Initiative Or What? – Archives – Jan/2009

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Happy New Year Year! & A Bit of An Inauguration

Happy New Year, fellow gamers!

This is an inaugural post of sorts; but nothing to do with the upcoming swearing-in of our new President. It’s also not inaugural as far as this blog goes because I’ve been blogging for over two years.

No, this blog is inaugural because I’ve recently been admitted to the RPG Bloggers network. I’ve been hanging out in the blogoicosohedron (would an RPG blogger really use a sphere?) with these folks since about August; and after having retooled my blog for an RPG emphasis, decided to apply to the group.

Of course, once I was let in, I sat down and said, “Oh Crap! Now I have to actually start writing something. Plus I’ll need to make it reasonably interesting, too!”

Well, I’m gonna try and do just that. In the upcoming weeks, look for posts regarding my game group (The Dead Orcs Society), my campaign setting (Gaia’s Calling), gaming advice, response to hot issues (such as the now controversial “Rule of Cool”), and information on the general craft of just being a good DM.

I look forward to sharing my gaming experiences with you.

Game Excellently With One Another.

 Thursday, January 08, 2009

Legends of Thule: The Wreck of the Esmond Fitzwallis

 This is the first installment of what will eventually be a series of blog posts, detailing classic legends from my campaign setting, “Gaia’s Calling”. This one is based on a tragic shipwreck that occurred some fifty years before the Rendering. You’ll find my editorial notes at the end of the post. Enjoy!

On or around 703 A.R., Gnome archeologist, Doyle Halfspit, discovered a poem inscribed on the wall of an abandoned temple; somewhere within what used to be the Kingdom of Renard. While the writing was in the Common tongue, it appeared to be nothing but a panel of gibberish. The panel looked a little like this:

BYSY FUEG LCWI FGOG NICZ UVEH TURJ VFOG LFKA PTTA MSWT MOKX BYSL DOLE MUWP IWGN UVS BYSY BYEB BZGF BWDG MMSE HWVX ALDU FFDX IUKU FBTA MJYV FGOY KFZB SZET NKIE OULH WDM EZHU BZOT LFTV SCNH ZVHJ FBTR AZLG ICUL IERC PINW ADCE FHHT VKVR FGMH VUTV UNWT TCWF XSIZ PVRR NDTR
BYOG HCOW AYWC BBDM ZLSJ BGAU WESG PPEV PVKR EKHX VKVR HOLX AFTP PZOK TVOS DOMX MRFY Z BYSF GWPP IJHU FDRB LVCS UVEK QMSE EKAK NJWQ FQOF QEUO BQKY ZFAF PAEF QCZV OQAG ICYR FD IJHU FPIZ NISV HVTX ZJUB JHWT ASWT HSRM PRBZ PGTP QKVN DFEP IERT PCDV IGHN JBWX TCGR BGOG MU KFBP MIDB VXGB NSTX ZDGJ JHHT PRBQ TVAD MWWE NHHX GCSS UZOT LVRH QTOK DVGG JBA IERY BHEK BYOG OWGA BNVR OHHX AYWC TPEE TIOA HQON TUWG CSTA MECE UVWB VUHU FMDU MVBS FSLB V BYSJ JBDB VKVR XWRX ADOQ FOTT BKZR UOLX AFIA EOSM PVKN WSSU ZFYR PJEK BYSE BWLB VX IERR WSRR LNOE GYNX ERGG ISCT XKOV ORIW BFCG XOSM PVKV UQHH NTCY PFLX IWQB NSSM MRZV O BYSQ BKNV IDSY BHET VUHU FPRX IBTN THHT LKCJ BWTP PVBG ISGT TVGB GQOE WIZR BTCT UVGY BGHB V EYSA BTTX ZECB OQAF MZHJ BGFK MVNV OFAB VZBG ISFT KVCS BVUK ZZQN OSWX AKKV OR EYSA TIPI MIHV NSCT UVHU FCLW KFCX DOMX WERR DYST GZBS FZLT AZHF UCOK WLUU UCFX MUMN IKGR WSNI UKVR NOIG PRHP IKAR ORJR JBHX ARWQ GSLE IJWG TPEX VXCB EHOD VFKL B BYSP BDTT QEVB MZEK MUCH UKET ZVPR JBGU IJVR EOBH CKOA EHHX OFCQ TVII IERP SSWY WLUU UTOK AFZN DS IERY BHEK BYOG OWGA BNVR OWTL TZUU UGWX VKCH UHAL QXVG DOMX BYSJ SSCD WWHU FSSF WERS JHZP ICZV T LFSF BBYH VVYA PKWA MIST BWAL TFJR HCEL EYSA UVEP IMSF UIRG BYSZ JBUM MJHB ICUK A BYSF BWLH ZJOY MGAR BYSL EVAO MDOQ FPLN MNOI FPAR QWHU FMDI CKTV GHEX VDCE FAIE MJPR IWNW PVF BYSL NWGA BYOI FGPE QKIC PFTA MPAV HVTA IMSP BDSB HVRG ISHH TUAN ZVAO MSFB LSAG LKCB LKAM MI IERN MZTA IKFR NOIG AZGG ISFT KVGN ORTA MEOZ FGOY BYSJ JJEL IERG ISSH VJOA EHHX LRIT IHEK A TRYR OCRN PICY MGIV PZUH NSEL QEUF JBTA MICB NGOY PVFV DSWT BVFZ BBSB WEG BYSF BDPA QISF FOSE QBSN ZCUG ODOA TRRX IDGG ISIL TRBQ TONW JRMF BFEY WIGC PFTL UVB IERS BFTA MIPR MCWM PVFR TZAD MXZR BAOA AYSG BYEL QEKU BHTA MJOO JBEV IEGR ORHX Z IERG ISIK WEPB BHSZ WRGG ISMT ZZBR SGAE TBBB XKIM PKVR HOLX AFTP PZOK TVOS SSMX USSE FR QEOA PZDA ICZV OZAK QRBN UVER XIOL FRIG BYSZ BFIM QDSF BWLH ZJQN UVEW ZRZ BYSP IIRV PSSY MQHB UVRG JZLB BIOA HHWX VKMA JBEM QDSF GCRX ITVQ XORY WEHU FSSF WERS JHZP ICZV T BYSY FUEG LCWI FGOG NICZ UVEH TURJ VFOG LFKA PTTA MSWT MOKX BYSL DOLE QTVV HIMX M BYSO JULT SVHU FMST QUBR WSRZ QMSF VDHX ZUSN EKHX VKVR HOLX AFTP PZOK TVOS DCMX MRFY Z

Strangely, the letters were written in a regular blocks of four letters each (with some trailing characters at the end of each line). At first, Halfspit considered that perhaps some mad bard had written a poem consisting of only four letter words. However, after some consideration, he realized he was looking at a cipher. Once it was transcribed, Halfspit was struck by the irony of such a tragic tale being inscribed at a facility no doubt once used by the Church of Enlightened Pleasure.

Revealed now, is the poem that Halfspit uncovered:

The legend lives on from the mountain folk on down, of the big lake they called Ichigumee(1)
The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead, when the skies of Colorleaf(2) turn gloomy
With a load of iron ore twenty-six thousand pounds more than the Esmond Fitzwallis weighed empty.
That good ship and true was a bone to be chewed, when the gales of Colorleaf came early.

The ship was the pride of the River Dwarf(3) side, coming back from some mill in Canal Keep(4)
As the big freighters go, it was bigger than most, with a crew and good captain well seasoned
Concluding some terms with a handshake firm, they left loaded up for Vestina(5)
And later that night when the ship’s bell rang, could it be the north wind they’d been feelin’?

The wind in the wires made a tattle-tale sound, as the waves broke over the railing
And every Dwarf knew, as the captain did too, t’was the witch of Colorleaf come stealin’.
The dawn came late and the breakfast had to wait, when the gales of Colorleaf came slashin’.
When afternoon came it was freezin’ rain, in the face of a hurricane west wind.

When suppertime came, the old cook came on deck sayin’, Fellas, it’s too rough to feed ya.
At seven p.m. the main hatchway gave in he said, Fellas, it’s been good t’know ya. The captain hollered out, We are being bashed about and the good ship and crew fought for solace. And later that night when its lights went outta sight, came the wreck of the Esmond Fitzwallis.

Does any one know where the Gaia’s love goes, when the waves turn the minutes to hours?
The sailors all say they’d have made Bluewave Bay(6), if they’d put fifteen more miles behind her.
They might have split up or they might have capsized; the hold may have broke and took water.
And all that remains is the faces and the names of the wives and the sons and the daughters.

Lake Noruh(7) rolls, Ichigumee sings, in the rooms of her ice-water mansions.
The Sapphire Sea’s(8) like a young man’s dreams; the islands and bays are for sportsmen.
And farther below Lake Gleam(9) is just so, takes in what Sabine’s(10) will can send her,
And the iron boats go as the mariners all know, with the gales of Colorleaf remembered.

In an weathered hall in Lariana(11) they prayed, in the Maritime Sailors’ Cathedral.
The church bell chimed till it rang twenty-nine times, for each Dwarf on the Esmond Fitzwallis.
The legend lives on from the mountain folk on down, of the big lake they call Ichigumee.
The big lake they said, never gives up her dead, when the gales of Colorleaf come early!

Notes:

1. Ichigumee is a large fresh-water lake in northern Thule. Before the Rendering, it was the largest known lake on the planet.

2. Gaia has three seasons. Colorleaf is the late summer/autumn/early winter season.

3. Before the Rendering, River Dwarves were famed for their talent as sailors, particularly in the northern regions. Many River Dwarf communities maintained large vessels for the purpose of transporting goods across Lake Ichigumee.

4. Canal Keep was a small town on the far west edge of Lake Ichigumee. It was a major shipping point from goods coming down the Iron Canal. The town was destroyed in the Rendering.

5. Vestina was a large town on the eastern edge of Lake Ichigumee. The town was a major manufacturing center for the Empire of Sandaria. It is unknown to the author whether or not Vestina escaped the Rendering.

6. Bluewave Bay was a northern coastal community in the Principality of Vlar. The town was destroyed by the Rendering.

7. Lake Noruh was a small lake centrally located within Thule; part of the Serpentine river way. The Rendering drained the lake, destroying it.

8. The Sapphire Sea is a large ocean to the south and east of the former continent of Thule.

9. Lake Gleam is a large lake located within the Kingdom of Florence. Florence is one of the few lands that escaped relatively unscathed by the ravages of the Rendering. Lake Gleam may now be the largest lake in the Shattered Lands (formerly Thule).

10. The Sabine river is the primary source for Lake Gleam. As far as the author knows, this river system survived the Rendering.

11. Lariana was the capitol of the Principality of Vlar. Sitting on the southern edge of Lake Ichigumee, it was destroyed in the Rendering.

Final Thoughts:

As much as I hate to disrupt immersion, I have to give credit where credit is due. The poem, “Wreck of the Esmond Fitzwallis”, is based on the song, “Wreck of the Edmond Fitzgerald” by Gordon Lightfoot. The homage is one of respect. Not only do I love the song, I respect the memory of the real men that died in that tragic shipwreck. In case you’re interested, please read more about that fateful day, here.

Game Excellently With One Another.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Condition…Awesome!

4E D&D utilizes heavily, a gaming mechanic known as “conditions”. Conditions effect combat constantly; and with the way 4E combat works, you really have to keep on top of it. Whether your character (or the monsters) are slowed, prone, bloodied, stunned, or any one of another dozen more types of conditions; you need a good way to keep track of it. I have found a couple of places that create pretty good solutions to this task.

The first place is Alea Tools. These folks make some great 1 and 2 inch colored magnetic gaming counters. They have no text on them, but assign a color to a condition, and you’re good to go. The second place is Litko Aero. They have a wide range of laser cut markers for just about any game. They even produce a set of condition counters specifically for 4E.

However, I’m a picky b*****d, (and frequently limited on funds), so in order to do this for my own games, I created my own condition counters. Here’s how I did it.

Design:

I used Macromedia Fireworks for the artwork. I know Photoshop or GIMP would have been better, but I’m noob at those; and I actually took classes in Fireworks, so I know how to use it without sweating over it. I used some pixelated graphics and a simple font, and designed a circle template. I chose specific colors for each of the classes, and worked up a whole set of counters for each condition listed in the Player’s Handbook. Here’s a picture of what a full sheet of counters looked like:


Production:

Once I had chosen the design, I printed them out on full-sheet label paper right on my inkjet printer. Since I only have five players in my game group, it didn’t use a lot of ink. I simply created MS Word documents, copied the image files into a table, and away I went. Since as a DM, I’d need sets for the monsters, I kept those in a black&white format to save on ink.

Assembly:

Once the labels were printed, I’d need something to place them on. I wanted something sturdy, and able to take a gummed label; so that it would cut down on peeling from use. I found some great one-inch plastic counters from EAI Education. I was able to get scads (lots) of these inexpensively. They’re multi-colored, but that was only a secondary consideration, since the labels I would be applying were already color-coded. Here’s a shot of what these look like:


I used a one-inch hole punch to cut out the circles, but that was only a convenience. Carefully cutting with sharp scissors would do the trick as well. Peel off the label backing, apply the label to the counter, and, “Ta-Daa!” Perfect counters for your next 4E game. Here’s a look at the final product:

I look forward to putting these to use during our next gaming session. Until then… Game excellently with one another.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

RPG Blog Carnival — New Year’s Gaming Goals and Resolutions

Well, it took me a little while, but I’m finally getting around to this month’s Blog Carnival being hosted by Uncle Bear.

I have several gaming goals for the new year; but I prefer not to make resolutions — the latter tend to get broken. However, I’ll get straight to the point and list out my gaming goals:

Play More Often — I took over a two year hiatus from table-top gaming while I was sucked into the world of Azeroth, and the phenomenon that is World of Warcraft. After restarting the game group in September of last year, I hope to continue to get the group together at least once a month. At the same time, I hope to continue a game my wife and I started with the boys (on Christmas Eve no less) and play that one once a month.

Create Cool Props — I received a couple more Hirst Arts Castle Molds, so I plan on casting lots and lots of three dimensional dungeon props for the game group. In addition, I’ll be creating scrolls, ritual books, and item cards for use in the game. Using the same molds (and additional ones, I’m sure; I hope to restart my full-scale replica of “The Tomb of Horrors”. Of course, finding a really really small sphere of annihilation is going to be difficult, but I’m working on it. My crafting budget over-floweth.

Become a Better DM — I’ve been playing D&D for over 25 years. That doesn’t mean there’s not room for improvement. I get fair marks from my players, but I can always do better. Also, since I talked my wife into joining the group, I feel like I should impress her. We’ll see how it goes.

Be a Player — While I enjoy DMing immensely, my first love has always been playing a character. I hope to actually get to join another game (in addition to the one I run), so that I can stretch my role-playing skills.

Well, there you have it. It’s a pretty tall order as far as goals are concerned, so we’ll have to see how much of it happens. Somewhere in all that gaming activity, I’ve got a novel to write as well. I’m sure my wife would like for me to focus on the latter, but the dice are hard to stay away from.

Happy New Year, all! Good luck on your own goals and aspirations.

Game excellently with one another.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Campaign Considerations — Introducing the D’ni

The scratching of Telar’s pen ceased, and he looked up to eye his visitor. Taking a moment to let the visions of his private age fall away, he focused his eyes, and the visitor resolved into the foreground.

“I’m at a critical juncture in the descriptive book, Stranger. What is it you need of me?”

Lifting his arm, the visitor fumbled with the canvas satchel hung from his shoulder. Unclasping the buckle that held it together, he reached into the main pocket of the bag and retrieved a small leather-bound volume. Saying nothing, the visitor held the book out in front of him timidly.

“Yes, yes, Stranger. Congratulations, you’ve discovered a book. I swear to Yahvo that you adventuring types are all alike. You hear that I’ll buy books, and when you find them in some guardian’s horde, you rush off to the caverns to try and make a quick profit. If you spent more time reading than…”

“Guildmaster Telar?” The stranger interrupted Telar’s irritated diatribe, giving the guildmaster pause. “With all due respect, Sir, I have tried to read the book. Unfortunately, it’s in a language I don’t understand.”

“Well, that’s not unusual or surprising, Stranger. Your kind seems more eager to acquire history than learn from it, so…”

“There’s more, Guildmaster Telar.” The visitor sat the book down at the edge of the guildmaster’s writing desk and opened it to the first page. An image swirled within it, and it was difficult to look away from the sweeping landscape it revealed. “The images on this page move, Guildmaster. The wizard in our group couldn’t comprehend the magic at work within it. When he touched the panel, he disappeared. Fearing for his safety, we thought to bring the book to you.”

Guildmaster Telar reached out and carefully touched the book. Pulling it closer to him, he could tell immediately that it was a linking book. The Stranger’s silly companion had touched the linking panel and was transported to another world. Depending on the condition of the world described in the book; the wizard the Stranger spoke about could be in a garden paradise, or a disintegrating hell. Whatever the case, Telar knew that he could profit from the wizard’s foolish journey. All he needed to do was link to the world, find the Stranger’s companion (hopefully nearby), and link back using one of his own books.

“Guildmaster Telar, we are fearful that the longer we delay…” The visitor seemed hesitant to speak the next part, but continued anyway. “I’ve been told your kind has an understanding of special books.”

Guildmaster Telar smiled, and stood up; closing the book, “I will assist you Stranger. I’ll find your companion, this wizard that wondered off where he shouldn’t have. The price will be the book you present before me now. You were wise to bring this to me. My kind does have an affinity for special books, as you call them; for we are the D’ni, the Writers of Ages.”

One of the things I’d like to do with this blog, is to introduce some of my own campaign material from time to time. Since my campaign material is going to utilize elements from Cyan Worlds, Myst/Uru universe, I’d like to make the following statement before going any further:

D’ni, Myst, Uru, or elements of the universe created by Cyan Worlds and Rand and Robyn Miller are solely their property and creation. Any work you read here incorporating elements of that universe are fan-inspired and unauthorized by those parties mentioned. Any material created by this author that utilizes elements originally created by Cyan Worlds is not for sale, and is for private use only.

Now, let me introduce my take on the D’ni. I’ve decided to create them as a playable race in my 4E campaign. I highly doubt that any of my actual players will adopt the race, but I did it this way in order to template them as NPC character types later on.

Well, that’s what I’ve got for now. More information on the D’ni, their technology (magic), and their Art (as it is interpreted in my campaign), will follow in later posts. I’ve left some elements of the things I’ve described here deliberately vague. That way, should my players bump into my site, they won’t be in for too many spoilers.

Until later, folks…

Game excellently with one another.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

A Few Imponderables

Having been busy most of the weekend working on dungeon props; this Sunday’s blog post crept up on me and I had to come up with something to write about.

So, instead of my normal crafty post (which I usually reserve for Sunday), I decided to share with you some rpg imponderables. Just some things that come to mind when you’re working with craft glue and acrylic paint in a closed room:

  • If rat swarms are so dangerous, why hasn’t some evil boss man used dachshund swarms? Because you know…dachshunds.

 

  • Why is it that Klingons got uglier while Orcs got prettier at the same time?

 

  • Who’s the guy that decides the skull should go just there in the archway, pillar, or etc. What evil community college do you go to, in order to study dungeon feng-shu?

 

  • Do dragons collect gelatinous cubes into bowl-shaped rooms and eat them like jello?

 

  • If you cross a Dwarf and a Halfling, do you get a Dwarfling or just a Hwarf?

 

  • C’mon, can’t we really all just except the fact that Michael Jackson is an actual Lich? Hint: Bubbles carries the phylactery.

 

  • Gnomification isn’t as painful as it sounds; but you do have to pay extra.

Well…that’s all I have for today. If you happen to be one of those folks who’s able to enjoy the three-day holiday, enjoy the day off tomorrow!

Until next time…

Game excellently with one another.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Legends of Thule — The Gnome’s Folly: Part I

Over the past three hundred years, strange parallel rails of steel (or perhaps mithril) were uncovered by explorers and archaeologists from around Thule. These rails ran from deep within Spineridge Hold, to nearly 900 miles north to the capital of the Sandarian Empire. At the southern terminus of these strange rails, a large and formerly unknown cavern was opened by some prospecting Dwarves. What they uncovered was a complete surprise. Slowly rusting in the darkness of the cave, was a metallic contraption set upon huge wheels — wheels that sat on the very kind of track now being dug out in several places on the continent of Thule.

Fearing the worst (that this was indeed a Gnomish invention of some kind), the Dwarves immediately reported their find to the King’s council. Seizing the opportunity, Gnomish interests at the King’s court persuaded the King into believing the device could be made to work; and that the device could be used to more efficiently move large quantities of trade goods across the continent, in a shorter amount of time. Intrigued, the King immediately requisitioned the money and manpower to restore the device to working order.

During this restoration process; famed explorer, Clyve Mytyrstyn, had the brilliant idea that the device (now being called a “locomotive”), could pull additional cars full of paying passengers. Knowing that he would have to acquire the lightest, but strongest of materials; Clyve convinced the Elven ambassador from Deepwood to speak with his government about procuring the correct materials and the Elven craftsmen to work them.

In 1438 CY, the Gnome’s Folly, as the Gnomish steam contraption (actually, a locomotive) was now being called, was complete; and stood ready to be the greatest invention ever recovered in recent memory.

Unfortunately, the maiden voyage of the Gnome’s Folly was fraught with disaster. The train was attacked by both Hobgoblin raiders and a Githyanki terrorist cell. By the end of the voyage, nearly half of the passengers had been killed. While the members of the Dead Orcs Society managed to defuse the bomb that had been placed on board by the Githyanki, their uncompromising handling of the terrorists resulted in considerable collateral damage (in the form of civilian deaths). The heavy damage took over a year to repair; and the train would make only one more journey (this time southward) before the Sundering changed life on Thule permanently.

On Thursday, I’ll continue with the story of the Gnome’s Folly with a complete description of the train, it’s power, and the design of the cars that it pulled behind it.

Until next time…

Game excellently with one another.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Legends of Thule — The Gnome’s Folly: Part II

 Last time, I introduced The Gnome’s Folly; a train from out of the past. Here’s the crunchy part of that legend, details about the actual train. Like most Blogger images, click on the image to get a full-sized view. Enjoy!

The Train The Gnome’s Folly is a locomotive that pulls several different rail cars, each performing a specific function. In the images depicted, the rail cars aligned so that front of the car is to the right-hand side of the map. The locomotive and the various cars are detailed below:

Locomotivator

The engine that drives the Gnome’s Folly is the locomotivator. The locomotivator is one unit, but for descriptive purposes, there are two main sections. The first section is the powerhouse of the machine. At the front of the locomotivator (and which comprises most of its length); is a huge pressurized steam tank. This tank is connected by a series of pipes and valves to an elemental portal – an elemental portal that links directly to a node of steam in the Elemental Chaos. The steam is stored, and then shunted to the various pistons and levers that drive the wheels of the locomotivator.

Behind this steam apparatus, lies the control room for the locomotivator. Two seats are here, as well as a control panel, and a viewing plane into the portal. There is also a privy located in the control room. Just outside of the control room is an iron spiral stairwell, that leads to the engineer’s quarters. The upper section of the train is the engineer’s quarters. A double bunk, a table, a desk, and a chair adorn this otherwise ordinary looking chamber. Glass windows with shutters surround this room on all sides, affording a view of the locomotive’s surroundings, and allows for the engineer or his assistant to look out over the remainder of the train.

Water Car

The water car of the Gnome’s Folly serves the dual purpose of being not only the source of drinking water for the passengers and crew of the train; but also the source for water that cools the hotter components of the locomotivator. Below the enormous 17,625 gal capacity storage tank, lies a collection of specially treated bamboo tubes that shunt the water to various other cars in the train, and also to the locomotivator. An alchemical treatment softens and seals the bamboo, allowing it to be used as leak-proof, flexible tubing. These tubes run along the entire bottom side of the train, and are affixed pretty firmly. The Gnome’s Folly carries enough water to make a single journey of about 1000 miles. A large opening near the top of the cylindrical tank, allows water to be placed inside. The water car is seamed together with forged pieces of steel. Each 5 foot section of the cylinder is considered Huge and has 300 hit points. When a section has been “bloodied” (reduced to 1/2 hit points, it begins to leak. A section reduced to 0 hit points, causes catastrophic failure, and the entire cylinder drains in only 5 rounds.

Defense Car

The defense car of the Gnome’s Folly was considered a “must-have” by the Speaker Under the Mountain. This flat rail car is armed with four ballista, two that point to the port side of the car, and two that point to the starboard side of the car. Each ballista can swing in a forward arc of about 90 degrees, allowing for a wide targeting field. In addition, each ballista is elevated slightly, allowing the user to adjust the firing angle about 15 degrees. Ballista normally require only one person to fire, and it can only be fired every other round in this fashion. However, since each ballista on the Gnome’s Folly is manned by three dwarves, the ballista can be fired every round. Each ballista has 24 bolts with each bolt doing 3d8 points of damage if it hits its target. Each ballista can take 40 hit points of damage before being destroyed.

Flatbed Car

The flatbed car of the Gnome’s Folly was conceived as a simple cargo carrying device—a barge on wheels. The car will hold several tons of provisions. However, for the train’s maiden voyage, only the wagon of the famed adventurer Elric; and several crates of special honorarium and other supplies were loaded onboard.

Seeing the utility of this kind of transport, The Speaker Under the Mountain commissioned the elves of Deepwood to create more of these types of cars; as cargo transport is one of the main desires of the King.

The dwarves stationed on the defense car slept among the crates and boxes stored on this car, allowing them to double as guards over the cargo. It is thought that these dwarves erected tents or lean-tos to protect themselves from the elements.

Crew Car

The crew car of the Gnome’s Folly was designed as the living quarters for the majority of the crew. There are three cabins, each with a double bunk-bed, and room on the floor for a sleeping pallet. A lounge room contains an all-purpose table, and a small heated stove (heated by actual steam from the locomotive). At either end of the car on the starboard side, is a privy.

A quick survey of the crew log will reveal that there were far more crew staffed onboard the train, than sleeping accommodations. It’s now clear that the crew slept in shifts, and shared sleeping arrangements.

Coach Car

The forward coach car of the Gnome’s Folly is a passenger car designed to comfortably seat 20. A low table sits on the forward/port side of the car and is used to serve occasional food and beverages. The appointments are rich, and wide windows on both sides of the car allow for ample viewing of the passing scenery. Should a passenger decide that the sun is too bright, the windows are also equipped with shades. For safety reasons, all of the chairs and tables here; as well in other parts of the train, are fixed and bolted to the car’s floor. The chairs recline and offer even coach passengers a modicum of sleeping comfort. A drawer in the side of each chair (that pulls out into the aisle), allows a small storage place for luggage.

There are two of these cars on the train. The first is just behind the Crew Car; and the second, between the rear Pullman Car and the Observation Car.

Pullman Car

The pullman car of the Gnome’s Folly was designed as an intermediate alternative between traveling in the rather cramped coach class and the very expensive first class cabin. The car consists of ten sets of double bunk beds, with groups of two beds having a thin divider between then. Each section in then closed off with a curtain for passenger privacy. The beds are far enough apart vertically, that a passenger can sit upright in the bunk, if he so desires. At the forward end of the car, is a male and female privy. In addition, two closets at the very end of the car allow for the storage of extra passenger baggage.

There are two of these cars on the train. The first is between the forward Coach Car and the forward Cabin Car; and the second, between the rear Cabin Car and the rear Coach Car.

Cabin Car

The cabin cars on the Gnome’s Folly are the height of luxury for this mode of travel. Clever designs allow for double bunk beds that fold up during the day, and have benches that fold out in their place when the beds are not in use. Each cabin also has ample storage space, and it’s own personal privy as well. In addition, each cabin also has its own window for private viewing. Hot water running from the front of the train also allows cabin passengers to wash up when they feel the need to.

Traveling first class in one of these cabins is expensive. The rooms for this voyage go for 1000 GP each. The government of Spineridge Hold had hoped that if this form of travel became popular, the cost of traveling in this fashion would begin to go down.

There are two cabin cars, one on each side of the dining car for convenience to the high-paying passengers traveling in them.

Dining Car

The dining car on the Gnome’s Folly was designed both as a social area in which to take meals, and an exercise in how efficient a small kitchen can be. Between the upper and lower levels of the dining area, the kitchen car can feed 28 passengers at one time (although in a pinch, 14 more passengers can be squeezed in). Unlike the illustration shown, the actual rail car had bench-style seating, hence the option for seating extra passengers. The lower and upper levels of the dining car are connected by a single wrought-iron spiral staircase.

Three meals were served each day, and each meal period ran about three hours (6:00 am to 9:00 am for breakfast; 12:00 pm to 3:00 pm for lunch; and 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm for supper). Between 9:00 pm and 11:00 pm, the cooks do preparations for the next day’s meals, and also cut up light snacks for the porters to put out during the late evening hours.

The kitchen is split into two levels. On the lower level, there are supply pantries, a preparation table, and a stove. On the upper level, there are more supply stations and two stoves.

Observation Car

The observation car of the Gnome’s Folly is of a particular delight to the gnomish and elven designers that conceived her. The only function of this car is to provide a large expanse of viewing area for passengers. Passengers of all traveling classes can mingle together in this car, and enjoy the snacks that are set out on a regular basis by the assigned porter. The upper level of this car is completely enclosed in glass, offering a spectacular view of the night sky for evening entertainment. A wrought-iron spiral staircase links the two levels of the car together. Additional amenities include male and female privies on the lower level of the car, and at least three low tables for snacks, books, and other diversions.

Baggage Car

The baggage car of the Gnome’s Folly serves several functions: First, the car transports cargo that cannot otherwise be exposed to the elements like the cargo stored on the Gnome’s Folly’s flatbed car. Second, additional supplies for the kitchen are stored here. Third, mail from Spineridge Hold and the surrounding territory is stored here for eventual delivery to those in the Empire of Sandaria and its nearby territories.

In addition, within the two rooms at either end of the car are numerous canvas bags hung from hooks in the ceiling. Most of these bags were filled with coach-class baggage; but many also contained baggage not permitted in the passenger areas of the train (like weapons and dangerous reagents). Because of the valuables stored here, only select crew members had a key to this rail car.

Caboose

The caboose of the Gnome’s Folly was a bit of an afterthought; and was only conceived after it became apparent that some team of specialists (read: adventurers) would probably have to stay on the train to provide additional security. In addition, it was thought that dignitaries might wish to stay in this car if they wanted to travel alone (and at exorbitant expense). The car has two levels and provides those in the upper level, a commanding view of the train (albeit from the rear). The car has sleeping accommodations for six, a small cooking stove, and additional tables and seating. A wrought-iron spiral stair connects the two levels of the caboose, together. The rear door of the caboose leads to a small balcony, where the passengers of the caboose can receive fresh air.

Additional Notes

Each of the train cars (with the exception of the locomotivator), were carved whole out of the trunk of an enormous tree. Although the accompanying illustrations would seem to indicate a “box-like” appearance, the actual shape of most of the cars was rounded in nature. Each car was connected to the other via a series of iron linking “claws”. These claw-like devices open easily when the cars are pushed together, but then lock tightly when the tension pulls the cars apart (as when the train begins moving).

Large iron spikes (“pins”) keep the cars locked together. If a pin is removed (a DC 30 Athletics check if unskilled; or a DC 15 Knowledge check if skilled in Arcana – Engineering), the cars will separate; and gravity will take over the movement of the disconnected portion of the train.

The windows on the train cars are reinforced glass. Each pane can take 15 points of damage before it shatters. Damage less than this, or greater than 8 points, merely cracks the glass instead.

Doors with paragon-level locks can be found on the baggage car, the door to the kitchen rooms, the forward door of the forward coach car, and the locomotivator.

The train moves with an average speed of 10 mph on the open plain. In hill county, the speed of the train is reduced to 5 mph. In the mountains, the speed of the train is reduced to 2.5 mph. Given its speed and the variety of terrain the Gnome’s Folly was required to cover, it could travel about 100 miles per day. Before the Sundering, the journey (by rail) from Spineridge Hold to the capitol of the Sandarian Empire was a little over 900 miles. Non-stop, the journey took a little over 8 days. By comparison, a medium creature walking the same distance non-stop (an unlikely scenario, at best), could only do that in 12.5 days. Since most creatures can only manage 8 hours of such strenuous travel per day, the journey becomes extended to 37.5 days. That’s 4.6 times faster than a regular march.

Some Gaming Considerations

It is possible that a character could traverse the underside of a train car using the plumbing tubing if a successful Athletics Check (DC 15) is made before each move. Failure to make this check results in a fall that does the crushing damage as indicated below.

The inside cars are comfortable, but cramped. Fighting on the walls and ceilings is virtually impossible, due to the close nature of the construction. Certain magical items may allow the characters to walk along the outside of the cars without difficulty (except see below).

As the train is constantly moving and rocking, any character attempting a special move (any move action other than a standard move action or shift), must make an Acrobatic (Balance) Check (DC 15) in order to keep from falling. Any character that leaps from one rail car to another must make an Athletics (Jump) Check that must cover 10 feet.

Leaping between rail cars is dangerous business. If the Jump check fails, the character has a 1 in 3 chance of falling between the cars. If a fall between cars does occur, the character immediately takes 1d10 falling + 5d10 crushing damage for single floor cars and 2d10 falling + 5d10 crushing damage for double-floored cars. If the character makes his Jump Check, then the character must make an immediate Acrobatics (Balance) Check (DC 20), to stay on his/her feet. If the Balance Check fails, the character doesn’t fall, but does remain prone for the remainder of his turn. It requires a standard action to regain your footing on your next turn.

Falling off the side of the car is a different story. Because the train travels through many different types of terrain, the height at which the character falls can very considerably. For single decked cars, damage is 1d10 plus a terrain modifier. For double decked cars, damage is 2d10 plus a terrain modifier. For terrain modifiers, see below:

Plains: 1-2d10 (roll d2)
Hills: 1-4d10 (roll d4)
Mountains: 1-8d10 (roll d8)

Jumping from a lower portion of the train (for example, from the flatbed car or the defense car) you suffer only the terrain modifier for damage. Once you are off the train, the remainder of the cars will pass by you at a specific rate based on the terrain, as below:

Plains: 2 train cars per round
Hills: 1 train car per round
Mountains: 1 train car every two rounds

Any character making his first journey on the train suffers a -2 on all Melee, Ranged and Spell Attacks. In addition, skills requiring any physical activity also suffer a -2 penalty. This penalty is eliminated on successive journeys, or if the character has Acrobatics as a trained skill.

Final Thoughts

While the maiden voyage of the Gnome’s Folly was a disaster in terms of lives lost, the technology and concept were executed flawlessly. Governments from all over Thule clamored to have extension lines built to their own lands. Unfortunately, the Sundering would render these plans moot and plunge the world into a millennium long dark age before further development of this technology could commence.

Today, occasional stretches of the original track can still be found in odd places about the Shattered Lands. No one alive remembers their purpose, and only the rarest of journals reveal their original purpose.

Until next time…

Game excellently with one another.


Part idiot. Part old man. All geek. R.M. Walker, who can be found in numerous places on the internet as “DeadOrcs”, is a long time gamer with some 30 years experience playing RPGs. Despite occasional forays into the bizarre, Randall has always come back to Dungeons & Dragons.


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About DeadOrcs

R.M. Walker, who can be found in numerous places on the internet as “DeadOrcs”, is a long time gamer with some 30 years experience playing RPGs. Despite occasional forays into the bizarre, Randall has always come back to Dungeons & Dragons.

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