As with most councils of war, the subject of leadership and planning reared its ugly head. Denig, the stone man, counselled that he and Ydal should scout the area to assess the location of the Orcs camp. Billwise and Pencho disagreed complaining that the Big People were as noisy as Dwarves in chainmail. Although Pick and Dagaard did not express much of an opinion, it was Pick who swung the vote of all the adventurers towards Billwise’s plan and grudgingly, the stone man was forced to agree.
After a second breakfast, Billwise and Pencho stealthily set off into the woods. Billwise is shown how a Hobbit could move undetected by others through the wood and notice large patches of sunlight where the pursuit of Orcs could be hindered. Following a sunken road, they find an abandoned ruin which appears to be occupied by two Orcish shamans. Below, in a dark defile, a large number of Orc voice can be heard, indicating the main body of the force is larger than the number of adventurers and Hobbits. During their time scouting the area, a cloaked figure, who carries a distinctive pipeweed odour, arrives and converses in Morbeth with the Orcs. Billwise and Pencho, not speaking the language, understand none of this but do catch a few words spoken. They continue their scouting, noting the small patrols of Orcs moving through the wood and a set of riverside huts in which prisoners appear to be kept.
Back at the smial, the scouts inform the council of what they have discovered. The adventurers all agreed that the first task is to free the prisoners, who are probably being kept as a food store. With two Hobbit guides, the adventurers travel through the woods to the riverside without any untoward events unfolding.
Near to the huts, the party formulate a plan. Denig insists that he and Ydal can pacify up to ten Orcs and insists that they are the only ones to enter the camp and that the rest attack any fleeing Orcs first. The Dwarves are unconcerned so long as Orcs are killed and Billwise prefers to wait and see what unfurls before to committing to combat.
As Denig and Ydal move towards the hut where the Orcs appear to be sheltering from the day, they are surprised by a hidden sentry. Ydal attempts to cast her Calm spell but is unable and so retreats. Denig charges to the door of the hut and cast his Calm spell on the occupants of the room. Immediately, one of the occupants relaxes into a calmed state. Unfortunately, the other five are very much active and with a sentry charging, he looks to be very much in trouble.
Realising his only hope is to hold the doorway until help arrives, Denig chooses to engage one Orc in the doorway and ignore the sentry. Ydal shoots wide in haste and the Dwarves rush in, whilst Billwise seeks an opponent to shoot. Soon the sentry is felled by Dagaard but the remaining Orcs seek to escape through the flimsy rear wall. Denig is driven back by the Orc’s charge but both appear evenly matched. At the rear of the hut, both Dwarves engage the remaining Orcs, war hammers breaking bone like winter twigs. At the front, Billwise races through the trees and with element of surprise dispatches the Orc fighting Denig with a thrust through its backbone sending it reeling back into the hut. Unfortunately, the act also disarms Billwise. Fortunately, there are no more foes.
After freeing the captives, the valiant heroes and the weary, starved prisoners return to the smail where the immediate concern is where to house and feed the extra mouths. This is closely followed by decisions about how to remove the Orcs from the woods!
Recently, I had one of those moments of insight that make you want to move on. They usually lead you onto new things and new places but they are also mighty scary and need some time to process and if you are sensible (or just a lot older) require a bit of planning. I’ve had a few in my life and they have led to changes that have only helped me grow, even if the process as not always been enjoyable and yes, dear reader I have learnt to plan for the change through failing to do so previously.
Anyway, to the point in hand, I thought “Why do we have levels and EP?”. I think it grew out of the emulation/simulation debate raised by Gabe and a growing dissatisfaction with the whole EP reward and class system. So I raised the question about if anyone had done it and how it worked on the Rolemaster forums. Of course, there is no need to re-invent the wheel when you know it exists, which given the love of rule mechanics often foisted on RM players, was a surprise to find already invented, if a little diverse.
Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised because I already knew Runequest used a learned skills system and in some ways, I was thinking about a similar concept. I think that there are several things to consider before I put the mechanics to players as a way forward and inevitable at that stage we may tweak things but when I mentioned it at the post-game beers the other night they didn’t quail.
Here is a list of things I’m thinking about
How many hours/days to acquire skill ranks?
Are all skills learnt at the same rate?
Is the rate of learning linear?
What is the effect of a mentor/tutor/school?
In game skill development?
Natural aptitude vs resilient study?
Hierarchy of knowledge or accomplishment within skill levels?
How to provide an overall measure of success to the players if no level?
How do you encourage adventurers out of school?
Which is a lot of questions to work on, hopefully, I can blog some of my thoughts on the approaches we come up with. I suspect that initially at least we will apply this to the secondary skills in MERP which are almost impossible to develop using the development points given for each level. Certainly, that is what my players would like as a starting point.
Returning from their audience with the King of Arthedain and feeling very smug that they are now Royal Rangers, Pick and Limolas meet up with Billwise and Dagaard at the King’s Rest. In the common room of the inn they adventurers listen to the news of the prevention of an assassination and roaming bands of Orcs. They talk to the recovering Galabron and gain information about strange events by the Royal Barrows and of bandits on the southern Greenway.
Refreshed and resupplied the party sets of along the Greenway.The first night out and Pick observes a passing group of wandering elves passing to the west. Although notes this event he does not consider it significant and tells no-one in the morning. The heroes continue southwards until they near the Royal Barrows where they climb the high hills of Tyrn Gorthad to investigate. The sun shines on the burial tombs of the last King of Cardolan and his sons. The party spend a day investigating and foraging for food without incident and so continue on their journey toward the Manor of Elvellon.
Nearing the region in which Elvellon Manor is located the adventurers come across a canvas-sided caravan studded with arrows. Using his uncanny ranger abilities Limolas is able to intuit that a previous associate by the name of Jeremiah Fallowhide was here recently. Just as he informs the rest of the party of this fact, who should poke his head out of the canvas flap than the aforementioned manic hobbit. Jeremiah explains to the party that he was embarked upon his latest mercantile adventure of transporting some Dwarven steel ingots down to the kingdom of Saralainn when he was attacked by Dunlending bandits. Escaping only by good fortune where his guards did not, Jeremiah has been camped out in his wagon with no way to go forward or back. He looks upon the arrival of the heroes as another sign that fortune on his side as they will surely chase down the bandits and recover his goods for him. However, this time the Pick and Limolas are less than willing to risk all for the unhinged merchant preferring to stick to the task of finding the crystal. Yet, when Jeremiah describes the direction that the bandits went in (confirmed by Limolas’ tracking skill), they agree to keep an eye out. After some pleading by Jeremiah, they also leave the hobbit with some food to allow him to wait out the time it takes for them to investigate.
So it was that the adventurers began to climb into the hills of Cardolan following the tracks of the Dunlendings and away from the Greenway. Within half a day the party had sighted the ruins of Elvellon Manor and noticing smoke rising, approached the ruins with caution. Both the Elf and Hobbit scouted ahead of the less stealthy Dwarves and in doing so discovered the bodies of fifteen slaughtered Dunlendings. Limolas and Billwise returned to the Dwarves and reported what they had seen and the party then entered into the ruins to secure the area.
In the ruins of the keep, there are signs of a hurried defence against superior numbers of possible Orcs and something bigger which has pulled the heads of some of the Dunlendings. The party discover two heavy chests and decide to leave these until they have explored the area more. Scouting further the heroes discover a sunken room in which two small Goblins are sheltering. Quickly, they dispatch the two small Orcs and then proceed to investigate the wall on which a freize of Dunedain princes in battle with Orcs is painted. Limolas quickly discovers a secret door and also that further in are more Orc guards.
After a quick discussion to plan an attack, the adventurers decide to rush the guards with the Dwarves cutting off any escape as quickly as possible and Limolas and Billwise wounding the guards with missile fire. It takes less than a moment, for the party to quell any resistance and none of the Orcs escapes to warn their companions. Justifiably, the heroes begin to feel very pleased with themselves.
Cautiously, the heroes explore the underground complex. In one room, Limolas sets off a trap that releases a cloud of mist, but it seems that the trap has deteriorated with age. Further in, they party locate the rest of the Orcs and decide to leave the area rather than risk a confrontation with a large party of Orcs. Consequently, they descend to the next level.
Below, in a great hall, the party come across a depressed Troll moaning about being sent down below by the Orcs and not being wanted. The Troll’s misery doesn’t last for long and the heroes begin to explore further. At the far end of the hall, there are two doors protected by wards. In his exploring, Limolas discovers a secret passage which leads to a number of rooms not accessible through the two additional, unwarded doors that lead off the main hall.
The party explore several rooms down the secret passage. A plain blue room appears to have some sort of magical properties but not understanding the lore of magic, the heroes move on. An alchemy laboratory and plush room are soon explored and the party of soon loaded with a few additional weapons and a few potions of unknown use.
The explorers descend another level and discover an ossuary full of bones, which unfortunately animate as they enter the bone repository and the party are suddenly outnumbered. Dagaard full of war-like confidence charges in and engages the skeletons, closely followed by Pick who joins more out of a sense of Dwarvish solidarity than a real desire to wade into a room full of walking bones. Limolas remembers that a bow is ineffective and belatedly puts away his bow and joins the battle with his longsword drawn. However, this prevents Billwise from entering the room. Quickly, the adventurers dispatch the skeletons, helped in the most part by the Dwarven hammers.
A door led off the room, which of course being adventurers, they opened. Unfortunately, the room was home to a Wight which immediately attacked. Pick overcome with fear ran in panic leaving only three to face the fearsome undead. Heroically, the three fought against the malicious spirit vanquishing it with their combined might. Finding no treasure the three victors went in search of the missing Dwarf.
Sometime later, having recovered Pick, the adventurers continued their exploration of the third level. The party began to wonder at the purpose of the crypt when the discovered a bier in a room decorated with a scene taken from the lays that appeared to show Morgoth triumphing over the Elves. Beyond this room lay a discovery that only served to confirm this idea. Behind a rotten door, the party were met by a hideous sight. A creature composed of the flesh of many humanoid creatures roiled in the darkness. Many heads and limbs seemed to lurch out towards the surprised adventurers; Limolas barely escaping the first grasping hand. Battle was quickly enjoined; Dagaard was nearly lost to the folds of the creature but for the arrow loosed by Billwise which finally incapacitated the creature.
Relieved, the party continued on and after dodging some caustic slime by using their shields as protection, discovered a cave system. This is where Pick took the lead, a confident caver he determined that one route might lead to the surface. The adventurers decided to investigate this first to see if they could escape the caverns without having to go past the Orcs on the first level. Eventually, they reached the open air and debated what would be the next course of action. Knowing that rest was needed and worrying that the horses might be discovered by the Orcs they decided to return with the horses back to the Greenway and Jeremiah Fallowhide.
The adventurers reorganise back at the Greenway. Jeremiah’s caravan is pulled off the road and the horses and heavier items of loot are stashed with the hobbit. With a rest period completed, Pick, Dagaard, Limolas and Billwise return to the caverns and resume their explorations. They soon discovered a bridge crossing an underground river and beyond this a cavern that led to steps up to a metal door. The only problem, four skeletons that guarded the door. Dagaard rushes recklessly to engage the skeletons. After being victorious over skeletons recently, the now more confident Pick and Limolas quickly join him. The battle appears to go well until Limolas is caught off-guard and finds himself skewered by a skeleton’s sword. Having dispatched the remaining skeletons his companions rush to his aid but they are too late, Limolas’ spirit is already travelling to the Valinor. Having noticed a subterranean lake, the heartbroken party dispatch the Elf’s mortal remains to the depths of the lake along with his beloved fishing gear. From the depths, a giant catfish breaks the surface before diving to the depths once more.
Determined to find the crystal so that Limolas’ death would not be in vain, the hobbit and dwarves return to exploring. More skeletons block their path and locked rooms thwart them. Until eventually, they discover the crystal sitting in a casket. Unfortunately, it sits behind a set of iron bars which also appear to have prevented a number of skeletons from escaping, judging by the armour and the desperate way two cling to the bars. Pick devises a plan to lift the bars and wedge them open with a stone from a nearby empty sarcophagus. This plan has to be slightly altered when they realise that Billwise is incapable of moving the heavy stone lid into place under the bars as the Dwarves lift the metal obstruction.
Stealthily, Billwise moves across the room amongst the scattered skeletons to pick up the crystal. As he reaches to take the crystal he hears a scraping sound as soft a paper. It soon becomes apparent that the skeletons are reanimating, which means it is time for a quick exit. Thankfully, only two skeletons escape before the bars are lowered back into place and these are swiftly dispatched by the three companions, who then vacate the area for safety.
Taking stock of the aims of the exploration, the adventurers decide the cost has been high enough with the death of Limolas and that with the profits from Jeremiah’s ingots and the contents of the captured from the Dunlendings there are sufficient rewards to support further adventuring. As a result of the discussions, the party return to Jeremiah with a chest containing 20,000CP and the ingots.
A crown with some jewels – value unknown
Five potions of unknown use
A collection of short swords, daggers and arrows
5 ingots of dwarven steel +5 belonging to Jeremiah (% of profits)
Handaxe that glows red at evil or undead the party aren’t really sure yet.
Collect the crystal shard from the ruins of Elvellon Manor
The party of two dwarfs, an elf and a hobbit were instructed to enter Bree and listen for rumours and information that might be vital to the house Noirin or the Crown. Billwise, who has family in Bree, decided to visit distant cousins in Chetwood to discover if they had any news. Dagaard, feeling that his main purpose of discovering the mysterious poisoner was being side-tracked, went off in search of other hints and rumours. So it was Limolas and Pick who rode into Bree to the King’s Rest to discover what they could about the current state of events.
A lively mixture of travellers were gathered along with a large number of locals. Pick naturally gravitated towards the two travelling dwarves in the room and discovered that in Moria things are unsettled, with rumours of increased clashes with goblins under the Misty Mountains. Limolas, being the open and innocent abroad, tried to strike up conversations with everyone in the room, and was confused to be rebuffed by a group of Rhuadrrim fur traders. Finally, he found easier conversations with One-armed Harry, a veteran of the Northern marches campaigns. By the fire, a wandering minstrel is entertaining the crowd with a lively mix of tales and song, an island of merriment amongst the heated arguments raging in the bar.
During the evening, a fifth Rhudaurian enters and joins his countrymen. The arguments and jibes clearly disagree with him as he is soon spitting insults at all an sundry as he leaves the bar. Moments later, his companions gather their bundles and also leave, followed soon after by the minstrel. Curious, Limolas follows and as he nears the entrance to the stables hears a shout. Closely followed by a cry of pain. Risking a look into the stable yard, Limolas notices the minstrel prostrate on the floor and the Rhudaurrim mounted and about to ride rapidly from the gate. Letting the horse pass, Limolas rushes into the courtyard to give aid to the fallen bard. The bard croaks a warning about an evil plot but no more before he passes out. Limolas rushes into the inn to gain more help in assisting the wound songster.
In the commotion of discovery, the grandson of King Argeleb reveals himself to the patrons of the inn and requests aid in pursuing these enemies of the realm. Already feeling that they should involve themselves, given their newfound status as retainers to House Noirin, Limolas and Pick step forward.
Swiftly, the party saddle horses and set off up the North road in pursuit of the Rhudaurrim. At the North gate, they find the guards have been drawn off and only a single gatekeeper, rendered unconscious, remains. Fearing losing ground, the party push on, hoping that the recumbent fellow will be found soon. The trail is soon located by Limolas and the hunt under a full moon is on.
Through the darkness, the hunters continue on the trail of their quarry, who are making little effort to hide their trail as they pass into the woods north of Chetwood. As the pursuers, exit the darkness of the wood into a night lit by a full moon they spy the riders fleeing towards the Weather Hills. In the distance, Limolas notices a dark figure stood high on a rocky outcrop. A chill in the air becomes noticeable. Mist begins to form. Soon, the quarry is lost, as is the moon, in a thick white fog. Sound becomes muffled and shapes loom out of the mist as the party pick their way into the broken terrain of the Weather Hills.
Dawn and the rising suns weak light casts an eerie glow when Pick’s sharp eyes spot a hidden attacker. His swift warning alerts the party and soon a swift combat is finished without incident. Well except for the inexplicable moment where Pick winded himself by overreaching his killing blow.
On into the mist, the party intensely followed the trail of the final conspirator. All the while progress was hindered by the mist and the fear of another ambush. As evening closed in, the party were stopped in their tracks when they heard voices ahead. Limolas slipped into the mist, leaving his companions virtually unaware of his absence. Moving into a safe position, Limolas was able to observe two shadowy figures in the mist yet the conversation carried to his companions further back. The conversation revealed a plan to sow chaos with a raid by the Orc-band led by Gashtrak and in that chaos, using stolen uniforms, to waylay the emissaries from the south who were making their way to the conference. Furthermore, a man of noble bearing and mixed Dunadan/Hillman blood appeared to secure the uniforms. Unfortunately, it was at this point that the mist gave way and Limolas was revealed.
Realising he was outnumbered, by a large band of Orcs, now no longer hidden by mist, Limolas ran yelling warnings as he went. The party were thus able to prepare and although the party were outnumbered two to one they valiantly vanquished the foe. Although, Limolas managed to not only fell his own mount (without injury) in a misguided attempt to ride over the rocky difficult terrain.
Encouraged by the Prince, the party set out in pursuit of the mysterious mastermind. The mist had thickened again. The sun had drifted below the horizon. Darkness was falling. Slowly, lupine muzzles slipped out of the darkness. The party froze. A band of Wolf riders led by an imposing brute of an Orc began to drift into vision. Belegil identified the Orc as the feared Gashtrak. The party turned tail and fled.
Heading south in the hope of reaching the forces encamped around Amon Sul, they rode with wargs nipping at the very heels of their mounts. Time elongated. Fear rose in their hearts and turned to elation when the lights of the campfires became visible. Spurring their mounts to the limits of endurance, the party raced the wargs to safety. Finally, safety was assured as cavalry sallied forth in defence.
There were meetings and representations. A prince was reprimanded. Limolas and Pick were rewarded with citizenship and the King’s hand. The found that they were also honoured to be amongst the Royal Rangers and additional responsibility that left them wondering what would happen next. Meeting with their liege, the Dame Noirin, they managed to argue for a leave of absence in which to fulfil previous obligations, which was granted but with conditions.
Limolas and Pick have now been granted citizenship of Arthedain and granted rank within the Royal Rangers. Each has received a silver brooch that is the symbol of the Rangers and instructions to join the training base at Fornost. They have been granted permission to continue the investigation of a ruin in the Cardolan waste, but must also investigate rumours of strange things in Tyrn Gorthad on the way.
`So this thought has just cropped up on the ICE MERP Facebook group. “Question I play Rolemaster in Middle Earth why not use a much more mature system but still al the middle earth info/ICE modules etc?”
Now ignoring the obvious replies that can be made by those of us who graduated to Rolemaster (RM) and in our case reverted back in this incarnation, there is a bigger question. What is a mature system? A system that is mature in my book has a lot to do with my background in biology and medicine. It has a robust interdependency that has over time evolved to provide a stable supporting equilibrium. So is RM really a mature system? More complex, yes; also it allows more options and certainly more adaptable in terms of the wealth of character options and fighting styles. But more mature, no.
D&D has evolved to suit its different adventuring worlds, well there were rule changes. I’m not sure if they evolved to balance out the world or in response to players complaints about the previous versions, but at least it was in response to the modules and the world. I have no idea how Pathfinder fits into this idea, someone might like to enlighten me.
For Middle Earth there are just different systems basically based on which company managed to acquire a licence from the Tolkien Estate.
Dungeons and Dragons
ICE Rolemaster/MERP and subsidiary editions
Cubicle 7’s “The One Ring”
Decipher “The Lord of the Rings”
various online and by mail MMPORG
None of which has ever been part of a serious effort to become better at being a reflection of Middle Earth. Now, this has not been a fault of players who have attempted to warp whatever system they play to fit their idea of Middle Earth, some of which can be found on various fan sites and zines. However, I wonder if any of the systems have ever really had a chance to mature into a system that really reflects the rich tapestry of Tolkien’s mythic creation?
Limolas and Pick are resting in one of the local hostels in Caras Celairnen when they are approached by a small hobbit by the name of Billwise. The enthusiastic hobbit is interested in the pairs recent adventure and appears to be over friendly but as he is buying the drinks the pair humour him.While they are in conversation they are approached by a nervous scholar by the name of Mithparvandir who offers them a chance to find treasure if they will recover items for him from distant locations that would prove difficult for the scholar to enter. He is unwilling to specify what these might be as he is afraid of being overheard in such a place that promises to meet them later in the day at the Causeway gate and explain if they agree to help him.
As the spring sunshine fades and the warmth leaches from the air, the three adventurers wait for Mithparvandir by the gate. Late traffic is leaving the town, including a travelling knight and his retinue. Soon though these sights are forgotten as the Mithparvandir arrives with a sorry looking mule loaded with food for four weeks travel. He explains that he is afraid that other treasure hunters might reach the hidden locations in the site he has discovered. Also explaining that he is still deciphering some ancient texts that hint at a hidden treasure trove which requires some kind of key. Cautiously, the three accept the commission a little unsure of if the deserted mansion in the fallen realm of Cardolan will still contain treasure.
Before setting out, Pick decides to see if Dagaard will join them and, after a long conversation about gems after visiting Dagaard’s workshop, Dagaard agrees to join the party.
The journey is uneventful, apart from discovering that Billwise’s claim to be an excellent cook is false.At the end of the second day, the sun setting red and a storm closing in, the party notice the knight and his retinue ahead. Closing quickly in the hope of sharing a campsite for the night, Limolas spots a party of what looks like bandits preparing for an ambush. The adventurers hurry to the wooded defile, which although a good place to camp is also a good site for an ambush. Elf and dwarves task the newest member of the party to baggage duty, not trusting his size in battle and doubting his temperament and skill. Limolas, raced ahead and soon his sharp eyes spotted an old adversary amongst the bandits, Culwine.Unfortunately, the elf’s progress and those of his dwarven companions is noticed; a pair of bandits break off to intercept the adventurers.
Limolas, bow in hand, fires and although injuring one bandit, does nothing to halt their progress. He runs. The implacable dwarves continue their steady progress and soon battle is joined. Limolas continues to offer missile support. Doughty Dagaard dispatches his opponent quickly. Pick drops his weapon and is forced to use his shield in both offence and defence. Meanwhile, a poor pack mule enters the arena of combat as the remaining bandits join their companions in battle. So it is with some surprise that the experienced fighters observe Billwise appear behind one of the attackers and dispatch him with a single blow. Soon, only one bandit remains standing, but appears to be evading the blows of three opponents. Dagaard having dispatched Calwine charges on, sure that more combat will be found further into the valley.
Finally, Billwise and Limolas manage to dispatch the remaining bandit, but Pick is beginning to look punch drunk. Leaving Pick to continue at his own pace, the elf and hobbit chase Dagaard into the valley. Rounding the corner they come upon the main site on Ambush. The knight has been felled as has most of his retinue, only Dagaard and the knight’s young squire continue the fight. A carriage, with smoke billowing out, is pulled up across the road. Within seconds, Dagaard and the squire collapse to the ground leaving Billwise to face three bandits alone. Fortunately, the hobbit uses his natural speed to stay out of trouble until reinforcements arrive, and although the foes prove troublesome to defeat, the remaining adventurers are victorious.
Assessing the situation, the brave fighters ascertain that Dagaard, the knight and his retinue are merely unconscious. After time to recover they discover the tale of the ambush and that this was an attempt to assassinate the heir to the noble house of Noirin. Valanaque is the nephew of the current head of the house and the heir apparent to his aunt.
When sufficiently recovered, the enlarged party make their way to the family seat of the house Noirin.With great thanks, the band of heroes are rewarded by being granted the rights of retainers to the noble house. In return, Limolas and Pick share the discovered documents that they believe indicate there may be spies within Arthedain. With these revelations the Dame Noirin, orders the adventurers to accompany her to Bree, which she will pass through on the way to a meeting with the King at Amon Sul, and there to listen out for hints of potential plots.
Granted rights and responsibilities of a retainer of the House Noirin and supplied with a mount suitable for that position along with livery.
In my last blog, I introduced the World Anvil site which had been mentioned by the Kind GM. I thought I would give a quick update on my progress as it seems to have occupied a lot of my GM downtime. In addition, there have been some developments that may have widened the appeal to other GMs.
First, the world building, which goes well, The ability to record even brief sketches of a location and the people in one place and link them all is a very nice tool to have. I have been trying this out with my village sketch of Elvenbyen. This seems to work well, owners of establishments can be linked and using categories you can group these into a managed table of contents. I found that linking into broad groups like location, people of note and organisations was about all that was needed. I can upload and access maps linked in this way although I suspect that my conventional paper layout is more accessible in gameplay. It would be nice if I could hotspot the locations from the map to the descriptions, which I should probably feedback to the developers.
Categories provide the hierarchy for organising your information, however, I have not got two locations on the go and the article list by which each entry is organised is a bit too long for this to work as well as it should. Yes, you can filter into main categories, but what if the character or organisation fits over more than one category. Also when working on one location you really only want to see those articles, but overall not too much of a problem. Linking to various articles uses drop downs and these currently aren’t linked to the category you are working on. This does mean you have to scroll a lot as your list of characters or locations increases. Again though, another thing that could be fixed.
Overall, the World Anvil site is providing a useful way of organising information for locations I am creating. As it has the crosslinking categories I can keep a database organised and when it comes to publishing the location information it should be a simple matter of taking the online information and putting it in a location-specific document. Of course, my biggest fear is that the website will go defunct and I will lose all the information so my paranoid brain is getting ready to copy all the web pages into an offline version.
A new feature that has been introduced is a Campaign section. I suspect it is going to be most useful to gamers who play online, but the plot functions do intrigue me. I have had a little play and it does have the potential for organising your story arc and individual scenario story. PCs and NPCs can be linked and through the generic table function, I guess stats could be added. Using the image function you could store maps and the 6 point story structure gives everything the basic planning features you would need. I am trying it out to organise some of the ideas I have for the current campaign, much of which is written on paper as sketches. I must say it is helping me think about the details, but in the current format, there are a few things that make it clunky to work with. For example, in a scenario, I might want an NPC antagonist and rather than creating them in the plot, I need to create a character and then go back and link to the plot. The same is true of locations. This makes workflow trickier, well for someone who tends to use multiple sheets of paper it does.
The second part of the Campaign feature is the session tools. There is one for playing and one for reporting on the session itself. I have had a mini play and again it could be a useful tool. Online it probably would work as a playing space, but what if there is no internet! Furthermore, I think a GM is going to need to flip multiple tab windows to track all the information they need. Having paper strewn everywhere may be a bit inconvenient, but you generally can still talk to your players in this state. I wonder if the chat window/video is as accessible or would you need a second computer? In the world of rock paper scissors, paper still beats electronics for overall usability.
So we are not there yet – probably closer for DnD GMs, less so on the plotting and world-building side, but still an interesting project and it does need a download backup function.
Depending on the GM, a lot of time can be spent building the locations in which adventures can be set. I know some GMs just take it all from published materials and run without thinking about the big picture. To be honest why would you when your players are just interested in solving the mystery, slaying the beast and getting the gold/girl. For me this works well for one off adventures, but not so well when the characters become involved in a campaign or series of interlinked adventures. I begin to find my players become more interested in the world around them and I have to have a set of reasons why they can’t take over a town as overlords or set up their own bank or…. Well the hundred and one off-the-wall reasons that can be given by players. Which means at the very least you should have some background at your fingertips.
Then there are GMs who write adventures/campaigns creating the content needed to play a game because, well they enjoy the process or don’t like what is available. Finally, there are the world builders who relish the chance to think about the macro and the what ifs. Well I’m one of those, and even though Middle Earth is full of source material, there are plenty of places to build and develop. My computer, and some binders are littered with pen sketches of places, notes on names and characters: along with adventures to run. So it was with interest that I read about World Anvil on the Kind GM’s blog.
The site provides a way to organise all those pesky bits of paper into a coherent gazetteer. You will have seen some of my latest content appearing on the blog pages, but really that is an awkward way to manage the content. So I have been plugging in some text of locations that are of interest currently to see if the site will work for me.
The content holders are useful and mostly match with information and ideas that I want to record, and there is a useful way of linking characters into geographical locations. However, there doesn’t appear to be a way of linking the location to the characters, unless they own the site. If you upload maps they can be linked to the site and I guess using a sidebar space I can start adding specific detail from the map.
When I started I just put up one location and started to link characters associated. I soon discovered that when you do this, you will need at least some headline work on races and locations of a top-level nature to tie things together. For example, I needed to create a species man and then subdivide to ethnicity Northman/Riverman to include this information on the character. It is possible to get away without having this information and leaving it very generic, but at some point linking locations and characters into kingdoms etc has to be done. As a result, it is better to do it early and add to each new item rather than retrospectively.
One thing I do like about the design of the site is the ability to put in secret information that is not generally known to the world. This apparently would be available to subscribers of the world stream but not to the casual observer. Quite how this works in practise I don’t know. I guess a player could read the public content and GMs subscribe, but how do I know which is which?
The website allows for collaboration (any budding authors drop me a line), but really without upgrading to a private account, I don’t think the capacity for images is going to be large enough to cope with more than a few maps. So at some point I’m going to run out of space. It also uses BB code (a cut down HTML) which in this day of smart interfaces seems a bit dated. Even the basic WordPress toolbar begins to look science fiction compared to this.
As a trial I’m going to carry on building locations and ideas for Caras Celairnen because it does make organising the content easier. It is a useful tool for creating the correct environment and forces me to think about who lives in a place and what they look like and how they act. However, at some point I will end up taking all the text and relocating in a more published format elsewhere. Like many internet ventures it will only last as long as the server, so it will pay to make a back up.
In the last session, our hapless heroes had become separated and their stories had taken different paths. Recovering in the Dwarven enclave of Caras Celairnen, the dwarves had begun to search for possible news of the return of Limolas to civilisation, more in hope than any real sense of success. As a result, they did not tax their own resources too heavily, instead relying on using the elf’s cash reserves to pay some street urchins to pass on news of any sightings. Then, feeling that duty had been done, they set about resting and planning on how to return to the Edanaar, the golden frog, to complete the task.
Meanwhile, sometime later, Limolas returning to the town shorn of is belongings and trousers – is detained by the city guard. Attempts to engage the city militia in contacting his friends fail miserably, and the elf is forced to sit and wait in a cell. Finally, he is taken to a court in front of the Arquan of the Karras and a chance to plead his case. However, his dishevelled appearance and lack of means do not help his poorly constructed arguments of being an adventurer down on his luck with companions in town. Perhaps it is not a good idea to mention your friends are dwarves when you are an elf. After deliberation, the elders of the city decide that Limolas is a potential risk to the safety of the city and decide – in the interest of security – to bad the elf from the city. So it is that down-on-his-luck elf finds himself contemplating the long walk along the two-mile causeway towards the next chance of shelter and food.
At that same moment, the dwarves receive word of an elf who matches their description has just been thrown out from the town. With maximum dwarven haste, the pair make their way down to the causeway gate and a short dash across the causeway soon reunites them with their lost companion. After briefly swapping tales, the party hatch a plan to house Limolas for long enough for them to complete the quest.
Reasoning that it is only a matter of time before the banishment will be forgotten, Limolas settles into the shore camp occupied by many of the river’s itinerant travellers who stop-over at the Karras. When Limolas is sufficiently recovered, the party travel into the fens again and with only minor incidents return to the bower of the Golden Frog. Upon the presentation of the gifts to the idol, a golden mist swirls around and miraculously Edanaar stand before the adventurers.
Within a matter of days, Edanaar and been reunited with his long-lost love. The party rewarded both in coin and some minor items settle into the town to finally reflect on their adventure and again on how being reunited allowed the lost lovers to be united again.
In the previous session, we left the party divided and in fear deep within the wood surrounding the Labyrinth of Thorns. Limolas, alone in the woods woke to a new day and a sense of self-imposed calm. However, although he knew north from south and east from west, he had no clue as to his location in the woods. Reasoning that the dwarves were to the North he carefully made his way through the woods.
Meanwhile, back at camp the dwarves, now more concerned about the failure of their companion began to make plans to leave in the assumption that the elf was lost. Waiting part of the morning, and with no sign of Limolas, the pair began to make their way towards the west and the side of the woods they had entered. Arriving at the edge of the swamp the waited another hour or so before deciding to try and find their way back through the swamp. Suddenly, the two stout heroes were assailed by giant, slimy tentacles. From the swamp a watcher in the water attempt to snatch at Pick, who was carrying the basket containing the stones and rose. Valiantly, the dwarves beat back the assaulting arms and regained the wood away from the dangers of the swamp. For a while, the tentacles searched for the basket and the dwarves decided that seeking another way from the wood would be sensible. Thus they set off to search the edge of the woods for a new path and they reasoned, they may come across the elf, should he have made his way to edge of the woods.
Indeed, this is exactly what Limolas had done, having reached the Northern edge of the woods he surveyed the steep, imposing slopes of the Twilight hills decided to follow the woods to the Western end and the location of the causeway. From there he reasoned he would be able to trace the path back to the camp near the Labyrinth. After a long trek involving an incident with a fireward and a loss of trousers, the half-dressed elf finally arrived back at the site of the camp, which of course by now was deserted. Not wishing to remain in the wood Limolas made his way back to the edge of the woods by the causeway path for the night.
During this time, Pick and Dagaard had walked around the edge of the wood, and discovered a fellow adventurer in distress. Dealve, had been part of a party seeking the golden frog, but his companions had perished in the accursed swamp and seeking safety Dealve had managed to gain some dry land, but now was without food. Not entirely trusting the adventurer, the dwarves, of course, did not disclose their discoveries but did offer to work together to escape from the swamp. With night drawing, the band of lost adventurers settled in for a watchful and uncomfortable night.
Dawn broke softly in the mist-enshrouded woods, grey, damp mist surrounded the sundered companions. Limolas deciding that his companions have begun to journey back through the swamp uses his tracking skills to begin searching for safe paths back to the golden frog, Edanaar. The dwarves, meanwhile, continue to skirt the woods searching for an obvious path without the risk of meeting a watcher.
The dwarves with Dealve eventually arrive at the escarpments that mark the start of the Twilight hills. Deciding that searching for a path is fruitless, Pick and Dagaard decide to follow the edge of the escarpment towards the river Lhun. With little incident, but dwindling supplies, they manage to make their way to the dwarf road leading to Caras Celairnen. Finally, arriving at the town starving, the dwarves seek sanctuary in the Dwarven Halls where they are nursed back to health. Fully recovered, the pair use some of Limolas’ coin to pay street urchins to provide news should the elf return. They do this more in hope rather than any real belief that he should be alive.
Limolas, however, is not so fortunate and through a series of mishaps spends longer in the swamp than even the initial journey out took. Thankfully, although lost, he is able to survive on a basic diet of swamp edibles. A considerable time after the dwarves had arrived back at the Karras, Limolas stumbles towards the causeway gate, half-naked, unkempt and starving. Despite pleading for aid, the gate guards decide that Limolas is a suspicious character and detain the elf. Limolas’ protestations and request that someone searches for news of his companions fall on deaf ears.