January 2010

PART 1 - PART 2 - PART 3

"I've been teaching him to hear the voices of the stones and to see prophecy in the movement of the clouds. To catch the wind in his hand and to bring forth gems from the dunes of the desert. To freeze air and to burn water. To live, to breathe, to walk, to sample the joy on each road, and the sorrow at each turning."
- Vlad Taltos (Athyra, by Steven Brust)

January 10th, 2011


As I mentioned a couple days ago, the fun I've been having with the Castle Ravenloft board game has recently inspired me to read (or re-read) I6 Ravenloft and Expedition to Castle Ravenloft. This has put me in the rather interesting position of comparing all three. And this has, in turn, forced me to ask a simple question:

Are we really this stupid?

Let me expand on that a little bit.

The Castle Ravenloft boardgame is a dungeon-crawler without a Dungeon Master. Out of necessity, therefore, it is forced to provide a "program" for each monster in the game. When the monster is activated, it simply follows the program and takes the actions described. It's a relatively simple mechanic which provides some interesting strategic wrinkles. (Since you know what the monster will do when presented with a given set of stimuli, you can exert some degree of "control" over them in a semi-prescient fashion.)

That's all fine. But let me give you a sampling of the text from the boardgame:

Place the Start tile on the table. Place each Hero on a square adjacent to the stairway on the Start Tile. When a Hero reveals the Laboratory [...] place Klak on the bone pile.


If the Skeleton is adjacent to a Hero, it attacks that Hero with a scimitar. If the Skeleton is within 1 tile of a Hero, it moves adjacent to the closest Hero and attacks that Hero with a charging slice. Otherwise, the Skeleton moves 1 tile toward the closest hero.

And here's some text from Expedition to Castle Ravenloft (pg. 32):

Have the players place their figures at the end of the tile, with the single circle closest to them and the other two farther away. Place a figure for Balam in the close circle.


On its turn, each zombie moves from its starting position toward the closest enemy it can attack. A zombie behind a door opens it as part of its first move action.

Both carcass eaters attack the closest PCs. If an adjacent character drops to -1 hit points or fewer for any reason, a carcass eater uses its rend fallen ability.

Is there a reason why we're treating modern Dungeon Masters as if they were only barely more competent than an inanimate piece of cardboard?

Are we really this stupid?



Expedition to Castle Ravenloft was one of the earliest adventures to use the "delve format". But this isn't just a matter of growing pains: This kind of "so prepackaged you can just turn off your brain" method of designing encounters has remained a staple of WotC's adventure design right up through today.

Conceptually, there's one thing I really love about the delve format: Putting everything you need to run an encounter area in the description of the encounter area. That just makes good sense. But in practice, the delve format suffers from two problems:

First, it artificially isolates the "encounter". This tends to fatally sabotage the entire point of the delve format to begin with.

For example, take encounter E6 in Expedition to Castle Ravenloft:

This encounter takes place the first time the PCs enter this crossroads from any direction.

Tactical Encounter: E6: Ghoul Foray on page 38.

Development: These ghouls are not part of the necromantic infection, but an independent pack of undead taking advantage of the chaos. After venturing out of the cemetary (area E8), the ghouls are moving from house to house in search of valuables and still-living creatures. They are upset by the quick conversion of zombie victims to yet more zombies, but they are so hungry that they consume even the rotting undead. They lust for fresh corpses.

That information is, in my opinion, rather crucial for running the encounter. Attempting to isolate a tactical encounter from the context in which that tactical encounter occurs, in my opinion, results in a very choppy, ineffective style of play.

But even if you moved that information into the tactical encounter itself, the problem still wouldn't be solved because encounters shouldn't be taking place in a physical vacuum. For example, encounter E6 here takes place just one block away from Barovia's church, which is encounter E7. What happens if the battle with the ghouls goes poorly and the PCs decide to retreat towards the church? Now I'm forced to go back to the adventure key, reorient the encounter within the context of the other geographical features around it, and then flip to delve format presentation of E7 in yet another section of the book.

Rather than making it easier for me to find all the information I need, you've got me flipping back and forth through the module just trying to orient myself. 

(Most of these problems were solved by Keep on the Shadowfell, which simply keyed the adventure to the tactical encounters. But after Keep on the Shadowfell, Wizards went right back to doing it to the broken way they'd been doing it before.)



The other problem with the delve format, in my opinion, is that it tends to encourage the unproductive false idol of the "perfect encounter". (Partly because it isolates the encounter and partly because the format inherently forces all encounters to be designed to the same specs.) Each of these encounters is designed to be "perfectly balanced" with monsters who have been pre-selected, pre-positioned, and pre-programmed.

This tends to limit flexibility. You've invested a lot of preparation into carefully arranging the "perfect encounter" involving goblin bombadiers and guard drakes scurrying about a half-excavated room:

But if you have those goblin bombadiers respond to a cry for reinforcements from the goblins just down the hall, you're throwing all of that preparation away.

Plus, when you've put this much effort into prepping an encounter, you can't just let the PCs avoid it.

And, to make a long story short, that's how you end up with adventure modules which are just long, linear strings of isolated, prepackaged encounters.


The counter-argument, of course, is that encounters shouldn't be boring.

I couldn't agree more.

But I don't think we need to try so hard. I think when the original Ravenloft module reads:

The maid, Helga, is a vampire who will attack the PCs only when an opportunity to do without having to fight the entire party presents itself. She also attacks if commanded to do so by Strahd. Helga will join the party, if asked to. She claims to be the daughter of a villager, cruelly forced into service of the Strahd.

We don't need a pregenerated tactical map showing where Helga is standing in room K32 with accompanying text telling the DM to have the players position their miniatures within 10 feet of the door when it opens in order to have an interesting encounter.

I think publishers can put a little more trust in DMs (and, as DMs, we can put a little more trust in ourselves). So that when we ask the question--

Are we really this stupid?

--the answer can be, "No. We're not."

And maybe that means the goblin bombadiers don't lay an ambush in their excavated chamber. Maybe it means that the PCs end up barricading themselves in that chamber. Or the goblins all retreat into that chamber. Or the PCs return to find animated goblin zombies have been stationed in that chamber as guards.

Once you remove the shackles of believing that the "perfect encounter" can be predesigned you'll be tapping into the strength of the RPG medium in creating encounters which are perfect for your gaming group because they were created by your gaming group.

January 13th, 2011


When I first started playing roleplaying games, way back in elementary school, I used to play RPGs all the time. As I got older, of course, gaming became a bit scarcer. There were times when I didn't have anyone to play with at all. But even when I did, it became tougher to coordinate schedules; tougher to find the free time even in my own schedule.

For the past few years I've been lucky enough to have a regular gaming group. But regular for us has usually meant averaging about two sessions a month. And it's not just that I was in a completely different ballpark from the days when we would play every lunch hour... it's that I was playing a completely different sport.

And I figured that was just the way things had to be. As we get older, after all, time becomes more precious.

But over the past year or so, I've realized that while I'll probably never get back to that "every lunch hour" ballpark, it actually is possible to start playing the same sport again.



The ballpark/sport analogy is actually rather apt because what I've realized is that my schedule wasn't the only thing that's changed over the years. I've fundamentally changed the way I play roleplaying games. And while I did it for all the right reasons, I'm pretty sure now that I threw the baby out with the bathwater.

To understand what I mean, let me cast your thoughts back to that time when I used to game all the time: Lunch hour (or any other snatch of free time) would roll around and we'd pull out our D&D manuals and our character sheets. One of us would volunteer to DM and that guy would grab whatever dungeon he was currently working on (or he had just read through) and we would start playing. Eventually lunch hour would come to an end and we'd pack up our things. And the next time we played, we'd either continue exploring that same dungeon or we'd start exploring some other dungeon (possibly with a completely different DM). Maybe we'd use the same characters; maybe we'd have rolled up a new character or feel in the mood to play somebody else from our stable. Whatever worked, we did it.

Compare and contrast with the way my regular gaming group plays: At the beginning of each month, I send out an e-mail listing the best days that I'm free this month for gaming. I wait for everybody to reply back. Hopefully a couple of those days will be free for all of us, but if they don't then I'll go to the second best dates and start wrangling. Eventually we'll have a couple of days scheduled. But if a conflict comes up, then we'll need to cancel that session.

Other groups may have a larger tolerance for handling one or two missing PCs, but I don't think I'm in error when I say that this is the way most people play RPGs now.

The important difference here is not our modern, adult, crowded schedules: It's the fact that our games have become rigid affairs. The default mode of play is to gather a group of 5 or 6 people who plan to all get together on a regular or semi-regular basis for 10 or 20 or more 4-8 hour sessions.



The sheer level of commitment created by the now standard form of play is, in my opinion, huge.

For example, Expedition to Castle Ravenloft describes itself as "a mini-campaign lasting around fifteen to twenty sessions, or roughly five months of real time (assuming you play weekly)".

This is not atypical. When you agree to join a typical campaign, you're making a minimum commitment of 80 hours or more spread over months or years of your life. Dropping out or missing frequent sessions is usually considered bad form, since losing a player (and, therefore, their character) can be incredibly disruptive to the tightly woven continuity of the modern campaign.

This is the root of the "I can't play because it's too hard to find time for a roleplaying game" problem that many gamers face today. But there's also another side to this problem: It becomes incredibly difficult to ask new players to join your game because of the huge commitment of time and focus you're asking from them.

And this is particularly true if you're talking about players who are completely new to roleplaying games because there's really no way to judge whether they'll like the game enough to want to commit a significant portion of their lives to it for the next year or more.



Let me put this another way. Imagine that you had never heard of baseball before and someone said, "Hey, wanna join a baseball team?"

"What's that involve?" you ask.

"Well, we practice for 3 hours every Wednesday evening and we'll have a game every Saturday afternoon for the next 7 months."

You'd have to be really, really curious about baseball in order to take that guy up on his offer, right?

But, of course, that's not how people get involved in baseball. Most people start playing baseball when somebody says, "Hey, wanna play catch?" And playing catch is easy. You pick up a ball and you throw it. And if you get bored, you put the ball down and you do something else. Some people, of course, will never pick that ball up again. But lots of people will find they like throwing the ball around, and some of those people will eventually find themselves agreeing to spend 300 hours every year participating in amateur baseball leagues.

Where's the equivalent of "let's play catch" in roleplaying games?

Well, it turns out I had the secret of it way back in elementary school. And then I forgot about it. I became myopically focused on how awesome a baseball league could be, and forgot that sometimes just throwing a ball back and forth can be fun, too. (And a lot easier to pull off.)



I rediscovered how to play catch in the Caverns of Thracia.

The Caverns of Thracia are an old school megadungeon designed by Paul Jacquays. I've recounted some of the sessions I've run within its hallowed halls. I've also used it as the primary example of how to jaquay your dungeons. But it's also taught me how the classic megadungeon campaign structure can be used to open up your game table and triple or quadruple your gaming.

The basic megadungeon campaign structure is pretty simple:

1. There's a huge dungeon. So big that it can't be cleared out in one or two or even a dozen gaming sessions. In fact, it's so huge that the parts you've already cleared out will probably start repopulating with new monsters before you finish exploring the rest of it.

2. There's a nearby "gold rush" town where PCs can form adventuring parties to explore the megadungeon.

3. At the end of each session, everybody heads back to town. At the start of the next session, a new adventuring party forms and heads back to the dungeon.

The last point is the the crucial one here: The megadungeon campaign structure fundamentally lends itself to variable playing groups. Who showed up for this week's game? Which characters do they want to play? That's your adventuring party for the week. Go!

This structure means that you don't have to worry about wrangling schedules. Feel like playing on Thursday? Send out an e-mail saying, "We're playing on Thursday. Who wants to come?"

It's also incredibly easy to invite new players to join the game. Even if they only play the one time, they can have a great time without causing any disruption to "continuity". In fact, if you can couple the megadungeon campaign structure to a fast-and-simple character creation system, it can be as easy to play a pick-up roleplaying game as it is pull a boardgame off the shelf.


Since putting a megadungeon back into my gaming repertory, I've radically increased the amount of roleplaying I'm doing. In fact, I can play now pretty much whenever I want to: I've got a mailing list of 30 players that I can send my invites out to, and from that list I'm almost guaranteed to get at least 3 or 4 people on any given night.

In the past year, I've also been able to play with a half dozen players completely new to roleplaying games and another half dozen players who hadn't played in half a decade or more. (This is a large part of the reason why I have 30+ players on my mailing list now.)

With that being said, open table campaign structures are not the be-all and end-all of gaming. (Any more than catch is the be-all and end-all of playing baseball.) I'm still running my regular campaign, which has now reached its 60th session. And there's a ton of depth, detail, and complexity in that dedicated campaign which is impossible to achieve in the loose style of the open table.

But, on the other hand, when I needed a replacement player for my regular campaign, I had developed a "stable" of players at my open table that made it easy to find a replacement.

The megadungeon, of course, is not the only form of play which can support this kind of open table. But it can be surprisingly hard, actually, to find the right mix of "I can GM this any time" and "the players can disengage at any time without making it difficult to pick things up again with a completely different group of players next week". For example, for the past several months I've been trying to figure out how to build an open table campaign structure for Shadowrun... and pretty much failing. (A series of one-shots can work in a pinch, but they require a lot more prep work on the part of the GM and require a very precise sense of exactly how much gaming you can get done in a single evening.)

Another open table technique from my "golden age" of gaming was the use of multiple DMs all supporting the same stable of characters. In those elementary school games I used to be able to play the same cleric in Matt's campaign, then take it over to Nick's campaign, run it through Steve's campaign, and then bring it back to Matt's campaign without any problem. Haven't really tried that lately, but I can't see any reason why it can't work now.

January 14th, 2011


Castle Ravenloft

A couple days ago I posted my first thoughts on the Castle Ravenloft boardgame. One of the things I mentioned was the horrific quality of the rulebook. Today I want to expound upon that a little bit.

But first, let me mention how the session we played last night went: We had a couple of newbies at the table, so we started with Adventure 2: Find the Icon of Ravenloft. This is essentially the plain, vanilla version of the game. It's a good way to get introduced to the basic gameplay, and then wraps up with a climactic fight in the Chapel. We were able to conserve our big AoE attacks until reaching the Chapel, but then two bad Encounter draws ended up teleporting two of our Heroes to opposite ends of the dungeon while spawning even more monsters. With a good deal of scrambling, however, we were able to strand a gargoyle, reconcentrate the enemies, and then blast our way out of the castle.

Good times.

We then moved to Adventure 9: Gauntlet of Terror. In this scenario the layout of the dungeon is largely predetermined at the beginning of play and groups of monsters are moving towards the dungeon's entrance, seeking to escape and ransack the village. This adventure completely inverts the strategy of the game in almost every way.

The first time we played it, we screwed up the respawning rules for the monsters. Then a couple of players left and a new player showed up and we played through it a second time using all of the rules correctly. Both plays were great fun, with quite a few really tense moments. (Including one memorable turn where we ended up semi-intentionally spawning 7 monsters at the same time.)

I've now played the game a total of 18 times. It continues to deliver a consistently fun experience.



With that being said, I now want to discuss the inadequacies of the rulebook in a bit more detail. To quickly sum up the problem: Castle Ravenloft pretty much can't be played without house-ruling pretty much every facet of the game.


The complete rules for the Immobilized condition read: "If your Hero is Immobilized, your Speed is reduced to 0 -- you can't move!"

Okay, that means that you can't use a Move action to move (since your Speed has been reduced to 0). But can you still use At-Will, Utility, or Daily powers that allow you to move? What if another character uses a power that would move you... is that allowed? What if an encounter card is triggered with a trap-like effect that would ordinarily force you to move -- does the Immobilized condition prevent that movement, too? What if the effect in question doesn't use the word "move" to describe the positional change, should that be allowed?

For example, here's the text from the Overwhelming Terror encounter card: "Place each Hero 2 tiles closer to the Start tile. If a Hero is on the same tile as a Monster after being placed, that Hero is slowed."

Should Overwhelming Terror move an Immobilized Hero to a new tile? Does the flavor text ("A cacophony of shrieks and howls rises up around you, and your flee in terror.") change your opinion?

If they aren't moved, do you still check to see if they are slowed? And if you do, do you use the tile they're currently on or the tile they would have been placed on if they were moved?

Okay, let's consider Strahd's Minions: "Place the active Hero and the two Monsters that are closest to that Hero on the tile farthest from the active Hero. If there are less than two Monsters in play, place a new Monster adjacent to the active Hero after he or she is placed."

If an Immobilized Hero isn't placed on a new tile, should you still move the monsters? And if not, should you draw a new monster if there are less than two in play? (After all, there is no "after he or she is placed" if the Hero was never placed.)

Should an immobilized rogue be allowed to move as part of their Deft Strike ability? ("Before the attack, you can move 2 squares. Attack on adjacent Monster.") If not, should the immobilized rogue be allowed to move when the cleric uses Hallowed Advance? ("Hit or miss, each other Hero can move one tile.") If not, can the fighter use Bodyguard when the immobilized rogue is attacked? ("The attack misses instead, and you swap positions with the Hero that was attacked.") Can the fighter use Bodyguard if the fighter is the one who's been immobilized?

In order to have a nice, consistent ruling for being immobilized, our table has been playing "Immobilized" to mean:

(1) The immobilized Hero cannot change their own location through the use of any action or power. Any other power, ability, or effect which would change the immobilized Hero's location takes effect normally -- including other Heroes using their powers, attacks from Villains and Monsters, and Encounter cards.

But other reasonable interpretations could include:

(2) "Immobilized" simply reduces the Hero's speed to 0. Any effect (including their own powers) which allows a Hero to move without taking a Move action can be performed normally.

(3) An immobilized Hero "cannot move". Nothing will cause them to leave they're currently standing in.

(4) 4th Edition's definition of Immobilized: "You can't move from your space, although you can teleport and can be forced to move by a pull, a push, or a slide."

Since forced movement isn't defined as part of the Castle Ravenloft rules (and "pull, "push", and "slide" are terms of art which are not used), this would still leave gray areas. But you could try to formalize something close to it by saying:

(5) An immobilized Hero has a speed of 0 and cannot move using a Move action. A Hero cannot use any of their own abilities to move. (Exception: The eladrin's Fey Step ability can be used normally.) Any ability or effect which says that a Hero "may" or "can" change their position cannot be used by the Hero. Abilities or effects which do not give the Hero a choice in whether or not to move affect an immobilized Hero normally.

Of course, all of these variant interpretations result in significantly different gameplay. And many of them don't provide clear guidance in resolving the tack-on issues of effects like Strahd's Minions. (One of the reasons we use the interpretation we do is because it doesn't have any gray areas in resolving abilities or powers found in the game. It may occasionally give "illogical" results based on the flavor text, but it can be applied with absolute consistency.)


Adventure 9: Gauntlet of Terror, like most of the adventures in the game, introduces several scenario-specific rules. For example:

When an active Hero moves within 1 tile of a tile with a face-down Monster token on it, or onto a tile with a face-down Monster token on it, flip that token over.

Seems simple enough. But does that mean that a Hero can avoid flipping Monster tokens by simply not moving on their turn? And if that's the case, then we've also re-opened the whole "what counts as a move?" can of worms. Are we only talking about Move actions? What if you take a Move action (which may or may not be mandated by the game) but move 0 spaces? Or use your Move action to do something other than move? What if you're immobilized?

And so forth.

(We interpreted this rule as, "If the active Hero is within 1 tile of a face-down Monster token or on the same tile as a Monster token at any point during their Hero phase, flip that token over."

This seems to match the intention of the rule as written, but may be a distortion if "move" should be interpreted to include movement from Encounter cards (which are drawn after the active player's Hero phase is completed). On the other hand, if we changed the rule to read "if the active Hero is within 1 tile of a face-down Monster token (...) at any point during their turn" we end up with a different kind of distortion because the Monster tokens can also be moved within range during their turn but after the Hero has moved. The rules as written clearly don't suggest those tokens should be flipped over... but maybe they should? I don't know.)

Complicating this, here's another example from the same scenario:

Discard the token [you flipped over]. Then place a new Monster token from the box top face down on any tile (except for the Start tile) that doesn't have a Monster token on it.

Does that mean we can place a Monster token on the same tile as the Monster token we just flipped over? And, if so, should we immediately flip it over again?

Another point of confusion: The rule as written reads, "When an active Hero moves within 1 tile (...) or onto a tile." That's a strange way of writing it because "within 1 tile" is interpreted consistently elsewhere in the game to include the tile you're on. It's probably just needless redundancy, but should it be interpreted to mean that "within 1 tile" doesn't include "the tile the Monster token is on" in this particular case? If so, does that mean if you start your turn on a tile with a Monster token on it that you can actually move around on that tile without flipping the token over (since you wouldn't be moving onto the tile)? Or even move diagonally off the tile (which would result in you being two tiles away and never "within 1 tile" due to the tile-counting rules)?

Final example:

Shuffle the Dungeon Tile stack and take out 15 tiles. One at a time, each player takes a turn placing one of those tiles adjacent to the unexplored edge that it closest to the Start tile until all 15 tiles have been placed.

This rule is problematic because it doesn't tell you how to orient the tiles you're placing. Since the monsters and monster tokens in the scenario follow the arrows on the tiles, the vagueness of the rule technically allows the players to construct a board in which all of the monsters move away from the Start tile (making the scenario ridicuously easy).


Needless to say, these radically different interpretations and/or patchings of the rulebook are not trivial matters in terms of gameplay.

For example, if Monster tokens can be placed on the same tile you just removed a Monster token from and they can be triggered as you place them, you can actually end up in scenarios where all the remaining monsters in the game spontaneously generate.

On the other hand, consider the difference between (1) "characters moving as a result of encounter cards flip a monster token" and (2) "characters only flip monster tokens while using a Move action" when dealing with an encounter card like Strahd's Minions ("Place the active Hero and the two Monsters that are closest to that Hero on the tile farthest from the active Hero. If there are less than two Monsters in play, place a new Monster adjacent to the active Hero after he or she is placed.").

In the first scenario, you end up with a situation where a Hero can be teleported to the far side of the board and immediately spawn multiple monster tokens which will (probably) all attack them simultaneously on the same turn.

In the second scenario, however, the Hero is stranded in a far corner of the dungeon surrounded by prowling monsters, allowing the other players to move the monster tokens away from their location and prevent the mass-spawning which would otherwise occur on their next turn.

Off-hand, I can't tell you which one makes for the more interesting game; nor can I tell you which one makes for a more balanced game; nor can I tell you which one the designers (Mike Mearls and Peter Lee) intended me to play.

And these are not isolated problems. Both the Rulebook and the Adventure book are filled to the brim with this kind of vagueness and inaccuracy. I can't really classify this as bad game design (I'm pretty certain the underlying design is actually quite robust and thoroughly playtested). It's atrocious rules-writing, not bad rules-design. 

But given this woeful shortcoming in the game, it's surprising that Wizard's response to the problem has been an overwhelming and deafening silence: No errata. No FAQ. No official clarification or support of any kind.

So, to conclude: Fun game. Very much worth grabbing a copy of. But be prepared to put in a little sweat equity to make the game function properly.

January 15th, 2011


When I first launched my Caverns of Thracia campaign I was actually planning for nothing more than an experimental one-shot using the original 1974 rules for Dungeons & Dragons. The framing device I chose was relatively straight-forward: The Caverns of Thracia are located beneath a cluster of surface ruins in the midst of a vine-encrusted jungle, so I simply based the PCs out of a small logging village near the edge of the jungle. I arbitrarily decided that the ruins would be located 1d6+2 days of travel into the dungeon and used a 1d8 roll to randomly determine the compass direction from which they would approach the ruins.

As the would-be one-shot developed into an open table campaign, however, additional details began to accumulated. The village has grown into a dungeon-fueled gold rush town and, in the process, it's been considerably fleshed out by the players: For example, one fellow had the memorable back-story of being the chef at the local tavern. (He dressed up in a suit of plate armor and pretended to be a well-trained knight in order to sign-up with one of the adventuring parties heading to the caverns.) Another PC, a halfling named Himbob Jimblejack, retired from adventuring and used the wealth he'd gained to buy up all the local garlic farms and corner the market on garlic. (HIs player is quite hopeful that my recent interest in Ravenloft will spike the local market for garlic.)

Meanwhile, the once nameless woodland has become the Intemperate Jungle, so named because it has no business being a jungle at all. The land all about this particular jungle is temperate in clime -- roughly equivalent to western Europe. But the jungle is, nonetheless, sultry, moist, and unnaturally verdant. (The logging village prospers, in part, because the trees of the jungle regrow at a preternatural rate.)

Rumors abound that the jungle exists due to the same terrible curse that destroyed the Empire of Thracia. But since that curse is, itself, nothing more than a rumor, the truth may be something else entirely.

(From a metagame perspective, the Intemperate Jungle exists because I wanted to place some other old school classics in near-proximity. The Barrier Peaks are now located just north of the Intemperate Jungle, and the Palace of the Silver Princess is actually nestled into Mt. Karnath at the eastern end of those peaks.)



A unique aspect of the Intemperate Jungle are the pollen monsoons. The far western edge of the jungle, where it grows to meet the sea, is filled with massive, flowering trees. When the season is right and the hot sea winds blow in from the coast, massive clouds of pollen are swept east across the jungle and out across the plains beyond. At those times, the logging village is forced to shutter its doors and windows: Visibility is reduced to almost nothing and the thick, cloying pollen can choke a man to death.

(Metagame Perspective: In mid-2010 there was a lengthy hiatus from our Caverns of Thracia games because the Complete Readings of William Shakespeare combined with some other theater projects to mean that virtually every single evening was booked full. When we returned to the game, I made an impromptu decision as the session started that there should be a gap in the chronology of the game world, as well. The idea of a pollen monsoon popped into my head.)



In the aftermath of the pollen monsoon, PCs adventuring deep into the jungle discovered a new danger: Pollen cysts. These pockets of pollen had accumulated in various nooks and grottoes of the jungle, and when disturbed they would send up miasmic clouds of choking pollen into the air.

(Metagame Perspective: Pollen cysts were created during our last session as the result of a wandering monster check during their journey to the caverns.)


PART 1 - PART 2 - PART 3