Characters of Cimmeria: Tagenadi Part 1

Tagenadi

Tagenadi is an undead Council member of the Second Alliance and a melee fighter without peer. He joined the Alliance while still mortal, but became trapped in Erebos while searching for artifacts for the Council. In Erebos, he made a deal with Hades and returned to life as a servant of the Underworld. Tagenadi has always identified with the Exiles and maintains a strong friendship with Amalius. He has broken free from his servitude to Hades, but his undead state remains. Continue reading

Characters of Cimmeria: Salzar

Salzar

Salzar was a Grey Elf warmage. He played a pivotal role in the First Alliance War as an organizer of the Alliance. It was on his urging that the Alliance broke the Golden Covenant that forbade the use of large-scale destructive magic against living targets. Salzar’s actions allowed the Xorians to retaliate and he became a war criminal. Amalgami the Betrayer, fearing that he would be blamed for Salzar’s actions, murdered his companion. Salzar’s life ended prematurely and the First Alliance crumbled soon afterward. Continue reading

D&D: The Tiers of Play for DMs

I made a post about the different tiers of play in Dungeons and Dragons. I mentioned that as the PCs progress in power, so do the monsters.

Today, I want to talk about how the tiers of play affect the Dungeon Master.

Contrary to what some people might think, the DM’s goal is not to kill the PCs.

The goal is to almost kill them.

Remember that scene in the Return of the Jedi where the Death Star is operational, the deflector shield is still up, Han and Leia are captured, and Luke is with the Emperor? The Emperor taunts Luke describing how deeply the Rebels’ plan has failed.

That’s the point the DM wants to get to with their players. Where all seems lost and only a sliver of hope remains. And then the PCs are miraculously delivered from their despair, defeat the villain and save the day.

The perfect encounter in D&D will incapacitate about half the players before the foe is defeated.

Designing challenges at the low and middle tiers is easy enough. A bunch of Orcs, a Troll or an Ogre. There’s plenty of simple bad guys that provide credible threats to the party.

With multiple enemies it’s easy enough to modify an encounter to get just the right challenge. If the PCs are having an easy time of it, reinforcements arrive. If the encounter looks as if it may overwhelm them, perhaps the enemies retreat. After all, the PCs have surely slain a few of their foes and those who remain may not be willing to die for their cause.

At the high tiers, encounters become a little more difficult to design. Most anything in the books can be thrown at the PCS, dragons, devils, giants,you name it. But it’s difficult to gauge exactly how challenging a monster will be.

At any tier it’s okay if an encounter is too easy, but the advantage of high tier play is that it’s okay if an encounter is too hard as well.

The monster kills two of the PCs and they have to retreat? That’s okay, they can just bring the PCs back from the dead, research the monster’s weakness, and return two days later to slay it.

Epic tier challenges have even more problems as the players can often just wish the encounter away. The DM needs to be firm about what can and cannot be wished away to prevent all future challenges from being trivialized.

As powerful as the wish and miracle spells are, they usually won’t entirely invalidate playing D&D beyond 17th level.

The DM’s job is to limit the scope of what the wish and miracle spells can do through careful interpretation. Additionally, the in game mechanics give severe consequences to using the spells. Finally, the players may limit their usage themselves as they don’t want to take the fun and challenge out of the game either.

Regardless, epic level challenges still need to feel different than the previous tiers. I’ve been DMing at the epic tier for awhile and have designed a few encounters that should hopefully prove useful for others in the future.

But I’ve reached the end of this blog post so I’ll talk about the design of those encounters another time!

-GoCorral

Characters of Cimmeria: Amalgami the Hero

This post needs a little bit of clarification. As much as possible I try to avoid two characters having the same name in my campaign world. It happens often enough in real life and in real history, but it easily confuses people (Just try and explain the Norman Conquest of England to someone). Unfortunately, I couldn’t avoid having two people with the same name in this case because one of my players wanted to name their character after an imagined hero of the past. I’m getting around to filling the gaps and now that hero of the past has his own story below. This post details Amalgami the Hero of Old, not Amalgami the Betrayer.

amalgami-the-heroAmalgami the Hero was known as the Lightning Knight. He joined the other heroes of the Dragon War in casting down their draconic oppressors.  He was a son of Zeus and his father gifted him with power over lightning and storms. Amalgami made friendships easily and if it weren’t for him the heroes of the Dragon War may never have worked together to accomplish their great deeds. At the conclusion of the war he slumbered along with the other heroes to return when the world needed him again.

Zeus found himself attracted to Brina, a priestess of his wife, Hera. Zeus will be Zeus, so he had his way with Brina and then left her to the anger of his wife. Infuriated that one of her own clergy would betray her (regardless of Brina’s own wishes in the encounter), Hera decreed a similar punishment that was given to Leto, the mother of Apollo and Artemis. Brina would never deliver her child on dry land.

Continue reading

Characters of Cimmeria: Gorwinua

gorwinua

Gorwinua was the finest bard the lands of Cimmeria ever knew and one of the many heroes who fought against draconic tyranny during the Dragon War. During her life she was a shining exemplar of Orcish virtues. She organized Orc armies, practiced the traditional rituals, and chopped down foes with the best of the Orcish warriors. Gorwinua remains a powerful cultural icon for all Orcs. Many Orc leaders have attempted to emulate her accomplishments hoping to unite their fractured peoples, but none have yet succeeded. Continue reading

D&D Tiers of Play

D&D tracks your character’s progress using levels. Anyone who’s played an RPG is familiar with systems like this.

You defeat monsters and other challenges. Your character gains experience, learns new skills, gets new equipment, and becomes stronger. Nearly every game in existence focuses on this basic principle.

A gross overgeneralization is that “numbers go up.” RPGs have numbers describing actions under everything and as you level up, all your numbers go up.

The number of hits you can take goes up, your sword skill goes up, your speed goes up, your flower arranging ability goes up, EVERYTHING GOES UP!

But that “EVERYTHING” also includes the enemies you face. Continue reading

Characters of Cimmeria: Amalchus Halkias

Amalchus

Amalchus is the son of the founder of the Second Alliance, Amalganus Halkias, and the grandson of Amalgami the Betrayer as well. His father’s accomplishments gave Amalchus a position of power and respect in Jipangu. He used this clout to become a successful horse merchant; however, when his grandfather’s name became public, Amalchus was exiled from Jipangu. He has survived living off his business experience and the generosity of his older brother, Amalius. Continue reading