Happy Holidays 2009

Author: Andrew /

Hey all,

The holidays are approaching and that means things are gonna be even busier than usual. That said, I just wanted to let you guys know that the take may be chillin out for a bit, through the holidays. I may have time to get a post in here or there, but I'm not sure.

That said, I wanted to wish you all a blessed Christmas and a bright and happy New Year and thank you for helping The Take get to where it is. You've all been instrumental and you're all awesome.

So, until next time, play tons of games, get tons of awesome ideas!

Catch yaz on the flip side!


Character Types

Author: Andrew /

Hey all, I was doing some thinking on a new post and I thought of the idea of character archetypes and the idea of "categories" in characters that so many of us players seem to fall into. This was brought to mind for me when I was playing Dragon Age: Origins and I looked at the way they did their character classes. There's three of them. The warrior, the rogue and the mage. So, rather, the way I've been looking at it, "The strong one", "The agile one" and "The one that uses magic."

This kind of brought me back to thinking about how we are about character creation and how we tend to design around a character's function in battle. "How is my character going to down the bad guy?" (or at least contribute to it).

After giving it a little thought, I don't really think there's anything wrong with that. As things are, combat is a big part of the game, like it or not. If your character can't cut it in a fight somehow, no matter how much you like role playing, he's probably dead-man-walking. Encounters are much more the "game" part of the game.

Note: As of 4th edition D&D, more focus has been put on Skill Challenges and making some role play situations more like encounters, but that's an instance that is a maybe, from what I've seen. Skill challenges tend to require some contrivances from what I've seen and done in my DMing and what I feel to be true role play feels much more organic. When it comes to a situation that's dire or intense, I'll use skill checks, but designing a skill challenge for role play feels like too much focus on dice, using a difficulty system for something that I feel should be more organic. That's not to say that I don't like skill challenges, but I feel it's much easier to think on your feet and ad-lib without them, more often than not.

Anyways, as I was thinking, the thing that occured to me was that those three things really do seem to encompass all the functions of "action" in a D&D game. I couldn't figure out how I really felt about that. Was it good that things could be broken down so simply or was it bad? I like to think that there is so much customization available in role playing games when really, when I look at it, it's rather simple, with lots of little options; which seems to be 4th editions modus operendi.

I suppose that when it comes down to it, I just like when there is variety. I like when you can pick something that can really and truely be different from the eight previous things you've played. It all changes with role play but it really forces you to rethink "I hit it with a sword." There has to be flourishes. There has to be embelishment. There has to be all sorts of things to differentiate things from your old characters.

I just look out at the RPG landscape right now and find myself unable to wait for a revolution where there's a breakthrough instead of all of us treading on ground that's been walked a thousand times over.

When I look at Dragon Age, it comes off, to me, as a refinement of a refinement of a refinement of what's been done already. Is it good? Yes. It's exceptional. Does it break the mold? Not really. The origin stories, I think, are the biggest point. That's moving us in the direction of real organic pen and paper RPGs. You have 6 completely separate starting stories that contain a few hours of content that set you apart from the other stories available. It's not cookie cutter, where you'd just plug your generic character into a plot that isn't really going to change no matter what you do, you're an individual with craftable motivations and choices that all relate to where you are and where you've been.

I can't wait to see video games expand to do what a pen and paper RPG can do. It won't replace the fun you have with your buddies around a kitchen table with books all over the place, but it'll be awesome none-the-less.

Thanks for reading!


RPG Tangents - Dragon Age: Origins

Author: Andrew /

Alright, so, I realize that I could probably play Dragon Age for 150 hours before actually thinking I've played even remotely close to everything so here's my review.

First off, I'm just going to get this out of the way. Dragon Age is awesome. Like, no-holds-barred fantastic. This is, bar none, the best RPG experience I've had in only God knows how long and if you can get your hands on it, do so.

[Some SPOILERS ahead but I'll try to keep them to a minimum]

So, were my hopes realized? Yep, for the most part. The character creation offers enough variety to make characters look different, but it's not so deep that you'll sit there for hours upon hours. That said, it's good. Quite good. The character development is really neat too. Do you craft your own story? Yes and no. You will play one of 3 races, each having 2 backstories possible, depending on class. You play through a unique intro depending on what you choose and then you, by some way or another, end up playing a Grey Warden fighting against the blight.

You'll run into a BUNCH of different characters and creatures, eacg of whom have unique backstories and histories to explore, depending on your relationship to the characters and the choices you make. The moral choices in the game are interesting too. It's quite possible to make a choice that you think is really and truely correct and still a member or two from your party will disagree with your actions. It's at the same time awesome and frustrating because on the one hand, it'd be nice if all your party members liked you and you could really get to know each and every one of them but at the same time, having that uniqueness and individuality makes each playthrough interesting. "Which characters am I going to explore this time?"

The voice acting is stellar. All the actors play their parts well and you really feel the characters. They don't seem like famous actors behind some computer animation, you really feel as if they're a real being, within the bounds of the game. The other sound work is excellent, and it's what you'd expect from a top notch fantasy game.

The thing I'm very impressed with is the actual presentation. They make heavy use of cut-away scenes but not in an annoying way. They utilize in-game graphics to create the scenes that display huge battles, political machinations between nobles and other plot events and the voice acting and shots are so well done that it's just really awesome when one comes one and you get to sit back and go "Oooh cool, what's this?"

So, graphics and audio are great. Story is great, as is character development. How about the game? Exceptional as well (surprise, right?). I'll tell you this much though. Dragon Age will kick your butt. I was in one particular boss fight where a party member had been disarmed earlier in the dungeon. He used a 2 handed sword and all his moves are based around that. So, I gave him two regular swords so he had something to fight with, but it just didn't cut it. I got trounced over and over for a good couple hours, trying strategy after strategy, maximizing health potions, spell use, using the pause-delegation strategy, everything. Later, I finally loaded up a slightly earlier save, grabbed a different character that had the right equipment and it went a lot easier. This is all on normal mode and there are two difficulties higher than that.

Beyond that, I just want to say that my favorite part of the game has got to be the conversations. The role play choices you can make are really cool and sometimes just laugh out loud funny. The story is dark, mature and heavy and what's more, it's long. It's full of monsters, treachery, intrigue, laughs and violence.

This sets the bar quite a few notches higher for fantasy role playing games to come and I think it's ripe with ideas for any D&D game, both plot wise, strategy-wise and character-wise.

Again, if your computer can run it well, I would recommend the PC version. All the reviews I've read say that the console versions don't look quite as good (namely the textures are a bit compressed and muddy) and they don't offer the top-down strategic camera view, like the PC does. Also if you have the PC version, the toolset for creating your own levels complete with a lip-synching tool, cinematic creator, etc, is available.

So, all in all, go get Dragon Age and explore Ferelden. It's great!


RPG Tangents - Dragon Age: Origin - Hopes

Author: Andrew /

In D&D we look for a lot of things. We expect many things that a video game can't deliver, at the moment and in that, it gives video games a lot to aspire to and try to emulate. I would wager that it will be some time before a computer can create a compelling story and allow as well as adapt to any player's choices; BUT, that said, there are a lot they can do. In the upcoming Dragon Age: Origins created by the folks over at Bioware (makers of Baldur's Gate, Neverwinter Nights, Jade Empire, Mass Effect, etc) it appears that they will take yet another stab at a great fantasy epic that will raise the bar for all role playing games to come. I have it pre-ordered and plan to give it a run and these are some of the things I'm hoping to see:

Story: In a game like this, story is always paramount. It's just something you can't get away from. A shooter usually doesn't need much story to be great (look at Borderlands), but with an RPG (or any good one, if you ask me), everything is centered around it. I've talked with lots of friends and colleagues and most, if not all, agree that an RPG is different in that it's one of those kinds of games that really isn't about winning. In fact, with an RPG, "winning" is usually the worst part, because that means (sadly) that it's over. It's about the journey, the character development and the events and interactions you have along the way. So, my first hope is that the framework in which the game takes place and the events that unfold, are memorable. I hope that real care has gone into crafting a story that will draw in the players time and time again and that this be one of the new classics that any fan of RPGs or even just good story, should own.

Character Development: Variety. I hope that the variety of the game is huge and that it's possible to really make your character stand out. To a point, that's not really the aim of this game. There is obviously a story to be played through and they make it plain that you're set on a path, at least by some point in the game. That said, I hope that everything is done in such a way where you feel your character is unique and original and has impact on the setting.

I hope there is excellent character interaction as well. Bioware has done a good job of making their characters interesting and I hope things get kicked up a notch.

Gameplay: I just hope that things are crisp. It would be good to see an RPG that handles tightly as a game, espescially with combat, as it does with physical interaction. From what I've read, it's very strategic and that watching a fight play out is really great to watch. I hope the animations are smooth, the combat options are robust and that the interface works smoothly so that it's painless to direct the action in front of you.

Replay Value: I'm already confident in this one but I want to make a note of it all the same. From what's reached my ears and eyes via previews and interviews, there are three races to choose from as well as 6 different backgrounds. You're talking 18 possible combinations just with race and class. Throw in gender (if they really make that matter, which I hope they do), that doubles it to 36.

On top of that, I've heard they have a passive alignment system. Some of you might be asking "What the heck do you mean?" Well, in games such as Knights of the Old Republic (also made by Bioware), you had a meter that told you how "light side" or "dark side" you were. This allowed you to make decisions to lean yourself one way or another for whatever reason you had. Dragon Age takes what sounds like a much more subtle and intriguing go at this. The system is completely background. You never see it. On top of that, you're given choices that tend to be much more morally grey than "Kill him or don't kill him?" This gives some time for anxiety and some beard-stroking as you contemplate your actions and the impact they will have on the world and try to pick the dicision that will have the smallest likelyhood to turn around and bite you in the rear.

Overall: I hope that Dragon Age does role playing games proud. I think we need more great RPGs and if this succeeds it could have a distinct influence on future RPGs to come. It can be a shining example of what to do or a glaring example of what not to do. I have a feeling it will be the former and I hope it won't be the latter.

What this means, in relation to D&D is that they will keep making video games based on D&D and this is also a dark fantasy epic. This will most likely have some impact on how developers go about the next video adaptation of our beloved pen-and-paper game. So, in a way, I hope it does fantasy role playing games justice and points us in the right direction.

As a final thought, beyond all that stuff up there, I just hope that it's fun!

Dragon Age: Origins releases Nov 3rd and is available from your local game stores. It is available for PC, Xbox 360 and PS3.

Dragon Age: Origins is rated M for Mature. The game will contain a healthy dose of combat related mess and much more mature themes. Parents, if your kids are small, do them a favor and look into it before buying it for them.

Happy Gaming!


RPG Tangent - Borderlands

Author: Andrew /

So I just had a thought. D&D is a paper role playing game (that wasn't the thought). As a role playing game where the players design the experience, I think it's valid to look at other games that enhance (or possibly ruin...) our views and the way we design, run and play our D&D games. As such, I'm making an "RPG Tangent" set of posts to discuss other games that approach our genre and possible things we can pull from these experiences.

So, the game in question today?


Borderlands is an awesome little gem of a video-game created by Gearbox. It's being marketed as an "RPS" or a role-playing-shooter. Their entire goal was to take elements of popular games of late such as the likes of Doom3, Fallout 3, World of Warcraft, Diablo, Mass Effect, etc (popular shooters and role playing games in the video game market) and make a game that blends the features of these games into one insane, awesome, shoot-fest with integrated gameplay elements of a role playing game.

Essentially, what Borderlands feels like to me is a first-person Diablo with guns and less role play. Now, usually, I'm all for RP and think "the more, the merrier!" but in the case of Borderlands, I never felt I needed it. It wasn't a world I felt like impacting with words and the sheer absense of friendly NPCs around (save your home bases scattered about) makes the player not really mind being unable to chew the fat with the locals.

The game takes place on Pandora which is some weird kind Mad-Max rip off with a stylized western feel. Most of the local friendly NPCs are backwater-yokle types with a country twang that really works. The vast majority of the dialogue cracks me up all the time and the NPCs do their job of serving up missions (or quests, if you must) and spicing it up with some good-ole, down home plain talkin'.

The story is baseline at best. You're one of four mercenaries, Mordecai - the scout, Lilith - the siren (the stealthy one), Roland - the soldier and Brick - the.... well, Brick. You're hunting for "The Vault", a rumored cache of alien weapons and technology. That's about it. You start in a town made of ramschackle tin shacks and blown out barracks, etc. You check the bounty boards, the claptrap robots (who are hilarious) and the NPCs talk "redneck" style to ya and it's great.

So, the story is shallow / simple, the role-playing is nonexistent, so what's so great about Borderlands? The combo of the things they put in the game.

You know loot? PHAT loots, even? Yeah, this game is riddled with it. There are literally hundreds of THOUSANDS of guns, if not more. The trailer actually advertizes 87 BAZILLION guns! This is really sweet, in that they actually went to the trouble of developing a separate AI purely for procedurally generating guns. There are fictional gun manufacturing companies that make all these guns with varying stats such as damage, accuracy and fire rate. There are also variables and bonuses that some might have such as increased clip size, improved rate of fire, increased damage, elemental damage (caustic acid, explosions, fire, etc), etc. Every gun has rarity color taken straight from WoW (white-green-blue-purple-orange). One of the things that makes this a blast (pun very much intended) is getting a new gun and testing it on some of the crazed maniac bandits and beasties that roam the wasteland of pandora. You go out with your new shotgun, sniper rifle, machine gun or what have you, and blow-stuff-up!

One other thing that makes this a great game is the upgradable elements. You upgrade the weapon slots you have. You start out being able to only carry two weapons at a time, but as things go on, you unlock slots to be able to cary up to four. You have slots for class ability upgrades, shield upgrades, grenade upgrades (the grenades in the game are normal and you purchase or find upgrades that apply properties to them such as sticky, bouncy, proximity mines, health-stealing, etc), etc.

There are also the skill-trees. Like Diablo and WoW and many other games now that give you "skill paths" to follow, you've got that in Borderlands too. Playing Brick, I was able to go with either a brawler tree (where you beef up his special ability to go crazy and start beating the living daylights out of everything in sight), the tank tree (where you beef up his ability to take damage, thereby triggering great offensive abilities when in the thick of things) and the blaster tree (where you upgrade things that beef up his explosives, usually). You can put points into any tree you like, mix 'n' match, etc and it's great. All the skills are useful and what's more, they're really fun. One of the ending blaster skills even allows Brick to regen rockets for his rocket launcher, 2 every minute! Yes, some of the skills are silly, but the entire game is over the top and it's pure and total entertainment.

The style of the game is awesome as well. The graphical style (which they're calling "concept art style" *yawn*) is, as Peter Griffin would say, "freakin' sweet!". Everything is done with a mix of colors and browns and greys so things seem dusty, but not "un-vibrant". Everything is also given heavy, black linework throughout the textures, giving it an almost sketchy and comic-bookish style. I thought, going into it, that roaming a desert would be boring, but it's far from it. The art is varied and the characters are interesting to look at and everything just feels great.

The sound quality is great and the gameplay is tight and responsive. Borderlands makes no bones about what it does and it does it all really well.

The one gripe I have about this game is the multiplayer. When it works, it works great, but getting your networking to work well (and this is just on PC) can be a bit of a pain. You usually have to open some ports on your computer's router and make sure the connection is working right. That said, it's not THAT hard to work and what's more, not everyone has to do this. From what I've heard, they're working on fixing the networking problem as well. If you don't want to futz with that, it's also available for 360 and PS3. This is NOT a game breaker by any means, just a minor annoyance.

What can we learn from this? Sometimes a brawl really is a fun part of the game. RP is great and has its place for sure, but sometimes it's nice to just whip your sword or axe or magic impliment out and go crazy on some bad guys. Sometimes RP can be its own reward but sometimes it's a blast to just wade through a pile of gold and weapons and get all decked out. Sometimes seriousness is great and can set an awesome mood, but so can humor and hysterics, if done right. Borderlands is a shining example of this and I think everyone should pick this up and enjoy it. I, having seen game design, learning it and trying it, can tell that this is a massive labor of love, with an approach where the creators unabashadly took inspiration from other games in the industry by name, instead of keeping it all a secret, not caring that something might look like a rip-off. Their goal here was fun and I have to say, they succeeded with flying colors and a little (ok, a lot) of blood-spatter!

It's rated M for crazy shooter violence, some language and over-the-top Mad-Max fun!

I hope this gives you guys some fun ideas and also gives ya something to pick up and play with on your computers (or your PS3 or 360). HAPPY GAMING!



Author: Andrew /

Hey all; I was doing some thinking and I realized that I haven't written in a while and what's more, it's been a REALLY long time since I made a post that wasn't "Ohdd" related. This stems from it a bit but it is, I promise, a genuine, bona-fide, real deal post. Enjoy!


So I was doing some thinking and the idea of "open-ended-ness" was on my mind. In my recent game I was able to run with some of the players involved, just to get the ball rolling, I discovered something. Well, in truth, I knew already, but more I ran into an obstacle I had thought about but one I hadn't actually coped with in a game situation.

That thing is an open ended setting.

In my mind, I really dislike railroading characters. I don't want to force them into anything and I sometimes would like to see them really run around with the setting and have some fun with it. I see settings such as Forgotton Realms and Eberron and even Dark Sun (the new setting being published by Wizards of the Coast) and I want to build that. All told, I have the basis for that with Telain and it's well on its way. That said, trying to build a campaign while having some things planned and at the same having some other things not planned at all can lead to problems.

Firstly, it's very important to have all players on the same page. There was a point in the game, for instance, where a player was unable to make it for the first section of the game, which is fine. I was told to run the player's character as an NPC, so I did. Things went fine but one problem I encountered was that a DM can play a PC very differently than a player has in mind and there can be conflict there. When the player was able to show up, he took over the character and there was a drastic shift in said character. The way I played him and the way that the player played him was hugely different and threw off some players who quickly got used to my way, and then switched. This was a large learning experience for me, and thank you to the players involved for helping me learn this. It was a good experience.

For other sessions, it's fine if a player can't make it for some or all of it. For first session (or a character's first session) they need to be there to establish the character in the way they want them portrayed. Once the DM can see how the character is supposed to be portrayed, the character can be DM run in certain circumstances without a continuity problem. That said, things managed to get on track.

Secondly, having a major plot hook for the group to follow is also very important. This may seem like a "No Duh" point, but it's slightly more complicated. Being the type of player and overall person I am, I love great story. This means I love great backstories. Therefore, I push players to have great backstories themselves. The problem with this is that sometimes the player's backstories are so far from one another or they are so deep or have so many details that impact the character in a large way that bringing the party of characters together can be very difficult or may even seem impossible.

The problem I think I've run into is this. I think I have a problem with the term "backstory". I like backstories. I like backgrounds where characters have done things or things that explain why they are the way they are. The problem I've faced is when backstories lack the ability to adapt to many situations. I think what I really like to see are players who just understand their characters.

So often I see players (I've even been this player many times) who roll up a character, see the numbers and whatnot and think it's go time, but when they get to the table, it's just the player and the character itself seems absent. It seems like "John" and not "Regvemar the barbarian". I think that this stems from certain players having little interest in the character side of things or possibly just not knowing how to go about figuring out the "What's my character like as a person?" question.

Also, it's my fault, as a DM. A lot of times, I push for backstory. I push for role play. A lot of times, I feel I can come off as elitest and force things from players that I want when it may not be things that the players want. Granted, sometimes a DM has to say "no" when it's appropriate and saying "yes" all the time can lead to problems and frustration, and it also doesn't make anyone happy.

So, to kind of sum up my random thoughts, open-ended-ness and open world is great. But that means being open to lots of things and sometimes being too open can cause problems. Guidelines are ok and having a target to hit or a destination to go to doesn't make a game poor in any fashion.

Also, certain players like certain things. Certain players don't want to come up with huge backstories and role-play til their eye's bug out, and other players don't want combat after combat, sometimes they want to talk and role-play and enjoy themselves in that fashion.

So, from here on out, I'm going to make an effort to be a better and different DM.


This is a note to my Ohdd players:

Guys, first of all, I want to tell you you're all great (whether I've gotten a chance to play with you yet or not, believe me, I want to). I've gamed with almost all of you at one point or another and I see value in each and every one of you. I know that there have been some conflicts and and there have been some miscommunications and I know that I've not shared my vision as best I can because I wanted to keep a sense of mystery about my plans. I realize that I want to do that now.

My desire for the Ohdd game's set-up was something of an MMO style set up, in that I wanted to have an open city in which the character party could go around, see tons of neat things, and run into characters, sometimes "average joes" on the street, talk to them, and find things out about the people and gain quests that way. I wanted quests to come up from exploration, instead of the more traditional exploration steming from quests.

The city was designed with many buildings and I don't believe that I showcased it very well. I have a world map and I have a city map but those don't do the city literary justice and I did a poor job of portraying the city and I want to remedy that.

Players, I also want to say this. I am sorry if you feel that I forced you into making a backstory or forced you into playing in a way that you didn't want to, that isn't fun for you. This is a game and it should be fun. If you are unhappy with your character or if you'd like to make some changes, please talk to me. Send me an e mail at -andrew.geertsen[at]gmail[dot]com- (put those in to avoid net-trolling spiders lol).

So, as a final treat for you guys putting up with all this, here is a description of Ohdd that I hope does it justice. Enjoy!


"Ohdd is a city that was named after it's quality. In this city, there really is a bit of everything. If you were to walk across The Bridge to Away, into the city, you would see things that would amuse, baffle and intrigue you. There are places within Ohdd that bend the mind, incite booming laughter and sometimes just simply raise an eyebrow in confusion.

"Surrounding the city is a massive towering barrier called 'The Shifting Wall'. The shifting wall was designed by the most powerful wielders of magic in the city (who are quite powerful indeed) to protect the city from any possible outside threats for as one of the aforementioned magic-weilders was quoted as saying "There's gotta be some out there somewhere, right?" The Shifting Wall is just that, a magically shifting wall. It towers fifty feet in the air and is ten feet thick. The wall magically shifts every once in a while to another "kind" of wall, every time remaining within the dimensions of fifty feet tall and ten feet thick. Sometimes it might be solid, seamless stone and other times it may be a massive sheet of iron. Other times the space may be filled with roiling fire or churning water or possibly an ever undulating mass of vines. There are many forms the wall can take, all of which inspire a new feeling of awe and adds something interesting each day to the lives of the residents of Ohdd. 'What's the wall going to be today?!'

"The powerful magic users mentioned above are called 'The Sparklers'. If you were to ask one of them, most would tell you straight out that they hate the name. They take themselves very seriously and it was because of this that, sometime a ways back, a bard in posession of some great mass of nerves, decided to dub them something rather less than intimidating. He called them 'The Sparklers'. Try as they might to convince everyone they were 'Mages' of the highest order and 'Wizards' who defy the elements and bend reality to their will, alas, to their chagrin, the name stuck and whenever someone mentions them, it's not uncommon to hear a giggle or a stifled chuckle come from somewhere nearby.

"The Sparklers reside inside what has been dubbed, accordingly, 'The Sparkling Hall'. This is a place where those of the magic occupation study and hone their craft. It is a place of class and intelligence and, at some points, some eccentricities. It is crafted of beautiful stone, carved wood and inlaid stone. It rises about three stories on the outside, but who can speak for the inside but those who are, in fact, inside?

"Another main facet of the city is its greatest and, indeed its only tavern, the Nervat. The Nervat is run by a half-elf named Severius Wilkins. Wilkins is known to most to be a wonderful host who is not above getting to know his patrons and sitting down for a drink or two... or three... or four... after all, it's his place, eh?! The Nervat is a place laced with magic. All the tables sport a small flame in a brass bowl, sitting in the middle of the table, and next to it, a small stack of papers and a pen of some sort. All a patron need do is write their order on a slip of the paper, toss it into the happily dancing flame and it burns away. Shortly thereafter, they can expect their order to be brought out to their table by hand, with expedious service.

"The Nervat is constantly growing as Wilkins indeed loves to see his place expand. In constructing The Nervat, he built a bottom floor that anyone would consider large, but not massive by any stretch; but as time went on and he kept building, the Nervat took on a look and presence all his own. Enlisting the assistance of The Sparklers (you hear a giggle coming from another room), the buildings floors expand outward to points where they would most assuredly collapse if it weren't for the help of enchantments placed on the building materials to support the structure. The Nervat is indeed one of the wonders of Ohdd.

"Also there is the "No Way Out Current" that surrounds the city. Folk from outside Ohdd tend to find it rather bemusing when they come that there is, in fact, this large waterway that, in the end, doesn't go anywhere but.... well, around. An inlet from the sea lets water in and it is carried in via a current. The current, however, simply comes in one way and it goes in a large circle, reconnecting at the origin and feeding into itself. The current is rather strong so once on it, a boat would not be able to leave through the inlet. In order to stop ships from entering, a gate was built over the inlet so that boats would not be trapped within the current. Boats have been built in Ohdd, though, and they're used for mass trasportation to other sides of Ohdd, as there are four major docks.

"If one was to look at Ohdd, they would see many things. At night, they would run into small groups of zombies roaming the streets, during the day, large groups of bustling people running hither and thither, going about their days. You would see cobbled streets, houses leaning over the major thoroughfares as if to try to get a really good look at the action. You would see vendors on The Trodden Way, hawking their goods to one and all. You would see performers from large stilt walkers to jugglers, to fire spitters, to sword swallowers. You would find races unique and common, interesting and not. You would see amusing, confusing, interesting and troublesome types all. Ohdd is a place of strageness, wonder and absolute personality. One does not go to Ohdd to find experiences. One comes to Ohdd to experience Ohdd itself."

Welcome =]



P.S. - I'm currently about to acquire a new computer and as of Thursday, Oct 22nd, I'll be switching over my system. I'll be copying files and whatnot and just settling into it. On top of that, I've got some games I've really been wanting to try and plan on putting some time in to get my inspiration going. Some of the games I plan to try will include Borderlands and Dragon Age: Origins. They look great and like they merit some checking out. I mean, a game that actually says, in their trailer, that The RPG and the FPS just made a baby and that they have 87 bazillion guns has gotta be fun! Dragon Age is from Bioware, who are the makers of just about all the classic D&D video games made to date, including Baldur's Gate, Icewind Dale, Neverwinter Nights and Neverwinter Nights 2 as well as the new Sci-Fi franchise, Mass Effect (whose sequel is coming early next year, if I heard right). I plan on checking these games. Also my birthday is coming up on the 27th, I've been getting about 20 hours a week at work and I've got plans on the weekend to celebrate my birthday, as I work during the week and so does the woman I plan to celebrate with. On top of THAT, the holidays are approaching so I know we'll all be busy and I just want to forwarn everyone that there may be large stretches where an Ohdd game may not be possible. I'll do my best to work something out, I just wanted to give all of you my status. Thanks again, all of you, for your vigilence and support with The D&D Take. It's alive and well and has really been awesome so far. I plan on posting more perspectives and thoughts on the game in general and hopefully we can all find ways to become better gamers! Thanks again!

Schedules for Ohdd

Author: Andrew /

Alright all, we're running into an issue with Ohdd and that issue is scheduling.

I, myself, have a random schedule as per what Starbucks needs on a weekly basis. It varies and there really isn't much I can do about it.

Chris' schedule is:
Mondays: Class @ 6pm, unable to play
Tuesdays: Free
Wednesdays: Free
Thursdays: Free, but not preferred (morning class next day)
Fridays: Class from 8:30 AM - 5 PM, evenings are okay
Saturdays: Not an option.
Sundays: Free

Lincoln can usually play whenever assuming it's after 4pm or so.

Magus, I've not received a schedule from you. If you could provide one, that would be excellent.

Adam, from what I read, you can't do Thursdays but do you think you could provide a schedule for your weeks, just so we can get a good look?

From what I'm seeing, our available days right now are tuesday and wednesday unless someone can make some changes.

Thanks for all your help,


Ohdd Expectations

Author: Andrew /

Alright guys, it looks like we're about ready to roll out Ohdd. We've got maps, we've got back-stories, we've got ties, we've got the characters themselves, we've got a city with all sorts of neat stuff to see, we've got a pantheon and we've got 5 players chompin' at the bit to get their game on and who would I be to say no? Well, the DM, but thanks to the DMG, I know one of the first fundamental rules of running is "Say YES!" =]

So, in this final big post before the game starts, I'd like to know some expectations you guys have for the game. I have some ideas as far as theme goes that I'm going to attempt to work into the game to the best of my ability and I want you guys to have fun. The main things I'm going to go for are:

-Tinge of randomness

Humor - In Ohdd, I plan on having stuff that'll make you laugh or at least cock your head to the side and go "Whaaaat?" I plan on the city popping stuff up that you'll at least chuckle at and things that aren't too overtly serious. This is much easier done than said but suffice it to say, I'm taking this game with a smile on my face and I think a little laughter will be good. That said, I'll want some serious moments too.

Adventure - Everyone likes a little action and I plan on giving that to you, the players. I plan on giving you choice with, most likely, a bit of guidance if it comes to that. The only thing I'm going for at the moment, is keeping things within the city.

Exploration - That said, while I want the game taking place in the city, the city is very large with lots in it (some things I may not even know about) and there's lots of room to go around and see things. You don't normally have to stick to the story either. There are lots of things to do and if you guys think of something else you want to go off and try, there's no problem.

A Tinge of Randomness - I've found in the recent past that I have a bit of a talent for coming up with off the wall stuff and I want to integrate into the game, making for memorable moments and things that'll make you laugh, jump or just smile and enjoy. I like throwing stuff into the mix that will give you something to talk about even years later. "You remember that time when we...?" I want lots of those.

Anyways, all, The Gates of Ohdd are about to open and I'm glad you're here to share this with me. This will be my first truely home-brewed campaign, Ohdd being the first city in the wide... wide... wiiiide world of Telain (a much more serious place than Ohdd, itself) and I hope it's a treat for you all. Thanks again for all your help, I think this'll be a blast!

With the most sincere gratitude to all my readers and my team of players,


Ohdd Tie-In Stories

Author: Andrew /

"Play fair," whispered the dark elf to himself, "that's what I say. You don't cheat me. You cheat me and you're stealing. You steal from me, and I do you one better; that's just how it's gotta be."

Clothed in black, he shimmied up the drainpipe alongside the house. Holding on with one hand, he found the edge of a window into the upstairs hallway and nudged it up, pushed it open and slunk inside. Staying low, he crept down the hallway. The carpet on the floor was actually rather nice. Not rich by any means, but not bad certainly; comfortable. The hall was dark and all was quiet. Outside he heard some footsteps going by down the cobbled road. Someone always seemed to be up in this city. Not much different from home or, well, what was home.

He moved along the wall to the first door on the right and put his ear to it. He tested the doorknob and sure enough, not locked. He eased the door open, creaking gently but not loudly, peering into the room. Pitch black. He slipped into the room, clicking the door shut behind him quietly. His eyes adjusting even more so to the darkness, he began to see even more clearly. There was the cheating scum, snoring away sleeping deeply. Dirzjra crept up alongside the bed and slid out a knife.

"Payment with interest..."

He leaned over the sleeping man, snoring away. He took the knife, and put it to the cheater's throat. His arm tensed and-


The door splintered apart with a crash and a sunrod flew through the door illuminating the room.


A figure was standing in the splintered doorway, dressed in leathers, long cloak rustling around it, mask covering its face. It had a small, yet menacing crossbow in each hand pointed straight at the man in his bed. The eyes above the mask went wide, seeing more in the room than she expected.

Dirzjra looked at the figure in the doorway, eyes equally wide.

"What the?"

"Who are-?"

The man was lying in the bed, now quite awake, looking at the knife over his throat, eyes bugging out of his skull in surprise, mouth hanging open. He looked at Dirzjra, then at the figure in the doorway. Dirzjra looked at the man. The figure looked at the man. Dirzjra and the figure looked at each other, surprise being the only prevalent feeling in the room. Everything was still for a split second.

Snapping out of it, Dirzjra slashed the bedded fellow's throat, pulling the blood-gushing corpse towards him just as the two crossbows twanged. A bolt blew through the body's shoulder and thudded into the wooden headboard, splinters flying. The second crashed into the dead body's head with a crack and splatter, right where Dirzjra's head was a moment earlier. Dirzjra jumped back from the body looking towards the shooter in the doorway. He pointed his dagger threateningly at the figure. The figure dropped it's bows and pulled out a dagger as well and pointed it in an equally threatening manner.

"Who're you?!" asked the drow.

"Who're you?!" asked the figure in the door, voice appearing to be female.

"I'm settling a debt, what're you here for?!"

"I'm here to take him out, on a job!"

The both looked at each other, eyes narrowed. They both looked at the dead body on the floor, blood pooling under the head, and gaping shoulder wound. They both looked to each other.

"I'm not here for you, whoever you are," said the woman.

"Then put your knife down," said the drow



More staring.

They both slowly lowered their knives and sheathed them. Dirzjra looked the woman up and down, then back to the body and finally relaxed a bit. "Bit of a mess, eh?"

"Yeah, gotta say I wasn't expecting that... How'd you get in here so well, I've been staking out the place for about twenty minutes?"

"Through the window just down the hall, just snuck in."

"Ah..." She looked around at the debris by the door.

Dirzjra went over to a bureau and rifled through the man's belongings and found a purse with some gold coins. "We're square" he said to the shocked looking body on the floor.

"Well," he said brightly to the woman "Have a pleasant evening." and left before she could reply. He shimmied out the window and up onto the roof. He waited a while until he saw a dark figure leave, quietly and quickly. She walked through a few alleys, wound through town between houses and entered an abandoned, rundown house. It was large, once very nice but now old, moss covered and boarded up. There was an iron fence around the place, the gate barely hanging on it's old hinges.

He followed the woman inside. She heard voices coming from inside.

"So you got him?"

"Of course. Have I ever failed you?"

She was speaking with a guard in bright plate.

The drow sat just outside the room on the upstairs landing, shifted his weight just a bit and creeaak, the old wood cried into the darkness. The conversation stopped and he heard footsteps come across the floor. Before he realized how close they were, a metal covered hand reached around the doorway, grabbing him and throwing him into the room.

The room was lit by a fire in a small fireplace and over him stood the woman from the man's house and what seemed to be a member of the Shiny Guard who was looking rather grim. "What the?!"

He was about to start whaling on the startled drow when the woman said "DON'T! Don't, Korban, he's alright. I actually ran into him on the hit. He must have followed me. He could have come after me several times, I imagine, but he obviously didn't. Let him be, let him be."

The man called Korban let the drow go, as Dirzjra fell to the floor gasping. "What's your name, dark elf?"

"Dirzjra, my name's Dirzjra. Who in the name of the night are you people? What the Hells is this?"

She looked to the man called Korban, looked at the drow, looked back and went off aside and started whispering and gesturing wildly. Korban looked worried, stuck his fingers up on his ears and jerked his thumb across his throat. The woman looked like she was trying to calm him down. He heaved a sigh and nodded. The woman came over and offered the drow her hand to get up.

"My name is Eliza and this fellow is Korban. We do bounty work. He's a member of the guard. We act as somewhat of a vigilante group within the city. We're not really known to anyone, he simply brings bounties to me, I track them down. Sometimes he helps but that's about the gist of it. Here's the problem though; we like to keep this quiet and honestly, we don't so much know that you'll keep this to yourself. If the guard knew he was assisting in favor of a bounty hunter before the guards got wind of it. So long as the targets get taken care of, though, all is well. So, I'm going to pose a proposal to you. You help us and join our team or we, well, you can imagine the alternative."

Dirzjra thought for a moment. Might be a good way to bring in cash. Bounties are usually for people who've got it coming anyway and out here things seem pretty legitimate, way more so than home at least. What've I got to lose?

"Sure, I'll help you out. I get a cut of the action?"

"Yeah, in more ways than one."

They all shook hands and the deal was made.


A few weeks later, Korban came into the old house with news. "You guys, you may want to hear this. So you know the old art museum place? The Galleria Eternia? Yeah, well that old oddball Barrochio's gone missin'. I know, crazy right? He's been there for ages, but so's that guard of his. I think her name's Minli. A few of the boys in the guard fancy her a bit. Odd enough is that she hasn't seemed to take to any of em. Seems to keep to herself. Just look out if you want into the gallery. She seems rather picky sometimes.

"Anyways, one day he was there, next day, gone. Minli says she went to look for the guy but he wasn't there. The courts don't know what to make of it. They think Minli's the prime suspect. No one else was around and a lot of people could testify to her seeming less than happy with her post. Problem is, no one can actually prove she got rid of the bastard. The word around the guard is they think she did the poor guy in and ditched the body in the night but who knows. No proof, no blood, no notes, no clues, nothin'. Just gone without a trace. This half elf fella who I've not seen before, name of 'Rho' took the case and got her off on the pure fact that there's no evidence she did it. They didn't totally let her off the hook, though. They let her off with the condition that she's not the responsibility of Rho. They said 'You go with him or come with us.' You can imagine what she picked.

"So, here's where we come in. Sounds like they want to find out what happened to Rockio and could use a hand and I imagine the guys that find out what happened might get a hefty reward, especially if he's alive. I mean, the guy made priceless artwork and was divinely empowered, though if you ask me, I dunno where that went. I think if we help these two, it might just lead to some good stuff, for sure. What do you guys think?"

Eliza and Dirzjra looked at Korban, then each other.

"We have any other contracts?" asked Eliza

"It's bone dry right now."

"Hmm... No reason not to, then, eh? Dirz?"

"Sounds good to me. Should we go find this guy?"

"He's over at the Galleria. Lookin for clues I'm guessin'. Shall we?"

Nothing more needed be said. They three headed out and found Rho and Minli.

"We here you're lookin' for help with your search." said Korban.

"Well well, I do indeed! This troubles me and I'm smelling something here that's not right." Said Rho "I don't know much about the gods but from what Minli here tells me, Barrochio was a special favorite of Folio, the god of art himself. Just disappearing out of nowhere, seems unlikely but all the same, he's not here. Hmmm...."

"Barrochio was a conceited, vain and stuck up snob. To tell the truth, between us, I don't know if I'm so disappointed he's gone... We should look but... well... I don't know. Do you know how long I've been a guard here? For EVER!" She screamed and smashed a sculpture with no discernible form. "The bastard treated me like I was uncultured, and beneath him. He kept me around because he knew that if it came to it, he couldn't defend himself to... well... save his life. I'm not sure what I want to do about all this..."

"Well," said Rho, "I think I've got something here. I knew something smelled odd, just couldn't think of what. Now I'm realizing what it is. It's this energy in the air. When you're around magic, you can sometimes get a sense of electricity in the air when something happens and I've seen this before. Some two-bit wizard I defended a ways back accidentally botched a trick with an assistant. He used portals in the tricks and lets just say his volunteer was none too happy and is sans one foot now. Ah well. She's alive. Anyway, Portals leave this energy behind and that's what I'm getting here. I don't know if he did, but I'm thinking he," and he looked at the group around him, "might have left..."

Deities of Telain

Author: Andrew /

These are the gods of Telain. Most are recognized by the populace but some are not. Some are recognized by only a sect or group of people, or by certain people at certain times. Some of the gods love to get involved in mortal affairs, some do not. These are just brief glimpses at them, so you may see their names. Chances are, you will not encounter these beings or, if you do, it will be a rare moment; but the chances of you running into someone who follows one or more of them is much more likely. Enjoy the peek!

The Gods of Telain

Greater Gods

Creation - Araelian

Residence: Upper Celestia
Attitude: Benevolent
Influence: Massive
Recognition: Worldwide

Love - Thirian

Residence: Celestia
Attitude: Loving and peaceful.
Influence: Strong
Recognition: Worldwide

Justice - Croe

Residence: Celestia
Attitude: Stern
Influence: Strong
Recognition: Worldwide

War - Brodin

Residence: Celestia
Attitude: Brash and enthusiastic
Influence: Strong
Recognition: Worldwide

Peace - Cres

Residence: Celestia
Attitude: Calm
Influence: Mild
Recognition: Worldwide

Nature - Quori

Residence: Celestia
Attitude: Detached
Influence: Strong
Recognition: Worldwide

Animals - Coh

Residence: Celestia
Attitude: Detached, quick-tempered
Influence: Weak
Recognition: Sect

Death - Merath

Residence: Celestia
Attitude: Passive
Influence: Strong
Recognition: Worldwide

Magic - Sylian

Residence: Celestia
Attitude: Intense and Superior
Influence: Strong
Recognition: Worldwide

Knowledge - Hosartia

Residence: Celestia
Attitude: Peaceful and Wise
Influence: Strong
Recognition: Worldwide

Civilization - Grenaht

Residence: Celestia
Attitude: Enthusiastic and Ambitious
Influence: Strong
Recognition: Worldwide

Malice - Roggom

Residence: The Abyss
Attitude: Angry and Bitter
Influence: Strong
Recognition: Worldwide

Lesser Gods

Shadows and Trickery - Krillist

Residence: Moving
Attitude: Myrthful, Cryptic
Influence: Mild
Recognition: Sect

Ice - Xis

Residence: The Elemental Layer
Attitude: Distant, Uncaring, Cold
Influence: Strong
Recognition: Regional

Fire - Ohr

Residence: The Elemental Layer
Attitude: Rash, Quick Tempered, Unpredictable
Influence: Strong
Recognition: Regional

Air - Sialli

Residence: The Elemental Layer
Attitude: Precise, Rushed
Influence: Strong
Recognition: Worldwide

Earth - Toras

Residence: The Elemental Layer
Attitude: Slow, Strong, Reserved
Influence: Strong
Recognition: Worldwide

Water - Thovrum
Residence: The Elemental Layer
Attitude: Fickle, Moody
Influence: Strong
Recognition: Worldwide

Light - Wevryn

Residence: Celestia
Attitude: Happy, Bright, Positive
Influence: Strong
Recognition: Worldwide

Darkness - Tysh

Residence: The Abyss
Attitude: Brooding, Disdainful, Dark
Influence: Strong
Recognition: Worldwide

Travel - Rittran

Residence: Celestia
Attitude: Friendly, Curious
Influence: Mild
Recognition: Worldwide

Dreams - Fytrea

Residence: The Realm of Dreams
Attitude: Passive, Aloof, Cryptic
Influence: Strong
Recognition: Sect

Art - Folio

Residence: Celestia
Attitude: Imperious, Eletist, Haughty, Cultured
Influence: Mild
Recognition: Worldwide

Reverie - Alustio

Residence: Celestia
Attitude: Exhuberant, Joyful, Ecstatic
Influence: Strong
Recognition: Worldwide

(Telain and all related material are copyright Andrew Geertsen 2009)

Ohdd City Map

Author: Andrew /

Alright guys, here's a little taste. Welcome to Ohdd.

Ohdd City Map

Step 2: Ohdd Character Elaboration

Author: Andrew /

Alright, a lot of you have posted your character back-stories. Thus far, these are the classes we have:

Minli - Deva Paladin
Rho - Half-Elf Bard
Eliza - Human Rogue / Ranger

I know that there are two more players interested, at least, one of which may also want to play a Deva Paladin (He talked with me about his idea way way back). And I also know the other character is a rogue, if I remember right. As the back-stories come up, I can push and mold them and stick them in where they can go and we'll blend these chars together.

Alright, down to business.

Minli, I like your story for the most part. I'm altering a few things, if it's alright.
-Barrochio isn't gone.
-Now, to remain in keeping with the books (which I really want to do), Devas, when they die, do not wake up with accurate memory of their previous lives. They have vague memories, but they don't reincarnate as if they just woke up from a nap. It's a new character with a few shadows in the back from their previous lives; think of it almost like repressed memories, except you didn't repress them, it's just naturally that way. So, this is what I had in mind.

Minli hasn't ever really died, or perhaps she had, way way back in the first wars with the primordials and whatnot, but that was it. When she came back, the god who was in charge of her, Folio, decided she wasn't capable of being a "front-lines" soldier. He saw how you fell and was a tad disappointed so he re-posted you. You, having come back, don't really know what happened, so you accept your post. This post was being Barrochio's guard, and guard to the Galleria Eternia. Since it was such a mellow post, you haven't died. Being immortal, you've just been there the whole time and, as years go, are centuries old. You've been there since the Galleria was plans and stones scattered on the ground. You've seen Barrochio through all the stages of his work and come to know him on an almost first name basis. You still defer to him because your station demands it, but you don't necessarily like it. Through the ages, you've seen Barrochio go from being a literal instant master, creating works that defied comparrison to centuries later having grown lazy, listless and possibly even bored. His work still is good, to the casual observer or even occasionally the conniseurs but you, having seen his work over time, know it's not near what it used to be. You look at your current existence, seeing it as being a glorified door-woman simply existing to keep intruders out of a gallery which you, as time goes on, grow less confident that it's even worth guarding in the first place.

At current, you are doing your duty outside the Galleria Eternia with less than maximum enthusiasm, mulling over the conundrum that is Barrochio, and possibly even wondering what Folio sees in this and why he thought you needed to be the one to stand here.

-Do you, Minli, see this as an adequate compromise? I think this makes things fit with what you were going for in a backstory and still seems to me to fit within what the book says about Devas. I really like it, myself and it leaves me with options as to what I can do with your character.


Rho, I really like your story. It's rather simple but not to the point where it lacks things to play off of. What I would like to see from you, once we get a few more little stories up here, are a few ties with characters within the game party. Perhaps you can just start coming up with some ways your character could create ties with others?


Eliza, you're looking good so far, except that I'm not quite understanding your class and what you're saying your character is capable of. What I would like to see if your back story more clearly layed out and explained, or at least explain outside the backstory how your character will actually work.

Also, I'm not sure I'm going to have you working for the thieves guild, although I still may. A bounty hunter could be utilized by many sides, including even the actual law men themselves. You could even work as a contractor.


To you who haven't posted, post your backstories. They're important and factor greatly into the game and how we work with your characters. Once we have those, we can establish character ties, which I want to do here, and then we can get rolling! WooHoo!


I'm going to be working on finishing the pantheon as well as creating an actual map for Ohdd, so that we have something to reference, as it's taking place in a city with lots of neat places. Most of you will have been there for a month at least, if not more, so most of you should know the most basic places at least.

Players: refine your backstories and talk with other players to create ties between you. A good way to think about it is to have a character that has a strong positive tie to you and one where there's a "weak" negative tie. Not where there's genuine animosity but could perhaps create interesting playful banter, but will never risk true discord or disharmony within the group. Remember (I know I don't have to remind some of you) this is a party game where you're a team (or at least will be). Lets make this interesting.

Lets see a lot of posts and if you need help with your backstories or have questions about ANYTHING, feel free to let me know!

Looking forward to seeing your stuff!


Ohdd Character Ideas

Author: Andrew /

Alright guys, in an effort to make things more cohesive, this is where I want character ideas. Once they're there, I'll start giving go's and no-go's on things. One thing I'm looking for are characters that are pretty accurate to how they're portrayed in the books, as far as races go. If you're a dwarf and the book says dwarf societies are a certain way, stick to that. If you don't have the book, try to look it up or as someone who does.

I've gotten this question a lot so I'll say again:

-Starting at level 1
-Using stat arrays from the player's handbook or the point buy system
-Each character starts with 100 gold. You use that gold to buy the gear you need. Whatever gold is left over is the gold you have in your pocket.
-As far as where you start inside the city, we'll discuss that as you show your general back-story.
-Please try to make your back-stories a bit general. Tell me what your character is, and how they are. Make that detailed. As far as where they are and what they're doing, we'll work that out together to make sure it fits into what I've done, so far, cohesively.

Back in previous posts are some more detailed notes on restrictions and whatnot but yeah, shouldn't be a problem. Looking forward to seeing what you guys come up with!


Building Telain

Author: Andrew /

"The world of Telain has changed. Over the centuries, the gods have watched the mortals walk the lands of their dominion. They watched the mortal beings below; some protecting them, some looking to bring discord, violence and strife, and yet others were rather indifferent. Even with these different views on the small creatures beneath them, the gods agreed that laws need be made. Since the beginning, one law was paramount amongst the gods. That law was that no mortal shall ever touch magic. Magic was powerful; it was something the gods wielded and it was something woven into the very fabric of the world itself. Mortals were not to even know of its existence. It was this way for a millennium. That all changed one day.

Of the gods, Sylian, god of magic, was a particularly strong figure. Now, what many mortals didn't know is that the gods rest as well. In his sleep, he left the observance, maintainence and oversight of magic to his apprentice, Joraedin. Now, Joraedin was an interesting one. He did his duties diligently and without complaint. The problem was that the gods were used to deference and respect and in that security, they had grown complacent. It was only a matter of time before someone took advantage of this....

Joraedin stepped into the essence chamber. At the center of the chamber, there sat a crystalline decanter filled with what one would assume to be wine. But, if one moved closer and peered inside and looked closely, they would see something truly wondrous. The contents were not solid but nor were they entirely liquid or gas. They swirled even though they were undisturbed. If you watched it, you would notice lightning crackle across the surface, sometimes leaping out of the dark mass into the air. This was magic, in its most raw form. It was the enabler of things great and small. All living things had, at their heart, the most minute piece inside them, a piece that, if looked for would be invisible. This gave them life. But the mortals did not know.

Joraedin had looked down on the mortals in his time above and had seen them. In his mind, the gods existed for the mortals. If the mortals did not exist, the gods would have no reason for being and in his mind, he thought that power should be theirs to touch, if they sought it, not barred to them.

So, with that thought, Joraedin took the decanter and left the the citadel of Sylian and walked out to Sylian's Watch; the end of a stone outcropping that stretched out into the expanse of air over the world below. Joraedin held the decanter in his hands, looked down to the world below and whispered "Now you will know true wonder...."

He tipped the decanter over and the dark form inside, flowed out. It flowed in a crackling, swirling stream of mighty brilliance down, down, down to the world below. Joraedin held the decanter until every last drop, every last bit of the contents had fallen to the world's floor.

Magic hit the world with a noise of thunder multiplied upon itself a hundred fold. The energies spider-webbed across the planet, interlacing through itself, wrapping the world in a wondrous embrace. These lines became known as the threads of power.

Things changed. Some animals were transformed, some people were transformed, some became the other. Trees grew and changed; some even walked. The world became a new, different place.

As Joraedin watched this, enraptured with the same wonder he'd just delivered to the waiting world below, he did not see Sylian approach. The god was not understanding. The god was not pleased. The god was not merciful.

"You have broken the law." said Sylian in a voice that rumbled like a falling mountain. "For this, you will be punished. You will roam the earth amongst those below and you will have no power. You will not perish, but instead, you will exist and see the empires fall. You will see the ruin you have brought on the world and you will know that the gods know best. Joraedin, you have betrayed me. Be gone from my sight."

And with that, Sylian cast Joraedin from where he stood, down to the earth below. Joraedin fell down, down, down and hit the ground with such force that a crater formed miles wide and a half mile deep. It is now known as The Crater of the Fallen.

Joraedin picked himself up and knew that things were different. Aside from him being unable to die, the power he'd been given by Sylian as his apprentice had been stripped from him. He was now as the mortals were. But the wonderful thing about the living beings is that they can always surprise you and in some ways, the gods are sometimes the easiest surprise.

And so it was that Joraedin, the Bringer of Wonder, fell from The Heights and brought magic to this world as a gift to all those in it."


This is one of the first major events in Telain's history. The rest of the pantheon has yet to be created, but that will be something I'm going to tackle soon.

This is Telain's geographical map. There are mountains, both regular and snowy. There are forests, both regular and snowy. Along the horizontal center of the map is supposed to be very warm, possibly even desert.

This is Telain's boundary map. Civilized boundaries mean that there are people there with some semblance of civilization or organization. Uncivilized boundaries denote that the region, if populated, has nomads, barbarians or some other manner of uncivilized beings in it. Also, it could be devoid of any sentient beings. This is up to the imagination.

Any islands or large bodies that have no boundary lines are considered to be unsettled, at least formally. This map is according to the cartographers of the world as it is and there are places they have not gone, so they may not know what lies inside a certain area. If you think of an idea, such as a race or culture that resides in a certain place, post it and most likely, I'll be able to use it.

Any questions are more than welcome and I very much look forward to seeing what you guys come up with!

A Game Just for the Players

Author: Andrew /

So, in a recent post, I asked for more ideas for new "Takes". The response was good and there were a few ideas that really stood out to me. One of them was by my buddy Chris, who wanted me to touch on the idea of making a game FOR the players, making them feel like they're driving the game, instead of being in a story where it seems, for the players, that "any" hero could have been plugged into the spot and the adventure would have theoretically gone the same way.

I think this is a great idea so I'm going to tackle that right here, right now.


A personal experience is one that really caters to the individual. You've got players, who are people, who all have their interests and preferences. You've also got a GM who has his own ideas and experiences he wants to create. With this comes some really great meshing of personalities, but also some conflicts.

When it comes to running a game, there are certain ways you can go about this. They usually fall under these two categories.

Using a published adventure / campaign arc - Wizards of the Coast constantly cranks out pre-made campaigns, dungeons, stories, etc that can be used for a game. A lot of these can be tweaked to suit whatever needs you may have. Some of the adventures may be sub par, some might be fantastic. Usually you can go to places online, such as Amazon, where you can purchase the products and read reviews.

Using a home-brewed setting / game - In this situation, the campaign, adventure or just the session is played within a setting that is made completely by the DM (usually); it's usually created by someone who will be playing in the game and it's usually not formally published. This tends to be an option that's widely used as it allows for adaptation and greater manipulation of the world and more custom stories (although using just a published campaign setting).

That said, how do we answer the question "How do I make this a personal experience?"?

Well, the question, really, is a matter of tailoring and cooperation. If the DM is the only one taking part in crafting the game then it would make sense that it wouldn't feel as much about the players, since they had no part in creating the game.

The Dungeon Master's Guide 2 touches on the idea of cooperative world building. This generally consists of the players being given homework, giving them some of part in creating the world. The players are encouraged to think of interesting things to put in the world, interesting encounters, etc. It's saying to the DMs "Don't take it all on yourself, delegate some of it!"

Secondly, I truly believe in character backstories. Like, very very strongly. Figure out who your characters are (at least you PCs. NPCs can be a bit more vague as the story doesn't focus on them). Know your character's strengths, weaknesses, foibles, faults, motivations, likes, dislikes, hatreds, sense of humor, past jobs, family history, etc. Know where the character comes from. This will give your character a firm foundation in reality and make him very believable.

Also, you want to have a specific goal. Have something that your character is aiming at; be it finding his father, becoming the worlds greatest archer or even just becoming the world's richest man. With a goal and a focus in mind, that gives you a line to roleplay from that stretches from the backstory to the goal. Your character treads that line and it gives you a large point of reference that you can then use to guide you in your role playing.

This factors into making a game just for the PC's in this way. No matter what you do, DM's, if you are the one to make the game, it will always be your game, the characters playing second fiddle to your creation. If the players engage, you know what they want.

A story will always be a story. A series of events in an order that describe events. The characters of the game are, generally, the main characters of the story (although I suppose that one could run a game where the players are secondary characters to major events going on and if done right it could be really interesting). What the players need to do is work WITH the DM in working their backstories into the game.

If I make a place and say "Ok, you're all here and this is where I want you to go" (like most games tend to be some form of), it won't feel as player focussed as if the players immediately choose what they want to do.

In the end, it comes down to planning and the level of involvement that the players want to have. It's kind of neat that, in this way, helping design the game will in turn be it's own reward because the DM will be running a game that has elements that have been tailored just for your (the player's) desires. It requires a lot of communication and involvement on both sides of the DM screen.

Another thought I had is that DM's (myself included); we gotta start thinking of stories differently. If we keep them as "I'm taking your from point a to point b" it's going to lead to a feeling of helplessness, as far as the character's level of influence goes. Instead, I've been trying to think like this:

I come up with a place, be it a city, be it a country, be it a world, and I populate it with options. Yes, you don't want to make the whole thing right away usually, as that will usually take an incredibly long time and there will always be more to do BUT; you can make a place with a few options, little hooks to see what the players tend to gravitate towards. Maybe there's a thief who's been knocking over local businesses, but there are also goblin raids hitting caravans on the road outside the city as well as an underground slave trading ring. Perhaps they run into a few NPCs that just happen to play very well and the interaction is memorable and you come up with a direction on the fly and let the story carry itself.

A thing I realized in playing and running games is that D&D is very much not like other mediums in that it's not so much about the end result. It's about the journey. It's about memorable moments. It's about comaradery. It's about getting there. Who cares if, at the beginning, "There" is a vague concept. The question is "Will you have fun today?" If the answer is "Yes", then you're doing it right.

To make a point, I was playing a role playing game way back in the day, when I was in high school, and it was the first game I'd played in. Due to some choices my buddy and I made, we ended up in jail for about 4 hours of the session, trying to find my way out. At the end of the game, the game master was like "Guys, I totally didn't expect you to do that stuff. I didn't plan to have you stuck in jail for so long but it just went that way." And you know what? We didn't feel bad one bit. It was fun! We got to get creative, there were some neat roleplay opportunities and things were interesting and we felt like things were going the way they were going because we made them go that way.

Giving the players power is ok. When a player asks about the deep gnome society in the world they're playing in and it's not defined, why not say "You tell me!" And let them design it. For all you know it'll come with hooks already laid in there, just purely by virture of the fact that a player made it and it has things in it that interest that player.

One of the biggest keys I find is using all your resources. Give everyone a job, let everyone give an idea for at least a few parts of the world they'll be playing in.


Now, in an effort to be the first to practice what I preach, I'm going to do something interesting. I've created a world called Telain. It has a brief history. Not much to it, but some to go off of. In the next post, which will be called "Building Telain", I'm going to post links to my map and one with political boundaries on it. I'm going to be asking you, the players, to design some peoples for some of the regions on the map. Some cultures, if you will. Post them as comments to "Building Telain) and I will look at them (although I may alter them a bit to suit the world as I may need it to be) and integrate them into the world. This, in turn, will give me certain things to build off of. I hope this excites you guys as much as it does me and starts you all on the track to player involvement, deeper immersion and new heights of fun!


This post is dedicated to Chris. Thank you for a truely intriguing question!

The World of Telain

Author: Andrew /

Hey all you Taken out there,

If you're interested, I've just finished the geography for Telain. You can go check it out at:


I'll just leave it at that. Tell me what you think in your comments!


Ask The Readers 2

Author: Andrew /

Alright, I think it's time for another one of these bad boys. It's that time when I ask you guys, the readers, what you'd like to see some Takes on. Give, in a comment, any request (or requests) you may have for Take subjects and I'll write them down and use them in the blog (or I'll do my best to get them all in there). The last one was a smashing success and I look forward to seeing what you guys are looking for. Let the comments fly!


An Adventurer's Musing #2

Author: Andrew /

So recently I've been thinking about World Building. It's, at once, a daunting task and at the same time, really exciting. I've been doing research and getting back into my artistic mindset, busting out forests, mountain ranges and expanses of land where the peoples of this fictional world can live. As I was thinking about doing this, as well as executing it, it made me realize something. The use of reference in gaming.

In art, the use of reference is invaluable. I'm sure there is nary an artist out there who can honestly do better work without reference, than with it. Now, granted, this is somewhat of different context, but bear with me. I find that, when dungeon mastering, things are much easier, much better and much more fun if I have something to reference. I can write out a list of buildings and cities with different peoples in them, but it still isn't visual. You read it and still have to vaguely imagine "Ok, this is here, that's over there, etc". With a map, you can see "Ok, this place is near this place, that means that the crowd for this place is near the other, this impacts these other places around it, etc."

Learning this, I went to the effort of making a map, which is still in the process of being made, of a world that's been sitting in my head. Seeing it come to life on the page (ok, the digital paper) really makes things pop. You get to look at it and go "Ok, we're gonna have it cold here, hot here; there are gonna be civilized folks here and barbarians here, etc." and it really makes it much more real.

So, that said, I believe that having a map, and some point of reference is really good. I recognize that not everyone feels that art is their forte, but if you ever have the inclination to give it a try, you deffinately should try your hand at some fantasy cartography. The software I hear most use for these efforts are Gimp, Photoshop and Campaign Cartographer 3. Gimp and Photoshop are more advanced and are made to do photo editing and whatnot. CC3, on the other hand, is made specifically for building campaign maps and whatnot, for use in fantasy games. It's worth a look, if you're interested in the subject.

Alright, that's it for this little bit. Thanks again for reading!


Update on Ohdd

Author: Andrew /

Alright guys, brief update on the game I'm planning on running. It's on hold for a bit for a few reasons.

1) I'm still trying to flesh out the contents of the city, figure out what I want where, who's who, etc.

2) I've made a foray into fantasy map cartography. This is to say, I've wanted to make a great map for a campaign for a long time and learned how to do it, so I'm in the process of not only creating a city, but a world, complete with political boundaries, natural formations such as mountains, lakes, forests, etc; that I'm trying to make look as high quality as possible. I will post it on my deviantart account (saintknight.deviantart.com) as soon as it's done. Ohdd is going to be a part of this world, I think. We'll see, but that's what I'm thinking.

3) I want to give you guys time to figure out what your characters. I'll have you all starting in Ohdd, but as far as what kind of things your character is into as far as hobbies and whatnot, their personalities, their quirks and character flaws (and every has flaws, remember), is still all up to you. I've got a place in the city for most things, and if there's not something there, we can make something or I'll get creative.

4) I want to make sure that this has the potential for more than I was originally thinking. Yes, I would like a lot of the game to start in Ohdd. Perhaps containing all of heroic tier, maybe even some of paragon. That said, I want to make a city you can go outside of, although I don't plan on sending you beyond it right away. That said, I'm trying to make a world that's robust to the point of the forgotton realms. Maybe not with the MASSIVE history behind it, but different cultures for sure and cities, sights to see, etc. I've got a lot of ideas that I'm rolling around in my head and I'm trying to make a world that's the pro-quality I know I'm capable of.

Thank you guys for your patience and I'm still very interested in your ideas! If you'd like to e mail me, you can reach me at paintknight@yahoo.com. Thanks again!


The City of Ohdd.

Author: Andrew /

So, here it is. I'm going to be running a game online called "The City of Ohdd". The game is going to be run sort of episodically in that characters will be able to pop in and out. I'm going to try to keep things within the city (and will try to make the city as interesting as possible). I'm looking for some specific things in the way of characters, so here they are.

Firstly, we're going to use standard score arrays. In the past I've used 18, 16, 14, 12, 10, 10. A bit overpowered. This time we're using from the book arrays, or if you're using the character builder or point buy system, your point pool should equal zero when you're finished. Also, as for character backgrounds, you're allowed one background that gives you a bonus. No region backgrounds, just "character type" backgrounds; i.e. scoundrel, criminal, aristocrat, etc.

Second is I want developed character ideas, to a point. I want an idea of what they do. Are they a thief? Are they a street sweeper? Are they a tavern waitress? What are activities they like? Do they enjoy loads of exercise or are they lazy and lethargic? Are they generally depressed "glass-half-empty" types or are they ever the optimist, even when they're smelling a dragon's sulfurous breath straight from the source? Develop their personalities and the basic things they like and I'll start them at an appropriate place within the city.

Third, you start with 100g. With this gold you may purchase any equipment you may need. The amount of gold you have to begin with is what's left over after you purchase what you need.

A feature of this game is mainly going to be about exploring the city and experiencing neat moments and running into interesting characters. Plot-lines will appear through good role play and ideas given from the players. The more work you put into your character, the more you'll potentially get out of your game experience. I always also encourage extra work on the part of your character as well. Drawings, character journals, etc, will be noted and rewarded in some way, depending on what I feel is merited by the work.

Lastly, I strongly want to emphasize character motivation. Give your character a reason to do things. When your character walks through the street and sees a beggar, do they look down with disgust or do they feel pity? Do they kick the beggar or slip them a silver piece and help them on their way? Do they value life or do they think that theirs is the only one that matters? When they interact with other people, are they positive or negative and why? Did they have a rough childhood or did they grow up privileged? As a rule, be specific. Specifics will give characters and players firm points of reference for good role playing and decision making within the game. If I read something that seems too vague, I'll let you know and we'll work with it until it seems like something that's very compelling. In your backstories, you can do what you will, so long as it follows the parameters set by the game and so long as it still allows me to place you where i need you within the city.

I will address other concerns as they arise. Before playing, know that I'm building the city as we play. It will be exciting!

If at all possible, please subscribe to D&D Insider and get yourself the character builder. It will be updated with all the latest character classes and races.

Races allowed:
All Player's Handbook races
All Player's Handbook 2 races

Drow - Forgotten Realms
Genasi - Forgotton Realms
Githzerai - Player's Handbook 3
Minotaur - Dragon #369
Revenant - Dragon #376
Shadar-kai - Dragon #372
Wilden - Dragon #374

Classes Allowed:
All Player's Handbook Classes
All Player's Handbook 2 Classes
Artificer - Eberron
Hybrid - Dragon #375
Monk - Dragon #375
Psion - Player's Handbook 3
Swordmage - Forgotton Realms

Backgrounds Allowed:
General backgrounds found in:
Player's Handbook 2
Dragon #371
Dragon #373
Dragon #374
Arcane Power
Divine Power

(No Forgotton Realms, Scales of War or Eberron backgrounds)

Sample Arrays:
18, 14, 11, 10, 10, 8
18, 13, 13, 10, 10, 8
18, 13, 11, 10, 10, 10
17, 16, 11, 10, 10, 8

Point Buy:
Pool of 22 points. (this equates to an array of [8, 10, 10, 10, 10, 10] Point pool should be down to zero when finished. No score may go lower than 8.
Current Score - Cost to Raise
8-12 = 1 point
13-15 = 2 points
16 = 3 points
17 = 4 points

NOTE: The point pool is 20, when the score is 10, 10, 10, 10, 10, 10.

Example: Raising from 16 -> 17 costs 3. Raising from 17 -> 18 costs 4. Raising from 10 -> 11 costs 1 point, etc.

I can't think of anything else that needs saying. Any questions, please post a comment and ask.

Alright guys, thanks for reading and lets see the ideas!


Breaking the mold...

Author: Andrew /

You know, I've been doing some thinking lately and I've been trying to come up with something fun to play. It seems to me that right about the time you want to play something great is when your brain seems to want to shut itself off. You want to just pull your brain out and yell at it, sayin'
"Stop being lazy and work like you need it to!" It's enough to drive you insane when inspiration decides to take a vacation right when you need it working overtime.

Well, I think I may have come up with something to counter this. Being creative.

Now, I know you say "Be creative? What kind of answer is that?!" but bear with me.

Being creative, to me, is coming up with something unique or at least good, when you need it, DESPITE easy inspiration. I look at it this way.

Being inspired is when an idea pretty much puts itself right in your head without you doing much at all. You're sittin' there watchin' a show and "BAM" a perfect idea (or at least one that's pretty darn good, eh?) pops into your mind.

Being creative is when you aren't being assisted by the muses, as it were. Being creative is going "Geez.... There's NOTHING up there; what the heck is wrong with me?!" and yet, you still manage to go "Darn it, come Hell or high water, I'm coming up with something!"

So, I've realized the way to do this, in a lot of situations, is realize that when you think about something (such as a D&D game), you think about it in a rather conventional vein of thought. You roll it (whatever it is) around in your head, thinking about it, passively using conventional parameters as guides for your thoughts. Now, you don't consciously do this, but it's how most brains work. You have certain ideas and concepts that are tied into other concepts and ideas, which tend to define a thought process.

Well, what I realized is that to be creative, a lot of times you need to bend or break those connections. Instead of saying "A Dungeons & Dragons adventure is made up of travel, underground passages, treasure and monsters; you could say "A Dungeons & Dragons adventure is made up of chartreuse colored bunny rabbits, a room the party stays in but keeps changing around them and odd facial mutations!" I guarantee you, that would be looked at as absolutely creative (possibly even genius if you actually managed to make that work!)

So, thinking about this, I realized that we're never out of ideas, we're just out (or bored with) standard ideas of what something should be. As an artist, I have things I like to draw. Sometimes to my benefit, sometimes to my detriment, it's a lot of things that are very much in the same line of things. The pro to that is that usually, it turns out a pretty good picture on a relatively consistent basis. The con is that when they aren't turning out or I don't feel like drawing the same ol' thing, it leaves me in a bit of an art artistic quantry. I sit there and I wrack my brain and think "Geez... what the heck can I draw?" Then I realize "You know what? Let's try a cartoony old man with a cane walking down the street... being followed by a weird, tiny, furry, black cat who, in turn, is being followed by a tall, mischevious alien who's grinning and trying to step on the cat!" Weird? Yes. Off the wall? Absolutely. Creative and entertaining? You bet your life it is!

They say that necessity is the mother of invention and that's true in this case, as in the one it's literally talking about. When you need an idea, you'll get one. You just need to do one thing and that's this.

Open yourself.

Be open to odd ideas. Be open to things that are off the wall, unconventional and downright baffling. The stuff that makes you cock your head to the side and go "What the....", that's the good stuff. Sure, you can start your adventurers in a tavern. It's easy, it's classic and it's a cliche and a stereotype. It's cliche for a reason. It works. It's a quest hub, it's a place the party can rest, it's a place where role play can happen in the blink of an eye, it's a place where new characters can be introduced almost at any time. There's nothing wrong with using that in a campaign. But for those of us who want to buck the trend every once in a while, perhaps we could start in other interesting situations. So, as a little treat, I'm going to try to come up with some off the wall ideas of locations in which to start your players that will dodge the good ol' tavern.

"As our story opens, you find yourself in a field surrounded by dead bodies. The bodies are burned badly as if there was a harsh fire and they're all scattered about you. Off to the west, a few kilometers off, you see a green tree line. Around you, you see a field of wheat or, rather, what was wheat. Now it's a field of still-smoking ash for about a mile in each direction. The disturbing thing is that around you are a few other folks, all lying somewhere sprawled inside a circle that seems about ten feet in diameter. In the circle is wheat, smashed down partially from bodies lying on it, but unburned and in otherwise perfect condition. You're all holding torches. As you awake, you all seem to have one thing and one thing only, in common... The thought "Who are these people and what in the world happened?!"

"Air whips around you, roaring in your ears. Tears form in your eyes and your vision is blurred. You try to scream, yell, even just say words but your breath is sucked back into your lungs. You see white around you and feel moisture collecting on your skin. Your head starts to swim, your vision blurs and then, you break through the cloud and notice about a hundred yards down, through nothing but open air, are miles upon miles of pointed, green treetops; all racing up at you much quicker than you'd like..."

"The throne room feels cavernous. As you walk in, you hear your footsteps echo through the space, the noise actually accentuating the silence. You feel the butt of a spear haft jab into your back as you're pushed aggressively down the crimson carpet on the floor, leading the way to a dais, upon which sits a large, polished, throne made of what seems to be carved ivory and white marble. Upon it sits a figure dressed in black, wearing a crown bearing a veil that drapes over its face with naught but two small eyeholes cut in it, silver embroidery tracing their edges. You look down at your hands and feet and notice you've been hearing manacle chains as well, but lightly because of the carpet, as there are some on both your wrists and ankles. You turn your head to look at the guard who nudged you and see a figure standing ten feet tall with features all of metal, but moving smoothly. It's face, a mask of cool precision not meeting your eyes for a moment, gives you another jab as you reach the bottom step of the dais. As you look up to the throne, looming over you now, you see the figure rise from the chair and walk slowly down the steps toward you. 'Well, well, well...' it says, in a voice that seems strangely androgenous ', I finally meet The Troupe of the Fallen...'"

I like to think that these three examples have the potential to start games with a bang and have a great deal of possibilities for plot hooks to go from where they begin. They imediately present the characters AND players with the question "What's going on?" This prompts the desire for discovery and also begins the game with much momentum (literally, in example number two!) and can lead to tons of interesting things.

So, I leave you with this exhortation. Use cliches sometimes, if they fit and if they're necessary and make sense, but also strive for more. Make originality your goal. Being original in all things is, at the very least, extremely hard. You are a collection of experiences, therefore anything you do will come from something that you know, even if it is rather loose. However, you can come up with a LOT of things that are original if you simply accept ideas you may usually say "No" to. Be open and let your mind wander, and just tie things together in a beautiful web of organized random thoughts!

Happy thinking and, if you feel so inclined, lets hear some other neat ideas!

Back in the saddle again,


P.S. - If you feel that posting an idea might give away key things to key people, don't post it. Instead keep it in your head but silently promise me that you'll at least write it down and think on it later. Use your creativity!