This is the bookshelf I use for my home campaign, or rather, any game I set in Gravesend/Cold River.
As you can see, there's preciously little TSR/ "true" D&D, there - most of my short scenarios come either from old White Dwarf Mag issues, which are not displayed here, and much of the fluff I take from the Dragon Warriors RPG: The long term development of the Cold River game is supposed involve the classic TSR UK modules The Sentinel and The Gaunlet, though, and if the current group of characters keep their direction, I hope we come to play the legendary "Doomstones" campaign next year - a Warhammer scenario orginally written for OD&D, and a pretty tough challenge, judging from the parts that I already had the chance to explore with others.
I like the Doomstones' storyline mainly because it touches general tropes and themes that are very Blackmoor-y; it makes me feel like I am returning to the setting that essentially sparked all my later involvement with RPGs.
Noticeably enough, some of you will perhaps spot that the True20 Thieves' World books by Green Ronin are also part of the shelf; it's for inspiratory purposes only. TW, at least before the 2002 remake, by far my favorite fantasy setting, outside of stuff that I really read when I was still a child. (You might know me as an outspoken fan of the Shannara novels, for example - but that's not so much a matter of taste; it's that I read them when I was ten, and they have stuck with me since.)
So, a while ago, I posted a small excerpt from the bigger map of Duneyrr, highlighting Gravesend and environs. Surely, I did so as a tease, and so, now, it’s time to get a bit into detail about what this part of the World of Meleon really is supposed to look like:
I’ve often written that Gravesend is my Blackmoor homage; that is true, insofar that I reuse a lot of the concepts I had prepared for the LFC, and for “The Age of Theodore” – and that Gravesend, the town, is ostensibly inspired by the maps of Blackmoor Town that our friend havard made.
Outside of that, the similarities are withering, mainly, because, this time, I didn’t use a random tentpole character, like I did with Chyat for Angria, Diestro for Tizona, and, small spoiler here, Prince Aldrin for Marriott:
Leir, the current prince regent of Gravesend, is obviously inspired by a certain Shakespearean character, and I sort of ported the whole entourage of minor characters from the play to my fantasy world. Read “Macbeth” by David Hewson, who otherwise is one of my favorite authors, this year, and was terribly, fundamentally disappointed. So, I thought, if it’s now legit to do fantasy versions of Shakespeare, so can I!
Not getting much into detail about that, yet – because, if our game runs its full course, you will meet at least two characters from Gravesend. While their names alone will leave little room to guess, I don’t want to spell everything out in such a way.
Gravesend, or rather, the Cold River Riding, to the great city’s North, is the notorious location of all my home games: Cold River, the town, is best described as a mix between Irilian and Thieves’ World’s city of Sanctuary, and Prince Cunedda, Leir’s younger brother, a mix between the original Sanctuary’s Prince Kadakithis (sp?) and who would have been the LFC’s Prince Theodore. Currently, the campaign centers around the small dwelling of Albridge, where the characters, tired of the war between dark fey, dwarves, and their fellow men, have settled in the hopes of being forgotten by the rest of the world, in general – and by the Order of the Starling, a cabal of Time Mages whom they repeatedly offended, in particular. – But, alas, since this is a game of swords and sorcery, they now have to deal with an undead, dream-eating countess, a cursed magic sword, and a rampaging band of pig-headed orcs. Gravesend and the kingdom of Duneyrr are mostly defined by two basic conflicts – apart from the third one, implied through Leir, that is still in the setting’s future: One is the cold war against the Dwarves in the South. But in difference to Asterion, Duneyrr lives not border by border with some vassal state like Almace; in the case of the people of Gravesend, they have to deal with the Great Emperor of the Dwarves, in person.
To the North of Duneyrr, there’s Larad, the land of the dark fey – which again, may sound familiar compared to the storylines we ourselves follow in Erle, but again, is so not because of a lack of originality: It’s simply that Asterion is to the utmost South of the contested territories, and Duneyrr is to the utmost North. The fey of Larad are also completely different to the fey of the Erlenwood: First, Elves, and there I have to remain nebulous for the time being, play a way larger role in Larad than they do in Asterion, and second, the fey of Larad are unequivocally evil, while the fey of the Erlenwood are more cartoonish in their demeanor, as you have seen so far.
As to the actual, unequivocal references to Blackmoor I use in my home game so far, here a few that I can currently remember. Hope they’ll make you chuckle at least a tiny bit:
1. “Sven Svenson”, in Duneyrr, is a name used like “Jon Doe”, mostly for people who hail from Barr. My parties have met a couple of Sven Svensons, of vastly different appearance and behavior, but since we started with our games in the region, back in… 2013?... There has always been a “Sven Svenson” with the group, one way, or another.
2. The people of Gravesend usually pray to the “Dragonfather”. (“Drachenvater”, in German.) This is more a reference to the classic “Breath of Fire” video game series you know I like a lot, but let’s say that no one lamented the coincidence with another famous element from the FFC. (Though there are no known Dragons in Gravesend, except perhaps for Landrider’s Moor, which is a different tale, or a different time. )
3. The Dwarven Emperor commands eight robotic/android warriors, pretty similar to Ixiom, a character from Mystara that I introduced rather late in the LFC.
4. The Tower of Time supposedly exists in Larad, and Kingsheart, the capital of a future Blackmoor in one of the articles I wrote for the Comeback Inn back in the day, is supposedly the old capital of Duneyrr. Also, the Gin of Salik made a cameo as the ruler of a small city-state already, but I didn’t like that overall concept, and will likely not develop the idea any further, but rather remove the city-state itself from Duneyrr’s map.
5. …Between Cold River and Morven Riding, there’s a place called “The Maiden’s Vale”. Great statues of long forgotten heroes flank a highway supposedly built by the kings of ages past. One of the statues, notably, depicts a large bear, holding a rat… Or a raccoon… In its stone paws…
For the record, my home group will likely spend the remainder of the year solving the troubles... At Embertrees, from the adventure of the same name, in White Dwarf 34.
Never ran it, never even read it, but only heard good things about it, so... Got a bit curious. Mind you that I usually run very, very broad adaptions of published stuff, so, with all the added material, this will likely keep us occupied until way into next year.
In 2017, the only thing I really know so far is that I'd love to run "Terror at Trollmarsh", from WD 74. It fits into the setting, and it works as a ( - again, in very broad definitions - ) sequel to the Embertrees adventure. But we'll have to see where the campaign takes us, of course.
The overall plot of my home campaign is probably a bit influenced by the stone-old "Tales of Phantasia" video game: Time travel is possible, but not particularly advisable, and a rift between time and space is probably a dangerous thing...
My main beef with the DCC RPG: Too few character options; while that's certainly oldschool, it's also pretty lazy - most variant classes were released as freebies, about a month after the book came out, or by 3PPs. Good business, not so good customer service, if you know what I mean. Put all that in one book, and I'll be happy.
Love this thread, Fox, because it really had me sit down with my morning coffee, and think about the topic for a couple of silent minutes.
Obviously, I want The Coward's Blade to last throught it's entire three-part arc. After that, I don't see myself DMing another PBP again, but I might well play in one, from time to time. In particular, I think I might want to return to - and to eventually get lost in - Aelyria, or a similar game of the kind.
With my current campaign group, in my old hometown, it would be pure joy to eventually play the "Doomstones" campaign, the half-mythical Warhammer campaign originally designed to be played under D&D rules. If we ever get there, which likely wouldn't be before 2019, or 2020, because these adventures are LONG - then it would be a sweet upper-level challenge, and, possibly, a fitting conclusion for our adventures in Gravesend. - Except for "Doomstones", I have really only one module on my shelf that I always wanted to run, but never quite got there: "The Doom of Listonshire", a d20 module released by Kenzer and Necromancer Games. It's plagued by the usual d20-overconceptualizations, but at the core, a pretty fine story I'd like to share with my players. So, I'd say, my bucket list is fairly short, and fairly based.
Now, as to stuff I'd love to do, but will likely never get to, at least not in any foreseeable future, as of October 2016: I'd love to run a really long, really well-researched Thieves' World game, perhaps from the classic era until perhaps even after the 2002 reboot. A city campaign, set in Sanctuary, telling the stories of the characters over the course of a few generations. - That way I'd have a wonderful excuse to hunt down even more relatively obscure (to me) fantasy authors from the 80s, and my players had a reference for the setting outside of myself alone. But alas, my memory is woozy, and that supposes I would have to reread all the books in the series first, just to feel satisfied and secure by myself. And given how much that would be, and how much other stuff there is still around that I want to read, it's rather unlikely, to tell the truth. Not as long as other, unread books, float around my study.
And around 2050, if I'm still around, and happily retired, I would love to run one last long Blackmoor game, preferably to a bunch of hapless youngsters, to show them what things were all about, in the days of high adventure!
My home campaign ended 2016 with a cliffhanger, being left stranded on one of Meleon's "Wayfires", the beacon-like structures that mark the Northern water route between Norran and Shahar.
They lost a couple of key battles over the last few sessions, and so I decided to postpone "Trollmarsh", and lead them into an adventure that will be more focused on shaping their characters' skills before they go into battle next time, Atlas Games old d20 module "Unhallowed Halls". (The party's sound defeats stem not so much from all too unbalanced challenges, but from a few players' relative lack of knowledge about rules and in-game strategy, so I decided a few more low-fi adventures might be in order, after a two-headed ogre d**n near killed them. The party was victorious, and the players were pretty upbeat, after a brutal chase that lasted an entire day, in-game. - But even so, it's time for a bit more fluff, and slow-paced adventuring.)
"Unhallowed Halls" tells a story of a conspiracy at a college of magic; this is a place that well fits the group, because we have a druid and a sorcerer who are very much into their characters, but have had really bad luck rolling, so far. The original module is pretty hardcore, but I'm considerably changing things to fit lower levels.
Notably, the group is bound to leave Gravesend, for the North, and a place called "The Haunt", a secret, and almost entirely isolated human pirate port well into Dark Fey territory. It's also the home for one of the few remaining independent colleges of magic, the Crows Crag, and since the party is already hunted by the Order of the Starlings, Gravesend's principal wizardly order, the pairing seemed natural. - Notably, the party is supposed to return to Cold River after the conclusion of their adventures in "The Haunt": The Elves, servants to the fey, are shaping up as the party's principal enemy, and I want them to close that story arc, eventually. ...Which means they will have to come to Castle Firsthold, sooner or later. DUN DUN DUN.
This is a very quick map of "The Haunt", where my current home game is taking place. - No sense in hiding it, I based this map on the old MERP map of the bay of Forochel. The textures you see, I didn't paint. ...That said, the setting itself is more oriented in "Midnight" than it is in Tolkien's writing. Rainward Vale is the oldest campaign setting I ever created for a game, and completely by myself (and that didn't feature any giant hamsters, and the like). I think it was for the Taladas game I ran around 2002, and was originally located on "The Rainward Isles" - hence the name. Rainward Vale was basically the Dalelands from FR, though; I get very embarassed when I read the notes I wrote down back then.