Search This Blog

Monday, September 25, 2017

In Absentia

Sorry about the lack of content lately.

I got a puppy.

Destiny 2 is really good.

I'll have some good stuff for you all this week. For realsies.

Cardslinger rules for Bards and Warlocks on the Patreon.

Article about good monster creation.

Puppy dog pictures.

All good things, all good things.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

A Perfectly Good Chart

A new party is set and locked. A renegade warlock has broken free from a prison ship with the help of their devilish patron. A drow monk travels the world in search of purpose and elemental enlightenment. A dragonborn soldier flees the army of their powerful empire. A wizard seeks knowledge and control over the primal fire of the world. A young aarakocra is seeing where luck takes them. A kitsune former gladiator walks the world for glamor and stories worth writing. A halfling druid seeks to preserve the knowledge and forms of long forgotten dinosaurs.

They solve crimes.

No, they don’t. They cause them. But that’s always how the description of a D&D party should end, like some 80’s TV plot that pitches together a sentient starfish, a one-armed gorilla with father issues, a comptroller who just can’t catch a break, and Hulk Hogan on a 19th century riverboat cruise up the Mississippi solving problems and always staying one step ahead of the old Pinkertons.

That sounds really cool and I want that movie/tv show to exist. Get on this Hollywood.

Today’s article is about a topic I have already covered in depth but wish to update because I’m still doing it and it’s still working well: Random Charts.

I love random charts. I love them so much I made 50 pages worth! I might have a problem and that problem is too few charts. Here’s the thing, I am an inherently creative person and I know that if you’re reading this and playing Dungeons and Dragons on a regular basis then you are also a creative person. The problem is, sometimes creativity requires a boost or a jump start or a kick in the pants to get the right gears turning. I usually need a starting point before my brain can fill in the blanks and give me something to work with.

That’s where random charts come in and that’s how I use them. I updated the Patreon today with my current NPC creation resources. Those charts contain the following information.

  • A chart to generate an NPC’s Race
  • A chart to generate an NPC’s Traits
  • A chart to generate an NPC’s Faction
  • A chart to generate an NPC’s Tasks

I wish I could film what’s going to follow for you all but I’m going to draw some cards, use my charts, and generate some interestin and unique NPC’s that I hope you will take some joy from. I also hope this will incentivize you to realize how amazing my charts are and seek them out of yourselves.

Let’s do this!

  1. 9 of Clubs, 3 of Hearts, 3 of Clubs, King of Diamonds. A Goliath, who is Slothful, that belongs to a faction of druids that delivers the mail, and who is taking care of a young child but that child’s race (Ace of Spades: Gnomes) is oppressed in the area and needs to be taken care of.
    1. Garcaz Stonefold Zracker is a slow and somber fellow. He is content and pleased with a humble and simple existence in the great trade city of Severath. He runs the local bureau for the Postal Service. Druids swing by when they can, pick up the letters bound for any nearby islands, and leave him with his pay. But this world is hateful and harmful to one race in particular: gnomes. When a young gnomish girl shows up on Garcaz’ doorstep one day he knows that he’s in over his head and needs help.
  2. 6 of Clubs, 6 of Spades, 3 of Diamonds, 4 of Hearts. An Aasimar, desensitized to horror, working for a company of good hearted mercenaries that take care of the weak, needs to deliver the merc company’s latest scouting reports but their messenger is missing.
    1. Vasatha Inthiara was born blessed by the gods but from a young age suffered from an infernal curse. Her brother, who found no blessing from the gods, was jealous of his sister’s brilliance and sought to achieve brilliance of his own through untoward means. He made a pact with a devil that Vasatha had to break with a journey into the depths of hell. When she returned with her brother’s soul she was a changed woman, still brilliant but pale. She found herself traveling and eventually in the company of the Argent Knights, a mercenary company of dragonborn that ply the world waves in search of worthy causes. Vasatha employs an aarakocra messenger to send reports back to their employers but her friend, Skent, hasn’t returned in some time. She needs help picking up her friend’s scent, otherwise she needs someone else to deliver these papers.
  3. 4 of Diamonds, Ace of Diamonds, 6 of Diamonds, Jack of Spades. A bold half-elf, belonging to a faction of fey and fairie dragons that visit town festivals to have fun, is butting heads with a fey in the group and wants them killed.
    1. Jakwynd Brigh was snatched by the fey court at a young age, rasied to adore tricks and traps and japes and jokes, Jakwynd become a regular feature at town festivals where he serves as a bridge between the mortal worlds and the fey. He laughs and games and dances with the mortal beings but also helps the mysterious fey communicate their needs and intentions to the humble townsfolk they meet. But Jakwynd was raised alongside another kidnapped child, a halfling named Canstan. Canstan is a being of magic and wit and always outshines Jakwynd when among the mortal races. Jakwynd is sick of it. He’s ready to play a final joke on Canstan that will get rid of his short problem once and for all. But he needs accomplices …
  4. 10 of Spades, 8 of Spades, 9 of Diamonds, 8 of Diamonds. A determined Warforged, belonging to a secret dueling society, owes money to a criminal but they can’t stop gambling.
    1. Flourish was a factory mistake. A soldierly warforged golem with the mind of a thief, a swashbuckler, a rogue put in instead of a simple automaton. Flourish was never made for battlefields or formations. Flourish drapes himself in a cape of red silk and a carnival mask to cover his metal face. When he learned that his outlook aligned perfectly with the Masked Musketeers, a group of duelists out to save the countryside, he knew he had found his home. But Flourish was a factory mistake. He doesn’t have risk assessment. He can’t calculate statistics and probability correctly. Most warforged would have been worried about this but it makes Flourish very calm. He doesn’t worry because he can’t calculate worry. However, this makes him a terrible gambler. He never knows when to fold. He never knows when to walk away. When Urum-shad, a dragon crime lord, gets Flourish under his talon in debt, he knows he has a valuable duelist he can toss into his fighting pits at his pleasure.

There you go! Four unique NPC’s made on the spot using my card system! Hope you enjoyed everybody!!!

Remember to pledge a little bit of support if you like the blog! Thank you everybody!

Friday, September 8, 2017

Games of Skill and Chance IV: "Much must be RISKed in war"

Possibly the most compelling overarching mechanism in modern board games is the modular or shifting board, in which the physical game board contains a different arrangement every single game.  This makes for a wonderfully unique game every time.  This is in great contrast to classic board games like Monopoly, Life, or RISK, where the game board is fixed and identical every single time.  While this can make for some excellent statistics and game theory, it often gets boring really fast.  As we discussed last time, RISK is a particularly egregious example, and not only is the map of the world fixed, it happens to be super boring for the way the game is played.

What can you do?  Stop playing?  Screw you and everybody who stops playing games like you!  The advantage RISK has over other classic games is that it is played on a literal map.  You may not have checked recently, but it turns out there are two or three other maps out there.  You can actually now find many RISK games (including computer games) that use smaller real-world maps, such as Europe and North America.  These are actually pretty fun, for exactly the reason that classic RISK gets boring.  They don't quite do enough, though--and they don't take advantage of the even better source of awesome maps our culture has given us: fantasy novels.

"Much must be RISKed in war"

You know where this is headed.  In fact, I'm not even going to say its name.  I'm just going to show you the map.  If you don't recognize it, I'll wait while you go watch and read.  Actually, I might watch with you, that's a worthwhile wait.

This map is beautiful and iconic (if probably not geographically reasonable).  The marketing wizards behind it turned it into this fantastic RISK variant:

Holy Zombie Savior who is 33% of the Almighty is that gorgeous!  Even if they hadn't changed another damn thing, this map would have reignited our passion for RISK for at least a few games.  The other things they added will give you years of new entertainment and family squabbles.  Let's dive right in to the things that make this game great.  If Google would've let me use swords instead of bullets, I would have here.
  • The bland strategy of faceless, choiceless armies really drags regular RISK down.  LOTR: RISK spices this up by giving each player a Leader who joins one army and gives you +1 to your top roll on either attack or defense.  This benefit is a remarkable tilt to strategy and makes you really pay attention to where you want to expand--and where it looks like your opponents are going to expand.
  • You see all those little city things on the map?  Those are Sites of Power, and the players have cards that direct them to bring a Leader to one of them in exchange for a bonus of cards or armies.  They're like little mini-missions that force you to engage with other players rather than hunkering down once you've secured the Shire's borders like so many Striders.
  • You see that some of them are gold and shiny?  Those are Strongholds, which are just like Leaders that can't move.  This is also a wonderful idea.  Nothing is better than only having one Elf left in Helm's Deep and watching as ten thousand Orcs flail wildly against your walls, dying again and again as you roll just high enough for your +1 bonus to allow you to endure to roll again.  If only Saruman had sent one of those thinking Orcs along.  This is so realistic and was desperately missing from RISK, which gave only one bare advantage to defenders.
  • This game has a time limit.  You can still win by conquering everyone, but I don't know if I've ever seen it happen.  Instead, the Fellowship (symbolized by a shiny gold ring) slowly moves across the map until it reaches Mount Doom and the game ends.  There are a few places where you have to roll to see if Frodo makes it past a giant spider or something, and a few cards that let you affect him, but otherwise his march is inexorable, and the point-counting system is straightforward and fair.
  • The production on this game is amazing.  The map speaks for itself, and the card artwork is right out of one of the most aesthetic movies in modern cinema.  Plus, the game includes two complete sets of Elves/riders of Rohan/eagles and Orcs/black riders/Trolls, which are durable plastic and really add something to the activity of lining all your forces up ready to be deployed to the map.  These figures kick the balls out of the little infantry with guns, not to mention whatever the little Roman numeral things you got with really old editions.
  • The map has mountains and rivers that you can't move across, which are a necessary addition given that everything happens on one continent rather than spread over the whole world.  If you think about it, they're a much more realistic barrier than the ocean, which if you already have the ships would kind of let you go wherever you want.  This game still has a few port-to-port attacks, so it doesn't really solve that problem, but it's also not really a problem that needs to be solved--area movement is what it is.
  • The cards in regular RISK are an important, underlooked, and still boring part of the game.  This version still has those cards, but it also has an array of other cards (like the Site of Power missions) that let you do a potentially broad set of cool stuff.  Just like the normal cards, you have to actually do some attacking if you want to get these cards, which really provokes actual action.  Google won't let me do mini-bullets to describe what the cards do so it's number time:
  1. You can get some extra armies or Leader bonuses, either on attack or defense
  2. Remember those mountains that get in the way?  There's a couple cards that let you attack under them, which is absolutely perfect and frustrating.
  3. There's rivers, right?  That means there's bridges.  Remember the famous bridge, the one that Gandalf smites?  Yeah, there's a card for that.  And yes, it's name is "You shall not pass."
  4. Get an extra Leader!  Leaders are the best, and yes you have to name your Leaders no you shouldn't pick Legolas you monster.
  5. Is it possible for random Ents to attack Isengard and kill everyone you thought was safely ensconced in Orthanc?  Does Treebeard poop in the woods?
Yes, this version of RISK still has some of the classic game's problems.  Namely, you can still go on the rampage of doom.  In fact, with a Leader and some good cards, you can rampage even more effectively--and sometimes you have to, because you really want to get Aragorn to Erech so he can summon the badass Army of the Dead.  Of course, other people have cards that can stop you, don't they?  The free move problem is pretty much the same (there's a few cards to help, but those are random and there's no systematic fix).  Honestly, though, that's about it.  The Regions are really well-calibrated, with the same spread as classic RISK but much more balance in terms of how easy different regions are to attack.  The Strongholds really help even things out.  There's also two versions of the game, one with an expanded map.  The extra regions, especially Mordor, can be a little min/max-y and give you back that Australia feel, but it's by no means the gamebreaker that the Outback is.  Yes, now I've given you haunting dreams of goblins with shrimp on the barbie.

Even with a few holdover problems, this game stayed fresh for like five years.  Next time, we'll talk about a round of modifications and additions we made to extend it even farther as we dive into the fun intricacies of game making you all came here for.

Help support Farmane's contributions to the total awesomeness of the universe via his Patreon.  He gets to eat, you get to game!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Cardslingers Part 1

Happy Tuesday! It's strange to do a blog update today but because of my busy vacation weekend I was unable to update the Patreon with its necessary goody for this week.

Thanks to Labor Day and my open weekly schedule I have a one page preview of a 3 page document that just got uploaded to the Patreon: Cardslingers.

Cardslingers is a rule conversion for 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons that takes the d20 rolling out and replaces it with drawing cards from a deck that each player and the Dungeon Master should have with them.

To entice all you would be watchers to go support the Patreon I have the Spellcasting Conversion rules that I'm making available to you for free but I encourage you all to go subscribe in order to get the rules for Combat checks and for Skill checks that have been added to the Patreon.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Real 8: Exploration and Magic

Upon arriving in the first nearby town, coated in a sea of snow and helping a woodcutter with smoke damage in their lungs, our band of extra dimensional vagabonds realizes very quickly that they have no money, no ability to read the local language, and no discernibly marketable skills in a pre-industrial feudal economy.

Will quickly scammed the local general store owner out of food and supplies using a handy pile of fake coins he keeps with him and the promise that they’re just foreign currency. Worth much gold. He immediately feels sorry about this and very regretful for taking advantage of a person but … starving, starswept travelers needs rations. And he just learned he has a marketable skill.

The party also soon realizes that one of the families in town has lost their young daughter. Not dead, she’s just missing. The party leaps to investigate with the help of a couple of local farmers. Very classic D&D style adventuring.

Late in the night, after tracking the kidnappers, the party realizes that the people that took this little girl are in full armor. They look a lot like the investigator that was first examining that burned dead body in the snowy field they appeared in. Maybe we shouldn’t be bothering these armored individuals that seem to be able to set up magical alarm traps …

Dungeons and Dragons and all Tabletop Gaming experiences are made greater when there is a sense of exploration. Of finding mysteries out and of learning the motives behind the interesting people. Of delving into dungeons that have hidden catacombs and unknown monsters.

Magic should, reasonably, be the greatest mystery of all. Manipulating energy and elements to create miracles and pull things out of nonexistence? How’s that work? Why can people do that? What are the limits?

But everyone knows the magic of Dungeons and Dragons. Unless you use the magic in an interesting way or build factions around the magic system and give them motivations and goals then the magic of Dungeons and Dragons is not actually mysterious. Magic has very clear limits. Magic has a set number of spells that exist and everyone knows what they can do. Magic in Tabletop Gaming has become a stagnant, known quantity that is as simple as electricity or chemistry (but way more fun than those dumb, nerd topics).

For Real 8 I didn’t want a magic system that was already known. I wanted systems of magic that could be understood in scientific ways but didn’t have a set spell that deals 6d8 fire damage and explodes in exactly a 20 foot sphere. I still wanted people to be able to throw fireballs because those are rad but I wanted it to be more unique than just a spell with a listed description.

Magic across classes also always bothered me. Clerics, Paladins, Bards, Druids, Rangers, Sorcerers, Wizards, and Warlocks have some slight differences but really are all different flavors of the same ingredients. Like a Taco Bell menu. They all basically have tortillas, cheese, meat, salsa, and lettuce in different proportions or maybe with an extra hard shell tortilla in their or a quesadilla as the tortilla for a burrito.

Magic in D&D means that everyone has a cantrip that deals damage comparable to melee weapon. They have some ribbon spells that are good for roleplay but largely accomplish the same basic tasks. Clerics have to pick which spells they can cast but they get all the possible spells. Wizards only have a finite list to pull from but they can learn from stolen spellbooks. Sorcerers get a few extra points to make spells weird. Warlocks only get a spell after they give their Patron a backrub and tell them they’re a good boy and everyone loves them.

I wanted magic to be something my players had to explore. Having unique magic systems meant that the players would discover the magic alongside my own discovery of the magic. If a rule didn’t make sense then it shouldn’t be written down. If a rule didn’t align with how physics and energy conversion works then where does the energy come from? We gotta figure that out!

Let’s take a look at some of the magic systems I made up:

  • Protean Magic: Shapeshifters! Proteans bond their souls to animals, offering the animal to share their physical space in order to borrow the animal’s form on occasion. Stay too long in the animal’s form, though, and its spirit gains more control than the Protean’s spirit. Then they could be stuck in the animal’s form forever! Felt like Animorphs to me. I liked it.
  • Clerical Magic: Not taking notes for someone and filing paperwork, the magic of the godly gods! Clerics chose 3 of the 8 possible gods and get powers they can use for a certain amount of time each day but if they break the rules of those gods they lose the use of those powers until they atone. The powers were cool like Teleporting places or giving off an Aura of Fear to those who are cruel.
  • Pact Magic: There are 8 demons/devils that exist opposite of the 8 gods and they love to make deals with mortals for a sliver of their power. These powers were supposed to be perverted, corrupted versions of the Clerical Magic. So instead of Teleporting like Nightcrawler by just popping in and out of existence a Pact Mage actually tears a hole open in reality and walks through it, damaging the world and making it easier for demons to flood in. Instead of giving Fear to the evil people of the world you give Fear to the good people.
  • Rune Magic: The world of Real 8 is made of 8 elements (convenient, right?). Those elements are the base magical components of existence and everything contains traces of these 8 elements: Aether, Earth, Body, Water, Spirit, Air, Mind, and Fire. Four Primal and four Esoteric elements. Rune Mages can see the energetic interactions between these elements and manipulate them as they see fit, so long as they don’t violate the laws of physics by creating energy out of nothingness. This magic was supposed to be insanely powerful and terrifying. A Rune Mage could cause a blood vessel in an opponent to burst. Cause their retinas to separate from their eyes. Boil them in their own tissues. Steal control of their mind and make them a puppet. Raise their skeleton and bind it with a demon’s soul or an artificial soul or whatever. Rune Magic was beyond comparably powerful and horrifying and shaped the world because of it.
  • Elemental Magic: Rune Mages can access all 8 elements but some magic users in Real 8 only awaken to the Primal elements: Earth, Water, Air, and Fire. Our group is also a big fan of Avatar: the Last Airbender, so my friend Scott wanted to be a Waterbender and I wanted that kind of magic to find a place in this world of my creation so we did just that. Elemental mages awaken to 1 of the Primal elements and have access to two of the others for supplementary work. However they are always shut off from the opposite element that they awakened to. So Water users can never use Fire. Earth users can never use Air. Vice-Versa.
  • Alchemy: I’m really proud of the alchemy in Real 8. While trolling a Barnes and Noble I stumbled across the Moron’s Guide to Alchemy and bought it kind of as a joke. Turns out, Alchemy is kind of a cool science, particularly in a historical context. Early alchemists were absolutely trying to convert lead into gold and create an elixir for everlasting life but their science became more about changing the elements of the world into different forms. The first practical uses of alchemical science were to create dyes and etches for metals. The 8 elements of Real 8 are tangible things that can be distilled out of every periodic element in existence to create alchemical salts. Those salts can then be recombined into any form, allowing someone to change any object into any other object through scientific distillation and chemistry procedure. It led to some strange potions and ideas about how alchemy would interact with the human body. The most common use was a potion that could be applied to a wound. It couldn’t undo the damage and it couldn’t override the body’s nature procedure for healing but it could rapidly accelerate it, for better or worse. A big gash on the arm would suddenly become a scar in a handful of minutes, rather than bleeding out forever.

There’s your introduction to the magic of Real 8, my pet project and hopeful published work.

Sorry this update didn’t come on Wednesday of last week. I got surprised with a vacation that I really wanted to take and got to disappear from the world for a few days.

Patreon will be updated Tuesday with my conversion rules to allow 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons to be played with a deck of playing cards instead of d20’s. I’ll post a small teaser for blog readers tomorrow as well.

Remember to pledge a little bit of support if you like the blog! Thank you everybody!

Friday, September 1, 2017

Games of Skill and Chance III: RISKy Business

One of the games that defined my childhood was the classic game of global conquest (TM?): RISK.  It was a simpler time, when there just weren't that many awesome innovative board games out there ... and you had to know about those that were.  Today, let's start talking about RISK: the good, the bad, and the fixable.

RISKy Business

Why do I like RISK?  It's just as interminable as Monopoly, but with mini soldier figures and death instead of bankruptcy!  Huh, the games of my childhood really taught you the life lessons of America.  Unlike Monopoly, RISK has actual strategy.  Until you look at the map of the good old planet we keep warming up, and you realize that the most valuable continent is, in direct contrast to actual history, defensive stalwart Australia.  When the game depends on who starts with the most countries in the Outback and can consolidate them, maybe something is wrong.

The part of the strategy that makes RISK fun is having to decide--do you strike out for one more territory now, thinning your forces for the inevitable counterstrike, or hunker down and attempt to weather your foes' assaults?  Not only that, but having to decide, and then leaving your fate in the hands of capricious dice.  The basic RISK rules are actually exceptionally balanced for this: the defender has a slight advantage in straight-up rolls, but the attacker gets to roll more dice.  If you work out the probabilities (I have degrees in math and physics, don't @ me), you lose slightly fewer battalions in attacking than you do in defending.  In the long run.  If you trust the dice are not tilted against you.  Which they always are.  So what do you choose: attack, or defend?  (If you have Australia, defend, defend, defend, you already won and everyone else is on their phones, and this was before Steve even dreamed up smart phones.)

The problems with RISK are many.  Farmane would recommend bullets, which are thematically appropriate!

  • Combat gets boring.  The number of dice you roll is almost wholly prescribed, except for when you have to attack the bottom of South America and you don't want to leave Napoleon's grand army stranded in Chile.  Actually that sounds like an awesome alternate history.  More choices would be nice.
  • Players get eliminated.  This is a big gaming no-no, and Monopoly has the same problem.  Getting wiped out sucks.  Getting wiped out by your brother really sucks.  The strife this causes is unrivaled.  Teach children cooperative games first, RISK is actually a bad idea, stop reading now.  Or at least don't kill off your relatives' armies so indiscriminately.  Actually, this is the goal of the game, why is the goal of the game to be such a dick?
  • It takes foreverrrrrrrrr.  Five players enter, two die quickly, then Australia and North America fight back and forth over the decisive choke point Kamchatka while someone holds desperately to the corners of Africa.  Like real history?  (By the way, how messed up is it that Africa, despite being the second largest continent physically, gives you 2 fewer armies than North America or Europe?  Systematic racism, man.)  Find a way to end the game earlier (missions are okay ... just okay, they're kind of boringly predictable too).
  • How come when you are attacking, your armies can rampage over half the world, but each turn you get one piddly free move to get Napoleon halfway to Bolivia when his army is needed all the way up in Irkutsk it's going to take forever to get him there I quit just send him to some island already at least he's got one Get off an Island free card?  Sorry but the free move restriction is the absolute worst.
  • None of this is very realistic.  Like not even close.  If the strategy and the tactics and the gameplay felt more aligned with real combat, you could have a lot more fun with this game.  Most war games have this problem (see: stacks of doom in Civilization IV).

Why are you complaining so much?  If you don't like it don't play.

This is the Internet I can complain all I want, second-person rhetorical questioning device.  I have spent like fifteen years trying out other versions of RISK, and experimenting with my own modifications to the rules.  Future posts will explore the twisting path that led from the classic, simple, actually-kind-of-lame war game through themed versions that actually lend a lot of complexity and replayability, to the development of a full-fledged alternate, initially set in everyone's favorite Murderverse (no, not the DC movies, the OG series from George R. R. Tolstoy) and finally set in our own alternate fantasy landscape (damn copyright infringement laws).  Hold on to your meticulously arranged army of RISK minis!

Please support Farmane's new sword cool DM stuff fund.  For only pennies a day, you can give hope and pizza to the greatest DM in the lower 4.8 states.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Apocalypse Then, Sand and Rust

The player characters met in an ancient graveyard occupying the salt flats of a forgotten corner of a fire swept world. Each had a secret they swore they would never share, information about the long lost crypt of a dead sky pirate that once traversed the Rust and Sun Wastes in a ship fueled by the very fire that scorched the planet into the desert it was. None of them trusted each other. How could they?

A party of scavengers arrived on the backs of reptilian birds, two legged with sweet faces and bulging eyes. Weapons were drawn. Obsidian, stone, bone, stinger. Nothing made of metal more complex than copper. Armor made from scavenged hide and insect carapace. The fight ended quickly. No one wanders the wastes unable to care for themselves.

But what would this ragtag band find in the depths of that ancient pirate’s crypt? The usual horrors that the world has to offer. Forgotten technology turned to life by magic. Sand Ghosts trapped in an endless labyrinth of darkness, scratching their way along sandy walls. Light Stalkers blinking in and out of perceivable time, hunting those they know carry the gift of magic. An ancient spirit of the long forgotten feywild, perverted and bound to rusted iron junk in a scrapheap of collected memories from a long dead world. Behind all of it, a secret Vault of hidden elemental power that entices the scavengers of the world with promises of splendor.

Sand and Rust is a unique setting created for Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition. My co-writer and I joked one day while watching Mad Max: Fury Road that a D&D setting in an endless desert with punk elves and desert pirates sounded pretty cool. I’m fan of the Dark Sun setting, had been playing a bit too much Fallout: New Vegas at the time, and had just finished reading the Princes of the Apocalypse module from Wizards of the Coast so my brain was primed to generate a world of this exact quality.

We generated a few idea sentences, some explanation paragraphs, and some cool ideas. I’m going to dump them here for all of you to enjoy and hopefully inspire you to like the Sand and Rust setting. This is one of the two unique settings I will be expanding and creating professionally to make widely available to the world so if you enjoy this definitely head toward Patreon to help this dream come true.

Setting: Post-Apocalyptic, Desert Wasteland. There is no water in sight, just seemingly endless dunes, scrubland, and savannah. People have formed small tribal type villages with lively trade routes, since that is the easiest thing to sustain in a harsh environment. Between these villages, run various sand vessels carrying goods and travelers. Good money can be made by quickly traversing the waste, but the risks are many.

An enclosed wasteland of sand and stone dominated by cities on stilts, high plateaus, cities sunk beneath the earth, and wandering nomads navigating the sand seas on striders, skiffs, and flat-bottomed sand skimmers. Caravans haul vegetables, water, spices, and metal between greenhouse monasteries and skyscraper mines. Elemental magic is at its strongest. Water Shamen are prized in their tribes. Windmages pilot the dangerous, primitive sand skiffs. Those with control of the Earth and Sand have plenty of tools to control and Fire is what scorched the land.

Notable aspects of the Sun Wastes:

Greenhouse Monasteries: Adherents to ancient nature gods and goddesses that no longer walk the earth hide away behind high sandstone walls and beneath great domes of glass. Their greenhouses produce the most food and they guard their secrets of production jealously. Templars, crusaders, and knights defend the monks and clerics that work the greenhouses. Villages and trading hubs tend to grow around the Greenhouses. Smaller greenhouses are secreted away in mountain retreats. The leaders of the Greenhouses are called Elders.

Skyscraper mines: Before fire scorched the earth and sand came to cover the land there were buildings tall enough to scrape the sky. Then the earth swallowed and buried them along with the temples, castles, and other great wonders. The tallest of these Skyscrapers sometimes poke out from the sand. Daring individuals run mining operations to dive deep into these towers to locate metal, paper, clothing, and any relics or artifacts they can pull out of the past.

Culture: People have adapted the customs of the once isolated desert cultures to survive in this new world. Resources are scarce, causing many people to take up nomadic lifestyles. Herding has gained popularity, so most things are made of cloth and bone rather than wood and metal.

Villages: Most villages are built up out of the sand on platforms or in cliff sides to ensure that the shifting sands won’t bury them overnight. Others are underground, accessible only by a few poorly mapped access hatches.

Wind Cities: The very largest cities are found atop high plateaus, safe from unrelenting sandstorms and the most dangerous predators that stalk the wastes. Wind Cities make use of windmills to pump water up from deep within the earth to sustain large populations. They grow the cheapest of grains to sustain the largest of populations and they almost always have castes of slaves and gladiators to serve and entertain. Some sell themselves just to have a regular drink of water. No two Wind Cities are the same and no two call the same person ruler. Some titles that might be used: Caesar, Empress, Maharaja, Sultana, Prince, Emir, Archon, Pharoah

Pirates!: One of the many risks that traders encounter is piracy. Poorly protected goods are there for the taking, and the pirate’s life is attractive to many of the disenfranchised. Their vessels tend to be the fastest and the best armed, and the lack of law enforcement in the waste means there is little risk and much potential reward. Other crews ignore the traders and focus on bigger, more dangerous scores. The remnants of civilization live under the sands, if only one is brave enough to go get them. Turning to piracy is a powerful decision in the Sun Wastes. Caravans can opt for speed or security. Rarely both. Secure caravans are slow targets. A good pirate can stalk one for days, perhaps a full week, planning how to deal with siege weapons and hired guards. Fast caravans can’t hire too much security or they’ll cover cross the wastes in time. Enterprising pirates with a fast skiff might be able to take out an unprotected caravan if they’re lucky. Plenty of pirate crews roam the wastes and when they return to their secret caves laden with vegetables and metal they live like kings.

Elemental Cairns: Many magical individuals saw the apocalypse coming. They hoped to escape the effects of unbridled elemental turmoil. The 99 Elemental Cairns were created by 99 enterprising wizards and sorceresses working together to save knowledge. Each experimented to create the perfect Cairn that would preserve their power, knowledge, and lives past the destruction of the world. Some succeeded. Some failed spectacularly. Some preserved the wrong things.

Inspiration: Mad Max, the Bazhir from Song of the Lioness, the sandbending culture in Avatar, also pirates. Fallout. Dark Sun. Apocalyptic Fiction such as Alas Babylon.

Inspiration concepts:

Elf Raiders riding constructs of metal and rust powered by twisted fey spirits (motorcycle raiders)

Goliath Pit Fighters using giant shards of steel as swords, axes with obsidian heads, and maces made from giant bones.

Gunslinger half-orcs serving justice when the law is shown to be corrupt

Tribal cannibals stealing gnome inventors to keep their water pumps working

Dwarven excavators delving deep into the lower levels of a sand submerged skyscraper searching for power crystals, salvageable gold, tempered glass, metal wire, etc.

Genasi shamen braving the deep desert on skiffs made of scrap metal and precious wood, held together and brought to life by the captured, tortured soul of an elemental.

A cleric hurrying to hide an intact book before the attacking hordes of sand ghosts can strike.

Sorcerers in desert robes trying desperately to fend off a fire tornado that threatens their cliffside hovels.

Aarakocra darting in and out of battle in their canyon home to keep a giant from drinking up their oasis.

Fire scorched corpses rising on the side of a desert road to ambush a caravan of elemental rigs.

Makeshift airship pilots hauling miners up to harvest lightning and water from the atmosphere.

Falconers using their trained birds to hunt meaty insects in dusty badlands.

Druids preserving small plants in glass jars tied to their belts and hanging from their necks.

Halfling salvagers selling scrap with junkyard golems serving as their muscle.

Elemental monks with hydroponic monasteries, using their control of the elements to grow plants super-efficiently.

Common Items: Leather, Bone, Sandstone, Glass, Wool, Chitin,

Uncommon: Plants (Most kinds used for dye or medicine), Feathers, Furs

Rare: Metal, Certain Plants, Paper, Gems

Nearly Non-Existent: Certain Metals or Large Quantities of a Metal, Wood, Complete Books

Blade materials: Sharpened Bone, Obsidian Shards,

Arrow materials: Cactus Thorns, Bird Talons, Insect Stingers

Armor materials: Insect Carapace, Spider Silk, Boneplate, Hornmail

Solar Fever: I’ve seen madmen wander the sands with only the skin on their backs. Their shoulders crack from the strain. Their skin blackens and bubbles. Solar Fever at its worst. The tribals sometimes take in these sun pilgrims but most will die and become the Sand Ghosts that haunt the wasteland. The lucky ones will never rise to plague the living again.

Soulburn: We stayed in the ruins too long. Elemental fire permeated the metal, the dust, the rotted wood. Burned gods we breathed the damn stuff in even with our filters on. It hurts so bad to cough but every time I try to breathe I am wracked with them. I’m going to die soon, well before my comrades. Stay away from that cursed place. The ancient cults must have ushered fire into the world there. Burned gods let me die

Remember to pledge a little bit of support if you like the blog! Thank you everybody!