Archive for the ‘World Building’ Category


A to Z – Xenophily

28 April, 2018

Traveler find wondersOne of the constants in the Sea of Stars for centuries after the Sundering was change, though it has slowed down in the following centuries, many of the cultures adapted by being at least interested if not actually inviting to new and foreign things.  The Sundering changed so much, sweeping away old certainties, just as the death of the gods devastated many traditions, the need to adapt and adopt new ways become of vital importance.

This means that most societies are open, if not welcoming to new ideas, and when they see someone walking up the main street with green skin and tusks (or a badger’s head or grey skin) they wonder where they have come from, what they will try and sell and if they have new stories and songs to share.  There maybe some suspicion but there is rarely fear or hatred just because they are strangers, now if the stranger has achieved a dire reputation of their own that is another matter!  The people of the Sea of Stars are not fools, just in general lacking a cultural bias against strangers and new ideas.

New ideas spread slowly throughout the Sea of Stars but they do spread, such as riding goats, bronze rye, distillation of spirits, magic techniques, all manner of useful and wondrous things slowly diffuse throughout the lands, all at their own pace by slowly lifting the prosperity of all.  And all because people are willing, carefully, to try new things.

Notes: I am not a big fan of the “outsiders are always treated as near criminals” trope and have subverted it here.  People are not fools, they are cautious, but willing to give visitors the benefit of the doubt in most cases.

Image “Travelers at the Rock Arch in the Limestone Mountains of the River Elbe” by Johann Moritz Gottfried Jentzsch (German, Hinterjessen 1759–1826 Dresden) via The Metropolitan Museum of Art is licensed under CC0 1.0




A to Z – Villains

27 April, 2018

The Sea of Stars is full of villains, how could it not be?, ranging from (arguably) the Empress down to petty bandits and thieves.  But for this we will confine ourselves to the upper levels of villainy.

How does one define villainy in a world ruled by dragons?  Some would place the Empress as the most vile of villains, after all, it was her machinations that caused the downfall of the gods and lead to the Sundering.  Yet, for all that, she is not much of a villain now, her domains are ruled with a light touch and she keeps order using the minimum of force needed.  it could be argued that she is now a force for, not good, but stability and peace.  Certainly, her death would be likely to through the whole world into chaos.

Eat your foesNow, Ba’ai’ai, the Dark Star, is a villain without doubt, a ancient and mighty dragon seeking only to expand his personal power whatever the cost to others.  He even built an Empire slaved to his dreams of power and conquest.  His ambition will lead directly to the most bloody and destructive conflict the Sea of Stars has seen, the Nightmare War.

The government of the High Kingdom of Laccini, using necourgists, money and military force to expand their influence.  A much more human threat but still dangerous and persistent.

The Sen’tek still plot and scheme to overthrow the Dragons, seemingly careless of who and what else suffers, their initial attempt to tear them down having failed.  They will provide aid and weapons to anyone who will strike against the dragons and the Imperium for whatever reason, the Sen’tek just want the dragons destroyed because only then will they be safe.

Notes: Late again, sorry.  Been busy.  There are more villains of course, but this is a start.

Image “The Dragon Devouring the Companions of Cadmus” by Hendrick Goltzius (Netherlandish, Mühlbracht 1558–1617 Haarlem), after Cornelis Cornelisz van Haarlem (Netherlandish, Haarlem 1562–1638 Haarlem) via The Metropolitan Museum of Art is licensed under CC0 1.0




A to Z – Urbia

26 April, 2018

The wonders of a cityThe Sea of Stars has a large number of cities, dragons like cities, all that wealth gathered together to enjoy and display.  It is like a hoard with better entertainment.

Now, this does not mean that it approaches anything like the modern level of urbanization, as it is closer to the 15-20% range (roughly the same or slightly higher level as Mughal India in the 18th C. or Europe in the mid-18th C.).  Better transport networks (ships, roads, canals all supported by magic) and magical preservation and production of food make urbanization easier to accomplish just as magically enhanced sanitation and medical aid make cities much more pleasant, and safer, to live in.

A few of the beautiful cities that you can visit:

Shel’lioc, the capital of the Draconic Imperium, home to the Empress and so on.  The literal center of the Sea of Stars, as much as such terms make sense there, and all of the Draconic Houses maintain a presence here.  There are museums, grand government buildings, theaters, one thing lacking are any monuments to the Empress however.  It is also the central transfer point for the Seven Gate Cites (more about them in a moment).  Almost anything and anyone can be found here but it is under the direct gaze of the Empress and her servants.

The Seven Gate Cities, home to the only stable teleportation gates in the Sea of Stars and they all transit to Shel’lioc keeping the Capital fed and a lively center of trade as are each of the Gate Cities.  They are all bustlng places full of commerce and Imperial agents.

Asku-Korla, once a massive city along the trade route not mostly abandoned with the shift of trade after the Sundering.  Ruled by the barbarian king known as the Bronze Lion who maintains a unit of cavalry mounted on MothLions.  (And visited by venturers here.)

Borusa, the City of Scholars, a place of learning, libraries and feuding scholars.  Most things worth knowing can be found here . . . if one searches hard enough and pays off enough of the locals.

Taren Kost, home to the Sea of Stars first long running campaign and often visited again since then.  The City of Sorrows is a major player in its corner of the world and a major center of commerce and industry.

Terriece, in the Kingdom of Eosiant, a place of high culture and intrigue among the nobility and the ambitious.  A place for courtly games and dangers.

Vine, Capital of the Eastern Storm Empire, an old and increasing decadent land destined to be absorbed by the Dark Star Dominion and nearly destroyed during the Nightmare War.  (And visited by Evard’s Black Orchestra in their attempt to advance their prospects.)

Notes: Obviously there are many, many more cities to visit but thise is a cross section of ones that have actively played a role in various campaigns.

Image “City of Washington in America” by Utagawa Yoshitora (Japanese, active ca. 1850–80), Japan via The Metropolitan Museum of Art is licensed under CC0 1.0.



A to Z – Turtle Armor

24 April, 2018

Tough as a turtle“I know it is magicked and calling on archetype sympathies,” said Voddick.

“But you think it looks a bit silly,” finished Gollaon.

“Well, yes,” agreed Voddick.

“I cannot say that I disagree.”

Turtle Armor

These suits of armor are composed of turtle shell magically shaped and reinforced with both magic and nonferrous metal metal but the deliberate echoing of the turtles form is a deliberate stylistic choice in the creation of this armor.

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Tuesday Magic Item / A to Z – Sword of Slaying Dragons

24 April, 2018

Dragon slayer“I do not think this is the contract for us, even with the weapons they are offering to provide,” said Voddick quietly.

“I cannot but agree,” replied Gollaon.  “But how to extricate ourselves from the situation without raising their ire?”

“We shall have to come up with a plan.”

“A plan so cunning you could put a tail on it and call it a weasel.”

Sword of Slaying Dragons

These sword are usually quite plain as to disguise their purpose and made with elongated hilts.  The hilt and tang of the swords are made so that a thin vial or fragment of scale can be securely inserted in contact with the metal and held firm.

Theses weapons are +1 dragon bane sword, a useful if basic tool for one wishing to hunt dragon, it further provides its wielder with a +4 morale bonus to saves against fear-effect from dragons.

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A to Z – Quests, unfinished

23 April, 2018

While the gods are, mostly dead, many of their magics remain even after a millennium.  Many quests set in place and in motion when the gods were slain remain active, just awaiting someone to take them up.  The problem is that many of them cannot be completed . . . at least not easily.

Perhaps these quests are waiting to be fulfilled:

Message to the Ruler (of the Gods) , an ornate sealed scroll tube, those who grasp it have a compulsion to deliver it to . . . they are not really sure.  Someone in authority, certainly, but who?  The compulsion is not strong, but it is always there as long as the scroll tube is near by and worse when it is in sight.  Trying to take it to a local authority seems correct up until the point of actually seeing that authority, then it is obviously wrong, and the next authority up the ladder seems correct.  Delivering one to the Empress might work to end the compulsion, maybe . . .

Quests of Love, sets of tasks guaranteed to bring lovers together, the lists of tasks can still be found but without the guarantor . . . would they still work?  Or is there enough residue magic to activate it?  Does your heart ache enough to give it a try?

Secret Paths to Otherworld Realms though twisting ways and collecting proper keys, though the Sundering may have changed the end points of this paths.

White RoseThe White Roses of the Moon, grown and scattered to secret places when the Moon was whole and sane.  Those who found them could bring them to her, undergoing a set of trials along the way, and ask for a single boon.  But one would have to be mad or desperate or both to try and redeem one now, would one not?

Weapons made and hidden for heroes to use to slay monsters that no longer exist or that have been radically changed from when the weapon was forged.  The weapons still drive their owner’s to seek out this monsters . . . or monsters similar to them.

Notes: All good adventure seeds I think.  What sorts of uncompleted quests can you think of?

Photo “I needed a white rose, tonight” by Madalena Pestana is licensed under CC BY 2.0.



A to Z – Performers, Players and Playwrights (and Philosophers)

22 April, 2018

One of the ways that news travels across the Sea of Stars is with various types of performers, from lone minstrels to theater companies, Commedia dell’arte type troupes to wandering philosophers.

Minstrel, bards and even groups of musicians travel from place to place bringing news and good cheer with them.  Most can be sure of getting at least a free meal and space in the common room of whatever inn they visit for a few hours of entertainment work.  Music is widespread across the lands with many interesting instruments and styles emerging since the Sundering.  Dragons seem to be inordinately fond of choral music and many large cities, and wealthy nobles, retain choirs to please visiting dragons.

Theater is mostly confined to large cities and courts throughout the world, though some groups tour smaller cities in the off season.  The Empress sponsors between three and seven Imperial theater troupes at any time, sending them on goodwill tours through out the Empire.  Theater troupes often stick to classical plays which have been approved and made safe by age, it is only under dragons who ignore or appreciate the theater that troupes are willing to try new and experimental works.

Something for everyoneThe Commedia dell’arte type troupes travel widely, though mostly from city to city, taking their mix of set pieces and improvisational performances to a wide audience.  The open framework of their performances allows for easy adoption of local stories and news into their acts making each performance unique though with common themes.  One of the stock characters in the Sea of Stars is the masked and robed astrologer who give cryptic and often quite ludicrous advice to those seeking his aid

Philosophy as a performance art and intellectual competition, there is a great interest in philosophy in the Sea of Stars perhaps as a result of the loss of the gods and much of the traditional religious understanding of the world.  Traveling philosophers, many from Borusa the City of Scholars, travel a circuit of the cities and larger towns debating each other, local scholars and members of the public.  The dragons by and large tolerate such as long as the philosophers are not actively seditious, some even seem to enjoy the cut and thrust of academic debate.

Notes: While there have not been a lot of bards played in the Sea of Stars we did have a brief musically themed campaign.  And I find the idea of philosophy as performance art, or intellectual sport, highly amusing.  “Come, pit yourself against Ronalf the Learned, never beaten in debate, for a purse of 200 silver coins!”  Also, the idea of using a commedia dell’arte troupe as a framework for an adventuring party has great appeal to me.

Art Commedia dell’arte Troupe on a Wagon in a Town Square, by Jan Miel, 1640, found on Wikimedia Commons and is in the public domain.

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