Lets Build: Pantheon #2: Expanding on the Pantheon

Previously I rolled up a new pantheon utilising the World Builder’s Guidebook, which resulted in an interesting mix of deities.

I felt that it would be fun to expand on what had been created, and even utilise them for a future project. So I started to write up a bit more about the deities, and the people who follow them. This is still a work in project, and names are not finalised.

Skokaya, The Glorious Queen, The Radiant Empress of the Heavens and Earth, Creator and Destroyer, She Whose Right Hand gives Life and Left Hand brings Death.

(Chaotic Evil Greater Goddess of Death, War and the Sun.)

Skokaya currently stands as the most powerful of the gods, though it was not always so. She rose to the top through the deaths of millions, for, as with all the gods, her strength is tied to that of her chosen people, the Uskaya, and for now they are ascendant, a brutal and expansionist empire that have crushed all that have stood before them.

Skokaya is a cruel goddess who feeds upon death and war and who preaches that the strong should rule the weak simply because they can. Compassion and understanding are seen as weakness by her. Lives sacrifices in her name give her power, and to those who perform the sacrifice in her name, the blood split fuelling prolonged life.

Yet she masquerades as a bringer of life, a radiant being whose glory shines upon the earth in the guise of the sun, without which none could live.

When the Uskaya began their march to dominance over their neighbours, Skokaya was seen to manifest and to lead her armies to war, taking on a more active role in the world than other deities had in the past. In the capital of the Uskaya Empire, a temple-palace has been built for her, one as large as any city, and she has been known to manifest there, to lead vast sacrificial offerings in her name, for she says that without due reverence to her that her radiance would be withdrawn from the earth and all would perish.

Ever hungry for war and sacrifice and conquest, she looks upon the lands of all other nations with envy and greed, and she preaches that in time all will bow down to her and she alone will rule the heavens and earth.

Qasari Rhun, Queen of the Mountains, The Divine Protector, The Stalwart Shield, She Whose Hands Spill Forth Gold.

(Lawful Good Intermediate Goddess of Prosperity and Guardianship)

In the mountainous regions that border the lands where once the Rhikari dwelt live the Zhurqavi, the dwarves, under the protection of their goddess, Qasari Rhun.

Qasari Rhun values law and order, honour and disciple, and rewards those who adhere to that with wealth and prosperity. She, and her people, have long tended towards the insular, shut away in their mountain holds and lands, defending them as needed and not getting to involved in the affairs of lands not their own. Yet their traders and artisan are well known in the world, and well regarded, travelling far and wide in the pursuit of wealth.

Recent events with the Uskaya, and their wards of conquest have shaken up Qasari Rhun’s views and she and her people have started to take a more active role in the affairs of the world.

Karhi Zel, The Fortunate One, Lord of Magic, The Trickster, Father of the Land.

(Neutral Good Intermediate God of Earth, Magic and Fortune.)

Karhi Zel remains one of the more powerful of the deities, despite recent set backs, though his power is fading, for his people are scattered and conquered, the most recent victim of Skokaya’s rampages. Most others would have fallen far but he clings on, for he has plans and stratagems and more than a few tricks that remain unknown to any but him. Time is not on his side, and unless his plans come to fruition soon it may be that he fades as others have before him.

He has long been a force for good, a caring and compassionate god, the most active of the deities in this regards. He sought to thwart Skoyaya as she rose to dominance, and it may be for that reason his people were so ruthlessly targeted by the Uskaya, subject to death and enslavement.

While a believer in the need for laws, even ones for the gods as well, he has no qualms in breaking them should they prove unjust or conflict with the need for good, and in this his people have long followed.

It is in the lands of his people, the Rhikarians, that his greatest strength resides, in the earth, for the magic he wields and provides comes from the earth. As long as the Rhikari dwell in the lands he provided for them, they are blessed with good fortune, though to interlopers upon it falls a curse that hounds them.

With the Rhikari scattered, though, and Karhi Zel himself in decline, the magic and fortune that the lands provide is fading.

Oriansa, Lady of the Clouds, the Skyborn Goddess.

(Chaotic Neutral Lesser Goddess of Wind.)

Every mercurial, the Skyborn Goddess rules aloft, favouring the form of an ethereal, mist-like dragon when she manifests. Hers are the wind and the clouds, the gentle rains as much as the fearsome storms that can rage in destructive might.

She dwells not in the realm of the gods, but in a city int he clouds that drifts above the world, never settled in one place. There her children dwell also, not just the drakes, but also the Cloudborn, humans that have adapted to living in the city she has provided for them.

From the cloud city, the Cloudborn, riding the drakes, descend on the lands that they pass over, sometimes to plunder, sometimes to trade, or to simply explore, depending on whim, for they are as mercurial as their goddess.

Once Oriansa held greater power than she does now, for she has diminished in strength. In the past ages there were few that could challenge the might of her drakes and most were helpless their marauding ways. As the land dwellers grew in numbers and gained new weapons and powers, though, they were able to stand against the drakes and many were felled until now few remain, and those of a lesser kind compared to their ancestors. For the Skyborn Goddess, patience does not come easily but she has little choice if she is not to fade away like mists in the light of the sun.

Erissan, The Shrouded, Lord of Dreams and Nightmares.

(Chaotic Neutral Demigod of Darkness.)

In the mist shrouded lands of the Alassan elves dwells Erissan, the ancient and immortal lord of Alassa. It is by his will that the lands lay in perpetual gloom and darkness, and by his whims that dreams and nightmares afflict any who trespass into it.

His people, the pale and ghostlike elves, are a sombre people, but as fickle as their ruler, caught within the dreams, a shadow of whom they once more, much as their god was.

Erissan was once a true god, but he had descended into the ranks of the demigods, walking the line between god and mortal, neither fully one nor the other. He has largely closed his people and himself off from the wider world, seeking to preserve the power that remains to him least he join the ranks of those that have fallen and been forgotten.

Hutuata, the Cruel Tide, Reaver of the Seas.

(Chaotic Evil Demigod of Oceans.)

Hutuata is the vicious ruler of the Ahuaga fishmen, a cruel and heartless people who live int eh seas and who launch raids upon the shores of the land dwellers, seeking and prey. Hutuata is not a true god, though his people worship him as the Shark-God. He is semi-divine, on the cusp of true godhood, feeding on the death and destruction his people cause in an effort to elevate him to the status of a true god.

He has no allies among the existing gods and none, not even Skokaya, wish to see him rise to join them, for most abhor his cruel nature and the carnage he inflicts on their followers, even Skokaya’s. In him, Skokaya sees him as one who seeks to rival her in her domains, though for now she sees him as an irritant and not a true threat.

Lets Build a World: Part Fifteen: Rivers, Lakes, Races and Cultures

Having complete the weather and terrain for the region, we move on to rivers, lakes and other waterways.

Except for in the harshest of deserts and barren regions, each hex on the regional map will contain waterways of some form; creeks, streams, rivers, ponds or lakes. They are too small to be represented at the regional level though. Major lakes, inland seas and river systems do show up, and it is these we are looking at. These are things like the Nile, the Amazon, the Dead Sea, the Great Lakes, very large and prominent bodies of water.

Inland seas and lakes are fairly similar, with the exception that while both have inflows, only lakes have outflows. Inland seas tend to form in warm, arid regions where evaporation is in equilibrium with inflow. They also tend to form in low laying regions, depressions and basins and the like which traps the water in them. Lakes can form anywhere, even in mountainous regions, and generally in humid regions where there is plenty of water to feed into them and then spill over into an outflow.

For our map, we lack large arid regions that can result in the creation of inland seas. It is suggested that a region would have 1d6-3 (0-3) inland seas, of 2d8 hexes in size.

In general a region will also have 2d6 major lakes, each one of 2d6-2 hexes in size. We kind of lack much room for large lakes given the limited amount of land we have. It is humid enough that they could though, if we have more space.

I will be doing an example of a more land-based region in the future so that we can use lakes and inland seas on it.

What we can do is add some rivers. The suggestion is for 4d6 major rivers per region. We have less, for the aforementioned reason of lack of land. The ones that we will have will also be fairly short.

Rivers start at higher altitudes, in mountains and highlands and major lakes, and flow downhill following the path of least resistance. So on your map, start with connecting lakes to nearby seas or oceans, and then connect mountains to nearby bodies of water, whether seas or lakes. Rivers don’t cross mountain ranges (unless something very unusual is going on). In especially humid regions, a number of short rivers can parallel each other from the mountains to the sea.

Using these guidelines, I sketch in a few major rivers, mostly on the large island in the southwest, as seen below. And with that the waterways are done.

The final part of the regional map is to work out the Human Geography as the book calls it, by which they mean the people and cultures that call it home. It has several parts that can be rolled for, or chosen; races, cultures and kingdoms/states, as well as their locations on the map.

The first step is to work out what races are present in sufficient numbers to form states. Solitary monsters, non-intelligent creatures and those that don’t organise into political or tribal groups are not considered at this stage.

Firstly we work out how many races to roll for – each region has 0-2 (1d3-1) dominate races, 3-6 (1d4+2) major races and 4-16 (4d4) minor races. A dominate race makes up 25%+ of the sentient population of the region, a major race has 5-20% and the minor races are less than 5%. Some races, such as dragons, may skew these numbers, as they may be few in number but rule over a subject population.

Our rolls come up with 2 dominate, 3 major and 10 minor races. Table 19 in the book has a lot of races to roll from, all taken from 2ed. Some are well known, but others are more obscure, such as Tasloi or Wemics. While all races listed can be minor ones, there is a limited number who can be major, and even more limited as to who can be dominate. Of course, as with anything, you can change all that.

We start rolling up, sticking to as is listed. The rolls for dominant races come up with 28; giants and 15; dwarves. Giants are one of those races who can be of a more limited number but who rule over subjects.

The rolls for major races give us humans, tabaxi and giants again. Duplicates can either be rerolled or can represent a variant group. I go with a reroll and get bullywugs. The rolls for minor races give us kobolds, thri-kreen, orcs, ogre-mages, gnomes, aaracokra, tasloi, grell, beholders and ogres.

Given both giants and beholders can rule over subjects, I roll for each to see who they are. The giants end up with ogre subjects, which means there are two groups of ogres, some free and some subjects, which will make things interesting. The beholders end up with lizardmen slaves.

Each race has listed for them habitat types, where they can live. Some, like humans, can be anywhere, but others are limited. Yetis can only be found in mountains or arctic regions for example. If you roll up a race that has no appropriate terrain for it you are meant to roll again. To my mind, I prefer not to – if you just stuck with races being in their normal habitats we’d never have gotten the glorious setting that is Dark Sun. Thri-kreen are meant to only be found in arid tropical and sub-tropical regions but if I want to stick them in a jungle, where they hunt with blowpipes, springing from tree to tree and building mysterious stone temples deep in the jungles, then I should be allowed to. Actually, that sounds like a good idea that I am going to use with the thri-kreen we rolled up.

In addition to land based races, you can also roll from subterranean and marine races. Normally I don’t but in this case I will, because this region has a lot of water for marine races and also as a example of doing so. The seas have 0-1 dominate, 1-3 major and 1-4 minor races while subterranean sees 0-1 dominate, 1-4 major and 1-6 minor races.

There isn’t a whole lot of room on the map for subterranean races, so I only roll for major and minor races, getting 2 of each. Rolling on the subterranean chart gives up drow and duergar as the major races and grimlocks and troglodytes for the minor races. They may not have any contact with the surface world, or they may have plenty. We shall have to decide on that later.

For the marine races, I decide that there will be a dominate race, and roll up 3 major and 3 minor races. The dominate marine race is locathah, the major races are mermen, aquatic elves and giants and the minor races are tritons, ixitxachitl and tako.

So we know who the races are that live in the region and they are an interesting mix. Certainly not your typical fantasy setting, and the best part is no elves. Well, apart from the drow underground and the wet elves at sea, but no elf cultures on the surface. Maybe. They may creep in later, so we’ll have to watch out for that.

The next step is to work out the number of cultures/sub-races and realms that belong to each race. Dominate races have 1D4+1 seperate cultures or sub-races, major races have 1D3 and minor races have 1D2. Each culture/sub-race has 1-5 realms or kingdoms. Realms for dominate races are around 6d6 hexes in size, major races are 4d6 hexes in size while minor races are 1d8 hexes in size. Given we have less land than is normal and back in the world hook stage we got a very balkanised world with no large nations, we might have to adjust that a bit.

Some races, like elves or dwarves, have plenty of sub-races already, while others have none. In theory sub-races are meant to be culturally uniform, no matter where they are in the world, but this is another rule that I tend to play around with. Why would insular wood elves thousands of kilometres apart retain the same culture?

With all that we can start rolling, starting with the dominant races, working out their cultures, realms and then their positions on the map. How exactly you mark it on the map is up to you. You could only mark in where each culture is, or you could try and mark in all the kingdoms. That could result in a lot of them. As way as example, we start with the two dominant races in this region, the giants (with their ogre subjects) and the dwarves.

The giants roll up three cultures, with three, two and one realms in each culture, while the dwarves have four cultures, with four, two, one and two realms in their cultures. Thats seven cultures and fifteen realms already to place on the map. While the realms within cultures typically are close to each other, different cultures may be spread out.

The major races (the humans, tabaxi and bullywugs) each have 3 cultures, while for the minor races, the orcs, gnomes, tasloi and beholders (with the lizardmen slaves) have 2 cultures, and the kobolds, thri-kreen, ogre-mages, aaracokra, grell and ogres have 1 culture each. Between them all they have around 71 realms as well.

Table 20 lets you roll for where on the map the cultures are to be put if you don’t want to decide yourself. The settlement patterns they can follow could be hydrographical (along various water sources), favoured terrain (such as hills or grasslands), favoured climate (such as temperate or tropical), or simply a quadrant of the map.

We start rolling for the giant and dwarf cultures to see where they are. For the giants we get on a 1d100 5 (coastal/seafaring), 11 (riverine) and 18 (grasslands). For the dwarves we get 28 (marshes/swamps), 44 (sub-tropical), 73 (southeastern) and 19 (forests).

Now to fit them on the map. You may have noticed we have a lot of cultures, 30 to be exact, and even more realms, some 86 in total. The bullywugs ended up with the most, with some 12 realms across their 3 cultures, while the kobolds and aaracokra have just 1 small realm each. We also only have a little more than 200 land hexes to distribute them all across. The dominate races are meant to have realms 6d6 in size, but we are going to reduce them to just 6 hexes each. Likewise the major races will have just 3 for their 4d6 hex size realms and the minor races just 1 hex in size for their 1d8 sized realms. That comes out to around 215 hexes in total, so we can just squeeze it in, hopefully. This means there are going to be a lot of very small city-states scattered across the map, which is just fine for the balkanised nature of the world.

Starting with the giants and dwarves, we start to draw them in. The first giant culture, the coastal one, has three realms, making it around 18 hexes in size. The second, riverine culture, has 2 realms, so it will be around 12 hexes, while the third, grassland culture, has just the 1 realm, so it gets six hexes. We do the same for the dwarves. The end map for the dominate cultures looks like this;

1A is an giant culture of 3 realms, 1B of 2 realms and 1C of 1 realm. 2A is a dwarf culture of 2 realms, 2B of 1 realm, 2C of 4 realms and 2D of 2 realms. The dwarven culture that makes up 2C would appear to be some form of maritime power, with its four realms spread over four islands, and with a bunch of minor islands spread between them, which may be a point of conflict between them. From such placement on the map we can begin to form ideas.

Next time we will finish up the map, and the work on the region, by placing all the major and minor cultures, and possibly the marine cultures on the map. And that may get crowded.

Lets Build a World: Part Fourteen: Weather and Terrain

Now that the physical landscape of our region has been mapped out, we turn to the next stage, giving the region its weather, and through that, its terrain.

To begin with, we need to know the climate of the region. On a normal world, you have tropical regions at the equator moving through to arctic at the poles. Of course, various factors may make that differ. On ours, we have less of an axial tilt resulting in a smaller arctic zone. For worlds starting out at this design step you can roll for what climate bands are present. Given we are taking ours from the world map, we can work it out for this region from the world map. The polyhedral maps that come with the book have the climate bands marked on, and from that we can judge where they would be on our map. They end up looking like this;

It is quite a range of climates we have, from the cold subarctic in the north to the warm subtropical in the south, though it is mostly temperate.

Altitude also plays an effect on climate. Higher elevations are cooler than lower ones around it. A mountain range and its foothills, the highlands, drop one climate band, so that in a temperate zone they would be subarctic. The peaks themselves would be two climate bands lower, so in this case they would be classified as arctic.

The following map shows those regions on the map, with the highlands (one band cooler) in orange and the peaks (two bands colder) in grey.

Combining the climate bands, the altitude and the prevailing winds (which we have already mapped out) we can now work out the types of terrain that are present. For each block of terrain, usually between natural boundaries like mountains and seas, we roll to see what the predominate terrain is, based on the climate band and whether the prevailing winds are humid or arid. Arid winds are one that form over large land masses, which we don’t have, so the prevailing winds here will be humid.

The predominate terrain for each area isn’t the only type that will be present, it is just the most prevalent. For example, arid sub-tropical regions could have barrens, deserts, scrub/brush or grasslands. One will be predominant, such as scrub/brush, but the other types will be present in patches throughout it.

Starting on the large island, we roll for the mountain peaks, which are either humid/subarctic or humid/arctic, depending how you read the rules in the guidebook. As these are medium mountains in a temperate zone, at one point it says that they are treated as humid/subarctic while in a temperate zone, despite it only being one climate band down. We will go with that, which gives us options for marsh/swamp, light forest, medium forest, moors or glaciers. Of the options given, swamp/marsh is not allowed in medium mountains, but the rest are (though there might be some small patches of swamps in valleys.) On a 1D8, we roll a 5, which gives us Light Forest. The mountains are dominated by needleleaf evergreens, like in taiga forests. There might also be medium forest, moors and glaciers around as well.

The foothills to the east of it are humid/subarctic as well. On a 1D8, we roll a 6, which gives us medium forest, denser broadleaf evergreens. The interior of the island is turning out to be one larger forest, one that thins out the higher you climb.

We continue on doing the same for the rest of the map, resulting in plenty of forests, but also regions of marshes and moors and even some tundra, glaciers and steppes. The final map looks like this;

Next time we move onto the rivers and lakes of the region – and the inhabitants.

Lets Build: Pantheon #2 with the World Builder’s Guidebook (AD&D 2E)

Time for another one off world building exercise with the World Builder’s Guidebook, rolling up and designing another pantheon.

For this one I am skipping the first step – the type of pantheon it is. It may link into the previous one that I designed or it may not. I haven’t figured that out yet.

Starting with the size, we roll Small, and the number of deities in it comes out as 1 Greater, 3 Intermediate, 3 Lesser and 2 Demi-powers. 9 all told. A decent number to be working with.

The organisation itself rolls up as Racial. This means that each race (or culture) has one deity who embodies the virtues of that people. So the God of Oceans and Trade will be worshiped by a people who are sailors and traders while the God of Dwarves, if of the traditional variety, would have the portfolios of mining, crafting and war. A good literary example of that is The Belgariad. This sounds an interesting option. We can roll up a bunch of different portfolios for the various deities and work out what kind of people their worshipers are from that.

Our roll for the involvement of the pantheon comes out as Moderate. Basically an average level of involvement. Sometimes they are involved in their own affairs and sometimes they are looking after their followers. Their most important followers get guidance and help and while avatars aren’t common, they won’t hesitate to manifest in times of danger or opportunity. So they are around, as needed, but not all the time.

Now lets see who makes up the pantheon.

Greater Deity; We roll up 3 portfolios for them and get War, Death and Sun. An interesting mix. It has some Aztec vibes about it. It is made even more interesting when rolling up their alignment and gender. They come out as a chaotic-evil goddess. Chaotic-evil believes in might makes right, with strongmen ruling by fear. If the most powerful deity in the setting believes this, and she has the domains of war, death and sun, the neighbours of their culture had best be watching out.

Intermediate Deity #1: They have two portfolios which roll up as Agriculture and Fire, and they are a chaotic-good female deity. Agriculture and fire make it sounds like a civilised community, of growing crops and cooking food, and being chaotic would indicate a less centralised society. Shades of The Shire by the sounds of it.

Intermediate Deity #2: They have two portfolios, Prosperity and Guardianship, and they are a lawful-good female deity. Much more centralised than the previous deity, they value guarding what they have and building a well ordered, peaceful and prosperous society.

Intermediate Deity #3: They have three portfolios, Fortune, Earth and Magic, and they are a neutral-good male deity. Thinking about this, I can see a way to work them all together – the earth, or more specifically, the land, gives the people who follow this deity both magic and good fortune. Outside of that geographical region the effects of it are not as strong.

Lesser Deity #1: They have the domains of Moon and Wisdom, and they are a lawful-good female deity. In effect they stand in opposition to the Greater Deity, but they are much weaker, both the goddess and her people. In addition, they value knowledge and understanding over war, but unlike the greater deity and her followers, they have friends.

Lesser Deity #2: They have the domains of War and Fortune, and are a neutral-good male deity. His people are warriors and are seemingly blessed with good luck in battle. Things just seem to go right for them, or wrong for the enemy, which helps offset their smaller size.

Lesser Deity #3: They have the domain of Wind, and are a chaotic-neutral female deity. The winds are fickle, blowing a soothing breeze one minute and destructive storms the next. So too are her followers, possibly creatures of the air who never stay in one place long, and who are regarded with some suspicion wherever they go.

Demipower #1: They have the domain of Darkness, and are a chaotic-neutral male power. The shrouded lands of the dark are a place of dreams and of nightmares, wherein dwells the one who brought it into being. Not a true god, nor a mortal either, he walks the divide between..

Demipower #2: They have the domain of Oceans, and are a chaotic-evil male power. From the oceans come reavers and raiders, who strike the shores seeking plunder and bringing death and destruction. Like the power of Darkness, they are not a true god, but seek to elevate themselves through the death their followers reap.

So there we have an interesting collection of deities, and one that I can work with. In fact I plan on expanding on it in further posts, of the powers and the cultures and races that follow them. So keep an eye out for that coming soon.

Lets Build a World: Part Thirteen: Details and Landforms

After selecting the region of the world map we want to explore and making a rough sketch of it, we come to starting to add the details to it.

The first thing to do is sharpen up the edges of the islands, to make it look more like coastlines. There are no rules for this, so just make it look however you want. In addition I throw in a bunch of smaller islands scattered across the map, forming lesser chains between the larger ones. One larger island is added as well, right in the middle of the map. I have plans for that.

Looking at the map, I also decide that I want to break up the larger island in the southwest a little as well. It is a large landmass and so I break off two smaller islands from it while still retaining the original shape overall. This is, after all, a world of islands and archipelagos and a land mass of that size stands out.

With shape given to the landmasses, and islands added, we begin to add in landforms – mountains, hills and the like. We already know where the mountains go so we add those in on the map, following the outline we previously sketched. How exactly to shape them is left up to the world builder.

If we were starting fresh with no world map to draw from, we would roll for the mountains. Each region would have 1d4+1 mountain systems, rolling 1d4 for which quadrant of the map they were in. The systems themselves are 4d8 hexes long, rolling a 1d12 for the direction they run in. Each system can be flanked by 1d4-1 lesser systems, shorter in length than the main system. But we don’t need to do that.

With the mountain chains put in, I also add the volcanoes that we had marked down early as well. I add one extra one, in the new island in the middle of the map.

Next step is to add foothills. On either side of the mountains we have added, foothills 1d3-1 hexes wide exist. On some sides the mountains can rise sheer up, while others others can extent out into rugged hills. There isn’t a lot of room on the islands for these, but we add them in as best we can.

In addition to foothills maps can contain rolling hills, much less rugged and more inhabitable. Each region would have around 3d4 of these, though given we are a mostly water map there isn’t much room for that. On a mostly land map we could add that many in. Instead we find a couple of islands where we can ad in a couple of patches of hills.

Maps can also have special features, like depressions, gorges and escarpments, usually about 1d6 in number. Again, given our lack of land, that isn’t something we can really add in on our map.

As can be seen, a lot of fun can be had rolling up landforms and experimenting with where to place them and what they look like. At some point I will do it as an example given they can’t really fit on a mostly water map.

The end result of placing all of the landforms and detailing the islands produces a map that looks like this;

The map is made with Wonderdraft.

Next time we will be working on the climate, weather and terrain of the region.

Lets Create: Fading Suns Alien Character – Vasaati the Ghost

Previously we have covered the first three archetypes of Fading Suns characters – Noble, Priest and Merchant. Now we come to the last of them – Those Who Differ. The Aliens.

There are a number of alien species in the Fading Suns universe, but only three of them are an option in the core rulebook, those of the Obun, Ukar and the Vorox.

The Ur-Obun and the Ur-Ukar are technically the one species who followed and worshiped the mysterious Anunnaki long ago. There was some kind of schism or war between the Anunnaki and the loosing side took the Ukar from their homeworld and planted them on a harsher desert world millennia ago. Technically they are elves in space.

The Obun are a peaceful, philosophical race with a natural talent towards psychics. While most alien species are not well treated by humans, the Obun are generally respected as advisors and councillors, and one is a trusted advisor to the Emperor. They even have their own sect of the Church. So, yeah, your typical elf.

The Ukar are different. They are a warrior race, raised on a harsh world, only to fall foul of the humans and lose the following conflict with them. Embittered, divided and with long running feuds between clans, they are generally seen as violent, murderous thugs, assassins and criminals. It isn’t always without reason either, and those skills are valued. Think dark elves – and they even live underground as well.

The last of the alien races are the Vorox. Think of a cross between a lion and a bear with six limbs with poisonous claws, and just as big, all with the ability to think. Considered big dumb brutes with unwavering loyalty and trained as elite shock troops by many. They remove their poisonous claws to show their civilised nature, all except for the nobles who are allowed to keep one as a mark of their rank. Very much murder machines.

I’m not a fan of your typical elves, who have been overused and worse, which rules out the Obun. And while Vorox are fun (and borderline broken) we don’t need another combat specialist. So that leaves the Ukar, a race of embittered and touchy criminals and assassins, and that sounds fun.

Our character is going to be one of those sort; Vasaati the Ghost is a killer and criminal who fell in with Lady Isabel. Surprisingly she found a human that actual somewhat understood her people and could speak her language, and a person that had use for her skills.

All Ukar have the same Upbringing, which modifies their characteristics slightly from those of humans. They have a base of 4 for dexterity and tech and a maximum of 9 for both strength and endurance. Their upbringing gives them Strength +1, Dexterity +1, Perception +2, Passion or Calm +1, Psi 1 and Urge 1, Fight +1, Sneak +1, Knavery 1, Speak Ukarish, Speak Urthish and Survival 1. They have the blessing of Sensitive Touch (+2 Perception to discern touched objects) and the curses of Bitter (-2 Calm when dealing with humans) and Ostracism (Mild.) For Vasaati we go with Calm as I see her more as a cool and calculating type.

Next we come to her Apprenticeship. Ukari can join a guild her, going down the Merchant route if they wish. Otherwise they can choose between Chieftain or Warrior/Outlaw. I don’t see Vasaati as being the type who leads so for her it is Warrior/Outlaw. That gives her Strength +1, Dexterity +2, Endurance +1, Passion or Calm +1, Dodge +1, Fight or Melee +2, Impress +1, Shoot +1, Knavery 2, Lore (Poisons) 1, Stoic Mind 1 and Survival 1. For her we choose Calm again and also Fight – Vasaati prefers using her hands to knives.

Early Career has the same two choices so we continue down the Warrior/Outlaw line. That gives her Strength +2, Dexterity +1, Endurance +2, Perception +1, Extrovert or Introvert +1, Passion or Calm +2, Faith or Ego +1, Dodge +1, Fight or Melee +2, Impress +1, Shoot +1, Knavery 1, Lore (Poisons) 1, Stoic Mind 1, Survival 1 and Benefice: Family Ties (3pts). They also choose between Jox Kai Von Kick Boxing (Martial Fist, Martial Kick, Martial Hold) or Kraxi Knife Fencing (Parry, Thrust, Slash). Vasaati goes with Introvert, Calm and Ego – continuing on with the cold and calculating route, but with a strong sense of self. Once more they choose Fight and take the martial arts options – Vasaati is deadly without weapons.

For her two extra stages, Vaasati goes with the Cohort Tour of Duty followed by Another Tour of Duty. That gives her 4 points to put into characteristics and 21 to put into skills. For her characteristics, she puts 2 points into Wits, 1 into Perception and 1 into Ego. For the skills she goes Sneak +4, Observation +3, Knavery +2, Search +4, Streetwise +3, Inquiry +3 and Lore (Poisons) +2.

For her two Worldly Benefits, the first is Promotions and Rewards (1000 firebirds rank increased by 1 level) and the second is Friends (choose 4pts from Ally, Contact, Gossip Network, Retinue, Passage Contact or Refuge). Vaasati puts 2pts into Refuge (the equivalent of a small farm), 1 point into Contact (a weapon and poison supplier) and 1 point into Ally (a Decados knight). One thing to note is that the core rulebook does not show the ranks that aliens can gain

She spends her starting money on a dirk (4 firebirds), a heavy revolver (250 firebirds) with 30 rounds (30 firebirds), studded leather armour with plastic studs (15 firebirds), a squawker (50 firebirds), 3 doses of plox blade venom (75 firebirds) and 3 doses of grixi poision (150 firebirds). That gives her 426 leftover firebirds. The plox blade venom can paralyse those struck by it, while grixi causes excessive bleeding in its victims that is hard to staunch.

Vaasati’s final character looks like this;

Attributes: Strength 7, Dexteiry 8, Endurance 6, Wits 5, Perception 7, Tech 4, Passion 1/Calm 7, Introvert 4/Extrovert 1, Faith 1/Ego 5, Psi 1, Urge 1, Wyrd 7, Vitality 11.

Natural Skills: Impress 5, Melee 3, Charm3, Observe 6, Shoot 5, Dodge 5, Sneak 8, Vigor 3, Fight 8.

Learned Skills: Knavery 6, Survival 3, Lore (Poisons) 4, Stoic Mind 2, Search 4, Streetwise 4, Inquiry 3, Speak Ukarish, Speak Urthish.

Blessing: Sensitive (+2 Perception to discern touched items).

Curse: Bitter (-2 Calm when dealing with Humans), Ostracism (Mild).

Benefice: Cohort Charter, Rank (3pts), Family Ties.

Equipment: Dirk, Heavy Revolver with 30 rounds, Plastic Studded Leather Armour, Squawker, 3 x Plox Blade Venom, 3 x Grixi.

Lets Build a World: Part Twelve: Continents and Geography

We’ve finished with Chapter Two of the World Builder’s Guidebook, covering Worlds and Planetology. Now we are moving on to Chapter Three: Continents and Geography. This is probably the stage of world building that most are familiar with as a lot of fantasy is set at this level, with a continent or continent-sized region. Middle-Earth. The Hyborian Kingdoms. The Wheel of Time. A Song of Fire and Ice. Earthsea. The Belgariad. Faerun. The list goes on. It is a large area of multiple kingdoms and nations and plenty of scope to travel.

This is also a very good starting point for worldbuilding with the guidebook and possibly the most common too. The book covers how to do that, by rolling the hydrography of the world, ranging from a region of archipelagos all the way to a region with little to no water, draw up a rough map of the region, followed by rolling for the landforms of the regions, its mountains and hills, its plains and gorges and more and placing them on it.

We aren’t doing that though. We have a world map to work from and so we are going to select a region from that. For that you select one of the twenty regions on the world map, or an equivalent area, and roughly sketch them on a new map. As the book points out this is a vast area. If working from an Earth-sized world, one of the twenty regions is equivalent to about to twice the size as the continental USA.

As I mentioned previously, I had an idea of where I wanted to work with, as indicated on the map below.

Why that region in particular? I thought it looked an interesting spot, with the volcanic activity and the layout of it. As can be seen, it isn’t centred on any one region but is about the size of one region.

The next step was to roughly map it out on a new map, and adding to it the wind and current movement, the presence of the plates and the mountains, to produce the following map.

Each of those hexes is about 100 miles across, so that larger island is about the size of France. As can be seen, in the southeast corner, we have low mountains running along the islands there with extinct volcanoes, while to the north and west we have medium mountains, with active volcanoes present. A deep ocean trench lies to the northwest and we have wind and current patterns.

All right, so what is next? Well, now we start adding details. We will take the rough map and give it proper coastlines, followed by expanding on the mountains and hills and then moving on to the climate and terrain.

Lets Build a World: Part Eleven: Climate

Last time we worked on starting to map the world, which included working out tectonics. This time we look at the last part of the entire planet build, and that is its climate.

In a typical Earth like world, there are five climate bands; arctic, sub-arctic, temperate, sub-tropical and tropical. That isn’t necessarily the case in all worlds, and each band can have variance based on a number of factors, such as altitude, weather patterns or even more extreme things like the presence of a deity. Adding a second sun could also change things up substantially as well.

Our first step to determine the climate is to work out the mean planetary temperature. Is it similar to Earth, or is it hotter or colder? The hotter it is, the further north people have to live as the equatorial regions become to hot to live in, at least for humans and others like them, whereas the colder it is, the further south people need to live as it may resemble an ice age.

On a 1d100, we roll a 43, which results in a normal temperature, similar to Earth. Not super hot or super cold. Which means we can find people all across the globe.

The next step is seasonal variance. Seasonal variance is produced on Earth by its axial tilt. The more a world tilts, the more extreme seasonal variance is. Of course, axial tilt doesn’t have to apply to fantasy world. There could be other explanation for seasonal variance, ranging from the sun waxing and waning in strength or an eternal war between the gods. A Song of Ice and Fire is an example of a world with extreme seasonal variance.

Rather the roll on the seasonal variation, I instead choose, going with mild. This results in a world with less variation than on Earth, resulting in the arctic circles being pushed back further north, and the ice sheets being smaller. Seasons are present but reduced in strength, with the tropics and sub-tropics seeing no seasonal variation, while temperate and sub-arctic bands have warmer winters and cooler summers.

This could explain why, at least from a scientific view, the world has more oceans. The warmer temperatures in the the artic regions caused the ice sheets to melt and raise the sea levels.

Now we know what the temperatures are like, we have to work out the prevailing winds and ocean currents which drive the weather. For both, north of the equator, they move in a clockwise direction, while south of it they move counter-clockwise.

For currents, take a look at the major bodies of water and draw a circle in the appropriate direction depending on what hemisphere they are in. They will follow along the edges of land masses, which in the case of my map will be the undersea mountains and island chains. In the map below, the currents are marked in blue.

For prevailing winds, they are generated by oceans and large land masses, the latter of which we are lacking. Unlike ocean currents, they aren’t impeded by shorelines, but mountain ranges, especially large ones, will hamper them. For my world, the wind currents are shown in orange.

And that is it for the planetology stage of the world building. Next time we will choose one of the regions on the map and drill down into it, starting the Continents and Geography chapter of the book. And looking at the map, I have a fair idea where I am going to choose.

Lets Build a World: Part Ten: World Mapping and Tectonics

After a long break we are back to the world building process with The World Builder’s Guidebook (AD&D 2ed). We have come to the slowest part of the process – maps.

The book came with a pad of blank maps to use, as this was in the days before mapping software was really an option. The expectation was that it would all be done by hand. For the world map, they provided a polyhedral map, as seen below. The world was split into 20 sections, as we previously rolled for, and you assigned the various sections based on the continents you had rolled up.

While it does make for a more realistic global map, not all worlds are necessary global, and if you are using other means to map, such as mapping software, they may not always have the option to be polyhedral.

So for this I am going with a more standard looking map. We place the two continents we rolled in squares 4 and 7 and then assign the rest of the options were we want. The end result looks like this.

That is, of course, the easy bit. Now we have to sketch out the shape of the world based on what we have. Half land/half water is what is says, while major islands have around 25% land and 75% water. Minor islands have a scattering of land, maybe 5%, while water is pretty much just water, with maybe a small island here or there. On a piece of paper I map out a rough design of the world, as show here.

With an idea of how the world works, we come to the next stage, the seismology and tectonics of the world. This, of course, is based on the concept that your world is similar to Earth. You may not need to worry about this step if you are going for something wild and unusual, but for this example we are going to keep following the book.

A Earth-sized world has 4d4 plates, each of 1d6 regions. Our roll is 11 plates, so we start to roll to see how many regions each has. We start rolling with 6, 2, 2 and 5. That brings us up to 15 regions already, leaving just 5 left. As we have rolled more plates than that, we just add 5 more of 1 region each and drop the last 2. It may be that you end up with not enough regions, in which case you can just add the left over region to the last plate.

Now we have the plates we need to add them to the map. Generally along the boundary between land and sea, or along island chains is a good place to put then, though they don’t necessarily have to follow that; looking at Earth’s plates you can see one running right down the middle of the Atlantic. One to three plates per ocean basin or continent is recommended. The red lines on the map below are how I allocated them.

So what are the rest of the markings on the map about? Well, where plates meet is a good place to find mountains and rifts as well as volcanic and seismic activity. Plates meet each other in one of three ways; away from each other, towards each other or alongside each other. Starting with one plate, you roll on the plate movement table to see in which way they are moving (and from that you know what the other side is doing), and see what it causes. Plates moving towards each other tend to make the largest mountains, while those moving alongside each other will result in seismic activity.

The red arrows on the map indicate the movement of the plates. As can be seen I didn’t fill them all in; you can if you want, but it isn’t required. The blue lines mark deep ocean trenches, forming where one plate is sliding underneath its neighbor. The brown lines mark mountain chains; 1 line for low mountains, 2 lines for medium mountains and 3 lines for high mountains. In this case the ‘mountains’ are submarine ridges that the peaks of form island chains.

World size can play a part in adjusting the size of mountains, if you wish for that. World’s smaller than average adjust mountain ranges up in size, while larger world’s than Earth adjust it down.

Volcanic chains are also marked on the map. The solid orange triangles active volcanoes, the solid yellow triangles are dormant volcanoes and the hollow orange triangles are extinct. Given that one of the most important deities in the pantheon of the world is the Lord of Volcanoes, these are liable to be important places.

I haven’t marked down anything about earthquakes, but will keep an eye on any regions that might experience them as we further explore the world.

Of course, if you are going with a fantastical world and don’t want tectonic plates, you can roll on a sperate chart to place mountains per region, ranging from normal mountains to fantastical ones, like ones that are gates to elemental plains.

Next time we move on to the climatology of the planet.

Lets Build: A Pantheon with the World Builder’s Guidebook (AD&D 2E)

For a project I am working on, I am going back to The World Builder’s Guidebook (AD&D 2E) to work out some details. First up will be the creation of a pantheon using the guidebook. I have some ideas which I want to explore but need to get a proper feel for the place before I get started. So lets get rolling.

Firstly is to work out what type of pantheon it is; the dice roll a 53, resulting in one pantheon per major culture, with overlapping deities. In effect this means that there is one deity per portfolio (war, love, sun etc), but that they are known by different names to different cultures. A prime example of that are the gods and goddesses of the Roman and Greek pantheons – many of the Roman ones were rebranded Greek ones, similar in a lot of ways but with different names.

Int his case, I am thinking that there would be one fairly large pantheon and that each culture uses elements of it. Some deities, the main ones, may be fairly universal while others may be more specific to only a few cultures. The relative importance of them will vary from culture to culture, so a deity of agriculture may not have much meaning to nomadic herders, while a deity of rain would likewise not be followed in a desert dwelling culture. The deity of war would be of far grater importance to a militaristic, expansionist culture than a more civilised, peaceful one.

Next we move onto the pantheon size. In this case it is the size of the pantheon for the culture we are working with, and not the size of the overall pantheon. A roll of 23 results in a Small pantheon. Given the culture involved it a relatively minor one that can work well. Rolling for the number of deities, we get 1 Greater, 2 Intermediate, 2 Lesser and 2 Demi, a total of 7 all told. We will work out who they are later.

With the size worked out we work out what the organisation of the pantheon is, or at least this portion of it. The larger pantheon will be a mixed one, with various elements as the pantheon evolved. This portion rolls a 63, a Natural pantheon. Basically, they represent various elements of nature; animals, plants, seasons, weather etc.

Lastly we work out the involvement of the pantheon in the affairs of mortals. A roll of 37 results in Aloof; the deities don’t get involved much, if at all, and only in times of great need. The Valar of The Silmarillion are an example of that, at least later on.

Now to work on the specifics of the Pantheon.

Greater Deity; We roll 3 on 1d3 for the number of portfolios they have. The first roll is a 19; Oceans. That fits in very well with the Natural theme of the pantheon and indicates that the culture we are working on has deep connections to the ocean. The second roll is 06; Animals. In this case it wouldn’t be all animals, but oceanic animals. Our last roll is a 36; Sun. That one doesn’t seem to fit as well, so I re-roll and come up with 51; Fate. Given the nature of the sea, that one fits in well.

There are no actual rules for determining gender or actual alignment of the deities, beyond a range of them. Animals, oceans and fate could be of any alignment. My house rule is to just flip a coin for gender and use the alignment chart for cultures to figure out the alignment of a deity, re-rolling for any non-allowed ones.

Rolling gives a male god who is neutral-good, completing the picture of him. The God of the Ocean is seen by this culture as a benign ruler, concerned for the well being of his people over the rules of law and individual liberty. He preaches acceptance of the fate that comes on all, whether raging storm or unexpected wealth, and the creatures of the sea are his, the bounty of them provided to his followers. The sea drakes that explore the depths of the ocean are his sacred creatures.

Intermediate Deity #1; We roll 2 on 1d3 for the number of portfolios they have. The first roll is 73; Music and the second is 54; Fire. They are also female and of a neutral-good alignment as well. At first glance it seems a bit of an odd combination but I can see how it works.

The Lady of the Flame, at least in this culture, welcomes all to her warmth and represents all that is good about fire; the provider of heat and of cooking. Moreso, hers is a place where people gather around to share, to sing and make music. She represents the good aspects of fire and most likely was one of the early deities worshiped by early people, simple hunter-gatherers at their campfires.

Intermediate Deity #2; We roll 2 on 1d3 for the number of portfolios they have. The first roll is 10; Earth and the second is 80; Trade. I like this combo and will keep it for the overall pantheon but I think I will set it aside for this pantheon and roll again as it doesn’t quite fit the picture I am building up in my head for them. Instead we roll 27; Seasons and 37; Sun. They are a male neutral deity.

The Lord of the Seasons is even more indifferent to the fates of mortals than most, caring simply for the rise and fall of the seasons, from summer to winter and back, and with it the waxing and waning of the strength of the sun.

Lesser Deity #1; We roll a 1 on 1d2 for the number of portfolios. The roll is 52; Fertility. They are a chaotic good female deity.

The Lady of Birth and Growth cares little for the rule of laws, instead being about the growth of all things, the blossoming of new life, the birth of new creatures. Given her inclusion in the pantheon and the more chaotic nature of her personality, the culture in question might have looser laws on such matters as marriage, and less stigma on those born out of wedlock.

Lesser Deity #2; We roll a 2 on 1d2 for the number of portfolios. The rolls are 100; Time and 31; Sky. The deity is a lawful good female.

The Lady of Time is closely connected to The Lord of Seasons. Perhaps related, perhaps married. Perhaps both, depending on the culture and mythology involved. They mark the orderly passage of time, displaying it in the heavens with the wheel of the stars and the moon, and like the Lord of Seasons, being indifferent to all else, but in a far more orderly manner than the passage of seasons.

Demi-power #1; They have a single portfolio, rolling a 78; Thunder. They turn out to be a neutral-evil female deity. An unusual one, but given the oceanic theme of the culture, one that could fit in. The Lady of Storms is a selfish deity who rages at will, caring little for the deaths she brings to those caught up in her displays. For such reasons mortals fear her but also respect her, seeking to appease her nature with offerings in return for their safety, but they don’t exactly love her.

Demi-power #2; They have a single portfolio, rolling 48; Death. They turn out to be a Lawful-neutral female deity.

Death comes to all. It is part of nature, unavoidable. While her sister, The Lady of Birth and Growth ushers you into the world, it is The Lady of Death who ushers your soul on. She is not a cruel or uncaring deity, merely one carrying out the natural order of things, regardless of the standing of the victim. All in the end come to her, and hers is a place where suffering and pain are no more.

That is the pantheon of the culture that we are working on, an interesting mix. The details of the pantheon can now be fleshed out as the culture is built up on but as it currently stands we have a few points of interest to look at. But as you can see, you can get some interesting mixes and from that try and build a story around them, to see what ideas it sparks. You don’t have to stick exactly with what the rolls give you, though they can certainly help get the creativity flowing.