Thursday, December 29, 2016

Predictions for RPGs in 2017

I'll venture forth to make a few predictions for the coming year.....maybe wishes or suggestions are more of what these are? Here we go.....

1. Green Ronin needs to produce a Companion Book to Fantasy AGE

My players have one complaint with Fantasy AGE which has blocked my ability to get buy-in on playing the game: it's too skimpy. The core rules give you three classes and twelve archetypes, but it really doesn't give you enough to simulate nearly as many characters as they would like. It's not that my players are that special....but it's that they are used to more robust systems with a range of options, and Fantasy AGE's basic rules are indeed very....basic. They need to release a follow-up book with more archetypes/subclasses, more spells, and more stuff.

2. Wizards of the Coast needs to release at least 1 new rules tome this year, and it better be for players

We've had D&D 5E for three years now, give or take, and the closest we've gotten to a player's companion is in the back of the Sword Coast book. What they need is a formal sequel to the Player's Handbook. I think they are expecting the need for this, as Unearthed Arcana articles have ramped up to a weekly(ish) status with a focus on player options. The latest tome....Volo's Guide to Monsters....was a great book and if I had my way they'd release one of those every year (but I'd be happy with one every other year), but the game is past due for more player content. Same problem as with #1 above, and the longer WotC goes without fulfilling this need, the more likely it is I'll hear quiet dissent and suggestions that there's always Pathfinder to play....and no, I do not want to go back to Pathfinder. Must....resist....

3. Starfinder really needs some straight SF options when it releases

Okay, it may have these planned, but I will wait for the final product before believing it. Right now all information released on this book suggests it's "Golarion....IN...SPAAAACE" but maybe with Golarion missing or something. It sounds cool for what it intends to do, but there's a viable market of SF gamers who are like me: they want a OGL sci fi RPG which is robust and supported, and do not want to mix their fantasy with their SF (and if we do, it's gonna be appropriately gonzo like Spelljammer). Fingers crossed that even if Paizo doesn't do it, some 3PP will take advantage of the hype to do a streamlined "fantasy free" edition.

4. Swords & Wizardry goes mainstream

Between all the different iterations of Swords & Wizardry one could argue this is already a game that's dragged itself out of the niche corner of the OSR and into the "mainstream" of gaming, at least insofar as I bet there are a lot more people playing S&W now than, say, most FATE based games (not all FATE collectively, but any single FATE title is probably carrying a fanbase smaller than S&W does). With Erik Tenkar's S&W Lite, the new 3rd edition Swords & Wizardry Complete and it's art revamp, and a variety of other independent projects like White Box going on....I suspect S&W's gone mainstream and 2017 will show off just how much.

5. GURPS "Returns" 

Stave Jackson Games had a very successful Kickstarter for the new Dungeon Fantasy boxed set, which will be a stand-alone product that you can purchase and play without ever needing the other GURPS books. It's a great proof-of-concept for SJG and especially fans (like me) who've been saying that GURPS would be perfectly viable if they could do a streamlined version that is genre-specific, books which aren't so formidable in their scope that players are either scared away or crippled with decision paralysis. I've just recently started running GURPS again with the After the End sourcebooks as the basis, and my group is rapidly learning how great GURPS is, but the thought that I'll have an accessible rendiiton of Dungeon Fantasy next year is quite exciting. Once SJG has that out, we need a boxed set for GURPS SF Adventures next....a version which walks the line between the hardcore hyper-realism of GURPS Space and the more accessible "roll up some cool planets to explore" of other RPGs like White Star and Traveller. Then GURPS Action Heroes Boxed Set, GURPS Monster Hunters boxed's the limit!

6. Pathfinder 2.0 Should Start Development

My guess: Starfinder will include some bold and new innovations in game design (by 3rd edition D&D OGL standards) as a way of testing the waters for change. If they fly, Paizo may announce a 2.0 edition of Pathfinder to go in to development and playtesting before the year's end. This could be a good thing, if only because I think Pathfinder's core conceit (a complex, robust mechanically intense system for playing not-D&D) can remain intact while still fixing key issues (which of course is the problem: namely, no one can quite agree on what the key issues are). But they probably can tweak a few specific areas of the system and then clean it up for a very nice revised edition that looks similar to the formatting seen in books such as the Strategy Guide and the Beginner's Boxed Set. Sometimes even just a "cooler, newer look" is enough to make a game stand out.....and as Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition proves, you can make just a few tweaks and that will feel like a lot of change to many people, but a measured improvement in the look, feel and accessibility of a new edition can be accomplished through smart graphic design as well. Pathfinder is a surprisingly robust book as it stands.....but I think it could benefit (greatly) from a revision that improves accessibility and adds in some rules for non-miniatures-based combat, which will at least get it in to the design ethos of the 2010's.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The State of MMORPG Gaming as 2016 Closes

This year more even than last demonstrated that MMOs are in a weird space, where the conventional aerchetype set by Everquest and then World of Warcraft (yes, and others that no one really remembers prior to WoW) has --I think-- moved from being "the only way to do it" to being both something of an oddity and also a conscious style/design decision. Today if you make a game that functions on the traditional questing/leveling/pve/pvp structure set by the industry nearly two decades ago then you are doing so because you want to actually offer up that style of game, not because it is in any way the golden apple of design (or seen as such).

We had a time when MMOs were being cranked out constantly, and in Korea at least it seems this still goes on, with a fair number getting awkward ports over to the US. But in the US, new MMORPGs need to do stuff differently, and often don't look anything like a conventional MMO used the point where the line between MMO and other game is often blurred considerably. As a result, some games (like The Division, Destiny or even GTA Online) might well have a valid claim to the MMO part of the name. But despite this, I want to look at how the "tried and true" MMORPGs are doing these days.

As usual, I look at these games with the following important caveat, because I am not a normal MMO Blogger: I probably am lucky to land 50 hours in a game per year, and if an MMO gets 200 hours out of me in a year I must really, really like it, enough to devote that much of my precious time to it. When some guy comments online about how you can level to 100 in game X in a couple weeks*, remember that I am not that guy, and I have played, for example, The Elder Scrolls online continuously since it's date of release and only just hit the level twenties....albeit with like 9 characters, but you get the idea: I am the player for whom all the pre-end-game content in an MMO matters. The End Game is not for me, and I find it a time sink anyway when I do miraculously get there. When I hit level cap in WoW, for example, and wrap the current story (as much as the solo quests allow me to see) then I am done with that game; I have no time, ability or interest in the End Game raids and other nonsense.

So, with that's what I followed/played over this year:

The Elder Scrolls Online

This year Elder Scrolls Online upgraded to a "One Tamriel" edition which was basically a smoothing out of the leveling can now basically go anywhere and group with anyone and the game accommodates your level accordingly.  The net result was more freedom of play and a bigger focus on what you are doing now rather than where you need to go. TESO remains my favorite fantasy MMORPG on the market right now, with beautiful graphics, enough of the Elder Scrolls aesthetic to make it interesting, and for a casual MMOer like myself it's a great game to pick up and play on those odd Sundays when you have a four or five hour block of time for some serious gaming. It also remains one of the more affordable microtransaction experiences; the most expensive items remain vanity-based, but the game regularly has sales and reduced costs on its crown points which means you can make it quite cost effective if you are patient.

Verdict: will continue to play this most likely until I finally reach level cap. Someday. But sometimes I just can't get into the experience and have to put it aside for weeks at a time, only to come back to it randomly and suddenly totally dig it again. I think it's the fact that there are moments where it feels like 95% of my quests are being delivered by ghosts, about other ghosts. Why the obsession with the ghosts, Zenimax???? WHY???

Neverwinter Online

I jumped back in to this for a few weeks earlier this year and was pleased to see that it had grown quite a bit in content. I played long enough to start (not actually succeed....just start) comprehending the bizarre multi-tiered point structures of the cash shop, but ultimately grew annoyed with the whole mess once more when I took a month away from the game, came back, and found it too annoying to bother with re-learning all over again. That said, I think Neverwinter really doesn't require any purchasing for a casual MMOer to enjoy for a while, as the game feeds you pretty much the essentials as you go. Their hook is to offer you lots of cool stuff you want to buy, and hope you do exactly that. Restraint will make this a much cheaper game, since unfortunately the cost of store items remains too high for my tastes, and their sales often do little more than drag the outrageous costs down to "almost affordable but not quite."

Verdict: I really enjoyed the play of NWO once I figured it out and learned to ignore the weird currencies design to make you pay money in the cash shop. I was disappointed to see that leaving and coming back a few weeks later left me feeling a bit out annoyed with all of it again. When I feel the temerity to stab at it once more, I will.


This game is getting older and older, but still has periodic new events, usually driven by cash shop sales items. It remains a fun shooter to mess around with, and ties in to the Defiance TV series, but I've never been able to really enjoy it as much as I feel I should these days, since Defiance itself delved into the "MMO shooter" genre first, laying the groundwork for much better games to come, games which knew the audience for this style of game much better than poor Trion did (The Division, GTA Online and Destiny, for example). I may give up and delete it, but not before I finish watching all the episodes of the TV show.

Verdict: I think I may be done with this one, but who knows, I thought I was last year, too.

Star Wars: The Old Republic

I honestly did not have this on my radar, but three things happened: first I got into White Star --a lot-- earlier this year which really put me in the mood for some good, pulpy Star Wars-adventure. Despite my interest, I didn't think of SWTOR as an outlet for this desire. Then a new expansion was announced, featuring a cool trailer (here) that reminded me of why Bioware is so cool. Finally Rogue One released, and I rediscovered my fluctuating, on-again, off-again love for all things Star Wars. On a lark I snagged the expansion and loaded the game.

Since then I've been hooked and it's dominated my December game time, more so than any other game except The Division. The cash shop is not annoying me like I remember when it first came out...the prices aren't spectacular, but they are more affordable on average...$40 in coins gives you enough to snag the key items and vanity crap you will no doubt want to decorate your PCs with. It's still not perfect, but the game also was overhauled with a faster, more story-focused leveling experience which has so far proven much smoother and more entertaining for the casual MMOer like me. People are bitching about this change online, I noticed.....but my guess is Bioware needs people who are playing the game and spending money, not end-gaming it and no spending money? I don't know.....but I do know I am currently quite obsessed with this game, and I honestly did not expect that I'd end the year stating that SWTOR is my darling MMORPG right now.

Verdict: I feel a strong desire to actually experience all of the story content in this game and can only assume EA and Bioware have found some form of mind control to hook me on the game. That or I'm just enjoying how even trivial quests are made entertaining with Bioware's live actors and cutscenes.

The Crew (Complete Edition)

I feel an obligation to include this game on the list, because it is absolutely an MMO and maybe even an RPG, due to the fact that you follow storylines in the game. When this first came out I was less than impressed, but several expansions later and The Crew is a pretty fulfilling and interesting experience, with some decent (but not perfect) car physics. You are totally playing online with other humans, but it is fairly easy to ignore them if you want, for most things anyway. That said.....unlike Horizon 3, where you have to choose to go online, The Crew is always online all the time. I've been enjoying touring it's rendition of the United States, which is a world filled with aggressive drivers attempting to perform ever more outrageous stunts and races with increasingly tricked out cars in various locales. The new expansion adds cops and chases in to the mix, making the overall experience feel pretty rounded.

Verdict: I'd like to play this to the "end," whatever that is for a car game but suspect Horizon 3 will beat it up and take it's stuff as that game steamrolls out more compelling content.

World of Warcraft: Legion

Legion is definitely a return to form for World of Warcraft, and I jumped back in entirely because my nostalgic love for this game was rekindled by the Warcraft movie earlier this year. I had left off somewhere in the middle of Warlords of Draenor on my alliance warrior, and enjoyed playing through WoD which I really think was a better expansion now than I previously gave it credit for. The Legion expansion is interesting....but it's the "newest" which means that once you hit the new content the leveling process slows down and the game's flaws (such as agonizingly painful quest lines, horrendous environment designs, generally dated graphics even after the recent attempts at improvement) start to stand out. Maintaing your garrison is fun, though....but I have to say, I am not sure I like the weird turn of events in Legion all that much....the weird pseudo-Norse stuff, the superhero feel with artifact level weapons and all that are just not really proving all that fun for me (yet, I's still persevering). My main gripe though is that as I play my horde warrior through Pandaria content to get to the good stuff in WoD, I am learning to REALLY HATE PANDARENS...and's just so gimmicky and trite for the horde storyline so far, and the increased leveling pace makes it such a fragmented experience that I am basically just trying to find the will to level my orc warrior to get her the hell out of there as fast as possible.

Verdict: I wish Blizzard would cough up news of a WoW 2, one which looks and feels more like the movie. Leave the original WoW as a legacy title for gamers with older rigs.....we need something genuinely new for Warcraft's future, please! For now I will probably find myself leveling my one warrior to the level cap slowly and surely while enjoying the lower level content I find more palatable...and exploring more of WoD's territory, which I think is the best since BC.

Off the Radar

I have a few games I used to love which have all but dropped off the radar. These include:

Rift: despite releasing new content this year, I never did recover from when Rift went F2P; the cash shop is too messy and expensive, and the design decisions from level 50 content onward were just no fun, with a questing approach that worked great before the F2P experience but leads to a fragmented inability for casual MMOers to figue out what the hell is going on, where to go, or why to care. Rift still remains a great experience from level 1-50, approximately, with diminishing returns beyond that point. Verdict: I am done with it.

Guild Wars 2: I gave up on this game. Much like Rift I have no idea what the hell is going on, or why it took me so long to level up back when I was invested in the game. Leveling up seems much faster now, but the purpose of one's existence in the game is constantly called in to question due to a questing structure that seemed innovative back in the day proving to be boring and pointless now. It's basically a problem I describe as "invisible progress," in which the cycling of recurring events/themes doesn't give you much direction on where to go.....if you can adjust to the "fill the hearts" thematic of GW2's exploration process, and you can accept the almost (to me) incomprehensible math behind how damage in combat works, then GW2 is probably a better game for you than it is for me. Verdict: I am keeping it installed for now, but I think not for much longer. A damned shame.....I love the original GW, and so wanted this one to be a major innovator going my frustration at not being able to grokk it is very annoying.

DC Universe Online and Marvel Heroes 2016: The DC Heroes MMORPG and the Marvel Heroes 2016 action RPG both are fun experiences, but from very different angles. I spent a bit of time in both, and came away from the experience realizing that the best moments I experienced in both games paled in comparison to taking 2 hours to watch the latest movie or read some comics. Verdict: Deleted and moved on. I do want to thank Marvel Heroes for letting me run around as Moon Knight, though....if only you were a real game, and not a Diablo knock-off, the most ill-suited design choice for Marvel characters imaginable. And as for DC helped clarify just how inappropriate the MMORPG classic format is when applied to a comic book superhero universe.

*The reason I make this distinction is because of an experience I had (often) best summarized by this story: sometime around mid 2008 I was gaming in WoW with my wife and her active guild when I was treated to a fascinating conversation explaining why I was a casual gamer because I could not devote more than 30 hours a week to the game. When I pointed out that that would mean I would have to devote a minimum of 4-5 hours per night, seven nights a week to meet the minimum, I was met with a sea of "yep, absolutely" type responses from the guild, who had no problem with this concept. I took a long break from WoW after that. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

RIP Carrie Fisher

Very sad news, and an unfortunate ending to an already awful year. Rest in peace, Carrie.

Death Bat's Top Five RPG Tomes of 2016

I spent a lot of time this year focused on a few key games, but collecting the hell out of everything published for them: Savage Worlds, White Star, Mythras, 13th Age, D&D 5E and Call of Cthulhu 7th edition dominated my actual gaming for this year. To that end, I'd like to look at the top book for each....

5. Best Rules Expansion: The White Star Companion
   This was the first official expansion for White Star, and provided lots of additional content, some of it much desired (and at times filled by the 3PP for the game), such as vehicle rules and a skill mechanic. White Star remains my favorite OSR iteration to date, and we ran two great campaigns this year.
Runner Up: The Starrunner Kit by DIY Productions is a great resource for White Star players and GMs alike, and also available in POD format.

4. Best Rulebook: The Mythras Core Rules
   When The Design Mechanism lost the Runequest 6 license they proceeded with a revision to the system and an official rename: Mythras. The Mythras System is essentially the game we've all come to know and love, but with some minor tweaks and a certain liberating feel to it, thanks to a much cleaner and more utilitarian layout and the fact that, free of any expectations that it must be a Runequest/Glorantha game down the road, it can instead focus on more amazing sourcebooks like Mythic Rome.
Runner Up: Through the Breach, which is divided between two core rulebooks (The Fatemaster's Almanac and The Fated Almanac) is a fascinating alt-reality fantasy historical setting based on the Malifaux miniatures game. It's got a card game mechanic and beautiful design aesthetics.

3. Best Sourcebook: Mythic Rome
   Mythic Rome for Mythras is a revision of the original BRP Rome but with a design emphasis on accessibility and easy of play. It's a fantastic sourcebook, probably my favorite this year. It fits well with the Mythras system (or a copy of TDM's edition of Runequest 6) and anyone who appreciated BRP Rome will find this worth picking up.
Runner Up: Rippers Resurrected by Pinnacle Press for Savage Worlds is a crazy delve in to the world of the Rippers, victorian monster hunters who sometimes practice ripping pieces off of their monster prey, grafting it on to themselves. It started long ago as a miniatures game that was expanded into a sourcebook for Savage Worlds, and is now a multi-volume series of tomes expanding on the original setting and storyline.

2. Best Bestiary: Volo's Guide to Monsters
   Volo's Guide to Monsters is WotC's first foray into a non-campaign scenario driven sourcebook for Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition, and it's a genuine pleasure to read as well as a lavishly illustrated and emminently useful expansion for the game, something much needed to date. This was a good year for monster books, actually, and Volo's Guide to Monsters was just the cream of the crop in a sea of awesome.
Runners Up: The Tome of Beasts for D&D 5E from Kobold Press was a fantastic expansion released earlier this year (and pretty much on time!) as a Kickstarter. Fantasy Age's own Bestiary also came out, and provided a much needed shot to the arm for that system, but they still need to get a Player's Companion out to really bring the system up to speed.

1. Top Game Release of 2016: Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition
   It was a very, very long wait for those who backed the Kickstarter, and it nearly tanked Chaosium. The company changed hands and the game was at last printed and released earlier this year however, and the wait was well worth it. I've run a full campaign with the CoC 7E rules now and I find the changes to be intuitive and natural; it is, in fact, a bit hard to imagine a BRP that won't follow the CoC 7E changes (but oddly it probably won't). The Keeper's Guide is all you really need to run the game, but the Investigator's Guide has too much useful data to pass up. The new Petersen's Guide is gorgeous, and all of the new scenario books released so far (Nameless Fears, Pulp Cthulhu and Doors into Darkness) are all great additions to the copious volumes of CoC scenarios already out there. All of thes tomes are in full color and most of them are deluxe hard covers as well. On top of it all the revised system is still easy enough to convert older edition content to on the fly. CoC is back, and it was worth the wait.

Bonus Award!

0. Best Legacy Game: 13th Age 
   13th Age took the cake this year. With some great new sourcebooks such as Crown Commands and High Magic and Low Cunning, as well as the 13h Age Monthly subscription, there's lots of content for a game that remains my favorite immediate competition to running D&D 5E. 13th Age just has so much flavor, and is so easy to's starting to usurp D&D 5E as my primary go to fantasy engine. There are a lot of games I like and read, but only a few I really play consistently....and 13th Age has become one of those few.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Death Bat's Top Five Computer Games of 2016

It's that time of the year again! When bloggers everywhere flock to a Best Of series of lists, make predictions for the next year, and attempt a bit of precognitive chicanery. I'll skip the last year is looking dicey at best....but I've got plenty of top fives to dicuss!!!!

In the world of video games I had to try and exclude titles from 2015 and earlier which I am STILL playing because they are both that good and designed to stick around (Destiny, MGSV, The Elder Scrolls Online), and focus on what's actually new.

Remember, my review criteria are as a full time dad with limited game time. Stuff a twenty-something can plow through in fifty hours over a week are beyond the pale for me; if I get fifty hours out of a game in a year I'm smokin'.

Anyway....on to the list! It was a weird year at times for PC and console gaming, but there were a lot of noteworthy titles to choose from. As usual I favor the more visceral FPS and third-person based shooter with plots (or not).

5. Best Co-Op Experience: Warhammer End Times: Vermintide
   I've barely discovered Vermintide but am finding it quite compelling. The game is set in the Warhammer Fantasy universe, giving you an array of distinct characters to choose from as they face down a grotesque horde of skaven (ratkin) in a doomed city. It's essentially a fantasy edition of Left 4 Dead, and manages to fill that void handily.
Runner Up: Killing Floor 2. Despite a shaky early access window, the final release of Killing Floor 2 is proving to be an amazingly polished and fun experience.

4. Best Shooter: Doom
   I had a lot to say about Doom earlier in the year, but since then two of three expansion DLC have released which added a great deal of content to the game....content I feel would have been better to be included in the core package, as it makes the multiplayer component much more interesting. I also snagged the game on PC with my recent computer upgrade and feel the PC edition is more interesting overall than the console versions.
Runner Up: Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare took it's franchise in to space and while I think it will fail as a CoD game because that's not quite what the franchise fans want, it still made a compelling interplanetary warfare experience that I think out-Halo'd Halo 5: Guardians in every way. When CoD is making you feel more like Master Chief than Halo is, somethings wrong....

3. Best Open World Game Experience: Tom Clancy's The Division
   Tom Clancy's The Division grabbed me earlier this year and has held on. I'm a slow player so take my assertions that it's loaded with content with the appropriate recognition....I'm working on leveling a third character though (now with the PC version of the game) and look forward to the final expansion pack. If you can find the complete package for under $50 I think this game is a steal....but take note that I am amused that the Xbox One version seems to have more glitches and bugs than the PC edition so far!
Honorable Mention: Just Cause 3 XL Edition proved really captivating to me this year. The game's willingness to let you blow things up in any number of inconceivably bizarre and physics-defying ways left me wondering the whole time if the protagonist was a secret metahuman or something, but it never stopped being weird fun.

2. Best Franchise Revamp and Story-Driven Shooter: Titanfall 2
   It is nice to see that the devs behind Titanfall 2 realized their new world was compelling enough to deserve a single player campaign. I love the multiplayer elements with the large mechs, but the story mode really sells this sequel to the MP-only experience of a couple years back. It is far and away my favorite FPS experience so far this year. BT the robot is a great foil to the protagonist.
Runner Up: Destiny: Rise of Iron, but remember I'm a Destiny fanboy so of course I'd put it on my list somewhere! It adds to the lore and provides a great new campaign arc to what I suspect is the last DLC we'll see for the game until Destiny II arrives next year.

1. Best Story-Driven Title: Uncharted: A Thief's End
   This was by far my favorite game this year. Uncharted: A Thief's End tells the last tale of Nathan Drake, debonaire explorer and thief of antiquities using the lessons they learned from The Last of Us to make a narrative that manages to lend even more humanity and emotional resonance to the series, while still going over the top with it's high concept action adventure tale. The multiplayer is kind of fun as well, but utterly secondary to the story itself.
Runner Up: Gears of War 4, which manages to revive the franchise, remain true to the style and feel of the prior games, and provides a really compelling narrative tale that --believe it or not!-- was easy to follow and really interesting all at once. Oh and I hear it has MP as well (heh). My only regret with GoW4 is how I haven't been able to invest as much time with it as I'd like due to all these other games competing for time.

Bonus Mention: Best Game I Only Just Discovered: Watch Dogs 2
   I only just snagged this and have delved a few hours in, but Watch Dogs 2 is a massive improvement in terms of story, design and style over its predecessor, and a much more evocative and interesting experience as a result. The game captures a fascinating near-future take on cyberpunk that is much closer to RL if you are willing to buy in to its core conceits. I'll talk more about this one soon, including some ideas I have on how Watch Dog 2's core conceits for gameplay could translate into a similar experience in tabletop.

Honorable Mention: Forza Horizon 3. This game is a damned compelling open-world racing/exploration experience set in the Australian Outback. My favorite car game experience so far.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Alien: Covenant Red Band Trailer

Ohhh I can't wait (even though I must):

So an Alien prequel/Prometheus sequel. Should be fascinating......

Friday, December 23, 2016

Reviewing the Alienware Steam Machine i7

My wife picked up a Black Friday special for me (ironic, yes): the Dell-made Alienware Steam Machine i7, which went on sale for $375 at Gamestop. After a harrowing journey in which UPS seemed to lose it, and asserted to us the machine had been stolen, the Steam Machine mysteriously appeared.

This machine is 1/2 the size of an Xbox One
and about 60% the size of the PS4

I can't recommend the Steam Machine as it was intended....which is a Linux-based platform operating on SteamOS... for two reasons: first, it would hang on the intro screen and refuse to boot up properly; this seems to be a common issue that is a real pain for Steam Machine owners, based on my own googling. Second, it didn't really matter, because I had no intention of suffering through the SteamOS environment with the medicore lineup of Linux-compatible titles, so I picked up a copy of Windows 10 and reformatted the system anyway.

Now I have a Windows 10-based Micro PC that is more powerful than my two gaming consoles (PS4 and Xbox One), smokes my old Core i5 in terms of performance, and is half the size of both's tiny! It also runs silently....especially compared to my wife's own rig, which is a very expensive Xidax monstrosity she picked up two years ago and which sounds at times like a jet engine taking off.

Anyway....if you've ever seen one of these Steam Machines and wondered what their value was, I just have to say that so far (one week in) it's been an amazing experience, and well worth it once you kill the Linux/SteamOS and boot it over to Windows 10. If you read online most of the advice is about trying to set it up for a dual-boot format, presumably for gamers who have some vested (or technical) interest in keeping the Steam Machine with it's intended OS, but the fact is the thing runs great with Win 10--and as a result dramatically increases the number of games you can actually play on the PC.

Now that I have this machine it really makes my PS4 and Xbox One look kinda....redundant. The Xbox One is now back to the status of "Game Console I own so I can play Halo" and PS4 is the device I play Destiny on. Sony and Microsoft just don't have enough exclusives to make their devices stand out once you have a superior gaming PC....and Microsoft's concerted effort to make all of their first-party titles cross-platform compatible on the Xbox One and the PC means I can now load Horizon 3 and Gears of War 4 on my PC and enjoy them there.

I learned to hate the disc on the right. And the one on the left might 
suck too, but I spent too much time loathing its buddy to notice.

The one downer in this package is the Steam Controller. The Steam Controller is an interesting but failed concept, an effort to make a tactile interface on the controller that reacts to your touch/pressure. It replaced one of two analog sticks with one of these touch-based discs, and the result, while not bad for navigating the cursor without a mouse, is utterly terrible for first and third person shooter experiences. I could see it being potentially useful for RTS type games, or games that don't require lots of precision control over a character, but my efforts to adjust to it so far have been miserable.

My preferred controller remains the one for the PS4, which I am pleased to see is getting a lot more compatibility and support from current game titles, so it runs great on PC with, say, Titanfall 2 and Doom (both of which I grabbed for PC on sale.)

Anyway, if you find a second generation Alienware Steam Machine i7 or a first generation version with Windows already on it, and you happen to like the idea of a micro PC smaller than a console with more power than what the Big Two currently have on offer, then I suggest grabbing one. At the price my wife paid for this one it was a complete steal.

SOLID A! Would have been A+ with Windows 10 pre-installed and a better controller packed in.

(And yes, this is the reason I've been posting less in the last few days....)

UPDATE: You know I was thinking some basic stats might be useful to people. Here's the scoop:

USB Info: There are two front USB 2.0 ports and two rear 3.0 ports. The 3.0 ports really are blazingly fast. I have my SSD externals hooked up to the back, so I have 3TB of active storage on this machine now, and run many games from the externals. 

Drive Support: There is no disc reader/writer, so if you want to be able to play DVDs or Blue Rays you'll need to keep that in mind.

Graphics Card: The on-board graphics card is, to the best of my knowledge, not something you can replace. However for the price I paid I expect to be able to upgrade anyway down the road. 

Also, Bluetooth: this thing connects effortlessly to my bluetooth keyboard and mouse. Adding this device dramatically decreased the number of wires and plug-ins littering my workspace.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Lingusia - The Age of Strife: Octzel's Black Lotus Guild

Black Lotus Guild                  
Group Alignment: chaotic good
Leader: Wormie Vellsoth and The Seven
Headquarters: Vellsoth Estate, Tavern over the Inn
   Possibly the most infamous and powerful Thieves' Guild in Octzel, this organization was established around 2025 by the legendary Sylveinurian Wormi Vellsoth. Short, youthful, and clever, Wormie was responsible in his earlier career for defeating the Magelord Quirak three times successively. When Quirak was finally killed the pallor which had been cast over octzel was lifted, and the ruling king was able to move on to  other, better things. In his thanks, he granted Wormie a special title, Vellsoth, which is a lot like "Auslander," except with an aura of dignity and respect about it. Wormie's original Einurian title in known only to himself, and is presumably not used by the adventurer to prevent retaliation for his nefarious deeds on his homeland family. In the centuries since, Vellsoth has become a title unto itself amongst Sylvan Elves, and there are many descendants of the legendary Wormi.
   Wormi, with an estate and an old mansion, settled down in Octzel and set about uniting the local thieve's guilds, which previously he had been at odds with because of then Guildmaster Spleen, who was later found dead. Before too long, the three major guilds had been united, and were under the indirect influence of Wormie Vellsoth.
   Wormie struck a deal with king Octzoron Vellos, to act as an information supplier and informant on illegal activities which would affect the crown. By allying his organization with the King's own pool of informants and spies, Wormie insured that the Black Lotus Guild would stay a permanent resident.  
   The Guild has, because of its role as an information supplier, become the target of groups such as the Fire Knives, the Black Society, and the Hooded Brothers.
   The Black Lotus guild has six districts, which work the local territory in their own special way. By keeping the trust between the six guild lords and a good relationship with all, the Inner Court of the Black Lotus Guild remains a strong and loyal organization. Wormi Vellsoth retains the title of Guildmaster to the Black Lotus, and works behind the scenes under the title of Prince of Shadows to serve both the people and the crown.
   The Black Lotus guild gets much of its income from peddling the Black Lotus in its granular, smokeable form, to the wealthy upper class of Octzel, which prizes the substance for its illuminating qualities. The use of the black lotus comes with some social stigma, especially when addicts suffer from its use, but there is no legal restriction on the substance.
   The Black Lotus guild also provides enforcement protection to local merchants. This process is nebulous as to the legal nature of the racket. If you don't pay, then you’re a target of robbery, but if you do pay, and someone else robs you, the Guild will track them down, bring them to justice, and recover your stolen goods, if possible.
   The Black Lotus Guild has Six districts, and while no single district has a permanent base of operations, there are four areas which are known to be frequented by the Guild. This includes The Maze in the sewers, where raw recruits are dumped for fun and experience. There is an abandoned Bath House in the Inner City which has been used as a gathering place for guild members. There is the Vellsoth Mansion, which is actually used very infrequently by the guild, and is garrisoned by forty of the meanest mercenaries that money could buy. Finally, there is the place where "The Seven" meet, at the Tavern Over the Inn. This is Octzel's most famous establishment, and more on it can be found in the area descriptions.

Wormie Vellsoth
(5E: Level 13 wizard/Level 15 rogue, CG)
(13A: Level 7 rogue/Level 3 wizard)
Wormie Vellsoth is the Prince of Shadows, the chief icon of the underworld in the modern era. He acquired the role from his former rival, Tanis, who once held the title for close to five decades before his position of authority was usurped. Stories of how this came to pass are surprisingly sparse; it is suspected that Tanis quietly retired after picking Wormie to be his successor.
   Wormie is a fair guild master as they go, and he spends a great deal of time in Octzel managing his guild’s affairs when he’s not adventuring across the world or exploring extradimensional planes of existence, which is honestly where he spends 90% of his time these days.
   Wormie feels a strong personal rivalry with the Guild of the Spheres, as well as the Fire Knives. Rumor is that he has it out for Celiobantes Astiriate (and vice versa) and that sooner or later the two will come to blows.
   Wormie’s history is shrouded in mystery, but scholars of history note that he appears to have been the same elf who aided in the war between Galonia and Hyrkania in 1,958-1,962 AW during the rise of the Dark Pharaoh. Rumors that he was chosen by the god Hermes to be the deity’s avatar are uncertain, but Wormie is known to carry a legendary artifact, the fabled Broken Sword, a short sword which is said to have been cracked during the War of the Gods when it was used to seal the Abyssal Rift that engulfed the old empire in that lost era.
(5E: The Broken Sword is a legendary attunable +3 Demon’s Bane Short Sword which deals +5D8 damage against evil planar creatures; the weapon always grants advantage when used in sneak attacks by rogues)
(13A: This +3 Demon’s Bane Short Sword deals 1D8 extra damage per level of the wielder against evil outsiders, and in the hands of a rogue it always grants sneak attack bonuses against targets; Quirk: the wielder develops a sense of paranoia and an overwhelming suspicion against anyone remotely planar-connected, and an insatiable desire to destroy demons)

The Black Lotus Seven

   There are six guild officers in charge of the city in 2,090, collectively known as “The Seven” including Wormie. They are:

Jenasturn Celoth
(5E: human rogue level 10; NE)
(13A: human rogue level 5)
Officer of the slums, Jenasturn is noted for his cruel efficiency and his twisted visage; Celoth is touched with leprosy, and he keeps himself swathed in thick dark bandages to hide his condition. The rumors are that Celoth was cursed by a maiden warlock who served the demon lord of pestilence, Pazzuzzu, for some sleight. Before his curse Celoth had raised a family and several children; it is not yet known if they will suffer under the curse of leprosy as he has.

Drenada Vestaine
(5E: human rogue level 10; CN)
(13A: human rogue level 5)
Drenada is the officer in charge of the red light district of Octzel, more commonly known as the Temple District of Phonatas, or sometime just as the Dark Street District since the region is notorious for having no maintained oil lamps due to rampant theft.
   Drenada suffers from a severe form of schizophrenia or possibly hysteria, though no “modern” diagnosis of her condition actually exists. She is suspected of murdering more than a few patrons at the Temple of Phonatas when the men in question either fail to pay or abuse the courtesans.  Drenada believes that she is directed by a strong voice from the “Seraph of revenge,” whom she calls Maliskar. Religious scholars will note that there is no documented evidence of such a seraph on record.

Blackscar Longthorn
(5E: tiefling Fighter level 13; CG)
(13A: tiefling fighter level 6)
   Blackscar Longthorn gets his name from the long venuous black scars which cross his ruddy red skin, and his lengthy pronged horns which are an inconvenience to him when navigating doorways and close quarters. If he had a real name once even he doesn’t remember it.
   As the officer of the Mercenary District Blackscar has his work cut out for him, negotiating with the various mercenary’s guilds which despise the theive’s guilds and dislike Blackscar’s own “guild within a guild” called the Blackscar Raiders for their connection to the Black Lotus Guild. Blackscar is an honorable man even if he’s not very lawful, and refuses any contract that would harm innocents. Meanwhile, he provides his men to Wormie as hard-hitting muscle for guild actions that require a lot of force. The arrangement works well, and Wormie considers Blackscar a good friend, despite his predilection for casting suspicion upon the planetouched.

Tabitha, the Sea Wolf
(5E: half-elf rogue 6/fighter 6; NE)
(13A: half-elf rogue 3/fighter 3)
Tabitha was once a famous sea pirate and adventurer who worked for a period of time as a privateer of Octzel, targeting ships of Galonia, Persedonia and Hettanar to the north. When she turned 40 she decided to settle down and purchased a rather impressive estate along the waterfront. Wormie approached her (having known her from prior adventures) about taking the position of guild officer for the Docks District, and she accepted. Tabitha has since become a shrewd broker of foreign goods and information, and relies on a tightly run division of the guild that keeps tracks of hundreds of active merchant ships. She has an on-again, off-again relationship with Anton Covaros, the Harbormaster of Octzel, who is himself exceedingly straight-laced.

Twenson Vultaire
(5E: gnome sorcerer level 12; LE)
(13A: gnome sorcerer level 6)
   Twenson is a gnomish artificer and sorcerer who migrated to Octzel with his gnomish community some decades ago, and like most gnomes who experience the city he was profoundly affected. Of The Seven, Twenson alone is rigorous about lawful practices and business, and he leverages this studious familiarity with business practices in Octzel to run the Market District with great efficiency. He drafts contracts with merchants and providers to insure they get “insurance” against unlawful behavior, and guarantees that they will not suffer under the watch of the Black Lotus Gang.

Carteros Slaydan
(5E: human rogue 8; LN)
(13A: human rogue 4)
   An aristocrat of a small fortune, Carteros’s clan became wealthy and famous through the sale of religious artifacts across the Middle Kingdoms, making the concept of “profit through iconography” a thing. Carteros inherited the vast wealth of his clan but did little with it initially, partying day and night with the other nobility of the Inner City. In time, he came to be trusted by many, and that was when Wormie offered him the position of seventh Officer of his guild.

   Today Carteros is the chief information broker for the Inner City district. He relays the things he hears and sees to ther guild, and utilizes this information to blackmail likely targets, or sell to others who will pay handsomely for such information. His small but dedicated network of spies and informants range from other nobles to house servants and even the indentured.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Star Wars: Rogue One (spoiler free review)

I can't talk about this movie without spoilers (ironically not the spoiler you would think of a direct prequel to the original 1977 Star Wars), so I'll try to summarize this film in ten non-spoilery bullet points:

1. If the prequels had been like this it would have been Amazing.

2. I think Tarkin was a CGI character but....I couldn't tell for sure. Woah.

3. About halfway through the movie this started not only feeling like a true, hardcore Star Wars started "out-Star Warsing" prior Star Wars movies.

4. Despite how amazing this film was, all six key characters in the movie could have stood with some better background introductions. By the end you knew them, but really wish you knew them better.

5. This is not a good movie to see if you are afraid of foreigners with funny accents.

6. Jyn Erso has an interesting character arc that starts very basic, but rapidly evolves her into a meaningful character.

7. Is this a spoiler? Dunno. This was not the start of a Rogue One franchise. It really is an honest-to-gosh stand alone prequel to the original trilogy.

8. I need to rewatch the Dirty Dozen because elements of this movie really feel inspired by that classic.

9. The robot was cool.

10. When you see actual characters from Episode IV they successfully look, sound, and act like those very people/actors/masks. What sort of CGI witchcraft was involved makes me wonder what we are in for in the future of film making....we appear to be genuinely past the wall of the uncanny divide when it comes to CGI humans.

I'll talk spoilers next week. Give people a chance to see it....

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Lingusia: Age of Strife - The Duchy of Aeornin, North-Eastern Hyrkania

Originally written for and used with D&D 5E, you can adapt this to 13th Age or other D&D clones easily enough. CRs and XP advice refer to D&D the end of the article is my unedited map, which I'll try to clean up some day.

On spelling: Aeornin (in the Imperial Middle Speech) is also known as Eor'nin (in the Old Tongue) and the common lower class vernacular is to drop the 'nin which means "city" and call it Aeor, or sometime Eor. If you happen to have access to the Tomb of the Lizard King module from TSR, that module's venerable tomb is located somewhere in this region in Lingusia.

The Province of Aeor Gazetteer

Capitol of the province, ruled by Aramis Gonn Malastrond and seat of power for close to four centuries now. The city was founded on the ruins of the older Hettanar city of Cagastos, which was the southernmost city of the old Hettanar Expansion during the 1700’s, before a lengthy war between the empire and old Hettanar flared up and resulted in the annexation of the city (and recovery of the provinces of Yllmar and Dra’in).

Eor’nin is a modest but thriving city of roughly 20,000 population with a healthy community of halflings called the Marsh Feet and a small but robust community of local Silver Elves called the Green Folk (or the Graeleinuriens in elvish). There is also a small but distinct community of dragonborn in the area that are descendents of the old dragonkind of Skullheim who fled to the human controlled regions of the province between 1850-1920 when the reign of Cauthlicus the Supreme, the Black Dragon Lord, led to the annexation of Skullheim.

Eor’nin is structurally a Venetian-style canal city with large dikes and damns protecting certain lower-elevation quarters of the city from flooding. Major local products include rice and peat, valued for its use in enriching soil in the more arid corners of the Empire, as well as a variety of unique local products harvested from the vast Aeor Swamps.

Adventure Seeds and Ideas in Aeornin:

Some of the old city of Castagos still exists in partially flooded catacombs beneath the streets of Aeornin. These catacombs contain hidden secrets, tombs, and remnants of the era from when the northern Hettanar conquered the provinces right up to the gates of Capitol Hyrkan’ien.

The Duke Malastrond has an illegitimate son named Radavos who was born to one of the swamp witches of the Aeor tribes, local folk who predate Imperial control of the land. The swamp witch’s name was Serisada, and stories abound as to the duke’s wandering nature when he was younger and served as a general in the Emerald Guard in the region. Radavos, the story goes, has a strong following of those who would seek to do harm to the duke and elevate his power to the rank of Gonn (duke). One of the rumors suggests he has allied with Cauthlicus the Supreme of Skullheim. His plans to move on the capital of the province could lead to a variety of scenarios working against and for him.

Aeornin still maintains strong trade ties with Zarnian and Autrengardian neighbors to the north along the Baldaric Gulf. Hettanari pirates and plunderers still regularly target vessels allied in the name of Aeor, and also periodically seek to raid along the coast. A warlord named Hamodar has grown bold and in a vision from Hargameth he has assembled a vast army and plans to siege the city.

Qaliad, the North Temple
This ancient temple is one of the oldest and largest in the northern provinces, said to have been around before the era of the War of the Gods 2200 years ago. The temple is apart from the city some 20 miles east and north along the coast, and it is still maintained by a strong contingent of ascetic monks, priests and temple guards numbering some 200 strong. The temple itself is not unlike a fortress in appearance, and rumors that no demihumans are allowed on the grounds are true; only humans are permitted into the sacred grounds of the temple, which is dedicated to the worship of Naril, the lord of the sun, humanity and kings as well as a triumvirate of lesser deities including Hellias, Nyctaris and Temina, each goddess of which is regarded in this esoteric  sect as a daughter and wife of Naril. The prietss of this sect reject the Naril/Selene construct as a construct of human and elven relations and contend that there are Idean Codices, specifically the Codex of Original Light and Dark, which identify this first relationship among the god of sun and man and his three consorts.

Local provincial law is on the side of the temple, and a nonhuman violating the grounds of the temple is subject to three months of imprisonment, or worse if the violation is exceptional.

Special Encounters in the Qaliad: if an encounter happens here, there’s a 50% chance it’s one of the following instead of the regular chart:
D12        Result
1-6          A party of 4D6 paladins will be patrolling the area under sergeant Kalis Morn, a half elven woman.
7-8          A cluster of 4D6 skeletons directed by a ghast named Ragamond enigmatically appear and begin prowling through the area as if looking for something…will be destroyed when revealed to the temple (they work for the skeletal warrior Patharos in forest encounter 18). Ragamond will explain he is looking for a unique circlet but not why.
9-12       A cluster of 4D20 pilgrims seeking the temple will seek to convert or get the PCs to join them. Their leader is a priest of Hellias named Armondos who says he had an epiphany when serving on the battlefield during the war when the goddess appeared before him and told him to seek out Qaliad.

Hedras Forest
This forestland is thick and filled with mystery, but it is also a home to hundreds of peasants under the jurisdiction of the Duke who pay fealty to him in exchange for his protection and services. These villages make up the lifeblood of resources for the provincial capital, but they are also a notoriously superstitious lot and many have more than little blood relations to the Aeoric swampfolk. 

Despite its ominous nature and thick overgrowth, the Hedras Forest does not attract many monstrous denizens, though there is a rumor of a crafty tribe of kobolds in the region. There is also a remote community of dragonborn called the Sons and Daughters of the Fallen who dwell in the deep woods and claim to have descended from the great gold dragon Nimbus, said to have been a leader of their kind eight millennia ago. Supposedly their village in the woods contains a shrine made of the scales and bone, a sort of dragon reliquary called the Shrine of Nimbus.

Special Encounters in the Hedras Forest: if an encounter happens here, there’s a 50% chance it’s one of the following instead of the regular chart:
D12        Result
1-6          Kobold Village (2D20 kobold guards and 1D100 kobold commoners)
7-8          Dragonborn Shrine of Nimbus and village (3D12 dragonborn monks)
9-12       an abandoned cottage. 50% chance it contains a skeleton at a table, still clutching a dagger driven in to a map which shows the location of the Forgotten Temple to the south.

This lone fortress and community at the edge of the Misty Bay serves as a center of trade for the swampfolk and imperial villages in the area, of perhaps 2,000 folk in total. The fortress is ruled by Baron Alandor Elas Droask, a dour man of middle years who fought valiantly in the War of Strife and returned home less than a year ago to find his barony overrun with poachers, bandits and orcs.

Special Encounters in Kaskar: if an encounter happens here, there’s a 50% chance it’s one of the following instead of the regular chart:
D12        Result
1-6          4D4 guards, 2D4 knights and Baron Alandor Elas Droask are on patrol hunting orcs
7-8          A war party of 3D12 orcs, 1D3 orc chieftains and 1D4 orc eyes of gruumsh are attacking a village
9-12       A shipwreck along the Misty Bay has spilled out cargo and bodies. There is a gilded chest with a mark upon it indicating it is property of the Emperor Patraeus. It could be worth more delivered properly….the ship was the “Selenic Ray.”

The Forgotten Temple
Rumors of this temple are reinforced by some bandits who claim to have used its walls and ruins as a hideout at times, but most who deliberately seek out the temple do not find it. Half submerged in the swampland, this is said to be a ruin as old as Qaliad, forged by the servants of chaos when Qaliad was newly built, a sort of antithesis by the cults of chaos to the temple of order in the north. Its use as a temple of chaos seems to have fallen into dim memory, but the haunted halls of the temple and the catacombs beneath, even partially flooded by swamp water, is said to contain many ancient evils. Some bandits report of demons haunting the complex and hunting them, while others contend that the ghost stories are merely an excuse to keep other squatters away.

Special Encounters in the Forgotten Temple: if an encounter happens here, there’s a 50% chance it’s one of the following instead of the regular chart:
D12        Result
1-6          3D12 bandits and 1D4 bandit leaders have settled in the temple. The bandit lord is named Casperus Thorne, a half-elf rogue who fought in the war but went awol.
7-8          A lich named Sartorios from Jhakn has arrived with a contingent of ominous looking azer (2D6) mercenaries to research the temple. They may have driven out the bandits.
9-12       Three banshee sisters now haunt the temple hauls and prey upon those bandits who stay here.

One of several villages consisting primarily of swampfolk (Aeorics), this is a relic community that suffers from inbreeding and a suspicion of outsiders. Despite this, the people of Vardan will still take foreign gold and welcome any who might offer a sword’s protection against the many lizardfolk, orcs, kobolds and other denizens of the swamps which prowl the area. They have a constant problem with bullwug attacks, which increase dramatically during the spring when bullywug males go into violent frenzies after mating season.

This imperial township is a mix of Aeorics and Hyrkanians, and is ruled by Baron Altos Teskoar, another veteran of the Warof Strife who came back with many scars and memories of the brutal conflict against an army that had harnessed demons to do its bidding. Teskoar has been a bit “not right in the head” since his return and his paranoid suspicion of others has reached a weird high in which he regularly jails those who act strangely, foreign visitors and passers-by under suspicion of demonic possession or seditious behavior. Rumor is he has locked his wife Altressa and daughter Timione in the High Tower of Trellis Keep, which itself is a tottering-moss covered relic of an older era that has barely been refurbish and reinforced even as it keeps trying to sink into the swamps.

It doesn’t help that the swampfolk of Beauvul would like to see Trellis fall and its imperial baron go away. There’s a suspicion that a doppelganger named Atrea works in the area to sew discord in the name of Tsathoggua.

Beauvul and the Temple of the Frog God
The remote Aeoric village of Beauvul does not like outsiders and its strange looking locals are suspicious of all who might stumble across the village. Unknown to most, the village long ago made its peace with the bullywug tribes and have actually interbred, creating a strange half-batrachian folk who worship the Temple of the Frog God, Tsathoggua to the south of the village. Outsiders who get too close to the truth of this village are made to disappear into the depths of the temple.

The Green Haunt
Here is where the bulk of the bullywug tribes are located, worshipping their dark god Tsathoggua and other demon lords. The Green Haunt is a deadly neck of the Aeor Swamplands, and no swampfolk guide would ever willingly steer a party of adventurers into this area save perhaps in revenge. Swampmen of Beauvul are the only who dare enter…and they are half-folk of this land, one of the few welcome amongst the batrachian tribes.

Aside from bullywugs, froghemoths, shambling mounds and other swamp denizens abound in this region. There are believed to be three young green dragons, two brothers and a sister, which hunt in the region as well.

Special Encounters in the Green Haunt: if an encounter happens here, there’s a 50% chance it’s one of the following instead of the regular chart:
D12        Result
1-4          A village of degenerate Aeorics (roughly 200 total) that will be immediately untrusting and suspicious of the party. They will provide instructions to anyone who asks for temple directions that instead take them to the next encounter.
5-6          a war party of 2D20 vegepygmies, 1D4 vegepygmie guards and 1 chief are looking for a fight
7-8          1D4 froghemoths on the prowl
9-10       2D4 tendriculous waiting in ambush.
11-12     2D4 algoids waiting to attack

It is said that the heart of the bullwug empire is located here, in the treacherous heart of the Green Haunt, where the bullwug king Vaarg rules. Many monstrous beings inhabit this evil city, which is itself said to be a remnant of an ancient elven city lost to time. Skalios is said to be protected by an avatar of Tsathoggua itself which manifests as a 288 hit point froghemoth.

Dagan’s Rest
This ancient fortress-spire in the swamps is visible from several miles away due to the immense size of the ancient tower, forged entire in basalt and iron. The tower is believed to have been much larger at one time, but much of its mass sank into the swamp, and supposedly the first several levels of the tower are now beneath the mossy earth and possibly flooded. Its current occupants are unknown, though there is a rumor that the bastard son of the duke, Radavos, the son of the Swamp Witch, has occupied the tower and uses it to garrison loyal demihumans, including the orc chieftain Khorus and his tribe.

The name of Dagan’s Rest is a mystery, but some scholars in the area note that it was first identified in 1192 AW in the region, over a thousand years ago, and that the Aeorics of the time were calling it b y that name already. No one knows who built it, but the style of the tower is reminiscent of old Kadantanian construction from Amech.

Special Encounters in Dagan’s Rest: if an encounter happens here, there’s a 50% chance it’s one of the following instead of the regular chart:
D12        Result
1-4          a patrol of 2D8 orcs, an equal number of wargs and 1 orc war chief plus his warg.
5-6          A war party of 3D12 orcs, 1D3 orc chieftains and 1D4 orc eyes of gruumsh
7-8          2D4 orcs and 2D10 goblin vassals
9-10       2D4 adherers….these creatures live in the spire and maintain it. They are cohabitating with the orcs
11-12     Radavos is visiting with 2D4 rogue knights (see knight stats) and 3D4 veteran soldiers to speak with Khorus.

The Lair of Ungash
The ogre king Ungash is one of several would be underworld conquerors who claims to own the swamps. He fights with the orcs of Khorus and the bullywug tribes of the Green Haunt regularly, but doesn’t spend that much time battling the Aeorics for reasons unknown (it is believed the local swampfolk pay a lot of tribute to him). He will attack Hyrkanian caravans whenever the opportunity arises. He has at his command a medly of monstrous denizens and an entire tribe of ogres who call themselves the Vagada’Ungash, or “fists of the warlord.”

Ungash avoided the entire War of Strife event, and as such his tribe of monsters in the deep subterranean lairs is quite strong.

Special Encounters in the Lair of Ungash: if an encounter happens here, there’s a 50% chance it’s one of the following instead of the regular chart:
D12        Result
1-6          1D8 ogres and 2D4 half-ogres on patrol
7-8          Ungash (who is actually an ogre with 5 levels of fighter) and 3D4 ogre attendants plus 2D4 hell hound pets
9-12       1D3 ettins that are trying to start a fight with the ogres in the area

This is a smaller human community of mostly Hyrkanians with a few emancipated Aeoric swampfolk. Navaris has a brisk trade with the gnomes of Rogrondae, and also has an effective tower keep and modest stone wall for defense. It is ruled by Baron Altimore, who coordinates closely with Wesnaris and Trellis to keep the roads through the swamp safe and operable. He is a cousin to Baron Teskoar and worries for his relative’s mental sanity, and may send adventurers to check on him.

Special Encounters in Navaris: if an encounter happens here, there’s a 50% chance it’s one of the following instead of the regular chart:
D12        Result
1-6          A swamp festival is underway and folk from all over are coming to celebrate the Feast of the Green, which seems to be a relic of an older sacrificial pagan ritual of old. During the ritual 2D4 druids of Gravenor will show up and try to disrupt the ceremonies and revelry.
7-10       Baron Altimore (level 8 fighter) and 2D6 knights on patrol
11-12     a raiding party of 2D4 ogres and 1D4 half-ogres from Ungash are attacking one of the outlying villages in the area.

Fort Wesnaris
This is the Hyrkanian garrison which provides protection for caravans in the region, and serves as an inland hub of trade for the settlers in the region. From this point where the swamps end much of the land is farmable with rich soil, and hundreds of villages in the region provide resources and food for the Imperial Capitol to the south. Wesnaris is ruled by Commander Helena Asoctair, a former paladin of Naril and current Imperial Guardsman who is assigned to protect the region against threats like Ungash and Khorus. She falls under the provincial control of Aeor, but is considered a vassal of the Emperor.

Special Encounters in the Fort Wesnaris: if an encounter happens here, there’s a 50% chance it’s one of the following instead of the regular chart:
D12        Result
1-6          A village is under attack by 4D8 orcs and 2D4 guards are defending.
7-10       Commander Helena Asoctair (level 3 paladin/level 5 fighter) and 2D6 knights on patrol
11-12     a wealthy caravan from the Capitol with some potions and scrolls is passing through and willing to do business.

The river port of Asteros is ostensibly the “Eastern Capitol” of Hyrkania but really it’s just an affluent port town dominated by the merchants who purchase much of the land to move goods to and from the capitol while avoiding the complexities of the West Bank. It is ruled by Baron Tulimaros, a vassal of Aeor who pretends like he is not one river’s length from the glory of the Imperial Province across the river.

Special Encounters in the Asteros: if an encounter happens here, there’s a 50% chance it’s one of the following instead of the regular chart:
D12        Result
1-6          A patrol of 4D6 guards and 1D6 knights will check out the PCs.
7-10       Baron Tulimaros with a contingent of 2D4 sycophants and 3D4 guards is out touring his town.
11-12     A tiefling ship captain named Altar Vadane lost all his crew recently due to “reasons” and he is recruiting, promising to pay good gold (50 GP per head) for a voyage to Autrengard in the north carrying a cargo of silks and ore.

Carst Mill
This is the largest and most productive lumber mill in the region, and generates a majority of the lumber used by the northern provinces of Hyrkania. Much of the lumber in Carst is hauled to Asteros for export across the empire. Its biggest threat comes from the monsters in the area, as well as the rogue druids of northern Gravenor who violently object to the deforestation of the region.

Special Encounters in the Carst Mill: if an encounter happens here, there’s a 50% chance it’s one of the following instead of the regular chart:
D12        Result
1-6          3D4 crazed druids of Gravenor will be either assaulting or planning to assault the mill.
7-10       Quartermaster Devon Farstor (fighter level 5) is out on patrol with 3D4 guards against threats
11-12     A raiding party of 3D6 orcs and 1D10 ogres (a mix of rebels from Khorus and Ungash’s gang) have decided to hit the mill to start fires.

Safar Ruins
The Safar Ruins were once a prosperous local township and barony, but it was sacked and destroyed during the forces of the war in 1,960-1962 and the land was never repopulated. Efforts to retake the town from the ghosts and monsters of the area were unsuccessful as villagers would be found mysteriously murdered and later even reanimated. Stories of a necromancer named Crowlus are told by locals, a ghoulish lord of darkness who claimed the land for his own after the Dark Pharaoh fell during that war.

Special Encounters in Safar Ruins: if an encounter happens here, there’s a 50% chance it’s one of the following instead of the regular chart (chance is 100% if night time):
D12        Result
1-4          4D8 skeletons with 1D12 skeletal warhorses will attack the party as if simulating some great battle from when they were alive
5-6          4D6 specters will begin to stalk the party
7-8          a ghost will appear and beg the party to aid it in some task it was doing in life but can never complete, before going mad and attacking
9-10       4D6 zombies and 1D6 ogre zombies prowl the ruins
11-12     The necromancer Crowlus (archmage) is out for a stroll with 3D4 zombies, 2D4 ogre zombies and his pet nothic to protect him

The Great Tree of Rogrondae contains a community of several hundred forest gnomes, who call themselves the “Genuri” in their own gnomish tongue. The genuri look to a council of five elders to provide leadership, but local defense goes to the gnomish warrior captain Alrond, who also heeded the call to arms of Hyrkania during the War of Strife and returned recently, bringing with him a filthy amount of loot taken from Hyrendan coffers. His gnomish community is one of the only ones which regularly engages with humans in trade.

Rogrondae’s proximity to the spider haunts as well as its knightly contingent of warrior-gnomes who call themselves the Spider-Slayers is no accident; some claim Rogrondae was founded specifically to serve as a fortress against which the threat of the Spiderhaunts could be fought long ago.

Special Encounters in Rogronde: if an encounter happens here, there’s a 50% chance it’s one of the following instead of the regular chart:
D12        Result
1-6          3D4 crazed druids of Gravenor will be prowling the area to cause problems for the gnomes.
7-10       Warrior Captain Alrond (gnome knight) and 1D6 gnome veterans will be on patrol. They may ask for aid against the accursed druids.
11-12     2D6 giant spiders and 1D4 ettercaps are making a  raid on the gnomish settlement from the Spiderhaunts

The Spiderhaunts are a stretch of the Niras Northwood which is occupied singularly by giant spiders and other arachnid denizens, including ettercaps and other monstrosities. Stories tell of a giant queen spider called Hylliasca ruling from the heart of the region. The gnomes of Rogrondae maintain a martial order dedicated to killing whatever comes out of this region. Few sane folk dare venture into its depths, but stories tell of how the region was once home to an ancient elven kingdom now lost to time, which succumbed to a terrible plague that left only spiders in its wake.

Special Encounters in the Spiderhaunts: if an encounter happens here, there’s a 50% chance it’s one of the following instead of the regular chart:
D12        Result
1-6          2D6 giant spiders and 1D3 ettercaps prowl about
7-10       an Aranea named Persiphene takes an interest in the party, and will appear as a elven woman in need of aid to lure them into a trap where up to 3D8 giant spiders lurk
11-12     A gargantuan spider queen Hylliasca takes an interest in the PCs

Dragon’s Rest and Sholoth
The mountains that are said to be forged from the bones of a fallen ancient dragon (Nimbus?) in which the wayward ashtarth city of Sholoth resides. Sholoth’s descendants are said by some to be the survivors or exiles of the lost elven city where the Spiderhaunts are now.

Special Encounters in Dragon’s Rest: if an encounter happens here, there’s a 50% chance it’s one of the following instead of the regular chart:
D12        Result
1-6          A drow guard patrol of 12 drow, 2 drow warriors and 1 drow mage
7-10       A mad drider and his flock of 1D6 othrer driders called Sallitath who will likely attack but if somehow befriended can show the adventurers a way in to the depths of Sholoth.
11-12     A hidden entrance to the depths of Sholoth (Perception DC 21 to find it); 75% chance guarded by a drow patrol (as above)

A mining town of great important, held by the imperial guardsman commander Kalgoas, a half-elven war marshal who insures the gold mines remain safe from interlopers (such as the rogue druids of Gravenor).

A city of mostly Nirasien descent, the folk of Gravenor are ruled by Baron Vorlusk, who pays nominal heed to the will of the provincial duke. The city is known for its rogue druid circle led by the heretic Yapandar which believes that the purity of the forest and encroachment of man must be stopped by the divine proclamation of the World Spirit, Ga’Thika.

Spirit Hills
A thick wooded hillland laden with rich gold deposits. The hills are rife with old mines now abandoned and left to be occupied by monstrous denizens and bandits, as well as numerous thriving gold mines under the protection of the soldiers of Askan.

The last stop before descent along the northern rim of the Rift of Tragonor, where Belladasian merchants make their way through the highlands to trade with Hyrkania. Run by Baron Mandaras, a half-Belladasian/Hyrkanian who is suspected to be one of the richest men in the empire outside of the Emperor himself; he maintains a private garrison and entourage larger than the duke’s in the province, and Eskalos itself is nearly 8,000 population strong, in an area not known for its resources.

The river-port and protective garrison for the great western bridge. Currently ruled by Commander Malthias, a loyalist to the duke of Aeor.

Inn of the Seven Sisters
A well-known respite for travelers to the dwarven lands in the Agarask Mountains. The Inn’s proporietor’s are the so-named seven sisters, all dwarven women of supreme beauty (yes, really) named Esgrata, Vimi, Tulleris, Vada, Brunera, Migdana, and Julie. They are protected by a burly half-ogre named Kin who is the bouncer and overseer (and also a 12th level fighter).

The Lost Tomb
This is the legendary lost tomb of the Lizard King, where he periodically rises once every century to try and fulfill his destiny to conquer the swamps and drive humankind out. He has failed so far and been destroyed recently, it seems. When it is not housing undead lizard kings it is used as a bandit lair and also contains a temple to the undead demon lord Orcus.

The Lost Tomb is also the lair of the black dragon Aulicus, one of the sons of Cauthlicus in Skullheim. He is a conflicted dragon exiled for his own sense of cowardice, then forced through magic to work for the Lizard King. Now free of compulsions, he seeks his own path.

A modest imperial town which suffered greatly under recent bandit and lizardfolk attacks that ended when the Lizard King was destroyed.

A village of mostly swampfolk that are extremely shy of foreigners. They have friendly trade relations with the lizardfolk in the area and some lizardfolk families live with the humans in Skall.

Vaskaris and Vam
Two noteworthy lizardfolk communities in the area. Numbers are vague but it is believed there are close to three thousand lizardfolk in the region, and these two communities serve as trading and religious hubs. The lizardfolk seem to revere a variation on the Amechain pantheon borrowed from Belladas to the east, which is not unusual a some scholars believe these lizardfolk migrated here a thousand years ago from Terkithyi lands in that region. They call themselves the “Anikathi.”

The western dwarven city, and the only city which permits humans and elves to visit. Ruled by Prince Galodar of the iron dwarf clans in the region.

Iron Angdar
The dwarf-only capitol of this region, ruled by King Haggadas, cousin to the Great Iron King of the south. One of many colonies of the Iron Kingdom.

Lake Savathe
A deep and forbidding lake said to contain the Serpent Beast of Savathe, a predator which hunts those who walk its shores. May just be a voracious drake or dragon of unknown nature, but it’s very efficient and few villages will reside closer than a mile from shore, saying almost all who get too close will be slain eventually.

The lake is sulphurous and unwelcoming to most; it is in the heart of the great caldera formed by the Agarask mountains.

Isle of Asadan and the Temple of the Scorpion
A remote haunted isle noted only for its enigmatic and abandoned temple which houses an immense metal sculpture of a giant scorpion. Unknown as to what god this represented, but some think it is a depiction of Kathak. The temple is usually occupied by monstrous denizens seeking the solitude of the island who have somehow avoided the beast of the lake.

Isle of Hinir
This even more remote isle is unoccupied but there are stories that ghosts of the victims of the beast of the lake reside on the isle, drawn to an ancient dolumn of Dreaming Stones which prevent them from finding their way to the underworld.

This bold tree-village of wood elves who call themselves the Kaelythians maintain a safe relationship with the creature of the lake apparently for they have been here for centuries. They are mistrustful of outsiders and sometimes even of “gentrified” elves.

Pyramid of Vosk
This pyramid was built long ago by unknown forces, although it too bears some symbols and design styles reminiscent of early Kadantanian monument design. No one knows how to get in, though the immense stone blocks which bar passage into the hidden complex within have been identified. No one who claims to have gone to find its hidden treasures or secrets has ever returned in the last four centuries. Hettanar centuries ago said it contained the spirit of an ancient god called Higilithur the Devourer.

The ancient fortress of Skullheim was once ruled by men who harnessed the dragons as beasts of burden and war. About six centuries ago the dragons revolted and cast off the control of men, and two centuries later Skullheim was abandoned, only to be taken over by the black dragon lord Cauthlicus and his brood. It is now occupied by a couple dozen chromatic dragons and at least two hundred spawned dragonborn and marlak draconians. There are always stories of how they seek to expunge all humans from the land, but nothing ever seems to come to pass. Another rumor is that Cauthlicus is in a century-long sleep, but that when he awakens he will have a master plan to drive the humans out of the region and claim the swamps for his own.

The elven city of Ialithe is friendlier to outsiders than its neighboring township, but still leery of those who take the time to forge their way into the dangerous Agarask Mountains. Ruled by Queen Sevene’, these Kaelythian elves are always on the watch for threats from Skullheim and the many orcish tribes that prowl the north mountains, as well as irate iron dwarf war parties seeking to drive elves out. The dwarves have long hated the elves of this region due to an old feud over the ownership of the complexes at Anterol and Angdar when the iron clans first arrived in the region three centuries ago. The elves ceded the territory that was once theirs, but only after a lengthy and bloody conflict.

The war-citadel of the Burning Blood orcs led by warlord Skolkaros, this clan was one of many that answered the call of the southern armies, fighting against the local forces to distract and deplete reinforcements to the Empire during the War of Strife. They lost hundreds of orcs in raids against Ialithe, Angdar and Aeornin, but there are still thousands or orcs in this region.

Another underworld community of mixed monsters, it is rumored that a dark elf clan called Mazdibharethe settled here and dominates the local orcs as fodder. Why the clan migrated away from Sholoth or Dahik is unknown. They are said to have a male ruler, however, called Civerizas, who worships Black Annis and Corrigan as Unseelie goddesses.

Encounters in the Province of Aeor:
XP Quick Reference: Easy 1800-2700; Medium 3600-5400; Hard 5400-8400; Deadly 8400-12600

Swamp Encounters in Aeor (EL 6-8)
Check six times per day: 18+ on D20 an encounter occurs
D12+D8                Result
2                              adult black dragon (raider from Skullheim) named Kalista. She is looking for good prey or treasure, and will toy with any adventurers she comes across.
3                              A drow raiding party from Sholoth. Includes 8 drow warriors (50 XP each), 2 drow elite warriors (XP 1800 each), and 1 drow mage (8400 XP total). They are looking fo human and elven slaves to carry back to Sholoth as plunder in honor of Dalroth.
4                              A remote swampfolk town; the Aeoric of this town are reclusive and possibly xenophobic; will attack if the adventurers aren’t careful. The town has 12D20 commoner occupants and 4D8 guards. If befriended,75% chance that 1D4 scouts in the village will be willing to work for the PCs for 25 gold each. 50% chance the village grows witch grass in the area as a protection from magic.
5                              A bullywug community of approximately 200; will be hostile without quick negotiations. A bullywug priest of Tsathogghua will call upon the town protector that arrives in 1D3 rounds from the swamps nearby: 1 colossal froghemoth (XP 7200)!
6                              A large field of witch grass (Nature DC 15 to spot what it is before getting far in).
7                              A war party of 7 (3D4) trolls are making their way into the swamps. They are either hunting men (1-2), seeking the Temple of Tsathoggua (3-4), looking to consult with the hags of the swamp on some matter for the Troll Queen Invidia (5-6) or they are refugee mercenaries from the War of Strife seeking a cave to hole up in.
8                              A village of lizardfolk. Roughly 10D10 normal lizardfolk, 2D4 shamans and one king are here. There is a 20% chance they are harboring a vampiric lizardman and are evil, but otherwise will be neutral or cautious to visitors that don’t outright attack them.
9                              A party of 3D4 hunters and trappers are working their trade. Will be hostile if the PCs seem to be encroaching on their turf (use veteran stats).                    
10                           A war party of 40 (8D10) bullywugs (XP 50 each) hunting for sacrifices to Tsathoggua.     
11                           A hunting party of 12 (4D6) lizardmen (XP 100 each), and 2 (1D3) lizardmen shamans (XP
                                450 each) looking for game, trade, or an easy raid; will be friendly if approached, but
                                20% chance they are under sway of a vampiric lizard man and are evil
12                           A cluster of 2D4 will-o-wisps (450 XP each) will harry the party and try to get them to chase the wisps. They will lead them to either the lair of a hydra (1-4) or a hangman’s tree (5-6) with 3D8 hangman’s zombies.
13                           A party of yuan-ti are seeking out the Forgotten Temple for research to be conducted by the pureblood noble named Alanna Sevaris. She is accompanied by 4 pureblood servants (XP 200 each), 2 malison bodyguards (XP 700 each) and her advisor, the abomination Grotash (XP 2900). They won’t be openly hostile and would barter for knowledge on the location of the temple; she’ll explain she thinks it was a temple to the Amechian god Dakkanich long ago, and may be as old as the elven ruins of the land are.
14                           A coven of three green hags (1800 XP each) named Sadie, Vermille and Tesha lurk in the swamp waiting for likely victims, masquerading as Aeoric girls who are lost, or dryads who are in need of help. They have a marshy cove in which they seek to lure victims where a jack-in-irons giant called Omvusor waits to assist in the murder (XP 2900). There’s a 10% chance the PCs accidentally stumble on the cove first, catching the giant off guard….it is clear he is a victim too, though perhaps deserving of his fate.
15                           5 (2D4) shambling mounds move along in a feeding frenzy. Perception DC 12 to spot them before they see the party.
16                           A lost elven ruin: this relic of the forgotten elven empire of old juts up in ancient alabaster pieces mixed with emerald remnants of what must have been a vast and impressive complex; most is submerged in the swamp. It is a safe place to rest, but at night there is a 50% chance an elven ghost manifests in the darkness, and a 10% chance a faerie circle containing a planar gate to the Feywild might sprout at dusk. There is another 10% chance the drow from encounter 3 show up at night drawn to the lights, or if found during the day they may be camping here.
17                           A party of 3 demonic knights ride through the swamp in search of the Lost Tomb to visit the temple of Orcus. Their names are Pyrros, Vaskar and Sadeena. They will possibly not attack a party that provides direction to the tomb, or gossip and news, but will regard any party sporting the amulets of good gods as fair game.
18                           A lone hydra prowls the area; Stealth DC 14 to avoid it catching the PCs’ scent.
19                           A froghemoth moves through the swamps (DC 14 perception check to spot it).
20                           2D3 hydras prowl as a pack!!!! Stealth DC 18 to avoid being detected!

Forest Encounters in Aeor (EL 6-8)
Check six times per day: 18+ on D20 an encounter occurs
D12+D8                Result
2                              adult green dragon (20% chance adventurers stumbled on its immediate territory)  prowls the area looking for food or loot.
3                              A drow raiding party from Sholoth. Includes 8 drow warriors (50 XP each), 2 drow elite warriors (XP 1800 each), and 1 drow mage (8400 XP total). They are looking fo human and elven slaves to carry back to Sholoth as plunder in honor of Dalroth.
4                              A ryven badgerfolk village; 6D10 Ryven badgerfolk will appear to defend the village, especially if there are elves visible.
5                              A barrow tomb of a lost noble or chieftain of the Aeorics; 30% chance the tomb has been corrupted with necrotic energy and contains 5 (2d4) wights (XP 700 each) which will attack if the tomb is entered. 40% chance that the tomb will contain 5 (2D4) sepulchral guardians (700 Xp each) instead and 1 wight.
6                              A nomadic tribe of 4D20 grippli move quietly in the forest; they will avoid contact unless the adventurers are obviously friendly, and will engage in trade if offered (they have little though).
7                              A pack of 7 (2D6) scythe trees wait in ambush, will attack for sure if elves are present.
8                              A group of 10 (3D6) druids of Gravenor (XP 450 each) with an equal number of giant badger pets (XP 50 each); these druids are TN or NE and appear to have a strange aspect about them, as if brainwashed, though it is not by magic. Will attack if the PCs exhibit any possible harm to the woods, or seem to show improper reverence to nature; they will state they are hunting ryven for the damage they have caused the forest.
9                              A hunting party of 4D6 kaelythian wood elves (rangers level 1D4 each) will possibly spot the party first unless the party rolls DC 15 or better Perception. Neutral to party or friendly if wood elves are amongst them.
10                           A hunting party of 15 (3D10) Ryven badgerfolk (100 XP each); they will not be openly hostile but will try to be intimidating if the party is obviously weaker/smaller; will attack if elves are present
11                           22 (4D10) orcs (XP 100 each) along with a war chief (XP 1,100) and eye of gruumsh (450 XP) are in a raiding party; 50% chance they are caught camping in a shelter cave if encountered during the day.
12                           A sprite home. There are 4D12 sprites (XP 50 each) and they will immediately harry any who appear to drive them away.
13                           A cluster of 3D4 satyrs and 3D4 nymphs cavort about in a faerie circle and will invite the PCs to join them; DC 14 Wisdom save to avoid being caught in the reverie, disappearing into the circle and aging 1D12 years (re-roll 11 or 12 and add over) after reappearing the next day. If the PCs avoid the faerie circle the satyrs and nymphs will remain in the mortal plane to dally with the mundane folk for a while before disappearing.
14                           A group of 11 (2D10) eladrin led by the seelie knight Kesvorin who are hunting the rogue grimm that have been assaulting fey in the mortal realm as well as the feywild. They will gladly accept aid in this task.
15                           A caravan from the southern woods has lost its way as the road seems to have vanished. The caravan master named Camadus Long would be grateful for assistance; he and his 8 guards and 20 commoner servants are quite lost. There’s a 50% chance that a cluster of 4D10 pixies led by Percivus are responsible for his plight.
16                           A lost elven ruin: this relic of the forgotten elven empire of old juts up in ancient alabaster pieces mixed with emerald remnants of what must have been a vast and impressive complex. It is a safe place to rest, but at night there is a 50% chance an elven ghost manifests in the darkness, and a 10% chance a faerie circle containing a planar gate to the Feywild might sprout at dusk.
17                           Ominous Black Tower in the woods: home to the cadaver lord Immortus (XP 700), who will be friendly at first, but his tower is riddled with 16 (3D10) cadavers (100 XP each). He will seek to lull the party into a compromising position using illusions of the tower to disguise himself and his minions as living beings (DC 15 Wisdom save to penetrate the veil of the illusion) and add them to his collection. He has a long term goal: to steal the sacred codex of Qaliad and will pay evil adventurers to do it handsomely.
18                           A skeleton warrior (XP 11,500) named Patharos who is searching for his circlet. He was told by the witch Black Annis herself that he would find it in the Northwood, but he has had no success so far. He has found it confounding…his ability to track it is haywired; unknown to him the Grimm in encounter 19 has it and his unseelie magic is causing scrying confusion.
19                           Grimm: a trio of grimm (XP 2900 each) named Luthor, Asperus and Vennatos are hunting elves and other fey beings of the woods. There is a 40% chance that the PCs find them at the tail end of slaughtering a village of elves, gnomes or ryven.
20                           A treant named Ossivos will take an interest in the adventurers (for better or worse conditional to their actions) and if they are deemed good he will mention that the druids of Gravenor seem to have become corrupted, and now seek to stop all deforestation…..both natural and unnatural, breaking the harmony of nature; he explains that he thinks they have been corrupted by the Bramblewood of the unseelie in the Feywild, and that spots around Gravenor are starting to show this corruption….he also thinks the Grimm were summoned here by the druids, and that they do not really worship Ga’Thika.

Road Encounters in Aeor (EL 6-8)
Once per two hours: 17+ on D20 an encounter occurs
D20                        Result
1                              A party of pilgrims seeking out Qaliad; will tell the PCs all about it
2                              A lone knight named Ralavaston who is a bit off acting and is either mentally unstable or possibly a deserter from the war
3                              A horse with saddle that appears to have lost its rider. A saddlebag contains a potion and a sealed scroll with instructions it be delivered to Esgrata at the Inn of the Seven Sisters. It’s a love potion (potion of charming); the scroll is a poem from Lord Saladan of Hyrkan’ien
4                              A weary band of adventurers who recently survived a brutal fight with river pirates
5                              A lone Halfling trader named Sminden who specializes in prayer scrolls
6                              A suspicious party of seven men in red cloaks on black horses. The leader is a half-elf named Dalesh Tryvaros and says they have private business in Aeornin.  They are actually Fire Knives on their way to assassinate a marchant lord named Gosteros who owes their order money for a hit he failed to pay up on in Krythia (use assassin stats if a fight breaks out)
7                              A caravan of gnomish traders from Rogrondae looking to go to (13) Eornin or (4-6) the Capitol; they may offer 20 GP to the PCs for protection to travel together to Asteros or Eornin
8                              four scholar-priests of Nistur are journeying to Aeornin to study at the Librarium of the city temple and welcome any gossip or news
9                              A half-orc ranger named Augustos with his pet Baboon Brutus will avoid the party if possible; he is a ranger of the order of Kom’Huandyr, and is leaving southern Hyrkania due to the backlash his kind has experienced following the war
10                           Six road wardens (rangers level 6) in the service of the king will stop the PCs to check them out and ask them their business, especially if they look suspicious
11                           an eladrin warlock named Serros is traveling with four trained blink dogs. He is looking for elven ruins, as be believes they may have been remnants of an ancient eladrin city that was teleported to the material plane. He’ll pay 50 GP for directions to ruins the PCs can tell him about
12                           A silver elf sorcerer named Regulus travels with a tiefling rogue named Telura; they recently eloped and are fleeing their angry families in the Capitol to settle in the swamplands, but have no real plans beyond that
13                           A large force of mercenaries of the Order of the Blade, totaling 100 men, led by Captain Dro Sevaris are making their way to Aeornin to pledge their blades to the duke, as they heard the rumor of a vast sum of money as a reward to solve the city’s problems
14                           Dazhak Tagal, a dragonborn mercenary warrior (level 6) is traveling with five hired hands who are all rough looking rogues. He seeks out evidence that the dragonborn have a presence in the region
15                           a large group of fanatical cultists are making their way to Gravenor to join the druid circle. The leader is the lady Covessa, daughter of baron Charador west of the Capitol, and she is acting quite deluded (among other things druids don’t usually accept recruits like this). There are 30 cultists and 4 cult fanatics including Covessa in the group and they will get violent if anyone tries to detain them
16                           Bandit lord Shamaskar Amaro (a Belladasian rogue) is traveling with 13 tough thugs, but he is currently not up to his usual bandit-self. Amaro seeks to travel to Askalos where he intends to pursue marriage with Baraon Mandalas’s daughter Evaria. The Baron may not like this.
17                           A caravan of Belladasian merchants making their way to either the Capitol (1-3) or Aeornin (4-6). They will have a handful of +1 spears that were crafted to be collectible masterwork items, but will sell them for 1500 GP apiece. The caravam master is Ruus Hudan, and he travels with a sorcerer from his home land called Tarsa. She is very good at divination.
18                           A caravan of Hyrkanian merchants heading to (1-3) or from (4-6) Aeornin. They have a 10% chance of some interesting magic being for sale, but otherwise mostly will have useful mundane goods.
19                           A group of four odd looking men and women in ragged garb but well armed with what looks like surplus military gear from the war. The leader is a woman named Lakuna Helbyrn (Fighter level 11) and she will explain that they are on a mission to Aeornin of secrecy; the group is carrying a small coffer in saddle bags that contains a crystal skull; the coffer is enchanted to explode with fire if anyone tries to open it (DC 14 DEX save or take 8D8 fire damage for 10 feet). The man at the end of the expedition is Severus Prine, a tiefling warlock of some repute in Aeornin. He’ll pay 1,500 GP for receipt of the coffer unopened. Lakuna may ask the PCs to assist if they indicate major trouble ahead…..she’ll off 75 GP apiece for an escort.
20                           A contingent of 12 paladins and priests of Naril from the Capitol that are following Eirik Kalgornin in an effort to patrol and eradicate strife in the troubled province. Eirik will promise adventurers that the Throne and Church will pay 5,000 GP if the adventurers take up the task so Eirik can instead fulfill his ultimate duty of delivering scrolls to Qaliad.

THE MAP OF AEORNIN: in all of it's unedited glory.....!