Dragon Magazine #27: Board Games and the Philosopher Stone

Dragon #27The cover of dragon #27 depicts a knight in shining armor readying an attack , lance in his hand, sitting on his horse. Good example of what Editor Tim Kask admits in this issue’s editorial, that some of the covers so far were, let’s say mediocre. And why’s he saying that? Well, #27 is another birthday issue and Mr. Kask takes the opportunity to look back on what The Dragon did well and what it did not so well. He’s also looking forward to what is yet to come, though most things he talks about come down to ‚more of the same, but better‘.

It’s Tim Kask again who reviews SPI’s The Battle of Agincourt, one of those battle simulation games I ‚ve not understood why to play them til today. As much as I’m a history afficionado (and even have studied it for some years), I’ve never had the least interest to play such simulations especially when the result of the game is enforced to ensure historical accurateness. According to the words of Tim Kask, Agincourt is such a game, where the English army will win every time as long as you’re playing by the book. This is like me playing a game of chess against Magnus Carlsen . Ok, but enough from me, Mr. Kask, while critizising some minor points, generally likes this game very much, so different tastes and all.

The game’s designer, James Dunnigan, follows up with some Designer Notes regarding this game. According to him, this game is more than just that, it is also a historical study regarding medieval strategies, tactics and battle formations. This also explains certain design decisions he made regarding leadership and morale factors. Still not my cup of tea, but at least I can see why someone might like activities like this.

The third Agincourt article by Steve Alvin is easily the most interesting of those three. The Political and Military Effects of Agincourt on the Hundred Years War describes the political situation and events in England and France leading to the Battle of Agincourt as well as the consequences and developments after this decisive English victory. I generally like those articles, because when you’re building your own world, they can be really helpful in inspiring the timeline of your setting and the relations between different countries.

Elementals and the Philosopher Stone by Jeff Swycaffer is the first D&D related article of this issue. Jeff presents a new system of 12 elements as well as 12 elementals. Interestingly enough, those 12 elements include Good and Evil (with their elementals being angels and demons), so there is a bit of alignment involved. Apart from those elementals already published in official products, each gets a short description of their looks and their special powers , while a table with game values makes them ready to be used in play. The article also contains instructions to build your own philosopher’s stone as an irregular polyhedron which can be used as a die. Which he uses to add simple rules for a more or less funny Question-Answer game. I think this article is mostly interesting for the fact that he seem to have influenced how D&D’s Inner Planes would be presented in later editions.

In this issue’s Sorcerer’s Scroll, guest author Bob Bledsaw gives his thoughts on what Judges Guild has done for the success of D&D as a whole. As I was a bit late to the party, I’ve never used anything by JG but I’ve heard more good than bad about it. And at the least, this article gives a nice overwiev about the product list, Judges Guild created over the years. Next is a short report on 1979’s Cangames, a canadian convention Gary Gygax visited. And he has a lot of praise for it.

Out on a Limb returns with a very longish answer to accusations against Ralph Bakshi in a former issue. And a very short answer by the editor himself to a really harsh attack against the critique formulated regarding the Soldier of Fortune magazine.

Next is a short articly by Gary Jordan about the use of a Tesseract as an Traveller Artifact, that can be used as additional storage room or as an escape pod in case of an emergency situation. What follows is a one-page comic by Tom Wham about „The Voyages of Exploration Ship Znutar”, which is mainly an advertisment for the game to follow up in the next issue. After that, it’s again Gary Jordan’s turn, this time with a short system for Star System Generation in the Traveller game.

Next article is the Designers‘ notes on Glenn and Kenneth Rahman’s game Divine Rights. Again, board game, so not too much love from me, but Minaria, the background setting for this game was quite awesome and I really enjoyed the article series Minarian Legends that would be later published in the pages of Dragon, but we’ll come back to that.

A quick look at Dwarves by Lance Harrop is a short summary of how the dwarven army might be organised. It comes with a chart for that organization which I guess could easily serve to form a dwarven army in any kind of system that has some rules for mass combat.

Aaaaand another set of Designers‘ notes, this time for The Emerald Tablet, which is a set of rules for miniature combat within a fantasy setting, that seems to be mainly remarkable for how it includes magic into the combat system though it seems as if this game never got much traction.

The second issue of Lawrence Schick’s and Tom Moldvay’s series Giants in the Earth presents Alan Garner’s Durathror, Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser and Edgar Rice Burrough’s John Carter of Mars. Never felt much use for characters from other settings in any of my games, but still like the series for the shout-out it gives to several more or less famous fantasy authors.

Next is a review about Philmar’s The english Civil War another board game, that seemed, according to Tim Kask, to suffer under a very shoddy presentation. It follows a game variant for the Imperium board game by Roberto Camino and a review by D.Minch for the air warfare game MiG Killers (what a name).

I generally like Jerome Arkenberg’s Mythos of… series, but with Mythos of Africa, I think that he crammed too much stuff into one article. I’m by no way an expert for african myths and folklore, but I know enough about the variety of the african people to be fairly sure that you‘ can’t do this topic justice on two pages. Now Arkenberg doesn’t pretend otherwise, but still I think that there is a lot of potential wasted by putting all of this in one pantheon.

Dragon’s Bestiary; The Horast by Mary Lynn Skirvin presents us with a fairly unimpressing monster that is also called the whipper beast for the whip-like tail it possesses and that it can use as a weapon in combat.

In the comics section we have another hilarious issue of Fineous Fingers, in which his friends continue their escape from the evil wizard’s castle. And last but not least, Gary Gygax presents us another issue of the Bazaar of the Bizzare, this time with the Bag of Wind, which comes in 5 variants named after the four winds of greek mythology and their keeper Aeolus. This item should be well-known to everyone who has read Homer’s Odyssey.

Wow, this took me along time. I hope you won’t have to wait for the next installment of my review series as long as for this one.


[Review]Weekly Wonders-Drunkard’s Grimoire

Weekly Wonders – Drunkard’s Grimoire by Necromancers of the Northwest is a collection of 12 alcohol-based spells presented in the artistic style typical for those product (nice tome-like cover, a few black and white illustration inside the book.) As stated in the introduction, those should serve to extend that theme on spell-casters and is partly inspired by the Cult of Dionysos, while so far, mainly Monks and Barbarians had alcohol-themed archetypes. Also in the introduction is printed a list of official alcohol-based content. It seems not to be complete (a short Google search pointed me at the official combat trait „Accelerated Drinker“), but I still give bonus points for including that, because it is also stated that the part of the spells work in conjunction with those class features and archetypes, so to have this ready as a reference may come in handy. There’s also a hint at another Weekly Wonders Issue (Drunken Feats), that also might work with those spells, but as I don’t have that product (yet), I can’t say if that’s the case.

With two exceptions, the spells are cast at either a living creature or at a drink that has then to be imbibed for the spell’s effect to take place. In those cases, the drink in question can be drunk as part of the spell casting, so the casting time is unaffected by that (same goes for alchemists that might use such a spell). To give an impression, a short description of some of the spells follows:

Beer Goggles: impairs the sight of the drinker, who gains save bonus against gaze attacks, but also becomes more susceptible to diplomacy checks and charm effects.

Blackout: impairs the target’s ability to form memories, so they can’t remember what happened after.

Deadly Tankards: makes tankards into weapons. Also, you won’t spill the content while using them this way.

Valorous Whiskey: Drinker gains cold resistance and a morale bonus on attack rolls saves and some checks.

In the end, if I had one thing to criticize, then that some of the spells would require the GM to work with the player spell-caster (because there’s no use casting a spell on some drinks if the NPCs simply won’t drink them), which might be a con for players who don’t like such dependencies. On the other hand, as the GM, I immediately had some ideas how to use some spells even to introduce the players into a new adventure, so at least to me, they have a positive inspiration factor. And that you can use some of them as buff spells with (rum) flavor is something I really like very much. Mechanically, the levels of the respective spells seem right to me, and I wouldn’t have any problem if one of my players would want to use some of them. So if you like the theme of this product, I think it’s well worth it’s price and grant it full five stars.

If I could turn back time…

Well, originally I wanted to make another post in which I put out some ideas about what to do with the „Abbey of the Crusader Goddess“ in my own setting, but as that could get kinda confusing I think it’s better to talk a bit about the setting itself, especially about where I started with it and where I landed at the moment. Because in fantasy worlds, you sometimes can turn back time and that’s what I did while mulling ideas in my head over and over again.

So where did it started ? It kinda started with this sentence I found in the 3.5 Eberron Campaign setting: If it exists in D&D then it has a place in Eberron. What a bold and impressive statement that was. And given that I was an avid reader of all things D&D at that time and that I tend to get a lot of ideas just by reading things, I immediately thought that it would be awesomely cool to make that statement my own and build a world containing all the ideas I found in the books or magazines I was reading (with the additional caveat that it should all make sense and still feel like a cohesive setting).

From that point I developed the idea of a world created by dragons, shut up from the rest of the universe in a closed demi-plane [insert long cosmological background here]. Dragons would have gone extinct on that world, and as they were the universal bearers of magic, magic would be all but gone as well. Until the barriers between that demi-plane and the surrounding material plane started to dissolve and magic crept back into the world (and with the magic the dragons would return), though that was planned to be the theme of the adventures to be played in that setting. By the way, I think the dragon theme was inspired by Eberron as well, as Tetheril (the setting’s name) was literally the ancient time dragon that created that world.

Now, the reason for the slow dissolution of the plane’s barriers was intended to be a big cataclysmic event that all but destroyed the continent on which the human race had developed. So I developed the idea that in a future age, humans would return to that continent to resettle it, eventually finding out what the mystery behind that cataclysmic event was. I’m not totally sure about the timeline, but I think that at that time, Pathfinder’s Kingmaker AP was published and I thought that hexploration was a good way to introduce players in a setting totally unknown to them. By exploring the continent, they would not only learn about the general setting, but they could also delve into the human race’s history and learn about past events as those started to shape the present and future.

In the meantime I had suffered a severe case of GM burnout and basically stopped doing anything roleplaying-related. I probably would have totally given up on the hobby, if not for Johnn Four, publisher of the Roleplaying tips, who started an adventure workshop in which he let me (and other interested people) take part in his design of an adventure and invited us to develop our own adventure parallel to his. I have to admit that I didn’t succeed with that, but it renewed my interest in the hobby and it brought some new inspiration. And this is where the first time jump comes in. Because when originally I had planned to start with the landing on their old/new home continent, the adventure I had planned for the workshop was intended to be a prelude to that, basically explaining the reason for why the humans wanted to go back to the old continent. (in short: after the cataclysm they had found refuge with the elves that lived on another continent, but because of old enmities they were basically living in a golden cage which is nothing human nature is suited for.)

I didn’t went through with this idea and again, things kept simmering in my stew pot brain, until I got (again) an email by John, in which he announced a second walk-through through his workshop, only that this time, he went from a messageboard to a homepage-based format. I started again, but in the meantime, another idea had formed in my head. And here comes another time jump back to the past.

Because in the meantime, I had found out for myself that one thing that I really don’t like in campaign settings, is that more often than not, that there are big-world-shaking events that you never get to experience first hand because the campaign starts well after those events took place. Think Golarion, where campaign play starts 100 years after the death of the god if humanity, think the Realms‘ Spellplague, that was a major shake-up between the editions, only that 4E started the campaign when it already was over (again, 100 years later). Contrary to that, Eberron really clicked with me because there the campaign started directly in the aftermath of such an event (the destruction of Cyre resulting in the end of the Last War), so the direct consequences of that were point and center of campaign play in that world.

So why not start directly after the destruction of the homestead of humanity (I would have started with it, but that would have meant explaining the mystery around that event) and the rest of humanity finding shelter with the elves. The idea was that the elves would allow the humans to settle an abandoned elven city located on an island before the coast of the elven kingdoms. So I could still have exploration of a new setting, but I could also explore what the loss of their old home and the reliance on what they used to consider an enemy would mean for the human survivors.

And this is basically where I am now. A huge elven city in ruins (think Myth Drannor) to be explored and to be settled by the PCs, maybe finding new allies (and enemies) in the process. That does not mean though that I’ve given up on all those other ideas I had before. In fact, wouldn’t it make for an awesome chronicle of the world of Tetheril, if I could succeed in developing the different parts throughout time and space and make them into a coherent hole?

Guess I’ll better start soon, because I’m only human and my life is finite.

[Review]Abbey of the Crusader Goddess

AotCGThe Abbey of the Crusading Goddess by Cian’s Basement Books comes in at 18 pages (1 cover page, 1 page ToC, so it’s basically 16 pages of actual content). Layout is simple, but clear, and the font size might be bigger than in other products but I found that it made reading the product quite easy, and I didn’t feel that it came at the cost of the content.

The product starts with a short description of the history and the location of the abbey. And while it’s described in a very general language, it’s easy to see that the inspiration for that probably came from Paizo’s Mythic AP. Still it’s generic enough that you can use it in any other setting easily. You can even reuse the 5 location hooks, giving a group of PCs a reason to travel there, which I think is a nice idea to have for a location. Then we learn about the local area, especially the village that has been built next to the abbey. There are several shops situated next to the abbey’s walls, and each of those gets a short paragraph including who owns it and what you can get there.

It follows a very detailed description of the five floors of the abbey and after that several statblocks detailing the abbey’s inhabitants, three for the more common members, then two important NPCs running the abbey as leaders. And last, there is a new feat, that grants the benefits of several orisons a number of times per day which is a nice way to grant a PC minor buffs without having the party cleric to cast them.

I haven’t talked about the maps yet. They are very simplistic in an old school kind of way, but also very clear and give you all the information you need and that are expanded on in the relevant test descriptions. Those maps cover everything I just talked about, from the abbey itself to every single floor.

All in all, I liked this product very much as it gives you the basics for such an abbey without adding to much fluff to it. This means that you might need to work a bit while you integrate it in any setting of your choice, but it also means that you won’t have to ignore too much (or anything at all) if you want to use it. It also has a special touch to it in that as written it is an abbey pretty much run and protected by women, but that doesn’t get forced upon the reader and could easily be changed if necessary. Though I like it very much this way.

So I’ll give it 3.5 out of five stars. And as this seems to be the first effort of a new publisher and as such, I think it has been well done, even if it isn’t on par with the more established 3PPs out there, as far as layout, artwork and maps are concerned, I don’t want too be to stingy with my stars so I’ll round up to 4 stars. If you have need of an abbey for your game and don’t mind to put a bit of work to add those fluff colours that integrate this into your setting, I think it’s well worth buying.

My To-Do-List or the list of some of the things I plan to do but so far never did

So again, a long time has gone since my last post, and not only didn’t I post anything, I did also nearly no work on the projects I had planned to do. Which is a shame really, as I’m constantly thinking about them, but I already had a post about my talent to procrastinate. Though I’m also stubborn, so I’m still not willing to let my plans go, especially as in recent days, inspiration struck from several places.

But before I start to work, I’d better collect my different ideas in a single post for future reference. Nothing more than a to-do-list that might help me to plan what to tackle first. I’m not going into specifics here, as I plan to tackle single points in future blog entries.

1. I finally want to realize my own setting, which I already talked about and that I started thinking about around 10 years ago. Ideally, it will have a very sandboxy structure, so that it can be used as is by others in case it gets published, but it might also be the starting point for a very big chronicle with an overarching storyline and a certain endgame in mind. Those ideas might never see the light of day though, so I probably won’t do more than hint at some of them in the actual setting.

2. A campaign arc very much inspired by Paizo’s Kingmaker AP, that should let the PCs explore part of the new setting and might hint at future developments .

3. I also talked about the adventure I started to design for Johnn Four’s Adventure Workshop and that will be the first introduction to my setting. It might also spawn a campaign that highlights an important point in the past of my planned setting, though it uses it’s own mini-setting (same world, other place) that should be easily usable as a stand-alone thing.

4. Another possible campaign arc mostly inspired by the second issue of Kobold Quarterly. Not sure where this will fit in with regards to my setting, could be basically the follow up to one of the campaign arcs mentioned in 2 or 3.

5. And (ain’t I the adventure guy? 😀 ) another adventure that definitely will take place in the new setting (meaning sometimes after the events of #2), that will put some events in motion that will lead to a big climax (which was the original inspiration for my setting.

Apart from all this creative stuff, there are some other things that I’d like to do as well, so Iäll also mention them here.

1. I still plan to re-read the old Dragon Magazine issues (and also the Dungeon ones) and put short reviews/commentaries on this blog.

2. Same goes for reviews of Paizo/Pathfinder 3PP materials (might also include products for other rules systems)

3. I have a certain fondness to do adaptations of adventures in other settings that I love. SO I hope to be able to do a series of articles how to adapt Paizo Adventure Paths (and stuff from other Publishers like the recently announced Rage of Wyrms AP by Legendary Games) for the Realms and Eberron. Oh, and did I mention that I plan to do my own setting? So we might see adaptations for that one as well 🙂

4. Depending on what my setting needs, I might also work at rules modifications, If so, I’ll certainly talk about it here at this blog as well.

5. I sometimes feel the urge to talk about things that are not roleplaying-related, mainly music and politics. I’m still not sure if I should do that here, but I also hesitate to start another blog and those worlds (the music world and the reality) are also two of the worlds I live in so they might actually fit here. We’ll see.

Probably forgot some things. But already this list feels like the reason I do procrastinate so much. Too many ideas to do them all in my lifetime. At least that’s my excuse all too often, though it’s not a good excuse to do nothing at all; so that needs to change.)

About social advocacy in RPGs

MusingsTwo days ago, I listened to a most interesting podcast , The RPG Room, posted on G*M*S Magazine, about „Culture and Social Advocacy in RPGS“. This is a topic I normally avoid, but there is one thing I heard (and actually another one I didn’t hear) that disturbed me quite a bit so I need to get it off my chest. But let me start with saying that I’m all for social advocacy and that I agree with most things said in this podcast. To me, being inclusive is an important thing, and so I embrace if RPG products take the same stance, because to feel included, you need to feel represented. And I’m well aware of the fact that as a part of the white male group, I enjoy some privileges compared to nearly every other group of people, privileges I didn’t ask for, privileges I don’t need to feel included.

What disturbed me a bit was the notion that came up quite often in this podcast, that people who don’t agree with the need for inclusivity are being old-school. In fact, the term „old-school“ seemed to be used as kind of a synonym for those people. Now, as I said before, I’m all for being inclusive, but I’m also considering myself as being quite old-school (I mean, I’m not a first generation grognard, but I most certainly belong to the generation following the trailblazers of RPGs.) No I won’t deny at all that the time I grew up still wasn’t very friendly to women and that a lot of groups where discriminated against (being a role-player meant to be part of such a group). But at the same time, the games I grew up with playing seemed to me more progressive generally. D&D made clear from the start that women were as able as men and made a point in not making differences for example as far as the attributes were concerned. Not everyone liked this but I happen to think that this was much more than could be expected by other media of that time, so I think that even at that time, role-players were ahead of it. Was it perfect? Naturally not, but as far as it did cater to a certain segment of the society (young, male whites), I don’t think that it did that out of racism or social ineptitude, but simply because that was the major group interested in and ready to pay money for it (at that time).

Which is kind of a problem of modern time as well. Lately, Paizo got kinda accused at being racist for starting their setting of Golarion with a very eurocentric viewpoint. And again, I don’t think that this claim is true in any way, it’s just a fact that when they started they kinda went the safe way (no wonder, when you know that the existence of Paizo publishing firmly depended on the success of the Pathfinder line) so they published what they knew that it generally sells. And even in the beginning, they had already two major nations from Asia (Qadira) and Africa (Osirion) firmly integrated in the core part of their setting, followed soon by an Oriental adventure-style AP, one playing in the northern Africa equivalent (Legacy of Fire) and one playing in the central African (Serpent’s Skull). You can even say, that in the very first Paizo AP, two defining cultures where influenced by hispanic Roma culture (the Varisians) and by the native American culture (Shoanti) respectively. Doesn’t keep people from complaining of exact these cultures about being left out of the greater picture (and just in case, I’m not talking about Paco Garcia Jaen, one of the two hosts of this podcast).

Paco made a good point in explaining why people who fell victim to discrimination time and time again tend to overreact if they perceive something as being injustice, but sometimes it seems that they make life quite hard especially for those people caring. Paizo has a proven record of trying to be inclusive regarding race, gender and sexuality, and they are very clear about that this is intentional part of their policy especially to those people who disagree for whatever reason. So I don’t get it at all why they have to defend against criticism for having included one group but not having included another. Because, you know, even if you want to include every group imaginable, you still have to start somewhere, so just because your group wasn’t so far, that doesn’t mean that they don’t intend to in the future, and it especially not means that they are discriminating your group.

This is also why I tend to avoid such topics, because I have experienced to often being acused for discriminating people just for not agreeing with everything they said 100 %. I can live with being offended by all those idiots out there who think they have the right to discriminate because they are something better than anyone else, but getting attacked by the people whose side you’re actually on is something I don’t like to get used to (and working as a nurse, I already get that a lot by my clients; it’s part of the job, but it’s no fun at all).

Which brings me to my second point about what was left unsaid. At the start of the podcast, Paco and Jim spoke about what RPGs meant to them, when they grew up: it meant a safe space where they didn’t have to put up with the same crap they had to in reality. I totally can relate to that, and that’s exactly why I actually don’t want to explore topics like race, gender and sexuality in my games. From the start, I’ve played with everyone who wanted to partake (can’t remember one group without women at the table and that goes back to the early 80’s) and we have played characters with different races, genders and sexualities, so it’s not as if those topics didn’t exist within the frame of our games. But it was never about those topics, because what we wanted was having fun together as friends with a good, healthy dose of escapism involved. Talk to me about those topics anytime you want, but role-playing is the one part of my live I actually don’t want to do it.

So if suddenly those things seem to be the only one to matter regarding a product’s quality irritates the hell out of me and not being able to communicate that without being directly called a bigot, a racist or worse already made me feel unwanted more than one time.

My safe place doesn’t seem so safe anymore. And that is something Jim was too cautious about addressing in the podcast, that having been discriminated against doesn’t give you a free pass to discriminate against other people. It also doesn’t make everything you say automatically right. It just makes the environment more unsafe for everyone, if you’re looking for offense where none is meant. If you need help raising awareness, I’ll stand by your side, but when you’re getting offensive, you’ll lose me immediately, and in the end, I don’t think that you’ll win the war this way.

The Times they are a-changing

teth_alphaAnd it’s with great pleasure that I congratulate Mr. Bob Dylan to finally get what he has deserved for a long time now. He has probably had more influence on modern culture than the last 20 winners of the nobel prize for literature combined, so it was time he got the prize.

But that’s not why I choose this title. It’s because of the changes my ideas went through the last few years, which I wanna talk a bit for now. It’s been nearly 8 years ago that I started thinking about creating a new setting called Tetheril which was basically it’s own demiplane shut off from the rest of the multiverse by certain events that brought it into existence. I’m somewhat vague here because I still plan to use this idea, which originated in my dislike for planar travel ( I love the D&D planes for all they add to the game, but hate to see heroes trying to conquer Hell or the Abyss just because they are high level enough). Nothing much came out of this, because real life took a wrong turn and I had other problems to solve first.

Two years later, Paizo piqued my interest in hexploring with its Kingmaker Adventure Path, and I started thinking about using this to introduce players to my setting when I finally had enough material together. I also had read a cool Image comic called Impaler about the world being suddenly overrun by vampires and this together with some articles I had read in the online Dragon magazine and with what already had stewed a while in my head eventually was the source of what I tried to do with my setting:

What if a great cataclysmic catastrophe had destroyed the human lands, forcing the few survivors to seek refuge with the elves. And what if, in an coming age, tensions between humans and elves would lead the humans to leave their refuge and return to what was once their home? With no memories, only myths, of what had happened ages ago, so they had to rediscover what was once theirs?

So when I started last year’s edition of Johnn’s Adventure Design Workshop, I originally intended to have as my first adventure the landing of the humans at their new/old home and the events following. But this bit with the elves giving the humans shelter kept nagging at my mind and I thought it might be a cool idea to start with the events around the human’s departure from the elven shores instead. This way, the players would get a bit of perspective of the setting and of the motivations of their characters. Problem being that now I hadn’t only to think about a new continent for the PCs to explore but I had also to create the elven city they lived in before the exodus. Or at least so much that I could make play in this city interesting. Even then, I thought it a bit a waste of time to create a home base just to leave it as soon as possible (and I remember Pathfinder players being not to happy about getting such an interesting location as Sandpoint in Varisia is – only to take extended leaves during the rest of the AP). But the was the prize I did have to pay.

Or didn’t I?

Come this year, and here I am, picking up where I left and continuing my journey, already having rolled for my elven metropolis and still being not too crazy about having to built it from scratch. Maybe I should take some time with my PCs before them leaving for new lands, just to make the effort worth it? But what should I do with them? Not much to explore in a city humans have lived in for quite some time (around 5000 years, I thought), and I also didn’t want to do too much stuff which didn’t connect with the overarching themes of my setting. Building on the tensions between elves and humans? Might be a possibility, but wasn’t actually what I wanted to do, because I didn’t want to put the players‘ focus on that too much. Looked a bit like a dead end to me, and when that happens, I like to shift my attention somewhere else to give my subconsciousness time to work on the problem. And as I had nothing better to do, I took a look at the next video in line, in which Johnn talks a bit about the pre-planning stage of adventure design and about the concept of the “Razor”, a mechanism which allows the designer to make informed decisions about the inclusion of design elements based on certain themes the adventure is built upon. To give an example: When Paizo announced their new Starfinder setting (to come next year), “they described it as meeting half way between BattleTech and SpellJammer.“ Which already gives you an idea of what Starfinder will be about.

I started to ponder what my razor would be this year. I intended to let the players explore cool elven ruins, so Indiana Jones came directly into mind. Then I envisioned this elven city and the isle it is located on as kind of a prison; not as in a real prison but more as an enclave the human’s should not leave without the elves permission (maybe they even can’t without the elves help). But there was still the disconnect between the exploration I’d like the PCs to do and the fact that they already might have done that in the millenia past.

And then something clicked. I had already gone back in time once, so why not doing it again? If I went back to the time the humans arrived at this city, I could actually let them explore the city and make it their own. I could actually use all the stuff I had thought about in actual play instead of using it as background material. I could let them help developing the relations between elves and humans AND I could let them experience the prison-like character of the sub-setting they’re moving in (in time that is, I don’t expect that it will play as much a role in the beginning). So in the end, this is what I came up with as a razor (and man, how is that different, from what I had in mind during my first experiment with the workshop, the times are really a-changing):

The Ruins of Myth Drannor (elven city exploration and rebuilding)


the Pathfinder Society (organized investigating and treasure-seeking)


Gothic (the great CRPG, where you first have to settle in what’s basically a big prison and eventually will have to find a way out; and yeah, as in the game, there might be a BIG endboss waiting for you *whistles innocently*)

Keep in mind, though, that this is more the razor for this part of the setting. The adventure I try to develop for this workshop will mostly concentrate on the first aspect, I guess. So a sub-razor would be something like:

Bard’s Tale meets Kingmaker

combining the city exploration with the city rebuilding aspect .