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07-17-2010, 12:33 AM
The following is copied and pasted (I am kind of lazy, tbh) from an e-mail I wrote one of the players who has already expressed interest. It is designed for someone who knows very little about 4E, except for any specific homebrew changes, so feel free to take my advice at the beginning of the letter and skim it. I warned you twice!

The list of links at the bottom is mostly about my D&D philosophy, why 4E is cool, etc. Just read what you want, none of it is necessary, there is a lot of stuff here. The beginning section is a bit of an overview of what players will know about the world, along with the available races. Feel free to skim anything that doesn't interest you. Player responses and questions will help me shape the world a little bit, so I want to see what catches your eye about the 4E philosophy and game world. Looking forward to hearing from you .

The times I'm looking at doing this are Sundays, possibly around 3:30 or 4 till dark....whenever everyone wants to run off, that is. I have no problem doing 4 P.M. to 2 A.M. games, but you will probably want to go home before that ;) We probably won't be able to start until mid August or so when I move into a bigger place.

The campaign world doesn't have a name yet, but the political system basically works as follows... Each race might have a small nation or group of cities somewhere, but the major world players are the Dragonborn. The Dragonborn Empire does not try to expand, it merely keeps the peace between the races and prevents any one race from swallowing or creating too many nodes/rival factions. How they determine when a race is trying to expand too far or swallow too much of the world's magic is, the Dragonborn say, their business.

Nodes are places of great power within the world that are extremely dangerous for those of the mortal races. They are created when something great or powerful happens in a location. If circumstances are just right, the event will leave an echo of power within the land and air itself. This echo will either grow larger and larger (if those who visit the node are "worthy" or "in tune" with its spirit, or weaker if they are "unworthy" or they "contradict" the node. (A Paladin would make a holy place holier, but weaken an evil place) Worthiness is somewhat harder to describe... but think of it this way... a strong individual will resonate with a node. The stronger the resonance, the more it increases (or decreases) the echo of power left behind. A weak individual is more like an empty vessel. There is nothing there yet for the node to resonate with, so the node's power will instead start to "soak" into the individual. This can change and shape the course of ones life, especially if done with a particularly powerful place, and forever after such a "node-touched" person may leave similar echoes in the untouched places where they walk.

There are many, many races to choose from. Some races I have separated into "feared" or "monstrous" categories, and these would probably be better choices for an evil campaign, but we can make them work in a good one if they sound appealing.. Also, some of the races are a bit different from how they are typically perceived in D&D. A good example of this would be the Drow... Rather than being the evil, hated cousins of the surface elves, they are simply the guardians of the natural, underground world. Their skin is dark for basically the same reason a normal Elf's skin is tan... good camouflage in their natural environment, which they tend to respect and be a part of more than the other races. This isn't to say that some of the surfaces races don't hate or fear Drow.... suspicion and ignorance can bring powerful hatreds, especially since the Drow have had to stop a few mining operations forcefully when humans or members of another race inadvertently threatened to collapse Drow city tunnels or natural grottoes. People rarely listen politely to each other when either their lives or livelihoods are at stake, you know?

If you want a more specific description of any race, let me know. I will try to include a brief description for some of the more oddball ones.

The races are - Humans, Bladelings, Goliaths, Bugbears, Tieflings, Changlings, Devas, Doppelgangers, Halflings, Drow, Elves, Eladrin, Genasi, Githyanki, Githzerai, Dwarves, Dragonborn, Gnolls, Shifters (longtooth or razorclaw), Hobgoblins, Gnomes, Shadar-Kai, Half-orcs, Shardminds, Warforged, Wilden, Minotaurs, Orcs, Kalashtar, Kobolds, and Goblins.

The more "monstrous" races are - Githyanki, Orcs, Goblins, Kobolds, Shadar-Kai, Drow, Doppelgangers, Minotaurs, Bugbears, Gnolls and Hobgoblins.

These "monstrous" races are typically more likely to respond to intrusions within their territory with violence, even against the Dragonborn. No race is inherently evil, but some are less than honest, some have acute xenophobia, etc. In the case of races who will attack even intruding Dragonborn... They can't really take on the Dragonborn empire, and if they expand their territories too far they will still get stomped into a mudhole by the Dragonborn, but the Dragonborn tend to respect each individual races autonomy within their own territory.

The Dragonborn Empire is mostly a military state. Dragonborn work tirelessly to improve themselves in the art of warfare, and many different races coexist peacefully within the empire, if only because they offer substantial protection. Many of the economic affairs of the empire have been taken over by other races, as the Dragonborn feel that their primary duty is to be guardians, not administrators. Some grumble that corruption is more commonplace now that the other races are "trying to grab power for themselves" by taking over some of these administrative duties.... but only someone with a solid knowledge of history could say for sure if much has changed within the past few centuries (hint hint, I'll try to give each player a little bit more information about the world based on their skills, History, Religion, Streetwise, Thievery, Arcana, etc. Something like say....athletics might not give you much.... but intimidate or diplomacy might give someone a little more knowledge on how the various races feel about each other, for example.)

Every PC will be someone who has visited a node. I'd like you all to help me create the campaign world a little bit, by telling me about how you were trained in your class abilities, maybe a rough idea of what happened to you in the node and how it changed you, etc. If you'd like an example, feel free to ask for one, but remember that *you* were chosen to visit this place by your superior(s)/master(s)/teacher(s)/ government, because something about your character is "heroic".

Because you have visited a node, you will have been chosen for a specific task, and that is how the story will start out. I have a rough outline of major events happening in the local area for the Heroic tier (lvl 1-10). If you know anyone else playing, or just have an idea for a cool complimentary character to run with someone else, we can arrange a time to meet up and hash out details before we have an actual session, just so I have a general idea of how you will react to different situations and what sort of teamwork/lack thereof I can expect from the group, and prepare things accordingly.

Brief descriptions of some of the more oddball races are as follows.... You will be able to ask me more and more about a race's background, lore, history etc. as you commit more and more to an individual character, but for now I'd like to just let you know a brief physical description, and how most other races feel about them.

As you can probably tell, I'd like for everyone to have at least a little misinformation and ignorance on perspectives other than those of their own individual character, so the roleplaying aspects can feel a little more natural. Not everyone knows the history, culture, and customs of every race.

Complete stats, racial powers, and whatnot will be furnished upon request, of course, but none of it would make much sense without the character builder and it is all pretty balanced anyways. No one will have a hard time making these characters all pretty much equally effective.

Bladeling - They are either silent, implacable guardians, or ruthless warriors. Few Bladelings fall into any category other than these two. A bladeling is slightly taller than the average human, and covered in dark grey or semi-metallic spines. Bladelings seldom speak to the other races, with the exception of the Githzerai, Dragonborn, Warforged, Dwarves(Guardian), and Shadar-Kai(Warrior).

Goliaths - Large mountain-dwelling dudes who like sports. They are generally amiable.

Eladrin - Fancy elves. (Normal Elves are just woodsy, tan. These are the pale, austere, stuck up ones....or something like that. A lot harder to get to where they tend to live, too.)

Genasi - Humans who have been exposed to an elemental force. Some have only one "aspect", others can have several. Fire, Water, Earth, Wind, Storm.

Gith - Githzerai and Githyanki are related races. One is not very nice, the other most likely simply does not care about you one way or another, but may help you, if it likes you. Adults of both races look similar, around 6', 160lbs, yellowish/greenish/grayish skin. They are extraplanar in origin.....which really just means they wandered in from somewhere off the edges of your map. One of these races will enslave any other race that it can catch, within its territory (with the exception of the Dragonborn.... unless they think they can get away with it), the other will most likely attempt to bring about the downfall of any slaveholder it sees. Asking about the Gith will reveal more information about both races, as they have a related history and don't like each other very much.

Devas - They claim to be immortal reincarnations of the original servants of the gods. Devas and the Dragonborn rarely get along well, unless they are fighting the same enemy. No one you have ever heard of knows of a Deva community.

Shadar Kai - Shadowy people who are generally considered to be without compassion. They live in the darker places of the world and rarely contact other societies unless on some sort of journey for personal glory, power, bounty, conquest, etc.

Shifters - Razorclaw - Cat people. Longtooth - Wolf people. Loners and hunters who generally prefer the wilderness, but are sometimes driven into cities by deforestation where they may live as guides, thieves, or some other profession that satisfies the need to roam, prey, track, etc.

Wilden - Living forces of nature

Shardminds - Living shards of creation.......?

Kalashtar - Extraplanar humans who live in close connection with some form of spiritual entity connected to the dreamscape. Being vague on purpose here, once again.

Changling/Doppelgangers - Most people view these two races in the same way. Changlings try to live in other societies, Doppelgangers prefer their own domains, and are not adverse to killing. Of all of the races listed, only doppelgangers would be considered truly, almost by nature, evil. If you want to play a good aligned shapeshifter who is not animalistic, it would be a changeling.

Warforged - living soldiers. They have fibrous, metal, leather, and possibly other components. They are resistant to most effects that would harm mortals, but they are still living constructs, and are not immune to things like disease or poison. Their bodies have fluid and other components, so they bleed just like any mortal. Few "factories" exist for producing Warforged, and they are rarely used. It is highly unlikely that any but the Dragonborn would attempt to make such a factory, though individual arcanists of any race may attempt to make an individual Warforged.

Most of these races are comparatively rare, but available. They all have bonuses comparable to that of a human. There is no level adjustment. For an explanation of some of the theory behind this, look for the appropriate link below. Story is encouraged, so like I said, if you think any of the races above sound particularly interesting, feel free.

Finally, the end of the e-mail! Almost! Here are some excellent links on 4E.... some of the author commentary I told you about.

http://www.grownupgametable.com/about/ AE introduction, Why I like D&D, Having fun being silly.
http://alexandraerin.livejournal.com/43316.html Some discussion of class roles and how they affect combat.
http://alexandraerin.livejournal.com/44950.html Hooray for no more pathetic wizards!
http://alexandraerin.livejournal.com/43676.html More Class Roles, Combat analysis, and the role of the DM in making combat cool
http://alexandraerin.livejournal.com/54793.html Alignment, the Campaign, and You.
http://alexandraerin.livejournal.com/53760.html Why are ordinary old Humans as badass as Warforged or Bladelings? Bwzhuh? (The blog post makes more sense....)
http://alexandraerin.livejournal.com/64060.html Cool Concept Character example part I (Witch) (These are all really awesome about reskinning a character)
http://alexandraerin.livejournal.com/63896.html Brief preview of Multi-class/Hybrid character rules (I can explain more)
http://alexandraerin.livejournal.com/110210.html#cutid1 How Far Fourth Edition Has Come (Ranger w/ just PhB vs. Ranger w/ character builder)
http://alexandraerin.livejournal.com/70103.html#cutid1 (Starts REALLY ranty...end wells) Immersion and non-video gamey worlds.
http://alexandraerin.livejournal.com/69388.html Epic Destinies, why the game ends at lvl 30.
http://www.wizards.com/DnD/Article.aspx?x=dnd/drdd/20080201a 4E changes to Death and Dying, from the designers.
http://alexandraerin.livejournal.com/66692.html Differences between 3.5 and 4E, small bonuses vs. huge advantages
http://alexandraerin.livejournal.com/67085.html Cool Concept Character example part II (Stickfighting Wizard/Monk)
http://alexandraerin.livejournal.com/69027.html Awesome post about immersion and game rules. Highly recommended. Read before the other Immersion posts.
http://alexandraerin.livejournal.com/67583.html Challenge vs. Peril, 4E's step away from save or die, disposable treasure. (Read the first few comments, too)
http://alexandraerin.livejournal.com/66133.html Reskinning powers/implements (Basically how it'll work in my game)
http://alexandraerin.livejournal.com/138426.html Combat with a whiteboard but no map or minis..... We may have to do this, but it looks good, works fine.
http://www.grownupgametable.com/category/fun-with-builds/ Cool Concept Character example parts III and IV (Boss Slayer Paladin and Wolfpack)
http://www.grownupgametable.com/category/strange-criticisms/dd4e-vs-mmorpgs/ No more Disposable Loot, some combat thoughts

aaaand..... you can find more to read over at the Grown up game table page if you want. There is some good, some bad, some pointless. Her personal homebrew rules are pointless to read, but there are a lot of D&D criticisms, examples of putting together feats from the books to make interesting things happen, etc. These links obviously aren't meant to be read all at once, or even all of them.... just, if you think any sound interesting check them out. A few are highly recommended... if you can't decide, or read one and think it is dumb or something, then I will give you more specific recommendations.

---------- Post added Saturday 07-17-2010 at 12:33 AM ---------- Previous post was Friday 07-16-2010 at 11:53 PM ----------

Okay, a few specific homebrew things, open to changing and open to discussion, we'll see how it goes. I'll be bumping this space, with maybe a little more info, once a week or so, as the game won't be starting till mid-august anyways and player choice is still open. As of the moment.... a tentative two. One is my roomate, who will play if there is a group and it is hosted at our place. He is a pretty chill dude, much like myself. The other is an acquaintance who is likely going to be busy in the next few weeks.... his schedule remains unknown for now. And then there is a poster here.... Not too promising yet, but I am going to advertise at a local comics store as well, so who knows.

The first and most important thing to read about is the ACME (http://alexandraerin.livejournal.com/138426.html) rules. Unless a better option presents itself, we will be using these rules for combat. I'll try to narrate accordingly and make it all very quick and visual. That is sort of the point. I don't have a map, or minis, so these are rules for combat that does without. I think they do a surprisingly good job of laying out combat in 4E, so check them out. Here are some updates and clarifications to the system. (http://alexandraerin.livejournal.com/140111.html)

Here is a list of fifteen examples of the "skill challenge" mechanic in 4E. (http://at-will.omnivangelist.net/2008/11/skill-challenges-city-ablaze/) I think they do a good job of illustrating how diverse the system can be. If you think they are laid out in a narrow sort of way, that lacks description.... Well, they are. They are all merely examples. The point of a skill challenge is that the players don't have a convenient list of examples of things they could try in this situation. The DM should, and has to do his best to improvise off of that.

On that subject, what skill challenges aren't. (http://abutterflydreaming.com/2009/01/03/what-skill-challenges-arent/) Skill challenges are designed to have levels of failure and success. They can encompass large combats where your goal could be something other than kill all enemy combatants. They could cover sailing a rough sea, exploring a primeval forest, delving into the earth in search of a lost city.... etc.

This is a method of determining DCs fairly. (http://kotgl.blogspot.com/2008/08/simple-algorithm-for-generating-dcs.html). Math stuff, may not be interesting to some. The easy way to think of it is this... how difficult something is will be determined by the level of the encounter, whether or not you should have to be trained to pull it off, and how much raw talent would it take to really pull this off.

Here is a practical example... The PCs are in an encounter with some orcs, who the fighter is trying to intimidate. They have different levels, so the commander is harder to intimidate than the minions. Maybe you don't have to be trained to intimidate the minions.... if you are trying it after you've killed a few and are doing well. But you do have to be trained to intimidate the leader. As their level of confidence rises or falls, it may become easier to pull it off. At the beginning those orcs think they are hot shit. After half the raiding party is dead, they may think otherwise. You may no longer seem like a boasting fool who must be insanely confident to proclaim yourself victorious so early in the combat.

I'll try to keep things fluid. This may include circumstances like using diplomacy on a noble who hates simpering weaklings. Maybe he appreciates cunning, and would prefer a clever plan. Two different uses of diplomacy with two different DCs.... Tricky. But fair, and doable.

A fine example of skill challenges done right (http://unclebear.com/2009/04/expanding-skill-challenges-into-adventures/), short and to the point. Imagine tracking a thief through a city... a streetwise check leads you to Maurice the fence, who can be then bullied or persuaded to tell you more about the guy who tried to sell him the crown jewels. If you fail to strike a bargain with him, he may call the guards, or close shop and try to go somewhere else. Further streetwise checks would be harder, and so would making a scene. Insight could make him pause, or Perception may allow you to spot a clue as he is closing shop. If the party draws the attention of the guards, they may run into a friendly commander... if they play their cards right. Or, if they pursue Maurice without drawing the cities attention, Maurice's employers hear many things, and your thief may be forewarned.

Each step of a skill challenge should be a thing unto itself, but no individual step leads to total failure.

So... I've linked to discussions including diversity of character design and feat choices, realism and immersion in a 4E setting, healing surges, death, combat, and the heroic nature of D&D characters and high fantasy in general. You've heard a bit about my world design and political system... to summarize here I'll just say... Every race has a place, and most seem to be kept on a short leash, though all have opportunities. The world is a big place... What we think of as.... the outer planes... can be reached by (mostly) ordinary travel. Creatures such as the Gith and Bladelings just.... wandered in somewhere off the edges of the map in our story's setting, and that is their place, or maybe yours. You will help create the story, by describing a mystical place that your character has visited. If you are interested in playing, contact me with an idea for such a place, based on your character's history, race, class, heritage, quest, devotion, etc. You will receive more information on the world setting, background of some races, knowledge of some terrain, and then you will be requested for a task. The task will be based upon the general alignment, class, skills, history, and personalities of the players. I have no idea what it is yet. I can only do so much planning at this point, so let me know what is going on.

In the upcoming weeks I'll try to post something about prominent lands or cultures. For example, the Tieflings are infamous bureaucrats of the Dragonborn empire. They are not exactly trusted... but as long as they get results they are treated favorably. It is regarded as a dangerous lifestyle for a Tiefling, but rewarding if one has talent, drive... and ambition.

Humans and Halfling peasants live comfortably in semi-integrated communities. Halflings and Gnomes will often live in rural homestead a few miles from human cities. Halflings are cunning traders and dedicated to task. They will often invest heavily in one skill, or a small repertoire of knowledge, and adamantly refuse to budge from that lifestyle. They regard gnomes as mostly odd, but tolerate them when they make things that work. Halflings will borrow from other cultures, but still like to stick to their ways. If their ways are easygoing.... they borrow what they will and leave what they can. If they are of a more strict or gossip mongering nature, their tenacity is legendary once they get wind of something that stirs their blood.

Humans live in independent communities outside of the Dragonborn Empire, but none have ever boasted to have lasted as long as the Dragonborn Empire. Multiracial communities driven by humans, elves, and half-elves have existed, but most of those do not last as long as even the fleeting human empires. Knowledge in History would probably reveal names and more.

More to come, I am bored now. Share your thoughts.

07-18-2010, 10:58 PM
Well it sounds like you are a very prepared DM. I would be interested in a campaign for a change. I quit LFR after a few sessions because there was no chance to create compelling characters with background. If you have others signed up then you can count me in.

07-22-2010, 12:59 AM
It is good to hear a vote of confidence. Feel free to peruse the updated explanation of skill challenges, roleplaying and story.

Bumping this topic, because the campaign hasn't begun yet, and new stuff is good.

There is also some history and hinting in there. Somewhere. I ramble.

07-25-2010, 08:45 PM
Alrighty, adding a bit more about the campaign world.... Looking back, some of this may be a little confusing. If you want clarifications on any of it, feel free to ask. Remember that this is all general knowledge, specific knowledge will be based a bit more on your character than anything else.

This week, we do a node-touched background story for those of you who may be out there but why. This thing has had 110 views.......

Asharia Devalion of Douan had always been a thoroughly charming girl, despite her habitually dirty face. No nursemaid in petticoats had ever been able to keep up with the lass as she streaked through the halls of the Devalion manor like the wind itself. As the years passed they found her running first through the family fields, then the family forests, and eventually anywhere her feet could take her. Though her father was at first vexed by having a sprinting, tree-climbing, boy-shaming handful of a daughter, a strange sense of pride began to grow in him as he started to consider the possibilities.

Asharia did not understand why her father's roaring had ceased and why he now wished to play games, but they were both vexing and rewarding in a way she hadn't felt before. They were simple things, but they were getting harder all the time, and she felt like she was seeing the world with new eyes. At first he would ask her to count all of the red things she saw in the hallways from this place to that place, or that he had given her a present, but only a single clue as to where it was. The rest she'd have to find on her own. He would ask her to talk to different people, and to watch for certain things they would say often, or the way their faces moved. And then he would ask what she thought about them! It mattered what she thought, she could tell, because she was starting to watch her father as well, and she thought she saw pride!

Soon she knew the names of every servant in the house, every serf in the village, who was fast, who was strong, who was clever, and who knew what was what. Likewise, every tree in the hills, every animal in the forest, and every plant and tree had a name. As she had to struggle to remember more and more of them, she felt like she was truly growing up, for the first time. If it was only to be a courier, what of it? She knew these people, and these lands, and could reach any point of them at any time. If this was to be her purpose, it could be a valued one indeed!

She never did figure out the truth, and when her father sprang upon her his true purpose for their "games" on her fifteenth Naming Day she was both shocked and delighted. He had entered her to run in the royal games of Douan, the races of Elial's Hill. Few outside of Douan would have been as delighted at the task, but to win the royal games was to win a position of high honor with the kingdom of Douan and the Empire itself! Elial was a scout of legendary renown, said to have died giving warning to the first settlers of Douan. The human city had grown too large within their Dragonborn haven, and self-interest on the part of several prominent officials had led to the Dragonborn ordering the city to "get a little smaller, before it stepped on something's tail".

It was fortunate timing for both parties, as no word returned from the first wave of settlers. Not far from the border, when the second wave had set out, a lone survivor could be seen from the top of a distant hill. He screamed unintelligible warnings before collapsing, his back spotted with arrows. As a tide of horrendous creatures crawled over the man, he is said to have seen the other settlers, and died knowing that his warning had not come too late. As is the course of all things, the Dragonborn were warned, and given time to prepare for their adversary, they led them to a slaughter.

Every year the King of Douan sponsored the race to Elial's Hill. Youths the age of fifteen, runners, and sprinters, hunters and woodsmen all would race for days through the woods, avoiding the kings archers. The bows used were illusory, so no youth could die, but all would feel the sting of their wounds. Being able to grit through the pan and keep running is part of the game. It is said that the runners are chosen so young so that the hill may speak to them more clearly. It tells the tail of a desperate life, lived with hope and courage. Pay attention to the terrain, pay attention to the enemy, and pay attention to yourself. It teaches you to do these things to survive, and bring warnings of the dangers on the edges of the map to others.

It is a high honor to have won the race on her fifteenth year, and Asharia Devalion has often looked back to that moment, sitting atop Elial's Hill where she felt the pain of life and the hope of community come together so fiercely in her heart. There is more to Elial's story than is written here, as any child of Douan could tell you. The hill speaks of the man, a life of seeking, a life of finding, a life of warning others, seeing them to safety. It speaks to you of hope, even in the darkest of despair, of a flame that cannot be extinguished. Whatever heroics are in her future, she is forever tied to that hill, and it to her. She carries an echo of it in her heart. It was a desolate place, with a view to die for. But here and there were flowers of a kind she never saw anywhere else, indescribably beautiful to those who have not tasted this particular flavor of sorrow.

So that is a sample character bio/node, of a historical figure from a dead kingdom a few centuries in the past. Totally irrelevant, but real for shits and giggles.

We have one semi-defined character, a controller and traveling performer with a flair for social skills.

Nodes we have developed past off of this character background to come later tonight, after a movie. Check back in a few hours.