Friday, August 30, 2013

Myths and Heroes: Kusseth

This is posting late because apparently I don't know the difference between the publish and save buttons. Sigh.

Many moons ago, Lance decided to just fuck everything up and forget that Andorian told him to help him find Evandor, the Briar King. Then he decided to forget that Andorian told him that Evandor would be masquerading as a powerful supernatural creature, as Evandor's Gifts were rather potent and Nel are kind of easy to pick out as being weird, even the ones made of flesh and blood. Then he forgot to tell Andorian about the supernatural creature on top of the Black Mountain making Immortals and pacts and such. One of the things Eran said to Andorian when this all went down was that he didn't even know if the Briar King was real, as he left Serethnem like 4000 years ago (I think, it might only be 1400, I don't have my timeline handy) and was just a story to Eran, and Eran had heard of Immortals and the being on the Black Mountain, but he didn't know if they were real or just stories and tales of this foreign land (nevermind that you know, he's met two, technically three, actual Immortals that have shown actual supernatural powers, heh heh).

What Eran/Lance said about stories got me thinking. I'm big on the mythology of ancient cultures and stuff. I've always been into the tales of Norse and Greek gods and folklore about stuff like vampires and werewolves and such is neat to me. Part of why I like DnD is because that stuff is not only real in most games, but as a GM I can put my own spin on it. For instance, you don't have to be undead to be a vampire in my campaign and my dragons are basically dire Komodo dragons that spit acid and have a poisonous bite. Still deadly and not to be taken lightly, but you get less treasure for beating them. Hehe.

Anyway, this got me thinking. What is the folklore of The Known World? What ancient cultures do they study? Who are their mythic/heroic figures? Who is their equivalent of Paul Bunyan? Paul Revere? Part of the problem with this question is that lots of races in The Known World are either immortal until physically destroyed (Children of Volung, Elduman, Fallen, Rankethlek, Soulless), or live for three or more "human" lifetimes in the natural course of their existence (Sereth, Vyanth). So the past is never really truly the past as much as it would be if these were humans we were talking about. I mean, to some people the destruction of Kaleshmar is just a vaguely recalled bit of important history, like how I imagine 9/11 will be viewed a hundred odd years from now. For others, mainly the Elduman, it was a really really bad day for them and their loved ones and still probably weighs heavily on their minds 10000 years later. Until they get Elduman dementia and stuff.

One of the things Lance and I were discussing during the Andorian/Evandor arc was the lifespan of the Sereth affecting how they perceive the past. I think I said it before on the blog, but what I came up with in response to Lance saying that Andorian and Evandor coming back was like Zeus coming back in our world was that Hekinoe is a magical world with a bunch of immortal (with caveats) and long lived races. It's more like Magic George Washington told Magic Congress and the Magic Senate that he had to go do a thing for a while, so they had to run things till he got back, and then disappeared for a long ass time, and then came back still looking and acting like Magic George Washington and expecting to be in charge and shit.

In terms of ancient cultures to study, there aren't really that many to study. But, The Known World is slightly larger than the US, so I suppose that makes sense. Most of the current countries/cultures have existed for several thousand years. I mean, we know the Builders lived in a giant ravine where Serethnem now is, and the Glenwighta lived beneath The Fell Peaks till they were subjugated by the Fallen turned Fell Humans migrating from the Necropolis.

There are archaeologist types that study fragmented ruins of Kaleshmar when they are uncovered. There are Fremwightan who seek to discover their race's lost history (which was more or less erased by the conquering Fell Humans), and yeah, there are probably digger types that try and burrow beneath that sands to study the pyramids of the Builders. Since Whurent predates Kaleshmar and as their civilization has aged they have dug upwards from the depths, I imagine that they do dig down and study the ruins of previous eras of their history.

So what are the myths of The Known World? Who are the heroes? As per usual, some of this is made up on the spot and some has been rattling around my brain for a while.

In Kusseth, most of the myths and folklore deals with law and order and fears of the underground. A well known legend is the story of the Wayward Lawman. A warden errant pursuing fugitives that was betrayed by townsfolk and gunned down in an ambush. The Wayward Lawman only appears on the road, never in cities or towns, and only after bandits have gotten away clean. When thugs sit laughing around a fire, enjoying a drink, a smoke, and their ill gotten gains, a small ember flashes in the night. The Wayward Lawman lighting a ghostly cigarette. He is no hero coming to the aid of the innocent, he is a vengeful ghost bearing archaic pistols and a ghostly grey duster, his form insubstantial and uniformly grey. Some versions of the story have him call the thugs out, naming them and their crimes, in others he just draws iron and fills the lawbreakers with lead (figuratively speaking). The end result, regardless of the beginning, is always their spilled blood, with one thug left living to carry the tale. Bullets and blades pass through the ghostly grey warden, and his gaze fills the guts of lawbreakers with ice. His incorporeal bullets always find their mark and his hammers never fall on empty chambers. He is merciless and can never be bought or bargained with in the tales.

In terms of heroes, Kusseth's most well known heroic figures would be the ringleaders of the original prison breaks that kicked off Kusseth's rebellion from The New Empire. Kusseth was initially twelve prison camps of criminals, sorcerers, and non-Elduman. There were twelve ringleaders, which is why Kusseth has twelve lords. Those original individuals were: Handsome Sven, an Elduman descended Uncout enchanter with a tongue so (quite literally) silver that he could supposedly talk the stink off shit. Korhellon, a Child of Volung with eyes so mean he could kill men with a glance, and if that didn't take, he had a knack for snapping necks. Aluenel, a Vyanth contortionist with bones so flexible and fingers so long he made use of them as garrotes. There was also Victoria Goltham, a wasted and ruined Fallen with only the most basic sorcery, but had repaired her rotten form with leather and stitches to the point where her "flesh" was as tough and thick as the hide of some beast from The Beast Lands and she became renowned for deadliness with a blade and her unflagging vitality. The fifth was Bra'ehm Stoh'kkher, a Fell Human dubbed the Nightwalker, and known for his sharp fangs, wraith-like presence, and his hunger for the blood of the living. There was Mad Doc Skinner, a barber/taxidermist/tanner/leatherworker/physician (though physician might imply more training and knowledge than he possessed), a small and unassuming Elduman descended Uncout thrown into Beltan for engaging in all of his various trades on anyone he could ambush and capture and known for tanning and curing the faux-skin of Elduman and crafting it into surprisingly durable armor the supposedly granted him resistance to the mental powers of Elduman guards. There was also the Elduman Kormic Iron Fists, cast out by his people for blending sorcery and psionics into a single art and corrupting the fighting techniques of The Old Empire by incorporating his strange powers into them and using them to warp and change his crystalline bones into base iron. From the depths of Whurent, The New Empire jailers dragged the Shrieker, a savage and brutish Dwenoren capable of emitting shrieks that could shatter bone and rend flesh. The Black Hunter, a Sereth that dyed his grey flesh and turned it black, who became a legend and terror of the mining tunnels due to his reputation for quick and dirty knife work and stealth. One of the more feared ringleaders was Cerf, a red-eyed Elduman capable of forming blades of energy from his fists with his psionic abilities, and known for whispering quietly to the sparking blades in the midst of battle and unleashing bloody and sadistic slaughter when interrupted during his communion with his weapons. The Sleeper was a hulking Solwighta, cast out by his people and captured by The New Empire for practicing dark arts and creating legions of undead to fight by his side. Among the prisoners, even some Fallen knew him to be more a master of his arts than they were of their own. Finally, there was Dar, an Uncout of The Wild Lands that communed with beasts and with a will so strong he could command the great beasts of those lands to fight at his command.

Hmm. This is getting long in the tooth, and I am enjoying it, so I think I'm going to call it good here and continue with the other nations in later posts. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


In terms of "classic" horror movie monsters, werewolves are one of my favorites. Ever since I was knee high to a grasshopper and watched the Howling, I've been in love with werewolves and lycanthropes in general. In high school, I had a brief period where I thought vampires were super neat, but that's because I wore a lot of black and was sad and mopey. I was also into Anne Rice for a bit, and while I find the mythos of her vampires fascinating and I do believe that drinking blood is a valid replacement for sex for her vampires, I do not buy into the portrayal of almost every male vampire in her mythos being into dudes.

Louis and Lestat, still a better love story than Twilight.

To continue. There's something about werewolves that makes me go yeah, that's pretty neat. I think it's that whole primal aspect of them. There's something undeniably powerful and striking about quite literally letting the primordial beast out to hunt and slay. Plus, I am a fan of Vikings and Norse related things. If I recall my lessons from when I got my Wikipedia keyboard researcher degree, berserk means something like bear sark, which is something like bear shirt. Assuming I remember correctly, the whole berserk thing stems from folklore about warriors who strode into battle wearing only a bear or wolf pelt and would become a bear or wolf in battle as the bloodlust fell upon them.

I've never been super pleased with movie representations of werewolves. It always either looks too rubber suity to me, or too CGIy to me. I will say that I do kind of like the CGI werewolves of the US version of the show Being Human. They look very wolf-like, and they're obviously CGI, but they're clearly not wolves. I dunno, it works for me. I don't much care for the Underworld werewolf transformation where the werewolves are all "I'm a werewolf! My ribcage gets big! Rawr!" Plus, the werewolves look reeeeaaaalll rubber suity in the third film. I am a fan of An American Werewolf in London's transformation process. The main character's entire body just breaks and tears and stretches. With Underworld, it just looks like they get bigger and grow a muzzle. There's no pain in the process, just bellows of fury. With An American Werewolf in London, it hurts. You can tell it hurts because everything human about David is broken, and looks like it, and is remade into a beast.

One thing I want to mention. You remember me saying Monday that I've been reading the fiction of this guy Larry Correia? There are werewolves in his books. Unsurprising, considering the series is titled Monster Hunter International. Heh. So typically in film and literature we find that werewolves regenerate. You can shoot them and hack at them and so on and so forth and the only thing that seems to not heal immediately is damage from fire or silver. In Mr. Correia's books, he has a character muse that of course werewolves heal incredibly rapidly. Three nights a month they break and remake almost every aspect of their human biology into that of a werewolf. When you can recreate and change whole organ systems and biology, healing a laceration or bullet hole seems like nothing. I've never thought of it that way before and it makes a shocking amount of sense considering we're discussing the biological mechanics of a supernatural creature. This is one of the reasons I very much enjoy this author. I have a lot of respect for any author that takes the time to go beyond because magic when talking about the supernatural.

So yeah, reading Mr. Correia's books kind of reminded me how much I love werewolves and I was recently dicking around with Pathfinder's version of werewolves. I have to say, I'm not impressed. They're dumb. Or they are dumb to me and don't really fit with my vision of werewolves. So that's what I'm going to post about, my thoughts on making Pathfinder's werewolves into something that fits my vision of werewolves.

First off, there is this whole afflicted vs. natural lycanthrope in the Pathfinder rules. This is dumb to me. Lycanthropy is a magical curse disease thing. Just because you're mom had AIDS/HIV or Hepatitis whatever, doesn't mean you'll be better at having it when you're born with it. I realize I'm bringing modern medicine into a discussion about a supernatural curse/disease. I can't help it. Sorry. My point is, regardless of whether or not you are born with lycanthropy, it still takes time to master the various difficulties associated with it. I'd remove this distinction from the template in my version, along with the handful of different abilities that are determined by whether or not you are a natural or afflicted lycanthrope.

Transforming into a wolf. That bugs me for some reason. Werewolves aren't wolves. I mean, I know folklore sometimes depicts them just as men who transform into wolves. I just prefer the hybrid form, so I'd yank out the animal form and just leave the hybrid and humanoid forms. I'd also remove the lycanthropic empathy ability, which lets lycanthropes use Diplomacy to change the attitude of an animal related to their animal form. I don't like this ability because typically in film and literature, werewolves scare the shit out of natural animals.

Damage reduction. Ugh. This pisses me off. In Pathfinder, werewolves gain DR 10/silver in hybrid form. This means a werewolf ignores the first 10 points of non-silver damage it takes from an attack. This is supposed to represent the difficulty in harming werewolves with non-silver items. However, it's stupid. Regeneration exists in Pathfinder, and usually in film and literature werewolves are seen as regenerating quickly from damage, rather than just not being hurt at all. To be fair, damage reduction is kind of vaguely explained in the rules. Sometimes it represents immunity to a certain level of damage, or that wounds heal immediately, and sometimes it represents the ability to ignore injury. Regeneration always means regenerating from injury. Seems more appropriate to me. I'd probably do something like regeneration 2 or 3 for werewolves. Trolls come in at regeneration 5 and that's kind of their thing, so I don't want to come into their territory. Obviously, the regeneration of werewolves would be stopped by fire or silver, acid might be appropriate too. You could also make a case for fast healing rather than regeneration. Fast healing seems to be just highly accelerated healing, without being able to regrow limbs and such, and it only functions while you are alive. Regeneration functions regardless of your hit point total, meaning you cannot die unless someone shuts it off with whatever your vulnerability is. Not sure which way I'd ultimately go. Point is, I'd remove the damage reduction and replace it with fast healing or regeneration because werewolves don't appear to be harder to harm to me, they just heal super quick. 

Claws. Werewolves in Pathfinder only gain an additional bite attack in hybrid form, despite the picture of the hybrid form in the book showing the werewolf with long ass claws on his hands and no melee weapon in evidence. The lack of claw attacks is kind of a biological thing. Look at cats and dogs. Cats can get really sharp claws, because they retract. This is why I never had the heart to declaw my cats (despite my plethora of new scars), because you're basically amputating the cat's "fingers" at the outermost knuckle. Dogs are always walking around on their paws with the claws out so their claws tend to be ground up and rounded from being walked on. Yeah, they can still abrade skin, but its not like a knife blade. Look, I could play the faux-sciency guy here and come up with something like hybrid forms are typically bipedal so the claws on the hands of a werewolf would not be ground down like a quadruped canine's or something. That's dumb. Here's why I want them to have claw attacks, if I see a werewolf in film, I don't want to see him barking and nipping at his enemy with his muzzle while his hands hang useless at his sides. I want to see him biting at their throat and slashing away with big ass talons the length of a short sword. I'd give werewolves a claw attack in addition to their bite attack, but still allow them the manual dexterity to use a weapon if they so choose. I'd make the damage output appropriate for the size of the werewolf. I think medium creatures do like 1d4 for claw attacks. Which is underwhelming, as we all identify that as dagger damage. But from a logical standpoint, 1d4 plus a decent strength bonus is more than enough to eviscerate back woods faux-medieval commoner folk. Fine, 1d4 is nothing to a Barbarian, but that's why Barbarians are adventurers and Commoners are townsfolk.

Changing shape via Constitution check. In Pathfinder, you can make Constitution checks to change form between humanoid and hybrid forms. It's easier to transform to hybrid form during a full moon, but harder to go back to humanoid form. What bothers me is that this is a Constitution check. The most common nature of the curse of lycanthropy is depicted as an affliction that fills the person with bloodlust and completely subverts their normal mentality to that of a savage beast. You don't control this by flexing your muscles or taking vitamins. You control it by disciplining yourself and mastering the beast within with a will of iron. To me, it makes more sense to make changing form at will tied to a Wisdom check, rather than Constitution. I can see the transformation process requiring a Constitution check or Fortitude save to remain conscious due to the assumed excruciating pain of having your body broken down and reconstituted as a canine/primate hybrid though.

Ultimately, the werewolf gains a +2 to Strength, Constitution, and Wisdom and a -2 to Charisma due to their lycanthropy. I take no issue with the Wisdom bump (to indicate heightened senses I assume) and the Charisma penalty (to indicate general surliness and quickness to anger due to being full of animalistic urges and such I assume). So you have Bob Averagetown, a Commoner of no particular skill or talent (i.e. all 10s for his ability scores), and he becomes a werewolf. A mundane wolf (and likely the town blacksmith) is still stronger and tougher than he is (ignoring the regeneration/fast healing). Wolves in the Bestiary are written as having a higher Constitution and Dexterity than their Strength. This doesn't exactly mesh with the popular culture vision of werewolves as monstrously tough and strong creatures though. What I would do is bump the Strength to +4 and add in a +2 to Dexterity, as werewolves are often depicted as being unnaturally quick. Which makes sense, as wolves are much quicker than humans. Plus, you know, I like the image of werewolves being monstrously strong and quick and whatnot. In Pathfinder the werewolf's hybrid and humanoid forms gain the Wisdom and Charisma adjustment and the hybrid form gains the physical score adjustment. In my version I'd probably give a +2 to Strength, Dexterity, and Wisdom and a -2 to Charisma while in humanoid form and add in the other +2 to Strength and the Constitution bonus to hybrid form. I could easily talk myself into giving something crazy like +6 to Strength and Constitution and a +4 to Dexterity though. Because I like werewolves.

That's kind of what I would do to the lycanthrope template itself. But there are other things I would change as well. I'm a big fan of dark heroes and anti-heroes. Werewolves can definitely fall into this category. It's definitely heroic and dramatic for a PC to overcome something like the curse of lycanthropy. Or to take the curse and through strength of will turn it into a blessing of sorts. I am definitely not a GM that would follow the suggestion of previous editions and retire the PC once lycanthropy is contracted. I'm much more interested to see how the PC/player copes with the difficulties presented by a curse like this. Lots of possibilities for RP and complications to things. 

Alright, so wolves aren't really bloodthirsty howling unholy predators lurking in the dark as far as I know. Lycanthropy is a curse though, and possibly based upon the fact that humans from the past few centuries were terrified of everything that they didn't understand so they needed demonize it and kill it with fire. Lycanthropy is meant to be a bad thing forced upon you, rather than a means of becoming more powerful. My vision of it is that it is a curse of sorts, but one that can be mastered and become a boon instead of a trial. Part of why I like Mr. Correia's vision of werewolves is because it puts some interesting spins on the homicidal/bloodthirsty nature of werewolves that I really like.

So, a lycanthrope isn't cursed with the mentality of a wolf. He's cursed with the form of a man-wolf and the bloodthirsty and savage nature of a, I dunno, rabid or crazy wolf I guess. Wolves don't normally storm around killing everything in sight, and a lot of werewolves don't in modern film and literature. Anyway. In my vision, the curse is always there lurking beneath the skin. The wolf sits inside you, waiting to tear its way out and latch its fangs onto a throat. I'd obviously keep the whole forced transformation during the full moon thing. But I'd also add an element of uncontrollable rage and bloodlust to it modeled off of a Barbarian archetype.

So, when you become a werewolf you have little control over the animal inside you. You have all these new savage impulses. They're part of you. The curse is already within you. It's not a matter of letting the beast take control. This is you now. The way your brain and body work have been rewritten. So it's not the wolf crashing against the bars of a cage in your skull, it's you thrashing around in your own head wanting to tear out throats and such. However, you know this isn't how you used to be, so you've got enough self awareness and such to remember that you are a people and not an it and you probably shouldn't go gnawing on throats all the time if you don't want your friends to gun you down and skin you. So what I would do is add Will or Wisdom saves to control the bestial urges. Any time you're injured or pissed off or angry, Will save to keep yourself from letting the beast out and just going bugnuts crazy on the nearest living creature. Progressively, as you accustom yourself to these changes and learn to manage them, the Will saves would decrease in difficulty. They would also be affected by the phases of the moon. The closer you are to a full moon, the higher the DC. You'd still always change during the full moon, but it would become easier to not be a bloodthirsty monster during those mandatory changes, or any accidental changes that occurred.

I dunno. It's all kind of half-formed in my brain, and I'll likely leave it there. As far as I know, no one wants to be a werewolf in my current game. I mean, of course Jason does, but Karrak is already immortal, so he's used up his allotted supernatural transformation nonsense for the campaign. 

Monday, August 26, 2013


I have a post, I just didn't quite get it as squared away as I wanted to post it today. Been reading a lot, specifically stuff by Larry Correia. He's a great author I just discovered through Jason and Eric, and his work has kinda grabbed my focus. I may post about him in the near future. The post that should have been here today will appear Wednesday.

Friday, August 23, 2013


Invisibility is pretty neat, and very handy for adventurers and such to be using. Obviously, things would have gone a lot differently for Bilbo without such a handy little magical ability attached (for some bizarre reason) to Sauron's jewelry. Seriously. It was Sauron's ring, not one of the ones he gave to others. This was his personal icon of power, and it grants invisibility and not raging beams of fiery doom and army battering waves of force? You can't just wiggle your finger and summon the nazgul? I mean, I'm sure there are depths to it that Frodo and Bilbo could never have accessed as untrained bumbling hobbits, but still. 

Anyway, so invisibility. Handy, but not a guarantee of safety or stealth. Definitely very cool when we're talking about greater invisibility though, as now you can attack and remain invisible. However, with either version of the spell, you can still be heard, and canny adventurers can easily do things to figure out your location, even if you've had the foresight to center a silence spell on yourself or the area being infiltrated. There's glitterdust of course, along with fairly low tech solutions like scattering something on the ground. 

One thing that occurred to me recently was detect magic. I don't know if I'm slow or what, but the other day it hit me like a ton of bricks. Detect magic. Invisibility is magic, detect magic detects magic. Boom! Mind blown. 

So most Wizards have cantrips, and detect magic is one of them. Cantrips can be used as many times a day as a Wizard likes, as long as it was one memorized at some point after a rest. I think there are rules that allow you to memorize different spells over the course of the day too. Not sure on that though. Anyway, so yeah, detect magic doesn't rely on visual senses and that sort of thing, it just detects magical emanations. So it's kind of handy against stuff like illusions or invisibility where you can't really trust the eyes of your character. 

It's a little slower that just throwing down piles of salt or buckets of mud or other stuff to show you where your invisible foe is, but it's better than nothing if you don't have any other options at the moment. By slower I mean that you have to concentrate for three rounds before you can sense the location of magic auras in the area, and you also have to concentrate on maintaining the detection (which I did not know during the adventure in the Tomb of Horrors, so whoopsie there), which is a standard action. So it takes some warm up time and it prevents your caster from casting offensive spells or stuff like purge invisibility, but in a situation where you don't have a better method on hand, it might be handier than just flailing around wildly at a moving and invisible target. Regardless, it's not perfect, as only the person using detect magic can sense the location, but that at least allows someone to call out where precisely to attack. 

Now the rules for invisibility state that anyone can sense an invisible creature within 30 ft. with a DC 20 Perception check, but that just tells you someone is somewhere within 30 feet of you. It's a DC 40 Perception check to pinpoint their location, and even if you do, they still have total concealment, which confers a 50% miss chance on all attacks against them. With someone using detect magic and calling out locations while others are attacking I would probably resolve it something like the aid another action, a +2 to attack rolls and the skill checks to pinpoint the location. Detect magic only locates the aura, it doesn't tell the user how the invisible creature is moving or anything like that, and saying "He's over there!" is different than being able to see precisely where he is and what he's doing with his feet. I think I'd reduce the total concealment to concealment, which still confers a 20% miss chance on attacks. 

Honestly, detect magic isn't super useful and awesomesauce in this context. But, it's better than flailing wildly and attempting to get a DC 40 Perception check while wishing you'd brought that bag of marbles with you to work today. Eran, one of the premiere percepters of the Orcunraytrel group, would need to roll a 25 to pinpoint the location of an invisible creature. 

Perhaps of more use would be the ability to defeat illusions using detect magic. I don't bother with illusions much, it seems like there's too much opportunity to get everyone butthurt about what constitutes interacting with it and disbelief. The one I have used in the campaign was a black stone wall in a place full of black stone walls. Seems reasonable that it would be there, so no real issue with the issue of disbelief and saving throws, and it wasn't exactly hostile. But you know, tombs and ruins full of fell magic could have illusions in them. It would be prudent to wander into a room and concentrate for three rounds to see if you find any illusion auras before poking around in corners. 

I dunno, I don't feel like this way of using detect magic is particularly innovative. I just never considered it until recently. But, I don't have too much practical experience with spells and the tactics of using them extensively.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Why Is The Sun So Dark Here?

Surprisingly, the sun is actually very bright...It's a concern for the brand going forward. 

Defiling. Muls. Gladiators. The Silt Sea. Tyr. The extinction of gnomes.

Dark Sun. Athas. 


My first foray into Dungeons and Dragons was via Dragonlance and the planet Krynn. I loved dragons, and while I did not have any special affection for lances, I had no qualms about their presence. So you know, the appeal was more or less baked right into the title. I was young. Junior high-ish old, and my friend Aaron had good things to say about the books, and eventually DnD. This was a good world, a place I adored to spend my time. As I aged, and read the entire literary collection of fiction centered around it, I moved onto other things. Forgotten Realms novels happened, because Drizzt Do'iambadassalwayswinandfoughtanarmyoforcsalonewithabustedankleUrden was awesome.

I would never return to Dragonlance fiction, nor would I want to ever run a campaign there. I feel like Dragonlance is DnD for kids. I mean, bad things happen and stuff and there are dark times for the heroes, and there is betrayal and ruin and whatnot. Sturm dies. But that world holds no appeal for me. It's too black and white. The good guys are good guys and the bad guys are bad guys because good and evil. Takhisis is bad because she is Takhisis and is evil. I have returned to some Forgotten Realms books, and they're ok. The new 4th Edition fiction kind of makes me stroke out, secondary to a rageurysm. I'd never run a Forgotten Realms campaign, it's too magical, and it's not my place. It's Ed Greenwood's. 

After Forgotten Realms, I got into Dark Sun and Planescape. Planescape will always be my true love of the pre-made settings. There isn't much literature outside of the sourcebooks, and I've read most of it, despite its less than stellar quality. I would never run a campaign there, as I'm the only one I know, other than Tony, that has a nerdboner for the setting. My love of Dark Sun is only a half a step behind that which I bear for Planescape.

I love everything about the 2nd Edition version of this setting. A planet that is just a massive wasteland with little spots of green on it. A planet killed by magic. From the smallest bug, to the Dragon of Tyr, everything is psionic and can melt your brain. The artwork of Brom. The brutal looking primitive armor and weaponry. Elves that can run really really really far. Muls that you cannot put down. Sorcerer-kings that blend magic (defiling, specifically) and psionics to become monstrous creatures of unimaginable power. Cannibal halflings. The thri-kreen. The whole concept of defiling and preserving is just neat to me. The history of the dragons and Rajaat is just really cool to me. 

This place is awesome and terrifying. There are fucking psionic shrubs that enslave people who eat their berries and use them to fetch and carry water to keep the shrub hydrated. The morality of this world is so grey and vague that it has been bleached to a sepia tone by the sun. Who the fuck cares about good and evil? The sorcerer kings run shit and everybody is too fucking thirsty and sweaty to make the world a better place, aside from adventurers and some preservers. 

I love this world because it is grim, but not grimdark. I love it because starting at 3rd level and everyone being psionic isn't unbalanced, it lets you survive. I love it because elves aren't mysterious forest ancients, they're tribal nomads that lie and cheat and steal. I love it because half the familiar DnD races and monsters have been hunted to extinction and have been replaced by a host of crazy, psionic new races and breeds of monster. The familiar has been turned upside down, and the new stuff can't be taken at face value. We've encountered a mountain lion in the mountains? Let's kill it. Oh shit fuck! It's psionic and is dominating our minds and causing us to run and then tracking us by reading our minds. 

The reason I bring this up is because Lance is going to run a 4e Dark Sun campaign. I'm pretty excited, despite my issues with 4e. The background material is unchanged from 2nd Edition, for the most part. I mean, obviously, I'll refuse to address the fact that someone may be playing a Tiefling or Eladrin, and I'll think of them as a human or elf, but I can get over the majority of the changes made. 

I've rolled up a Thri-Kreen Ranger that uses traditional weapon for the race, and I'm pretty excited. I like bugs and stuff, so I've always liked the mantis men, and I really look forward to finally playing one. I'm just really super excited to play Dark Sun. I don't even care which edition. This is one of my favorite settings and one of my favorite races and I'm just giddy with delight. Plus, Shawn will be playing with us, and it has been years since we've goofed around rolling dice together. Plus, I get to be a fucking player! I'm just really excited and can't wait to start rolling dice beneath the savage, unrelenting sun, of Athas. 

Lance, you fuck this up, I'm gonna make you pay. #justkidding...?

Friday, August 16, 2013

Binders Full of Mods

You know, I never paid any attention to what that whole binders full of women thing was during the presidential campaign. I heard it mentioned, but never actually learned what it was about. I just assumed it was crazy, Mormon, misogynistic, and involved Kolob.

There are so many fucking mods in Minecraft on our server. One problem I have is overlap between them. Each big mod has a system for ore processing, most mods have different systems for ore processing, automating mining, and farming, and a few have different systems of enchantment, or for managing livestock, etc etc etc. 

I tend to like the aesthetics of the Buildcraft based mods like Buildcraft, Forestry, and Thermal Expansion and would likely go with those without complaint. I dunno, I just really like the tube transport system and the moving engines. But, you can't competently ignore the Industrial Craft stuff, which doesn't use the same power as the Buildcraft mods, because it has fantastic stuff like electric rechargeable tools and highly advanced gear like jet packs and armor that uses energy instead of durability. However, all the Industrial Craft blocks are ugly gray metal squares. The engines and blocks of BC based mods tend to have more colorful textures and effects. Which are neat.

There is a mod that creates power converters to convert stuff from one energy source to another, but I haven't enabled it on our server because it feels like cheating to me.

Personally, I prefer power generation based on green resources, rather than burning coal or charcoal or solar power. I use fermenters and stills and tree farms to produce biomass, biofuel, and ethanol to power my shit. I also use a little bit of lava for my quarry engines. If I wanted to be creepy, I could use the MineFactory Reloaded mod and harvest meat products from livestock and create meat. Which is a liquid. Which can be pumped into some Buildcraft engines as a power source. Or I could compress it into meat blocks and cook them for food. 


I haven't touched Thaumcraft at all this time around, simply because I haven't felt like investing the time. I have started experimenting with the ME (matter energy) storage system. Basically you build some special blocks and storage media and store all your shit as data and create a bunch of interfaces to craft and store items. It's super neat. One of the big issues with Minecraft is all the crap you end up collecting and having to store or find a convenient way to get rid of. So you end up with rooms and rooms full of chests. The ME system is super expensive and uses primarily gold and diamonds, which are hard to find in large amounts, but I have several thousand items stored in one block that took up an entire 9x9x3 room in my base full of barrels. Barrels are an item from another mod that can store up to 4,096 of a single item. Not even half of my barrels were full, but most were at half full. I have lots of crap. Having a storage device that not only stores a shit ton of stuff, but condenses the space, is really glorious.

I haven't really figured out what I want to do now that we've rebooted the server. I've experimented with a few of the new mods, which has been interesting and fun. There's one called Dartcraft that seems to be inspired by the Zelda games. The ore it installs looks much like the triforce, and the armor you can create with it strongly resembles Link's outfit from the games. 

I've basically just been getting my base situated and automating resource collecting, but I don't know what I want to do with all the shit I have. Once again, I find myself groping for a sort of creative project to engage. I still have some work to do on power generation and getting that completely squared away. I think I just came up with a decent solution though. We'll see. 

I've kind of been toying once again with building something iconic from DnD. But once again, I come to the realization that most people aren't really aware of what all the iconic legendary dungeons are or what they look like. Still, it might be kinda cool to say that "Yeah, that's Castle Ravenloft." over there. I dunno. I'll figure something out, or I'll get bored. I might end up slipping into creative mode, which I can do as an admin, and create dungeons all over the place for people to stumble upon and sneak through. That might be cool. 

Monday, August 12, 2013

Environmental Waste

So this campaign seems like it's channeling fuckity magic more than low magic. The way I am envisioning it is that magic is not weak or rare (though rarity is a net result), so much as it is way too powerful for mortals to handle. The way I've pictured it is that beyond a certain point, spells dump magical energy that mortals cannot control safely into the environment. This is kind of a modified defiler and preserver mechanic like Dark Sun and is also based on the Thaumcraft Minecraft mod on our server now that I think of it.

In Dark Sun there are two types of arcane casters, defilers and preservers. In Dark Sun, the use of magic can destroy the environment. It's why Athas is primarily a dried out, sandy, husk of a planet. In the fiction, careless use of magic literally sterilizes natural plant life and earthy vitality, sand turns to dust and plants wither and rot. Defilers cast spells without restraint and preservers restrain magical energy and leave the environment untouched. The mechanical difference between the two kits is that defilers use something like Thief experience charts and preservers use Wizard experience charts. If you remember 2nd Edition AD&D, Thieves require the least amount of experience to level, and Wizards require the most. I think getting to 2nd level for a Wizard was something like 2500 experience points, a Fighter was like 2000, and a Rogue was something like 1250. Defilers actually take 1750 experience points to get to level 2, but still. Clerics and Druids were like 1500 or something, so defilers advance about as quick as a Cleric, rather than Thieves. As far as I can tell, there is no other difference between the two kits, aside from the social stigma of being a defiler. 

Alright, so what I'm envisioning is that arcane casters, and perhaps divine, need preparation to manage all the magical energy they want to do magic with. What I mean by preparation is a ritual spot. Some spot with inscribed runes and other mystical nonsense to channel and control magical energy. Something expensive to set up and definitely not portable, though I think I could come up with some expensive mystical gewgaws to offer a portion of this ability. If a caster casts in one of these sanctums, a place attuned to them specifically (or perhaps specific schools of spells or something),  they can cast spells just fine and everything is buffered and channeled properly. 

Ok, so let's say they're in a situation where they are out of their sanctum. Perhaps adventuring for fun and profit. What then? I'm thinking something along the lines of this. Spellcasters can safely cast spells of levels equal to their casting ability score's modifier without all the runes and mystical gewgaws. Wizards with Intellgences of 14 (+2 modifier) can safely cast up to level 2 spells without preparation of a sanctum type place. To safely cast a level 9 spell, you'd need an Intelligence of 28. I'm going to make a ruling and say that this must be based on your inherent ability score, otherwise you'd have casters buffing themselves with fox's cunning all the time and ruining my fun.

Hmm. Side thought. Perhaps this could or should be based on Constitution? The theme is the magical energy is wildly powerful and because all flesh is weak, mortals cannot grasp and control this energy easily. This should be explored further.

So up to that point based on their casting ability score modifier, they're fine when unprepared. What happens when they cast spells above that point though? Two things are what I'm imagining. First of all, the uncontrollable magical energy pours out into the environment creating something like an aura in the area. I'll give some of my thoughts on that in a bit. The second effect is that the spell is weaker than normal, because mortals are incapable of managing the might of magic, they can't properly control it to make spells function optimally. I'm thinking something like operating at only 75% power. So like a level 10 Wizard with an Intelligence of 13 casts fireball. He can handle 0 and 1st level spells fine, but 2nd and 3rd are difficult for him on the fly, because he's a genius and not a super genius. So normally, a fireball would deal 10d6 damage and have a range of 800 ft. when cast by a 10th level caster. With this rule, it would deal only 7d6 damage and only have a range of 720 feet. That's a little more limited, but not exactly crippled. I'll get into more changes I'm thinking of for spellcasters at some point.

So the aura thing. So I'm thinking that every area of this continent has something like a running tally of absorbed magical energy. This is excess magical energy that was not properly channeled or whatever by the sanctums I mentioned earlier. It gets pulled out of wherever magic hangs out, but its too powerful to control on the fly and it just leaks out into the environment and hangs around. I'm thinking of some sort of tiered system that tracks how many spell levels leak out into the environment and the aura and its effects intensify based on the spell levels leaked into the environment. I want to base these effects on the type of spell levels leaked into the environment. This system should require hundreds of levels of leaked spells before it starts having noticeable effects, perhaps merely cosmetic ones initially. I also want these auras to be self regulating. So like if an area has thirty spell levels of evocation magic in it and someone leaks three spell levels of illusion magic and three spell levels of conjuration, the evocation magic consumes the six levels of foreign spells and drops down to twenty-four evocation spell levels in the environment.I also want these auras to kind of scale down in the surrounding area. So with the necromancy laden area we're called the Scar, the core of it is like tier five, the area around it is tier four, around that is tier three, and so on. 

I want the aura effects to be based heavily on the theme of the school. Evocation deals a lot with energy and force effects, so maybe storms are particularly wild and strong in an area with a strong aura. Or perhaps sometimes storms occur that rain down hail made of force energy instead of ice. Necromancy auras impede healing and causes illnesses and such and spontaneously generate undead. Transmutation auras lead to stuff like owlbears and dire animals. Divination...uh, fuck if I know. Illusion I could definitely have fun with. Perhaps with abjuration auras, the area becomes tougher. Maybe this is how super materials like adamantine are generated. 

I'd also like powerful auras to impede other magic and I'd like to base that on opposition schools. I think in 2nd Edition there were specific schools of spells you could not cast if you were a specialist Wizard of a certain school. I might be remembering that wrong, but if it is true, I'd probably base it off of that. The primary effect I'm thinking of is that a particularly powerful aura will reduce the effective caster level of spells cast from a certain school. I'm not sure I want strong auras to augment spells from their school though. If it does work like that, I'd like it to be some specialist thing, like the ability of a prestige class or the top tier feat of a feat chain of some sort. The whole reason magic dumps into the environment in the first place is because mortals are weaker than magic, allowing to pull magic out of the environment would kind of contradict that. 

That's kind of the broad strokes of what I'm kind of imagining for the system of magic.

I said I want to reshape spellcasters as well. This kind of applies primarily to just Wizards. I haven't really considered divine casters much, and I'm not sure about the hybrid casters like Magus and Bard. Sorcerers I don't want to touch yet, because if we're going the route of magic being too powerful for mortals, wouldn't that make Sorcerers kind of impossible? They've got magical lineage that fills them with magic.

What I'm imagining basically amounts to school specialization taken to the next step. Instead of one school and picking one or two opposed schools that are harder to memorize and use items from, choose one school, and that's the only school you have full access to, aside from the universal school. I'm seeing something kind of pyramid-like where you have access to up to 9th level spells of your specialty school, and then access of up to 6th level from two other schools that are kind of connected/similar. Like if your specialty is conjuration, you can use spells and stuff of that school normally, and can use spells of up to 6th level from necromancy and evocation or something. Maybe with the allowance of memorizing spells of higher level, but using up two slots to do so. Everything else is off limits. Period. No penalties to checks, no extra slot uses. You just can't do it, you're good at conjuration, but enchantment/charm is completely outside your knowledge and experience. It kind of reflects that fact that magic is wildly powerful and takes an excessive amount of work and attention to master. Perhaps some sort of jack of all trades class or prestige class or archetype could be added in as well that grants access to all schools of magic, but your access caps at level four spells or something. I'm not sure how to duplicate this with hybrid casters. Their spell lists are generally fairly limited to begin with and I don't know if there is enough meat on them to strip away entire schools. I'll have to investigate it further. I'd also like to restrict certain spells like wish. Wish represents far more power than that represented by a 9th level spell. I'd like to either remove it from all spell lists, or significantly magnify the cost of it beyond a 25,000 gp gem. 

Anyway, those are some thoughts on this magic system. Hopefully they have merit, or at least spark discussion that leads to ideas that do. 

Friday, August 9, 2013

Horrific Disgruntlement

On Sunday Lance, Jason, Cary, myself, and Lance's girlfriend (a complete noob to DnD) played the 3.5 version of the Tomb of Horrors using Pathfinder characters. Jason was the GM. It was an interesting experience. I rolled a Cleric and a Paladin and focused on durability and healing. Initially, it was my Cleric and Paladin, Lance's Druid, and his girlfriend's Fighter. That's right, we waded into the Tomb without a Rogue. That's how badass we are.

We TPKed in the fourth room. Pit traps, man, pit traps.

Luckily, Jason let us reboot and continue on and several hours later we were joined by Cary and his Summoner and Rogue and things got a little more careful. Lance did manage to fail a Will save and get his ass mind controlled, which we sidestepped by my Cleric using hold person on him (just remember, Lance, I may have pulled the lever that TPKed us, but my useless spell saved your Druid from getting his ass kicked by your girlfriend). I had memorized it thinking that it might be handy against a certain four armed gargoyle with a poor Will save, however, hold person only works on people and Lance's Druid is a people, but a gargoyle is not a people. So yeah. Whoops.

Anyway. It was pretty fun. There was a fair amount of analysis paralysis and indecision on my part. Knowing the lethality of the Tomb, but not recalling all the details, it's hard to make choices. Granted, this adventure had absolutely no consequences for us. We weren't using characters we had a history with and Jason was willing to let us reboot as much as necessary and continue on. It's just hard to make choices when you know everything should pretty much have a big glowing danger sign over it. One neat thought I had just before we started was the idea that instead of making throwaway characters, we should have remade our favorite/best characters from previous campaigns or something. Kind of pitting our best against Gygax's most feared/renowned adventure module. 

I like The Tomb of Horrors and I respect it as a dungeon and as kind of a mythic figure of our hobby. Its legendary lethality is definitely appropriate for its contents. However, there is one "trap" in it that I call bullshit on. That trap is the Complex of Secret Doors. So, the gist is that there are seven connected rooms. Each room has a secret door in it that leads to the next room. The seventh room is actually easy, there are buttons to be pressed. In each room is also a magical crossbow trap that fires a bolt at a random party member in the room each round for 1d6 damage, unless they make a saving throw vs. magic (I forgot what those look like in 2nd Edition AD&D, but it is interesting that a Wizard has an easier time dodging a crossbow bolt than a Rogue). Jason actually toned down the hostility of the trap when we went through. The original Tomb states that nothing can do anything to prevent the crossbow from firing or from hitting the character, aside from their saving throw vs. magic. We were able to shut one down with swords for a minute while it reconstituted itself. 

So while the party is wandering around each of these seven rooms, these crossbows are firing. Now, 1d6 isn't much. It's a drop in a bucket for characters of 9th - 14th level. However, you're going to be in these rooms a long long time. See the problem with these secret doors is that they have to be opened by hand, and you have to describe how you are attempting to open them. 

When we went through, Jason was kind enough to describe the various types of actions that may or may not open the doors, I believe WotC also suggested doing this. I may have been talking over him while he did so and that may have led to some confusion. Whoops. WotC also put a little note about the trap in the adventure saying something to the effect that modern RPGs have no manner of mechanics to represent how to proceed through and resolve this trap. 

Guess what WotC, neither does 1st Edition. Gygax is just batshit crazy. This isn't some bullshit Old School vs. New School issue. It's stupid trap design. It's not designed to challenge the players or kill them. It's designed to be aggressively vague and obtuse and infuriate them while they die by d6s. 

See, there's no description of these doors. So they're just concealed doors. I assumed wood or stone construction with knobs or iron rings to open them along with cunningly concealed hinges. Something identifiably door-like with means of opening or shifting aside and such. So the ways the doors open are as follows: 

A: Pull down (on what!?).
B: Pivots centrally (perhaps on some manner of rod that could be handily discovered via searching by someone using their chance of finding traps or Perception? No? Ok, Gygax. Why wouldn't just pulling on the door or pushing on it cause it to "pivot centrally' in the first place?). 
C: Pull inward and up at bottom.
D: Slides up
E: Double panels pull inward (what panels?). 
F: Slide left (perhaps through a channel in the stone that could be found via Perception or perhaps via"Old School" running your fingers over the where the door meets the wall? No? Ok, Gygax.). 

This "trap" is idiotic. It's not a trap, it's a cheap head game designed to delay. Granted, the easiest thing to do is to look up the hit points for Ye Old Generic Not At All Described Secret Door and blow the fucker off its possibly non-Euclidean hinges and walk on through. The crossbows are untouchable, but there's nothing that says the doors are. Maybe Lance should have used wild shape to turn into a weremanbearpig to tear the fuckers out of the wall. 

What happens when you, a normal human, encounter a door that doesn't open? You start fiddling with the knob and pushing and pulling and turning the knob clockwise and counterclockwise trying to figure out the problem. It's basic problem solving and common sense. If something doesn't open as you expect, you jiggle the fucking handle and figure it out. Within moments, using your appendages and basic problem solving, you figure out that the bolt sits a little too long in the frame so you have to crank hard on the knob to get it to retract fully, or you have to kick a corner because it is warped in the frame or something. This isn't rolling a secret doors or trap finding check. This is basic I have fingers and musculature and brain matter stuff. This trap amounts to a stuck or improperly installed door that still functions and is capable of allowing people to enter and exit through it once they fiddle with it and figure out the trick. 

What this "trap" fucking implies is that all adventurers, regardless of class, race, or level of min/maxing, must now describe precisely how they attempt to open all doors. It takes a normal assumption of jiggling handles and putting a shoulder to a door and turns it into a brand new subsystem of DnD. I'm paraphrasing this from something similar I read in one of the GURPS rulebooks but opening unlocked doors is effectively a DC 5 Strength check that it is assumed you take 10 or 20 on because making a check like that to open every unlocked door you encounter is stupid. This Complex of Secret Door is not a trap, its a stupid and irritating complication. It's not Old School, it's not Fourthcore, or hardcore, or something like that. It's shitty trap design. It's the equivalent of me asking Lance/Eran to make a Survival check to track a wolf and then asking him how he moves his fucking eyes while he looks at the ground because he'll only see the tracks he's looking for if he looks for them at a 45 degree angle with the sun behind him. Or asking Eric/Karl to describe precisely how he rolls the bat shit between his fingers when casting fireball and then causing it to misfire because he didn't press it for 3.2 seconds between thumb and forefinger like he was supposed to. 

I enjoyed what we played of the adventure, but that trap really pissed me off. What pissed me off more was WotC's little disclaimer. Really? There's no method of jiggling handles or pushing or pulling on doors in post-1st Edition Dungeons and Dragons? You guys pull that out along with all the hobbits and ents when you got sued by Tolkien/his estate? (Yes, I know, that happened long before 1st Edition came out.) Fuck off. It's bad trap design and you're just pandering to "Old School" gamers with your little disclaimer about non-Old School adventurers not knowing how to open doors. You know how you resolve the "lack of a mechanic to represent this trap" using modern game conventions and mechanics? Do you? No? Bide a moment.

A: DC 20 Spot check reveals that this door is on tracks and pulls down to reveal a passage to the next room.
B: A DC 20 Spot check reveals that there is a rod in the center of this door, causing it to pivot centrally and open.
C: A DC 20 Spot check reveals that this door is actually a sort of hatch that when pulled towards you and lifted reveals the next room. 
D: A DC 20 Spot check reveals that this door actually slides up into a hidden recess above the frame.
E: A DC 20 Spot check reveals that there are two cunningly concealed panels on this door that open up and lead to the next room.
F: A DC 20 Spot check reveals that this door actually slide left into a hidden recess in the wall. 

Boom! You're bad at your job WotC, and you should feel bad about that. Maybe if the adventure was 160 pages long and you could charge 35 bucks for it you'd have done your fucking job when converting a legendary adventure written by one of the fathers of the game. What do I know? I'm just a dude ranting on a blog that doesn't have to deal with moneygrubbing corporate fucks paying my bills. To be fair, I ran the trap as written when we played through the Tomb of Horrors the first time. Hindsight and whatnot.

Anyway. I really really enjoyed the adventure and had a lot of fun playing as a player. I was pretty much terrified the entire time, which was interesting, as normally during gaming I have no vested interest whatsoever in the survival of the majority my NPCs or the PCs. My Paladin was woefully underpowered when compared to the slaying power of Lance's girlfriend's Fighter, and my Cleric didn't even get to heal that much. If I could do over, I'd roll a Wizard and a Rogue and just equip the Rogue with lots of Use Magic Device ranks and wands to cover the healing. 

All in all, it was an 8 hours well spent and I definitely would not mind returning to the Tomb again to die horribly at the hands (figuratively speaking) of Acerak. 

Friday, August 2, 2013

Setting Thoughts

This is kind of a stream of consciousness type thing for a discussion Jason and I are having. 

Alright, so some setting ideas. Hmm. I'm reading The Black Company right now so I'm in the mood for dark and grim kind of low-ish magic fantasy with minimal fantasy races and stuff involving career soldiers just bloated with black humor and unflappable natures. 

Standard faux medieval sounds good to me as well. Hekinoe's industrialization has me well sated on guns and explosives and whatnot, so I've no strong feelings about tech level. Although, something that might be nice is exploring extinct advanced civilizations. Howard toys with that a little in Conan with Lemuria and Atlantis, but it's more like advanced alloys of metal like orichalum and that sort of thing than lasers and power armor.

In terms of low magic, I'm thinking maybe limiting spells to fifth level, but not making it take twenty levels to get to those spells. Spread out the spell levels, certainly, but also gain more access to larger amounts of lower end spells to compensate. The other thought is to augment full casters by hybridizing them. Give them Rogue or Bard style abilities, i.e. make them sneaky crafty fucks and half charlatans instead of world rearranging demigods wishing their way to superiority. Maybe something like a combination. The Wizard maxes out at 4 spells of each level memorized per day, I think. So take that and spread that out so at 20th level he reaches 4 5th level spells memorized per day, and kind of spread things out that way. Then augment it with kind of charlatan abilities.

An additional thought is to perhaps include the normal full casters, but make their normal abilities and spell levels into prestige classes of some kind that require some sort of outside influence or power source so there is some manner of price to be paid for flinging 10d6 fireballs and raining down meteor swarm. Or perhaps a strong degree of specialization with requirements of entry based on spells known or some such. Something to indicate that these caster are at the pinnacle of power, but their power has cost them something. I dunno. I like crazy awful powerful sorcerers doing crazy awful things in my worlds, but the rub is trying to mesh that with a lowerish magic world. For whatever reason, sanity and corruption aren't appealing to me at this time. Outside of all of this, I would like magic to be poorly understood and mysterious to the common man, and I would like spellcasters and magic loot to be rare. I want a kind of situation where a +1 magic longsword is kind of a big deal instead of the expectation to have by level 2. 

Hmm, the more I write about magic and such, the more I'm finding that the d20 book Iron Heroes might be a good resource for inspiration. Let's face it, "You are not your magic weapon and armor. You are not your spell buffs. You are not how much gold you have, or how many times you've been raised from the dead. When a Big Bad Demon snaps your sword in two, you do not cry because that was your holy avenger. You leap onto its back, climb up to its head, and punch it in the eye, then get a new damn sword off of the next humanoid you headbutt to death." is a badass quote/them for a setting or style of play.

Back to magic and crap. Oh! Interesting thought. So psionics. If psionics were to be included, perhaps add corruption of some sort to that. Psionics is all internal energy manipulated by willpower, perhaps the cost of redirecting your mental/physical energies is corruption of some kind of the physical form. Everything starts running or working out of whack with everything else. Hmm. Actually, I'm not even sure something like psionics appeals to me at this time. Hmm.

Setting concepts, hmm. What would be the driving kind of focus behind the setting? Low magic and race selection and geography are really just window dressing. The iconic themes and driving force are what I'm after here. With Hekinoe, it's the industrialization, grey morality, and wonky magic. What should be the iconic themes/concepts/whatevers of this setting? Aliens that periodically visit and harvest slave labor? Crashed aliens that are highly advanced and wage war from their saucer? Kind of a low tech XCOM campaign? Giant asteroids crashing into the planet periodically and releasing monstrous entities outside time and space? Kind of a low-fantasy Call of Cthulhu or something.  Dinosaurs evolved to rule the planet and mammals are their bitches? Sharks evolved legs and now wage war on land folk using a complex series of tubes for hydration/oxygenation? Some kind of weird godly campaign where every thousand years, the pantheon of gods dies out and mortals contest at a place of power and the winners become the new pantheon or some such? Something dark and post apocalyptic where instead of rad scarred wasteland, the world is a necromancy scarred wasteland ruled by ancient undead and the living hide like rats or live as cattle? That one doesn't precisely go along with low magic, but that can be worked out I think. Something kind of expansionist with a recently discovered frontier now being explored by powerful and well established nations? Kind of something involving exploration and looting of ancient tombs from unknown races/civilizations full of cunning traps and fell sorceries. That is definitely appealing and hearkens back to my original intent for Orcunraytrel.

That stuff is all basically just stream of consciousness setting ideas. Not sure any of it has taken root, but I'm hoping it leads to discussion or mental exploration that leads to something that really buries its fucking hooks in me.