Thursday, February 28, 2019

Hex Mapping and Resources

I have begun creating a hex map of Alnwich and the surrounding land. I am largely following the advice of The Welsh Piper and The Alexandrian for my process, not to mention all of the work Rob Conley has done over at Bat in the Attic. I am also going through a lot of the resources Charles has already posted on his blog, Nature Kills: A Hexcrawl for GURPS.

What do I know so far? Well, I am using 5-mile hexes because they mesh well with the average Joe's Basic Move in GURPS. I have also mapped out the bits of around Alnwich I have already described or mentioned. I figure that is the first place to start - putting down what I already know. Once I have that looking good, I'll start expanding outward. That way, I can keep an appropriate level of detail without getting too bogged down in stuff.

I will need a few things for this, though. First, and probably second, third, fourth, fifth, etc., are a good set of tables. These will be extremely helpful in generating hex contents and placing features and encounters. Next, I will need a database to serve as my key. If this grows to a large size, having that information neatly organized will be critical. Better to start now than to have to do data entry later. Lastly, I need more free time. But I think every hobbyist needs that.

I'll try to post the fruits of my labor in the coming days.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Sandboxes and Broadening the Scope of Alnwich

I've been speaking a lot with a couple of friends - one a fantasy sandbox addict who loves hexcrawls and the other a big science fiction fan - about the types of games they like to run and play in, and that has gotten me thinking about the sorts of games I really enjoy running and playing in.

I started roleplaying with Alternity, an old TSR game from the early 90s for science fiction gaming, and from there moved to d6 Space - specifically Star Wars RPG 1e from West End Games. See, I had grown up reading science fiction from the Big Three and loved every minute of it. The chance to be a part of the story instead of merely a spectator was too much to resist.

As it seems often happens in the gaming community, I eventually discovered the current edition of Dungeons & Dragons (AD&D in my case). Now I got to play in one of my other favorite genres, and that was downright magical. I was exploring a world, interacting with it, and helping create it through play. It was a blast.

Fast forward to now, I find myself mostly running games, and those tend to be either science fiction or fantasy. Who would have guessed? But beyond that, I have always been about providing enough of a world for players to run amok in. I love it when players mess with the setting through their PCs' actions. It's great when the party topples a major government or kills a god or whatever. That drives the world to new growth and develops the setting even further. This love for worldbuilding and setting the pieces up for the players to knock down has been a driving factor behind developing the town of Alnwich these past months.

So where am I going with all of this? Well, mostly that I think I'm going to shift away from the development of a megadungeon and more toward an open sandbox. That isn't to say megadungeons aren't sandboxes or that there isn't a megadungeon under Siedrborg. Instead, I'm going to veer away from standard Dungeon Fantasy tropes. Town won't be a collection of dice rolls unless that is what the game calls for that session. Players can go into Alnwich and machinate to their hearts' content. Players can do things in town that will make it an unsafe place to be for them; they will also have to live with the consequences of that. They can explore the countryside or the wilderlands, if they want. Basically, I'm opening up the entire world.

So where does that leave this blog? Well, I'll continue to develop the setting details, but I'll also start working on a regional hex map and placing other points of interest. It will no longer be just about getting in the dungeon to kill things and take their stuff. It will also be about exploration, establishing settlements (if desired), fighting invading hordes (always fun), overthrowing despots, etc. It will be oldschool gaming with a focus on going from zero to hero and seeing how many paper bodies pile up along the way.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

The Gods of Alnwich: Pantheon Generalists

Today, I will talk what should be taken as the "normal" way of worshipping the gods, that is, as a whole. The write-up below treats the entire pantheon as a single entity for the purposes of building clerics and holy warriors.

The Pantheon

the Gods

Treat as a Greater Deity
Sphere of Influence: Everything.
Symbols: Oak Tree.
Favored Weapon: Any.
Relationships: It's Complicated.

Most people in and around Alnwich worship the entire pantheon as a whole, and make appropriate offerings during the many holidays and festivals – sometimes to specific deities, sometimes to all of them. The history of the gods is too long and intricate to tell here, but such stories are the regular subjects songs, evening tales, and poetry. The people believe the gods are very real and very physically present. One does not brush off chance meetings with strangers or signs of things to come.

Moreover, the pantheon consists of far more deities than just the main thirteen. Some of these may be local spirits that choose to intervene in mortal affairs, personifications of concepts, or even just animal spirits and elementals. Because there are so many deities, people don’t just believe in their physicality, they expect to encounter them.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Guilds of Alnwich: The Pantheon of Alnwich

The Pantheon of Alnwich

Rank: Religious Rank 0 to 2.
In Charge: Thyra Hakondottr (Cleric).
In the Ranks: Clerics and Initiates.
On the Payroll: Anyone, but mostly servants and laborers.

Influencing the AR: Any social skill; see below.

The Pantheon is the local temple to the gods. As is common among the religions of the North, there is no centralized governing body for the faith, and members meet rarely. Instead, each temple is a bastion unto its own and operates without support or interaction with the greater religion.

The Pantheon of Alnwich is run by the High Priestess Thyra Hakondottr with the assistance of her priests and initiates. The temple is supported by contributions from the community and employs some servants and laborers to maintain the grounds and building. Should these not suffice to keep the temple in good order, Earl Borg has been known to make contributions of men and supplies to keep the house of the gods in good repair.

People tend to interact with the individual priests of the Pantheon personally rather than with the organization as a whole. To influence ARs, roll a Quick Contest between any suitable social skill and the individual member’s Will. The AR modifier is half the margin of victory (minimum +1) or loss (minimum -1).

The Pantheon doesn’t have official ranks; still a few terms tend to apply. Those new to the order are of Rank 0 and called Acolytes, Initiates, Neophytes, or Brother or Sister, and once an initiate completes his initiation, he gains Rank 1 and the title of Priest. The priest in charge of running a temple is usually called the High Priest or Priestess.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Architect of Worlds

If you don't know about this, you should. Jon Zeigler, author of GURPS Space has been updating his system to conform with modern research. He hasn't posted all of it yet - it is still in the works - but for those of you who love science fiction and need to generate worlds, it is fantastic. What's even crazier is that he has posted it on his blog for free.

The entire Architect of Worlds system to date can be found here in PDF form:
Architect of Worlds

You can find the individual steps here:

So if you love science fiction gaming, world building (literally!) or generally want to see this amazing work come to fruition, make sure you go check out his blog. I know I'll be using this creation sequence the next time I run a science fiction game.

Monday, February 18, 2019

No Longer on GURPS Discord

I just got permanently banned from the GURPS Discord server by Chris Rice, GURPS Author, for standing up for myself. I just wanted to let people know that that's not a place to find me anymore. I'm still around the ACKS Discord an the Tenkar's Tavern Discord, though. And as always, I continue to post here, so feel free to drop a comment anytime!

Saturday, February 16, 2019

The Gods of Alnwich: Menes


the Fawn-Slayer, the Lamp-Bearer, the Three-Formed, the Untamable Goddess

Greater Deity
Sphere of Influence: Art, Faeries, Luck, Magic, Pathways.
Symbols: Candles, Cats, Cauldron, Chalice, Doves, Knife, Crescent Moon, and Silver.
Favored Weapon: Knife & Magic.
Relationships: Mother of Yaunävä and Mäla.

Mënes is the goddess of a great many things, but primarily of faeries, magic, and pathways. Her ties to the moon link her to darkness, cycles, menses, fertility, and women. She rules the wilderness of land, sea, and air; and is often associates with beauty, war, and death. Mënes appears as a youthful maiden wearing a cloak of falcon feathers and carrying a torch, and she is usually accompanied by a pack of great hounds or scores upon scores of cats.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

What Is Best in GMing?

What is best in GMing?

To crush your players, see them deivien before you and hear the lamentations of their women!

No. For me it is worldbuilding.

I love piecing together a world that other people can get into. A place that is vibrant and detailed enough that players want to explore it. To a large extent, that is why I am a fan of running sandbox games.

The first game I ever GMed was a science fiction affair set in an outpost on a hell world using Alternity. I didn't know squat about running a game then, and it was basically a dungeon crawl with laser guns, but at its core, it was homemade. Not that there was much truly original about it. I was young.

Since then, I've continued to make settings for games with the intent of watching the players romp through them, break them, change them, and otherwise put their touch on them. I love that part - bringing in the chaotic element and watching it all develop.

It brings a spark of life to the setting when more than one person is involved. I think it is the element of the unknown presented by the players' actions. If only one person does all of the worldbuilding, the setting often loses that sense of the unexpected that crops up throughout history - a relative handful of Hussars defeating defeating two hundred thousand Ottoman Turks, the US not taking the obvious plot hook and joining WWII until the GM gets annoyed and railroads them, Caesar seeking glory in Gaul. These all sound like PC actions to me. And whether or not history had a good GM doesn't matter. It's that other people were involved that makes it interesting.

So where is this rant going? No where really. I'm just saying I like worldbuilding and I like sandboxes.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Guilds of Alnwich: The Dahlgaard Clan

The Dahlgaard Clan

Rank: Family Rank 0 to 3.
In Charge: Carstan (Scout) and his wife Lisbet (Agent).
In the Ranks: Agents, apprentices, archers, brutes, cutpurses, initiates, native guides, and non-adventuring people.
On the Payroll: Laborers, servants, and non-adventuring people.
Influencing the AR: Merchant.

The Dahlgaards are a new family of furriers in Alnwich who moved up from the Arafon to capitalize on the booming fur trade. Devious, determined, and unafraid to play dirty, the clan is actively absorbing smaller fur companies in an attempt to gain enough market share to challenge the Holts and Eklunds while working with the RMS to undermine those families business, reputation, political power, and social standing anywhere possible.

The clan is headed by Carstan, who personally leads the trapping operation while his wife, Lisbet, runs the business side of the operation. With the help of all but one of their children, they oversea the family business directly. Unlike the other families, they also maintain a tannery on the outskirts of Alnwich where they prepare many of their furs in house to reduce costs.

The black sheep of the family is Thora, the redheaded daughter of Carstan and Lisbet. Upon her first blood, she discovered a natural talent for the magical arts and sought out Hella Winter’s Coven, where she now studies under the tutelage of Hella, herself. While not ostracized from the family, she still remains a disappointment to the clan for not following in the family trade.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

The Gods of Alnwich: Pazamë


the Dread King, of the Scales, the Singer, of Sleep, Soul-Keeper

Greater Deity
Sphere of Influence: Caves, Earth, Mountains, and War.
Symbols: Axes, Chevrons, Funerary Ashes, Hounds, Owls.
Favored Weapon: A pair of axes.
Relationships: Married to Korë.

Pazamë is a fearsome god who rules over the mountainous places of the world, where he judges the fallen based on their deeds in life. Beneath his ironclad feet lay his domain – the earth and all that lies within it. This makes him both ruler of the highest places in the world and, simultaneously, lord of the Underworld, a duality not lost on his priests. All that exists deep within the earth is his, so miners and others seeking wealth in deep, dark places intrude on the fringes of his demesne. Still, he is not worshipped directly; sacrifices are offered to keep him away.

Pazamë is also the god of destructive warfare. His is a rolling ruin that brings death and destruction to all before him. Nothing can withstand the avalanche of his blows, and even Veträ is wise enough to give the dark god a wide berth. Thus it is only fitting that Pazamë is husband to the icy Kore who blankets his slopes with snow and every winter harvests more souls for his dungeons.

Pazamë rarely appears to mortals, but when he does, his skin is pale and covered in a layer of dirt. His hair and beard are black and streaked with ashy gray, and his black, soulless eyes pierce to the soul. On his shoulder perches a snow-white owl and from his belt hangs a pair of axes perpetually dripping with blood and gore.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Progress! A City Takes Shape

I have finally begun making some progress mapping again. Today I started in on the ruins of Thanras. This is the dungeon entrance I really need to get mapped before I get players in the dungeon. There might be some other entrances, but they'll need to find those for themselves. In the meantime, I am attacking what should end up being a fun area.

Thanras isn't small, but it isn't ginormous, either. I blocked out a square of land about a quarter mile on a side to work with. I doubt I will fill the entire square, but I can't say for certain just yet. I started out by plopping down some major buildings and connecting them with roads. This is getting closer to finished, and once it is, I'll drop in some squares where they seem like they belong. Then I'll start throwing down buildings somewhat haphazardly along the existing roads and see what side streets naturally take shape. From there, I'll add in most buildings on those streets and see how it evolves. I'm hoping for something somewhat labyrinthine, as would be natural for most unplanned cities.

Of course, these are the ruins of Thanras, so when I say I'm placing buildings, it's more like I'm placing foundations and whatever might still be standing on them. Most of the city has cracked and collapsed with countless years of freezing and thawing. Still, some of the beefier structures might be partially standing. After all, the Parthenon was stood for 2,119 years until the Ottoman Turks filled it with gunpowder during the Great Turkish War. And even today, it is still largely standing, albeit without a roof.

So Thanras will have a few structures still largely in tact, but mostly they'll be decayed and collapsed. What lives there now I won't hint at, nor will I mention what loot might be hidden beneath the rubble. But not much screams "Adventure!" like the ruins of an ancient city. I just need to make something that Indiana Jones would approve of.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019



These man-sized faeries are known for their ugly appearance and brutish behavior. They have dull grey-green, wart-covered flesh, long and misshaped ears, a porcine nose, and sharp pointed teeth, bilious eyes, and are completely devoid of hair. The height of a man, most goblins have extremely bad posture that makes them appear shorter than they actually are.

Goblins are unfortunately common in dark, foreboding places, and prefer to hole up near human settlements. This gives them better access to prey and loot, and the pervasive superstitions surrounding anything fae-touched reduces reciprocity from the locals. In thankfully rare circumstances, massive hordes of goblins have been known to gather before going on grand hunts. These are usually called by nigh deific Sidh kings and queens, but sometimes arise in a manner similar to sharks entering a frenzy.

Individual goblins are not much more dangerous than a typical human warrior, but they are virtually unaffected by darkness and are possessed of a cruel streak. And most people are lucky to encounter an individual goblin, because goblins are every bit as canny as any person. They can and do sneak around, use tactics, evaluate situations, and use every opportunity to their advantage before, during, and after a fight.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Guilds of Alnwich: The Nobility

The Nobility

Rank: Status 0 to 4.
In Charge: Earl Borg (Knight), and sometimes Baron van Freek (Knight).
In the Ranks: Virtually anyone except assassins and thieves.
On the Payroll: Anyone.
Influencing the AR: Diplomacy or Savoir-Faire (High Society).

Alnwich is a subjugated territory of Usk, and as such, falls under the jurisdiction of the Usking king, whose authority flows through Earl Borg. The Earl also governs the entirety of Northmarch, so while his seat of power is in Alnwich, his duties often carry him away to other parts of the realm.
In his absence, the Council of Elders, an assembly of aldermen consisting of the heads of the most powerful families in Alnwich and other prominent interests and chaired by the Baron of Alnwich, Staffan van Freek, attend to the administration and governance of the town. Current members include Hella Winter, Kari Eklund, Morten Ververs – the current RMS adjunct –, Old Man Fisker, Sir Linqvist, Thyra Hakonson – the head priest of the Pantheon –, and Veli Holt among others.

Within this assembly, a great deal of tension exists. While those of Alnwich are growing wealthy off of the new fur trade, the pride of the Skidafolk runs deep, and just as deep runs their resentment of subjugation. This is only exacerbated by the fact thatMorten Ververs and Sir Lindqvist always back Baron van Freek against the locals. This is regularly used as justification to move against the wishes of the locals. As a result, the town council is often considered by those of Alnwich to be at best an empty symbol and at worst a mouthpiece for Usk.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

The Gods of Alnwich: Sëra


of Dreams, Earth-Mother, the Green, Life-Giver

Greater Deity
Sphere of Influence: Dreams, Healing, Hearth, and Sleep.
Symbols: Cow, Earth Square, Hearth, Horse, Mistletoe, Sickle, and Wolf Cross.
Favored Weapon: None. Sëra is a goddess of peace and protection.
Relationships: Wife of Karalis, mother of Likumä and Kore, and brother of Pazame.

Sëra is the goddess of fertility, plenty, prosperity, succor, and dreams, and in this capacity is mostly seen as a barer of life and bringer of fortune. While she assists in impregnation, she does not preside over childbirth, just as she brings good luck to endeavors without performing them for others. In this way, she enables the actions of others, whom she always expects to make the effort themselves.

Sëra’s purview over life extends to maintaining life, as well. She speeds convalescence, provides rest, and thwarts disease. She is responsible for making houses into healthy homes for their inhabitants. In this way, she is the antithesis of her brother, Pazame who is largely associated with war and destruction. Still, through her brother, she yet retains a strong chthonic connection to the element they share.

Sëra most often appears as a hearty and beautiful middle-aged woman, usually accompanied by her magical boar, Gulin, who is said to be able to outrun any horse.