Elderlings are Dragonborns well done

I recently read the amazing Liveship Traders trilogy by Robin Hobb and one thing that leapt to my mind is how much more interesting the Elderlings are compared to D&D Dragonborns.

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In my actual (Chult) campaign, to contrast with my human-only previous one, I’ve let the players choose any race, “even the dumb ones” I said. I was kind of relieved when none of them chose to play a Dragonborn as, for me, this race is certainly one of the dumbest fantasy race out there.

 Shaped by draconic gods or the dragons themselves, dragonborn originally hatched from dragon eggs as a unique race, combining the best attributes of dragons and humanoids.

A cop-out if there ever was. At least there’s no sexually deviant dragons copulating with puny humanoids, oh wait, that’s where Half-dragons come from! Sigh…

Dragonlance’s  Draconians were not much better (I mean, how much stolen dragon eggs you need to make whole armies?!) but at least they replaced the overly used orcs.

Now, what about Hobb’s Elderlings?

They were ancient Humans that pretty much lived side by side in a symbiotic society with dragons. Because of their proximity with these powerful beings’ essence and the occasional use of special rituals, they have acquired variable degrees of draconic traits: scaling, greater height, bright eyes, longevity and so forth. The culture of the Elderlings, what few glimpses we have of it, is also quite intriguing.

 

 

Tomb of annihilation: not a review

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I’ll soon DM this adventure module and as such, would like to comment on a few issues prior to actual play.

One hex a day

The PCs’ party will move one hex in jungle/swamp/ any difficult terrains and two hexes on rivers and coasts. Easy. I like this. The map of Chult is freakin’ huge and there’s a lot of options on how to explore and quite a few surprises (for a crafty DM) to spiced up things along the way. It’s my first hexcrawl ever and I’m quite excited to try this formula.

“Death Curse” Hook

The first time I read the story overview from the ToA I was intrigued. A death curse that prevents the raise from death spell AND slowly kills all these powerful dudes and dudettes that ever used that death-cheat? I mean, this should have profound & far-reaching repercussions isn’t that right?

Well, it doesn’t.

A dudette archmage scrambles to send adventurers, to solve this world-shattering matter. What she finds, it seems, is lvl 1 No0bs. She then proceeds to teleport (!) them at the adventure’s homebase in Chult.

CONVENIENT?

AND FUCKING LAME.

After that she sits on her death-cursed ass and patiently waits for the aforementioned noobs to save her…

Meanwhile, the evil Red Wizards of Thay, those evil meddlers, sends an evil team to retrieve the evil artifact, for their own evil ends. They’re led by an elf-lich, far too powerful a threat for the PCs at any moment of the adventure but that’s okay, she also prefers to sit on her (bony) ass, and I dunno, be part of the decor? Also: waste of a cool location (the levitating earth-mote).

There’s no other hints that indicate that what’s happening IS A BIG DEAL.

Whatever. I’m gonna flush the main plot down the drain.

An Alternative, Quite Intricate (Not) Plot Hook

Okay, here’s what I offer:

Hmmm. What about treasure? You like treasure? Well, I mean, there’s a jungle full of ruins… Go do your thing, you know, murder people/things and get rich? Yeah, of course you like it.

No seriously, I will put some fluff over it, but that’s all we really need.

Port Nyanzaru: Home Base

The map of the City is very nice. It will make a cool home base. The one thing it sorely misses is: inhabitants. NPCs. WHERE. ARE. THEY. Well, there’s seven merchant princes that barely have more personality than potted plants. And as rulers, they don’t make any sense at all. There’s also a high priest that can offer a lame-ass divination. Okay… The guides characters. The guides’s backtsory isn’t bad. But the guides are useless. The PCs will get lost as easily with or without them.

Am I being difficult? I need more.

Factions

The Forgotten Realms being such a fucking mess of a setting, I think the D&D designers didn’t have much choice to limit the number of esoteric factions found in the adventures. Did they have to put the same stupid, boring factions in each adventures though? Zhents, Harpers, Emerald Enclave, Order of the Gauntlets, Lords’ alliance… Isn’t the land of Chult exotic or far enough?

Oh they got one new faction: the Ytepka Society, here’s what we can read about them:

In many respects, the society’s goals are similar to those of the Harpers.

A local clone. That’s just great… How about inventing something new, huh?

The next sentence offers a lot more:

The Ytepka Society was instrumental in liberating Port Nyanzaru from foreign powers and facilitating the rise of the seven merchant princes.

That’S better. Wish there was more. There’s still a few invaders, hmm? I’ll take it from here. Even if it was YOUR FUCKING JOB WotC.

What’s missing the most?

  • Rivals! Surely there is other murderhobos around?
  • Side Quests that actually matters
  • NPCs
  • Motivations/Goals for NPCs
  • Weirdness
  • A few other locations, so that exploring don’t become a chore

 

IV- Bestiary: Myconids

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Myconids In SiT! They’re street cleaners, removing offal, dejections, basically any organic waste. Sometimes they get a little less discriminatory about the unmoving quality of their sweepings.

That’s something I came with while reading Jeff Vandermeer’s book:

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What I’m stealing for my setting is only the cruder idea of the Gray Caps of Vandermeer, whom aren’t even mushroom creatures as such, but are fuzzily described as smaller humanoids with a weird civilization based on advanced fungi technology.

The total creepiness and sinister threat of the Gray Caps I leave out, only because it won’t do thematically for my setting, but it was a very good read!

Flâneur (adapting the rogue for SiT)

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I won’t mess with the mechanics of the rogue as it is one of the few character classes that is perfectly okay within SiT but… Here is a little more flavour coming along with the flâneur. As always, the players will be free to do as they wish (almost) but it seems to me that a rogue character could well be played with these lines in mind:

The flâneur belongs to the same social and moral universe as the spy, agent de sûreté and, somewhat later, the detective. Like them, he strives to be both all-seeing and invisible (though, just as spies were commonly spied upon, so too the flâneur is himself not infrequently the object of physionomie) and, no less than Vidocq or Hugo’s Javert, he is a Protean figure capable of assuming a variety of disguises in order to pursue his scopophiliac passion undetected.

extract from The flaneur and his city by Richard D.E. Burton

The flâneur is a keen observer, so much so that using physionomie knowledge he can, from the dress, gait, etc. in a mere moment gain, like Burton says: “god-like power-through knowledge over the Other.”

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Well I think that would help explain a few things about the features of the rogue class (versatility, skills strength, backstab ability and such).

 

Gangs of New York (excerpt dump)

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Lets clear out something right away: this book  has barely any historical value. Yet I read it twice. Twice, cover from cover within a few months lapse! That’s because it’s pretty unique in its genre. It reads more like an ancient epic tale or saga. There’s no main character, no plot either, what it got is a whole lot of over the top scenes! But I’m not doing a review here, merely dumping inspiring bits…

And many a boy became a gangster solely because of an overwhelming desire to emulate the exploits of some spectacular figure of the underworld, or because of a yearning for fame and glory which he was unable to satisfy except by acquiring a reputation as a tough guy and a hard mug.

One of the tenements was called Jacob’s Ladder, because it was entered from the outside by a rickety, dangerous flight of stairs. Another rejoiced in the name of Gates of Hell. A third was known as Brick-bat Mansion.

Even the most ferocious of the Paradise Squares eye-gougers and mayhem artists cringed when a giant Plug Ugly walked abroad looking for trouble, with a huge bludgeon in one hand, a brickbat in the other, a pistol peeping from his pocket and his tall hat jammed down over his ears and all but obscuring his fierce eyes. He was an adept at rough and tumble fighting, and wore heavy boots studded with great hobnails with which he stamped his prostrate and helpless victim.

Gangsters and other criminals who sought refuge from the police in the dismal chambers of the Court cut other openings from the cellars of the tenements, and hid themselves and their plunder on the side ledges of the sewer or in niches cut in the walls.

…the honest citizens decided to fight fire with fire, knowing that they could not depend upon the police for protection. The word went out that they wished to employ a gang leader who would pit his strength against Poole and his minions.

Walling had always been impressed by the fact that the gangster would seldom stand up before a policeman armed with a heavy locust club, and that there was nothing a thug feared so much as a sound thumping.

The gangs of the Five Points and the Bowery, by far the most turbulent of the city’s inhabitants, took advantage of the opportunity to vent their ancient grudges against each other, and engaged in almost constant rioting.

Barricades of carts and stones were piled up in the streets, and from behind these defenses the gangsters shot and hurled bricks and used their club.

Travelling Mike sold needles and other small articles for the use of the housewife, but his box was more apt to contain pearls and diamonds, or stolen bonds, than legitimate objects of barter.

She also offered advanced courses in burglary and safe-blowing, and to a few of the most intimate of her associates gave post graduate work in blackmailing and confidence schemes.

…a Bowery drinking place called the Morgue, the owner of which boasted that his product was equally efficient as a beverage or an embalming fluid. …Soon a score of men were blazing away with revolvers, but all were drunk and no one was injured. The proprietor of the Morgue said they were very silly to expect to hit anyone after drinking his liquor.

With the connivance of crooked officials and politicians, contractors had hurriedly flung together cheap and flimsy tenements in the congested districts to house the hordes of immigrants, and these structures soon degenerated into slums of the utmost depravity.

…was divided by the gangs into clearly defined kingdoms, and the boundaries were garrisoned and as carefully guarded as are the frontiers of civilized nations.

Over a period of more than a half dozen years Battle Annie was the Queen of Hell’s Kitchen, and acquired widespread renown as the most formidable female of her time.

Perhaps fifty small groups which operated south of Forty-second street owed allegiance to the Gophers, Eastmans, Five Pointers, Gas Housers, and Hudson Dusters, and in the event of a general gang war rallied under the banners of the great captains. Each of these small gangs was supreme in its own territory, which other gangs under the same sovereignty might not invade, but its leader was always responsible to the chieftain of the larger gang, just as a prince is responsible to his king.

In addition to the great gangs and their vassal combinations, there were also a large number of independent groups which controlled small areas within the domains of the larger gangs, and vigorously opposed any attempt to absorb or suppress them.

They were greatly feared by their simple countrymen, for not only were they amazingly proficient in the use of the bomb, revolver and stiletto, but were reputed to be able to cast the evil eye, and to possess other magical powers.