Queen exercises her power to bring the Nobles and the people in line by outlawing magic. It was a harsh period where she labored to rend the tools of learning and power, even managing to close the doors to the famous Colleges across Arduin before relenting in face of the tide of angry criticism it brought. 

The winner of any round with a Talisman card in play loses 1 point instead of gaining 1 point for the round. Gaining more than 1 Talisman card in a round does not change the penalty, it is –1 point regardless of the number of cards garnered. Also, any player unlucky enough to take the Ace of Sceptres (The Wand of Wizardry) in play loses 2 points. Worse, if the Wand of Wizardry is in with a Talisman card, the total value of the scored points is lost for that round is 2 for the Wand, plus 1 for the Talisman card in play for a total of –3 points lost.

Third Hand – After the failed attempt to abort magic from among her subject, the Mad Queen is forced to stay her hand and gather resources to combat her ever-growing unruly subjects. It was a chaotic time in the land and she was not alone in consolidating power as the Noble houses joined her in gathering unto themselves what financial and magical strength, military stability and political clout that was possible. 

In this hand, any player who wins a round with a Coin card in play gets 2 points for the round instead of 1 point. Additionally, if a player is lucky enough to win a round with the King of Coins (Merchant Prince) in play, he gains 3 points. Also, the same applies to the Ace of Swords (The Black Blade), Ace of Talismans (The Sphynx), Ace of Sceptres (The Wand of Wizardry), and the 7 of Eagles (The Magnificent Seven), which net a player 2 points for each. These latter four bonus cards are on top of any bonus gained from having a coin card in play that round. 

Thus, a winning round with a Coin card and the Ace of Talismans would net a total of 4 points. It is worth noting that you only need to win the round with one of these special cards in play to gain the points as outlined above. Thus, you could trump the Ace of Talismans and King of Coins in a round of play with a Dragon card and gain all points (5 points total).

Fourth Hand – This was a horrible time for Arduin as open rebellion and conflicts flared and the wrath of the Black Queen grew at the reluctance of the Noble Houses and the people to bow to her will. With her army and the powers at her command, the Black Queen works dire harm to those who would stand against her in opposition. By her order, Noble Houses are besieged with troops, people of villages scattered and those of noble blood publicly tried for insurrection. 

If any player wins a round with a Skull card in play during this time, he loses 1 point instead of winning 1 point as their house is considered to have gone against the Queen. If the Ace of Skulls (The Skull Warrior), the Ten of Swords (Curse of Aaos) or the Ace of Shields is in play during a round, a winner of that round loses 5 points for each taken card. Any of these taken in a round of play means the Mad Queen has taken steps to destroy the Noble House and publicly tried them for treason.

Fifth Hand – At long last it is enough and the Noble Houses along with the people of Arduin meet her in open rebellion to end the taint of her rule. A coup is staged against the Queen and armies of the rebels and the Mad Queen lock in battle to determine who will hold future. 

The player who wins a round with a Queen of any suit in play gets 3 extra points per Queen. If you are lucky enough to win the Queen of Eagles (The Empress), your house was the one to actually capture the Black Queen and you get 6 extra points!

Example round of play – Bored on the long bumpy carriage ride, Simeon the scholar gazes grumpily at the lined walls of the interior. Something catches at the corner of his eye and his mood takes a sudden turnaround as another passenger, an exotic trader from somewhere far to the north slowly waves a deck of cards his direction. It does not take long before they are using the padding of the seat as an impromptu table for their game. Out of boredom and infectious enthusiasm, the two other passengers join in the game. 

The trader takes the House of the Black Hydra, Simeon the guise of Lazirur and the later arrivals the houses of Naskillion and Storm Crow. House Black Hydra shuffles the deck and lets Lazirur (Simeon, who sits clockwise from him, followed by Naskillion then Storm Crow) cut it. After this is done he deals out 10 cards to each player and sets aside the remainder. As is his right by being the dealer he begins play, quickly formulating a strategy around his cards. Since he has numerous trumps, a court card or two and a Dragon card, he passes the lead off initially by playing a Sceptre Knight card and allowing House Storm Crow to take the lead. That house returns with a low Coin card, which he snaps up with the Ace of Coins. In the lead again in round three but only possessing strong cards, Black Hydra leads with the King of Eagles but is cut by a low trump card from House Naskillion. In round four, House Naskillion opts to lead with a Sword card, by which Black Hydra is secretly delighted. He manages to offload two low Sword cards in this round and the next. A Talisman Queen card begins round six but Black Hydra is delighted to cut it with a trump and quickly pulls in the cards from rounds seven, eight and nine also by exercising the lode of Swords he was blessed with this deal. The last is his only surprise as he delightedly exposes his Sleeping Dragon card but is confounded by the Wrathful Dragon in House Lazirur’s possession. In the end, House Black Hydra wins five hands, gaining five points and is in the lead. 

For the moment.

** Surely you remember the scandal that rocked Talismonde when the Laughingstar baby was kidnapped from the very palace of the King and held for ransom? The cities underbelly and shadows were given its worst purging in history as the King turned out his own guard to pinch shadows and find the child. The kidnappers were unmasked and seven nobles and lords of the land were put to death. The staggering ransom paid to buy the child back was never found.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

A Day at the Plateau of Forever Part I

This coffee is wretched”, Cade thought sourly gazing down into his metal cup. He sucked down half it anyway, enjoying the warm feeling that it invoke in his guts despite the bitter taste. Cade let the hand holding the cup drop down to his knee and looked out of the tent. His eyes took in the camp, lingering on the pennants and flags that adorned many of the tents, proclaiming one noble son or another, officers, military units and other offices.

Stinking full of the worthless rabble who think they can fight his year” Cade groused internally, face showing nothing of his internal feelings. He took a deep breath, stretching, some how juggling a half cup of coffee in the process while scratching energetically at an itch through the padded undercoat. It was a welcome relief but pulled at the scars along his ribs, making old wounds ache. Not that he paid much attention.

Figuring it was about time, Cade poured the rest of the coffee down his throat and stood. The pile of armor waiting for him wasn’t going anywhere but his unit was and if he wasn’t there, in line and ready, they rest wouldn’t exactly spring up and he’d end up kicking down tents waking up the good-for-nothing lot he had for a unit.

So with an internal sigh Cade pulled the stool closer to the pile of armor and sat down. He stared at it for a moment, gloomily brooding, while a finger absentmindedly rubbed at a scar along the underside of his chin.

Most people start with the leggings or the breastplate when they put on armor, Cade noted idly. Its not tradition or nothing but plain simplicity. Its hard to bend and stretch properly to work on greaves, much less boots when you can’t flex your torso due to the steel encircling it. Of course not that what he was wearing was exactly normal in any regard.

Cade snorted and picked up the boots, checking them over for wear or damage. They looked okay but he let his eyes linger over the rune etched patterns anyway, ensuring the matrix still looked seamless. The center pattern was a silvery trail of strands mixing and intertwining between knots of intricate weave. Surrounding it was a sea of spidery rune strands, waves cascading every which way.

Once, when Cade served his first year here, he’d tried to follow the rune weave, spending night after night tracing and studying it. Of course, he never succeeded and while still beautiful to the eyes the wonder behind its working had long since died away.

Cade checked the bottoms, noting the pattern was still intact, though slightly more worn than elsewhere. Satisfied, he kicked off his camp boots into a corner of the tent and slipped on each of the rune woven boots. They slid on easily and Cade felt the first tremors slide past his toes up into his legs. Ignoring them as he always did, Cade reached for the greaves next, checking them like he did the boots. Content with his inspection, he held them against his legs, waiting for the spidery feeling that always accompanied the armor adhering itself to his body. The first time Cade put on the armor it repulsed him. Now, he thought while slipping on more of the armor around his body, it didn’t bother him at all. Cade paused for a moment, thinking, have I become jaded or just accepting? He held the thought for a moment then snorted softly. Soldiers don’t have time to think about such things he told himself.

Getting on to business, Cade went through a series of calisthenics, adjusting the armor here and there before giving it the final command to lock in place. Done, he slipped his heavy gauntlets into his belt and picked up his helmet, inspecting both one last time. Pleased with their condition, he went back outside in time to see the first rays of the rising sun beaming across the plateau.

Just in time he thought. Cade looked over them as the sun rays dappled across the camp and the torn green field beyond to the giant monoliths. Massively built of dark hewn stone, they seemed to absorb the sunshine as its played across them. Still as the sunlight grew in strength it seemed to light the giant stones with a sullen fire, illuminating the giant steps of the base, creeping with increasing speed upward towards the pyramidal top where the great columns rose like spears jutting towards the face of the sky.

It never grows old, Cade thought as he took a deep look at the awe inspiring majesty of the stone pile. Then, breathing it all in, he turned away, ignoring it as his boots pounded a path towards the not too distant spot where he would soon muster his company.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Arduin Design Notes X

Keeping the system symmetrical was key.  With that in mind, I started to tackle the next things on the list for AE.  With races, cultures, professions and skills worked out, the next things to tackle was components of the professions and paths that previously hadn't been worked out.

Don't get me wrong the previous versions of Arduin were fine things, but they kept to a different level of detail and engineering.  Where the idea of a Runeweaver and Rune Weaving was conceptualized in the previous games, my goals was to render the runes and make it a workable magik system.  The Herbalist, Alchemist, Techno, Medicine Man, and others like them also needed work.  Some really had no meat to them, some had some detail but not really enough to be fully fleshed out and some were fleshed out buy limited by the previous mechanics to truly work in the idea behind them.  These all needed work, but out of them came the following sections:

Eldarin (Runes)
Martial Arts
Schematics (Techno)
Fetishes (Medicine Man)
Mental Powers (Psychic)

Alchemy was sort of in play but not really well defined, especially at the high end.  Same for Herbalism.  Both sort of crossed each other in places and definite rules needed to be set in place to separate the two.  Frankly it came down to where the two sourced out of: the herbalist became more "natural and green" while alchemy really meant that the source was refined and changed then used.

Rune Magik needed a complete construction and good rules.

Martial Arts.  Ah, I love those.  Previous Arduin versions had rules but they conflicted with released canon.  Why had one set of mechanics for a myriad of supposed martial arts and their purposed capabilities?  Why not outline them and make it a workable system?  Which was done and happily I might add based on the feedback given by everyone.

Rituals, Spells, and Prayers all worked as one unit.  All the previous magic from the grimoires were redone to fit within the mold of one of these types.  Spells and prayers were separated.  Their sources and requirements to use were different so they were treated that way.  Rituals were shared to a certain extent but rituals defined any form of power that was long term and required a series of steps to create.

Mental powers needed a complete construction.  Hints were in the book but no outlined powers.

Schematics for Technos needed a complete construction.  I understand what the original genius behind the class was back in the day but it had grown vastly behind that humble start.  What it needed now was organization, mechanics and stuff to make.

Fetishes were new for the Medicine Man but appropriate.  They needed complete work up.

Aside from these questions, I needed to outline a section for social dynamics, to breakout how contacts, connections and the use of social influence.  Adventuring, advancement and progression needed some time as well.  More, and more, let me tell you.  Spirits and animate powers needed to be addressed, equipment and goods, critical and fumble tables, game mastering and more.

None of this takes into view the things I dropped.  A large economics section had to be done away with.  A smaller, less comprehensive one was drafted for the Trader and economics of the game.  Breeding of creatures, plants and other beings never made it into print.  It was slated for the Bestiary but is likely going to show up in a later edition than the one released.  A lot of the GM section was sliced away to make room.  A discussion of the world, death, and how the two interacted dropped.  The original song and rune song section dropped.  It was a fav and treated songs like spells but gave them unusual and interesting twists.  Most of the invention and idea system was removed though some of the basic mechanics remained.

I could go on but its not what was removed that makes the system tick but what stayed.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Arduin Design Notes IX

Skills.  Oh boy, the discussions here lasted years and I mean years!  Here was to be the guts of AE.  Its skill system would be the underlying implementation of actions within the game.  Instead of a long variable list of things you can do or pestering your GM every time you want to try something, the skills broke out a mass of actions normally and not so normally undertaken by players.

The skills, or at least their names and what capabilities lay under each changed a lot from inception to alpha, beta and then print even.  What they stood for within AE, however, was unchanged.  Skills would be the heart of how actions were undertaken.  They would be tied to activity and specific but simple advancement rules.

  • Skills only had a chance to grow better if you used them where a risk of failure existed or by investment of experience.  
  • Skills would (obviously) employ the d100+bonus mechanic and would improve via the same mechanic.  This meant that only by exceeding your current skill rank could you gain improvement.  Using this form of development put skill advancement on a bell curve, where advancement was quick when skill was low and slow to flat when skill is high.  
  • To break out of the slow advancement at higher end, skills would require the investment of the experience (EPS) a player gained per session.  More factors also came into play:  immortals and long lived races progress much slower and hence have a lower learning rate (LR).  Short lived races were the opposite.  Translation:  the exchange of EPS for skill points to invest in skills was set by one's LR.  Short lived races gained larger values than longer lived and immortal ones.  On the other hand those same long lived and immortal beings could invest EPS into bonuses to their advancement rolls whereas shorter lived beings could all balanced nicely and fit in some powerful concepts we wanted to introduce.

Building the skills system on that foundation thought made for the inception of the level-less system that AE uses.  Using this form of skill system allowed us to split out basic capability under each skill and put mechanics to very common actions asked by players.  Sneaking around, picking locks, climbing a rope, jumping a chasm, wooing the opposite sex, bribing, finding something in a library, the eponymous question of "what do I know" or "do I recognize that?" were outlined.

Yet something more was needed.  Some special capacity.  After all, we were building a tool box system where players were employing the same template but stamping out unique characters each time.  Plus, some actions under the skills required more skill than others.  So we made tiers, or thresholds of skill: Proficient, Trained, Experienced, Specialist, Expert, Genius and Legendary.  Seven tiers in all for skill ranks of 1, 10, 25, 45, 75, 110 and 150.

Under each we put those packages of capability or actions, the secrets.  Here were the cool things you could do with a skill that wasn't basic.  It costs EPS to get them and each had outlined requirements.  Want to sneak in combat or hide in plain sight?  Look under Clandestine for the secrets.  Fight while doing cartwheels and rolls or just make a jump or leap attack?  Look under Acrobatics.  Want to intimidate, stun others with your attacks or just bilk people out of money?  See Crime.

Those and a whole lot more, roughly 1000+ secrets were outlined, though only 700 or so made it into the printing.  Some were excised or changed, such as the old Martial skill, which split into Combat and Guard, its secrets split or re-worked to make sense.

Skills and secrets though, they were the gears that made the AE engine move.  Secrets, especially were little bits of capability more than anything else.  They were geared to be an action over a bonus or plus, though some of those exist as well.  That was an underlying axiom employed with every one created, from the martial arts secrets to the secrets of Pneuma.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Arduin Design Notes VIII

The challenge after the cultures was professions or classes as they were referred to in previous versions of Arduin.  Like races, they were thick as thieves in Arduin.  When working with them, I wanted a different approach than used previously.  Building off the idea of designating some professions as base ones and others as specializations of them, I split the previous classes into Professions (base) and Paths (specializations).  Some just didn't make the grade, such as the Adventurer, which was more of an ideal than a true profession.  Some needed some serious work, such as the Runeweaver, Herbalist, Techno and so on.

Pretty much all the professions and paths you see in the book were in both the Alpha and Beta runs of the game.  Some were dropped, such as the Necromancer (which wasn't ready by the time we went to print), Berserker, Mercenary Captain, Nexus Wizard, Courtier, Illusionist, Chef (yes, I do mean a chef - trust me on this, its a bad ass Path) and a couple of more.

Game testing showed them did change some of their locations.  For example, the Martial Artist was a Profession in the Alpha but after some testing and game play was made into a Path of the Warrior.  Druid was the opposite: it moved from being a Path off the Priest to its own Profession.

Some I just didn't have room for in the book as it was released.  It as already stuffed to the gills and more.  Like the World Book of Khaas (WOK) I had to cut, sometimes deeply before print.

Like previously mentioned, the professions and paths continued the tool box approach and had options built into them to allow the player to be that prof/path but be different at the same time.  Not to mention each profession had its own focus on skills (more on the skill system in the next post) and secrets (see next post), things that you can only learn while/if you are part of the profession.  Unique things, different things, cool things that make a warrior a true cut above someone who can fight and a mage more than a slinger of spells.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Arduin Design Notes VII

Playing with the cultures and their influences was probably the easiest part of the game.  My work with the world book of khaas (and if you don't have it, shame on you!  Go get it!) had already hammered these out.  All it took was outlining them into influences and putting the tweaks to each one.  By far one of the simplest yet more defining parts of the game.  Not to mention overlooked.  You can do a lot with cultures if you pay attention.  They basic tenet of cultures was they were the influences that your environment and nurturing played on you.

Raised on the border of two nations?  Found a knack for the military and spent time in the militia?  Where you learned Tionicca from a master that trained the local soldiers?

Or maybe you were raised a Jewel Elf and took much of your parent's upbringing and added it to the tumultuous mix you learned while running the streets of talismonde; hanging out with that girl from Viruelandia who spent a time in a Morvaenian prison before escaping.  Her hard lessons were ones you didn't ignore and you've spent time building a gang that guts slavers and Morvaenian's alike.

Either of the above or myriad other combinations are possible and reflected well.  Its one of my most favorite parts of AE and sourced hundreds of tales in my personal games.

A key point was understanding the cultural influence significance.  It meant that you were either raised in that culture or influenced by it, whether you lived in that land or not.  Ever meet someone who was more japanese than the japenese?  Who loved their culture to death but lived in the USA?

Think about it.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Arduin Design Notes VI

Oh I loved the special charts.  So did everyone else it seemed.  They were every where when I was playing Arduin and in just about any other game.  It not DH's charts is was someone's homegrown ones or mishmash from several games.  We all love them.

What's important, at least from the AE perspective was why.

That answer is what led us to break them apart and treat them in a completely different way.  The answer was manifold one.  People loved them because it made them different, not only from each other but from their previous character that was a fighter and used a sword and killed stuff.  Not only mechanically but many of them had implied role playing dimensions that they RP styled players used.  Of course, they also gave you some kind of power, some bump or bonus that made you a little stronger, smarter, faster, tougher or skilled.  And people love that.  Love it to death.

So I took the idea and adopted it into AE but with a few twists.  One, I wanted more than a vanilla this or that race.  In fact, I wanted players to be able to tailor (tool box approach, remember?) out of the gate.  So into each race went a set of options that a player could choose to tailor or make them different from the norm.  That was the first step.

The next was to adopt this same idea and allow their environment and nurturing (covered in cultures) to influence them, giving even more options to make their player a little different.  Following it was even more options under their profession (fighter, mage, trader, herbalist, etc) so they could tailor it even more.  What came out the end was a means to really show how one warrior was very different from the other even if they both had selected the same profession.  It put teeth and mechanics to people's back story in a way they had control over and could see in game adjustments.

Did it allow for metagaming?  Oh to be sure.  Not its intended function but surely.  And why not?  They like to play too and if a GM will have them then turn them loose!   Symmetry was a core function and allowing for equal RP and power gaming fit right in.

The options fit the same two reasons people loved the special tables.  They made it fun, they made it different and it game them the sensation of power.


Sunday, December 11, 2011

Arduin Design Notes V

Okay so with some of the intangibles out of the way we sat down to get some of the fun parts done.  Figuring that everything had to start with the races (see earlier Arduin Design Posts, especially this one) it was time to tackle them.  Now, everyone, including us wanted to throw them all in the game.  Which was a daunting challenge.  So, to understand what I mean, pull out your handy Arduin Grimoire III (if you have them.  If you don't, consider grabbing a piece of history and getting them.  If that appeals, go here), and flip to the handy chart where David Hargrave outlined his new HP system.  If you take a gander at that chart you'll quickly realize that he lists nearly 50 races and that's not even close to all of them. This was as of AG III; he added reams more until his passing, some of which are in the later AGs.  Adding everyone of them was impossible. We would never get the book out the door if we did.  So it came to decision time and we pruned the list down.

The first alpha list had 39 races.  A lot of these fell out.  Most were very little known outside of a few fans so it was considered acceptable.  Some such as the Merfolk, Sea Elves, Avjuon were dropped out of necessity.  Introducing them and other underwater races required too much information to be stuff into the GM and other sections.  Same for a lot of the alien, mechanical and noncorporeal entities.  Even my favorite, the artificial intelligence, had to be dropped because of this fact.

In the end out of the alpha came around 30 races.  A few more were trimmed away during the beta (red dwarf, city elf to name two) and 26 races remained.  Not bad.  Most games are lucky to feature 10 so we thought that it was down justice.

Figuring out what races to put in was just the beginning.  Out decision with attributes (Arduin Design Post II for those interested) meant that we would continue with the trend of providing set attributes per race.  Additionally, a lot of perks, specifics and data about the races that was previously scattered all over was consolidated into each race write up.  Here is were we started putting in the implied yet never truly worked powers.  Deodanths and their time jumping ability.  Phraints and their jumping and special attacks.  Human adaptability and learning.  Shang and Zirin technological know how.  Racial memories.  And more, so much more.

In fact his work is what led to the breaking down of the old special rolls table into something completely different.

That discussion I'll save for our next design notes.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Arduin Design Notes IV

Tackling AE took keeping a lot of things in mind.  These three tie back to my previous post (Arduin Design Notes III) as things to keep in mind while I was forming up the material for each section.

I touched on this in the previous post but I'll hit on symmetry again.
Symmetry was the drive to have a core mechanic and to have AE reflect the core mechanic and only deviate from it if no other good way existed to capture the capability at hand. 

I knew, for instance that at this point my core mechanic was going to a be a d100+bonuses versus a target difficulty (TD).  So I knew that everything would use this mechanic to handle a conflict unless it did not fit or couldn't fit.  For instance, using the idea as an example, look at how we could answer the following questions: 

Can I climb a wall?  d100+bonuses versus a target difficulty (TD) 
Can I hit my opponent?  d100+bonuses versus a target difficulty (TD) 
Can I sneak past this monster?  d100+bonuses versus a target difficulty (TD) 

Ease of Use 
AE had to be easy to use, not too overburdened with bookkeeping but enough to capture a specific level of complexity while retaining the flexibility to be as complex or simplex as the GM and players desired. A tall order. 

Symmetry works hand in hand with ease of use and supports it intrinsically. Ensuring exceptions are few, makes understanding AE simple. For instance, the battle and melee portion is mirrored by the psychic and magikal portions of AE. If you learn one, you don't have to learn a whole new way of doing business to use the other. 

A second part of Ease of Use is how much you have to look up in the book in order to play. A lot of engineering went into ensuring player would need to look up as little as possible in the book in order to play. 

Thirdly, great care was taken with the math. No matter how deep the role playing in an RPG, eventually you have to do the math if you use dice. AE was engineered to make that as easy to use as possible. Your primary math function is adding, and while the sums can grow to 100 or more, they are typically in easy to add chunks.

Depth is a lot of things but here I defined it as Fun, Attractive and Roleplayable. 

A game can be the best game every made but if it is not fun to play (due to whatever reason), no one is going to play it. A lot of factors go into whether a game is fun or not, not the least being how well it handles the job at hand. 

A game that is attractive is one you want to play. It could be because it does something new, something in a way you haven't seen or just fits your mental image of how an RPG should work. 

It can change pacing to accommodate you needs, the mechanics support role play and the game demands it to reach its epitome. 

I personally think AE has the strength of these if players can realize them.  Time and steady sales have shown I'm right.  AE isn't blazing a path to the stars but it is growing steadily in fan base and appreciation as everyone adjusts to the culture shock.

Coming Soon...

Throon, adult, in scale!  He is a big boy!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Arduin Eternal Design Notes III

Once the dice were out of the way it opened the door to several discussions that happened pretty much simultaneously, so keep that in mind.  One very important point we went back and forth on was a simple one to achieve consensus on but hard to enact.  This was the idea that AE should use one single mechanic for all conflict resolution.  Whether you were rolling to hit something, breaking bonds, picking a lock, casting a spell, using an herb, tracking someone across the tundra, etc. and so on, it should be via one mechanic.  That took us some time and work, not to mention rework as we built each section to make that stay cohesive.  Speaking of we had this idea that the system should be modular and each piece should tightly coupled with one another.  This tool box type of approach would allow you to ratchet on or take off pieces without damaging the whole system.  Which it does, though it took some elbow grease.  You can easily drop pieces and play the game just fine.

Don't want magic in your game?  Drop the magic system.  Want to do away with the cultures and their influence?  Away they go.  Either way the game would march on.  Same goes for the paths, martial arts, alchemy and other parts.

I write this and realize I summarized several years worth of work into a few sentences...its humbling, let me tell you.  I pasted those two ideas above my work station and  stared at them often.  So often that I cringed every time I sent the new portions to the alpha testers--I knew they were going to find areas where I had strayed from the baseline ideas of one mechanic and to make it modular and cohesive.  It was a tremendous and sometimes painful journey that I hope everyone enjoys.

More to come in the next one.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Arduin Eternal Design Notes II

Now, on to the next discussion that helped define the system: attributes.  A lively discussion was engaged over this topic that lasted months.  In time we fell into two camps.  Those who wanted a few attributes and those who wanted enough to cover a spectrum.  Which, I realize means I need to back up and define this culminating point a little better.

Let me try again.

When we opened up the discussion as to what we were going to use as attributes we looked at what we had done in the past and what was popular in games.  In the past, Arduin has had the base six (str, int, wis, con, dex, chr) and a few additions (agil, swim, mech, and so on). It even had the composite stats like MA from the Compleat Arduin version.

What we had in mind was providing enough attributes to contribute meaningfully to the game without overwhelming it.  Too few left a small number of attributes influencing a lot of game mechanics.  Too many meant it could be confusing or overly complicated.  After some lively discussion, application in game was considered the paramount deciding factor.  

A point everyone agreed one was to weight the attributes more evenly.  A problem with previous versions of Arduin and in fact in many games was that the attributes are not even in application or even closely so.  For instance, a factor in Arduin, DnD and other like games was strength, howsoever referred to, was overpowering in application within the game.  It provided bonuses to hit, damage, mobility and a host of other functions.  Dex was often the same.  Con and so on.  Charisma/Physical Beauty, however, was not, and was frequently ignored or made a dump stat.  Wisdom and Int often followed, unless one was playing something that relied on those attributes.  Part of the way to combat this uneven influence was to divest the strength of the single attributes across several (ensuring it made sense at the same time) and to bolster the dump stats by providing them with in-game factors that they could influence.  That being said, we ended up breaking up the unreasonable influence of the common strength attribute into three different ones: Strength, your pure muscular power;  Mass, or your bulk; and Size, your height/length.  These three together formed a composite characteristic of Body, which provided a damage bonus.  Not to mention numerous other things, such as how well you grapple against other things (sans skills, luck and a few other factors, of course).  It also plays a part in your durability and the three attributes work in combination to define your movement, resistance to shock/physical impact, swimming, climbing, what you can wield and other physical activities.  

The dexterity styled attribute was equally broken up and became Reflexes (physical reaction capability), Wits (mental reaction capability) and Adroit (physical capability).   Reflexes and Wits combined to make your CF or Count Factor for those familiar with Arduin.  Essentially your initiative to put it in other terms.  Reflexes and Adroit combined to become your overall Coordination.  You use that to wield and/or use things or tinker with them.

Con seemed neither overpowered or underpowered and was left relatively uniform in application.  It was your health in many terms and left in that capacity.

Making that impact more diversified and balanced was easy compared with the others.  The next four we derived helped bolster the internal and social factors that were often overlooked or considered dump areas. Those were Reason, or pure mental ability; Ego or your internal id and will; Essence, or the life force and drive within; and lastly Charisma or you ability to influence others.  These combined into characteristics to give them strong in-game impact.  Reason and Wits become MA or mental acuity.  MA is used as a comprehension factor for specialized mechanics.  Can you learn a spell?  MA plays a part.  Same for any rune, mental power, song, use of herbs, alchemy and whatnot.  Each attribute alone also contributes.  Reason leverages a bonus to how fast you can pick up skills in the skill system.  Ego affects Fear saves and provides resistance to mental damage and effects.  Charisma plays a similar function as does Essence.  In fact, reason, wits and essence come together to define a person's aptitude or APT.  This is a factor of native capacity for power use, such as magic, mental powers, prayers and so on.  Ego and Charisma made Leadership or LEAD.  Individually Charisma empowers most of the social skills and mechanics, providing a bonus.  Lead is a factor of how widely or greatly you can influence.  How well you pick up on things around you is considered perception: that instantaneous realization of circumstances around you.  Its opposite the studied observation of a situation (which is done via the Recon skill).  Perception or PER is made up of Wits, Reason and Ego.

As you can see the attributes affect a wide array of factors and those outlined above are not even all of them.  We ended up with 13 of them.  More than we had originally considered but just right in the end.  You see, we were looking at the end game, the higher end of game play when we started.  Having too few attributes and their corresponding impacts on the game meant that at high end of play they would be overwhelmed.  Additionally, we wanted the majority of the attributes to provide a "bump" or bonus that could be overcome by another being without the same high attribute via the skill system.  The whole idea that  someone's talent helps them initially but can be matched or perhaps even overcome with great work.

As an important factor was we wanted the attributes (and characteristics) to be on the same d100 scale that we agreed on.  Any rolls against them would be done using the d100 against a target difficulty (TD).  That meant they had to be put on that scale 1 - 100 as well.

Another important decision was to map the attributes to races, like Arduin had traditionally done.  That eased a lot of questions and concerns, since each race had defined attribute ranges instead of a series of random rolls that was then applied to a race, who had a template that gave bonuses.  This moved the focus of character creation off of dice rolls first to race selection first.  That was fitting to Arduin history and worked well with the series of attributes we had devised.

Enough for now.  More later on what came next.