Artistic Inspiration for some of my upcoming projects.

Greetings, in this installment of my blog I will be discussing some art that has been inspiring the past few days. The artist is ART_Veider (here), you should follow them if you have an Instagram account. I really love their art, the artist has a wonderful style that seems inspired by both Western comics and Manga/Anime.

By ART_Veider

That is just a taste of their more whimsical art that I have found inspiring for my All-Ages projects. It has such character and frankly fills me with joy.

I really want to create something whimsical and fun. This is not a new impulse either, as the art from Manga like Bandit King Jing, Soul Eater and Akira Toriyama’s early Dragon Ball series had me inspired to attempt such projects over a decade ago.

Being a fan of Tim Burton’s The Corpse Bride and The Nightmare before Christmas, as well as Laika’s Box Trolls. Plus animation like Brave, Tangled, Frozen and Moana I find incredibly inspiring.

That being all said, I do like more serious and darker themed stuff that just happens to be Bright Noble oriented. Art like the following really inspires me in that vein.

By ART_Veider

As well as the related image below. As they are very evocative in style.

By ART_Veider

I have been considering a new setting project that is Bright Noble in scope and theme. As I have mentioned in my previous post, I like the idea of flawed by heroic characters striving to change the world, even in a local region.

Rooting out dark and corruptive incursions from the Mythic Underworld. Vile monsters that sow discord, madness and dark magic that corrupts the very land and those who dare to wield it.

The picture above illustrates just that. The inky darkness erupting from the shadows. Eventually giving form to infernal beasts.

This the type of thing I envision when I think of OD&D, B/X D&D and 1e AD&D Clerics and Paladins. Out purging the world of cancerous blight of the the infernal spawned from the Mythic Underworld.

Yet, the Greyhawk Supplement added the Thief and Blackmoor added the Assassin and Monk classes. The Thief and Assassin added the possibility of playing evil characters and the Monk, tossed in an Eastern flavored class that has felt out of place in the typical default D&D setting.

The addition of Neutral the neutral class Druid muddied the waters even further.

I am not criticizing the use or inclusion of the above, but made playing a Lawful based game harder to do unless you ignored the restrictions against Paladins adventuring with non-Lawful groups.

Don’t get me wrong I love D&D, it’s early editions and the tropes they encompass. I also love the Law-Neutral-Chaos Alignment Axis. I am just stating that things got problematic if you wanted to run strictly Lawful based campaigns, unless you only used the 3LBBs of OD&D or restricted classes like Thief and Assassins in your campaigns.

I will likely move away from the Lawful-Neutral-Chaos Alignment Axis for my Bright Noble settings and focus on a Good-Evil based Alignment Axis for them. I will likely draw upon Old English definitions of Good and Evil and pre-Judeo-Christian ethics.

That said, I will likely have Divinely touched Monster Hunters and Warrior-Priests that emulate OD&D Clerics.

The above will be the core elements that I will draw from D&D for these setting projects.

I am debating upon creating my own system or using the OpenQuest 3e OGL or Mythras OGL. I will likely do my own system, but may create a setting for either d100 Family systems at a later date, if I don’t with the upcoming setting project.

This leads me to discussing potential plans for creating D100 Family based fanzines. I have always been intrigued by D100/RQ based games, be it Stormbringer or RuneQuest itself. So it is a natural evolution to try to develop for rules based on that venerable system.

By ART_Veider

I am considering ideas for the All-Ages setting, I may create something that doesn’t have “Traditional” D&D races, or if I do, they will have a humorous twist to them to fit the tone of the setting. A mix of Humans, Disney-esque Folkloric creatures/Fey and animal creatures maybe fun to create.

By ART_Veider

Maybe even utilize the treasure hunting and dungeon delving tropes with a different system. Who knows, I have time to brainstorm the details of the project.

Well I will end this installment of my blog so I can get this posted, shared and get to bed. Please take care and stay safe. Fin.

Changes are a coming.

Greetings in this post I will be discussing some changes with my blog and the reasons why. Though the changes are not overly drastic in nature, they will have an impact upon my future content.

The main change is that I will be pausing development of most of my recent projects for an indefinite period of time. I will eventually return to them and hopefully develop them into publishable state.

The exceptions to this will be Fréohæfen of which I am working with Haven on, Free Haven and Undertown, though that project will have the lowest priority.

Also outside my recent projects (except for Fréohæfen and Free Haven) I will likely stop developing “D&D” rooted content, at least for the foreseeable future.

After the recent BS by WotC I have added motivation to develop my own systems or develop for other established non-D&D based systems.

Another change is moving away from the Grim Dark themes for a bit, not forever as I still like the genre. That being said, I want to try my hand at Bright Noble genre and more whimsical content.

“But Ezra, what about your rant about preferring Two-Fisted Adventure Gaming?”

The Bright Noble genre doesn’t preclude “Two Fisted Adventures”. People likely don’t understand that ERB’s Barsoom novels could equally be considered Bright Noble and Two Fisted Adventure yarns. As would Flash Gordon, Buck Rodgers and even the Drizzt novels. Much of the earliest Pulp speculative fiction often dealt with the struggle between Good and Evil.

The concept of flawed but heroic characters not primarily motivated by treasure hunting, but instead heroic quests also appeals to me, just as much as anti-hero mercenaries.

I have found myself stuck in a creative rut that to me are largely tied to tropes ensconced within the DNA of D&D and it’s various offshoots. Don’t get me wrong, I still love those tropes and will develop future content with those in mind.

Undertown, Fréohæfen and Free Haven still are very much rooted in those tropes. So I am not abandoning them completely, just refocusing my creative energies for a bit and trying something new.

There is an OSR game that is focused on incursions of Chaos and how adventurers seek to cleanse them. I always thought that was an ingenious premise. It definitely fits the Heroic theme of Bright Noble genre.

As I mentioned above, I also want to try some setting projects  that are more all ages/kid friendly and somewhat more whimsical in nature.

There is an artist that I would love to commission in the future for a few projects if their commissions slots reopen. The artist has various styles, from more whimsical to darker Western/Anime fusion that I love.

But that is all for now. Hopefully my readers will still enjoy my content moving forward and I will be posting fairly frequently. Now please take care and stay safe. Fin.

Free Haven– Adventuring into a World of Portals. Part 1 – Introduction.

Greetings, in this installment of my blog I introduce another setting project. I just can’t help myself as it a curse. I will likely begin picking projects that I discuss here that I really enjoy and expand upon them and create fanzine size mini setting pamphlets to sell. If a setting expands large enough to warrant it and there is a desire for it, I’ll combine the series into a DIY crafted hardcover guide. These will be reorganized to fit together based on subject into a unified whole.

They will also come with maps tied to each pamphlet and each hardcover with come with the individual maps, as well as a combined wall map of the complete “Known World“, that can be expanded upon by enterprising referees. I will likely create a Patreon to help raise funds for this project, to pay for a professional blog for my publishing venture, to hire a competent editor and commission art from select artists that fit the given project.

But enough of this blather, lets get to what you came here for, my project introduction; shall we?

Free Haven– Adventuring into a World of Portals

Introduction

Free Haven – Adventures into a World of Portals, is a mini setting of magic, wonder and adventure. It shares a magic rich setting common to Dungeonpunk but isn’t as cynical. Sure, danger and evil abound, and yet there is great good, beauty and wonder to also be found. Technology and magic work in tandem, often fusing to create magically powered technology. Free Haven lies in a world of various cultures centered in numerous the city-states and tribal villages that dot the vast expanses of primal wilderness and wastelands. Travel is often by airships and portals that dot the world, or by fantastic mounts.

Civilizations have come and gone over the millenniums and they have left nary a lasting mark upon the world. Once they have fallen, they are then swallowed by the local wilderness or wastes again, hiding their lost lore, magic and treasures to be discovered by intrepid Ruin Delvers. Strange creatures both great and small haunt these ruins and the wilds and wastes in which they lie hidden.

I will use a variety of languages as I develop this setting, though both English and German will be the initial languages I will use, that said I will be adding Japanese, Hindi and Korean languages as well. This setting, much like most of my other settings are deeply inspired by languages and art that I adore. Also like a few of my settings horses, cattle and such don’t exist as they do in our world, but are called similar names as they fill the same role in the setting.

Humans are a rare folk, as they newcomers to Mundo Portas – World of Portals; as such they make up most of the adventuring Ruin Delvers, though far from all. Most of the sapient folk of Mundo Portas are tribal anthropomorphic animal folk who dwell in small fortified villages, only visiting Human, Elf or Dwarf City-States or their subject villages and towns for trade. Again, I am only using convenient terms for races, that humans have given these races based of similar characteristics they share with mythological beings of Terra Prime. There are also other rare sapient beings that dwell in the world that mingle with both the natives and other new comers to Mundo Portas.

Magic comes in arcane, nature and psionic based kinds of Art. There are no magic using priests in the more “traditionalD&D/Fantasy TTRPG types. You mainly have animists among the tribal non-human sapient folk and temple/shrine bound priests. Though the world is rich in magic, most magic is utilitarian in nature and not directly combat related, though there are exceptions. Arcane magic can be destructive and corruptive in nature, as can be psionics; though is a more insidious manner.

Many fantasy “purists” hate psionics in their fantasy, but I come from the school of thought is that fantasy and science-fiction are kindred speculative fiction genres and should mix freely. Psionics are rare as they are far harder to master compared to both arcane and nature magic, that can be gathered, given form via formulaic invocations; whereas psionics are abilities that are inborn within individuals that have the potential. Like Arcane and nature magic it takes a lifetime to master, but there are no invocations to cast these spells, as they are more like supernatural abilities locked in the Psions DNA. Psionics effect either the mind of others or bodies of others or themselves in phantastic and oft times horrifying ways, but this can be discussed later in a chapter devoted to Magic.

System-wise I will be using a limited skill and class-based system. Most new skills will be hard to learn and take time to develop, and yet a character’s initial skills can more easily be developed to show greater mastery. That said I want to keep the system simple and fast in play, so things will need to quick to reference for play – so no character sheets bloated with unnecessary information. There isn’t a level system, characters instead progress by developing their skills, abilities and spells. Also, a character’s initial skills will be based upon their culture, training as an adolescence and a few hobbies they may have developed.

Combat will be deadly and quick; armor simply reduces damage and chances of critical strike landing. While melee combat will be opposed rolls between an attacker’s melee attack roll and defender’s defensive skill roll. Multiple attacks are based on weapon size and the character’s quickness and agility compared to the defender’s weapon size and quickness and agility. All this will be added together on the sheet for easy reference. Fatigue and wounds will affect this as well as all roles taken by fatigued and wounded characters.

There are no feats or combat maneuvers to bog down combat, you simply describe what you want to do. Combat is largely abstracted and thus unless you have a desired outcome specified, “multiple attacks” are simply greater chances for attacks to hit home and cause damage or wounds.

Example: Gunther wants to charge an opponent standing near the side of a bridge and wants to knock him over the edge. Gunther’s player describes the action, the referee determines if the opponent is aware of the impending attack or not and assigns whatever penalty or bonus to said action. The player rolls a strength test against his opponents’ strength if they are unaware or agility if they are aware. On a successful attack Gunther slams into the opponent knocking them over the edge to their doom. If the fail, depending on their opponent’s awareness of the impending attack – Gunther either slams into causing some damage or the opponent can instead dodge the attack and potentially assist Gunter over the edge instead.   

A simple combat maneuver without need of a bloody Feat or Combat Maneuver. I want attributes to mean something in the game beyond a simple bonus or penalty generator. Attribute tests are taken when an action or outcome in play doesn’t have a defined skill tied to it. A poor city soldier most likely won’t have been taught to ride, so may need to roll an agility test to stay on their mount’s back and a wisdom check to figure out how to ride the mount effectively, whereas a trained rider, just rolls a Riding Skill test. 

But this an introduction not a system summary, so I will close it now so you can get to the bulk of the system guide. Fin.

Free Haven – Adventures into a World of Gates is a Gonzo setting, where nearly anything is possible. Do you have the courage to enter such a perilous and yet wonder filled world?

Though several of my other setting ideas still intrigue me greatly (Undertown, Grimmwilde, Fréohæfen and Sanguinis et Gloria – Tulli in Saeva Mundi) I really want to dive into this setting as it has so much potential and can easily a connection point in a multiverse all my other settings share.

Also I really want to dive into the classes, magic, creatures, religion and technology of this setting. I don’t take lightly labelling something Gonzo. If it’s Gonzo, it should be strange and wonderous.

One thing one may notice is that I didn’t mention alignment in my introduction – it simply doesn’t exist in this setting. I didn’t feel that it fit the feel I was going in this setting. The clash between Chaos and Law doesn’t exist in the setting. Though I love the Law-Neutrality-Chaos Alignment Axis, I just don’t see it in the confines of the setting of Free Haven.

One thing that ties all my settings together, beyond the inspiration of language and art, is somewhere in the setting is a Free Haven City. Though they are not the same city, they are one of the uniting features of each setting. Somewhere hidden in each Free Haven, lies a mystical portal that connects to Free Haven in Mundo Portas. It is hidden by magic and only those with a “Key” and the knowledge can open it and enter into Free Haven and thus Mundo Portas.

Well I’ll end this installment of my blog so I can get it published and and shared via Twitter and hopefully get some sleep. Ugh, I shouldn’t have drank all that caffeine. Take care as always and stay safe. Fin.

Note: Sorry for my previous readers, I should’ve posted this after I awoken.

Undertown – Adventures in a World of Giants – brief introductory post

Greetings, in this post I will be introducing YET another setting project…I just can’t help myself. I got to keep myself sane in this chaotic and uncertain time that we live in. That all said, I am not sure if I will follow this post up with a series, but I wanted to share the basic premise anyway.

I still have my other projects to work on so this one isn’t a high priority, but I was inspired by a Twitter by a dear friend of mine, Haven. So, here is the brief introduction I typed up.

Undertown – Adventers in a world of Giants

Introduction

Undertown – Adventures in a World of Giants is a fun mini setting inspired by memories of my mother reading The Littles and The Borrowers books to me and my younger sister, as well as watching the Borrowers live action film, Arthur & the Invisibles, Epic and the Spiderwick Chronicles film in recent years. It is also inspired by my cherished friend Haven and a post she made on Twitter concerning the OSR’s tendency to favor Human centric settings. I took it as a challenge to create a different kind of setting and a system to run it. I cannot thank Haven enough for their friendship and inspiration. Maybe this can be a form of thanks to them.

I love a variety of fantasy and sci-fi, including stuff like Miceguard, the Mossflower series, Tangled, Brave and mid-level fantasy novels (especially the illustrated ones). Though I am far more known for my Grim Dark Post-Apocalyptic Science Fantasy and Sword & Sorcery settings, I do like some “Fluffy Bunny types of fantasy and sci-fi, though Grim Dark Two-Fisted Adventure fiction is still my go to.

In a world of selfish and all to often destructive Giants (Humans & their animal companions) the denizens of “Underworld” and rural expanses have to navigate a world hostile to them and often corruptive and poisonous as well. Hobs, Gnomes and other small Fey folk are forced to dwell in Undertown or their ancestral homes if possible. Undertown is but one such “Under City”, a safe haven for these diminutive mortal Fey Folk.

If it wasn’t bad enough to live besides Humans and other various animal potential threats, Hobs and the like must be wary of their Dark Fey kindred and Trolls. So, these beings must be cautious and cunning to survive in this world of Giants.

Has anything gone unexplainably missing or ended up somewhere unexpected? Could it be Hobs? Perhaps, or perhaps not. I wager that it is Hobs, Gnomes or another kind of domestic house Fey, but that is just me.

                                                                          Fin.

Ezra Caleb West,

Chronicler of the weird and phantastic.  

Grimmwilde – Adventures in the Savage Wilds Part 1 – Introduction and basic overview & a rant.

Greetings, here is the first installment in a new mini-setting project inspired by a post by Black Dragon Games (here) and an old blog by Goblin Punch (here). In this post I am laying the groundwork for future posts in this series describing this setting and the classes common to it.

I will eventually begin taking many of these mini-setting ideas and produce fanzines centered around them. If once they are sold out and the demand is high enough I may collect the contents and reorganize and potentially expand upon them and create custom print versions, with DIY hardcover and Old School 3LLB style pamphlets in custom boxes.

But enough of that, now onto the introduction for the setting.

Grimmwilde – Adventures into the Savage Wilds

Introduction:

Grimmwilde – Adventures into the Savage Wilds is a mini-setting inspired by Tweets by one of my favorite creatives Black Dragon Games and a separate blog post on the Goblin Punch Blog concerning the Primal Druids. It sparked inspiration to create a new mini-setting that seems to be focused on the clash of Law/Order and Chaos/Disorder. But it is more a struggle between Nature and the at times ruinous nature of Civilization – at least in the case of urbanized “High Civilization” modern nations extoll. Though Neutrality does exist, those who do not pick a side are merely casualties in the age-old struggle.  

In a world where numerous advanced civilizations have arisen and crumbled over the eons – a new world is developing from the ashes of the old – New Powers arise trying create Order in the midst of Chaos, at least within their own biased view. They believe nature must be tamed and the “uncivilized savages” and “anarchists” must be “taught” that Order and thus their band of civilization is the only true way.

Some might claim that I am pushing a political agenda – I am not exactly sure what those politics are supposed to be. I am a political person, but in the end, this is a setting for a game, not some politicalized novel. The Players make their own choices on if they are going to choose a side or live their own life, their own way. All I am doing is creating a fantasy setting, if others want to infer a political agenda, let them. I don’t care, I really don’t.

This projects sole reason for existence is a desire to create a mini-setting for my feral “Druids” and other classes and have fun creating a world (and thus drawing maps for it). Nothing political at all, that said will some of the ideas expressed within mirror some of my own beliefs? Sure, how could it not. That said, this isn’t a political project; so, don’t worry your pretty little heads I will not be preaching to or at you via this work of art.

                                        ALL ELSE IS ERROR

The natural world is a world of war; the natural man is a warrior; the natural law is tooth and claw. All else is error. A condition of combat everywhere exists. We are born into a perpetual conflict. It is our inheritance even as it was the heritage of previous generations. This “condition of combat” may be disguised with the holy phrases of St. Francis, or the soft deceitful doctrines of a Kropotkin or Tolstoi, but it cannot be eventually evaded by any human being or any tribe of human beings. It is there and it stays there, and each man (whether he will or not) has to reckon with it. It rules all things; it governs all things; it reigns over all things and it decides all who imagine policemanized populations, internationally regulated tranquility, and State organized industrialism so joyful, blessed and divine.

Ragnar Redbeard

The above introduction is meant to give a general idea of the purpose of the setting and preemptively silence potential groaning of “Politicalizing” the hobby. The tone of the following brief overview is bound to upset some overly fragile folks on Twitter, but I don’t care. I figured that I would install a trigger warning for the ignoramuses’ who lack any critical thinking.

Now onto the overview.

   Setting Overview – The Grimmwilde

The Grimmwilde is vast wilddéorness east of the Kingdom of Róborium (Regnum Róborium). It was once a province of the Old Corulium Empire (Imperium Corulium). In the western reaches of the Grimmwilde lies the Duchy of Corvium (Ducatus Corvium) and its vassal villages. The Duchy of Corvium is a dominion of the Kingdom of Róborium. The Duke hopes to pacify the local Grimmcynn tribes and claim the lost lore and treasure of the Old Empire, for himself and his lord.

Centuries after the fall of the Corulium Empire, the wilddéorness has reclaimed the ruins and the native sons and daughters of the once vassal province are now “savage” tribes living in harmony with nature. That said, some of the tribal lords’ thirst for power and have brokered alliances with the Duchy of Corvium and the Kingdom of Róborium. As part of the alliances, they must adopt the faith of Lucifer, the Light Bearer – Lord of Order; as well as tame their lands so civilization can flourish under the guidance of “advisors” and Priests of Lucifer (Sacerdotes de Lucifer).

The last few decades have seen a “taming” of the Western Grimmwilde by these Barons (Barones) have worked tirelessly to create resources to trade with their allies in the west. New villages (villas) and towns (oppida) have risen in the once lush forested hills of the region. Warrior-Priests of Lucifer aka Hounds of Lucifer (Bellator Sacerdotes de Lucifer aka Canes de Lucifer) ferret out “Witches” (Wicce), “Sorcerers” (Wicca), “Demon Worshippers” (Daemon adoratores) and Demons (Daemons) and other fell monsters.

Resistance from the eastern tribes has been weak, largely because of pretty rivalries and potential secret negotiations with their western kin and the Duke. A new power has arisen in the Eastern Grimmwilde, followers of the Old GodsGods of Fury and Nature. These Old Gods are seen as Demons to the followers of Lucifer and as such, their priests and worshippers are hunted down by the Hounds of Lucifer.

So, a guerilla campaign has sprung up throughout the Grimmwilde.

Grimawicca(e) haunt the wilddéorness and raid the settlements of the Wealhcynn (Róburians) and their treasonous western kin (searofearo cynn). The Grimawicca/wicce are so named because the masks they wear, masks in the shape of wolves, ravens and even dragons.

If kin-strife wasn’t enough but now monsters once thought extinct have returned to plague the Grimmwilde. Eatons, worms, ælfs, werewolves and déormann-cynn (Beast-man kin) tribes haunt the mountains and forests of the region.

Beware all who enter the Grimmwilde.

THE VICTOR GETS THE GOLD
Virtue is rewarded in this world, remember. Natural law makes no false judgments. Its decisions are true and just, even when dreadful. The victor gets the gold and the land every time. He also gets the fairest maidens, the glory tributes. And — why should it be otherwise? Why should the delights of life go to failures and cowards? Why should the spoils of battle belong to the unwarlike? That would be insanity, utterly unnatural and immoral.

BE AS A LION IN THE PATH!
HATE FOR HATE AND RUTH FOR RUTH,
EYE FOR EYE AND TOOTH FOR TOOTH.
SCORN FOR SCORN AND SMILE FOR SMILE,
LOVE FOR LOVE AND GUILE FOR GUILE.
WAR FOR WAR AND WOE FOR WOE,
BLOOD FOR BLOOD AND BLOW FOR BLOW.

Might is Right by Ragnar Redbeard

I included quotes by Ragnar Redbeard’s Might is Right to help illustrate the tone of this setting – it is not a fluffy bunny “Elf Game” type of setting. It is dark and grim. You live by the sword and die by it or end up in chains and die an ignoble wretch.

Fantasy and Sci-Fi has for too long been gelded by those who wish to sanitize these interrelated genres and there is a concerted effort to do this to tabletop role playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons. The proponents of this gelding of the genre and hobby seek to make ttrpgs safe from “problematic” content.

Intelligence bonuses? “Nope, gotta get rid of those you ablest.

Drow? Orcs? Nope, they are racist – so they gotta go.

XP for treasure and killing?Nope, those are “Colonialist“.

Why not role play running a cooperative business and unionizer? See isn’t that better and less problematic?

Nope, sorry but not sorry. I want two fisted adventure back in my Fantasy and Sci-Fi, including my TTRPGs based upon them.

No, I am not some Alt-Right “Nazi/Fascist” or Conservative – I am a Leftist. I just have zero issue with “problematic” content in my fiction or games. Just because I enjoy ready, watching and playing them, doesn’t mean I want to emulate them in my real life. I just know the difference between fantasy and reality.

Now I do love Manga and anime, as well as a few Light Novels from Japan, many could be considered Fluffy Bunny Fantasy/Sci-Fi, so I am not adverse to the type of fantasy. I just also want to read, watch and play two fisted adventure content too. Which is why I gravitate towards OD&D/B/X D&D and Classic Traveller RPGs, the fiction of Fritz Leiber, HP Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard, amongst others.

Do I want to see the sanitized fluffy bunny Fantasy, Sci-Fi and TTRPGs banned? No. If their is a market for them, produce them. I just want more good ol’ two fisted adventure fiction and games being produced again. Well enough of this rant. I needed to get this off my chest.

Please take care and stay safe. Fin.

Grimmgarðr Adventuring in a Savage World – Part 2- Setting Overview

Greetings, welcome to the second installment in my new Grimmgarðr Adventuring in a Savage World series. In this installment I will covering the setting overview. But before I do I am including a quote from Might is Right, as I thought it was apropos for the setting.

Virtue is rewarded in this world, remember. Natural law makes no false judgments. Its decisions are true and just, even when dreadful. The victor gets the gold and the land every time. He also gets the fairest maidens, the glory tributes. And — why should it be otherwise? Why should the delights of life go to failures and cowards? Why should the spoils of battle belong to the unwarlike? That would be insanity, utterly unnatural and immoral.

THE VICTOR GETS THE GOLD by Ragnar Redbeard

This is Grim Dark setting after all. Sword and Sinew rules the lands. Now onto the setting overview now shall we?

Setting Overview – The Troll Lands

“He who enters the Troll Lands must be a fool, but a brave fool. To wander such a perilous region, a thing only the strongest, most cunning would ever conceive of; and yet they are still a fool.” – Björn the Wise.

The Troll Lands are a vast magically warped wilderness of lofty mountains and tangled primal forests, haunted by beasts, both great and small. The infernal trolls plague the twisted and malformed mountains, as do  Jötnar and Orms. All three monstrosities sew dread within the bravest of hearts, of even the mightiest warriors – for their doom is near at hand should they waiver and falter in the struggle that will surely come.

Dotting this wilderness lie motes of civilization – flickering as if only embers. For they are, from the ashes of fallen empires, have arisen petty kingdoms built on the bones of the past. Ruins also dot the wilds, like vine cloaked skeletons – bereft of life and their trappings of old. Hidden within these monster haunted ruins lie – treasures to be found, from gold and silver coins, to objects of art and even lore and spell-craft.

Trade occurs by airships of Dvergar make and heavily guarded caravans during late spring and until snow blocks the passes in late fall or early winter. Spring is also the beginning of raiding season in the Troll Lands, as Vikingr pirates and slavers prowl the waters of the coasts and occasionally in the sky as well.  

Winter is long and harsh in the Troll Lands, spring bleeds into a short but warm summer that fades into fall and back into winter’s cold embrace. Though a harsh region, it is home to a hardy folk. Those frail of body, mind and spirit, often finds a swift, cruel end. Be it from disease, a winter cold or foolish adventure, cutting their frail lives short. Those that survive in the wilds of the Troll Lands are a cunning and vigorous bunch, more akin to wolves then men. Be wary of the Troll Lander, or you might end up in chains or some cold steel biting into your skull.

        Troll Land Region Overview

Eastern Felafót Éaland (Austr Fjölfótar Eyland/Eastern Fylfot Island) – Eastern Felafót Éaland is a wild and mountainous region, home to Eotans, Worms and two petty realms – Eastmearc, a Felafótcynn based eorldóm; while the other is Björnborg, a Fjörðlander Jarlsríki. They are bitter rivals and the Vikingr ships often target Eastmearc ships and villages.

Fjörðland (Pyllland/Fjordland) – Fjörðland is the homeland of Fjörðlanders, it is mountainous peninsula of narrow fjörðs. It is also named Jötunheimar, as it is also home to the largest population of Jötnar. The men of Fjörðland are notorious pirates and slavers. Many believe that they have Troll-blood coursing through their veins. The center vale of the lower reaches of the peninsula is haunted by Trolls, Álfar, Orms and Völur (Witches).

Gjárdal (Grutdæl/Chasm Vale) – Gjárdal is the eastern most vale of the region of forests in the north, a chasm scarred plain in the central valley region and the arid stream wastes of the south. Trolls, Orms and magic warped beastmen haunt the region.

  • Reykauðnar (Réchæð/Reeking/Smokey Wasteland) – Reykauðnar is an arid wasteland of grey sand dunes, black stone edifices and stony badlands dotted with myriad steam vents spewing forth sulfurous steam. Beastmen, trolls and the rare orm are the main inhabitants of the wastes.

Jörðvömbdal (Eorðwambdæl/Earth Womb Vale)- Jörðvömbdal is a vast forested vale lying between the Troll Fjöl Mountains to the west and Vestr Troll Fjöll Mountains to the east. The Álfar haunted Jörðvömbdal Skögar Forest dominates the vale’s midlands and it abuts the Jörðvömb abyss. The Jörðvömb is a gigantic and deep chasm that eerily is shaped like a vagina, thus its name. It is the largest entrance to the Underworld in the region and is home to the small fortified city of á Fjallasýn Borg; it is a city of adventurers, sell-swords, völur, vargr; and a large population of Álfar-blótkyn, Dvergarkyn and Døkkálfar, the cursed kin of the Álfar of the region.  

Ormhöfuðland (Wormhéafodland/Dragon’s Head Peninsula) – Ormhöfuðland is a peninsula that looks like a gigantic dragon died and became one with the world. It is a very mountainous region, plagued by Orms of all sizes, from the smallest orm to the ancient and massive Linn-orms. It is also home to a number of Jötnar and trolls; as well as small fortified towns on both coasts, a mix of Fjörðlanders, Felafótlanders, Dvergarkyn and some Døkkálfar.

Stóra Trölladal (Great Eotendæl/Great Troll Valley) – The Stóra Trölladal is a vast wooded valley that lies between the Orm Fjöl Mountains to the west and the Troll Fjöl Mountains in the east. The Ormmýrar (The Dragon Swamp) dominates the southeastern shore of the Vikingr Strandar coastline. It is home to orms and humanoid Ormmenn.

Troll Fjöll (Eotenbeorg/Troll Mountains) – Both the main and eastern Troll Fjöll Mountains are magically warped into twisted and malform shapes. Both mountain ranges are plagued with Trolls and Völur witches. Jötnar are rare in these mountains and only reside in the northern most reaches of both ranges. Orms are better known to haunt the ranges but not in large numbers. Both Dvergarkyn and Døkkálfar are numerous in the region but live two main strongholds and the city of á Fjallasýn Borg, over looking the Jörðvömb.

Vikingr Strandar (Wicingrima/Viking Coast) – Vikingr Strandar is the coastal region of the Stóra Trölladal, and it is so named because of the frequent Vikingr raids that start in spring and last until fall. All the fortified villages and towns have weathered the raids to one degree or another. The Ormmenn occasionally raid caravans that pass by their swamp.

Ýsrúna Eyland (Éohrún Éaland/Éoh [Yew] Rune Island) – Ýdrúna Eyland lies in the northeast of the region between the Sjór og Stormun sea and Ýsrúna Sjór sea. It is a mountainous and yew forested island and the Álfar that haunt those woods. Only small fortified Fjörðlander settlements dot the coasts of the island.

Well that is for the overview. In the next installment I will cover the Folk of the setting. Then I will likely discuss religions and magic in the follow up installment. Hopefully I will get the isometric graph paper notebook I ordered, so I can draw an isometric map of á Fjallasýn Borg, the core campaign base in the setting. I have been struggling with mapping cities and such, so I figured that if I use isometric graph paper I can find a fun way to do so. I will end this post, so I can get to bed as I have an early but busy lay tomorrow. Take care and stay safe. Fin.

Grimmgarðr Adventuring in a Savage World – Part 1 – Introduction

Greetings, its that time again…yet another installment in my blog. It tis my birthday to day, happy birthday to me. I turned 47, still live and kicking and being creative…not bad, right? The day could be going better, but I got stuff to imagine and create; so that is the silver lining. So happy birthday to me, hazzah!

Now back to our show.

In this installment I am going to introduce YET another new setting of mine that I am working on. I have to keep sane in my current situation and worldbuilding is my happy time. Not to worry your little heads about it, I will continue my other projects. As I have said before I don’t want to burn out on them so I give them their space and allow my imagination to percolate upon them.

With no further ado, I present you with….Grimmgarðr Adventuring in a Savage World! Tada!!!

Grimmgarðr Adventuring in a Savage World

Grimmgarðr Map by me, Ezra Caleb West

Introduction

Grimmgarðr (Adventuring in a Savage World) is a gonzo, post-apocalyptic science fantasy setting set in a magically warped and savage world. Unlike my “A Fallen Eorðe: Into the Accursed Wastelands” setting this has more of a fantasy feel and has some more iconic D&D races – yet tweaked for the needs of the setting. I have been listening to both Acid Mammoth – Under Acid Hoof and Primordial – Spirit the Earth Aflame albums and though Acid Mammoth isn’t a lyrically inspiration for the setting, the heaviness is. But on the other hand Primordial’s album hits on all front’s inspiration wise. Also, the art of Felix Miall is a major influence upon the setting. His art for Heart, under the City RPG is sick with flavor.

The system used for Grimmgarðr, will be like my other projects rooted in OD&D and the Chainmail rules. The system will use a 3d6 mechanic for all tests, a 3 (or below†) is a failure and an 18 (or above†) is a success. I want Attributes to have real meaning compared to how they are often used in other systems. The attributes are similar to bog standard D&D attributes, but a bit more rooted in language and representing what should be key attributes in my worlds and system, and they are:

Cræft: Which is a broad term, that covers numerous things…so I am breaking it up into three categories: Bodig (Body), Mōd (Mood/Mind) and Searu (art, skill, cleverness).

Bodig: The physical cræft or capabilities.

  • Mægen: Bodily strength, might, vigor, ability, efficiency and capacity.
  • Ryne: The ability to run swiftly and for long periods of time.
  • Schnellness: Agility, quickness and nimbleness.

Mōd: The capabilities of the mind and spirit.

  • Hyldu: Kindness, affection, favor, grace, loyalty and devotion.
  • Wīsdōm: Wisdom, knowledge, and learning.
  • Beald: Bold, courageous, brave, confident, free and liberal.

Searu: The Skillfulness and cunning.

  • Galdorcræft: Spellcraft and magical knowledge.
  • Smiðcræft: Manual art (handicraft, blacksmithing, armorer)
  • Wīgcræft: War-power, ability in fighting and military knowledge.

All attributes can go up or down, based on the effects of spells, fatigue and wounds, as well as experience. Searu, are the only attributes not rolled but are instead derived from three of the Bodig or Mōd attributes that influence those particular skills. Sub-skills are chosen based on culture, social class and any apprenticeship the character had during their adolescence. New skills can be learned, but take time and experience. Lastly there are three other attributes at play, Mōdcræft, Strengu, and Wyrd.

  • Mōdcræft: Is mental power and intelligence, it is the reservoir of magic in a magic-user and the basis of saves against mental attacks, extreme failure of casting spells and mental fatigue.
  • Strengu: Is strength, power, vigor, ability and fortitude, it is the reservoir of a combatant ability to resist damage, fatigue and ultimately their combat skill, it is the basis for saves for the former from spells that effect the body, fatigue, resistance to venom/poison and disease; and resilience to shock as well.
  • Wyrd: Is an attribute that is special as it can be used to sway the luck of the die or some other thing (Oh, whew that Dragon really didn’t see us or isn’t hungry).

Both of the first two attributes above are limited and can only be bolstered by growing in experience – basically they are they equivalent to magic points and hit points in my system. While the third can be burned to get a lucky break.

[†= For attribute-based checks, modified for difficulty]

Magic will be rare and very dangerous to use and is also potentially corruptive to the user. I will be also using the Law-Neutral-Chaos alignment axis, as I love it; as such it is very much bred into the setting and as such have significant effects upon the setting and play.

Tone-wise I wanted this setting to feel grim and Feel like what a world may be like if a magical cataclysmic event struck and the “Gods” were to actively meddle in the affairs of the world in small or greater ways.

Yet I want there to be humorous aspects within it, just like some of my favorite European Comics and Warhammer, and now Mőrk Borg. I mean RPGs are supposed to be fun, right?

As a fan of Inferno!, Warhammer Monthly, various Warhammer/WH40K (Including Blood Bowl) novels and anthologies; plus comics like Judge Dredd and Sláine comics (amongst others) – how can I not inject some humorous elements? [Hint check the map.]

I can be quite a cheeky bastard.

As most of my favorite fantasy artists are British Felix Miall, Russ Nicholson, Karl Kopinski, David Pugh, Colin McNeil, Dave Gallagher, Paul Bonner, Adrian Smith, Stephen Tappin, Kevin Walker, and Carl Critchlow (Thrud!!!).…this result is only natural, right?

See, this is what influenced me and my nuttery. Blame them!

Grimmgarðr will be an exiting setting to organically grow and develop as my players have their characters explore it. The future looks bright indeed. Fin.

Alrighty now, back to finish up this blog post. In it I gave a glimpse at my thought process going into this project. I also wanted to give a look at the kind of tweaks I made to the underlying OD&D/Chainmail system. I still have to work things out to my liking mechanically, but I want to keep it simple (thus the unified mechanic) and yet give it a bit of flavor.

Another thing, that I didn’t include in the introduction is the core races of the setting and the setting overview…that will be in my next installment in this series. That said, I did want to add one tidbit – True Giants and Dragons are dangerous and you need to use your brain to survive and defeat them. Plus none of that silly “ColoredDragon nonsense either, they like most predators can blend into their environs.

Well that is all for this installment of my blog. I am going to listen to some music, play Words with Friends and possibly draw a city map for my setting. Please take care and stay safe. Fin.

The War Lands: Adventuring in a Dark and Perilous World Part 1

Greetings, in this blog post I will be bringing you more TTRPG related content to help cleanse the pallet from my rant. In this one I will be discussing a new setting project which will tie into my new system and my post on Alignment & Religion. As you know I often like to organically build upon my previous posts in some fashion, and this post is no different. I will post the Introduction to my current setting design document below. I like to write them as they help me sort out the vibe of a project, as do my maps. Creating a map helps spur my inspiration for a setting. But without further ado, here is the Introduction.

The War Lands: Adventuring in a Dark and Perilous World

(die Kriegsländer: Abenteuer in einer dunklen und gefährlichen Welt)      

Introduction:

The War Lands: Adventuring in a Dark and Perilous World (die Kriegsländer: Abenteuer in einer dunklen und gefährlichen Welt) is a setting in part inspired by the darker Dark Souls inspired fan art by RoninDudeArt and the more brutal looking art of Goblin Slayer (the character), plus a desire to do a more Medieval Fantasy campaign setting. Like with my Eastmark and the Eastern Wastelands campaign setting I will be using the German Language as my primary naming convention.

One major difference from more traditional fantasy TTRPGs the characters won’t be “peasant heroes” which is a common trope in such games, but instead are either mercenaries and outcasts from the few remaining “Barbaric” cultures or scions of aristocratic or wealthy merchant houses or families seeking fame and fortune.

Let’s be realistic (yes, I know its Fantasy, but I digress), most peasants or serfs will not have the desire, skill or resources to take up the adventuring life. Most adventurers in history were the younger scions of important families of wealth, who simply not going to get much more than an allowance and potentially a well-appointed flat in the better part of the city, be sent to the priesthood or university. They would likely either get bored or run out of money or create a scandal and take up adventuring.

In this setting there will be no clockwork or steam powered technology, cigars, black powdered weaponry, airships, alien creatures, sky islands and the like. Magic will be rare and magic items rarer. There will be no clerics or paladins, though their will be exorcists and witch/demon hunters in their stead. Though there will be magical healing it will be the province of temple or shrine bound holy men or women, or witches. Characters will be sell-swords, outlaws and rogues, occasionally witches and Sword-Magi.

The wilderness outside of villages, towns and cities are haunted by the Fey, demons, the undead, and monsters of myth and legend. Gods are real and occasionally walk amongst the mortals, many of an adventurer have been touched by a god in some fashion allowing them to achieve either great fame or infamy. Dwarfs have fallen into legend and their once mighty halls are ripe for plunder and Elves are alien creatures who rule the Fey from their Underworld abodes. Halflings don’t exist as Tolkien and D&D often describes them, but are Fey blooded Mortals tainted by Chaos in some manner.

Giants and dragons will be rare but extremely dangerous and will kill most adventurers that cross their paths, except for the most cunning and luck blessed of them. Goblins, Orcs and the like do not exist, but horrors of the Underworld do…Chaos tainted monstrosities lurk in the primal depths of forests, the arid badlands and mountains high.

Mud, blood, riches and glory await the foolhardy and cunning who brave the wilderness and live to tell the tale to their children and grandchildren; otherwise their bones will litter the soil or a monsters lair soon to be forgotten.

Well that was the Introduction, now I need to work on the map and the setting details. I soooo love creating, if there is a silver lining to this who Covid-19 mess and the few weeks of smoke is that I was able to dive into creative endeavors. Well I got things to do and places to go (and hopefully an online game to play in – fingers crossed). Take care. Fin.

Can Comics And Tabletop Role Playing Games Be Transgressive And Subversive In Nature?

Greetings, I listened to a Vlog by a controversial Grim Jim concerning “Metal-Inspired Roleplaying Sucks!” in a YouTube video linked here. Give it a watch. As a 46 and nearly 47yo human being I grew up on Transgressive and Subversive media – be comics, animation, TTRPGs/Wargames and music and I really, really miss it.

In the age of Twitter Woke-Scolds and Regressive Political Correctness all media has lost its Subversive and Transgressive qualities.

Gone are the days of GG Allan, Anti Nowhere League, Antiseen, Rozz Williams’s era Goth, Punk and increasingly Metal music; plus R. Crumb, Tim Vigil, Vaughn Bodé and others in comics. It seems Games Workshop is hell bent to sanitize their once Subversive IP of Warhammer.  

It is really sad. In fact I loathe it with a fiery passion.

I am an Anti-Authoritarian and Libertarian oriented person, albeit a Left Libertarian now. As such I support Free Thought and Freedom of Speech. This popular censorship of media smacks of authoritarianism and neo-Puritanism. Even Satanism via the Temple of Satan have become pathetic Woke Scolds and pose as Rebels. It is a ludicrous for them to position themselves as “rebels” when they embrace the increasingly mainstream cultural beliefs of the “Woke” left. Same goes for so-called Anarchists and most Punk bands and musicians.

Can we ever get back to when Underground Art was subversive and transgressive?

Potentially, if there are brave individual and creative co-operatives willing to champion such a renaissance in truly subversive and transgressive art. I hope to be one such creative.

Will all of my future works be characterized as such? No, as I am not a one trick pony and frankly that would be ever so boring. I plan on working with a friend, Haven on a joint setting eventually and they may not be comfortable with producing such content.

I want there to be new R. Crumbs, Vaughn Bodé, Tim Vigils, early Games Workshop and British Comics that once championed the subversive and transgressive. Frankly I want Old Warhammer back.

Will my next project be subversive and transgressive? Not likely, as I will need to do a lot of musing on what I want to do and raise funds for both a professional editor who supports Free Thought and willing to work on such a project and find brave artists to illustrate it, if I don’t end up doing it myself (once I improve my skills).

But moving forward I will aim to produce such products and art, to honor my influences and the once subversive and transgressive Underground Art scenes.

Am I afraid that I will be cancelled? No!

As I don’t care about fame nor being cancelled, as I loathe our consumerist, materialistic and increasingly authoritarian culture. As it can die in a Napalm Fueled fire for all I care.

Art, especially the more extreme and underground arts NEEDS to be subversive and transgressive again and push back against the regressive and authoritarian tendencies becoming far more prevalent in ALL forms of media.   

I will end this rant of a post so I can publish it and get to work on my newest mapping/campaign setting project. Please stay safe. Fin….and also –

Fuck you BOTH Nazis and Woke Scolds!

Alignment and Religion

Greetings, in this blog post I will be taking a short break from my current series to discuss a topic I have been musing about a long time – Alignment and Religion. I will preface this with this with the following disclaimer – THIS is simply my POINT of VIEW, and is NOT meant to tell you that you are doing IT “wrong” if you DON’T do it my way.

Now the sadly and yet necessary notification has been included, here we go.

In most Fantasy RPGs that include Alignment it is only mechanically tied to Religion in a nominally superficial manner. Even with my latest setting project that isn’t much changed in any drastic way. Sure, both Law and Chaos, and even Neutrality are active forces in the setting it isn’t really tied to religion outside generalities. The Church of the Twelve Gods is neutral but even so not directly; whereas the Primordial Titans are far more tied to Neutrality and Nature. There are the Lords of Law and Light, as well as numerous Dark Chaotic powers, and religions tied to them.

As such though Alignment is important to the setting and religions are generally aligned to them, it isn’t a core driving element of the Religions outside the Law and Chaos dedicated Cults. Even though they classify as Religions, they are just background flavor and potential enemies or allies of the players. There is no depth to their connection. Sure, I could make such connections and add more depth to them…but in the case of this setting, it isn’t needed and frankly not desirable.

Though I am going to be working on a future setting project with my friend Haven, we haven’t discussed the project enough for me to discuss how this topic might play out in that setting. In my other settings, are much like the Eastmark and the Eastern Wastelands – though Alignment is often a key element any link with religion is loose.

That all said I do plan to start a setting project tied to my TTRPG System project that will firmly tie Alignment and Religion together. I will now begin to discuss how that will manifest within the context of the setting.

Moving forward for the foreseeable future if my settings are to include Alignment, they will be Law-Neutrality-Chaos based, as I love that Alignment Axis best. Now that is stated I will breakdown how Alignment will affect Religion in my future settings.

As someone who has flirted with a number of religions and has studied Religion via academic books and papers, I have a bit more insight into how Religion was seen and how it SHOULD interact with Alignment.

No matter what Religion that you look at or study you will learn really quickly see how Religion is focused on preserving and promoting Order and Civilization/Society. Whether it is a Tribal society or a Highly Advanced society – they are ALL civilizations. Level of advanced technology is only a way to differentiate various cultures from each other based upon technological development, and often raising up High Technological Cultures above less sophisticated cultures unjustly.

It is just human nature.

In game terms Law and Chaos are seen as opposing forces, but it is rarely made manifest in the game, unless a DM/GM and their group choose to make it integral to their campaign…most do not, in fact many TTRPG fans (old and new) loathe the concept of Alignment. Mostly because they are Post-Modernists and are often atheistic or if religious are highly “liberal” in their view of religion (“I love God, but Hate Religion” or “God loves me no matter what”).

Though I have beliefs that could be categorized as “Post-Modern” I do not fit into the “Post-Modernist” idea of subjective morality in conjunction of religion…in the general scope of morality and a historical framework, yes, I think of such things in a subjective manner. I don’t judge authors just because they had reprehensible views by modern standards. That is a major problem with the modern left, as they are all too willing to judge everything via their modern sensibilities and dismissing any good that might have come with the bad. I say this not to get political but to state a fact, especially concerning modern TTRPG and other Geeky discourse.

Moving forward, as I said I have studied religions and ALL religion is based upon preserving Order and Society. Thus, ALL religion SHOULD be Lawful in nature. That said, “shoulds” rarely apply to TTRPGs let alone their settings. Especially when you toss in the fact in almost all (at least in context of D&D and similar) TTRPGs, is that they often have not only Evil Religions, but also ones aligned to various flavors of Chaos.

See the quandary?

If you toss out those examples and any TTRPG that doesn’t include religion or religion tied to alignment, you can now start restructuring how Alignment and Religion interact with one another.

But you may ask, “What about Evil Religions, are they not Chaotic”?

No. Clearly not by D&D standards at least.

Ultimately the concept of Good and Evil vary depending upon the culture and how they see the “other”, the “Outsider”. Most cultures (and their Religions) often cast anyone outside their culture as a potential enemy or ally, if they are an ally, they are Good and if they are an enemy, they are Evil and as such represent Chaos or a group that brings Chaos with them (even if they are NOT inherently Chaotic in nature). We have plenty of current day examples, just turn on the news or delve into the Hell-Site Twitter.

You may ask, “But they are fantasy (or fiction) you can make them Lawful or Chaotic”. Sure, if I was basing this on traditional D&D and fantasy tropes and I am most certainly NOT.

In my future settings and my system, outside my other projects that I have discussed previously on my blog and the one with Haven mentioned above, Religion will be tied to Law and since religions by their very nature are hierarchical and thus establish Order; and Chaos is antithetical to both Law and Religion they CANNOT be Chaotic, but they can be Evil or Good. The same goes for cultures, they are by definition Lawful, even though they can be SEEN as either Good or Evil.

Will I have inherently Evil races or Cultures?

Put simply, No.

Will there be cultures and races that can be seen as Evil? Yes, but not every person born within them are by default evil, only indoctrinated to be Evil.

Some may ask, “What about Monsters, are you not supposed to kill them”?

Depends on if they are hostile or not, or if the PCs are vile and choose to mindlessly kill everything that they come across, then THEY are by default Evil. If you are a murder-hobo, you are not welcome at my table. Plus, your characters will likely die if they do so.

To summarize moving forward Religion and Alignment will be intrinsically tied, Religion is ALWAYS Lawful, but can be either seen as Good or Evil. Chaos is antithetical to Order and thus will NEVER have Religions tied to them. Most PCs will be Lawful (Good or Evil), those who are Neutral are apathetic at best or insane at worst; and those who are Chaotic are trying to destroy or distrupt Order and are benign Anarchists at best or vile Nihilists at worse.

Also, unlike my current projects the Underworld will NOT be tied to Chaos. Also, Magic can be either Lawful or Chaotic, and is largely based on what the magics primary application is. If its sole purpose is creation or renewal it is Lawful; and if its sole purpose is to cause disorder or destruction it is Chaotic. If the Magic’s sole purpose is neither creation or destruction, but may combine both in some fashion it is Neutral, as such can be used freely by both Lawful and Chaotic Magic-Users.

Well I’ll end this blog post now so I can do other things before bed. Please take care and be safe. Fin.