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The Astar Uln

The Astar Uln Pantheon, also called “The Companions,” are worshiped by the wood elves and some others, though many more prayed to them in past eras. This is their story, according to the Elves of the wild.

The darkness was barren, save for a seed and an endless wind that gently moved through it. The wind was cool and soft, the kind that whispers love poems to bare skin in the spring time. That was the wind that existed before all other things. That was the wind that would bring the rain.

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Be a Better Player!

Being a better player is about a lot more than figuring out the best build for your character. Everyone loves a good dice roll with lots of damage, but there is so much more to the game. Being a better player isn’t something you do just for yourself; it benefits the entire group. The goal is for everyone to have fun, right?

Role playing games are a group activity. You’re all making a shared story using some dice. While part of that story should be enjoyable and unequivocally yours, the same is true for the rest of the group. The game is about everyone’s characters and even the GM in a way. You all get to take part in this really special thing, which entails a certain amount of responsibility. Have fun, but make sure you’re a good neighbor.

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The Silence and the Stillness: Part 3 of 3

Gerund motioned to the innkeeper for two more drinks. The elf responded, albeit with a look of slight contempt. Aglanthol picked up on the exchange and placed five elnar on the table, enough to pay for what they had with some left over. The first mug had eased her spirits a bit, relaxing her. She felt more willing to listen to the sailor now. He was brash, but he did seemingly mean well.

“No, you are right. That was far from the end. The party who had descended into the depths came back out as heroes. The rumors of their battles would circulate every night and grow ever larger. It’s hard to say how much of their reputation was deserved, but such is true of most, for better or for ill. They rode at the back of the column when we entered the pass, still recovering from their injuries. When the ambush sprang, it was one of the humans who gave the command to retreat. Continue reading “The Silence and the Stillness: Part 3 of 3”

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Starting a New Campaign.

This article builds heavily upon the previous one which spoke about what to do before and during session zero. You can find it here.

At this point, if you’ve gone through session zero and its pre-prep, you have a lot of tools in your bag. You know at least a little about your world, the player characters, and the histories of both. Now you just have to mold all that chaos into something cohesive and compelling. This is the fun part. You get to begin crafting the mightiest epic of all time!

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The Silence and the Stillness, Part 2 of 3

“Ay! Lass! What is it?”

The voice boomed from the man by the window. It sounded raspy and congested, raw and deepened from the sea air. Aglanthol hoped he was yelling to the woman at the other table, but knew it was unlikely. She sat silently, continuing to stare into the flames.

“Ay! You got an ear, yah? What is it? I got some time to murder.”

He was loud, as people of his race tended to be. He had no tact or subtleties. If he were an elven man, he would have gone about his business, leaving the room in peace. The sailor was certainly no elven man.

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Session 0, Before and After

Starting a new campaign can be a daunting and exciting task. There is a whole new story to create! Where do you start? What about character creation? Should you have a session zero?

One of the things I strive for in my games is getting the players invested. One of the best ways to do that is to make the game about them. If their characters are personally involved in the story-line, that means they are too. You may have a great epic written in your head, but if the characters are just bystanders in it, why would they care?

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The Silence and the Stillness, Part 1 of 3

   Late autumn had come to the Sylvan Empire, bringing the blessing of cleansing rains and the curse of near perpetual darkness. The autumn sky hung heavy with dark clouds, disguising the sun and forever making the time of day a mystery. Morning differed little from midday, which differed only slightly from evening. Life had become a never-ending cycle of twilight.

   The port of Melilsaridon had quieted now, as less merchants were willing to set sail this time of year. In summer months, it was bustling with activity. Dwarves and humans roamed the seaside inns along with other, stranger folk. Their songs were lively, their voices harsh and loud. But now there was only the song of the sea, as cold, foamy waves broke upon creaking timbers. Those few sailors that were to be found walked briskly, interested only in what meager business lay before them. Rarely did anyone wander outside of their own accord in this weather. Continue reading “The Silence and the Stillness, Part 1 of 3”

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Gifting the Players Secrets

   One of the most common new DM mistakes is gifting the players too much treasure. I’ve often seen someone bemoaning high powered low level characters after they had too much magic heaped upon them. Its an easy thing to do, as giving a character a new toy makes the player momentarily happy. It hits that instant reward trigger that many MMORPGs rely upon.

   When players are running around with Vorpal swords at level 3, however, the campaign can be quickly derailed and  the intangible rewards you are giving to fictional characters being to lose their appeal. When they already have the best things, where do you go from there? How do you make appropriate encounters? The characters are still comparatively weak fleshy meat puppets, but they are walking around with cannons. It is not an easy mess to get out of.

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“Its been a while,” or Splitting the Party Long Term

   Once upon a time, in a D&D campaign long, long ago, I came to a dilemma. The party I was GMing for managed to ingest some poisoned food. Half of them failed their saves and ended up passed out and drugged. The other half managed to fight their way out of the situation, but left their fellow party members behind during the desperation of flight. How was I going to handle that?

   Easy. I just split the party.

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“Don’t Split the Party!”

“Don’t split the party.”

  The very phrase seems to be known by every adventuring party ever. If ever a character starts making plans to go off in a separate direction, one of the players is guaranteed to shout this from across the table. If you ask the internet, it won’t hesitate to chime in and let you know what a mistake it is, citing personal examples of character death and misfortune. Scooby Doo’s “Let’s split up, Gang” does not apply when it comes to D&D.

   The basic understanding here is that there is strength in numbers. If the GM throws the big bad at the characters, they’ll have an easier time dealing with it if everyone is together. In a game based on random die rolls, bad things are bound to happen when it is most inopportune. Praying to any intangible gods of luck won’t save players from the game master’s wrath when characters go separate ways.

  There is an even more meta aspect at play as well. Many comics and memes have painted Game Masters as vengeful gods who only exist to punish players. The trope exists for good reason, as those types of GMs absolutely exist. Splitting the party means you’ve made the game more difficult for the GM to run and their vengeance shall be forthcoming. It’s not IF that big bad comes when the party splits, its WHEN, because the GM will make sure that it does. This isn’t a GMing style I endorse, but we’ve all seen it.

  There is a third reason I’d advise against it, and one that is not often considered. Splitting the party has the very real potential to make the game less fun. By doing so, you’ve taken one game and essentially made it two. That means that whenever one half of the group is playing, the other half isn’t engaged. They are no longer part of that story. Sure, some players will still hang on every word, but many more are going to be going to their phones or having disruptive side conversations. That’s not really their fault, however. They came to play a game, not watch one.

   As a player, when faced with the option to split the party, I’ll generally try and take a read on the GM and see what they think. Barring a glance from them that tells me otherwise, my inclination is to stay put. There is always a way to rationalize it in character. It keeps the game together and fun for everyone, which should be the main point.

   From a GM perspective, however, splitting the party can be a great engagement tool if it’s done right. There are times when every player is at work doing something different. Each one has their own little aside in a separate area. It seems unavoidable. When it happens, I focus on two things: length and cliffhangers.

   Keep each player’s turn short and sweet. That way, no one is waiting too long for the lens to shift. That doesn’t mean you have to finish their task; just the opposite, really. Give each player just a snippet at a time, with the knowledge that you are going to come back to them. This lends itself really well to the second technique.

   Whenever you can end one of these snippets on a cliffhanger, do it. These don’t have to be huge. It’s almost better if it is not, as a major happening every moment feels a little soap operaish and cheapens the impacts you want to be larger. Did they open a chest? Let them wait until their next turn to see what is in it. Maybe an NPC asks them a deep or unsettling question.

   “UnQuat stares at you menacingly, his jagged smile unnerving you by its very presence. ‘The Dark God comes,’ he says. ‘She demands a sacrifice. What will you give her?'”

   That would be a great time to take a break and move onto another character. Its a big question and deserves a big question. Any players not involved in the scene listening in will be on the edge of thier seat. The player in the scene in question gets time to think of an epic reply, which can only help the story. If it works out, it keeps everyone engaged and active in the story, even when it isn’t about them.

   There is another time when splitting the party can be a great resource for the GM. An extended split can do some great things for storytelling, role playing, and character development. I’ll cover that in the next article, “It’s Been a While.”

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Creation- Myth of the Demons, Part 5: Death Makes Life

   With the needle and thread, Braxult strengthened her creation. It created great depressions in the ground where it crashed into this new world. She opened the vial of tears to fill them, creating Oceans and rivers.

   Braxult hung the spark in the heavens and watched as light and heat bathed her creation. Next she hung the gem and gold piece so that they might reflect the light of this new sun into the dark places of the world. The light would keeping the Sribinet from entirely consuming it, keeping it forever hers until even the sun and the moons died.

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Creation- Myth of the Demons, Part 4: Death Wanders

   Braxult recognized the chain. Creator abused created. She reasoned that it was her duty to create and abuse as well. The demon of death needed life to fulfill this need. Only the living would fear dying, which would perhaps be their biggest torment. She stole some of the darkness and molded it with her bare hands. Soon, she had a mass of land floating in a sea of dark, though it barely stayed together. There was no life to be found on it. Braxult realized that, while death can give meaning to life, it can not create it.

   She wandered the darklands alone, not knowing what to do. She came upon Yarllath, hammering upon a great anvil. The sparks shot off into the darkness, casting little patches of light.

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Creation- Myth of the Demons, Part 2: The Betrayal

   Time passed in Sribinet and it did not, as is the way in the demon realm. The passage of ages was not as mortals would one day know. The three grew to adulthood, and they became envious of their parents. Luln wished to be father. Braxult wished to be mother. Erethalion only wished for change. Together, the siblings conspired.

   One day, Jeragroth came to inflict harm on the three, for his pleasure and that of the darkness.

   “Stand, my children, for I would rend your flesh. Stand, my children, for I would see your blood. Stand, my children, for I would hear your screams. Continue reading “Creation- Myth of the Demons, Part 2: The Betrayal”

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Creation- Myth of the Demons, Part 1: The Beginning

   In the days of old, many cultures believed the world was created by demon kind. While the majority of the world today worships the dragon gods, there are still small pockets whose prayers are directed toward the oldest gods. In dark ruins and ancient temples on the fringes of the civilized worlds, those worshipers read from decaying texts, spreading the tales of the very creation of the world itself.  What follows is one such account…

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