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Warcraft Resources for D&D 5e

Man, this is one of those projects I just look at and think "Did I really do all of this?" I've definitely got lost in this do...

Friday, August 3, 2018

Heroes of Silvermoon, Chapter 3: Phoenix Sorcery

Contents:

  1. The Cultist
  2. Arena Games
  3. Phoenix Sorcery

The Tale of the Heroes of Silvermoon

Chapter 3: Phoenix Sorcery

After a couple of days of travel, Gorthuk, Nysae, Ari, and Cristoff reached Vandermar Village, eager for rest. As they were entering the town, they heard the sounds of chase and ruckus from one of the streets. A human man dressed in green clothing, whom the party identified as the street performer who had been playing shell games, ran into them and begged them to hide him, promising a reward. The group took the man into the inn, where he shed his magical disguise and revealed himself to be a handsome high elf with burn scars along his arms and neck. He revealed that his real name was Xilmar Dawnheart, but that he had been masquerading as a street performer to earn money in town. To some of the group members more familiar with Julian, Xilmar's name rang a bell—soon, they realized that Xilmar and Julian knew each other quite well, and had gone to school together at the Dalaran Academy of Magic. Julian had worked hard to get good marks, but Xilmar had been empowered by a phoenix in his youth and found magic effortless, so he had spent most of his time pranking Julian and other hard workers. He was now an expert forger in Silvermoon with the nickname "Xil the Quill."

The town guard was searching frantically for Xilmar, who admitted that he had stolen a wand from a visiting wizard in town named Wealis. He acknowledged that the group was weary for travel, but asked if they wouldn't mind escorting him out of town northward, toward his hometown of Silvermoon City, in the county of Quel'thalas. He himself wanted to go there to have his wand identified, hoping that it held power to protect him from his own flames, but after listening to his charismatic descriptions of fame and wealth available in the city, the group agreed to accompany him. Gorthuk tried to get more information about how much of a bounty was placed on Xilmar's head, but in doing so, because of his orcish appearance, he stood out and shed suspicion on the party.

The party hiked a few miles north of town and set up camp off the side of the road. Xilmar got to know the group more and talked about his history with fire magic, infused into his body by a phoenix. He had stolen Wealis's wand after hearing that it held the secret of burn immunity, something that he often suffered from because of his fascination with fire magic. In the middle of the night, a group of thugs seeking the bounty of Xilmar discovered them and ambushed the camp. The group fought most of them, but soon, Wealis himself appeared and confronted the group. The combination of Gorthuk's suspicious investigation and a spell to track down the wand had rendered Xilmar's disguises useless. In anger, Wealis cast a powerful spell against the party. As the night sky lit up with a raging fire storm, Xilmar pulled out Wealis's wand and waved it, hoping it would save him from the flames. Instead, he and the group felt a ripping sensation as the world swirled before them...

*  *  *

The group awoke in darkness. Along with two of the surviving thugs who had been transported with them, they began to look around for some kind of direction as to where they were. One by one, the thugs were pulled into the darkness and devoured. Eventually, by the light of Xilmar's fire, they discovered shadowy creatures lurking in the darkness, as well as displacer beasts. They fought the creatures, then in desperation wandered into a dark forest. Soon, they came upon a splendid mansion. Hearing the howls of creatures in the darkness, they entered for shelter.

They met a vampire named Sergei, who explained that they had somehow come through a dimensional gate into a plane called the Shadowfell. Familiar with Wealis's name, he offered to help them, and even to identify Xilmar's wand, if they made a deal to help him in return to retrieve a "special" vampire spawn from a rival vampire named Drakul. After resting uneasily in the dark mansion, the group set off east toward a town Sergei had directed them to. Eventually they found the dark town of Ruka Gibeli, where they found a bustling slave trade and many different dark races, including drow and doppelgangers. They also saw races of their own kin, though they noticed that everyone around them seemed to be drained of all their color from being exposed to the Shadowfell's energies for so long.

They disguised themselves as best as they could and tried to gather information. They learned that Drakul, whom the citizens of the town called Drake, was the richest and most powerful political leader of the city. They also learned that vampires command vampire spawn that they themselves have taken control of. Eventually, they met Drake in his estate, where he made a living trading slaves from among the other planes. They tried to learn more about the so-called "special" vampire spawn, and discovered that it was a demon that Drake was proud to say he had infected with vampirism and claimed as one of his spawn—the first to do so. Even he was unsure of the demon vampire's power. What was most interesting to the group was that the spawn was a child.

The group snuck around the estate, trying to find Drake's weakness, or perhaps his coffin so that they could plan a way to kill him in his sleep. Eventually, they discovered in Drake's basement an imprisoned phoenix that still had its color. Xilmar, with his love of phoenixes as the source of his sorcerous power, was furious and returned later to free the phoenix. Unfortunately, Drake caught them and attacked. Rejuvenated by the adventurers, the phoenix helped them destroy Drake, and they escaped through a tunnel back to Sergei's mansion with the demon vampire child, removing a necklace around his neck that seemed to be controlling him. They also managed to loot some of Drake's personal magic items for their own use.

Its leader now vanquished and his power seat up for grabs, Sergei immediately gathered his forces to assault and take over Ruka Gibeli. Sergei revealed that Drake/Drakul had been Sergei's spawn once, and he had regretfully let him free only to be betrayed. With his vengeance now taken, he could take the city back. He informed Xilmar that the wand held no power against fire, despite rumors—it was merely a wand that opened portals to the Shadowfell. He kept the wand, but gifted the party some gold for their trouble.

The portal was only powerful enough to allow five passage to the Material Plane, so Gorthuk decided to stay for now, as he himself had been resistant to the Shadowfell's dark energies because of his dark divine powers and wanted the phoenix, now in its human form, to pass back to its home plane. The group bid their half-orc friend goodbye, and stepped through the portal back home...

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Poem: "A Seasoned Part of the Country"

I normally hate free verse poetry, but I forgot I wrote this and how decently written it is, theme-wise and in terms of diction, metaphors, and flow.


A Seasoned Part of the Country
by Austin Ballard

It’s a fact in anyone’s book
That iced roads can swipe an unwary tire
And direct its path to a ditch
(The place every driver dreads).
I have furrowed a disgruntled brow, too,
When the thick, heavy flakes
Pile up like bricks on a wall
To blockade my shoveled driveway once more.
And yes, even when winter is over,
The trickling, drippy brown water
May seep and soak the dead grass,
Forming flat heaps that linger to the last.
All this while we stay inside,
With wet gloves, sick of hot cocoa
And weary of making snowmen,
Bored, and longing for the color green.

Such are the common laments in this town,
And they are valid.
But yet my address stays the same, and I imagine the pitiful opposite.
In other places, to the south or southeast,
—What a pity—the children know not the color white.
Just ice in iceboxes, snow on the old T.V. screen,
And water trickling out as sweat,
With nothing but sweltering more or less to look forward to.
At least I, in my chilly basement,
Can look forward to a change greater than mere temperature:
A revolving wheel of colors, smells, and pastimes;
Rather than just dripping with sweat or pool water day in and day out.



Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Heroes of Silvermoon, Chapter 1: The Cultist & Chapter 2: Arena Games

I recently switched jobs (from editing to coding! Woo hoo!), and possibly my only disappointment in doing so is leaving the first D&D group I was a part of, the weekly group I started with my coworkers about a year and a half ago. It was a slow storyline, since we only played for one hour a week during a lunch break, except for half a handful of outside-work home sessions. The campaign itself was extremely dynamic, since after each story arc, we switched the DM. It allowed the story to grow organically (albeit disjointedly), while giving each of us a chance to learn both DMing and PCing skills.

To preserve the story for my own enjoyment (and hopefully yours as well), below is a summary of the entire campaign of the Heroes of Silvermoon, from start to finish. I should note that I began the campaign in a Warcraft setting, and we later changed it back to a generic D&D setting since later DMs didn't know Warcraft lore, so there are some elements based on Warcraft names that stuck before the change and were kept in the story.

Contents:

  1. The Cultist
  2. Arena Games
  3. Phoenix Sorcery

The Tale of the Heroes of Silvermoon

Chapter 1: The Cultist

Three heroes made their way to a barely-hidden doorway in the cliffside of the mountains north of Vandermar Village. The most talkative of the bunch was a high elf dressed a bit dandily, with a ponytail, tight trousers, and a coat with tails. With him was a human with very short hair, scarred skin, a large greatsword, and a holy symbol of the god Ilmater hung around his neck. The third was a beast of a creature—an eight-foot-tall minotaur wearing monk's vestments and wielding an immense log as a weapon.

The heroes broke into the doorway and found themselves in a cultist's hideout. They had followed the cultist's tracks from Vandermar after Vandermar's mayor, Faustus, had asked them for help dealing with what appeared to be a grave robber. After fighting some ghouls and finding some crates of skeletons that came to life when the heroes drew close, they trapped the cultist in his bed chambers. With a burst of determination and good luck, the elf, Julian Lightwalker, blasted the cultist with a well-aimed fire bolt, and the human paladin, Cristoff, finished him off by running him through with his sword before the cultist had a chance to act. With his dying breath, the cultist murmured "My life for Ner'zhul..." At that moment, the green pendant on the cultist's neck glowed brightly, and a minotaur skeleton on the table in the room's eyes glowed the same color. The skeletal beast rose from the table and attacked.

The skeletal abomination nearly killed the adventurers, but with quick thinking, the minotaur monk, Carne, smashed the cultist's pendant, and the skeletal minotaur fell to the ground, dead for good. They looted the room and lit everything of no value on fire, then left. Among the things they found were a letter written to a mysterious cultist leader named "Azulius," and Julian pocketed the cultist's holy symbol to Ner'zhul, deciding to use it as an arcane focus. Secretly, he had studied necromancy at the arcane academy in Dalaran, a forbidden art. He intended to show his teachers that they were wrong—that necromancy could be used for good. Hopefully this pendant would be able to help his powers in the school grow.

Chapter 2: Arena Games

They made their way back to Vandermar Village, where Faustus congratulated them and rewarded them for their work. He directed them to an awkward iron merchant named Eloy, who hired them to help him escort a cart of iron ore through a dangerous part of the woods. They agreed to set off the next day. Before they left, a mysterious street performer played a shell game with them, singling Julian out, and sold Julian some suspiciously cheapr health potions. During the party's journey with the iron merchant, they stopped to confront a group of gnolls who intended to waylay the party. In the middle of their battle, the entire group was ambushed and captured by trolls. Only Eloy escaped.

The trolls took them on a day-long journey to an ancient stone arena deep in the middle of troll territory, owned by a greedy troll named Bloodstone. The trolls took Carne away, and he was never seen again, but the others were enslaved as gladiators in the arena. Julian immediately proved to be a nuisance to the guards, insulting them and repeatedly calling a particularly sensitive troll "small." Despite Cristoff's efforts to rally the other prisoners to rebel, they had seen the power of the troll guards and didn't budge. What was more, children were being held in the arena, and the prisoners feared sparking the trolls' wrath and putting them in danger.

The group fought together with a grisly orc cleric named Gorthuk, who had strange voodoo pins thrust into his shoulders and reeked of death. They didn't know at the time, but this orc was Gorthuk Spinebreaker the Defiler, an orc of a hundred years of age who had killed with such bloodthirst and cruelty that the voodoo god Bwonsamdi enslaved him as a grave cleric, preventing him from dying until he had atoned for his savagery and learned the value of life.

The troll guards eventually grew tired of Julian's insolence, and one day they beat him unconscious in the cell as an example to the other inmates and confiscated his arcane focus to limit his spellcasting. Despite their show of strength, the inmates heard through Gorthuk's translation (he could speak Troll) that the guards were nervous of Bloodstone's ambition—he planned to transport a demon of the Abyss to do battle at the arena, something much stronger than anything that the combatants had fought before.

The demon arrived during one of the party's battles. The trolls hurriedly interrupted the battle and escorted the prisoners inside, as it became clear the demon had broken free from his restraints and was attacking the arena's guards. Guards went up for reinforcements, but due to Julian's goading, their cell's guards stayed put. Julian's classmate Jai'nora charmed one of the troll guards just as the other could take Julian's lip no longer and lunged to kill him. Though Julian was knocked unconscious, the rest of the prisoners were filled with courage seeing their captors' fear of the demon and all fought as one against the guard. After stealing some weapons and subduing the troll, Cristoff beheaded it, and freed the remaining prisoners.

Some prisoners went to go free the children, while others scrambled to get out of the arena, which was now collapsing from the conflict above. Julian and Jai'nora went to clear the way out through the way they came, while the paladin and cleric went to help with the rescue effort. Though the efforts of Cristoff and Gorthuk were successful, a collapse of the ceiling split the party. Julian and Jai'nora battled a troll and Jai'nora was beaten unconscious. The healing potion Julian had bought from the street charlatan did very little to help. Apparently it had been greatly watered down.

Meanwhile, Cristoff and Gorthuk made their way to the menagerie to exit the arena from the other exit. The menagerie had collapsed, killing most of the animals inside meant for fighting. They grouped up with a moon elf hunter named Nysae, who had come to the menagerie to save her pet wolf, Luna. With Nysae's and Luna's help, Gorthuk and Cristoff killed the gnolls who had stopped them in their journey and made their way to the arena floor up above. They dodged past some giant bestial lizards and a hippogriff and reunited with Julian, just as he was about to be eaten by timber wolves who had broken free from the menagerie. They encountered a young man named Ari, who was lifting coins off the bodies of the fallen.

On their way out, they noticed the source of the chaos—a hulking fel guard demon, who was battling Bloodstone. Exhausted and beaten, the group decided to take the coward's way and flee. They watched the battle from a distance as Bloodstone succeeded in taking his prize alive and subduing the demon. Rather than rush in and kill the sick troll who had enslaved children and would likely continue to capture others to feed his arena beast, they decided to leave. The only ones who decided to go back were Ari and Gorthuk. Ari began to loot the corpses of those the demon had killed, and Gorthuk began to, as was part of his oath to Bwonsamdi, mark them with his ritual dagger and preserve them from undeath. As they were doing this, the slavemaster of the trolls rushed out and attacked. They managed to convince him that they weren't worth the trouble and that the arena was crippled enough as it was having lost all its fighters. The slavemaster reluctantly let them go, though he promised that the arena would rise again in its greatness.

Jai'nora had managed to swipe a scroll of teleportation from the wreckage of the arena, which could teleport one more person along with her. Julian volunteered, and the two teleported to their home city of Silvermoon while the others pressed on.

Nysae, due to her knowledge of the woods, was able to navigate the remaining adventurers on their way safely back to Vandermar...

Thursday, June 7, 2018

The Princess Bride Hearthstone Cards


I noticed no one had ever done this, so I figured I might as well give it a shot. I'm no great player, so I imagine the balance on the cards is pretty bad, both for being overpowered and underpowered. I mostly just tried to cover a range of Hearthstone effects while staying true to the characters in the movie. Feel free to mouse over the cards to hear my reasoning behind the card's design.



Friday, June 1, 2018

The World of Hearth

With the start of my very first and very amazing weekly D&D group, I decided to make a new world for it to take place in. This is mainly because a) I have very little knowledge of and interest in the geography of the Forgotten Realms (which D&D canonically takes place in), b) Argaenothruzil is dated and unrealistic, c) the World of Warcraft would be a bit too limiting on creativity (and I want to use the creatures found in the Monster Manual without having to reskin them), and d) I wanted to exercise the techniques explained in the worldbuilding chapters of the 5th edition of the Dungeon Master's Guide. As I started to create a world from the ground up, I came up with a few key goals for my new world:

  1. To make a unique, open, explorable world with endless adventure potential for future games
  2. To base the framework of my world off of one I was already familiar with (in this case, Azeroth) to propel my creativity foreward
  3. To make a simple and memorable world that didn't require too much "name inventing" on my part that was easy for players not too well versed in fantasy to feel comfortable in
  4. To make a world that feels unlike earth in as many ways as possible without making the world too confusing

The World as a Whole

First things first, let me show you the world map I've created so far using the online tool Inkarnate:
As you can see, there are no place names like Y'loth or Eresumbardia (except one, Alymiere, which was created by a player). As fun as those names are, they're a bit hard to remember sometimes and require you to write them down and everything, and I want the players to be able to keep them straight more easily. Hence, each continent is named after its position in the world so they can easily be told apart, and each nation has a name created by my Place Name Generator I programmed. 

As for the name of the world itself, on this I actually did quite a bit of thinking. As I've said before, it doesn't realistically make a ton of sense to name a world something arbitrary like Azeroth or Exandria. By definition, the earliest base inhabitants of a world likely were not smart enough to know that they were even on a "world" to begin with, so the entirety of existence as they knew it (i.e., the earth as opposed to the sky above it or the unexplored world beneath it) would have a very basic, familial name. Hence, for my earth, I decided upon the intimate, homey, and yet coincidentally phonetically similar name Hearth.

My current game takes place in Southkeep, specifically in the region of Cloudstone, so it's the only continent I've fleshed out so far. I want the world to be dynamic and evolve on its own, so not everywhere will have mountain ranges and stuff for a while. I wanted to make my world stand out among others, so rather than having a "frozen north," I made my main continents sprawl a southern hemisphere where the farther south you go, the colder it gets. As for the hex grid, I may change this slightly later, but I'm thinking each hex represents about 30 miles. That may seem a little small, which I want to avoid (after calculating the size of Argaenothruzil's entire continent, I realized its entire geographic area was the size of Montana), but realism has a limit, so I'm not going to worry too much about that.

The Nations of Hearth


As I mentioned earlier, I based Hearth off of Azeroth, which you can somewhat see in its basic geography (though Northgarde will be a jungled and desert island rather than a frozen continent like Northrend—the southern continent of Deepshiver will take its place), but the first thing I came up with was actually the nations of the world, not its topography. I based the primary human nations on the nations of Warcraft II, and even matched their banner colors. This helped me quickly establish a
The coat of arms of the nation
of Cloudstone, lorded over by
king Adelard the Angeltouched.
living political world without having to think too much about them. Cloudstone (based on Stormwind) is a religious, independent region that is relatively peaceful in terms of politics and is a welcoming hub for all types of races and a great place for adventures to start. Skytower is based on Dalaran, the floating city where magic is studied, which provides a great place to house wizards, magic item creators, and other things that could be useful and interesting to players. The Sundershore Isles are based on the seafaring nation of Kul Tiras. Highfield is loosely based on the treacherous kingdom of Alterac, but I used that characteristic to instead make it a crime-run nation in Westweald and the source of international thieves' guilds.

For the other nations, realms, and kingdoms, I decided to base them on the available races in D&D. There are cities for hill dwarves (Greenhammer), mountain dwarves (Quarrymarch), and duergar (Undergate); high elves (Amberhaven), wood elves (Goldenvale), and drow (Ravenmoon), and minor cities for other races, such as the tinker town of Cogswarren for rock gnomes. I also decided to open up some options for the players by creating "moon elves," which are drow that do not live underground and are not evil—I feel like including that as a playable race in the game but making them practically un-roleplayable was kind of a miss for D&D.

Anyway, all of these nations are loosely based on the nations of Azeroth, but I'm sure that as the game goes on and players explore the world, the nations will gain personalities and histories of their own. That's the beauty of D&D, and of creativity in general. Once something is created and nestled into a narrative cradle, it gains a spirit and personality all its own that no one creator would have dreamed of.

This is the initial map of the Cloudstone region I'm starting my players at. I have basic conflicts and personalities for each town, but just like the regions, I'm sure each town will grow on its own to be different, unique, and (hopefully) memorable and distinguishable for my players. And I can't wait to zoom even closer in to Cloudstone City itself and map out its districts, wards, and landmarks within the actual city walls!

Making Hearth Come to Life


In order to give Hearth the feel of a living, breathing world, I'm putting effort into changing things that we take for granted in our daily lives. For example, the days of the week are not Sunday through Saturday. They are:
  1. Dawnday
  2. Mornday
  3. Starsday
  4. Midweek
  5. Thundersday
  6. Duskday
  7. Satyrday
Admittedly, this strays slightly away from my desire to simplify the game, but I think as long as I don't overdo stuff like this, it should be more of a benefit than a drawback. An example of simplifying can be seen in how I made Hearth's calendar. Not only are the months of the year different in name, but the calendar as a whole is structured differently. There are twelve months, but each has exactly 28 days (4 weeks each), and twice a year are two holiday weeks that do not belong to any particular month. Starting with what we would call February, Hearth has:
  1. Mudmonth
  2. Swiftmonth
  3. Greenmonth
  4. Thricemilk
  5. Earlymild
    • Midsummer
  6. Latermild
  7. Weedmonth
  8. Harvestmonth
  9. Wintermoon
  10. Bloodmonth
  11. Earlyfest
    • Midwinter
  12. Laterfest
I've been waiting to use these for a while. These I didn't make up—they are in fact the names that Anglo-Saxons used for the months of the year before the Roman calendar came along. Keeping time is something I'm going to take seriously as a Dungeon Master so that things like seasons, holidays, and other aspects of the game can be important to the story. I want my players to look forward to future events, make plans for celebrating Midsummer, and plan around things like precipitation and temperature extremes while adventuring.

To a lesser extent (hopefully to a greater extent in the future), I hope to implement things like colloquialisms and slang that varies by region. These can all grow in time, of course, and I hope to utilize them to make regions feel like actual cultures.

Organizations, Guilds, and Factions


Just like I created ancestral regions and nations for each race, I also decided to base my creation of organizations on the existing classes in the game, as well as on some other ways to specialize. This way, different subclasses can feel like they're part of different groups of people with rivalries, differing (and possibly conflicting) goals. Since the group hasn't discovered the organizations yet, I haven't fleshed them out a ton, but I think once they do, it'll make things like assigning quests and story arcs a lot easier, since they'll have an organization they care about ask them to do something in exchange for prestige, higher ranks, or guild-specific rewards. I've also set up a 5-rank renown system, which I think could come with some awesome creative possibilities in the future. For example, what can a Champion of the Order of the Golden Rose do that a mere Squire can't?

Below are a sample of the organizations I've made for Hearth:
  • Order of the Black Sapphire: An order of conquest and vengeance paladins, clerics of war, and zealots bent on snuffing out evil and dispensing justice across the world. Headquartered in Emberstone.
  • Gearspinners' Union: An organization of tinkers and artificers who believe that technology will replace magic in Hearth someday. Created by the legendary arch-tinker Brymidaine Zecker.
  • Antlergrove Conclave: A neutral organization all druids belong to. They work on maintaining the balance of nature and often commune with the fey of the Dreamsummer. Paladins of the Oath of the Ancients, nature clerics, warlocks of archfey, and other classes are also welcome.
  • The Dirk: A widespread thieves guild that operates in smaller branches called "baldrics" across Hearth. Consists of thieves, assassins, trickery clerics, and swashbucklers/pirates.
  • Skytower Academy: An academy of magic with branches in large towns and cities with elven influence. All wizards who want to make a name for themselves are members, and eldritch knights, arcane tricksters, and arcane archers are often members as well.
  • Anathema Sect: A cult of neutral evil doomsayers who try to bring about the end of all creation by worshiping an ancient entity known as the Anathema. The bard College of Whispers and warlocks of the Great Old One belong to it.
The symbol for the Gearspinners' Union.
Worldspinner.com is pretty handy!
I've also (somewhat) simplified/cut down the planes (I call them realms) of existence of D&D for my game, but I feel like that matters a bit less since the planes are so abstract anyway. The one thing I wish I could do is create a pantheon of gods, but I feel like this is where the line between simplicity and "making the world feel alive" becomes a bit muddled; not to mention, I kind of feel like creating your own pantheon of gods is a bit self-indulgent. You're essentially making up who your player characters worship, which I don't like much. Hence the dilemma: No one unfamiliar with D&D will know who Ilmater or Gruumsh are, but everyone knows who Zeus, Thor, Loki, and Hermes are, so I decided—reluctantly—to just stick with the classic Norse, Greek, and possibly Egyptian deities as the gods of Hearth for now for simplicity's sake. In the future, I may at the very least give them nicknames based on their names' translations like I did with the months of the year (for example, Zeus could simply be called Skyfather), but since none of my current player characters are religious, this'll probably be put on the backburner for a while.

It's a pleasure to have something large-scale to create again! And this time with more knowledge of how to create realistically. I cringe now as I read Alfred Shortstaff and the Cavern of Time's weak and nebulous descriptions of the city of Ae'brinthil. Honestly, as a creative writer, I cannot recommend the 5th Edition Dungeon Master's Guide enough for understanding how medieval cities live, work, breathe, and function; as well as how you can make worlds stand out through customizing everything from the calendar to the currency (That's another thing I wish I could customize, calling coins speckings, slants, and temblems instead of copper pieces, silver pieces, and gold pieces, but again, that's where the simplicity line just probably shouldn't be crossed).

I'm also so glad that I can have all these resources I need, such as Evernote, Inkarnate, and Worldspinner, to make these resources so efficiently while retaining their creative integrity. The spark of creation burns!

Friday, May 11, 2018

Four Random Mini-Projects from the Past (and a Surge of Unexpected Nostalgic Gratitude)

What a rough year. So little free time, so much stress about finances, and so much hinging on my success in this coding certification. Luckily, the course is going good for the most part (I seem to learn by osmosis—even on days I don't pay attention I seem to soak in the knowledge and remember it later), we have WIC, and I just started a D&D group with my wife, my brother, and his wife. A weekly group! I couldn't be happier. Having something like that to look forward to each Wednesday night is a real buzz. Maybe I'll summarize their adventures on the blog every few weeks. It could be a fun thing to showcase, since I'm going to be doing a lot of worldbuilding for it.

Anyway, today I want to just dig up a few old projects from my past to showcase them for you. I found them while looking through old tablet boxes at my parents' house, and I gotta tell ya, those blasts from the past feel real nice. Honestly, one of the things that just keeps me going in life is seeing all the stuff I came up with as a kid. It gives me hope of having continual creativity in years to come.

Anyway, let's just get started or I'll never get around to actually finishing this post:

Mini-Project 1: Fatachu Pokémon Card


Truthfully, this barely even counts as a project, but it was funny to find and I remember it was a huge hit at my... let's see, junior high school by the look of my handwriting. I thought it was middle school since that's when Pokémon cards were big, but back then I wrote in all capitals. Regardless, my friends and even acquaintances all thought it was hilarious.

I looked real close at a Pokémon card of my own or my brother's and, as I am wont to do, I copied it very carefully and adapted it as my own. I doubt the attacks are balanced for cost, since I've never actually played a game of Pokémon cards in my life, but I do know Tackle doesn't normally paralyze, so I thought that was hilarious. The length and weight is an odd combination, obviously just made up on the spot, but it's actually really close to real sumo wrestler weights and heights, so that's kind of funny in retrospect.

Anyway, I wish there was more to say so that this text would fit on the side of the card without having to start a new section next to it, but that's about it. Fat Pokémon were a hit on the young teenage years comedy scale.



Mini-Project 2: Native American Quest

This is kind of a funny one. So, in Mr. Clifford's eighth grade history class, we were learning about Native American culture, and my friend Robert and I were paired up as a group for a project. I'm not quite sure who thought of it, but one of us decided it could be fun to have a sort of collaborative edutainment roleplaying puzzle map game activity session, where we would have the map (shown below) that the class could roleplay their way through in order to guide the main character through a Native American setting in order to figure out the way to... get to the end and... win? I guess?
The problem was (in retrospect), there was absolutely nothing at all Native American about it except for the setting, which was extremely loose. I mean, you can see tepees on the map and stuff, but I remember Robert creating encounters with finding an abandoned shield and other items that may be strictly fantasy Europe based. Oh, ha ha, I just noticed there's even an indicator for hit points in the corner. How cute.

Anyway, I think we got a good score on the project, but I just remember some people in the class just being flabbergasted at how geeky and pointless this was for them. And if I remember right (based on the Warcraft 3 adaptation of this game I made), there was a freaking cannon in the cave on the map that you had to secure to win somehow. Anyway, good times, weird memories.

Mini-Project 3: Dragon Cards

The dragons themselves that these cards are based on are more of a project than these cards are, since I had a tablet and even a WordPerfect story full of all the different types of dragons and even the types they could merge into written up. They were basically Pokémon, except dragons, which I was obsessed with in Sixth and Seventh grade (notice the all caps writing. Definitely from that era). There were dragons for all four elements, plus light and shadow dragons and psychic and "physical" dragons. They could all merge together into everything from sun dragons (fire + light) and ice dragons (water + air) to moon dragons (light + shadow) and mud dragons (water + earth). Given that card on the left of that sentient puddle, I'm guessing the dragons' early forms were elementals, and then they "evolved."

The attacks themselves look pretty dumb indeed... Some kind of "dragon tokens" you used to power your attacks like in Pokémon, but as I said earlier, I didn't know how that works. I'm guessing you'd be pretty hard pressed to be holding eleven tokens in your hand to power Meteour [sic] Attack. And 64 damage? That means a meteor wouldn't even be enough to kill a water dragon, as seen by its hit points. I dunno, my Battle Cards had a lot more promise than these things. And I wasn't expecting to talk so much about Pokémon in this entry.

Mini-Project 4: Teasy Wars

Have I seriously never talked about teasies on this blog? I should sometime. My brother and I invented them as little cartoon characters and we drew them all the time. They mined with little pickaxes, subsisted on mashed potatoes, and domesticated other tiny creatures. They were also really inventive, coming up with all kinds of interesting vehicles to pilot and cause mischief with.

This page is a colored remaster of an older version of this prospective game that I made somewhat earlier, but the premise was the same: Essentially, it was my own version of a strategy game, which I've always loved (and really miss currently! Is it just StarCraft 2 now and nothing else forever?). I used this project to compile all the ideas surrounding teasies I could "mine" from old drawings. The first teasy drawings were from long ago... I'd say when I was at most six or seven. When I was in junior high or so, I used those old drawings as creative resources for inspiration on how teasy culture might really be in a strategy sense. I'm particularly proud of the vehicles, because I could (eventually) find each and every one of those in an ancient childhood tablet somewhere, and you can tell I didn't make them up in my later years because of how lame they are: "Pow Planes" were so named because of the sound they made when they blasted something, and "BlastCO" is my attempt to vaguify what was, apparently, a device made by an actual industry devoted to blasting things. In other words, "Blast Company" (I think there was a (TM) symbol after it even). I think I made up TITAN, though, because that page didn't have a name for the giant teasy with a glass bubble for an eye that an actual teasy would pilot like a mech.

Resources

First off, there were a lot of resources the teasies would use in this game.
  • Potatoes were for the creation of teasy troops, and you can see the square icon representing this on the units' cost because they stored potatoes in drums or cans that they buried in caches in the ground.
  • Coconuts were rare and expensive delicacies, so the more "noble" or educated troops like pilots, barbarians, and priests needed those to be created.
  • Fish were fed to domesticated beasts.
  • Minerals were smelted down and forged into metal vehicles.
  • Grass was burned for fuel, but it seems to only be used for flying units. So maybe it was required to keep them airborne? I remember grass was also used as fuel to process raw potatoes into mashed potatoes, too.
  • Precious Stones were essentially just rare components that were needed to finance higher-tier buildings and units.
  • Prisoners/slaves were "harvested" by barbarians raiding enemy settlements, and transformed into Mamelukes (I got the word from Age of Empires II, which in the manual explained that they were slaves trained as warriors. It turns out "mameluke" or "mamluk" actually means slave, so I actually dodged a bullet with borrowing words there). The white counterparts to teasies were called "sibleys." There were also malformed, large white teasies with black eyes and white irises called "cobcows," which are really obscure and only mentioned once in my tablets, but I didn't decide to include them in the game.
  • Corpses were used to make necromantic Skull Warriors and Sky Eyes, and they were animated using the final resource, Coin Power.
  • Coin Power was also used to perform miracles or spells and to summon the ultimate warrior, the Teasy Angelic.
Coin power is a bit odd, because it comes from a single reference to an orange "teasy coin," which is apparently "any teasy's greatest possession." So I decided to make it have religious significance. In my mind, it was so cool: basically, you had a coin on a pedestal just sitting there flat, and then you'd click your priest and right click the coin, and he'd go over there and start chanting and waving his cane, and the coin would float into the air vertically and revolve slowly in place, radiating orange energy into the priest and adding to the value of how much you had. I'm sure that was currency for how much you could heal as well, probably.

Units

The units themselves pretty much all have significant origins in tablet lore, and even the different teasies themselves have interesting differences if you notice.
  • The worker has a small mining pick-like growth on his neck because, like ants, teasies are marked from birth as to what their duty in the community is.
  • I'm not so sure that farmers have a strong place in teasy lore... I seem to have gone somewhat "Age of Mythology dwarf vs. worker" on it. Perhaps I just wanted to showcase a teasy with buck teeth, which sometimes existed in older tablets.
  • Priests represent the "old man" figures found in a lot of old tablets. I think his single-lensed glasses, er, 'glass' is pretty funny. And is that a turban on his head? Oh, and it looks like he did have a specific spell that used Coin Power. The only problem is, AP could stand for either "attack points" or "armor points," and DP could be either "defense points" or "damage points." So it could literally either help defend at the cost of strength or vice versa.
  • I like the idea of pilots, which I wouldn't be surprised if they were inspired by the civilians on Starcraft that can operate battlecruisers on one of the levels. A lone pilot could operate a jet, Pow Plane, or TITAN, but it took three to operate a BlastCO.
  • Barbarians (and the Angelic) have tails, which is symbolic of strength. They are the ones that can knock out enemy sibleys and take them back to change into slaves. I do find it a bit odd that the sibley Mameluke doesn't have a tail, but maybe it's an enslaved worker or heck, maybe they cut off the enemy's tail once they capture them as a form of subjugation. That actually sounds reasonable.
  • Brick spiders, or as I think they would've been cooler called, "spider riders," are based on a crablike "brick spider" that I drew in one of my childhood drawings that was named because I used a "brick red" crayon. I think they had some kind of venom-spitting gland in the back, which is perhaps how the teasy riding it can dip its spear thingy to stay venomous.
  • I kid you not, I named that bird a kapow because it dived like a falcon and probably made that sound when it struck. Man, names were not my strong suit back then. I was probably inspired by phoenixes in its art, and its rider has a very similar helmet to the Warcraft III wind riders, which it's doubtless based on.
  • Hhhhh.... Let me explain what this unit is and then you'll understand why it's called a "yow." It's a dirt-brown porcupine-like creature with grasslike green spines on its back that likes to burrow into the ground, and is a hazard to be stepped on. Basically like a mobile mine. Almost certainly inspired by the sentinel units on the computer game Dark Colony, who also burrowed before they were useful.
  • Beastmasters aren't from anything at all. It's a ripoff of kodo beasts from Warcraft III. Shame on you, teen-Aust. That beast it's riding has no basis in all the lore of the planet Surtiss!
  • A lot of my ancient drawings had passing drawings of a pilot in a little jet plane wearing a flapping scarf and goggles just flying over the scene I had doodled.
  • I already explained Pow Planes and TITANs, sort of. As for the BlastCO, I remember having a fun idea that one of the pilots would push the vehicle from behind, and the other two would operate it. Judging by its original drawing, it would fire bright blue pulses of energy out of its cannons as the two (or three, I suppose) pilots pulled belfry ropes to fire them.
  • Skull warriors and sky eyes also have no basis in teasy lore, but I'll excuse it, because I genuinely wants to know sort of what teasy anatomy and skeletal structure would be like. I imagine that (possibly on a thinner scale), the skull warrior is pretty good attempt at depicting such a simple creature's skeleton. And the sky eye? Pretty much just a straight up Eye of Kilrogg.
  • Mamelukes are so ripped off from Age of Empires II. Not just in their name, but in their fighting style. The mamelukes on the game throw scimitars to fight, and it looks like this is an exact copy of that—it's even dressed like a Saracen. The only thing it's missing is a camel to ride.
  • The Teasy Angelic was a pretty cool image in my mind. In my head I imagined it descending from the sky during a desperate battle with sibleys at just the right moment, invoked by priests. Perhaps you needed multiple priests to summon it. I think I'd knock off the precious stone cost for it and just say that one of the victory conditions of the game was to amass enough Coin Power to summon one and win. Anyhow, it would descend, and slowly stomp along the ground killing enemy sibleys, and then it would aim its two-handed staff and fire beams of sunlight that would eradicate enemies in a single shot. It would feel like a cheat code, because if you spent that much time collecting five hundred Coin Power, it should be worth it. Three minutes is actually quite a duration if you think about it. But if it moves slowly, I don't know.
It's always a pleasure to look back on the past. I don't know why, but I've been nostalgic lately. It seems like my nostalgic personality has taken a back seat in the past few years. I'm not sure why. I guess one factor is that time seems to be accelerating constantly. The days fly by, even though they're long ones of full-time work and three hours of school each morning. It's already almost summer, for heaven's sake. The holidays fly by, each Christmas that comes feels almost like just a Saturday. It's like years are the new week for me as an adult.

That's partially a good thing—I don't get as sad leaving my parents' house after a vacation because I know that I'll be there again really soon. I'm also just filled with gratitude constantly, which is a blessing. I feel like I personally have experienced so much good and happiness even in the 29 years I've been on earth. I hope this isn't prophetic, but if I died on the way home from work after publishing this article, in a personal sense I would be satisfied. I've experienced so much that there is to life: a loving family, a fun-filled and engaging childhood, love, parenthood, religious enlightenment, satisfaction of progress, laughter, fun, excitement, fulfillment, and joy in the small things of life.

I've written and published a finished book. I've made over 100 color comic strips. I've started and found joy in scores of projects. I've DMed games of D&D. I've watched the entire series of Critical Role one and a half times. I was alive to watch the Homestarrunner videos as they came out, and I got to see the Warcraft movie in theaters. I was a 90s kid who got to watch Saturday morning cartoons. I got to go to Brazil for two years and learn to speak Portuguese fluently. I've gotten to try so many delicious foods and experience so many fun places. I've heard so many beautiful and stimulating forms of music. I've ridden roller coasters, gone down water slides, hiked and camped in the mountains, made love, gone to college, flown in airplanes, gone water skiing, known and lost children and grandparents, and learned to code.

Sure, I get down sometimes, and I've got a bucket list of things to do, like see Stonehenge in person and go to Medieval Times someday, but I can't believe how many things I've done that so many people throughout history, and even in the world today, will never get to do. Sure, I hate the 2010s and miss the 90s and 2000s, but who cares if the future doesn't look bright if you've already had a wonderfully bright past?

I definitely wasn't expecting to do this on this particular blog post (added to the title: "and a surge of unexpected nostalgic gratitude"), but I just want to gratefully thank God for my past, my present, and my future. Any person in the world would be lucky to have experienced half of the things I have in my 29 years.

Thanks for reading my blog! And in case I do die on the way home from writing this, I want this song to be played at my funeral.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Knight Guy 5e


Hey, I just for kicks and giggles felt like adapting Knight Guy to D&D 5e. I tend to resort to spending free time adding to my D&D 5e Tables project, and after I finally resumed Knight Guy, this was a natural consequence. I may add to this in the future.

Humdring
Weapon (longsword), very rare

This +1 longsword automatically attunes to you the moment you speak directly to it after killing a creature with it. It does not count against the other items you are attuned to, and you cannot break the attunement unless Humdring wills it or unless you cast a greater restoration or remove curse spell on it.
While you are attuned to it, the sword acts as a +2 longsword. On a critical hit, the target's AC is reduced by -2 until the end of your next turn, and its damage resistances (if any) are suppressed for this duration. Against evil or chaotic creatures (who are clearly acting in accordance with their alignment), you can choose to make a rune attack with Humdring. You make the attack with advantage, and on a hit, the target takes an additional 3d10 force damage. Humdring regains the ability to do this again daily at dawn. During this time, Humdring falls asleep.
Humdring is a sentient weapon of lawful neutral alignment. It can speak, understand, and read all languages and has hearing and darkvision out to 120 feet. It has 16 Charisma, 18 Intelligence, and 12 Wisdom. Humdring is convinced that he is a hero's sword, and demands to be treated as such, being placed in a heroic scabbard, presented and worn proudly, and wielded by someone courageous who seeks to kill evildoers and protect the weak. While you are attuned to Humdring, it can communicate telepathically with you as long as you are on the same plane of existence, and it can hear your spoken words.

Pyrestone
Wondrous item, uncommon

This tool is used by blacksmiths to mend metal and protect themselves against errant flames, and resembles a ring with two loops in it. While wearing the pyrestone on your middle and ring fingers, you can cast the control flames cantrip, as well as the mending cantrip (but only on metal objects). When you would take fire damage, you can use your reaction to absorb the damage, taking no damage and instead storing it in the pyrestone. This power stays in the pyrestone until the end of your next turn, after which it disappears. Until it disappears, you can use your action to blast a target within 10 feet of you with a jet of the stored flame. The target must make a Dexterity saving throw (the DC is 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Dexterity modifier), taking up to the damage stored on a failure, or half as much on a success. If the pyrestone ever stores more than 50 fire damage at one time, is submerged in lava, or contains more than 50 damage at the start of your turn, it explodes, dealing 10d10 fire damage to you and every creature within 10 feet of you (other creatures can make a Dexterity saving throw for half damage).























Character Stats

  • Corlis: Level 2 fighter, proficiency with farmer's tools. Folk hero background.
  • Attikos: Level 2 Forge Domain cleric, proficiency with smith's tools and cook's utensils. Guild artisan background.
  • Salleigh: Level 3 ranger (hunter). Outlander background.