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Thursday, January 6, 2022

1d10 Vestigia's Skylands, vol. 1

New Year Resolutions don't need to wait. The sooner I start, the sooner I could be done with one. The context for these is here.


1d10 Skylands of Vestigia, vol. 1

1. Ironsong

Massive primordial clock Metronomicon ticks ever since this skyland came to be when the Shadowfell collided with Dis, the second circle of Nine Hells. Metals found in the pits of Dis have been possessed by the tormented souls of Shadowfell, ringing their weeps of agony. The only thing that it missed was a spark of inspiration, which occurred when the Elemental Plane of Lightning passed by. All it took was a single spark to bring life to this skyland. Fiends, undead, and the mortals stuck in between fight for the rulership over this skyland by combining the martial prowess with the dissonant music natural to their home.

Metronomicon is the place that's supposedly where the spark of lightning met with the forces of death and hell, inspiring both.
Yes, this island is indeed inspired by Pentakill, so I'm keeping the metronome as an homage. Image credit of course goes to the Riot Games.

2. Faegard

Another skyland that's in constant conflict happens to be a collision of the Ysgard with Feywild. The result is a land of uneven battle, between the fairies and the nonmagical giants. While one of the sides is obviously much more powerful when it comes to pure physical strength, the other side possesses greater magic potential. The result is a fairly balanced fight of the greatest proportions, puns very intended.

3. The Wild Crest

A black salt desert of an unknown origin has attracted adventurers ever since people discovered blackrocks deep beneath the salts. Rumors have it that this used to be some unspecified layer of Abyss that was an ocean dried out by the collision with the Elemental Plane of Fire. Once the blackrock is crushed into a fine powder, it becomes flammable. People who live here are rather religious, vary of monsters like fiends or undead, and most live off of either their crops if possible, or by herding the cattle.

4. Baldur's Fate

Myths say that this city used to be in the Material Plane itself, found in a location called Word Coast. Even before the beginning of Vestigia, this city was a port. Back then, it was however a port for sea ships. The structure and infrastructure were there, but the city has been partially rebuilt in order to serve as a proper port for skyships.

5. Viperpunk

People doubted the existence of something as ridiculous as the Elemental Plane of Snakes, the true origin of creatures such as yuan-ti or naga. They have been proven wrong once this plane collided with just a small fraction of the Limbo, as well as a shard of Mechanus stuck in one mad inventor's head. Ever since the snake elementals have been much more... mouldable by those who populate this land, and much more submissive to the commands given to them. They could be stretched to incredible lengths, rolled to be extremely thin, or even contracted. Those who populate this island soon discovered how to change their colors on command, react to things these snakes can see, hear, feel, or even smell, and even how to produce words and other sounds. It's hard to even tell if these snakes are alive anymore, or if they are just objects that resemble snakes. Through years of trial and error, the snake-based technology arose, so incredibly complex that a human couldn't understand it within one lifetime. The most complicated of their creations, however, has to be the Labyrinth, a network of snaketech machinery that connects the vast majority of the devices on this island and allows for nearly instantaneous communication between the snake-based creations.

All of this came to be underneath the rulership of the Serpent Empress, the one true ruler of the former Elemental Plane of Snakes. Her ultimate plan is to take over this wretched world and connect it whole with her network of snakes. However, things may change, for the rebels are among the common folk, scheming their plans of overthrowing the true empress. Rumors have it that some elves are assisting them.

6. Bruxwar

The collision of a small chunk of Acheron with a portion of Beastlands had catastrophic consequences for the formerly good-aligned plane. The wilderness has been forced to change in order to survive, adapting to the predatory hellish warriors. Thus, most of the Bruxwar is populated by predators hunting for other predators. There are no herbivores, everything is either an omnivore or a carnivore. The vast majority of these animals are capable of flying, swimming, or burrowing, have extraordinary senses, and occasionally even abilities that replicate the effects of spells. Survival here is so difficult, that there's only one permanent settlement of humanoids on the whole island, simply called Bastion.

7. Thermina

The Para-Elemental Plane of Ice has always been rather inhospitable. What made it worse was when a portion of it entered an Astral Plane bubble, which kept getting smaller and smaller until it enveloped only a thin layer of the skyland's atmosphere. Time ceases to flow for anyone who touches the island with a bare body part, and their body will slowly begin to freeze. Ice and snow eventually gather around the frozen body, until it completely becomes part of the island. This is why the skyland lacks any form of flora or fauna. Only flames created by sufficiently powerful magic can melt these bodies, which have been gathered here over the centuries.

8. Eternalitree

It is unknown whether a small piece of wood from one of the elemental planes fell into a bubble of unfiltered positive energy from the Positive Energy Plane, or vice versa. What's known is that a tree has sprouted out of this destined meeting, and it keeps growing. While by now its growth is hardly noticeable on even a monthly basis, the truth is the skyland keeps getting bigger nonetheless. Sometimes, its branches twist in unpredictable ways, which is why flying creatures make up the majority of this land's population.

9. Skyland of Hats

The first impression that a visitor would have of this island is that it's populated by the undead and constructs. A closer look reveals that the vast majority of beings on this island wear a large variety of hats. The truth is, these hats are sentient and control any sufficiently humanoid bodies. On their own they can't do much, so they must rely on others to put them onto humanoid bodies such as corpses, skeletons, mannequins, statues, and other constructs. If two of these hats are close enough for an extended time duration, they produce a smaller offspring, that grows over the course of a year into a full hat. If living being dons (or is equipped with) this hat, it must resist its mental influence, or else be controlled by it (as per Ghost's possession).

10. Ælfenheim

The legendary empire of the elves ruled by the Shadow Queen floats through the sky is a constellation of incredibly tall spires, each overpopulated by the doorways to magnificent mansions that hold hundreds of elves each. Training, exercise, casting the spells, pledging allegiance to the Shadow Queen and to the Caretakers, ... Some may see this as a cycle, but it is a snowball, growing larger and larger the further it goes. It is the most dominant force of this realm and the major reason why most of the islands have elven populations on them.

Edit: Several days after publishing this article, I noticed that number 9 was not saved before publishing. I forgot what this island was, so I had to make up a new one.

Saturday, January 1, 2022

Review of my 2021

I did it last year, so I'll do it again.


How was 2021

With 14.9K views, it's fair to say that the blog has improved quite a lot. I'd say that the primary cause of this is my presence in a greater variety of groups, writing on it more often. These result in it being shared with more people, and more often. Compared to last year, I'll change up the structure and talk about each of the resolutions I made one year ago.

Homebrew

This year was a little more difficult on homebrews for me. I have made some, but I haven't made as many as I did some of my previous years, mostly because I focused on writing more stuff for the blog. Here are some of the brews I've published last year:

  • The Roamer, an artificer specialization for lovers of bikes,
  • Flatbread Specialization, an April Fools' post for an artificer who invited pizza and pizza delivery services,
  • Minimus Magus, a rework of my fighter subclass that focuses on making the most out of their cantrips,
  • Soulweaver and College of the Nameless, two undead-themed subclasses for the Playing Dead, a product I'll mention in a bit,
  • 10 Guidelines to Moderating Magic, which is not a player material and more of a set of suggestions for DMs to consider when figuring out their worldbuilding,
  • Inchlings, a race of cute tiny people inspired by the Borrowers,
  • and several Devotees of the Kings and Queens, which I'll talk about in a bit.

There were fewer homebrews and further apart, but going back through them, most of them have been more popular than any previously released products of mine. It's not something I've intended, but I suppose I focused more on the quality rather than quantity of my products.

What's more, I've published two products, one of which can be bought, and the other can only be bought. Runehack: University's Pillars is a solo journalling tabletop RPG, in which the player must maintain balance in their personal, scholarly, and social life by balancing three towers of stacked dice. It was made as part of the One Page RPG Jam, and I am happy about how it turned out. The other project came to be when the small community behind the Mooncell subreddit, which I am a part of, has decided to put their heads together and make a compendium for players who want to play undead characters. Playing Dead is a fairly successful product, and I still find it hard to believe I became part of the team writing it just like that.

My goal of revisiting at least three subclasses or one compendium of mine was successfully fulfilled. The Trial of the Seven Queen is going to get reworked into a project I've hoped to make for a long time but got stuck on for a time. The Cursed Sovereigns Compendium will be... coming soon™, whenever the artworks for the rest of Kings and Queens get completed. Most of my brews do bear my brand, but I also forgot to post most of them to my blog. I'll consider this a success though!

Blog Posts

The only month, for which I haven't written an article this year, was November. The total number of articles I've published is 27, which is a lot more than the 18 articles I aimed for. I'll forgive myself for the November, NaNoWriMo was exhausting enough, even if I could have prepared myself an article to publish in November during October. Success!

Villainous Cookbook

I'm happy to say that the Villainous Cookbook is, for now, finished. The finale was a lengthy article about an infinite elven army, which I definitely want to have present in my future settings instead of the default "human is default" feel. Compiling them into a compendium will be a bit harder because some of them will require a rewrite - things I assumed would get from UA into a book didn't. We'll see what comes for this in the future, in the meantime, I will gladly announce this was a success!

Novel

Sadly, I didn't get to rewrite it through the year, until November came around. When I participated in NaNoWriMo again, I overhauled the novel, changing almost everything in it. I'd say the rewrite made it a lot better, as well as...

Runehack

Writing articles about my world was a difficult endeavor, but it was worth all the effort. After writing about the various cities in the world, I had a much easier time writing my novel. There are plenty of other details too that I discussed privately with my closest friends, which eventually made their way into the novel. This resolution and the previous one are both a resounding united success.

Feedback

While others had only small mistakes here and there, things are going to go downhill from here. Writing comments on every blog post I've read is a difficult thing to remember to do. I will say that when it came to smaller blogs like those of my friends who I got into writing these, I always left a comment whenever I finished an article of theirs. But as the year went on, I forgot more and more often to do it on blogs I don't have a personal connection with. I'll chalk this one up as a failure, but I think I'll keep leaving comments on the small blogs my friends have, and maybe on some others too every now and then.

Game

... yeah, about that. I did not start a new campaign at all. While I've participated in some as a player, I've run very few TTRPG sessions this year. I think... two of them? Yeah, this one is overall a failure.

I think I overcame my burnout, but then went into the phase of overthinking my next campaign. The 10 Guidelines to Moderating Magic were a good helping step for me to figure out what I want out of D&D, and my article on minimalistic worldbuilding is another great idea that I plan to use, but now the hard part is solidifying the rest of the world, getting a group together, and actually dedicating several hours of my time to them every week or two.


Unrelated to any of the above resolutions, there's one other dream of mine that I've had as a new year resolution for several years, but to no avail until this year. Some of you may have noticed that my Runehack articles have been brought to life by original artworks created by my dear friend Arell. Well, about two months ago, we have talked about something very important together, and I can gladly announce that our friendship has blossomed into an actual relationship. While I'm not going to edit the past articles, in which I've used artworks she has drawn just for me, I think it's only fair to credit her from now on as I should - as my girlfriend. I usually don't talk about my personal life on this blog, but this was fairly important to me and her.


Goals and Hopes for 2022

I think I'll write them in a bullet point list, otherwise, this article will get even longer. I wouldn't say that these things are all my new year resolution, the resolution is to fulfill at least one of these, but hopefully more than one.

  • Vestigia. Write articles that would describe a total of 100 islands floating in my minimalistic D&D world.
  • Runehack. Finish writing articles for all of the cities I have figured out at the moment for my Runehack. That would be 
  • Novel. I'd love to get my novel published, but I have no clue if it'll be possible within one year. The second draft is done, now I just need to go through it, fix all of it, and then figure out how to do publishing. Sounds easy enough... for now.
  • Cursed Sovereigns Compendium. It's not too high on my priorities list, since I'd rather let Arell work on potential commissions rather than ask her for more artworks of the remaining kings, queens, and other potential things in the book. But finishing and publishing this even just in PDF form would be cool.
  • 10 kilometers. It might not be a D&D goal, but I would love to run 10 kilometers someday again. I did succeed at it a couple years ago, but relative to back then I got out of shape due to various forms of stress.
  • Stream. I've started to do some more livestreams on Twitch last year, and I would like to do some more.
  • Sprinters. I want to finish my TTRPG that takes place in the world of Runehack. More details on that in the future, possibly soon.

Of course, this is not everything, but it's everything I'd like to state on the blog. I will continue to leave comments on the blogs of my friends to help them out, 

Edit: I almost forgot about one of the resolutions.

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Magitech Multiverse

Everyone has a multiverse. Brandon Sanderson has it, Spiderman has it, D&D has multiple. I want one of my own too. Not for D&D, for my stories, as well as my games.

I like magic-powered technology that isn't just "re-branded electricity". I also like minimalistic hard magic systems. The number of things they can do could be counted on one, maybe two hands, but it's low either way. Plenty of thoughts have gone into how technology works, and I think I got some details narrowed down. I'd say there are four important elements when it comes to technology that I like (at least, at the moment of writing this article):

  • Input: Detecting inputs and activating magic based on that, to provide autonomous machinery.
  • Output: Giving sensory outputs (sights, sounds, etc.), to provide easily read data.
  • Motion: Giving motoric outputs (moving objects), to provide outputs that affect the physical world.
  • Fuel: What the device requires in order to operate, to limit the time for which a device can function.

(I know that Output can be done by Motion, I just like the convenience.)

Coming up with "hard magitech systems" isn't easy for me, but I want to get better at it, maybe to grow my multiverse some more. But I have three worlds that I could work on now. Each of them is built with a magitech system at its heart, and they are all connected in a way I'll keep to myself for now. Of course, the magitech system doesn't need to be the only form of magic that's present in that world. Needless to say, one can't just travel from one of these worlds to another as they wish - none of my worlds will just have a spell, like plane shift in it. That would require an extraordinary amount of effort, and some magic that I already have in one of these worlds.

Let's have a brief rundown of the magitech worlds I've made so far and their technology. I'll use this opportunity to write up updates on the original concepts I wrote before for each of these.

I've spent too much time looking for artwork to use here. I've seen too many artworks that are just grids or random assortments of ball-shaped universes, D&D-styled cosmology charts, or abstract trippy nonsense on my search. I wanted to go with something that feels fresher, and... while it's not a multiverse per se, I liked The Game Bakers' portrayal of the universe that Haven takes place in. I couldn't track down the artist right now, but the art seems to be their property.


Runehack

  • Magitech System: runes
  • Input: detection runes
  • Output: illusion runes, encryption runes
  • Motion: telekinesis runes
  • Fuel: amber or tree sap

I'm not sure what more is there to say about Runehack. I don't want to update it in any major way, and if you want to know more about it, there are so many articles about it on my blog that I made a reading guide included in the sidebar.


Ælfheim

  • Magitech System: truncated octahedrons that produce light based on one's belief (divtech)
  • Input: thought, and personal identity
  • Output: light displays
  • Motion: piston cubes, rotor cubes
  • Fuel: light
  • The world as we know it has become inhospitable. Those who wanted to survive have been converted into a mechanical form.

    For the sake of simplicity, I'll refer to the truncated octahedrons as cubes. I chose this shape because it can infinitely tile a 3D space, and it has plenty of sides.

    Just like in the original article about divtech, these shapes can produce light that goes through logical gates which operate based on one's belief. You'll get a result out of technology based on what you believe to get. If you have a calculator, and you believe that by inputting 1+1 you'll get 99, you will. Thus, people of this world are trained to have no expectations when using technology.

    The first important change I'll make is this: Perhaps I could change how the interior works. While I could say "quantum physics" and it could make some sense, I think I'll just boil it down to one item in particular. A gemstone that can shine light if it's receiving light and if someone believes it should shine. Each cube can be suited for usage by someone specific or left for anyone at all to influence it, perhaps by denoting their name in the crystal somehow. The cheapest solution is to have one of the cubes produce light when a specific person believes in it. The best solution would be for all of the cubes to let their light through only when a specific person believes in them.

    Another thing that's different is the energy source. Long story short, the powering cube will require the reception of some form of light in order to power the rest. The most reliable form is the sunlight, but fire works too. Moonlight works only on a full moon, and only when it's fully visible. Starlight is too weak. Light from other cubes explicitly doesn't work.

    Now, these mechanical remnants of sapient species are beings that require light in order to operate. When the light is not present, they go into sleep mode - their operation resumes only once they get enough light. Sleep is not something these machines require, so going to sleep is pretty much optional. You could stay up all night working, provided you have light all night long. This could have several interesting implications. For example, at night some of them could try to commit crimes while others "sleep". They can't get too close to others though, because they could accidentally wake them up. This could cause these communities to develop patrols, guards who walk around the town with torches. But that in return could cause these criminals to extinguish torches, pausing the guard in their tracks harmlessly. The other guard passes by, sees a deactivated guard, activates it just by proximity to the torch, and relights their torch, and now they know something's wrong.

    What if the displays that the cubes possess are somehow filtering the light of the gems to make it safer again, thus disallowing it from triggering other cubes? What if the light that these gems produce is very destructive? Maybe you could attach them to some weirdly-shaped sticks, point them at people or objects, and do harm that way. In other words, ...

    Wizard guns.

    Another interesting realization - maybe the cubes could be arranged in any way of sensors and outputs. Maybe they could have outputs that produce sound instead of light if it can somehow be converted. And thus, maybe a majority of the surface of these beings could be made up of inputs, thus allowing for "skin that can feel". The world has enough to be worked on. But I'll have to get working on it. Who knows when possibly when I get tired of Runehack and I'll need a quick distraction.

    Part of the inspiration here is Bionicle, surprisingly - a world populated completely by mechanical beings sounds dope to me. Though I'd imagine they used to be not mechanical. Whether there are any non-mechanicals left I have yet to figure out. Perhaps trees, maybe insects. Who knows.


    Globus (name WIP)

  • Magitech System: quartz orbs, with a dream world on the inside made up of semi-tangible strings (orbtech)
  • Input: orb's surface sensing
  • Output: orb's surface illusions
  • Motion: orb's movement
  • Fuel: mare's blood
  • Let's be honest here - the main reason why I'm writing this article is that I wanted to make some changes to the orbtech, but when I realized I can't come up with a good title, I figured I may as well unveil my larger dream project while doing so instead of hiding it forever and ever.

    First of all, fuel. I figured quartz itself being fuel is kind of silly, especially with orbs getting smaller as they get used. They could get smaller if they roll around too much, as most physical things would. But instead of quartz getting consumed, I think I'll go with something else. The dragon blood was just a spontaneous idea I went with while writing the original article, and looking back at it hardly has anything to do with dreams. Instead, I'll go with a mare. Not a horse, mare as in a legendary creature of nightmares. How exactly will it look I can't quite tell, maybe something canine or feline. It will definitely have the ability to paralyze people who are unconscious through touch. The orb is hollow on the inside, and for the sake of keeping the movements predictable, the liquid inside of it hovers, not interacting with the orb's movements.

    The dream within the orb is made up of "strings", but they're not actual strings. It's just something people grew to call it because the string is the closest thing they could approximate it to. One can pass through them or touch them whenever they wish to.

    The orb can record anything that it could see, and it can record audio it could hear if it was a human ear. However, this audio is only stored inside of the orb, since quartz lacks a way to produce a multitude of sounds. It could technically only produce a ringing sound that sounds like someone striking the orb. If you get multiple orbs of different sizes, and all of them play the recorded audio all at once, they could reproduce the message, but it's much easier to just enter its dream and hear for yourself.

    Orbs only allow you to enter their dreams when they are filled with mare blood. If they run out of blood while someone is inside, the person is awakened immediately.

    Furthermore, there's a curious race in this world. I'm not sure what I'll call them yet, I'll refer to them as kitsunes for now. Chances are if I keep this name, they could have fox-like traits, although a more feline demeanor, and they would come with a special ability - to enter a dreamscape at will. Whether it's a sleeping person or an orb, they can simply touch it, will themselves to enter, and they immediately appear in this space. What makes them even more unique is that their physical form completely ceases to exist whenever they do this, including objects they are wearing or carrying, except for orbs. Due to the danger that these people present, it is best to ponder your orbs in private spaces, otherwise, you're inviting kitsunes to invade your dreams.

    Fun thought: If you make a car that has orbs for wheels, you could have the car move even sideways without really turning its wheel. It could move in any direction, as long as you could somehow transmit that information to all of the wheels. Maybe an orb could work as a steering wheel too. I would however consider reimagining the shape of such cars, and maybe adding more wheels so that if one runs out of fuel, you still have five more.

    Have you ever seen the musical marvel called Marble Machine? Imagine if each of those marbles was an orb. Imagine if they could determine what paths they roll up or down in. Imagine if the crank was turned by another orb, perhaps a much bigger one. Or maybe there's a big orb covered in small boxes for the marbles to travel in. And the orbs determine on their own where they roll and when. All of them entangled, working in harmony. Bonus points if they light up in various colors, possibly even changing colors as they travel around the machine.

    Right now, I have no clue otherwise about anything else within this world. I just like the fact that I figured out a way to make spherical magical computers.

    Soulfire Stone, by JoshEiten

    No clue if this will be useful for me, it's just cool art I found along the way.
    Ancient Titan, by Deiv Calviz

    It's not a cube, nor a "cube" (that being: truncated octahedron). But hey let's imagine it is. This looks neato!
    3D steampunk magic thingy, by dchan

    This was fun. I want more. Some on my to-do list are clothtech, aquatech, and maybe somehow turning language into technology without it seeming like a copy of runes.

    Tuesday, December 14, 2021

    Orbtech

    This started off as a thought experiment about a technology programmed in the dream world. Once a need for a physical focus came though, I recalled a meme that's currently trending, and… my mind couldn't help but ponder. Don’t take things written here as gospel, it’s just me making up wild ideas as I go. If I ever write again about Orbtech, I could change any of these details.


    Yes, this meme inspired the article partially. Cover art of Middle-Earth Quest: A Spy In Isengard, illustrated by Angus Mcbride.

    Take some quartz and start polishing it until it's nice and round. Keep going until you can practically see through it. Once that's the case, dip the creation in the dragon blood for 24 hours. It must be the only orb dipped in the dragon blood, if there are multiple this process won’t work. The less blood you use the better, because after using it this way the blood is drained of its magic. If you've done all the steps correctly, you should have a dream orb. Though since any other orbs are way less important, by now it is simply called orb.

    Orbs are special devices because at a glance they lack any visible signs of internal logic, and yet they can change their appearance and roll around, even reacting to outside inputs. In actuality, there's a complex code written inside of the orb, accessible through a highly unusual method - dreaming. If one falls asleep while touching the orb, they'll enter the orb's dreamscape. It's a world of dreams, shaped by the person who dreamed in it first after the orb's dragon blood bath. The simplest way to use orbs is for message delivery. Although impractical, since these messages can only be delivered in one’s sleep, the messages require no programming and they can target any of the senses. You can completely overhaul the dreamscape of an orb by dipping it in dragon blood for 24 hours.

    Those who dream within the orb and search for the code will find it. It takes the form of a large lattice of strings with vertices that can be knotted at the crossings, or not. One can walk through this lattice only interacting with it when they want to. Depending on these knots, the orb gets its programming, which then manifests outside. I don’t feel like coming up with the exact logic behind these is all that important, so that’s where my specifics of the programming language itself will end.

    If you wish to take inputs from the outside world, you must cut one of the strings, create the input within the orb’s dreamscape, and tie the thing to it. Since it’s rather difficult to imagine smells or temperatures, the vast majority of orbs take visual inputs. Maybe in the future, I’ll even figure out a way for the orbs to record and produce sounds. There are two more inputs: the last direction in which it has rolled, and the current direction it would fall in (in one word each, “front” and “down”).

    The orbs have two major outputs: Images, and rolling. Through complicated knot schemes, you can project any image that you can code or that the orb can record on its surface. The image is projected onto the orb always the same way front and down. As for rolling, the orb can move on its own, and as it does it changes which way its “front” is. Maybe there could be a way to make the orbs fly, but right now the idea is too raw for me to figure out how exactly.

    I don't know where is this from, but it's a lovely animation.

    If you search long enough, you’ll find the orb itself within the dreamscape. If you tie a knot around it and attach it to some configuration of knots, it will record its surroundings. It’s a standard to program these orbs to reveal their recordings by waving your hands over them for a couple of seconds, though you could also watch them in the dreamscape.

    The more an orb is used, the smaller it gets. When it becomes as small as a marble, it becomes incapable of giving outputs. It can still receive inputs, which is why these orbs can be useful as security camera replacements - tiny enough to be unnoticeable, and useless for most other things. At some point after that, the orb becomes too tiny to even record, or let anyone into its dreamscape. Due to this shrinkage, many people work on maximizing the work time they get out of a single block of quartz. Is it better to create a myriad of small orbs, or one big orb and then sculpt orbs out of the remainders?

    If you fall asleep touching multiple orbs at the same time, you’ll enter a random one. However, through doing this you will entangle the orbs - each of these orbs will contain within its dreamscape copies of other orbs, through which they can exchange information. Changes made to one orb will manifest in the copies inside of all other orbs entangled with it.

    A cracked orb brings bad luck. It has a harder time rolling, its image is disrupted, maybe even its function goes wrong. Maybe something worse happens if an orb cracks while you’re in its dreamscape. Handling the orbs without cracking them is an art form.

    For now, the system is way too simple to be useful for actually evolving a fantasy setting into a true cyberpunk one. But who knows, maybe in time I’ll figure out ways to add more things into it.


    David Bowie, from The Dark Crystal


    Friday, October 15, 2021

    Minimalistic D&D Setting

    D&D is a neat system with too many things to keep in mind. Spells, legacies (also known as races), capabilities of people, monsters and their abilities... and that's just the rules. On top of all this, there's stuff like geography, history, and so much more. If you think all of this is easy to manage, bear in mind that you're probably still thinking only about the Material Plane, and not about all the other planes of existence. While I'd love to be a DM someday, I know that I would much rather work on Runehack than on whatever world I run my D&D campaign in. Running a game of D&D in Runehack would require me to drop the vast majority of classes, my own system for games in Runehack is being worked on (with heavy quotation marks, since I keep getting distracted), … Wouldn't it be nice to have a low maintenance world to run D&D games in?

    I felt creatively drained when I started to write this, but it's a subject I've been thinking about for a long time. It only makes sense for me to post it here, hopefully I get some sort of response to see what I could improve on it.


    The land of million possibilities. Except it's lands actually.
    Storm Wars, by Elena Konstantinova


    Minimalistic D&D Setting

    During the war of gods, all of the planes of existence have crashed into one another, leaving only two: Material Plane, now made up of planar remnants shaped like flying islands, and the Ethereal Plane, which was untouched since it overlaps all of the planes according to its lore. Personal name for this world is "Vestigial Itonia", but that's just for the ease of personal use.

    Each island is a closed system, unless it has a way of traveling to other flying islands. Islands flying in parallel trajectories are rare, but not unheard of. Each island is a microcosm of its own, taking on characteristics of a plane of your choice, or a combination of planes. All of this in mind, chances are this island hadn't been visited by anyone, or it was, or it was visited and colonized too. In order to navigate to a specific island, you need a compass made out of special rocks inside of the island the compass points to. Cardinal directions are determined solely by celestial things, like the Sun and stars.

    People need to traverse the islands somehow, so there could be three broad ways of achieving that (plus combinations), consider which of these is the most commonly used one. Not all islands are guaranteed to have access to any of these. Listed in an order in which I would expect them to appear in the world history-wise, these are:

    1. domesticated flying creatures,
    2. magic,
    3. technology.

    I like for all the islands to have the same gravitational orientation (same "down"), and for the "bottom of the world" to be filled with a dark Void that the Sun goes beneath to create a day-night cycle. Since rich get richer, I'd assume there would be 1-3 big countries that are spread over many islands and try to colonize more at all times, so that could be a simple way to bring player characters together.

    What do we achieve with a world like this? The lowest maintenance world I could think up.

    • It's not necessary to figure out a big picture geography of the world, which makes it easier for the DM to draw maps of individual islands. No need to make the land fit a bigger environment.
    • Each island can have its own history, and if it's a closed system, its history could reasonably be unaffected (and unaffecting) the world outside of the island.
    • When the DM and players feel like it, they can visit all sorts of planes of existence, including nonexistent ones. Want a candy island? An island populated only by the bears? How about a mixture of Elemental plane of fire, Carceri, and Feywild? Whatever that would be like, you can just decide to have an island like that fly by, and give your players an offer to fly there. If they don't want to, you can also just... have the island never appear in the game again.
    • This kind of world can support pretty much any player option that the player could want to pick. On one hand, plenty of uncommon species could be unfamiliar to the wider world, which could make general population suspicious of players who choose unusual races. On the other hand, with such a huge variety of races, they might also all be accepted equally. Both can work well, whether applied to the whole world or to the individual exceptions.
    • Tying it to the previous two bullet points, does your player want to make up a corner of the world to call their own? Be it their birthplace, the island they wanted to visit all their life, or the isle where their mortal enemy sits upon their iron throne? All of this is very much doable!


    … wait, is this all just One Piece but without water and with D&D's magic replacing all of the magics that are in the original story? Wait no, this world doesn't have a famous pirate announcing a race for the biggest treasure of the world that's located on an island which hasn't been finished by anyone but him and his crew for centuries. So of course this isn't One Piece!

    Thank you for reading, and have a great day!

    Thursday, September 30, 2021

    Runehack: Timberhaven

    Ever since I started to work on Runehack, I knew that I wanted fairies to play an important role in this world. If there were humanoids roughly six times smaller than we are in our worlds, maybe minimizing the technology would have gone a lot faster. Looking for inspiration made me realize, that fairies are usually associates with freedom and nature. And the latter is a hard thing to do in a world like Runehack, seeing how the wilderness here is dominated by the massive monsters looking for prey at all times. Not to say, fairies would be even more vulnerable to such creatures than a regular human. In order to survive out there, they’d need a protective figure, a guardian. So, keep reading to see how I tried to mix the natural aesthetic of fairies with a cyberpunk world populated by monsters that prowl in the wilds. Enjoy, and have a grand day!


    Timberhaven

    In the deep woods of the Old World stands a city populated by fairies, found inside of the tallest tree in the forest that happens to be shaped like a woman in a dress. While most cities have "fairy towns", which are districts smaller than the regular ones so that fairies can live in them comfortably, Timberhaven is primarily built for the fairies.

    "I will always be here to take care of you, my little ones."
    All of the art featured in this article was kindly provided by Arell, a friend of mine


    Geography

    Somewhere in the eastern Old World Timberhaven, surrounded by the Antediluvia Jungle. There are no rivers going through the city, but there are some water springs found underneath the city through mining.

    Eating meat is rare in this city since animal herding is rather difficult for the fairies. Fortunately, the barks of Timberhaven are very fertile, allowing them to grow all kinds of fruits and vegetables, sometimes even without access to the sunlight. Underneath the city is a plentiful reserve of amber for their use in the technology they create.


    History

    There is an ancient fairy legend of the wild mother, a woman taller than all trees, who was overgrown with bark and created the first fairies. She wandered the wilderness, growing throughout her life and carrying the first settlement of the fairies with her. But one day, she had to pass away. Instead of rotting like most do, though, she has supposedly rooted herself, in order to keep growing and blooming every year.

    The only piece of evidence that supports this legend being true is the fact that Timberhaven is shaped like a tall woman in a long dress, lined at its bottom hems with silver to protect the city from the monsters. The world's most leading academics in cravenlore suggest that the tree has been shaped through the use of shaping molds developed by an early civilization before the foundation of the earliest kingdoms. The city of Timberhaven is found on the inside of the tree's trunk, underneath the "skirt" and inside of the "body" of the tree, up to and including the head.

    Over the last few decades, Timberhaven has been experiencing some internal struggles due to a small group of fairies who wish to end its monarchy. One attempt at a revolution was made 19 years ago, but it did not succeed.


    Structure

    Timberhaven is a vertical city, with most of its districts determined by their relative altitude when compared to the other districts. Only two out of these six districts are exceptions, neighboring multiple other districts due to their heights.

    Lower Circle. The lowest district of the city is used for the mines and many other forms of manual labor, as well as crafting workshops.

    Middle Circle. This is a mixture of a residential district, the cultural center of the city, and workplaces for non-manual labor. It's taller than the Lower Circle, High Circle, and Crown District combined. Most of the non-prestigious schools are found here.

    High Circle. Mostly mirroring the Middle Circle, High Circle is a mixture of a residential district with some establishment for respectable jobs, entertainment, and higher education.

    Crown District. The highest-located district is used for farming due to its greater access to the natural forms of sunlight. The moss growing at the highest parts of the city is surprisingly fertile, providing plenty of nutrients for the crops grown on it.

    Outskirts. This district is on the outside of the city. The only buildings located here are the watch shelters and gateways for the intercity forms of transportation.

    Tram's Quarters. Due to her massive relative size, Tramona's room is a district of its own, neighboring the Lower, and Middle Circle on the south. While the room doesn't take that much space up, it's big enough to keep Tramona comfortably inside even while she rests.


    Culture

    For many years, Timberhaven has been a place of freedom, a cultural notion that persists even after the city has been connected to the Mistweb. There were very few unwritten laws to follow, and they shared most of their belongings so that everyone would get what they needed.

    Isolated from the rest of the world thanks to the mother-tree's protection, the fairies have grown both judgemental of the outsiders, but also curious of the lives they lead. While the tall ones were strong, hairy, and grounded due to their lack of wings, the little folk were fascinated by their culture and over time started to imitate it. The big ones seem to have these "Kings" and "Queens" who establish rules for others and represent them? The fairies figured they should find someone like that too. The big folk seems to keep animals around, so the fairies have tried it too a couple of times. They like to write things down, so fairies started to do the same. This imitation game has stopped when the monsters have appeared, and the fairies had to isolate themselves. Though, that didn't last too long.

    When the first flying machines visited Timberhaven, the big folk have for the first time entered Timberhaven and found the fairies within. Sure some of the fairies have moved out of the city to live in the bigger cities, but plenty of them remain within the tree. While nowadays the Timberhaven fairies recognize the need for laws, they still put great emphasis on the freedom of everyone. Their thoughts of the big folk have grown less judgmental and offensive, as their exposure to them became a lot more direct thanks to the runetech they have provided and keep providing them with.

    Some of the phrases and traditions that originated here include:

    • "Snatched by a fairy" is a comical descriptor for anything that's lost.
    • "Living in a tree" is used to describe people who are clueless about what's happening in the current times. It's seen as somewhat offensive by the fairies who don't live in Timberhaven, while those that do usually laugh at it.
    • During the last 7 days of the last month of winter, the denizens of Timberhaven have a tradition, in which they give gifts to each other by hiding them someplace where the receiver of a gift will sooner or later find it. It's advised to inform the receiver where any unfound gifts are before the summer starts, but some people forget or prefer to not tell the person at all, leading to small unexpected gifts found once in a while.
    • "Wingless" is a metaphorical nickname for someone who is not free, either because of being enslaved, in prison, or in a complicated social situation that feels inescapable. In the old times when the first laws came to be, the only punishment comparable to execution was tearing off one's wings.
    • On the last evening of summer, the fairies share plenty of sweet meals out of various berries with each other. This tradition doesn't seem to have a name or a specific historical origin.


    Fairies

    I don't know when I'll get around to writing a separate article on all of the races, so now's probably the best time to talk about how fairies of Runehack function.

    All the races of fairies in Runehack. Going from left to right: Barrens, Meadow, Oceanic, Mountain, and Tundral. The banana is there for scale, and so is a runecard. The fairies wear outfits that are all mixes of various Runehack subcultures.


    Fairies are winged humanoids recognizable for very small size, a pair of wings sprouting from between the shoulder blades on the back, and long downwards-pointing ears. The skin tones of fairies range from the beige and brown skin tones typical to humans to light and dark green skin tones. Uniquely, their hair can be naturally of any color. Their wings are for the most part monochromatic gossamer wings, but occasionally a fairy with butterfly or multi-colored wings can be born. Their eyes are monochromatic, and glow very lightly.

    Fairies are capable of flying at about the speed of a slow-walking human. There are no historical nor present records of a male fairy ever existing, making the fairy species all-female. Their average lifespan is 200 years, and their height ranges from 6 to 17 centimetres tall (2.3 to 6.7 inches) with no proven correlation between the various races of fairies. An average fairy is capable of digesting meat, but it is not required for their survival. (Note: They reproduce asexually, but so far I don't know how exactly so I'm omitting that for now.)

    There are five basic races of fairies that people of this world distinguish. Understandably, plenty of fairies nowadays are mixtures of these, but they tend to recognize themselves as one of these, or a combination of two.

    • Meadow. Meadow fairies originated in the midlands. Their skin tends to be pale green, and their hair is usually some shade of brown or blonde. 
    • Barrens. Barrens fairies originated in the desert. Their skin tends to be dark brown or reddish-brown, and their hair is of any vibrant color. 
    • Tundral. Tundral fairies originated in the arctic environments. Their skin tone tends to be pale beige, and their hair usually takes on hues of cold colors such as blue, purple, or rarely green. 
    • Oceanic. Oceanic fairies originated in or near the seas. Their skin tends to be dark green, and their hair bright, usually green, blue, or yellow. 
    • Mountain. Mountain fairies originated in the hills and mountains. Their skin tone is usually a saturated green skin tone, and their hair is of some dark color. 


    Subculture Showcase: Wilderpunk

    Note: This section is not meant to imply that the presented subculture is in any way unique to or most represented within this city. It is just a subculture I chose to present because it felt most thematically fitting and it wasn't introduced yet.

    So many times are fairies dressed up in leaves and flowers and other natural clothes, I figured it would only be fair to put a subculture that's like that into my world too. Pun intended.


    Art Curiosities: Drawing toes is hard, and these are just models for outfits anyway, so please don't judge. Also, these two are not fairies.

    Traditionally, the natural world outside of city walls is viewed with an acquiescence. People are aware of the monsters out there that can take on any form they wish, which is a major concern for anyone who wishes to move between the cities. But where some see tricks and danger, others see beauty and freedom.

    Wilderpunk is about rebelling against civilization by embracing that which they fear the most—the natural world. The most visible way in which they show this is in their outfits, which commonly use leaves and petals (or cloth that’s made to resemble them), and more unusually bark, vines, furs and scales, or sometimes even imitations of wings. Elves, fairies, and goblins make up a disproportionate majority of the various Wilderpunk communities.

    Folks who would consider themselves part of the Wilderpunk subculture live their lives with little to no concerns. Ideally, they’d prefer to move out of the cities to live in the country, creating their own food and managing on their own without all this fancy runetech. But the silence of those few who tried this is a lesson for any who would actually wish to attempt this. In fact, it feels like the megacorporations are making citizens of their cities more dependent on them with each passing day. It’s why most of these punks prefer to move into the Independent Kingdoms, hoping that not all of them will succumb to the two biggest movers and shakers of the worldwide society.

    The punks who remain in the city-states have one goal that they share: to bring independence back to the city. Whether it’s through attempts of reaching the government level to change the local laws, educating the public, or by protesting loud and clear, wilderpunks do what they can to change the world. The means by which they wish to change it divide the community into smaller ones, mixing them with Acumen, Loyalists, and sometimes even with the corporations.


    Relations

    Timberhaven is the closest ally to the Amberwatch, as well as independent kingdoms generally. Avurai University knows of Timberhaven and usually picks up personal assistants there. Currently, the city has also good relationships with Nexuspace, meaning if it were to lose its independence, it would most likely be purchased by that company.


    Curiosities

    Several points of interest are in the Timberhaven, including but not limited to:

    • Rooted Mines are mines found beneath the Lower Circle, where the hollowed-out roots of the tree have grown. These mines are surprisingly rich in amber.
    • The Heart is a wooden statue found in the High Circle district. Its shape is closest to an elven heart, but some differences are present there. It's assumed to be a creation of a long-forgotten artist, and it's found slightly lower than it would be in an elf scaled up to the size of Timberhaven.
    • Candyrock Spa is an establishment built in one of the mines currently unused due to a water spring. It is a fairy bathhouse that also contains a confectionery store.
    • Firefly Season is the name of two annual periods of time. First starts in the middle of spring and lasts until the first days of autumn. The second period lasts for the entirety of winter. At this time, fireflies enter Timberhaven to reside there, either safe from the jungle's summer wildlife, or for protection from the cold. Fairies used to bring fireflies with them as a portable hands-free light source before runetech, and some still do to this day.
    • The Empty Portal is a structure located in the Middle Circle. It's a ring shaped out of natural branches, standing on one of the few city streets. It was created by a long gone fairy artist, inspired by the ancient myths from the nearby kingdoms of witches and wizards who could create portals that allowed for instantaneous travel between distant places.
    • Fairy Tunnels are entrances to and exits from Timberhaven, hidden well to be unseen by naked eye from the outside.
    • Glowing Orchard is a mossy garden in the Middle and High Circle. All of the moss here is bioluminescent, glowing in the dark well enough to illuminate the immediate surroundings.

    Tramona Towers

    Years before the monsters have appeared, Tramona Towers was born in the city of (city name). She was a nice child, and a good climber, but she was shy due to other kids in the school making fun of her for her small height. For many nights, she wished to grow taller so that the kids wouldn't make fun of her anymore. And once she reached puberty, she got her wish in a way she never would have expected. She grew quickly, and in a matter of months, she has become the tallest female elf in the whole world, at a height of 240 centimeters. Taller than even average height orcs, however, she has once again become a target of judgments and jokes, this time due to her extreme height. Frustrated, she left the city and went into the world to find a place for herself.

    Over her travels, she has stumbled upon Timberhaven, the city of fairies. They were rather small, and while they recognized she's taller than average, they welcomed her with open arms. Over her time spent in the city, which was massive even for someone as big as her, she helped fairies by carrying them to the various heights of their city to let their wings rest. This has lead to the fairies gifting her with an outfit equipped with plenty of pockets and standing platforms, employing her as a mode of mass transport within Timberhaven. Tramona, nowadays also nicknamed "Trammy", has become an instant celebrity when the Mistweb found out about her years later, inspiring many of the children worldwide who thought like they don't fit with her life story. One entire district is dedicated to serving as a room just for her. Once every year, she takes a three weeks long vacation, spending two of these weeks at its unstopping festival to meet up with her fans. One thing is for sure—since elves live for a long time, Tramona will be helpful to the Timberhaven for many years to come.

    Trammy, surprised by her small friends bringing her an ice-cream of her favorite flavor (cookie).


    Important People

    A few examples of the important people from the Timberhaven:

    • Jenissa Sevenleaf, fairy, female; the current queen of Timberhaven.
    • Tramona Towers, elf, female; the carrier of Timberhaven's fairies.
    • Sallice Redleaf, fairy, female; influencer, internationally popular singer, actress originally born in New Prista.
    • Imma Freshblade, fairy, female; doctor who has graduated the Avurai University.
    • Lanessa Freestone, fairy, female; representative of Nexuspace who's waiting for her opportunity to buy this city.

    Tuesday, September 7, 2021

    Design of Runehack: University's Pillars

    Ahoy! Did you notice the school year is starting again? And so is the university? Or maybe it did already. I don't know, it seems to happen at different times all around the world. Anyways, while working on the next Runehack city article, I got distracted, wrote, and published a one-page RPG for One Page RPG Jam 2021. Runehack: Univerity's Pillars is a game taking place in the Avurai University and it's all about balancing your life by choosing and stacking dice representing the opportunities you've got over your time spent studying. While I could describe all of the rules, or add yet more rules to the mix, I figured I should try to talk for once about how I've designed them. The game is freely available on itch.io through the link above, so if you want to, feel free to check it out and download it as a PDF. Let's hope this won't be too chaotic.



    I've wanted to write a dice-stacking RPG for a long time. Making towers out of the dice was something that I always found neat since it's something of a meme in the D&D community for players to do while bored. I also wanted to make a school game, where the player has to make decisions about their personal life, and how they invest the time they spend there. One day, I had a bright idea of combining the two.

    The lore article regarding Avurai University was entirely written before I conceived of this game, but there were some cool things to latch onto. For example, three semesters (trimesters?), each of which lasts three months, for a total of four years of study. After a lot of time spent deliberating, I figured I'll make the player earn one extra die for every month that passes. And, coincidentally, that was a very good choice.

    How many pillars? I wrote down some ideas, combined some, and ended up with three core pillars that sounded good enough to me:

    • Self, which stands for improving yourself by exercising, working on your passions, and caring for yourself,
    • Contacts, which stands for your friends, family, and potential romantic partner as well,
    • and School, which stands for your performance on the exams, lectures, lessons, and extra-curricular but school-related activities.
    There was a small problem though. I didn't have enough dice to test it out. So, I went to a local gaming place, where I stacked dice for about an hour or two. Fun fact: To play this game optimally while being sure you'll never run out of dice, you would need 4d4 (or more if you somehow manage to balance d4's on top of d4's), 38d6, 36d8, 36d10, and 36d12. The highest towers I made were 11 dice tall each, most of them below that but usually above 6 dice.

    I thought about whether that's a problem or not, did some maths to see what the final numbers should be. There are 4 years of 9 months, for a total of 36 dice to distribute into three pillars. This means... at least one would have to have 12 dice.

    But wait! I did include a way for a player to remove a die. While that is true, it's also extremely rare - this chance is 1 in 36. In other words, it would happen on average once per four years of study. By the way, getting a d4 has the same chance, and that die serves as a nice way of preventing a player from progressing further in one pillar due to some critical problem. Anyways, even with one die removed on average, that's 35 dice.

    This was a hard problem to overcome, but in the end, it turned out to be only a matter of mindset. It's fine because I'm emulating here a flying university that expects the impossible out of their students. Only fifty students finish the fourth year from each of the faculties, and that's assuming their test results were good enough. Who knows, maybe with enough training, there could be players who can reliably stack 12 dice. If I did 11 with little to no training, others can surely do better with training.

    Believe it or not, in the beginning, the rolling worked very differently. The player rolled once to see which die they get, and each die could go into one, two, or three pillars. I originally wanted to make separate tables for every group of events, but... that turned out to take up too much space on the precious single page I could use. I know I could have technically used two since One Page RPG expects you to print the paper from both sides (at least I think?), but I liked the challenge better this way. After reworking how the core dice rolls work though, everything became much more clear - instead of making a lot of events based on choices players could make, I could just... randomly generate the options that a player has to choose from. Another quirk that turned out to be a good thing for reworking was the rolling of "scores" for the summaries of study years. Originally, you had to roll these at the end of your school year. Which meant... you had to take apart your beautiful tower, roll the dice, add them up, find out you have no romantic partner nor social life, and then put the tower back together. Using the rolls from the events instead turned out to be a much better idea, plus impactful for the player.


    Alright, there's that! It took me surprisingly long to actually get back to this article, because... well, I've revived an old project of mine. You might even get to see a preview of it sooner than you'd expect.

    Thank you for reading my rambling, and have a nice day!

    Wednesday, August 11, 2021

    My D&D Characters

    Howdy there! While I'm working on all sorts of things, I had a random thought of writing a short article on the various D&D character I've played, as well as some of my favorite NPCs. While I recognize most of these are tied to their setting in one way or another, feel free to use them in your own games as NPCs. If it makes your game better, it will make me happier.


    Sam Eks Kopee

    While the name is a little on the nose, this is one of my all-time favorite characters I've ever played. In a long-term solo game, Sam served as a master infiltrator to the Thieves' Guild wielding the combination of his changeling powers and roguish training for spying. Better yet, I got to play one of my favorite creations, the faceless (which was my rework of changelings before the 5e Eberron book has been released). It also came with several feats for expanding the shapeshifting powers, which was just awesome.

    When it came to his personality, he was careful but curious. In his free time, he worked as an actor for the local theatre. This profession was so ingrained into his personality, that he would usually entertain his closest ones by transforming them when with them to jokingly mock them. However, that was always just a facade that he used to hide his insecurity about who he feels like he should be, and whether society could accept him for that. Due to his risky profession, he turned his faith in the Goddess of luck and chance, Avandra (although this could be replaced by a fitting deity in your own games).

    When it came to mechanics and magical item equipment, he is a simple character. Two magical items I can't imagine him without are glamoured studded leather armor, and gloves of thievery. While the gloves make his hands much more dexterous than they normally would be, the armor serves as his second skin. Not only can he change his appearance using an action, but he can also alter the appearance of his clothes as a bonus action too, completely changing how he appears. Other potentially useful magical items for him are the medallion of thoughts and the slippers of spider climb. While his subclass was originally Swashbuckler, the truth is he could be almost any roguish subclass depending on the world and his role during the infiltrations. Soulknife sounds rather fun if you wanted him to have more supernatural powers. While most of his stats could be adjusted easily, I would keep his Dexterity and Charisma high.

    Picture not included, because he could literally look like anyone. While he did have a default appearance, revealing it would kind of ruin the surprise, right?


    Katerina S.

    A bit of a metagame backstory before I get to the character herself. Over two years ago, I have started my live campaign that lasted for quite a while. I overestimated myself, and managed to gather another group of people, "just for a oneshot". However, as it goes, those friends have called their friends, and then friends of friends have been called. When the number grew too big, I asked my friend for help, if he could take over DMing this group for me. He helped me out, and I am thankful to him to this day. After the oneshot, he actually started to DM a game for us that's been going on to this day. My character in that game, which simply put was a half-orc monk with some extra homebrew stuff, didn't last too long though. He has fallen in combat against an owlbear, trying to help out his cleric companion by attracting the monster's attention away from him and to himself. However, the beast has rolled a little too well, and in one mighty swoop, the legend of the half-orc has ended. I wasn't sad, however. I was glad because I knew this could have an impact on the party. I have chosen to not attend the next game on purpose, to let the party feel the void, and to give them some space before the new character arrives.

    Since this happened before a major release like Tasha's Cauldron of Everything, I was looking for inspiration in the homebrew. Turns out I had a little too many ideas, so my DM asked me to make a "vanilla" character. Without homebrews.

    Katerina is a human, who has lost the memories of her early childhood. The earliest memory she has is that of waking up on the street without a home, knowing she just made a pact with the Evening Star. She uses her magical powers to protect all that is good, and fight the evils of the world. If this doesn't ring any bells for you, let me add that one of her eldritch invocations was Armor of Shadows, which lets her cast mage armor. And since the appearance of that could be reflavored...


    ~Fighting evil by moonlight,
    ... wait, wrong lyrics. Uhh...
    ~Caught in destiny we shine for we are meant to be the Star Guardians
    ... wait, wrong again. Wait, I remember now!
    ~We are, the great Starlight Brigade!

    Artwork kindly provided by Yurco_.


    Yes. It used to be a joke character. Emphasis on used to.

    Katerina is a considerate optimist. Since she was made to patch up something that the party was missing at a time, she is more intelligent than charismatic and uses her Intelligence for her spellcasting too. If there's one thing that makes her happy, though, it's making other people happy. Whether it's through generosity, motivational words, or a little bit of magic. She also suffers from claustrophobia due to an accident when she was growing up.

    The world she lives in is an unwelcoming one to the arcane casters. Wizardry is outright banned by the United Order, a religious organization that rules the entire continent. Sorcerers are kidnapped by the soldiers and trained for unknown purposes. And warlocks, well... people don't know yet that those exist. Katerina didn't get much choice in becoming one, at least as far as her memories go. Being a child of the street, she has been found and raised by the previously-mentioned half-orc monk. What he did wasn't legal, but Katerina knew that he did it out of necessity, not because he wanted to. When the United Order has begun founding adventuring guilds all over the continent, he decided to leave his criminal life behind and joined one. In part thanks to this, Katerina got to study under the tutelage of one of the last wizards living in secrecy.

    Katerina is a warlock, serving the Great Old One patron. All of her abilities are flavored in a positive optimistic way, usually related to the stars or hearts. What others would consider a disturbing way to telepathically communicate with people by crossing the linguistic and auditory barriers is Heartspeech, a way to speak to another person's heart directly across the barriers. The Pact Boon of choice for her was Chain, with her first familiar being a sprite named Xandra. With her powers, she could tell the good people from evil using her tiny friend, but after an encounter with a genie, she achieved the powers of Heartsight. Since then, her familiar has used the statistics of an imp, still resembling a fairy but a bit more fiendish. The vast majority of her spells revolves around utility outside of combat—long-distance communication, illusions, and charms. Some of her iconic magical items are a robe of stars for some extra spells and a misty scarf that she regularly uses for short-range teleportation.


    TCUU

    This entry will be quite a bit shorter, but I do want to return to this character someday or reuse it. Since at the moment I don't have games in which I would play him, I don't have any need to hold back the spoilers for his backstory.


    Artwork by shinji2602.


    Once upon a time, there has been a research facility hidden from the world someplace underground. And in this facility worked an elf called Vittor Robotnik, clever for an artificing apprentice and loved by his family who didn't know of this job. What he worked on he didn't know, it was way above his paygrade. However, his life has changed forever once the accident happened. The facility has blown up, killing many, and among them Vittor too. Unexpectedly, though, he was the only one who did not die completely. Since there were exotic materials related to the current study of the ethereal plane present, his soul was stuck there, lingering and unable to move on. However, over the time spent there, he learned that he could move very small objects on the Material Plane around.

    It took him decades, but his project was finally finished. Combining the small parts, he managed to make bigger and bigger parts that he could move. Luckily, everything important for the construct was present, which is why he was able to create a mechanical body for himself. His soul is now bound to the mechanism, which he called TCUU (pronounced tee-see-yous), resembling a local legendary hero who has supposedly recreated his own body.

    The decades have made him cold and calculated, but patient. While some of his humor still remains, it is completely dry by now. Each of his jokes told in a monotone voice has to be followed with "Ha. Ha. Ha." to let others know that it was meant to be funny. His motivation was like a boulder rolling down a hill—it takes a while to get moving, but it's hard to stop its determined roll. Upon finding out that his wife has died, he was hopeless until he came to learn that she too is now stuck in the Ethereal Plane. He is dedicated to crafting a body for her to inhabit, which is why he'll do anything he can in order to obtain more robotic parts.

    TCUU is a warforged artificer of the armorer specialization. Unfortunately, since the campaign he was in ended after a couple of sessions, he didn't get to experience all that much stuff. One day, though, I'll get to play him some more, and define him better.


    The magical rings salesman

    This one is even shorter, since it's an NPC. There are very few constants across my various games. However, I always try to find some way to include this character. He's a simple NPC to portray. A fire genasi whose skin and "hair" are blue (possibly due to Wild Magic?), he doesn't have a consistent backstory of any kind. What's better, his name is remembered by nobody. He probably sold it to a fairy or something.


    A wonderful rendition of a cross-dimensional NPC magical rings salesman, provided kindly by /u/Seqarian.


    But oh what's this? A cart that's filled with all kinds of magical rings! Wait, why isn't anyone paying attention to him? What's this, they're saying that his magical rings are all just pranks? Nonsense, there must be something useful! Let's dig in...

    Oh, how about a ring of flying? Oh wait, it only makes you fall upwards. Hmm, maybe a ring of fishing? Huh, so it attracts fish only because it's glittery. Aha, here we go! A ring of impressions, which lets you do supernaturally good handshakes, even when the other person would try to bluff you by turning it into a high-five or a fistbump!

    ... maybe they were right about him. What was his name again?


    I could go on and on about my other characters. Some of my favorites being the Seven-Cursed Queen Arcadia, Doirend the archfey, Gray the noble, Ebenezer, Krush, Kyrislav, and so many others. But for now, I'll spare myself, and see if this is something people like and want to see more of. I hope you've enjoyed this, that perhaps you'll find a use for these in your games someday, and I wish you a great day!