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Pieces of Eight Campaign / Session 27 Summary
« Last post by David Roomes on May 15, 2018, 09:57:39 PM »
Session 27 Summary

The Player Characters  (aka the "Heroes")

Winlock – orc/dwarf barbarian, wearing heavy chain mail armor and wielding a big war hammer
William – the party’s wizard, human male, robed and armed with a broad array of spells.
Belkor – the dashing human swordsmen/mariner wielding twin scimitars
Listig – the elven thief/archer equipped with several different enchanted arrows
Halimir - An elven archer/ranger. Good tracker. Expert archer.


The Current Non Player Characters

"Humble" Almahdi - A likable Padashani beggar with quick wit. Talkative. Funny. Fluent in several languages. Street smart, but somewhat cowardly.
Grim Rigor- A huge ogre warrior. A former slave and gladiator. Extremely tough. Good in a fight. Cured of a zombie infection by Belkor.
Brokenfoot- A mandalar warrior. Formerly a slave in the Padashani city of Ikemar. Horns are sawn off. Bought by the party to serve as a guide.


DM Note - This is another long one. Turns out this session was mostly one long "road warrior style" battle. So this session gets pretty detailed about the action in that fight. But hopefully I captured the spirit of the fight pretty well. Hope you enjoy it.



The huge wheeled land ship named “Iron Dragon” rolled out of the city gates of Ikemar and began its journey into the Border Clans.

From within their hiding spot, the party listened to the sound of the huge axles turning, the creak of wood, the occasional bellow of the huge landshaker beasts that propelled the enormous vehicle. The desert air brought them the smell of oiled metal, old leather, sun scorched wood and animal sweat.

The mandalar slave the party had freed was with them. They learned that his name was Brokenfoot (a reference to his deformed foot) and they learned a bit about his history, his capture and his years of slavery in the city of Ikemar.

After awhile, the door to the secret compartment was opened and Captain Kaizan let them out. He offered to show them around the ship and introduce the crew.

[DM Note - I'm not going to spend a lot of time introducing specific details about the ship and the crew, but the Iron Dragon is going to be added as a part of Khoras canon and will likely be the subject of a monthly spotlight later this year. So lots of details about this land ship and pictures will eventually be available for the curious. For this session summary, just a quick overview].

The lower level was devoted to the beasts of burden and contained a bewildering array of ropes and pulleys that comprised the steering system. The second level was the cargo hold. The top level was living quarters – bridge, common room and various bunk rooms.

The captain then took them up to the roof. The vehicle was moving at a good pace and the party had a great view from the roof. The terrain was dry scrublands and a high ridge of hills was visible to either side. The wagon was travelling down a long valley between two mountain ranges. Captain Kaizan called it “the Throat”. The wagon was following a wide dirt road down the length of the valley which stretched to the horizon.

One of the crew was up on the roof standing next to a ballista at the front of the vehicle. He had a small spyglass and was looking at the horizon.

Captain Kaizan explained to the party that "this whole land used to be ruled by an ancient people, millennia ago. Called the Kithdari. They’re all gone now. The ruins of their once great civilization are scattered all throughout this region. There’s nothing left but ruins and treasure hordes and bits of their strange magic".

Kaizan showed the party the ballista and then took them to the back end of the roof.  At the back end of the ship was a strange contraption mounted on a swivel base. It was a long cylindrical tube with strange protrusions, metal plates and ridges. A yellowish glow was coming from within and the whole thing was adorned with curious runes and glyphs.

This here is the pride of the Iron Dragon… our only piece of Kithdari magic. This is a lightning thrower. At least, that’s what we call it. No idea what the mandalar call it. We captured this on one of our adventures last year. The mandalar don’t like us having this. Kithdari relics are holy to them. They believe its blasphemy for outsiders to possess such things. They jealously guard kithdari ruins and kithdari magic items and they never fail to attack us. I think they’re trying to get this back.

The party joined the crew for a meal. Kaizan explained that it was a 15 day journey to Anquar. He advised the party to stick with the Iron Dragon for at least 5 days. That way, they would clear the Throat and be out on to the central plains, well past the range of the military patrols of the Padashan Empire. The party agreed.

For the next few days the Iron Dragon traveled down the valley. They made camp each night.

Between Captain Kaizan and Brokenfoot, the party learned a great deal about the mandalar.
•   The mandalar are clan based, patriarchal, led by the strongest male.
•   They are excellent hunters, trackers and warriors.
•   They do take prisoners but stories suggest prisoners are treated well and released after a year.
•   They have a strict code of honor and will never break a vow.
•   The mandalar worship the kithdari as gods. They consider themselves the “chosen race”, chosen by the kithdari and, because of this, they are superior to other races.
•   Mandalar consider kithdari ruins to be holy ground and will not enter.

On day 3, the party passed a pair of huge stone statues that flanked the road. These immense things stood more than a hundred feet tall and appeared to be a stylized representation of a mandalar warrior. Adorning the base of each were bones, skulls, broken blades and bits of armor, both Anquaran and Padashani. Kaizan explained that this was the “real border” and the statues were a warning to keep out.

That evening, they made camp near some kithdari ruins. William noticed that the ruins had the same glyphs that the lightning thrower weapon did. He copied the glyphs down with ink and paper to study later. A quick exploration of the ruins revealed several empty subterranean chambers.

Through weeks of study, William had successfully researched a new spell. Simulacrum. This would allow him to craft a duplicate of a person from a crude form fashioned from ice and snow. The duplicate would be not be as strong or powerful as the original and would be under his command. William was eager to try out this new spell. He had been preparing for this, even going so far as to seeking out a jeweler in a city many days earlier, to convert a portion of their treasure into powdered ruby, a required component for the spell. He planned to make a duplicate of Winlock and thus have another strong warrior on the battlefield to aid the party in future conflicts.

The spell required snow and ice which the Talisman of the Sea could produce. However, the spell took 12 full hours to cast and William needed to keep the ice and snow from melting for that entire time. The ruins that they were camping next to provided the opportunity he needed. By casting the spell at night and in one of the cool dark subterranean chambers of the ruins, the ice and snow would maintain it’s form long enough to make the simulacrum. William (and Winlock who as needed to be present) began while the others ate dinner and worked all night. Shortly after dawn the next morning, his work was complete and the simulacrum opened its eyes. It did not have the ability to speak nor would it take action other than on orders from William. The party equipped their new simulacrum with spare armor and weapons from the wagon.

On day 4, the Iron Dragon left the Throat behind. The land before them was dry scrub lands and rolling hills dotted by the occasional mesa.

Later that day, they were attacked. As the Iron Dragon passed between two mesas, four separate groups of mandalar on horseback rode out from hidden positions and charged the Dragon. Kaizan ordered the Iron Dragon to increase to its top speed while the crew ran to grab bows and man the rooftop weapons.

The party had a very hurried conversation with Brokenfoot. Would he help? Hinder? Brokenfoot said that he didn’t not want to fight his own people. However, since the party saved his life and had granted him freedom, he agreed not to hinder them either. He would simply stay “below deck” and out of sight for the duration of the battle and not aid either side. The party agreed that was fair.

It was also agreed that Humble Almahdi, being a non-fighter, would stay in the common room and out of harm’s way. He and Brokenfoot actually spent the majority of the fight talking.

The party took up defense positions around the landship. Belkor and Grim Rigor stood at the railing of the second level on the port side and Winlock took up an identical position on the starboard side.

William (and the simulacrum following him), Listig and Halimir went up to the roof to have a wide view and clear shot for their spells and arrows, respectively. One crew member was manning the ballista and another was manning the lightning thrower.

Mandalar are humanoid, averaging seven feet tall and completely covered in fur. They have two large forward curving horns coming out of their head, a bit like a bull. Their faces, however, are bestial… vaguely canine. They have manes of hair, some of them dreadlocked. Their fur colored varies, but most are brown, grey or black.

They came riding in on large horses. Their equipment seemed primitive. They had bits and pieces of leather clothing and armor, boots, gloves and so forth. Their bows looked formidable and their large arrows were tipped with flint. Their weapons were varied in form, but were mostly fashioned from wood, bone, stone and twine. A few metal blades and bits of armor were evident here and there, most likely taken from past victims.

One mandalar stood out from the others. He was behind the horses, but he was so big that he stood above them. He must have been almost ten feet tall… an aberrant of some kind. A mandalar giant. He was running on foot and was passing the horses. He was approaching from the port rear side.

William cast a wall of fire spell positioned in the path of the riders approaching from that direction. Several of the riders, including the giant mandalar, charged through it without stopping. A few of them got singed and ended up patting out flames from their fur, but they all kept coming.

Behind the riders, the party spotted a large chariot approaching at full speed. It was being pulled by two horses and had three mandalar on the back along with something else.

Belkor raised his hand and loosed a fireball from his magical gauntlet. Several riders disappeared in a cloud of flame and were left behind. The rest continued closing the distance.

The large chariot was rapidly gaining. William could see that it carried a driver and two other mandalar. The two were doing something with a contraption on the back of the chariot. It was a fat cylindrical object with protrusions and metal plates and tubes. It looked similar to the lightning thrower on top of the Iron Dragon, but was of a slightly different design. William assumed it was some kind of Kithdari magic weapon and they were trying to get within firing range.

Listig and Halimir, along with several crew members, exchanged a constant barrage of arrows with the mandalar riders. The ballista and lightning thrower were firing too. The lightning caster unleashed a bright, thin beam of blue light and lightning crackled down the length of the beam. It struck a mandalar in the chest and he was blown off of his horse.

From the top rear of the Iron Dragon, William had good view of the chariot. The chariot weapon was glowing from within, just like the lightning caster.

William cast telekinesis and used it to pull one mandalar off of his horse and hurl him at the giant mandalar’s knees in an attempt to knock him to the ground. The giant mandalar managed to dodge the flopping body of his comrade and kept on charging.

The mandalar riders surrounded the Iron Dragon, several of them jumping from their horses onto the huge vehicle. One fell and was crushed beneath the huge wheels. Several managed to jump on to the sides and began climbing.

Winlock, Belkor, Grim Rigor and several crew members fought them off. Six mandalar made it to the second level and swung over the railing, to face their enemy on the long narrow walkway than ran along both sides of the vehicle. Battle erupted all over the vehicle.

A low pitched sound began to emanate from the weapon on the chariot and a glow within the object began to appear. The sound rapidly got louder and higher in pitch, as if the weapon was powering up. The chariot began moving to the starboard side of the Iron Dragon.

The giant sized mandalar reached the Iron Dragon and leapt up onto the walkway of the second level. Belkor was closest to him and the two began trading blows – massive hammer against twin blades.

William ordered the simulacrum to follow him. He then leapt from the Iron Dragon rooftop down to the party’s wagon, which was being hauled behind them (attached by ropes). He managed to land on the roof of their wagon and not fall off. The simulacrum made the jump as well.

Two mandalar leapt from their horses to the front of the Iron Dragon and began climbing up toward the windows of the third level (i.e. the bridge).

Seeing the chariot moving into a position to fire, Listig fired a winter’s bite arrow and hit the swivel mount of the weapon. Crystalline ice enveloped the weapon as it froze solid. The two mandalar operating the weapon struggled with it, but could not turn it toward the Iron Dragon. They both began hacking at the ice with hatchets.

Unable to turn and aim the weapon at the Iron Dragon, the chariot driver changed heading and began moving to a position directly behind the party’s wagon (as the weapon was pointing straight ahead, being directly behind the wagon would give them a shot). The two mandalar on the weapon managed to free the elevation adjustment of the weapon, but not the pivot.

William used the ongoing telekinesis spell to hurl a mandalar at the chariot. His aim was good, but the chariot rolled right over the body. When the chariot was directly behind the party wagon, the mandalar gunner fired. A broad cone of brilliant blue light shot out, engulfing the entire party wagon and the back end of the Iron Dragon.

The simulacrum immediately reverted back to snow which began to melt. The lightning thrower went dead. But there were no other visible effects. William immediately deduced that the cone of light was an anti-magic beam of some kind. William wanted that weapon and began to devise a plan.

The two mandalar climbing the front of the Dragon smashed through the windshield and climbed into the bridge. Cries for help were heard from the driver. Almost immediately, the Iron Dragon began veering wildly and went off the dirt road and began going cross country, bouncing wildly as it went. Combatants all over the ship were knocked about.

Listig fell and rolled off the roof. Luckily, he was wearing a safety line and ended up dangling from the roof, swinging wildly in the air, as mandalar shot arrows at him. Listig scrambled back up onto the roof as Halimir raced down to the bridge to rescue the driver.

Meanwhile, combat continued all over the Iron Dragon. Belkor, Winlock and Grim Rigor along with several crew members were still locked in battle with a dozen mandalar who were all over the ship.

Several flaming arrows from the mandalar riders had caught and several parts of the hull and siding of the landship were on fire.

William used the Talisman of Dreams to telepathically contact Listig and tell him to teleport to the mandalar weapon chariot and told him that he would meet him there.

Listig agreed. He fired his teleport arrow at the chariot and with a flash appeared on the chariot, surprising all three mandalar. William, using telekinesis on himself to fly over to the chariot, attempted to land heavily on one of the mandalar. He missed, but managed to distract the two from killing Listig.

Meanwhile, Halimir reached the bridge. There were two mandalar there. A big mandalar was pulling a bone blade out of the body of the dead driver. A smaller mandalar was at the controls trying to figure out how to operate the vehicle. Halimir fired a winter’s bite arrow at the smaller one. It hit dead center in his back. Sheets of ice flowed over and enveloped the driver and controls. The big mandalar advanced on Halimir and swung his weapon.

William and Listig were engaged in a precarious battle with the mandalar on the bouncing chariot. Listig pumped arrows into the gunner at point blank range and dodged his attacks while William used telekinesis to fly, swoop and harass the driver. The third mandalar was still chipping away at the ice, trying to free the weapon’s pivot.

The mandalar fighting Listig slipped on the ice awkwardly and injured his back. Listig took advantage of the momentary vulnerability and threw him out of the chariot.

The fires on the Iron Dragon were spreading. Two wheels and the aft of the huge vehicle were on fire, as were the ropes that were pulling the party’s wagon behind the landship.

Also, the Iron Dragon was pulling out ahead of the mandalar rides. Gradually, it was leaving them behind. The horses could not keep up with the huge landshaker beasts.

The mandalar on the bridge stabbed Halimir. Halimir took out a crystal (actually, this was an enchanted crystal that he had picked up in the dragon’s lair infused with explosive magic) and dropped it between the two mandalar and fled. He managed to make it to the next room and slam the door shut just as the thing detonated. The concussive force blew the door off the hinges and it landed on Halimir. Luckily the door took most of the blast and saved Halimir.

Down on the port walkway of the second level, Belkor was still in toe to toe combat with the mandalar giant and had managed to cut, slash and stab him over a dozen times. Bleeding profusely from the wounds and realizing he could not best the swordsmen, the mandalar giant leapt from the Iron Dragon, landed heavily in the dirt and fled.

With a combination of arrows and telekinesis, Listig and William managed to take control of the weapon chariot from the remaining two mandalar and throw them out. The elf and the wizard were now in control of the vehicle. As the chariot passed the wounded giant mandalar, William fired a lightning bolt spell and killed him.

The Iron Dragon was pulling ahead further, increasing the distance between the chariot and the horde of mandalar riders.

The fire on the Iron Dragon was getting worse. Belkor, having defeated all mandalar on his side of the ship, used his Talisman of the Sea to summon a thick fog that instantly blanketed the area. He hoped that the fog would put out the flames.

Halimir crawled out from under the door and found the two mandalar dead. (Actually the one that had attacked him was lying dead, the frozen one had been blown completely out through the windows and was gone). The bridge controls were destroyed, mangled beyond use. Looking through the window, he saw the wagon was heading directly toward the face of a huge rocky outcropping.  The vehicle would crash into it at full speed. It was less than a mile away. He had no way to steer or slow the ship down. It was at this moment this his vision of what lay ahead was utterly obscured by thick fog. Halimir decided to get down to the lowest level and see if he could stop the ship there.

At this moment, Winlock, having defeated his enemies on the starboard side, ran into the lower level. There he found a mandalar who had managed to get inside the vehicle and was in the middle of attacking the haul master (the haul master was the crew member responsible for the huge beasts that propelled the ship). Winlock killed the mandalar with a single brutal stroke of his hammer.

Halimir arrived in the lower level while Winlock was trying to tend to the wounds of the haul master. He looked around at the pulleys, winches, gears and ropes. Being an outdoor tracker and hunter, he was little familiar with such machinery and had no idea how to stop the vehicle.

Belkor seeing that the fog was not having the desired effect on the fire, ended it with a wave of his hand.

Halimir, being a ranger, had a good rapport with beasts and animals of all kinds. He turned his attention to the six huge landshakers who were still running and snorting in their yokes and harnesses. With soothing words and touches, the beasts began to calm. The huge ship began to slow, but not enough. They were still going to crash.

At that moment, the engineer (responsible for everything mechanical on the ship) came to the lower level. Halimir yelled at him and explained that the bridge was destroyed and they were going to crash into a rock wall if they couldn’t turn the ship. The engineer ran up to the mechanisms and pointed out two levers, one on either side of the vehicle. The engineer grabbed one and Halimir ran over to the other. Together, they pulled on the levers in opposite directions and got the front wheels to slowly turn.

The Iron Dragon turned just enough to miss the giant rock outcropping (just barely) and Halimir and the engineer steered the huge vehicle back toward the road (they were steering by peering through two narrow archer slits).

Belkor evoked another function of the Talisman of the Sea to fight the fire. He raised his hands and caused a jet of sea water to erupt from his hands. He began moving about the vessel putting out the fires with this sea spray.

William and Listig in the chariot chased after the Iron Dragon while the horde of mandalar chased after them. The horde was raining down arrows on the chariot. Now that the Iron Dragon had slowed down, the horde of mandalar riders was gaining on them, rapidly closing the distance.

William wanted the anti-magic cannon. It was nailed to the floorboards of the chariot with iron spikes. He ripped the spikes out with his telekinesis spell and then he and Listig jumped on to the cannon and rode it, flying telekinetically, back toward the Iron Dragon. William ended up taking three mandalar arrows before they landed heavily on the roof of the Iron Dragon.

Now all party members were back on board the Dragon and the land ship was again on the road and picking up speed. Eventually, they pulled away from the horde of horsed mandalar. With each minute, they pulled further and further away.

The party and crew pushed hard to put as many miles between them and the pursuing horde as they could. They knew that now that they had taken the “anti-magic” weapon, those mandalar would chase them relentlessly. They pushed hard for almost an hour until the horde was over the horizon and completely out of sight.

The Iron Dragon turned off of the main road and headed toward a “good hiding spot” that Captain Kaizan knew about. Once the Iron Dragon was parked and well hidden, the Captain and crew began to assess damage to the vehicle. They didn’t have long before the mandalar tracked them to this hidden place so they worked fast.

William and Listig detached the anti-magic cannon from its swivel mount and wrapped it up in a blanket and put it in the party wagon. They did not tell Broken Foot about it, fearing his reaction.

The engineer and the captain made quick repairs to the control system so that they could steer from the bridge again. The captain was very displeased at the damage to the bridge and heartbroken over the death of his driver, but said that the ferocity of the attack was much more than usual. He was glad to have escaped at all. He admitted that the party had been instrumental in the battle and that their fighting prowess had no doubt saved his ship.

The party decided it was time to part ways from the Iron Dragon. They detached their wagon from the Iron Dragon, led their horses down the gangplank from the cargo hold and hitched them up.

The party said their goodbyes to the crew of the Iron Dragon and the two vehicles headed off in different directions. Brokenfoot went with the party. The Iron Dragon continued following the road toward Anquar and the party’s wagon headed in toward the center of the Border Clans region. The Talisman of Dreams indicated that’s where they would find the last missing talisman… the Talisman of the Land.

The party rode for two hours north, away from the road, before parking and camping for the night. They made no fire and maintained a guard throughout the night.

The next morning, William did another scan for the fourth Talisman. It was to the west of them. William was able to determine that the Talisman location had shifted. It was moving! Someone was carrying it.

The party travelled most of that day. At mid afternoon, they spotted a trail of black smoke rising up into the sky from just over the next hill. It was directly in their path.

The party crested the hill and found the aftermath of a battle that had taken place next to a small Kithdari ruin. The ground was littered with the bodies of the dead. In all, there were about twenty dead humans, twelve dead mandalar and a number of horses. There were four mandalar still on their feet. These four were tending to their dead and wounded.

These four mandalar were wounded, exhausted and in no shape to fight. Still, they raised their weapons as the party approached. Both sides were cautious. William used the Talisman’s translation function so that everyone could understand each other. Even so, the party let Brokenfoot do the talking. After some tense and cautious conversation, both sides relaxes, lowered their weapons and talked.

The party offered to heal the wounded mandalar and Brokenfoot convinced the lead mandalar to accept. The party used the Talisman of Blood to heal the six wounded mandalar. This bought them a great deal of good will.

Through conversation, the party learned much. The leader of this small mandalar group was named Grey Wolf. They were of a different clan than the clan that had attacked the Iron Dragon. His group was a warband hunting a “criminal” who had stolen from their clan. The party asked for more details. Grey Wolf explained that a human wizard and his companions had befriended their chieftain by “returning stolen Kithdari artifacts” and with “honeyed words”. Despite the objections of some, the chieftain had let the outlanders stay among their clan for many days. However, this hospitality was repaid with theft. The human wizard, a man named Lothian, had made off in the night like a thief with several pieces of treasure and kithdari artifacts. His companions were captured, but Lothian escaped.

The chieftain declared Lothian to be “aamatu” (enemy of the Kithdari) and sent forth several warbnads to hunt him down and return the stolen artifacts.

After several days of tracking and pursuit, Grey Wolf’s warband had found Lothian first, in the midst of looting a tomb at these ruins where the battle had taken place. They had expected to find Lothian alone. However, he was accompanied by more than twenty humans all wearing the same coat of arms.

The party examined the bodies of the men that had fought Greywolf’s warband. The coat of arms on the tunics of the men seemed to be some kind of trading guild symbol. Based on the symbol, arms, armor and other clues, the party suspected they were caravan guards or mercenaries. Grey Wolf made it clear that these men had followed Lothian’s orders and some had even sacrificed their lives in order to ensure Lothian’s escape.

The party conversed more with Grey Wolf, hoping to get more useful information. They asked about what he had stolen. Among the items, Grey Wolf mentioned a “metal charm”. When pressed for details he said it was a “worthless trinket”, but the description he gave matched the talismans exactly. Also he had broken into a chamber within these ruins and stolen more Kithdari relics.

The mandalar argued amongst themselves whether to continue after the criminal (with less than half their number) or go back to the clan for reinforcements. The party suggested that they join with them and go after the criminal and hunt him together.

One of the warband was a shaman and Grey Wolf asked his thoughts. The shaman said he would “consult the bones”. He rattled a bag of tiny bones and spilled them onto the ground. After peering and poking at them for some time, he declared “the bones tell me that these outlanders are not allies of the betrayer, but their spirit path crosses his, as does ours. I believe the Kithdari wish us to bring this aamatu to justice no matter the cost. They bring us the aid of these outlanders and we should not deny such a gift”.

“Very well” said Grey Wolf. “We go after Lothian together”.


This is where we ended.

Next session is July 7th, so the next next summary is a ways off. Mid July sometime.
2
Miscellaneous / Re: Gaming Inspiration from Material Culture
« Last post by tanis on May 04, 2018, 03:46:11 AM »
Yeah, it goes into detail about how geography has affected human societies, going all the way back to early humans. I'm already quite enjoying it. And the other, like, five books I'm currently juggling, lol.
3
Miscellaneous / Re: Gaming Inspiration from Material Culture
« Last post by David Roomes on May 02, 2018, 08:25:42 PM »
I have definitely heard of that book. I've been meaning to get around to reading it. Heard good things about it. Just haven't done it yet. I need to add it to my "to read" list.

4
Miscellaneous / Re: Gaming Inspiration from Material Culture
« Last post by tanis on April 27, 2018, 08:47:52 PM »
Great points, Dave.

I definitely agree with you that the value added by putting in that extra amount of work to use tiny details to stitch the narrative into the fabric of the world, so that it doesn't feel like the story could be transplanted to any other setting is well worth the effort required to do so, and I love that you've taken the time to do that with Khoras, because I think it's one of the reasons that Khoras never seemed flimsy in the way that many online campaign settings that I've since come across can.

As to how it adds to worldbuilding, you just reminded me, I've just started reading Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond (it's been a personal goal of mine for a long time, so I'm excited). Are you familiar with the book? It's certainly the sort of thing you'd find interesting, I suspect.
5
Miscellaneous / Re: Gaming Inspiration from Material Culture
« Last post by David Roomes on April 24, 2018, 09:07:47 PM »
I did watch the video. Very nice, historically accurate, re-enactment of a specific time and place. Lots of good details. I love stuff like that. I enjoy historical bits like that because they often show me ways to improve cultures in Khoras. It's common for me to tweak something in Khoras whenever I learn some interesting historical tidbit. I don't want to say "historically accurate" because I'm not creating 12th century Earth. But I am creating a world that's like 12th century Earth, so it's definitely going to have similar ideas, technologies and cultural developments.

Ok, so "material culture" (as far as I know) refers to all of the stuff a specific culture has or makes. Buildings, ships, tools, weapons, clothing, etc. Those are the juicy details that really differentiate one culture from another. I love that stuff. I try to work that into Khoras as much as I can. You can find a lot of details about the material culture on each race under the Races section - food procurement, clothing, tools, weapons, architecture. That sort of information is all under the Races section. But the individual nations often have additional detail specific to them.

I think a region's natural resources form the foundation upon which everything else is built. The resources a culture has available determines what they build or make or trade away to other nations. It explains why a culture builds with wood rather than stone or wears wool rather than silk or cotton. And what they have available and what they end up crafting influences everything else - diet, culture, clothing, buildings, language, religion, even idioms and expressions - everything's connected.

I've noticed that some players think that all of these little details are unnecessary or a waste of time. But I think these details are worth it and serve a twofold purpose. First of all, they make a world feel more real. They give wonderful texture to the background. Second, you can work these details into plot and story - not just as context, but as actual plot points or clues. I have had whole sections of plot hinge on the tiniest cultural detail. Sometimes the solutions to puzzles and riddles rely on specific knowledge of the local culture. It's more effort to weave such details into the fabric of the plot of an adventure, but it's really worth it when it actually works.

Material culture is something that I'm constantly adding to and refining as the world grows. It's a never ending process and I have a long way to go. There are a lot of areas in Khoras that could be improved in this regard. But it's definitely something I try to do.

6
Miscellaneous / Re: Gaming Inspiration from Material Culture
« Last post by tanis on April 23, 2018, 10:40:00 PM »
I know how it is with busy weeks, man. No worries.

I agree with you that Khoras strives for believability, which is one of the things I love about it. It manages to be a fairly "high magic" setting insofar as what the limits are, while feeling grounded in the way that low magic "sword and sorcery" worlds tend to do, and things generally don't feel as arbitrary as, say, a Forgotten Realms, which, as much as I like it, due to over a decade of playing cRPGs set there, has some serious issues as far as feeling organic. It often feels like the various aspects of the setting exist purely to provide areas to play in a particular way, without regard for the societies in question to function sensibly, e.g. the cities of the Sword Coast, which don't seem to have any good reason not to be confederated or SOMETHING, especially given how close rival power centers like Amn and Menzoberranzan are to cities like Waterdeep and Neverwinter.

I would like to hear your thoughts regarding material culture, though. I mean, it you've obviously thought about it some, with regions having different levels of technology, different building materials, etc., but a lot of what stands out is more to do with big things like the physical laws, magical laws, general ecology, etc. What about swords? Baskets? Food utensils?

It seems like you have thoughts about these things, and I'm interested in hearing them.

PS: Has anybody actually watched the video? If so, what did you think? Did you find it interesting/valuable as a resource?
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Miscellaneous / Re: Gaming Inspiration from Material Culture
« Last post by David Roomes on April 23, 2018, 08:07:30 PM »
My apologies for a very late response. It's been a couple of busy weeks.

To go back to the original idea, I agree that... very broadly speaking, gamers tend to fall into one of two camps... those who like and strive for verisimilitude and like it and are bothered by a lack of it... and those who don't care at all about realism and just want an epic story and adventure or whatever. From here on out, I'm going to use the term "realism" because it's easier to type. :)  The first group want realism because, without it, immersion and suspension of disbelief are compromised. The second group often doesn't care about realism and actually find that it can interfere with their enjoyment.

This extends far beyond role playing games... this same difference can be found with how people react to video games, books, movies and so on.

Khoras has a high degree of verisimilitude. That's because I am very much a member of the first group. I like realism. I like things to make sense. I like there to be a solid REASON for why things happen in a movie, why characters do what they do in a book and so forth. I also like internal consistency in worlds and games and I like it when things generally follow the rules of physics and science. That's just my preference. That's one reason why I love "The Expanse" (sci fi show on the Syfy channel). That show really goes out of its way to get the physics right.

I have played Diablo. I have kicked in a door in that game only to find a room full of monsters that never seem to leave that room and only exist for me to kill them. I tend not to play games like that any more. These days I prefer games like Skyrim that are (or at least attempt to be) more realistic. Shopkeepers and other NPCS go on living their lives, running their shops and so forth even when the main PC isn't around. Skyrim is pretty cool that way. I expect games in the future will take this much further, becoming more like reality simulators in which stories play out and you can really immerse yourself in another world. I look forward to that.

I have tried to build Khoras up to be a fairly realistic world. Yes, magic works here, so it does require some suspension of disbelief. But for the most part, I try make it as real as possible... as if Khoras were a real world that had just developed differently from Earth. So, while there may be cultural and social differences, most of the world still functions like Earth does, based on science and physics.

I think of other planes as merely "parallel universes", which some science suggests might be possible. If a demon lord escapes into Khoras, he may have powerful magic, but he's still flesh and blood. He can be killed. Within my own games, I have thrown out the concept of souls (and everything that goes along with that such as silver threads connecting soul to body, reincarnation, resurrection, souls wandering around Elysium and that sort of thing). If science can't prove it (or at least suggest it's possible) then I generally don't include it in my games. I've even done away with the gods. Khoras has religions a plenty, but that's a lot different from having actual living gods.

I also tend to make magic more physics based. Like some undiscovered branch of science, magic works consistently and it could be studied and manipulated and understood. A fireball behaves the same way every time. It's true that magic would and could profoundly affect the way a society functions. As Drul said, magic could dwarf the impact the steam engine had in our world.

However, I counter that by having magic be rare and difficult. Really powerful wizards are exceptionally rare. A very ingenious wizard could combine magic spells with mechanics and industry to create something truly marvelous. Steam powered clockwork golems? Why not. But it would probably be just in his own little corner of the world... perhaps just in his very own castle. It would not be something he could mass produce. He could not start a cottage industry of steam powered clockwork golems. Simply because it would take so much effort and resources to make one of them.

Sometimes magic can be have a profound impact on a large scale, but requires immense resources. I've worked some of these ideas into Khoras. For instance, the Thullian Empire was building a massive network of teleport gates during the Great War. They lost the war and the empire crumbled before it was finished, but several of the towers still exist, partially functioning, in ruins around Ithria. Had this network been fully completed, it could have shifted the outcome of the war.

Another example... the Padashan Empire owes a great deal of its early expansion and power to a single tremendously powerful magic item.

Anyway, I've rambled on long enough. That's the way I tend to run my games and think about Khoras. Just my personal preference. I get that that's not everyone's cup of tea. To each their own. :)


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Miscellaneous / Re: Gaming Inspiration from Material Culture
« Last post by Drul Morbok on April 18, 2018, 02:24:41 PM »
I totally agree that the Silmarillion is more properly compared with epos than with novels.
Also the Silmarillion made me think of a way to classify the term "verisimilitude":

To me it seems that a central aspect of it is the fact that notable deeds can not be repeated. The whole story wouldn't make sense if it was possible to create the next set of Silmarills, or to plant the next Trees of Valinor. There is no general need to assume things work that way - on the contrary, modern science might be paraphrased as "if it happens once, it will happen again, given time", and industrialisation seems to be based on the concept that if you can build it once, you can build it all over again. So I think that that principle that things will not work the same way twice is part of the "intrinsic" verisimilitude of the Silmarillion. It is a consistent factor within the story, and the story probably wouldn't even work without it, but from the outside, it is not needed.

The law of conservation of energy, on the other hand, would be an aspect of "extrinsic" verisimilitude when applied to magic. To put it slightly inaccurate: If a mage casts a fireball, will the rest of the world get colder? If not, why would magic not lead to a kind of industrialization that dwarves the impact the steam engine had in our world?
The Silmarillion avoids having to answer this question by restricting magic to entities beyond human way of thinking, but any system that allows for magic users as generic classes would have to cope with those questions for me to attribute verisimilitude to them
I'm not saying I only like fantasy scenarios that include a sophisticated answer to questions about the law of conservation of energy, or some equivalent thereof. I'm just giving an example for what I'd classify as extrinsic verisimilitude.

Also I' not trying to make a binary distinction...it's more like two ways of looking at the same thing.

So those are my thoughts when asked about what I think abut verisimilitude  ;D
I always strive for it, but don't find it easy to say what it exactly is.
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Miscellaneous / Re: Gaming Inspiration from Material Culture
« Last post by tanis on April 17, 2018, 12:52:10 PM »
You make several good points.

As for your mention of the Silmarillion, I would say that it's kind of a weird case (I was actually discussing this quite recently with my friends at my alma mater's philosophy club), because on the one hand, it's modern mythos, drawn from Tolkien's love of Germanic mythology and strong feelings about the loss of an "authentic" Anglo-Saxon identity in the wake of the Norman Conquest, but on the other hand, it's very much in the spirit of traditional epic poems, especially Beowulf and the Iliad, and while both have fantastic and mythical aspects, the people composing those poems had a visceral understanding of traditional warfare and the associated material culture that modern authors lack, and Tolkien's fiction is informed by his historical knowledge as well as his time in the trenches of World War I.

Obviously, Tolkien's fiction is fantasy, and there are many things that happen that are mythopoetic or allegorical, especially regarding the values and worldview of medieval Catholicism and recently (relatively speaking) converted Germanic pagans, but when I read the Silmarillion, knowing what I know as a scholar of that era's military history, I personally found it quite grounded in that older, more "realistic" style of description, which probably adds to that story's distinct feeling of being unlike a "normal" novel (though I don't really consider the Silmarillion to be a novel so much as a prose-poetic epic) that causes it to be so divisive among readers.
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Miscellaneous / Re: Gaming Inspiration from Material Culture
« Last post by Drul Morbok on April 17, 2018, 12:08:17 AM »
OK, next try ;-)

I'd say I'm very much into verisimilitude, at least when sitting in front of pen and paper. In a video game like Diablo, I don't mind opening a dungeon door to a room full of monsters unable to open doors. At the gaming table, this would be a no-go.
Beyond such obvious blunder, I tend not to like story and adventure hooks where the players get their jobs from figures of feudal authority, like the king or a prince. Or rather, such scenarios fail to convince me of why such an important figure would trust the PCs.
And what I mentioned in another thread about modern values in medieval settings could also be considered an issue of verisimilitude.
I also tend to invent races and names especially for my game world. I think it could be also considered an aspect of "pure fantasy" if players enjoy defeating Medusas or snarling at Wotan's wrath. Keeping out common names and concepts like Medusa and Wotan also can lead to more verisimilitude, because since you already start spending time on creativity, you might as well put some thoughts in background and therefore consistency (but this does not necessarily have to be so).

That said, my strife for verisimilitude and for fantasy rarely conflict. Khoras for example has a very high degree of verisimilitude, and still you might find a demon lord escaping from an inter dimensional prison.
The more you move away from Earth-based assumptions and implications, the more effort has to be put into verisimilitude (as a general rule), but I think it's always worth it.

Edit: I just wanted to add that I think that verisimilitude depends a lot more on how you play and a lot less on what you play. Let's take the terrible cavalier with an incredibly high-stat steed. I think this is mainly a.problem in what I called "stochastic" gameplay where you essentially bring your stats into position. I can easily imagine some "reluctant hero" scenario, where the rider isn't a noble heroic cavalier at all, but everyone assumes he is, a bit like like Rincewind on Discworld..maybe a coward thief that stole the steed and now is bond to it and has to play his role ...now I'm getting ideas for NPCs...

About Superman: Yes, he's a superhero, but nobody would care about the story if all he did was using superpowers. Not sure if this qualifies as verisimilitude, but I think the important thing is his double identity, and the contrast between larger-than-life and quite ordinary.

And one final thought: I think its hard to talk about roleplaying as we know it without talking about Tolkien.
Not sure if there are many D&D fans that do not stand in awe before the Silmarilion. But I wouldn't attribute much verisimilitude to LOTR. It's a great story, but it's driven by the fact that the author wants it to happen, rather than being resolved by action of the protagonists.
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