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Showing posts from May, 2015

The King is Dead: Bloodcoats

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Malleus is an occupied country, trampled beneath the boots of a hostile army – an army made of its own citizens. Dressed in blood-red coats, the soldiers of King Wilhelm the Undying eagerly turn whip and rifle on their fellow humans in order to preserve the privilege of the vampires.

While the Mallean army is ready to defend the island from continental invasion or be deployed abroad in the name of colonial adventurism, its most basic purpose is to protect the haves from the have-nots. As the vampire aristocracy consider themselves shepherds of the people, so is the army (like the church) their sheepdogs. The bloodcoats watch over the common folk, keeping them peaceful and herding them where need be. 

Every significant city and town is home to a garrison of bloodcoats that arrests suspected traitors, puts down riots, and patrols the countryside for bandits and rebels. They are not a police force; they have no writ to investigate murders or retrieve stolen property (unless said crimes …

To BC or not to BC...

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Well, that’s some weird serendipity.

The current duet campaign is in a bit of rut, so I’ve been contemplating new settings. Trey Causey just posted a setting sketch for the Strange Stone Age, a wild “cavemen vs. aliens” kind of thing in the vein of Devil Dinosaur and other Jack Kirby comics, and Tribality posted a look at a prehistoric/lost world D&D setting. I’ve also been thinking about a prehistoric setting over the last couple of days because I spent a few hours this weekend at Discover the Ice Age at my local natural history museum.

(Fuzzy pictures courtesy of me.)


Discover the Ice Age wasn’t exactly the greatest exhibit I’ve ever seen. The cotton-stuffing fake snow was hilarious, the sounds the animatronic critters made were goofy (especially the bleating megaloceros), and most of them were just plain fake-looking. Heck, the hipparion – which the graphs on the display clearly showed was smaller than a human – was as big as a modern horse. The whole thing was woefully shabby.

Altellus, a swashbuckling fantasy world.

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My Queen,

Infinite crystal spheres exist in the incomprehensible vastness of the Prime Material Plane. Some are big and hold entire universes; some are small and hold strange, singular worlds. Some are fueled by science and technology and some are filled with magic and wonder. Some are home to gods who walk the earth, meddling in the lives of their followers while some are home to religions that pray to emptiness that never answers. Some worlds are filled with dreariness and dread; some are home to adventure and delight.

In searching for a new home for your next transmigration, I have followed your instructions to limit my divinations to those spheres you have described as “swashbuckling” – by which I assume you mean roughly contemporaneous with our own sphere in technology and sartorial fashion. “Rapiers and ruffs,” as you said. I commend your majesty for your discernment, and I humbly submit that I have discovered several worlds that may please your next incarnation.

One of these c…

Eponiad (D&D 5e creature)

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Mysterious creatures that blur the line between fey and elementals, eponiads are wondrous horses made of living stone and metal. They mix freely with pegasi and unicorns in sylvan settings, sharing a common empathy born from their equine nature. On the Elemental Plane of Earth, they are sometimes enslaved by dao (though the dao insist they are merely “domesticated”), while on the Prime Material Plane eponiads occasionally befriend hill dwarves and gnomes.

Eponiads appear as powerful, muscular draft horses and ponies formed from stone and metal. They show as much variety in composition as normal horses do in coat and markings; one eponiad might be uniformly made of pink granite with eyes of turquoise while another might be bronze with a jade blaze on its forehead. Regardless of their apparent composition, all eponiads display similar durability and strength.

Eponiad
Large elemental, chaotic good

Armor Class: 18 (natural armor)
Hit Points: 73 (7d10 + 35)
Speed: 50 ft., burrow 50 ft.

STR 20 (…

Armor Class in a D&D 5e Swashbuckling Setting

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This has been nagging at me for a couple of days, so I need to surgically remove it from my brain. 

We all know that one of the challenges of changing the setting of D&D from a quasi-medieval world to a quasi-early modern world is Armor Class. In D&D proper, how hard it is for your foes to hit a character (one’s Armor Class or AC) is determined almost entirely by what armor the character is wearing. Characters prancing around in silk shirts or even leather jerkins are at a severe disadvantage compared to characters in plate mail. Heavy armor, however, just doesn’t fit the aesthetic of sword-and-cape adventure, so how does one incentivize the swashbuckling style in D&D?

The most obvious incentive is also the historical one: firearms. If firearms are plentiful – and if they pierce armor as they do in real life – then players and characters will value the un-pierceable AC bonuses from high Dexterity scores, leading them to choose light armor that does not interfere with tho…

My Next Campaign Setting

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I should be furiously typing away at Steamscapes, but I desperately need to drain the overflowing brain juices that are clogging my writing-pipes. The thing that's inconveniently obsessing me at the moment is the idea of a broad-based classic fantasy swashbuckler setting.
It's not that there aren't fantasy swashbuckler (or sword-and-cape) settings. I can think of Lace & Steel, 7th Sea, 50 Fathoms, and Freeport off the top of my head (and that's not even counting pseudo-real world settings like Honor + Intrigue and Pirates of the Spanish Main). The problem is that each of these settings is rather narrowly focused on either musketeers or pirates, but not really both. (Yes, there are pirates in Lace & Steel and 7th Sea, but both settings explicitly do not have Western Hemispheres, so they don't really do proper pirates.) 
The slightly broader-based settings (Lace & Steel and 7th Sea again) aren't classic fantasy either. There's no elves or dwarves…