The World of Ark

Friday, January 29, 2016

"Old School" Mapping

Hex Kingdom of Rivland

Have you ever liked one sort of gaming so much that you couldn't help but change existing things to fit what you wanted? Well, I'm somewhat that way myself!

The Kingdom of Rivland can be found in Midnight in Mogheim published by Ravenlore Press (sold on Amazon). That isn't exactly what this is about though. I mainly wanted to talk about an awesome bit of gaming software:

This program is highly adaptable to just about any campaign mapping you want to run! You can make maps like the one above for the Kingdom of Rivland.

I also made a quick version (still unfinished) of the Underdark of Rockhome:

The Rockhome Underdark is for the Gazetteer "Rockhome" from TSR. I was able to do this one as my first ever major hex map. The applications for this feature is almost without limit. I was also able to do a crude "player map" for use that was black and white:

The bottom line on this is that this program is amazing. I did everything here with relative ease, though I'll admit that tracing the coasts of Rivland was a bit of a pain. The thing is FREE for the version I used to do everything above. There is a paid version I'm going to use next to see what can be done with more symbols and abilities. I'll keep you posted!

If you want a copy of the Hex Map of Rivland, just look HERE in the files section.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Barony of Dragan

The Domain of Razvan Dragan

Do you ever remember some of your early characters and how cool they seemed at the time? Well, a recent map by Thorfinn Tait (you NEED to see his Mystara stuff!) got me thinking about an old character of mine from the Grand Duchy of Karameikos.

I honestly don't even remember the guys name; but I do remember that he was a Traladaran we can just call him Razvan Dragan (thanks Romania for the name) because that sounds cool.

I remember that Razvan fought tooth and nail on many solo adventures back then; sometimes I remember just opening a module and playing through it all on my own sometimes. It was fun, and often lonely; but what I was going after was the feeling of creating something. I played Razvan by himself so that I would have a complete backstory for something I wanted to place in my own Grand Duchy of Karameikos: a Traladaran dominated Barony.

I reasoned that despite the absence of a frontier community on the map where I wanted to place Razvan Keep, it didn't mean that many small communities weren't already scattered all over the land. I never understood why Karameikos seemed to have a dearth of settlements compared to neighboring Thyatis and the Five Shires. So I decided to place a frontier community dominated by Traladarans in the forested mountains of the Cruth Lowlands.

Previously called the Village of Brasov; Razvan's construction of Razvan Keep renamed the area as far as the Duke was concerned; but even Baron Dragan called his hometown Brasov. Not very many people lived there initially, but the new Baron had brought many soldiers with him who also brought their families. The Baron had hand-picked these warriors only from Traladaran families, and made sure that he did not displace any local families either by building a small stone wall around the village and turning it into a small town; his new soldiers and their families living either in his new keep or within new houses constructed north of the older part of town.

The Barony of Dragan was a minor one, with hardly any other individuals outside of the town of Brasov except for individuals from the Miner's Guild that the Baron brought to the area to exploit the iron in the Black Peak Mountains. There was constant strife with ogres and even hill giants; as well as a few raids by other humanoids...but over all, the Baron's own personal power and the strength of his soldiers kept the town and the mining operation safe.

In the Companion Rules we find the rules for ruling a Dominion. The Dominion of "The Barony of Dragan" was as follows:

Population: 208 Famalies (1,040 people); not counting Mercenaries
Resources: 3 Rolled (1 Mineral, 1 Animal, 1 Vegetable)
  1. Iron Mine: 42 Families work this resource
  2. Goat Herds: 62 Families work this resource
  3. Farm Produce: 104 Families work this resource
Standard Income: 10 gold pieces per family = 2,080 g.p. per month
Tax Income: 1 g.p. per family = 208 g.p. per month cash
Resource Income: From Iron = 126 g.p. + Goats = 124 g.p. + Produce = 104 g.p. Total = 354 g.p.

Total Income: 2,642 g.p.

Liege Tax: 20% = 528 g.p. to Duke Stefan (paid from Standard)
Tithe: 10% = 264 g.p. to Church of Traladara (paid from Standard)

Monthly Grand Total Income: 562 g.p. cash and 1,288 g.p. in Services/Goods

Baron Dragan is adamant about protecting his people as well. He keeps a core group of highly trained soldiers which he uses to patrol his land. He also demands service from the families of the Barony as a standing militia with a number of constables which enforce the laws of the Duke. The Beadles are the leaders of the militia in daily activities, while the Baron commands his soldiers directly with the aid of a trio of Knights. His Barony is also often home to trading halfling merchants, and he gladly welcomes the wee folk; and actually employs a group of them as his scouts. The military of the Barony of Dragan is as follows:

Baron's Own (44 total Troops)
Leader: Baron Dragan (F12, Mounted)
Officers: 3 "Knights" (Ftr 9 Mounted, Elf 9 Mounted on Pegasus, Cleric 9 Mounted)
Troops: 10 Cavalry (Ftr 1, Chainmail, Shield; Lance, Longsword), 10 Longbowmen/Hobilars (Elf 1, Chainmail, Longbow, Longsword), 20 Heavy Infantry (Ftr 1, Chainmail, Shield, Spear, Longsword).
Basic Force Rating: 123 (Troop Class: Excellent)
Battle Rating: 219
Monthly Pay: 510 g.p. Cash for troops; Knights are Retainers and paid via adventuring money

Barony Militia (105 total Troops)
Leader: Beadle (F3, Chainmail, Shield, Lance, Longsword; Mounted)
Officers: Beadle Sergeants (F3, Chainmail, Shield; Lance, Longsword; Mounted ) x5
Troops: 10 Scouts (Halfling 1, Mounted, Leather, Shield; Shortbow, Spear), 10 Yeoman Longbowmen/Hobilars (F1, Mounted, Chainmail, Shield; Longbow, Longsword); 40 Archers (F1, Leather, Shield; Shortbow, Longsword), 40 Spearmen (F1; Leather, Shield, Spear, Dagger)

Basic Force Rating: 57 (Troop Class: Fair)
Battle Rating: 81
Monthly Pay: 810 g.p. in Services

If the Baron's Elven Advisor (his 9th level Elf "Lady Friend") tells him that his forces aren't adequate based on the magical scrying done, the Baron will send word to both Riverfork Keep AND to the Five Shires. He has an arrangement with certain halflings there that will bring a band of mercenaries to his aid if needed; especially if the aid is against anything to do with the Black Eagle Baron!

So there you have it...a little Grand Duchy of Karameikos fun! I hope you can use the Barony of Dragan in your own game. Have a good one!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The Forgotten Realms is Open!

Wizards of the Coast Opened the Forgotten Realms!

Well, the 5th Edition of Dungeons and Dragons is now out right? Guess what else they just did; yes, they have opened the Forgotten Realms up for publication by individual contributors! It looks like it is time for one of my works to finally see publication. More about that later, check out what WotC has done:

Awesome I think. It is a rare opportunity for many who would like to see their work published from either their home campaigns or something that they simply decided to work up. Fan work is often VERY good and deserving of publication. As an example, check out this amazing map from "Isle of Ixinos" that Mark Taylor made:

Mark Taylor is possibly the finest Forgotten Realms Cartographer I've ever met! His attention to detail on his maps is second to fact, many authors that I have talked to prefer his maps; and even Ed Greenwood has said so much in praise of Mark's Forgotten Realms maps that Mark even ended up as the Art Director/Cartographer for Ed's new fantasy world!

Having seen these things and reviewed the new Open Gaming License regarding 5e and the Forgotten Realms; expect to soon see a Forgotten Realms title from me and Mark Taylor!

Essentially, the Isle of Ixinos is the place where the She-Wolves Mercenary Company comes from (detailed in the Forgotten Realms book "Gold and Glory"); a land ruled by women and men are second-class citizens at best. It is a hard place where the women endure training from childhood that molds them into some of the most powerful warriors in the Forgotten Realms. The Isle of Ixinos: Nation of Warrior-Women pulls only from Canon materials; though much has been added, it was our goal to make sure that nothing was contradictory to canon material. There will be a need to re-work some of the mechanics (originally this book was made for 3.5 edition D&D); but it should progress quickly and be available soon!

I hope you will check it out when it becomes available; and more than that, I hope you enjoy it!

Friday, January 8, 2016

Journies in Ark, Part 2

Rivland, Kingdom of Silver and Sail!

Last time, we talked about the World of Ark in general terms, but today I will talk about a particular place. "The Rivlands" are a set of islands; one great (called Aver) and the others small and too numerous to mention. For ages, there was no "Kingdom of Rivland" to mention; but instead many petty Kings, Jarls, Earls, Warlords, Chiefs and so on.

The Great, Great Uncle of the modern King was the first to force his will on surrounding "lords" and begin the unification of the islands into one Kingdom. King Graal was in fact a Sjovarg King and his desire for conquest was great! He fought the Earl of Grundir (Earl Agdi, a demi-god some say) and at last was victorious. Later, King Burr finally completed the unification of all Rivland; and today his son, King Jostein, rules the Kingdom of Rivland without dispute. Though his rightful rule is without question, it doesn't mean that the strong-willed inhabitants of The Rivlands are without a rebellious spirit now and again however!

There are two primary groups of Vannulvir who call Rivland home:

Kraggmen: The Kragg Tribes are five in number. The King's own tribe is called the Steinfødt. They live in numbers from the capital of Hakestad, in many ports, and as far from Hakestad as the Aver Forest. The Elgjeger are the most primitive of the Kragg. They are independent minded but loyal to those who are loyal to them. They control the lands around the great Elkwood without contention and at times even press against the Svartskrømt who are the most wicked and evil of the tribes in Rivland. The Svartskrømt in fact are vassals of Earl Agdi and not the King; though the Earl is a vassal of King Jostein; they are the only tribe that does not recognize the King's of Rivland as their monarch to this day, and so serve the King indirectly. The Kalde are the protectors of the great Druidic seat of the Kraggsworn. The Kalde live north of the Elgjeger and are bitter enemies of the Svartskrømt. Kalde druids are common, and the common man of the Kalde is very religious and dutiful; though still thoroughly barbaric by civilized standards! Last of the Kragg tribes are the Tjernfolk who are heavily mixed with the mainland Vannulvir peoples because of many generations of trade and marriage ties. The Tjernfolk are fast allies of the King however, and very loyal to their friends the Kalde as well. If there were a "neutral" tribe of Kraggmen, the Tjernfolk would no doubt be first mentioned.

Sjovarg: The Sjovarg "tribes" are very mutable. In fact, a "tribe" may be a single ship full of sea raiders with a chief that is the ship's captain. Most Sjovarg move a few times in their life from fleet to fleet, and these groups (usually controlled by titled Sjovarg nobles, warlords and minor chiefs) are the true "Tribes" of the Sjovarg. They control most of the small islands in Rivland and are often found fishing the seas with their nets and harpoons. They are consummate sailors. In fact, the King (though a Kraggman) also has many Sjovarg relatives and vassals who, together, constitute the King's Royal Fleet. The Sjovarg are a dominant power in the area of The Rivlands because the Kingdom of Rivland recently won a great war against two neighboring nations which established Rivland as the dominant sea power. Some few Sjovarg in Rivland are outlaw however. They rove both land and sea as brigands and pirates taking slaves, treasure and ships where they may. The King doesn't place a bounty on most of these groups because they rarely attack the other Sjovarg of Rivland, instead preying upon other nations which only helps King Jostein's Royal Fleet remain dominant.

The Kingdom of Rivland is often called "The Silver Kingdom" by many; even as far away as the Karnite Empire. The King's famous mine, the Itsel Mine, produces more silver than is sometimes good for the King's of Rivland. Many invaders have tried to claim the mine (such was the case in the previous invasion of Rivland) because of the vast wealth it generates. The King actually hoards silver to prevent it from devaluing in Rivland; but often sends secret shipments of the treasure to his distant relative King Alisander of Mahn in return for the products of the more civilized nation: books, alchemical secrets, fine clothing and such. The greatest danger to Rivland however is a dragon named Bhalrom which came to the Itsel Mine 26 years ago. Here it killed King Burr and King Jostein's elder brother both; the Kingdom dreads the awakening of this monster and then its return for more silver! The King has offered a reward of 100 pounds of platinum (bought from the Kingdom of Mahn and minted into special coins with King Burr on one side and Bhalrom on the other) for the finding and slaying of this monster...truly a King's Ransom that is worth 250,000 coins of silver which could buy a fleet of 25 longboats!

Today, Rivland is a Kingdom thought to be in trouble; despite its military and naval strength, great wealth and strong people. The King has no heir, no longer leaves the Castle Redfang and is said to be mad by some. While his worthy lieutenants rule in his stead, civil war looms on the horizon if things do not change soon. Goblins have started to increase in numbers all over the island; raiding farmsteads and small camps alike. Pirates have started to plague even the King's own ships as the Sjovarg of the Marauder's Cliffs continue to defy the Royal Fleet. Whispers say the Queen is cursed and dying too...and if she can give the King no heir then a Sjovarg King will come to the throne in Redfang to rule cruelly over all the tribes. Such would of course cause the mighty Elgjeger to rebel as well as the Earl of Grundir; the powerful sorcerer known as Earl Agdi.

Rivland is indeed a land where adventurers and mercenaries might find a fortune; if only they strive for the side that will be victorious! There are ancient ruins in plenty all over the face of Rivland even for those of less than political minded disposition. Ancient holdings of the Aerkay, tumbled towers of the Thurse...and the fabled and much dreaded tower of Forn Torr which looms over all like a spike of black evil driven into the land!

If you want to read more about Rivland, you can find that information HERE in hard copy or HERE in PDF format.

Next time in "Journies in Ark" we will talk about the dreaded tower of Forn Torr!

Friday, January 1, 2016

Where did simple go?

"This adventure is going to be the best one ever made! It is going to be epic! Everyone is going to want to adventure here..."

It is true that I love Epic adventures...but where did the simple dungeon go? Do we have to remake the Forgotten Realms or destroy the world if the adventurers fail?

I've spent a lot of time lately thinking on this. The answer I came to was rather sad really.

I think the primary problem in adventures today is that so many "market tests" show that people want instant gratification. Yes, I'm talking about things like:
  • Demons pouring out of the Abyss into the Underdark and then to the surface...
  • Dragons so thick in the skies that the birds have no room to fly...

Yes, sometimes too much is just too much! For whatever reason, the "powers that be" seem to think the solution is to one up everything that came before...they have taken "Jumping the Shark" to entirely new levels unfortunately.

Then you come across a resurgence of awesome new things. Ever hear of The Hobby Shop Dungeon? THAT is the kind of stuff that the hobby needs.

I feel that the best thing for me to do is to make a simple dungeon for people to enjoy; thus the new line I've started thinking about:

The K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stories)...yeah, the name is a work in progress to be sure! LOL

I think people would love to have quick and easy adventures that they can sit down and play in a single session if they wanted (two at most). Simple cover art, decent map, interior that doesn't include just random monsters, and a price that is easy to deal with...not everyone likes one "Epic Ride!" for $39.95. How about $5 for a single adventure your party will love and will save you hours of prep time?

As a first example, The Black Pit of Darkflame. An old (not ancient, not from a Forgotten Time, not the stronghold of some ancient power, etc.) reliquary disguised even in its heyday as a charnel house where the poor (beggars, criminals, etc.) were sent when they died for their remains to be properly disposed of by whatever religion you wish.

Secretly, the pit where the bodies were thrown into reached deep into the earth to feed denizens (not detailed in this first adventure) that were growing in number. When the "Good Guys" found out, they sealed The Black Pit, not knowing they had sealed in the secret priesthood as well. I won't give all the details of this one, but like I said: it is simple, it will be fun, and most of all it will be easy for anyone to use.

That is what I think people really want...I think those ad-guys just got it wrong!

So, here is to KISS adventures! Hell, if I'm cost less than a Happy Meal...