Nicholas Berquist's "The Rising Dark" ~ Not Quite a Review

The Rising Dark – Not Quite a Review

I’m currently reading “The Rising Dark” by Nicholas Berquist and I have to say I am surprised it is holding my interesting. Let me explain that I have nothing against Berquist or his writing/design and really have nothing but praise for what I am reading. Instead my issue is with the dark fantasy genre in a general sense as I have never been able to understand the appeal of it. If I want grim and dirty I can drive the two hours to Philly.

However, despite my general dislike of the dark fantasy genre I find myself continually sneaking glances at “The Rising Dark” due to pure ability of the author not only to turn some common things on their head but in the immersive quality of the world Berquist is creating with each world.

The menagerie of gods presented pretty much at the beginning of the book is a joy to read, even if each god only gets a scant paragraph. Complete broad deities all of them unique in some way claw for attention, and as a player who loves going in as a Cleric, I found myself weighing my options not based on domains (or profiles in “The Rising Dark”) but on the outline provided for that deity. This is the first time since a homebrew setting back in my Army days, that I’ve weighed deities by more than what they offered me in terms of … well in game terms …

By offering up the deities first, I believe Barquist is throwing to the potential player from the get go that he wants this game to be one of stories and myth not stats. This thought is continued in the thought of corruption and its role in the game.

According the rules of the game world, Agraphar, all magic, no matter the source, is chaos made manifest and shaped by the caster in the material realm. As such, unless protected by some means, spell casters and some spell enchanted items can be affected by the corrupting powers of Chaos. This is, however, not that easy, as to be affected by corruption the cast needs to first roll a natural 20 (in addition to his normal roll) and then fail a saving throw. If both happen the cast receives a “corruption mark”. It takes three of these marks to start the true corruption process on the caster, but still the threat is there, every spell, every enchantment holds the power to drag a person kicking and screaming into the darkness. It is a beautiful addition to magic and spell-casting in the OSR (or in fact any d20 system).

One last note on spell-casting and corruption in “The Rising Dark” is that of the life of a spell-caster who, due to their profession, are typically feared and hated by others because of who they are (yes folks, that is an X-Men reference).

The rest of the book is mainly devoted to delving into the world of Agraphar itself, with information on the nations, peoples and interesting locales to adventure in. There is an adventure in the book “The Doom of Zeramath” which I am still reading and haven’t had the chance to inflict upon anyone at my local game shop (where I have begun to host pick-up games). I will say the formatting of the adventure is more in the modern vain and less in the classic. There are also sections on new spells, monsters and the like.

There is also a section on races and it is huge. There are grand total of fourteen playable races in “The Darkness Rises” ranging from the normal lot of humans, dwarves and elves to more unique races like satyrs and faeries. Some of the presented races come with inform in game terms (i.e. dark vision 15 feet, etc) but most of the information is cosmetic and helps to paint the picture of these races and how they interact with the more overarching world of Agraphar.

There may be more to Agraphar, as “The Rising Dark” serves as an introduction to the world. There is a Gazette available for free at but I haven’t looked at it yet. As is, however, “The Rising Dark” offers a lot of ideas, a world that can easily immerse a player or referee and brings to the table some excellent new concepts.

The pdf itself runs 57 pages, the art is almost all public domain ranging from the Renaissance to the neo-classical, and runs $2.99 for the pdf.


An Albatross Around My Neck

To be quite honest I do not know what to write about. The last two weeks have been a rollercoaster in my and my family’s life. Job losses, job changes and problems with everything from a toaster to my car have pretty much beaten the hell out of any creative juices I may have. That said, the re-kindling of my “beast”, the PC I built eight years ago and have managed to keep current, is blunted by the thought that the money I have spent on the new RAM for it could have gone to far more important things like groceries or bills.

My favorite poem of all time, one I have had memorized since middle school, is Samuel Coleridge’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”. I have always enjoyed the lyrical style of the poem, the visuals it created in my head and the true message of the poem. That message is that we, not God or some other external power, are the makers of our own fate by doubting and turning away from grace/luck/faith/what-have-you. For me that has always been an important message and I’ve always strived to find the personal fault in the happenings around me. Today though, as another blow comes to inflict upon my family I am starting to think that maybe, through some unintentional action I have shot my albatross and now wear it around my neck.


So given my sour mood and the directions of my thoughts:

Curse of the Albatross:
Spell Level: Cleric 9th Level
Range: Touch
Duration: 1d12 days + level

When cast by a Law aligned Cleric the target is, for 1d12 days + the target’s level, cursed to wear the corpse of an Albatross around his neck. This albatross cannot be removed by physical, magical or divine means until its duration has closed. While wearing the Albatross the target receives a -5 on all to-hit and damage rolls (but cannot be less than 1) for melee, ranged and magical attacks. The target’s Saving Throw reverts back to that of a level 1 character of his or her class and all to-hit attacks against the target receive a modifier equal to the Curse of the Albatross’s spell level.

Note: The caster of this spell must pass a saving throw with a penalty of 4 or suffer have the number of days as the target of the spell.


A powerful spell, one that if used by any referee should be handled with much care … just like anything born out of a bad mood I suppose.

Back in Action

Memory for my PC is due in today so after an install tonight, the big beast shall be back up and running. I've also finally (fingers crossed) fixed the connection problems on my Linux box (Ubuntu 12.04 does not like me).

What this means is that regular posting should return tonight.

Computer Down

The desktop has died. I'm left with my phone and my linux box. So this means no D&D Chronicles of Mystara tomorrow since that harm doesn'trun on Linux.

Sorry everyone.

Boggats and their Kin - Creatures of Eira Preview


Boggarts are minor Genius Loci who inhabit areas of Eira that have known violence and strife. Mildly intelligent, the boggart of any area spends its time in acts of mischief and petty violence such as moving road signs, toppling walls, tripping passer-bys and the like.

Boggarts have no natural form, but when made manifest, use materials from the surrounding land (usually dirt, stone and plants) to create a body. In this form they appear as squat, gnarled toothed creatures, with huge feet and clawed hands.

Boggarts who attack others do so out of a perceived slight. Maybe the passer-by spit on the boggart’s land, sang a song the Boggart didn’t like and so forth. boggarts, can however, be bargained with, and are prone to liking food, shiny objects, and perceived positions of power (i.e. granting the boggart the title of Protector of the Homestead). Boggarts have little memory for faces, and as such will not remember any who it has faced or lost to in battle.

As Genius Loci, boggarts cannot be killed or destroyed, when defeated their material form crumbles and the boggart returns to the land and cannot manifest for 1d6 days.

Hit Dice: 2
Armor Class: 5 [14]
Attacks: Claws [1d4], Bite [1d8], poison touch
Saving Throw: 16
Special: Of the Land, Poison, Regenerate
Move: 30’
Alignment: Chaos
Challenge Level/XP: 3/60

Of the Land: As a Genius Loci who creates it’s body from the materials of the area it inhabits, the boggart has the ability to abandon it’s material form at any time and reform it in 1d4 rounds in any place in its territory.

Poison: The touch of a boggart is poisonous to all creatures. When successfully attacked by a boggart the target most make a saving through or be poisoned, inflicting 1d4 points of damage.

Regenerate: Boggarts use the land the land they inhabit to replenish themselves, gaining back 1 hp per round.

Hob of Old

Hob of Old are the oldest of the boggarts, and longer exist in areas that have known violence and strife, but make those things happen in the areas they inhabit. Hob of Old are highly intelligent and spend its time plotting and scheming ways of making good men fall into chaos.

Like their juvenile brothers, the boggart, Hob of Old have no natural form and create their material forms from the land they inhabit. Unlike the boggart, however, Hob of Old are giant in size and reach, their steps shaking the ground before them.

Hob of Old have a 40% chance of attacking any who enter their land, they cannot be bargained with and unlike the boggart remember those they have fought and will seek vengeance.

Hit Dice: 4
Armor Class: 3[16]
Attacks: Claws [2d6], Bite [2d8], poison touch
Saving Throw: 13
Specials: Of the Land, Poison, Regenerate, Spell Casting, Undertow
Move: 30’
Alignment: Chaos
Challenge Level/XP: 5/240

Of the Land: As a Genius Loci who creates it’s body from the materials of the area it inhabits, Hob of Old has the ability to abandon it’s material form at any time and reform it in 1 round in any place in its territory.

Poison: Like the touch of a boggart, the touch of Hob of Old is poisonous to all creatures. When successfully attacked the target must make a saving throw or be poisoned, inflicting 1d6 points of damage.

Regenerate: Boggarts use the land the land they inhabit to replenish themselves, gaining back 3 hp per round.

Spell Casting: Hob of Old can cast spells equal to a second level Magic-User.

Undertow: While not in its material form Hob of Old can use the land it inhabits as a weapon against its enemies by grabbing and pulling into the earth Hob of Old’s victim. Successful saving throw negates this ability, if Hob of Old is successful in this attack the victim suffers 1d4 damage until he or she makes a successful saving throw.


Sometimes referred to as a Wandering Boggart are least form of Genius Loci in Eira. The Padfoot were once Boggarts whose lands were turned into roads. Disconnected from their lands the Padfoot loses much of their strength, intelligence and abilities and are closer to feral dogs in behavior.

While having no physical body, the Pad foot can use, with great effort, the land around itself to create a material form. This material form has the appearance of a giant wolf or dog, with overly large teeth and bigger than normal paws.

Padfoots are not intelligent and cannot be bargained with; they look only for vengeance on those that took their lands. Travelers have a 50% chance of running afoul a pack of Padfoots while on the road. A Padfoot can travel up to 1 mile in direction off its road before its material form crumbles and it returns to the roads.

HD: 1
Armor Class: 7 [12]
Attacks: Claws [1d4], Bite [1d8], poison touch
Saving Throw: 16
Special: Of the Land, Poison
Move: 30’
Alignment: Chaos
Challenge Level/XP: 2/30

Of the Land: As a  minor Genius Loci who creates it’s body from the materials of the area it inhabits, Padfoots have the ability to abandon it’s material form at any time and reform it in 1d6 rounds in any place on its road.

Poison: The touch of a Padfoot is poisonous to all creatures. When successfully attacked the target must make a saving throw or be poisoned, inflicting 1d4 points of damage.

Dungeons & Dragons Chronicles this Monday

Just a quick one before work, but this coming Monday (June 24th) I'll be hosting a Dungeons & Dragons Chronicles game from 2000-2200. More information will be coming on this later as I figure out how to better host an online game.

Select your character, and help take back Mystara!

Enbarr - Creatures of Eira Preview

Legends speak of the Enbarr, a race of horse from the Eternal Lands of the Au-Sidhe, rare in Eira but glimpsed in fear dream. Long and limber of limb, with flowing manes the color of lightening, the Enbarr flies across the land, faster than a Pixie's flight, more silent than a Un-Sidhe assassin and hearty than any exotic Dwarf. Only once in the memory of the world did a human mount and ride an Enbarr.

Fada, son of the first King of Men, betrothed to the least of the Sidhe's daughters, to win the hand of the  Lorei Princess, did Fada steal his way into the Eternal Lands and with gift of heart's blood and solemn oath did he gain the mount of Aobarr, the chief of the Enbarr. Over cloud, ocean, ice and grass did Fada and Aobarr travel through the lands man and Sidhe to the darkness of the Otherworld, seat of the Un-Sidhe ...

Enbarr a rare, intelligent fae horse from the Eternal Lands of the fae, an old and sufficiently intelligent Enbarr has the ability to cast spells equal according to its age. The Enbarr have the ability to speak telepathically, but lack the ability to read or influence the thoughts of others. 

The age of an Enbarr affects their hit dice, and ability to cast spells.

Roll a six sided dice to determine the age of the Enbarr:

1. Foal - 2 hit dice, average of 2 hit points per dice. Cannot cast spells, telepathic voice is weak and may not be heard by non-Enbarr.
2. Yearling - 4 hit dice, average of 4 hit points per dice. Cannot cast spells, telepathic voice ranges from weak to screaming to non-Enbarr.
3. Colt/Filly - 6 Hit dice, average 6 hit points per dice. Can cast up to second level spells with a 60% success rate.
4. Mare/Stallion - 8 Hit dice, average of 8 hit points per dice. Can cast up to second level spells with a 80% success rate.
5. Gelding - 8 Hit dice, average of 8 hit points per dice. Can cast up to third level spells with a 80%  success rate.
6. Elder - 10 Hit dice, average of 10 hit points per dice. Can cast up to sixth level spells with a 100% success rate.

Hit Dice: Dependent on Age
Armor Class: 2 [17]
Attacks: 2 Hoof Bash [1d6], Bite [1d6]
Saving Throw: 14 - 6 Dependent on Age
Special: Dependent on Age may be able to cast spells. See Below
Alignment: Neutral
Challenge Level/XP: Challenge Level =HD+2/XP =Hit Dice 500xHD

Enbarr and Spell Casting:

Enbarr's as old as Colt/Filly to Elder can cast spells with a success rate equal to that listed in their age description. The number of spells an Enbarr may cast is equal to 1d4+HD. The result is equal to the total number of spells known by the Enbarr. The number of spells per spell level is the domain of the Referee.

Enbarr and riders:

The Enbarr are a wild creature and do not take lightly to being mounted by other races. If anyone attempts to mount an Enbarr without the express permission of the Enbarr the creature will attack it's would-be rider. Enbarr who allow others to mount and ride it do so only under dire circumstances and typically only once.

Quarters Not Included!

Back when I was nine-years-old, I like many of my generation, spent far too much time in dimly lit, loud and smoky places deemed to be havens of depravity and generation wasting; arcades. Every summer, every cent I made mowing lawns, watching kids, or found in the bottomless pits of furniture went into the coin-slots of my local arcade, a small neon laced hole-in-the-wall at the corner of the mall known as "Space Port".
Pole Postion, Street Fighter II, Mortal Kombat, X-Men and Ninja Turtles swallowed coin after coin. But one game, ruled them all, one game that bound me to the arcade and held power over my existence and shaped my years to come: Dungeons and Dragons: Tower of Doom.

For three years I played Capcom's greatest beat 'em up game. I never beat it, I would always die fighting the dragon near the end, but that didn't matter. Death never mattered, winning never mattered. To my young self, the adventure the paths ways and slim decisions, the beautiful artwork and character designs were what mattered. What more, it gave me a name, a name that I hunted after until I joined the Army and found others who know it as more than a Saturday morning cartoon.

Based on the basic rules of the world's oldest role-playing game, Tower of Doom introduced me to many of the iconic things about D&D and shaped my mental image of it until this day. My elves don't look like Tolkien's elves (despite being a huge fan of the books), no they look like "Elf" from this game, trolls, goblins, all of them look like they did in this game. That is the greatest thing about Tower of Doom and its sequel Shadows over Mystara, they were the greatest gateway drug for Dungeons & Dragons and besides that great games.

Now, after years of begging and pleading and issues with copyright, Capcom is finally re-releasing these classic games on damn near everything. All the action, the adventure and oh yes, the glorious multi-player (and now I don't have to give up my quarters!) are all back again. So, find me on Steam, play with me and once again (or maybe for the first time) relive the adventures in the Hollow World, in Mystara ... and if you're a player in my "Age of Wanderers" game over at, finally know who this Daimos I keep mentioning is!

Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara is now available on Playstation Home, X-Box Live Arcade and Steam.

Go, play!

(Real post later tonight or tomorrow) 

Divine Guardians and Beings - Spells for High Level Clerics

After a long weekend and a Father's Day full of my daughter running a game for me (instead of the other way around), I am long overdue for getting my writing done.  The following is a massive work in progress, something that I don't even know will ever pan out in the long run, but for the moment I'm running with it.

Summon Divine Guardian
Spell Level: Cleric, 7th Level
Range: N/A
Duration: 1d6 rounds
Other:  10% for successful summon

The Cleric prays for aid in battle summoning a  divine being of the deity he or she serves. When summoned the Divine Guardian will attack any and all creatures within 90 feet of the caster who are the opposed alignment of the deity that the Guardian serves.

Once the Guardian is brought to 0 health or below it and all its possessions will vanish from the mortal plane and cannot be summoned again for 1d6 days.

Once summoned the guardian cannot be again summoned for 1d6 days. On every summon the cleric rolls a d%, with an increasing +10% for each summon attempt. If failed the Guardian will not appear. However, if the d% is 80% or above the Guardian will appear and strip the cleric of his or her mantle (power) for abusing the grace of the deity.

Divine Guardian
Hit Dice: 8
Armor Class: 3[16]
Attacks: Flaming Sword 1d10+1d6 radiant flame damage
Special: Magic resistance (70%), regenerate (1hp/2 round), element resistance (60%), +2 on to-hit rolls.
Move: 30'
Saving Throw: 7
Alignment: Same as deity served
Challenge Level/XP: 8/1,000

Summon Devine Being
Spell Level: Cleric, 4th Level
Range: N/A
Duration: 1d6 rounds
Other: 40% for successful summon

The Cleric prays to his deity in battle. If successful, the cleric summons a divine being in service to his or her deity, who will attack any and all creatures within 90 feet who are the opposed alignment of the deity that the divine being services.

Once the divine being is brought to 0 health it will vanish from the mortal plane and cannot be summoned again for 1d6 days.

[Divine Being Table later]

Wayne Rossi's Dungeon Crawl

A few days ago when browsing through Drivethru for anything of interest I ran across a simply named fanzine called Dungeon Crawl. At the time I did not know of +Wayne Rossi in any of the Google+ communities that I frequent/lurk. The magazine, the second issue in fact, was one of drivethru's new "pay what you will" titles, and after dropping a few bucks I got the issue and have slowly been making my way through it. The fanzine is OSR generic meaning that for the most part the content can be showhorned into almost an of the old school clones and "what-if" rule sets.
Honestly, I have been rather impressed so far by Dungeon Crawl. The production is excellent for a one man show, and the articles (the majority by Rossi himself) are well done. I can't lie, the adventure has me a bit confused, but that is less Rossi's fault and more about my inability to understand how old school modules and adventures are set-up.
Besides my confusion with the adventure, however, I am loving the Random Dungeon chart and the trap descriptions due to all the evil little ideas they're putting into my head. The Dungeon chart in and of itself is worth the price of the book as it offers the Referee a way to create the Randomly Generated Dungeons of old PC RPGs, giving the players a unique experience every time they go through a door.
Actually, I have a wonderful Arcane Trap in mind for that chart ...
Rossi, at this point, appears to be wanting this fanzine to be a quarterly affair, which judging by what I'm seeing is excellent. Rossi has a great talent for inventing and creating and I would lov
e to see that continue. He is also opening the fanzine up more to outside submissions with the deadline for the Fall issue being June 30th. So, check the links below and seriously take a look.

The Azure Tower, The Physician and The Assistant - Places of Azure Marsh Preview

A few weeks ago I revealed some information on the town of Azure Marsh in the northern valleys of the Land of Eira. That information was on the haven of scum and villainy known as The Half Blind Crow. Today I continue to reveal some of Azure Marsh with a preview of the town's must enigmatic denizen. The Arch-Mage known only as "The Physician"

This is copyrighted material of Genius Loci so I ask that you don't try to pass it off as your own. Still I hope everyone find this entertaining and wets the mouth for the eventual release of "The Mad Magus' Tomb".

The Azure Tower is a blue, five-storey tower located on a small island about a half a mile off of the coast of Azure Marsh. Legend states that the tower appeared mysteriously during the night fifty years ago. That night, the older locals will say, was one of thunder and strange noises and flashes of light never seen before. Once a stone bridge linked the town of Azure Marsh to the island but that was shattered long along. The bridge's blackened remains stand as a reminder of the long ago violence. The Tower serves as home to a mysterious wizard and as a light house, a magical light blue light always spinning from its roof.
                - The Physician is an older human with shoulder length silver hair combed back from his forehead. He does not wear the robes typical of other human mages, but instead dresses in darkly colored coats and pants. The Physician tends to take a stake in the happenings of the land around Loch Sevel, but never directly.

Human Mage: AL Neutral; Move 30'; AC -5 [25]; HD 9+8; #ATK 2; DMG 1d4 & spells. Note: The Physician can access spells like a 20th level mage. Gains +2 spells per level.

                -The Assistant is a young human woman who as her name implies assists the Physician in his various studies, tasks and research. A perky fun loving girl, The Assistant is more-than-likely to speak candidly about her and the Physician's previous adventures across the realms of the Au-Sidhe and Un-Sidhe.

Human Female: AL Law; Move 30'; 5 [14]; HD 3+1; #ATK 1; DMG 1d6 plus special. Note: The Assistant uses a Sonic Spell Wand with 10,000 charges and causes 1d6 damage. The Sonic Spell Wand has a 70% chance (save negates) to stun the target for one round. 

Cat-Sith Cartographer - Clases of Eira Preview

Earlier I discussed the idea of race specific and how in my own development I am creating two to three classes per race in my setting. The following is one of the classes, however, I have not [for the moment at least] released the basics information for the race.

The Cartographer was an interesting creation in that at the same time I wanted to create something much like Indiana Jones and something unique in OSR settings. While I do not feel that was wholly successful in this I am pretty happy with the result.

This class is open for players but not for publication in other places as it is intended for the setting I am developing. However, if anyone wants to use the cat-sith in their home games then by all means please do. I only ask that you tell me how the class performed.

Cat-Sith Cartographer

The Cat-Sith Cartographer is, as the name implies, an explorer and artist who strives to map the whole Eira. From the Highlands to the Coasts and the deepest dungeons and caves.  For the Cat-Sith Cartographer the journey is the goal and one cannot stay in any place for too long.

Like their Fili brothers the Cat-Sith Cartographer's main duty in the world is to explore and discover new places and to make those places know to others through their maps. As such, Cat-Sith Cartographers are often seen in the company of adventurers, mercenaries and merchants as they seek new places to map. Likewise, many organizations and people search out the Cat-Sith Cartographers due to their extensive knowledge of Eira and library of maps.

The Cat-Sith Cartographer can gain levels past the fifth unlike the Cat-Sith fighter or Thief; however, their progression begins to slow after the sixth level. The Cat-Sith Cartographer is proficient with leather armor, bows, crossbows, short swords and whips.

Table 4: Cartographer Advancement

Hit Dice
Saving Throw
+ 107,200

The Cat-Sith Cartographer has several class specific abilities that are unique to the Cat-Sith Cartographer and her place in the world.
Table 5: Cartographer Abilities

Open Locks
Mind Map
Read Magic Script

Alert: Being always on the lookout for new or secret places, the Cat-Sith Cartographer receives a +1 bonus to all saving throws involving ambushes and surprise attacks. This bonus, while not available to others in the Cartographer's company, does impart the benefit of a successful save to all in the company.

Open Locks:  In order to properly map the world and all of its secret places the Cat-Sith Cartographer needs to be able to get into places that she may otherwise not be able to get into.

Mind Map: With a little thought and effort of will the Cat-Sith Cartographer can perfectly recall the layout of any place they have already been for a short amount of time. On a successful roll, the Cartographer can perfectly recall the layout of her current location for 1d6 minutes.

North: The Cat-Sith Cartographer always knows in which direction North is even in the deepest pits of a dungeon or the furthest shores of the Eternal Lands.

Read Magic Script: Many of the oldest maps and field guides in Eira were written by the Magi, Wizards and Jinxes of the time. As such many of these items are written in the secret language of magic. Through years of study the Cat-Sith Cartographer has learned how to decipher these ancient magical languages and use them in her quest to map and reveal the lands of Eira. While the Cartographer can read magical script she cannot cast spells or the like which the magical script contains.

Track:  Sometimes to map the world a good Cartographer needs to be able to follow others to places that the Cartographer has never seen. The tracking ability of the Cartographer allows her, on a successful roll, follow the tracks of a target over normal terrain. 

OVA: I am promoting a non-OSR Kickstarter!

To be quite honest this game does not in any shape, way or means need to be promoted. It is already at 1,200% of goal, so this is a successful game. The reason I'm promoting this game is that it looks slick! Just based on the 3 free character books that the publisher has issued over at the Kickstarter show a game with easy to learn rules, a fast combat style and a fun system that enables so many possibilities.

To me, this game encompasses what BESM was really trying to do in the late 90s/early 2000s. Essentially the game is a dice pool system, with modifiers adding or subtracting from the total amount of dice that the player can use. These rolls can be further augmented by "drama dice" pulled from your endurance. However, your endurance is vital to ... well, living, so it adds a bit of a danger element to the game as well as up the "Nose bleeds" of trying to hard in anime and comics.

Anyway, OVA seems to have some real potential to create the fast moving realms of anime and manga.

Now, that being said, remember, "Record of Lodoss War" was born from Basic D&D and a love of Lord of the Rings.

More to come later but I wanted to share this one.

On Spell Components

Before I begin, I must once again stress that I never or rarely play a spellcasting class. When I do, it is typically a Bard or a Cleric. As such there exist aspects of the typical arcane spellcaster that I do not understand and, given my reluctance to play as one, probably never will understand. One of these things I do not understand are the need for magical components to help a spellcaster facilitate his or her ability to cast spells.

When it comes to magic, I come from the Pulp/Urban Fantasy style of magic. That is, that magic is a natural part the caster, they may need a focus (as in the Dresden Files were words and wands aren’t needed but help the human mind with magic from a psychological perspective) or a sacrifice (as in the Mercy Thompson/Alpha & Omega series’) to draw the magic to the caster.  In my own creation I have used the idea of self-sacrifice in the Blood Witch to act as the agent that facilitates magic.

So it is with the Pulp and Urban Fantasy ideas that I typically draw a logical reason as too why there needs to be components and as such typically don’t require physical components in the games I run. However, they are a part of the rules and as such I need to ask, why?

From a game design perspective I can understand the need for components as they act as a further check and limiting balance to the spellcaster as it requires the search for or purchase of materials to facilitate and manifest his or her casting. From a player or even a reading perspective it is a rather boring and cumbersome mechanic that depending on the referee could make playing the spellcaster a complete chore unless the player creates what would essentially be Batman’s utility belt.

So the question then becomes, if the component mechanic exists to operate as a further check and balance to the spellcasting class, then how could that mechanic be removed without taking away the purpose of the mechanic? I would like to think, however, that components were never meant as a further check and balance but rather as a way to inject some flavor, possible storytelling or even excitement into a situation. Unfortunately, I have rarely seen the use of components as anything but a waste of money on the part of the player and treated as nothing more than an after thought by referees.

To answer my earlier question though, what would work as a check and balance in the place of components? One thing I have been playing with in my daughter’s game is something I’m calling rune-casting.  Rune-casting requires an additional amount of d6 depending on the level of the spell (1d6 for level 1 spells and so on). In game the character must visually create a rune with the motions of their hands, out of game they need to reach a target number on their d6 to successfully cast the spell, even if they rolled their to-hit high enough.  So then the d20 would be the ability to successful manifest the spell, the d6 (rune-casting) would be the effectiveness of the spell brought to mind.

It is still a work in progress and honestly something I stole from a d6 fantasy game was creating but abandoned a few years ago.
So then, how about all of you out there? Do spell components figure into your games or are they a forgotten element? If they are used, how?

Darkholm Keep – Places of Azure Marsh Preview

Darkholm Keep – Places of Azure Marsh Preview

The Following is a preview of the lost dwarven clan, The Dark-Irons, home in the Forest of Eternal Night. It will feature in rumors and possible side-quests in a lot of the Eira material I’m making. Especially the Azure March/Mad Magus adventure I am slowly crafting.

To that existent, the information posted here are more or less my notes on the Keep as they currently exist. Not everything is done (I have a single cross section of the keep proper on a napkin for instance) and some information is likely to change.

I haven’t posted anything on Genius Loci yet about how Dwarves (a mythological/folklore creature of Northern and Eastern Europe) fits into a world that is primarily based on Celtic and Welsh mythology and folklore.

If any internet Indiana Jones types want to find a little of dwarves in Eira I posted a bit on them in the +Swords & Wizardry Discussion a while back. However, I’m planning on posting a revised version with more information in about a week.

Background of Darkholm:

When the Dwarves first came to Eira from beyond the Eastern Sea, they divided into fourteen clans. Nine stayed on the shores of the Eastern Sea. Building fortresses and walls to protect their new homeland from the unspoken evil they ran from.

Four built great mines in the mountains in the west, beyond the Forest of Eternal Night. For these clans came the ore, stone and precious stones to which the Dwarves gained their wealth and lands.

The fourteenth clan, The Dark-Irons built a Keep deep in the forest of Eternal Night to build and watch the roads between the mountains and coasts.

Over time, and as the Dwarven people became more a part of Eira, the Dark-Irons expanded their roads and their patrols on previous existing ones. For all but dwarves a small fee was demanded to use the Dark-Iron roads or too build near them. The toll and building fees increased the wealth of the Dark-Irons, and these funds were used to better the roads improve Darkholm Keep and delve deeper under the Forest of Eternal Night.

Despite their wealth, despite the fact that the Dark-Irons made themselves a needed part of commerce and trade on Eira, they hated their dependence on the mountain clans for their ore and the coastal clans for their food. So, as their wealth increased the Dark-Irons dug under the Forest of Eternal Night as they searched for metal and precious stones. Deep they went under the forest and at the same time, they began to clear land around the keep and building farms so as not to be dependant on the Coastal and Mountain clans.

For three hundred years the Dark-Irons watched and maintained the roads of Eira near the western highlands. For two hundred they supplied their own metals and food. One hundred years ago, the last patrol of Iron-Beards was seen on the road between Azure Marsh and the Forest of Eternal Night.

For the last hundred years no one has seen a Dark-Iron Dwarf. Their roads decay at a speed that Magus’ and Ardents alike say is unnatural and envoys and warriors from both the Coastal and Mountain Dwarves have never returned from their quest to seek out the cause of The Dark-Irons disappearance.
Legend of Darkholm

Their have been many stories told of what happened to the Dark-Iron Dwarves. These are just a few local legends of the fate of the Dark-Irons from Azure Marsh and a few of the other communities surrounding Loch Sevel.

  1. In their search for more wealth and self sufficiency, the dwarves dug too deep into the land, cut down one too many trees. The Forest of Eternal Night, always said to be truly alive was angered by the Dwarves destructive ways. The very roots of the forest came up and swallowed the whole of Darkholm and the Dark-Irons into the earth. It is the forest’s anger that even now destroys the roads the Dark-Irons built.
  2. The Dwarves bared a disguised Eira from travel on their road. As punishment for their behavior the Goddess trapped them all in their Keep and ripped Darkholm into the dark lands beyond the Eternal Lands. It is said that once a year, Eira takes pity on the dwarves and that the keep reappears in its old home. However, none can leave the fortress; just see the world their greed stripped them of. 
  3. The Iron-Beard, leader and first of the Dark-Irons, lost his mind in his bid for more power through study of ancient Un-Sidhe texts found deep under the forest. According to this legend The Iron-Beard himself, stripped life away from his people to fuel his insane ambitions, and using his power attempted to dominate the living mind of the Forest of Eternal Night. However, his magics failed him and trapped him and his undead clan in between Eira and the Eternal Lands. It is said that Darkholm keep appears and disappears randomly in different locations within the Forest of Eternal Night. The Lich Lord, formerly The Iron-Beard, sits upon his throne waiting for his chance to once more make the power of the forest his.
  4. It is whispered among the Coastal and Mountain Dwarves that the evil they ran from across the Eastern Sea, attacked and destroyed the Dark-Irons.


That is pretty much all I have right now. The biggest problem I’ve been running into in the creation of this adventure is that my mind will always come up with more stuff and I end up getting lost in all the “extras”.  As of now this “alpha” version of Darkholm take more room than either the “Mad Magus’s Tomb” adventure or my Classes of Eira books.

Vacation incoming.

A quick heads up from my phone.

On the way to a short vacation with the family. Wife will be taking the phone away when I get there. Updates on Eira, musings on OD&D and retroclones and Star Trek stuff will return on Thursday.

Oh and I've been watching Torn Uprising. Be prepared.

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