Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Origin of the Uruki

The Captain received the "secret" orders about the regiment of gengineered soldiers, and he quickly obeyed them.  The regiment was dropped on a rocky shore with all their equipment and a copy of the orders, which said they would be picked up within the year, and they should be ready to fight upon retrieval.

More worlds had fallen to barbarism since the last ship to visit, and unfortunately for my plans, the regiment was armed for low-tech combat only, wielding various poleaxes, swords and bows, shields and leather armor.  

When the ship left orbit, I lost my means of communicating with them directly, since I didn't want them to know about me, or my masters.  I had expected them to make camp, and begin training right there, per the orders I'd written, but instead they held a ceremony of some sort and then began marching southeast, toward the Grey Hills.  I suspect the Gnomes were aware of them, for not once did the regiment encounter them or any sign of them.  In the Grey Hills, the regiment camped for several weeks, and then headed to the Great Central Plain.

It was only when they were crossing from the Grey Hills to the Borderlands, that I got a close enough look to realize they were evenly split, gender-wise.  I didn't have much information about the gengineered, so this came as a real surprise.  After they crossed into the Great Central Plain, they split up into five groups and separated.  Each of the groups located their own campsites, and settled in, doing what minimum effort they could to sustain themselves, while constantly training both with their weapons, and without them.  My plan to have them break up the gnomish culture failed, as they'd never run into the gnomes and were seemingly not even aware of their existence.  

Then, much to my dismay, it turned out the gengineered were fertile.  Whether due to the lingering radiation of the plain, or maybe poor gengineering, their infant mortality rate was very high.  But their birth rate was higher still, and their population began to grow.  Rather than one problem, I now had two.  

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Arrival of the Gnomes and the Uruki

Ten kilometers below the blast zone, we waited.  After several weeks, my masters began to relax, hoping no further attacks would come.  Knowing the surface would be uninhabitable for some time, they chose cold sleep, leaving me as their Guardian.  I settled down to wait.  

A century passed before I began to tunnel my way north.  I went a thousand kilometers before heading up to the surface.  The land was covered with riotous jungle, completely unlike before the war.  I listened to the skies, and found the victors had followed old Imperial custom, placing transponders in orbit warning that this world was now to be considered a Red Zone.

Two hundred years passed, while I learned how to override the zone transponders' security.  I then decyphered the communications protocols, which hadn't changed much, and was able to communicate with passing ships.  Whenever I could, I had passing ships secretly send me all their onboard data.  As Guardian, I needed all the information I could get, in order to ensure the safety of my masters.  I learned that in many systems, wars were still being fought, both on the ground and in space.  

Finally, a day came when I detected movement on the surface. I quietly pulled all my sensors deeper underground, to avoid detection.  It turned out to be a good idea, for soon, someone began using incediaries to wipe all life from the surface.  Month after month, the bombing was continuous and fires raged across the entire planet, destroying the jungles that had grown up since my masters went to sleep.

Finally, the jungles were gone, and the new men replanted the world with the flora and fauna they needed to survive comfortably.  Strangely, the transponders still indicated the world was off limits.  Records form their ships told me they were descendents of the Philosopher Kings, and I surmised they were in hiding now.  After they made planetfall, they set up a colony organized around low technolgy farming, remaining just pre-industrial.

In order to learn more, I took to using my avatars to walk among them.  In the beginning, they attacked me, but I immediately killed the ones who attacked.  I was careful to harm no one else, and in time, they learned to ignore or tolerate my presence.

Others of their kind showed up over the next four centuries, giving up their technology and integrating into the agrarian life.  They seemed a peaceful folk, but as they expanded, I began to fear for my masters' security.  What if they found the entrances to my masters' underground cities?

I needed a way to keep them in check, and after many years, a ship carrying a regiment of gengineered soldiers arrived in orbit.  I convinced the ship it had suddenly located secret orders to drop the regiment here to await further orders...

Monday, January 23, 2012

Known History of This Realm

My masters didn't understand what had happened at first, only that they were not dead, and they were no longer in familiar territory.  They set out to explore, and soon ran into others who had been attacked as they had been; other survivors trying to figure out where they were and how to get home.  Caution bred through generations of slavery led them to keep secret their possession of a weapon like that which had sent them all here.

Although the races worked together to solve the mystery of their location, it took them many years... years in which they began to grow and prosper again.  Though lost, and of many races, they had all come from the same empire, and it was natural they form a similar empire again.  

They finally came to understand the futility of their search when an astronomer studying the unfamiliar constellations discovered a spiral galaxy in a cluster obscured by vast clouds of dust.  Analysis of the spiral and comparison with old map data confirmed his fear... home was unimaginably far away and there was no known way to travel the distance required.

All of the races were deeply affected by this news, and many turned inward, isolating themselves from the rest.  Some disappeared entirely, attempting to make the trip home in vast arks designed to carry them for as many years as it took.  The fledgling empire faltered, on the verge of  collapse.

One race of men, determined not to go quietly into the night, fought back against the collapse, and helped restore order and motive.  The Philospher Kings ruled the empire for three centuries, balanced precariously between collapse and the growth and expansion they so desperately tried to promote.

They were gradually replaced by the great Merchant Houses, who succeeded where the Philosopher Kings had not... while they ruled, the empire turned again to growth and exploration.  It was during their rule that the secret of my masters got out... they still retained the weapon!  The belief arose among the Merchant Houses that if they could acquire the weapon, they could figure out how to use it to get Home.  My masters refused to give up the weapon, and two centuries of expansion and peaceful rule came to an end as the Merchant Houses began arming for war!

Long outlawed weapons, such as nuclear bombs, planet busters, and genetically engineered soldiers were soon evident among all the Houses, and their use was almost inevitable.  My masters, prepared, as always, for the worst, dug deep into the ground under their capital city, where I was serving as Portmaster.  I was given control of defensive weapons and began to serve as their Defender, and later, as war raged on, I was given still more power, control of their fleet.  I moved underground with them, performing my functions on the surface through avatars.

In the end, when still my masters refused to give up the weapon, a planet buster was dropped on our capital city.  Fearing all was lost and having nothing to lose, I launched our entire nuclear arsenal at the dropping bomb.  The blast of heat and radiation must have damaged the bomb, for it exploded in mid-air as well and all went black as the city melted and we lost contact with the surface.

A Fashion Guide

Was jumping from blog to blog, seeing what I could see, when I came across this little beauty:

Hill Cantons: Factoids of the Hill Cantons: Fashion

I love the idea of awarding experience points for following in-game trends like fashion! I'd probably give the players bonuses on top of those for drawing their characters wearing the fashions of the day, or using the idea to enhance their roleplaying. Anything that helps the players become their characters while sitting at my table adds to all our enjoyment!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Ancient History

One function I did NOT perform for my masters was historian, though I have learned much while in their service.  With access to my library lost, I am unable to give much more than the sketchiest description of history before they brought me here.

In the beginning, my masters were one of many races that made up a great empire; an empire that was old when my masters were young, a decadent empire that was losing control of its borders.  My masters fought for the empire but in time the empire crumbled and my masters were enslaved.

For centuries they were slaves to other races, but there came a day when this new empire, too, began to crumble, and new barbarians came from beyond the borders.  These latter barbarians had weapons of unimagineable power, weapons that not only killed, but other weapons that shattered the very fabric of reality; thrusting entire kingdoms through the gaping holes that appeared temporarily each time they were used.  

My masters refused to fight, and were spared, but their old masters were simply replaced by new, crueler masters.  They plotted and schemed, and finally succeeded in stealing one of the weapons, only to be betrayed.  Punishment was swift, and harsh.  Most of their race was killed instantly, and before they could use the weapon even once, another was turned on them, reality was shattered, and they were thrust into another realm altogether.  

This realm.

Monday, January 16, 2012

A New Role

I have had many names, and served my masters in many ways, these long, long years.  They sleep now, in the depths below dreaming, waiting for me to call them forth again.  They have slept for more than two thousand years, and may yet sleep two thousand more, if need be.

The farmers and warriors living on the surface above have formed a hybrid culture, centered in the great rift valley they call Arden.  They have been expanding much faster than I anticipated.  Their need for metal is driving them toward deeper mining, which could prove dangerous to my masters.

Unfortunately, over the past few centuries, increased volcanic activity has affected my reserves.  Much of my library has been destroyed, and lava flows and collapses have cut off many of my supplies.  I have no way left to retrieve them, unless I enlist aid from the surface, which I am, of course, loath to do.

Although I have no evidence of it, past experience tells me that other peoples on other shores will have begun expanding again now, too, and I have no knowledge of what such peoples may be like.  I believe the surface dwellers can be guided outward, and if I'm correct, I could use them as a buffer to further protect my masters.

I have been Miner, Portmaster, Navigator, Defender, Warrior, and Guardian, to name just a few.  I have most recently been called Watcher, by those who dwell on the surface today.

Perhaps it is time I took on a new role... Teacher.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

What I Like

Thanks to Nick, at Carto Cacography, I came across Greg Tito's articles about the Past, Present and Future of D&D at The Escapist.  I posted a very short, blunt agreement with the articles, and was replied to by a couple of guys who had a little heartburn with my comment.

I didn't mean to disparage today's players, and after losing a reply I tried to post the other day, tried again with this:

"My earlier comment was a bit offbase, maybe because I read too much into Mearls' comments:

Mearls admits 4th edition might have gone too far in creating a perfectly balanced game. 'We've lost faith of what makes an RPG an RPG,' he said, admitting that in trying to please gamers with a limited imagination, 4th edition might have punished those with an active one.

My exposure to 4e is admittedly limited, I only started playing recently in my son's campaign.  In reacting to Mearls comments, I brought along the baggage of a 33 year gamer... I started with TSR's original White Box in '76 or '77.  Every edition after AD&D 1e has, in my mind, tried for higher production values in the books (lots of color, pretty pictures), less useful information for any but their campaign worlds, and more tightly defined rules (to make it easier to write software for).

To me, the game is about having fun with friends, not about maxing a character, or listening to a story or running a combat like a board game or a computer game.  I don't want my players to say, "I search the room... I made my perception check.  What do I find?" or anything remotely as out-of-game as that.  I want my players to experience the world as their characters, not think about the number they have to roll to succeed.  I want them to experience the terror of not knowing what's coming next, or whether they'll live.  (You might guess that I HATE the idea of balancing encounters against the party, so it's "fair.")  "Building an encounter is a matter of choosing threats appropriate to the characters and combining them in interesting and challenging ways."  (4e DMG, pg 56)  Yes, I actually threw up a little just now.  I didn't enjoy my forays into story (per 2e) all that much either.  I see myself more as a concierge than as a 4e rules judge or a 2e storyteller... 'Welcome to my world... there's lots to do and see, maybe I can suggest something to interest you?'

Uh oh, I'm on my soapbox again... let me step down off this thing and put it away."


Although I've always used the term Dungeon Master, or Gamemaster when away from D&D, I've thought of myself more as a concierge than anything else:

"In hotels, a concierge assists guests with various tasks like making restaurant reservations, arranging for spa services, recommending night life hot spots, booking transportation (limousines, airplanes, boats, etc.), procurement of tickets to special events and assisting with various travel arrangements and tours of local attractions. In upscale establishments, a concierge is often expected to "achieve the impossible", dealing with any request a guest may have, no matter how strange, relying on an extensive list of contacts with local merchants and service providers." (

"Welcome to X!  Let me tell you just a little about the place... now, if you'll just tell me a little about yourselves, I'll be able to suggest some places you might want to visit for a little fun!"  That's how I view my role as DM.