Thursday, August 30, 2018

Cinderheim Overview

Art by Michael Gibbons
The Cinderheim book/pdf is coming soon, but what's it all about?

Cinderheim is a large desert on the wild continent of Hygaea that was created by a forgotten magical catastrophe. The desert of Cinderheim is suffused with demonic corruption—the land itself is tainted by an unbroken connection to the Abyssal Disunion.

An unrelenting, demonic sun beats down on the arid dunes of Cinderheim, making it the hottest place in the world. Despite being a largely barren wasteland, the desert is a dangerous refuge for outcasts, barbarians, the desperate, and the depraved.

The population of Cinderheim centers around seven oases within the desert that provide potable water and stable agricultural production. Each oasis is under the control of a warlord and their band of warriors. Life under the aegis of a desert warlord sometimes approaches serfdom for the people of Cinderheim, but each warlord provides protection and a degree of security. All seven oases boast permanent encampments that create a microcosm of civilization within the desert wastes—life inside the fortified walls of an oasis encampment is the safest bet for the people who live in Cinderheim.

Each of the seven warlords has been drawn to Cinderheim for their own obscure purposes. None of the warlords is content to rule over their singular fiefdom only; each dreams of overcoming the others and wresting control of their oasis encampments. Thus far the warlords have only engaged each other in minor skirmishes amid the dunes, but it is only a matter of time before the seven lords of Cinderheim wage war against each other under the cruel rays of the merciless sun.

Each of the oasis encampments is named after the demon lord or queen it venerates. The demons of Cinderheim offer prosperity and the continued flow of life-sustaining water from the oases’ springs and wells. However, unbeknownst to the people of the permanent encampments, each demon uses its influence to push Cinderheim closer to bloody conflict.

Each of the seven warlords of Cinderheim has fallen under the corrupting influence of the demon lord or demon queen who is imprisoned beneath the encampment they rule:

Andastros Qualenethi, elven war criminal.
Encampment: Koraaz, the false democracy.
Demon lord: Raaz, the Praetor of Slaughter.

Tenoch the Devourer, mantisfolk barbarian.
Encampment: Zulot, the savage hive.
Demon lord: Zulor, the Red Hunger.

Mama Lesedi Gheda, aasimar priestess.
Encampment: Yazaan, the cult compound.
Demon queen: Yaza, the Mad Queen.

Amuneta the Liberator, half-orc agitator.
Encampment: Narak, the abject haven.
Demon queen: Narah, the Breaker of Bonds.

Hamada the Reaver, gnoll military strategist.
Encampment: Yrkala, the desert barracks.
Demon queen: Yrkali, the Demon Conquistadora.

Niu Bo Wei, hobgoblin “Prince of Pleasure.”
Encampment: Thanorek, the den of vice.
Demon lord: Thanor, the Emperor of Excess.

Grand Magus Toman Dak, oni warlock.
Encampment: Druuz’Ket, the divided camp.
Demon lord: Druuz, the Hoarder of Secrets.

* * *

More information on Cinderheim already on the blog:

The Demon Lords and Queens of Cinderheim
Niu Bo Wei, the Hobgoblin Opium King
Hamada, the Reaver of Cinderheim
Mama Lesedi Gheda, the Cult Leader of Cinderheim

* * *

Cinderheim: The Land Under the Demon Sun was originally a self-set challenge on two fronts:

  • I wanted to try to do a setting based on "personalities" that shape the campaign, ala the original Ravenloft boxed set, but in a way that works.
  • I wanted the project to be no longer than a 'zine.

I think I was successful on the first count, but the project grew on my hands and currently sits at 44 pages of content--too big for Drivethru's saddle-stitched format. I'm fine with that; there isn't a page in it that I'd feel comfortable deleting. Expect Cinderheim to be on sale within the next two weeks.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Hell House

In Richard Matheson's Hell House, the ultra-haunted Belasco House is described as "the Mount Everest of Haunted Houses" and boy howdy, does it ever live up to that moniker. Matheson's horrifying shock-fest throws four unwitting paranormal investigators into the veritable mouth of Hell, subjecting them to all manner of psychological and physical torment in this most steroidal of ghost stories. Consult your spirit guide and join Jack and Kate on the astral plane for an in-depth discussion of the novel and its place within the supernatural horror canon.
Is it a good idea to bring a cat into a haunted house? How can you, too, become one of history's greatest monsters? What on earth does the Christmas season have to do with what's going on? All this and more will be explored in this episode of Bad Books for Bad People.
BBfBP theme song by True Creature 
Find us at, on Twitter @badbooksbadppl, Instagram @badbooksbadpeople and on Facebook. You can discover where to get all the books featured on Bad Books for Bad People on our About Page.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

The Heralds of the Weald

The Heralds of the Weald
A faction in Krevborna

The Heralds of the Weald are a conclave of druidic cultists who worship the primal spirits of Lamashtu's deep forests and perilous mountains; they believe that only the natural world can purge the corruption of undeath from the land.

Come encircling mountains, come shrouded forest, envelop us and make us pure again.

    • The proper way of life is a simple, agrarian existence in tune with the natural cycle.
    • Undeath is an abomination the subverts the natural order; it is an unnatural blight upon the world.
    • The saints of the Church are the figureheads of a religion that merely masks the mechanisms of secular power; faith in nature is the true church.

    • Entreat the forests and mountains to advance upon the civilized lands to consume the castles of Lamashtu’s vampiric nobility.
    • Protect the sacred groves that form the center of the Heralds’ religious devotions.

* * *

The Heralds of the Weald is a faction created by one of the players in my Krevborna campaign that their character belongs to. Here's a bit about their character:

Sylvian, human circle of the land druid, acolyte background
Sylvian is an orphan who was raised in the bosom of the Church of Saintly Blood, but he discovered his true spirituality within the dark of the woods.

Monday, August 27, 2018

The Scourge

The Scourge: A Faction in Umberwell

The Scourge is a loosely affiliated league of vigilantes who take to the streets to assassinate violent or abusive criminals. To become a member of the Scourge, a person must have suffered a great wrong at the hands of a miscreant; the Scourge is united through their mutual experience of loss, although most members of the group keep their identities secret—even to other members of the faction. When members of the Scourge hunt criminals they often don dark cloaks and theatrical masks. They take great pains to conceal their names, often adopting pseudonyms designed to strike fear into the villains they seek vengeance against.

Justice is a blade that falls without mercy.

  • Watchmen and thief-takers have failed to protect the city's citizens; we must take the law into our own hands.
  • Criminals are undeserving of mercy.
  • The scales of justice can only be balanced by blood.
  • Find justice for those abandoned by the law.
  • Make the city a safer place to live.

  • Hunt a serial killer preying upon the city's residents.
  • Investigate a series of violent muggings in a downtrodden slum.
  • Bring an abusive brothel owner to a violent reckoning.

Easter egg: The Scourge was inspired by Michael Gibbons's love of superhero comics.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Cinderheim: The Movie, The Soundtrack

Cinderheim, also known as the Land Under the Demon Sun, is a blighted dessert of demonic corruption ruled over by violent warlords. What songs would be on the soundtrack for the inevitable spin-off movie set in Cinderheim? Glad you asked.

Zeal & Ardor, "Devil is Fine"

Morbid Angel, "God of Emptiness"

Slayer, "Seasons in the Abyss"

High on Fire, "The Black Plot"

Baroness, "Take My Bones Away"

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Umberwell: Orcs, Ravenfolk, Serpentfolk

Races that populate Umberwell:

Orcs are particularly sensitive to their environment. Though orcs living in the wildlands tend toward brutishness and barbarism, the orcs who have settled in Umberwell as laborers find themselves evolving a peculiar class consciousness and political unity as downtrodden workers that would be impossible anywhere else but Umberwell. A few of the city’s more controlling factions have attempted to sway the orcish population into service as shock troops enforcing order, but the influence of the city has largely resulted in orcs who value communistic ideologies and proletarian revolution over conservatism.

The sinister serpentfolk are accepted in Umberwell society, albeit uncomfortably and with great suspicion. Serpentfolk claim to originate from a hidden homeland in the west called the Grisgris Khanate, ans some fearful citizens of Umberwell wonder if the serpentfolk who have settled in the city are spies eyeing Umberwell with subjugation in mind. 

Ravenfolk are the descendants of Covenant missionaries who ventured into spiritually contaminated lands, believing that they could cure them of arcane corruption. Those missionaries were irrevocably changed by a metamorphic curse, and their progeny still bear the mark of that encounter in their bipedal, raven-like forms. Ravenfolk are mostly vagabonds and wanderers; many possess mystical inclinations, but an equal number are simply charlatans and grifters. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Krevborna Fashion Show

Does your Gothic Fantasy D&D setting have it own fashionable haute couture look? Well, mine does. The image to the left is by Mlle Ghoul, created on the now defunct site Polyvore, inspired by Krevborna. 

And now it is preserved here for posterity, or at least until blogger goes the way of Polyvore.

Monday, August 20, 2018

A City of Entertainment and Perils

Love takes your eyes first.                       

 – Mandolina Sweet, tea merchant

There are a million ways to be entertained in Umberwell: all-night cabarets, theater and opera, sporting events, veil-dancers and burlesque, pub singalongs, etc. But the most invigorating performances are those of the Ritual—gladiatorial events in which ostentatiously-arrayed warriors bolstered by otherworldly pacts fight each other to the death in bouts that are part of some larger occult significance. 

The Bullroarer is a combination of tavern and sauna operating in Redgutter that is mostly frequented by picaros and crypt-kickers. The Bullroarer is run by Wick, a succubus who tends the bar and keeps a sharp ear out for gossip and lucrative work that would interest adventurers. Because Wick cannot stand cold weather, the interior of the Bullroarer is kept sweltering and humid—even during the balmy summer months. The Bullroarer serves an infamously spicy goat curry. Near the Bullroarer is the Gilded Tom, a brothel run by the secretive, kimono-clad Mariska Magwitch—the two establishments share a clientele. 

Some speak of the Slumgullian Warrens as a sovereign nation within Umberwell—the “city below the city’s streets.” Residents of the subterranean depths—such as kobolds, dark elves, gnomes, and goblins—find curious ways to adapt to their environment despite the hardscrabble existence of each island’s portion of the under-city. Luminescent foolfire fungi is cultivated in the Slumgullian Warrens for the benefit of those races not blessed with darkvision.


The candlekin are the degenerate descendants of renegade engineers who were imprisoned deep below the earth in disused train tunnels by the Ministry of Wands. They are supplied food and candles from a mysterious benefactor or jailer. The candlekin keep thousands of candles burning at all times within their lairs; their domains are coated with lairs of cooled, lumpen wax. The constant exposure to intense candlelight has rendered the candlekin blind, and the light within their lairs makes it difficult for others to see. Although their blindness renders them relatively harmless on an individual level, they tend to attack in great swarms of broken-bodied madness when encountered in the undercity.

There is good money to be had for adventurers willing to clear out nests of blood-seeking stirges or infestations of giant rats. Wolfcove & Sons is a trusted name in the vermin removal business. The exterminators employed by Wolfcove & Sons are recognizable by their covered wagons which display the image of a roach being crushed by a warhammer on their canvas sides.

Friday, August 17, 2018

RIP Jill Janus

Jill Janus, frontwoman for the band Huntress, passed away recently. Best to remember her through the scorching records she made.


Eight of Swords

Spell Eater


Thursday, August 16, 2018

Maximum Dragon 345: Excursions, Sea Serpents, Underdark Animals

I get the best gaming value-for-the-money out of old issues of Dragon magazine. No matter what edition the magazine was currently supporting, there's always at least three ideas worth the price of admission--and in almost every issue the density of ideas-to-dross skews in the right direction. In this series of posts I'm going to pick back issues at random, give them a read-through, and point out the things that (hopefully) illustrate why I think picking up old issues of Dragon for a couple bucks when you see them in the wilds is damned worthwhile.

This issue begins with a somewhat ominous editorial by Erik Mona about Dragon's difficulties in navigating the contemporary marketplace and the toll that has taken on the magazine's visual presentation. The covers of modern Dragon issues are crowed with tabloid-style cover lines and buzzwords because they magazine has to work harder to sell itself in the era of third-party d20 glut, free content available on the internet, and WotC's overly aggressive publishing schedule. The editorial ends with an almost-admonition to ask your local retailer to carry Dragon; the magazine would cease print publication the following year.

But on to the content.

"Excursion: Four Ways to Travel the World," written by Martin Ralya and illustrated by Jeff Carlisle, is one of those articles that gives you a full package of things you can use in your home games. (Wait a minute, Martin Ralya? I know that guy from online! Excellent.) The article details four conveyances, their crews, and their captains: a three-masted sloop, a submersible, a caravan, and an airship. The included schematics for the conveyances are super helpful (and easily re-purposed), and the included adventure seeds could be used as handily for a random encounter while en route or a full session of play.

It wouldn't feel like an issue of Dragon without a few new monsters being added to the mix. It's always seemed strange to me that D&D has a million kinds of dragons, but has traditionally done very little with sea serpents. "Sea Serpents: Dragons of the Briny Depths," written by Morgan and Tracey Peer and illustrated by Atilla Adorjany, aims to cross the streams by offering four draconic beasts of the deep sea. "Underdark Animals," written by Ryan Nock and illustrated by Tom Fowler, offers four mounts and beasts of burden that might be used by the drow of the Underdark. I dig the wild "hollow earth" vibe of these creatures; we've got a giant snake, an eight-foot tall velociraptor, an ebony lizard, and massive albino apes.

Although not particularly useful for any edition of D&D, it is interested that the "Equipment Array" article by Christopher Wissel, illustrated again by Tom Fowler, offers pre-priced packs of adventuring gear--a concept that would become heavily emphasized in 5e's core character creation rules.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Umberwell: Humans, Jinnasi, Kobolds, Lizardfolk

Races that populate Umberwell:

Humanity, in all its varying splendor and depravity, rubs shoulders with a melange of heterogeneous citizenry. Generations of immigration and intermarriage has resulted in a human polity united more by the common culture of Umberwell and its imagined community than along ethnic lines.

The jinnasi are hybrid beings afflicted with a strange, supernatural malady; they are humans possessed by elemental spirits. This possession is generally regarded as a spiritual disease that alters both body and mind to reflect the elemental power they are imbued with. Eventually, most jinnasi learn to to live in a state of symbiosis between their human side and the primordial spirit that dwells within them.

Kobolds are regarded more as pests than as true citizens of the city. No one knows where they originate from; they simply seem to spring up and multiply like vermin. They are mostly found employed as messengers, couriers, and mail carriers in Umberwell, but some kobolds evidence a degree of mechanical acuity and find work as tinkerers, inventors, or factory repairmen. Kobolds are infamous for their vulgar humor.

The reptilian lizardfolk originate from the jungles and deserts of Hygaea, but in Umberwell their savagery makes them a natural fit for urban life; their hunting instincts and competitiveness serve them well in a metropolis that often pits its citizens against each other in a hard-scrabble contest for daily survival. Lizardfolk frequently find work as bodyguards or bounty hunters.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Let's Read Wayfinder's Guide to Eberron: Dragonmarks and Magic Items

Dragonmarks are a unique facet of the Eberron campaign setting; they are essentially tattoo-like markings that appear on people related to specific bloodlines that manifest magical powers. To bear a dragonmark means that you belong to a familial dragonmarked house. The dragonmarked houses function much like megacorps in cyberpunk games: they represent powerful dynasties whose powers have enabled them to form monopolies over their areas of expertise. Not everyone born to a dragonmarked house has a dragonmark, but those who do gain powers related to the house's economic and political purposes. 

The dragonmarked houses of Eberron include:

  • House Medani, the Mark of Detection, detectives and bodyguards, half-elves.
  • House Tharashk, Mark of Finding, detectives and bounty hunters, humans and half-orcs.
  • House Vadalis, Mark of Handling, animal breeders and trainers, humans.
  • House Jorasco, Mark of Healing, healers and hospitals, halflings.
  • House Ghallanda, Mark of Hospitality, inns, taverns, restaurants, halflings.
  • House Cannith, Mark of Making, manufacturing, humans.
  • House Orien, Mark of Passage, land transportation and the lightning rail, humans.
  • House Sivis, Mark of Scribing, communications, gnomes.
  • House Deneith, Mark of Sentinel, mercenaries, humans.
  • House Phiarlan, Mark of Shadow, entertainment and spying, elves.
  • House Thuranni, Mark of Shadow, assassins, elves.
  • House Lyrandar, Mark of Storm, sea transportation and weather control, half-elves.
  • House Kundarak, Mark of Warding, prisons and security, dwarves.

As you can see from the list of dragonmarked houses above, each house is linked to a D&D race from the 3.5 Player's Handbook. The integration of dragonmarks into character creation is actually quite slick. In a previous Eberron Unearthed Arcana, dragonmarks were feats, which didn't serve the setting very well. Since only the variant human race begins play with a feat at first level, this restricted dragonmarks to fourth level characters, which didn't fit the setting's lore. Wayfinder's Guide presents each dragonmark as either a mechanical replacement for a character's race or subrace, which opens up the possibility of starting a game as a member of a dragonmarked house.

The powers granted by a dragonmark include a mix of ability score increases, special powers, spells, and intuition dice. Intuition dice begin as d4s that get added to ability checks with skills and tools that are pertinent to a dragonmarked house's specialties. For example, halflings with the Mark of Hospitality get a bonus to Charisma, the friends and prestidigitation cantrips, and intuition dice on persuasion checks and checks that involve brewer's tools and cook's utensils. Each entry on a dragonmark is about a page long and gives a good overview of the house connected to it, a few ideas for characters who might possess that mark, and the abilities associated with it.

At eight level a dragonmarked character can forgo their ability score increase to take a feat called Greater Dragonmark that increases the power of their mark. Their intuition dice increase from d4 to d6, and they gain the ability to cast a few higher level spells through their dragonmark. Some of these spells are quite high in level, but since they aren't combat-centric spells they don't seem likely to create balance problems.

Another feat, Aberrant Dragonmark, is offered for characters who wish to obtain a dragonmark that is unconnected to any of the dragonmarked houses. This feat grants a cantrip and a first-level spell from the sorcerer's spell list, and the ability to spend hit dice to increase the level you cast your spell at--at the cost of taking damage equal to a roll of however many hit dice you spent on it.

Magic Items
Most settings with "magical technology" also feature magical fuel; Deadlands has ghost rock, Malifaux has Soulstones, and Eberron has dragonshards. Dragonshards come in three types. Eberron dragonshards can used in place of material components in spells, to create magic items, and to fuel lightning rail trains and elemental airships. Khyber dragonshards are used for binding planar entities, phylacteries, and necromantic rituals. Siberys dragonshards are used for dragonmark focus items, eldritch machines, and for the creation of legendary magic items and artifacts.

Dragonmark focus items are usable only by people with the relevant dragonmark; they are either standard magic items that are cheaper to produce because they are attuned to a specific mark or they amplify the power of a mark for a related purpose. Eldritch machines are plot-point devices, such as magical seals keeping cosmic evils at bay. This chapter also includes some magic items that are common conveniences in the setting (such as stones that clean your body and clothes when you touch them), arcane foci (and rules for wielding them two-handed to get some rifle vs. pistol differentiation), and warforged components (arms blades! wand sheaths!).

Monday, August 13, 2018

A City of Authorities

A shared love of getting absolutely tossed to the rats on hard drink is one of the great harmonizers of Umberwell’s disparate peoples. Dwarves and catfolk couldn’t be more different in temperament, but put ‘em in front of a pitcher of grog and soon enough they’re laughing together, crying together, thick as thieves.   
 – Padma Gulch, curry house proprietor

Franziska Corvinus, a powerful tiefling sorceress, is the democratically elected Lord Mayor. She receives council from the city’s Ministries, who exercise authority over their areas of legislative expertise. Corvinus’s governance has been controversial due to her infernal connections, yet she has proved canny enough to keep the city from descending into utter discord. The assassin responsible for the previous Lord Mayor’s death was never apprehended.

Due to a culture the prizes parish sovereignty above metropolitan cohesion, Umberwell has no official city-wide police force. A number of independent thief-takers, borough watchmen, river wardens, parish beadles, and phrenological detectives (those who detect crime by studying features and head-shapes) operate as law-for-hire. The truly desperate turn to the members of Blind Justice—though they do not see, they sense crime and purge it with great violence. The most dangerous criminals in Umberwell are incarcerated in the supposedly inescapable Bleakbone Gaol in Rendchurch.

Traditions handed down from Umberwell’s fractious past have resulted in a population legally permitted to arm and armor itself. Because of the legal enshrinement of these traditions it is not uncommon to see fully armed people walking Umberwell’s streets. It is for this reason that Umberwell is sometimes colloquially referred to as the City of Shanks instead of its usual appellation—the City of Rust.

Although Umberwell is governed by a Lord Mayor, her power is limited by ancient legal traditions, the anarchic composition of the city, and the strength of the ten Ministries that possess legislative authority over important facets of life in the metropolis. Each Ministry has its own goals; the fact that the city’s Ministries often work at cross-purposes is one of the major reasons why Umberwell holds a reputation as a barely governed city-state held together by will rather than law.
    • The Ministry of Altars. Oversees matters of faith, the licensing of places of worship, and the removal of forbidden religions from the city.
    • The Ministry of Arrowheads. Oversees the city’s parks, preserves, and refuges. 
    • The Ministry of Coins. Oversees the city’s economy, regulates the banking industry and craft guilds.
    • The Ministry of Gavels. Oversees Umberwell’s courts and judicial system. The Ministry of Gavels attempts to steer the city toward codified, encompassing laws has met with stiff resistance. 
    • The Ministry of Horns. Oversees “vice” in the city, but is a very weak Ministry that rarely regulates anything.
    • The Ministry of Scythes. Oversees food production and agriculture within the city.
    • The Ministry of Shields. Oversees the Umberwell Militia and Navy. The Ministry of Shields wishes to create a city-wide police force, but are hampered by the long-standing tradition of each borough maintaining its own independent watch.
    • The Ministry of Stilettos. Oversees the city-state’s intelligence agencies and coordinates Umberwell’s spies.
    • The Ministry of Wands. Oversees the use of arcane magic and artificer technology, as well as civic engineering and major construction within Umberwell.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

The Demon Lords and Queens of Cinderheim

The proof copy of Cinderheim: The Land Under the Demon Sun is currently on its way to me. Once it arrives I'll be checking it to make sure that everything is the way I want it to be; once it passes muster, it will go up for sale at DrivethruRPG and RPGNow. If you like the stuff I've been posting here about the setting, I hope you'll give the book and/or pdf a look as well.

But enough of that, let's talk about malignant forces at the heart of the setting: the demon lords and demon queens who manipulate the peoples of the savage desert.

Cinderheim was once a green and verdant land, but it became an arid, abyssal desert due to the corruption wrought by seven summoned demon lords and demon queens—each of whom is trapped beneath one of the desert’s oasis encampments. Although they are incarcerated within Cinderheim, each demon exerts their will over the encampment placed above their prison, shaping the populace to fit their own twisted ideals and predilections. The influence of these demon lords and queens extends to the land itself; their horrid taint has warped the geography, climate, and creatures of Cinderheim to keep tensions high and increase the likelihood of hostilities.

    • Depicted as a hulking, bearded, gargoyle-like figure whose flesh is tattooed with esoteric runes. 
    • Desires knowledge of how to kill the gods.
    • Worshiped through ritual murder.
    • Communicates to his cultists through nightmarish dreams and phantasms.
    • If he becomes the ascendant force in Cinderheim, the demon sun will become a black void.

    • Depicted as a demonic woman wearing a gown of sundered chains and a crown of shattered bones.
    • Desires the cosmos to descend into primal chaos.
    • Worshiped through rites of conflagration.
    • Communicates to her cultists through talking birds who speak with her voice.
    • If she becomes the ascendant force in Cinderheim, the demon sun will shatter into thousands of burning orbs.

    • Depicted as a monstrous, tusked beastman wearing a belt of severed heads and bearing a bloodied great axe.
    • Desires bloodshed on a global scale.
    • Worshiped through the sacrifice of captured foes.
    • Communicates to his cultists through runes and sigils of blood that drip slowly down the walls they appear upon.
    • If he becomes the ascendant force in Cinderheim, the demon sun will turn blood red.

    • Depicted as a handsome, horned man with blue orchids erupting from his skin.
    • Desires that the wills of mortals be corrupted by ecstasy. 
    • Worshiped in orgiastic rites.
    • Communicates to his cultists through a whispering voice carried on the desert wind.
    • If he becomes the ascendant force in Cinderheim, the demon sun will become a psychedelic haze.

    • Depicted as a two-faced, snake-skinned woman, her forehead touched by the perilous flame of enlightenment.
    • Desires the extinction of rational thought.
    • Worshiped through rites involving drumming and dance.
    • Communicates to her cultists through messages traced by the paths of snakes in the sand.
    • If she becomes the ascendant force in Cinderheim, the demon sun will become a kaleidoscope of shifting colors. 

    • Depicted as a jackal-headed warrior queen holding a bladed scepter and whip made of vertebrae. 
    • Desires that the world be united through violence into a single empire trapped in an endless cycle of tearing itself apart and reconquering its lost territories.
    • Worshiped through rites of gladiatorial combat.
    • Communicates to her cultists through messages howled by jackals, wild dogs, and hyenas.
    • If she becomes the ascendant force in Cinderheim, the demon sun will expand to encompass the entirety of the blighted sky.

    • Depicted as a monstrous vulture-headed locust whose armored exoskeleton is studded with horns.
    • Desires the absolute annihilation of the world.
    • Worshiped through feasts and consumption.
    • Communicates to his cultists through a voice that sounds like millions of insect wings beating at once.
    • If he becomes the ascendant force in Cinderheim, the demon sun will writhe and crawl like a swarm of insects.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Umberwell: Goliaths, Half-Elves, Halflings, Half-Orcs

Races that populate Umberwell:

Goliaths are more adapted to lives of rugged exploration than life in the metropolis, but it is not unusual for goliaths to serve in Umberwell’s Militia or Navy. Several top officials of the Ministry of Shields are decorated goliath generals and admirals. Goliath cultural celebrations often involve axe-throwing competitions, caber tossing, and marathons.

Due to the influx of elves from civil war in Raben Vol Shai, there has been a marked rise in the birth of half-elves in Umberwell. In many ways, half-elves are held up as emblematic of Umberwell’s culture; they represent, whether they want to or not, the city’s emphasis on being a safe haven, the blending of cultures, and the possibilities engendered by modernity. It is currently quite fashionable to be dating a half-elf, which many half-elves find horribly objectifying. 

The halflings’ deep-seated culture of hospitality makes them ideal proprietors of Umberwell’s many inns, taverns, and places of entertainment. It is common for halflings to be found operating eateries, pouring drinks at a public house, or acting as the master of ceremonies at a cabaret.

Half-orcs are not a naturally occurring race; they are convicted criminals whose bodies have been altered by an infusion of chemical essences derived from the pineal glands of orcs to better perform hard labor as part of their state-mandated sentences. This process, called “reformation,” results in a stronger, malformed, and enduring being stripped of their original identity. As part of their punishment, half-orcs are renamed with ugly, guttural appellations that denote their status as convicted criminals. Once their prison sentences are up, half-orcs are not returned to their original state—this is meant to serve as a visible deterrent for other would-be criminals.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Let's Read Wayfinder's Guide to Eberron: Races of Eberron

The section on the races of Eberron is probably the most hefty of the new mechanical additions to 5e that Wayfinder's Guide has to offer. The first bit of the chapter gives Player's Handbook-style write-up for Eberron's unique races--changelings, kalashtar, shifters, and warforged. The second section describes how the cultural assumptions attached to the usual D&D races are altered in Eberron.

Changelings are essentially Doppelganger Juniors--they can change their appearance at will, making them the ultimate spies. Interestingly, they also take on psychological personas to match their multiple physical identities; some of these personas are passed down family lines or shared communally, so it's possible that the elf merchant you have been dealing with for a decade is actually fifty changelings playing the role.

Kalashtar...are weird. They are a compound race of humans who are bound to spirit-refugees from the plane of dreams. The relationship is more symbiosis than parasitical, but it does make the kalashtar seem alien and otherworldly--the human gets some psionic powers out of the deal.

Shifters are Lycanthrope Lite; they're (probably) the descendants of humans and were-creatures who are animalistic in appearance and can "shift" into a more bestial state to get extra hit points and some other bonus abilities. 

The warforged are Magic Robots of metal and wood that were created as soldiers in the Last War. An unexpected breakthrough led to them being fully conscious and sentient. Rules-wise, eyebrows have already been raised about the armor classes they can get due to their natural protection; a 1st level warforged fighter, for example, can have an AC of 20 if they have a shield--and their AC will increase as they gain levels.

If you just want the rules for the new races, you don't need to buy Wayfinder's Guide to Eberron. They're available in this Unearthed Arcana article.

How do the "normal" races fair in Eberron? Well dwarves...seem like the dwarves in most settings. NEXT! 

Elves, as always, come in a Baskin Robins array of flavors. The Aerenal elves worship their undead ancestors, so they are uncharacteristically okay with magic that is usually considered dark. The Valenar elves are warlike and seek to emulate the deeds of their illustrious ancestors. They also get access to a feat for use with a double-ended sword that seems to make two-weapon fighting obsolete, so that probably needs another look. Elves in Khorvaire are immigrants. Drow were made when giants used magic to bind shadows to elves and used to assassinate other elves.

Gnomes have a lust for knowledge, hate physical violence, and are inveterate schemers. They idea of gnomes as "smiling schemers" does the work of differentiating them from halflings and dwarves. Half-elves have their own communities because when a half-elf loves another half-elf very much they make another half-elf. Half-orcs are more likely to be seen as the offspring of backwoods types or primitives rather than the spawn of a naturally evil race, so you might need to re-think your baby orc strategy in Eberron. Halflings live in nomadic tribes and ride dinosaurs; that one kind of sells itself. Guess what? Humans are adaptable! Moving on. The chapter rounds out with brief notes on including other races that have not traditionally had a role as player characters in Eberron.

Next time: The Dragonmarked houses are the fantasy equivalent of cyberpunk megacorps.