4E is commonly reviled by fans of other editions as not being “real D&D.” There are good reasons for that. 4E changed a lot of things about how the previous editions worked and 5th edition was largely a reversion of those changes.
One of the biggest changes was making every class function in essentially the same way.
In 3.5 and previous editions, every class had subsystems in the rules for how their specific abilities were used and how those abilities progressed as your character got stronger. Those subsystems varied from extremely simple (fighters and rogues) to extremely complex (wizards and clerics).
That variation in complexity came along with a variation in power. At higher levels fighters are still doing pretty much the same thing and aren’t nearly as useful as they used to be at low levels. Meanwhile wizards can now summon a protective warrior that’s about as strong as his fighter friend and still have plenty of magic left over for whatever they want to do.
The problem is usually referred to as “linear fighters and quadratic wizards.” Continue reading →
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 →
This one is a PC created by one of my players with the screen-name, Ozymandias. While Ozymandias designed Preta mechanically and ran him during the events of the campaign, I was the one who came up with his backstory as an exiled Persian Prince.
Preta is a Persian Prince, the Arch-Wizard of Aractrash, and a circle magic master. He is the son of Xerxes II and the true-born heir to the throne of Persia. He was a member of the Second Alliance involved in many of the Council’s most discussions and missions. Preta used lethal force during on a riot in Bradel Fields and was arrested. He fled the Alliance and took Hektor’s spot as the Arch-Wizard of Aractrash. Continue reading →
Bigby is actually not a creation of my own, but that of Gary Gygax and Robert Kuntz, two of the original creators of Dungeons and Dragons. My creation is more of tribute than a direct port of the character that Gygax and Kuntz created. If you’d like to learn more about the original Bigby, he’s actually important enough to have his own Wikipedia page!Who’d have thought?
Bigby was an Elven sorcerer whose magical style revolutionized many magical fields and has been often duplicated since. He lived in the forest that now bears his name and defended it from attackers of all sorts. Bigby joined with the other heroes of his time to fight in the Dragon War. He imprisoned the green dragon matriarchs that plagued his forest in the Green Orb of Dragonkind. After sealing away his foe, Bigby slept along with the other heroes of the Dragon War, ready to wake when the world needed him again.
Tentineh was one of the most powerful wizards who ever lived. Master of the elements he came up with many new spells never seen before. He became the defender of Greshendale during the Age of Monsters. Frustrated with draconic tyranny, Tentineh led the heroes of the land during the Dragon War. He invented the Orbs of Dragonkind to imprison the dragons. Greshendale was destroyed during the war, but upon the heroes’ victory, Tentineh used half of the Orbs to rebuild Greshendale as a flying city. Tentineh now lies with the other heroes of the Dragon War, deep beneath the earth awaiting the return of the silver dragons which he personally imprisoned.
Tentineh was the first son born to a wealthy farmer in the Greshen Valley. Tentineh’s family did not know, but he was destined for great things. His mother had been attacked by one of the wyverns of the Terror Mountains in her youth. The poison from the wyvern’s sting lingered in her body and transferred into the babe during her pregnancy. The poison tested the boy and he came through, not weakened, but fortified with the might of the dragon.
Tentineh’s father saved up all his gold to pay for the boy’s education. He apprenticed his son to an accomplished wizard who also happened to be a descendant of Sadroston. From a young age Tentineh learned all the secrets passed down by Sadroston. He mastered them with a unnatural speed due to the draconic power flowing in his veins. He swiftly surpassed his master and rose to be the greatest spellcaster in the whole of Greshen Valley.
The dragons in the Terror Mountains did not permit the people in the valley to organize armies, but the same could not be said for the trolls in the foothills. Tentineh had experience repelling smaller troll attacks with his command over the elements, but his powers could not stop an entire army of the beasts when they attacked. Instead, the young wizard turned to dark, forbidden magicks. He summoned a fiery demon from beyond the realm of Hades to vanquish the trolls. This slaad, as it was called, defeated the troll army, but it demanded a terrible price. It would see the whole world burn in payment for it’s service.
Tentineh moved quickly to thwart this new threat to Greshendale’s safety. The infernal slaad rested after obliterating the trolls to regain its power. Tentineh dug through old tomes of binding spells. He found what he needed and used the magic to imprison the slaad forever. A magical rod provided the key to the slaad’s prison and the key could only be turned by three mages, one of good nature, one of evil, and one of neither. The rod was broken into pieces and scattered across the realm to prevent the slaad’s return.
Tentineh never wanted to resort to such dire measures again. He began secretly training the people of Greshendale in the magical and martial arts. If the dragons would not let him have an army, then he would hide it from them. In time, a force of giants descended from the mountains. Tentineh could not halt the giants’ advance on his own. He was forced to use his army and in so doing, reveal it to the dragons. The punishment was certain, death.
Rather than submit to the dragons’ judgement, Tentineh gathered the heroes of the land alongside his army. Thus began the Dragon War. The war lasted many long years. Killing the dragons proved difficult. The elder wyrms that ruled their species could regenerate even the most dire of wounds. Tentineh’s past experience proved invaluable in solving this problem. Instead of killing the dragons he bound their leaders to ten crystal orbs. Each dragon color had two elder wyrms that led it. Each Orb contained within it one of those leaders while the other leader was set to guard the Orb for all eternity. The Orbs in turn gave great power to any mortal that possessed them.
Tentineh advised the other heroes he had fought with to place eternal defenses around the Orbs. Those who could not or would not gave their Orbs to their architect. Tentineh used them to build a new Greshendale, for the original city in the valley had been destroyed during the war. Vast power was poured into the city. A volcano imprisoning an ancient enemy of Zeus was used in the creation of the new city, freeing the monstrous Dahak and winning its gratitude. Other powerful artifacts besides the Orbs were used in the city’s construction but it was still not enough. Tentineh took more magic from the surrounding land and the valley died as its life energy was given over to the city. Holes in the fabric of the world were ripped asunder. These holes are still present in the valley as empty spheres, consuming all that is placed within them.
In the end, Tentineh completed his vision. Greshendale flew. The magic within the city made it a paradise, providing light, food, water, shelter, communication, and entertainment to all who lived within it. The people of the valley were offered a choice, live in the floating city or strike out on their own. Many accepted Tentineh’s offer and moved into new homes. The others attempted to settle a new Greshendale to the south, but the settlement upon the ground atrophied within a few generations.
Tentineh did his best to be a good leader to his subjects. He set up the War Mage Academy to teach them battle magic for defense. He invited druids, sorcerers, and psions to the city to teach other forms of magic. He bound elementals to his service to further enhance the city’s comforts. Tentineh even set up a ruling council of mages so that he would not have absolute tyrannical power over the city.
Despite all his accomplishments, a dark fear still lingered in Tentineh’s heart. The Orbs were not indestructible. The dragons could return in time. He worked out a plan along with the nine other heroes who had imprisoned the dragons. Should an Orb be broken, the hero who defeated that dragon would be summoned once more to re-imprison the beast. To keep their youthful edge sharp for all eternity, the heroes would voluntarily accept a death-like slumber. Eons could pass, but they would not age. They would wait, and when the dragons returned, they would be ready.
Tentineh sleeps with his companions beneath the earth now, awaiting the return of the silver dragons.
Harbinston isn’t nearly as politically important to Cimmeria as the other cities I’ve detailed. It is a small village on the border of the territories influenced by Bradel Fields and Dalleer. I wrote a description of the out of the way town because a series of adventures I ran for my players was based in the village. Maybe the village will be important in my current campaign and maybe it won’t. Time will tell!
Harbinston is a small town of little more than four hundred people. The town sprung up as a trading stop between Dalleer and Bradel Fields. Merchants and traders traveling on the Black River would stop at the easy banking spot close to Robber’s Canyon. As trade increased along the river it also increased the number of robbers from which Robber’s Canyon gets its name. Many of the townsfolks had two lives, one of theft, and another of reprovisioning their victims. No concrete evidence of the duplicity was ever discovered, but the traveling merchants eventually grew suspicious and switched their method of travel to caravans along the eastern shore, safe from the robbers’ ambush tactic.
Harbinston’s large bandit population was a result of no administrative control in the town. No system of government controlled the town and for a long time both Dalleer and Bradel Fields claimed the small town as their own. The dual claim caused a standoff where neither city sent representatives to the town as doing so might spark a war between the two larger city-states.
About sixty years ago a group of adventurers did take an interest in cleaning up the town and cleaning out the nearby dungeons. The adventurers provided a steady flow of income to the villagers from the dungeons they raided. Highwaymen moved back to town and reopened their old shops to draw the heroes’ attention, greatly reducing bandit activity. The peace did not last forever. Eventually the adventurers retired to various mansions they had built close to the town and the highwaymen came back to prey on what little river traffic remained. One of the adventurers, Burne, even led the bandits for a time.
When the adventurers retired Harbinston lost its temporary protection against the many different monsters and creatures that have chosen to live around it. The town had no real guardians to act as predators for the monsters of the world, so every beast imaginable invaded the area surrounding the little village. Constructs, undead, plant monsters, mutated beasts, trolls, minotaurs, and even a dragon with its kobold servants moved to the fertile and previously unsettled fields around Harbinston. The dragon, called Joker, took a maiden from the town every decade.
To make matters worse two decades ago Harbinston had an outbreak of the plague. Without an experienced enough cleric to cast remove disease, the town sought help from Dalleer. Surprisingly, Dalleer agreed to send some strong clerics and medical supplies downriver and for once it looked like the town would have a lord to protect it. Unfortunately, due to a misunderstanding, the town’s bandits attacked the medical barges. The medicine was not lost because of the strong guards Dalleer had hired, so the sick people in Harbinston were saved. The same could not be said for the dozens of young men who lost their lives in the foolish battle. Diplomacy with Dalleer was broken off after the incident.
The same guards who killed so many of Harbinston’s men to defend the medicine took it upon themselves to remove the other afflictions that plagued the town. They slew Joker and freed the maidens he had taken as his captive wives. The guards cut a bloody swath around the town, removing every monstrous threat for miles, save the kobold servants of Joker who were left to their own devices.
The town began to thrive again after the monsters were slain. With the bandits gone as well, trade resumed. Only the occasional kobold attack interrupted the town’s resurgence. During the recent negotiations between Bradel Fields and Dalleer, Bradel Fields agreed to cede all claims to Harbinston in exchange for Dalleer’s entrance into the Second Alliance War against Xoria. Harbinston now has official protection from a large city-state as well and it seems could never be brighter for this small settlement in the wilderness.
Most of the original band of heroes that protected the town are now long dead. The remaining hero, Sherlock the Warlock, built a tall tower for himself a day’s journey outside of town. He hasn’t left the tower in decades. Adventurers visit him occasionally and tell tales of all manner of strange things in the tower. Sherlock appears very knowledgeable if knowledge is what you seek. The adventurers who have gone to the tower also say that the old wizard has lost his mind.
Speaking of Roy, the main characters of Order of the Stick!
Roy is the black guy on the far right of the picture above. He is the leader of the Order of the Stick, an intelligent and principled fighter who fights Xykon due to an oath sworn by his father.
Next is Haley, a rogue with a complicated past. She joined the Order of the Stick to earn money to pay her father’s ransom. She’s stayed on due to the good work the group does and because she’s started dating the next person in line.
Elan is the blond guy playing the musical instrument. He is hyper aware of storytelling tropes. He also has an evil twin, a good mother, and an evil father. Elan is a bit dumb when it comes to anything that isn’t a storytelling device, but he has a pure heart.
Durkon is the short bearded guy. He’s a dwarven cleric. He looks out for everyone else in the party. He has a strong sense of honor and is always ready and willing to do the right thing.
The short bald guy behind Durkon is Belkar. He’s an evil halfling psychopath. His journey with the party is basically a form of community service for murders he’s committed in the past. You’d think this is weird, but its a fairly common gimmick used in D&D. The cat walking next to the party belongs to Belkar and is named Mr. Scruffy.
Flying above the party is Vaarsuvius, an elven wizard. Vaarsuvius is arrogant and uses magical power to cruelly avenge the slightest insult. Vaarsuvius’ gender is never revealed in the comic and is joked about on a few occasions.
Xykon is close to achieving his goal of using an ancient evil to rule the world, but the Order of the Stick is ready to stop him. Of more concern is Xykon’s assistant, Redcloak, who is planning on double crossing Xykon at any moment.
There’s a few words that get tossed around a lot in D&D. I often forget that other people don’t know the specific D&D meanings of those words, so I thought I’d provide a short glossary of terms today.
The first word that I realized others might not know was teleport. None of the auto-spellcheckers I have used ever recognize teleport as a correctly spelled word (And now I’ve confirmed that WordPress’s spellchecker doesn’t catch it either). Teleport is a word that means to instantly appear somewhere else. The transporter in Star Trek and apparating in Harry Potter are essentially both teleporting. The act of teleporting is called teleportation.
Campaign: A series of adventures that the players undertake, often with an underlying theme. My players are in a campaign where they fight a vampiric empire. The campaign before that was an attempt to prevent the establishment of the vampiric empire (they failed in the end). Prior to that they were fighting an evil death wizard (or necromancer since this is the blog post to teach you these words).
Campaign World: The main fantasy world in which a campaign takes place. My campaign world is based off Greek and Roman mythology and takes place in a place far to the east that the Greeks called Cimmeria.
Plane: There are often other worlds connected to the campaign world. These alternate dimensions are called planes. They appear as pools in some of the prequels to the Narnia series. The other worlds could be parallel dimensions or versions of heaven or hell, or anything else you can think of.
Cleric: A cleric is a person who devotes their life to religion. In English we often associate specific words with specific religions. A minister is Christian, a rabbi is Jewish, an iman is Muslim, etc. To avoid that confusion, D&D uses cleric to refer to priests of all gods and religions.
Encounter: A single conflict between the players and an adversary represented by the DM. These conflicts are often violent, but they don’t need to be. A diplomatic negotiation could also be an encounter.
Adventure: A string of encounters that have a unifying villain or objective. Adventures are composed of encounters and campaigns are composed of adventures. Campaigns can also have overarching villains and objectives, but the individual villains in each adventure will often change. You fight the henchmen before you fight the villain (Deatheaters before Voldemort in Harry Potter).
Experience: When the players defeat an encounter their characters are awarded experience points (EXP or XP). These are used to make their character stronger. They’re an important extrinsic reward in the game. A character’s power is defined by how much XP they have. If a character is more powerful then they can take on greater challenges. A hero could start off slaying orcs, gaining more experience til he is slaying giants and dragons.
Level: As characters gain more experience they increase in level. Each level has a set amount of XP required to reach it. Thus power increases in a stepwise fashion. More and more XP is needed for the higher levels. D&D levels typically range from 1-20.
System: D&D is the most well known pen and paper roleplaying game, but its not the only one. Many others exist and most have their own acronyms as well. Generic Universal RolePlaying System (GURPS) favors realism over the fantastical heroism of D&D. Call of Cthulu (CoC) simulates the Lovecraftian horror genre instead of high fantasy. Star Wars is for science fiction and World of Darkness (WoD) is for playing in a world of vampires and werewolves. D&D is the flagship of roleplaying games, but it probably has less than half the overall market share within the business. The rules of D&D and the rules of all its competitors are called roleplaying systems.
Edition: All these roleplaying systems have different editions. D&D is about to release its 5th edition. I believe GURPS is on its 4th now. WoD is on its 2nd edition. My friends and I started off playing 2nd edition D&D and switched to 3.0 and then 3.5 when they came out. We became entrenched in 3.5 and never switched to 4th edition (4E) and are only considering it now. This unwillingness to change leads to what are called edition wars in D&D. Different groups will argue that their system or edition is far superior to any other. It’s a snobbish elitism that exists in any hobby from beer drinking to bird watching.
Class: A character in D&D must pick a class to decide what powers they have access to. Wizards can cast powerful spells, but can’t fight very well. Fighters can swing a sword, but they can’t sneak into buildings. Rogues can sneak around and lie to people convincingly, but they can’t heal wounds. Clerics can heal wounds and cast some of the weaker spells, but not the more powerful ones. The wizard, fighter, rogue, and cleric make up the 4 basic class types in D&D. Each character must be one of these classes or a variation on them. Each level a character has is in one of these classes. A character could have all of their levels in one class or spread them out as much as they like between the many variations on the basic four.
Race: Players pick a race or species when they first create their character. The basic races are human, elf, dwarf, halfling, half-orc, gnome, and half-elf, but there are many more. Each race gives a character a few small bonuses and penalties along with a set of typical physical features to choose from and a racial history to assist in writing a character’s backstory.
Skills: Characters have a few things they are good at. This could be something like cooking, playing an instrument, climbing, or using magical items. Most if not all roleplaying systems have skills.
Feats: Feats give a character additional options or bonuses beyond what their race, class, and skills give. A character gets one feat every three levels. Feats are unique to D&D. A feat could be something like the ability to create magic items, running for long distances without tiring, or using one weapon much better than any other.
That’s enough for now! With this info you’ll be able to understand my future posts on D&D a little better.