Slowly gearing up for that new campaign and it’s time to start pulling a few odds and ends that have been bouncing around my head for a long time. So yes. The Orcs of Zoong are EVIL. And no. This has nothing to do with all the hubbub from early. It’s an idea that’s been there I just hadn’t blogged on it until now.
The Orcs of Zoong appear out of nowhere and hew a path of death, destruction and misery. Their sole goal is cause as mush pain and devastation as possible. Why?
The Orcs are the souls of the most cruel and evil mortals sent back to the material to cause as much chaos as possible. If they inflict enough pain and suffering on the mortals before they die, their souls return to Hell. But instead of being a tortured soul in Hell, they get to be the torturer. So it’s sort of a promotion.
There really isn’t anything that could remotely considered an “orc” society. They are just these bands that appear and start killing. They are constant threat every where. On the bright side, there never seems to be enough of them in one band to stage what anyone could consider a large scale military operation. Nor are they organized enough. The safest time to attack a new band of orcs is when they are still fighting amongst themselves to see which one of them is toughest and gets to lead.
Do they have any different stats than you’re run of the mill Orc (pig-faced or otherwise)? Nope. It’s the lore and those subtle things like just appearing out of nowhere in a civilized region.
Yes, I know that a real click bait title for this post. But you know it kind of fits. Let me start of with saying that I understand that maps are cool. Some are even works of art but how valuable and efficient is that work of art at the gaming table? Sure they can inspirational and evocative but I’m looking plain old utility and ease of use at the gaming table.
I’ve been playing around with Inkarnate for a world map for the reboot of my original campaign and while also playing around with online campaign managers I got to thinking about the way I actually keep notes which is a lot of bullet journaling and mind maps. This lead me to the idea of using “one map” for each thing in my world and basically here it is:
Wait? What? That’s it? Yep. I started with the simple concept of a group of hexes then changed it up to off-set squares just to make it easier to use with a word processor. As you can see, it’s numbered from 1 to 19 (20 is “outside” the map) in case I want to do something random. I also grabbed some inspiration from Index Card RPG with the zoned combat and the Ultimate Dungeon Terrain from Dungeon Craft on Youtube.
I figured if you can do this combat then why use it on a bigger scale?
Here’s how it works. Let’s start with the big picture. The World. You may be tempted to put that Big City in the middle of the map. I say no. Put where the characters start in the middle. Build the map from the character’s perspective. Let’s say you’re starting your campaign with the classic Keep on the Borderlands. Put that right in the center. What do the characters know? Since this is the “world” map at this stage. They would know that say the Dwarves come from “Far Away” to the north. So put the Dwarf home there like in Box 9. The Elves are far too but to the south east and so on. All that matters really is that something “near” to where they are or faraway. Fill in what extra bullet details you want.
Then you can do the same thing with a region. Once again with Keep on the Borderlands. Put the Keep in the middle then add the Caves of Chaos, Caves of the Unknown, the Mad Hermit, and the other adventure areas on the region map. All that really matters, is it close or far?
And you can do the exact same thing with a city. I know that the actual distances are abstract. Personally, I’ve found it better to measure the distances in actual miles or whatever but how many days it will take the party to get to their destination (for supply purposes) and what may be between them and their destination (making getting rumors even more key to survival).
This idea is also handy for my DM World Notebook. I can squeeze just about all of the information for a city or region that I need quickly into a single page.
And there you go. A single simple tool with many uses. And here’s a PDF of it:
The good old 5E Sword & Sorcery game is going well but I do have a the habit of planning well in advance for the next campaign. For this, it’s time to go back to the more traditional D&D style game and that means knocking the dust off the old notes.
So, Zoong is my own home brewed setting for the more standard style of campaign. I’ve already ran in this setting with 5E, Swords & Wizardry, and Dungeon Crawl Classics. For this iteration, I’m gearing up to use my YARC 5E/Old School Hack.
There’s bits and pieces of each of those earlier campaigns that are left over and made some changes to the setting. Of course, also my own preferences and experiences add even more bits. Plus the returning players already have a good feel for the whole vibe of the world. And what’s the best place to start? A New Map!
I decided to kick the tires and learn how to use Inkarnate. Since I’m just learning, I only used the free version. This isn’t the final version of the map. I may do some more tweaking here and there. Really, I have no idea what I’m doing. And there were about half a dozen false starts that I just trashed and started over.
I’m also debating on whether to use on of those fancy online campaign managers or keep it old school and just do PDF’s for my players and the good old three-ring binder for my DM notes. I’m playing around with a couple of them but more on that later.
The city of Malkuth is widely known as The City of Monsters which is a misnomer. The city isn’t evil but actually neutral to a fault. Any are welcome as long as they abide by the laws. Even the more civilized “evil” races need to trade and occasionally meet. The city is constructed in the caldera of a dormant volcano and extensive series of lava tubes provided a labyrinth passages beneath the city. The city is ruled by council consisting of the five most powerful clerics and the five most powerful magic-users in the city.
I’ve written about the Cult of Mordiggian before. Grath is the High Priest of Mordiggian in the city of Malkuth and the public face of the cult. The Cult of Mordiggian came to power in the city after the Temple of Tiamat was destroyed. Publicly, the cult deals with most of the funerary rites in the city and in secret will arrange for a body to permanently disappear. While not well liked, the cult is tolerated as long it doesn’t step too far out of bounds.
Grath is quiet and soft spoken. He is patient and an opportunist. While he is the leader of the cult, he uses it more for his own personal gain. He keeps the city’s udead population in check. He often acts as an agent for intelligent, free-willed undead who visit the city and counsel to necromancers. Despite the city’s tolerant attitude, Grath walks a fine line. His cousin, Sasha the Tolerant (High Priestess of The Church of 1,000 Saints), keeps him in check and tries to guide him in the right direction.
Last week I talked about this pair’s parents. This week meet the daughters of Ramona and Mycroft.
Daphne is the younger and much more impulsive of the pair. She’s highly intelligent but a bit naive and she’s not about acting more naive than she actually is. Her father has spoiler her a bit but this was mainly to only annoy her mother. She’s been know to cause significant property damage if she gets angered and feels she doesn’t get what she deserves. Daphne occasionally rebels against her parents but at most this lasts only a few weeks after which she goes back to live with her mother.
Daphne excels at and prefers direct damage spells and uses overkill as go-to tactic. She seems to care little about any collateral damage her spells cause.
Class: mid-level Magic-User focusing on any spell that causes destruction.
Silka was always a great disappoint to her parents. From a young age, she was strong willed, independent, and showed little interest or aptitude for the arcane. She quickly fell into the “wrong” crowd and learned not only did she have an aptitude with a blade, she preferred the much more hands-on approach to dealing with problems. She quickly rose through the ranks of Garnax’s underworld and is the only non-Halfling to hold any position of power. She leads the Assassins’ Guild of Garnax.
Silka is as cold blooded as she is cunning. She’s rewards loyalty and competence and may dish out punish personally or send some poor sot on a “one way mission”. She does keep an eye on her little sister and occasionally intercedes when Daphne gets into trouble that’s over her head. Silka has no patience for her parents’ antics and has as little contact with them as possible.
Class: Assassin with above average arcane knowledge. She can use Magic-User scrolls.