Behind the Curtain: Designing Gurutama

One of my friends has an obsession with Skype chat groups. Skype lets you add people into a chat so you get a group chat.

I think most people just use that and then recreate the same group everytime they want to talk with those folks.

My group of friends creates chat groups for specific topics and then revives the chat when we want to use it again.

We’ve got a group for discussing our ongoing D&D campaign, a group for RSVPing to D&D, a group for discussing Hackmaster, another for Crusader Kings 2, another for Overwatch, and one for discussing our ongoing collaborative effort to develop Gurutama as a fun campaign setting.

We’ve been typing in the Gurutama one a lot lately, talking about things like Continue reading


Wiki Images and Copyright Law

While working on my finals I tried to relax a little bit by working on the Gurutama Wiki.

I’ve been tackling the behemoth that is the Slavery article on Gurutama. There’s a lot of ground to cover. Different types of slavery, how slavery is practiced in different locations, and the morality of slavery in a world with an absolute set of moral rules (for example, is temporary enslavement of convicts in exchange for a reduced sentence acceptable?).

I’ve been trawling the internet for images to post alongside what I write.

I want good images, but I also want to use them legally. I could just pick up any old image and plop it on the Wiki, but there’s a risk if the owner of that image gets mad at me and decides to take legal action.

In most cases that would just be a cease and desist letter. I’d take the image off the site and no one is hurt. But since my friends and I have a passing interest in eventually releasing the Gurutama campaign setting as a Kickstarter, we need to cover our legal butts before something bad happens.

So instead of taking whatever images I want (like this sexy image of Gibraltar) I have to use ones that the owners have approved for use by people like me.

There’s three basic ways the owner of an image can give permission for me to use their property.
1. An established license like the Wikimedia license or the Creative Commons license. The Wikimedia license is awesome. Essentially everything on Wikipedia is free to use in other projects as long as the attribution to the original author stays with the image.
2. Asking the owner of the image if you can use it. I unfortunately haven’t gotten responses from any of the cool images I want to use. And a lack of response counts as a “No.”
3. Implied consent. If an artist allows their image to be used by a bunch of places without taking action against them, then I can assume that I don’t need to ask their permission.

I got access to the following image due to a round-about application of implied consent.

Made by John Wigley. Props to him!
Made by John Wigley. Props to him!

This image is actually owned Games Workshop as part of their Warhammer card game.

Games Workshop allows their images to be used by anyone for any purpose as long as the original artist gives permission.

Andddd… John Wigley has allowed tons of people to use his image with no indication that he requires people to ask him for permission. Therefore, implied consent. I get to use it.

I did still ask him if I could use it, but got no response. Unlike when I asked to use the Gibraltar photo, there’s enough evidence that this one is okay to use, as long as I’m not profiting from the use.

There is a fourth source for images to use on the Gurutama Wiki, things that are out of copyright.

The length of a copyright is a little difficult to determine. You can thank Disney’s lobbyists for that. Everytime Mickey Mouse gets close to being out of copyright Disney throws more money at Congress until the maximum lifetime of a copyright is extended.

Here’s the basics on how copyright lifetimes work:
An artist can renew their copyright whenever they want while they’re alive.
After an artist dies, the copyright can only exist for a set number of years after their death. This is so the artist’s heirs can continue to profit and live off the artist’s work. It makes sense. The motive behind the original law is good.
So what’s a good amount of time for that law? I would think 20 years. By then, even if the artist had infant children they would be adults who completed college if they attended right after high school.
Not so! 50-70 years after death is the current law in most countries. Long enough for the artist’s grandchildren to be dead before the copyright expires in most cases.
It’s a little different for properties owned by corporations (like Mickey Mouse). Since there’s no individual artist that owns the intellectual property the countdown starts right away instead of waiting for the company to “die.” In exchange, the company gets a longer lifetime to exercise their copyright. The current lifetime is 95 years after publication in the United States.

What this essentially means is any art made prior to the 1900s is free for me to use. If I want to put the Mona Lisa on my Gurutama Wiki, I can do that. No problem. Leonardo de Vinci isn’t going to sue me because he’s been dead for centuries.

Which brings me to this image:

Bandit Attack
Lawlessness of Middle Ages. – Attack of Italian Bandits

I found this image on a website called Look and Learn while searching for a good picture of a slave raid that didn’t involve guns. I got a bandit attack instead, but it worked for the Slavery article.

Look and Learn claims their copyright on this image started in 2010.

Seems okay at first glance, right? Until you remember your art history and realize that the style of this drawing places it in the 1700s.

That got me suspicious of Look and Learn’s supposed copyright. I reverse image searched the drawing and found it in a scanned book (out of copyright) on Google’s book database.

The book was published in 1894 by John Clark Ridpath and is titled History of the World.

It’s likely that Ridpath found this illustration in a museum and used it in his book as it was already out of copyright when he was writing.

Lets assume he didn’t. Let’s assumed that Ridpath was the owner of this image, either by purchasing it from an artist or drawing it himself in an old style to match his subject material. Ridpath passed away in 1900. The copyright on the image would only extend to 1970, making it 45 years out of copyright.

So how exactly does Look and Learn claim to own and sell this image? They even cite the source (erroneously citing a reprint of the original book, but a citation), making it clear to the astute observer that they couldn’t possibly own this image.

Well, Look and Learn is actually selling a high quality scan of this image, which they do own.

I just took a lower quality scan from Google’s database and used that.

This is all part of the Slavery article on Gurutama. It’s shaping into something I’m proud of. Check it out!


Gurutama Cosmology

I’ve been doing some more work on the Gurutama campaign setting at the wiki. It’s by no means finished, but you can take a look at the site and see what we’ve accomplished so far.

Moving to the wiki has been a good thing for progress on the world. When I was posting stuff here I was the only one contributing. Makes sense, as I’m the only one with access to the content creator on this site.

On the wiki other people in my group of friends have started contributing or showed interest in contributing. We’ve had discussions that include the whole group on what articles we want to include and where we want to take those articles. Overall, the wiki has been great for the collaborative creative process I was hoping for when we set out to make Gurutama using Dawn of Worlds.

Which brings me to this post! One of the larger pages on the wiki is done, the Cosmology page.

Cosmology in the usual sense means the study of the origin of the universe. In roleplaying games it also means the origin of the gods, the gods relations to each other and the world, and where/if other dimensions exist that are accessible from the main campaign setting.

The cosmology of Gurutama is cyclical. If you’ve been following along with the timeline updates, you might’ve noticed that the Dwarves are a survivor race from the last cycle that recorded valuable information for use in future cycles in their Books.

We’ve elaborated on that concept and the cycles are now portrayed as a sort of eternal contest between four elemental gods and the god of death.

The present cycle for Gurutama has been disrupted because a sixth powerful force entered the world, Navillus. He’s disrupted everything which might spell the end of the cycles for good!

My original plan for future work on Gurutama was to have some of the articles moved here for people to look at, but that no longer makes a lot of sense. The wiki’s organization is just so much better in terms of page structure for easy reading of long articles with multiple sections (like the Cosmology article).

I’ll keep what I’ve done on Gurutama on this site posted and available for people to read, but I think all future content will be posted on the wiki.

I’ll still be doing occasional blog posts like this to call attention to the good completed pages on the wiki though!

For example, besides the completed Cosmology page, we’ve also completed good articles on The Sword of the Hero and The Great Canal. Check ’em out!


Condensed Gurutama Timeline

The Revised Gurutama Timeline is done! But the problem is that it weighs in at around 35 pages when you load it up in Microsoft Word.

If you’ve ever glanced at the timeline section of a campaign setting, it’s usually contained on just two facing pages.

The full version is still useful for the creators of the setting (myself and a few other members of my gaming group). The full version is still fun for those who are already interested in the setting and want to learn more about Gurutama’s history. But for the casual reader who is just strolling by on the internet? TOO MUCH INFORMATION!

So I’ve whittled it down to contain just the essentials.

The new Condensed Gurutama Timeline is up and running.

My gaming group has also started a Wikia for Gurutama. There isn’t much there yet, but we’re working on filling it up!

First step is, of course, moving the timeline over. The revised version in case you were wondering.

As I move over the revised timeline I’m also inserting links to various pages that don’t exist yet. Once those pages are created and filled it, I won’t need to go back to create links everywhere.

Plus, the Wikia has a cool feature where it tells me what dead links I still have floating around.

If I forget one link in all the pages I’m creating, I don’t need to go back through all the pages and check the links. I can just go to the “Wanted Pages” section of the Wikia and see what I haven’t created a page for yet! Greatest thing ever!

But why switch from working on Gurutama on my blog to using a Wikia in the first place?

Pretty easy answer actually, Gurutama is a community project that my gaming group and I have been working on. If everything is posted on my blog where they don’t have access to edit the work, it can hardly be considered a community project.

With the Wikia, anything they want to create and share they can do so without the need of emailing me a Word doc to upload onto the blog or for everyone to throw into a folder and forget about.

And the Wikia system makes everything much more organized. See a word or phrase that you don’t remember the significance of? Just click on the link and you can learn more about that thing!

I'm even learning how to code using Wikia's source language!
I’m even learning how to code using Wikia’s source language!

In the future I’ll probably be working on Gurutama through the Wikia first. Once a significant Wikia page/group of pages is done, I’ll post something about it on my blog here and add another page to the Gurutama section at the top.

That’s all for now on Gurutama!


Gurutama Timeline Revising Part 28

Previous: Gurutama Timeline Revising Part 27

Last Timeline Revising post! Here we go!

Like I said in the last post, the Avians are coming back so that their race will have more places to interact with the world than as slaves or a mysterious culture physically constrained to one location. Strife continues in Hykma in various ways. Fortunately, that strife can be used for a bunch of adventure hooks! I keep mentioning adventure hooks because that was the whole point of creating Gurutama with the Dawn of Worlds game.

This post also sees the weakening of the Merfolk trade empire a little bit. They’ve started having to negotiate with Hykma instead of dictating as they did during the Great Blockade.

One of my favorite points is the return of Engrenildo! We decided about halfway through our Dawn of Worlds game that the world was flat, not round. How did Engrenildo circle the globe if the globe isn’t round? A question for someone to answer when it really matters! Also, an opportunity for a particular GM to make up geography in a different place that the Engrenildo family discovered on their voyage.

And war consuming the world everywhere if GMs want to use that as a background for a plot. All great stuff!

My next step for working on Gurutama will be:
1. Going through the timeline as a whole in a printed off version. I find this works better for catching small errors that I might’ve missed. Any edits I make at that point will be included in the Revised Timeline page, but not as individual blog posts.
2. Race descriptions. I’ve got that little tree of races set up on the menu bar of the website, but there’s no info there! I want to get some pictures in there and short descriptions of what the races are like and basic history. I’d also like to put in some stuff about statistics for the races in different gaming systems. I currently plan to include stats for D&D 3.5, D&D 4E, Hackmaster, and possibly Dungeon World (I don’t know much about the last one but someone in my gaming group does).
3. Religion descriptions. A few of the religions were introduced in the timeline updates, but we don’t know much about them. We never want to fully flesh out every single religion to maintain creative freedom for GMs and players, but a little more stuff would be nice. I’ll probably work on this in tandem with the race descriptions, jumping back and forth as feels appropriate. For example, I’ll describe the races of Hearthland and describe their religions in the same spat of updates I write on Gurutama.

That’s all for now! Enjoy the update and look to see more Gurutama stuff in the future.

751 NA: Hykma and the Hearth, both wounded by the civil war and the battles afterwards, began to rebuild. This process incorporated much of the artistic movement the Rana initiated, and so the cities reveled in the new beauty.

After negotiating the terms for passage through the Great Canal with new reps from the Revered Administration, the Merfolk organized more and more armies in Proaxium, Drolfo’s Cove, and Cyflenwi. The new recruits were sent to retake Tortuga along with a massive fleet. The Avians were cast out, but separate roosts had already been established on the northern side of the ocean, creeping ever north towards the high cliffs of the Mandibles.

The city of Balkus, already a fine port city, continued to grow in size and wealth. While the Merfolk occupied themselves with the Avians, a new settlement, named Mershe, appeared on Crautor Island. A new Bwarlor nation came onto the global scene.

752 NA: The True Arrows infiltrated Rotandean. They found allies there among all those who resisted the Brotherhood of Living Immolation. The common man may not have known of the Brotherhood, but the Arrows knew. Frugal Profiteers who went into hiding after the end of the civil war also joined up with the True Arrows. Sabotage and trickery were rampant in the city. Rumors of rebellion spread.

753 NA: Engrenildo’s grandson, Engrenildo the Third, finally docked on the western side of Hearthland with grand stories of land beyond the four known continents. He established a colony at the edge of the river named Victoria, after his mother.

754 NA: The Metal Dwarves formed up more armies and then went marching out against the Grez. Machines were made to assist in crossing the ice and breaching the fortress of the wraiths. A few soldiers were lost in the trek to Reesrevoton to eliminate the Grez threat, but discipline kept the men in line. Upon arriving, the monstrous creations of the Grez shocked the Dwarven armies. They fought and fought, before realizing that their only chance laid in retreat. The Dwarves pulled out, but only a few survived to tell the tale of the ice golems of the Grez.

755 NA: King Tenzomak sat in the throne room of Syluk. His father’s armor stood in a trophy case against the wall. The King stared at the armor and felt it calling to him. He walked over to it in silence and slowly donned the armor. He felt vast strength flowing in his veins. He had to use the strength quick! Before it consumed him! He lashed out at the grand columns supporting the ceiling of the throne room. His kicks and punches, powered by the ruby plate, brought the walls down around him. Servants fled the royal castle and a few were crushed in the ruins. The King dug himself out of the collapsed keep with his bare hands. He addressed the gathered crowd around his former palace, “For too long we have sat in luxury, enjoying the splendors the world has given us! It has weakened our resolve! Made us like the little people who think of nothing but their pipe-weed and mushrooms! NO LONGER! We shall forge our bodies into a new army and reclaim the glory of the dwarves! NO MORE MERCY FOR THE EMPIRE!” A cry goes out among the Dwarves and Humans of the city.

Immediately the city prepared for war. Old metal was melted down for new. Fine heirloom luxury goods were sold off to incoming merchants to finance the growing army. Thousands of men reported for the draft. Those that do not were found and punished. Bards were sent out to spread tall tales of Tenzomak’s Ten Hundred Thousand.

756 NA: The first graduates of the agoge assembled outside of Crodolan. They marched forward without fear, thousands dying to the ancient magical defenses around the city. The Hobgoblins had been told from a young age; a Hobgoblin never gives up, never surrenders, and never retreats. That is for the lesser races. Hobgoblins are strong, brave, and as hard as steel. They marched forward, unfazed as their brothers were blown to pieces by fire and lightning. The defenses around Crodolan were used up except for an odd one here and there.

The humanoids and Giants reached the city walls. Grand General Krak-Sho-Khan ordered the rams brought out. The Elves tried to defend their city, but for every Goblin they shot, two more took its place. Giants and Trolls helped with the siege of the walls. The Elves ran out of arrows, and then they fell. Crodolan was taken. Krak-Sho-Khan named himself King of the Halusho Forest, with his generals as the official council.

757 NA: The Humans of New Prestounasi grew wary of the war between the Elves and the Hobgoblins spreading to their city. The ships were made ready to cast off if the Hobgoblins turned their way. The generals of the Bastion felt secure behind their walls, but awaited an order from Hykma to cross the Bridge and engage the filthy Bwarlor spawn.

The Rana kept the influence of Navillus out of the Shanties with many spells, wards, baptisms, and exorcisms. This earned them many friends among the commoners, but few among the faithful in the Brotherhood. It was no longer a rare incident for a Gossamer Monk to be attacked on his way home from a house call. The Brotherhood’s spies are everywhere and their thugs are ready to pounce.

The Grez learned of artificial intelligence for their golems. An unthinking automaton is a foe worthy of the greatest heroes, but a thinking one? Only the immortal gods could slay such a beast. The Grez rejuvenated their golem armies in Reesrevoton and sent the golems at the Bronze Port. The Dwarves and Profiteers evacuated the city, but many did not make it out in time.

758 NA: The Grez attacked Bronze Port last winter. It is spring and a new year dawns upon the world. What quests lie in wait for those who seek adventure? Only the gods know.


Back to the beginning: Gurutama Timeline Revising Part 1

Gurutama Timeline Revising Part 27

Previous: Gurutama Timeline Revising Part 26

With the Hykman League now under the power of Navillus they’ve gotta start doing some evil stuff, like taking over other cities with bloody massacres for example! Rotandean is reintegrated into the League and Elves become second class citizens. The Hobgoblins are locked out as well. Amidst all this turmoil in the Eastern Maw, the Rana initiate a artistic revival. While playing Dawn of Worlds we imagined this to be kind of like the Renaissance. That should give us an excuse for pretty much any sort of art style existing in Gurutama if the DM wants to describe something in a particular way. It also gives the DM the excuse to have crazy Renaissance tech like pedal-powered hang gliders.

This post also features the return of the Avians. Prior to this point we’d imagined the Avians as something similar to a slave race. They’ve been a subject population to the Merfolk for centuries and the Merfolk had been exporting sentient beings from Rontu-Aru. Slavery is bad and all, but this is the way the world worked in the past and still somewhat today. I wanted the Avians to have a little bit of power in the last stages of Gurutama, so I initiated the uprising with my Dawn of Worlds points.

Najar also cleanses the Grez ice, proving that such a thing is possible. Maybe that’s a campaign plot there! And we’re closing in on the final Gurutama Time Revising post. Next one should be the last!

743 NA: With battle hardened soldiers at Hykma and the Hearth, the new Hykman League exploded outward. Troops from the Hearth were sent northward to conquer Farpoint and integrate it into the empire.

And with word of the Elven betrayal ruminating in Hykma, the city struck south at Rotandean. Despite being unaffiliated with the True Arrows, the Elven soldiers of Rotandean were mercilessly slaughtered by the followers of Navillus.

Finally, rather than brave the Freedom Road and the fighting between the Hobgoblins and the Elves, the Hykman Empire sealed the Homestone Bridge. The Bastion was fortified to defend the bridge and more soldiers quartered there in preparation for future conflicts.

744 NA: The strife of the wars tested the mettle of the Rana. They overcame and learned from the challenge; their ways of peace and kindness grew. Strife, chaos, and unchecked emotion ravaged the lands of the Hykman League, and yet the Rana were able to channel the horrors. An artistic renaissance permeated from Pulchrito and Domicilius: painting, poetry, literature, sculpture, and theater. For the first time, creativity and expression began to overcome the blunt wealth and splendor that previously dominated the minds and hearts of the Hykman people.

745 NA: With the world at war, mercenaries were in high demand. On Balkus, Captain Lucrais DeBaal of the Zephyr formed a fleet of sails for hire. He was quickly contracted by the Bastion to defend their channel. A fleet was formed to defend the Canal from Elven small boats and to prevent passage across the Canal by any means other than the Homestone Bridge.

746 NA: Farpoint falls to the Hykman siege and becomes a subject province the the League.

748 NA: Shrieking noises could be heard day and night in the southern jungles. Old fears awoke in the hearts of the Merfolk. The Avian menace had returned at the same time that passage through the Great Canal was disrupted. Izquitl sent forth her feathered warriors. The city of Tortuga was taken and renamed. The place became Hobru-Peche to the Avians, or New Roost in the Human tongue.

The Merfolk, not wanting to start a war with Hykma, begin fervent negotiations to move an army through the Great Canal. The Hykmans delay and block negotiations.

749 NA: A Merfolk fleet is sent to Rontu-Aru via the Groshan Sea. The fleet sustains heavy losses to Avian aerial raids on the way and is unable to retake Tortuga.

750 NA: The Avians, now firmly in control of Hubru-Peche, started flying across the ocean to harass the Elves of the southern forest as well as any ships that sailed in The Neck or the Groshan Sea.

The volcano at the heart of the Red Peaks continued to pulsate and radiate heat. The ice, both in the mountains and in the city of Najar, melted. The heat remained. The sun always seemed to shine bright and strong on the city and the place was always warm. The days could be sweltering, but the nights were simply heavenly. Cool breezes gently flowed throughout the city and from his throne, the Mercenary King Jizero smiled. The ruins themselves seemed to melt away and be reshaped. Soon enough, one could hardly see signs of the terrible plight so many years ago. Najar, the Holy City, the City of Endless Summer, was reborn.


Next: Gurutama Timeline Revising Part 28

Gurutama Timeline Revising Part 26

Previous: Gurutama Timeline Revising Part 25

There’s a Chinese proverb that I love, “The Empire, long divided, must unite: long united, must divide.” Unity comes and goes. Same thing happens to the Hykman League in this post. Previously they united four races, Human, Elf, Hobgoblin, and Rana. Now everything falls apart. The Hobgoblins go independent, the Elves factionalize, the Humans war upon each other. And… evil wins! Why does evil win? So that good adventurers have something to strive to defeat of course! It’s all about making interesting campaigns later on. Navillus spreads his influence out of the Upper Maw into the Eastern Maw.

737 NA: The Hobgoblins, enthusiastic at the new found technology of the Humans, built cities to gather their people in the forest. Cities were built at the head of each of the rivers in Halusho: Drukana, Nazarak, and Tentomrozan in order from west to east.

A faction of Elves was outraged that the Hobgoblins were allowed by the Hykman League to settle in the Halusho and the Mandibles. The faction split from the League and went into the forest “back to its roots.” The faction named itself the True Arrows. The True Arrows formed an elite soldier corps to hunt Hobgoblins and any who associated with them.

738 NA: The return of Navillus and the actions of the True Arrows put too much stress upon the Hykman League. The Brotherhood of the Living Immolation revived and clashed with the Revered Administration in the streets of Hykma and the Hearth. The frustrated poor enacted their revenge fantasies on the rich. The streets were stained with blood and both cities descended into chaos. A bloody civil war wracked the Hykman League.

The Hobgoblins broke off regular relations with the Hykman League having learned enough to maintain a civilization of their own. The Hobgoblins created schools with a sort of Hobgoblin agoge (Spartan training). The Hobgoblin militocracy conscripted armies in the three new cities.

Tension mounted in the Elven forests. The armies at New Prestounasi redeployed and martial law was declared. The armies struggled to maintain peace, defend against Hobgoblin raids, and contend with the True Arrows. The armies were called to return to Hykma – by both sides. The generals refused to return, staying in the forest, fearful of aiding the wrong side.

739 NA: The Grez researched improved ice magic and architecture. They used their improved skill with cold magic to create ice golem creatures. The Grez formed armies out of these ice golems in Reesrevoton.

The son of King Hrotomak, Tenzomak, conscripted a new army to defend his beautiful city of Syluk.

740 NA: The True Arrows kicked the Hobgoblins out of Shianosoth and reestablished the ancient Elven city. Many of the old buildings were left as ruins, reminders of what happens if Hobgoblins are allowed free reign.

741 NA: The Elves of Rotandean and Crodolan feared that the civil war might spill over into their territories. Rotandean created an army. Crodolan’s mages used their enchantment magic to charm the commanders of the Hykman army to stay in the forested city. True Arrow leaders convinced the people of Crodolan to mercilessly execute the Humans within the army. A new Elven army was formed at Crodolan to defend from reprisals.

In Hearthland, the Metal Dwarves realized that their military was ill-suited for fighting the undead abominations of the Grez. A new military organization was created, vastly superior to that of any other nation. Promotions were now based on intellectual merits instead of connections or prowess in battle.

742 NA: The Hykman Civil War ended, leaving a wake of carnage and a strong military presence in both Hykma and the Hearth. The Brotherhood of Living Immolation took control of both cities, though the proxy of the Revered Administration still remained, now many of the Administrators were themselves members of the Brotherhood. The Revered Administration had too many things working against them, the infiltration of their order, the burning fanaticism of the Brotherhood of Living Immolation, and the greed of Revered Administrators.

In honor of their victory, the Brotherhood of Living Immolation built a massive and wonderful temple to Navillus in the Elven Gardens of Hykma. While the true nature of the Brotherhood of Living Immolation was still concealed under infinite veils of secrecy, the temple was a rallying point for common men.


Next: Gurutama Timeline Revising Part 27