Categories
Old School Essentials Tabletop RPGs

OSE monster: 3rd instar giant mantis

Now available: The Unlucky Isles

The Unlucky Isles [affiliate link], the first system-neutral guidebook for my Godsbarrow fantasy campaign setting, is now on DriveThruRPG!

My kiddo, Lark, is playing a goblin beast master with giant mantis companion in our OSE Godsbarrow campaign, and the mantis stat block in the OSE Advanced Monsters book is, uh, 9 HD too high for a 1st level beast master. I needed a 1 HD version.

Following the Just Use Bears principle, I statted up young giant mantises based on a mix of the listed 10 HD version, hunting dogs, and giant mutant frogs. (Instar refers to how many times a mantis has molted; a 3rd instar has molted three times.)

Broadly speaking, male mantises can fly while females cannot, and females tend to be more brutal hunters. Their stat blocks are slightly different to reflect that.

Giant Mantis (3rd instar female)

6’ long (4’ tall).

AC 7 [12]
HD 1+2 (6 HP)
Att 2 x claws (1d2+1), THAC0 18 [+1]
MV 60’ (20’) / 90’ (30’) jump
SV D12 W13 P14 B15 S16 (1)
ML 9
AL Neutral

Surprise: On a 1-3, due to camouflage. Will not attack obviously more powerful creatures, staying motionless and hidden.

Grab: If a victim is hit by both claws in the same round, they are trapped and attacked each subsequent round with the mandibles (+2 bonus to attack roll, 1d3 damage).
Giant Mantis (3rd instar male)

6’ long (4’ tall).

AC 7 [12]
HD 1+2 (6 HP)
Att 2 x claw (1d2), THAC0 18 [+1]
MV 60’ (20’) / 90’ (30’) flying
SV D12 W13 P14 B15 S16 (1)
ML 9
AL Neutral

Surprise: On a 1-3, due to camouflage. Will not attack obviously more powerful creatures, staying motionless and hidden.

Grab: If a victim is hit by both claws in the same round, they are trapped and attacked each subsequent round  with the mandibles (+2 bonus to attack roll, 1d6 damage).

I honestly can’t remember the last time I wrote up a monster stat block. This was fun!

Categories
Godsbarrow Old school Old School Essentials Tabletop RPGs

An awesome day: Starting an OSE Godsbarrow campaign with Lark

Now available: The Unlucky Isles

The Unlucky Isles [affiliate link], the first system-neutral guidebook for my Godsbarrow fantasy campaign setting, is now on DriveThruRPG!

This past Monday, my kiddo expressed an interest in playing D&D. I’ve been preparing for this moment my whole life.

Lark and I starting up our campaign

We talked about D&D, and what that meant — because if Lark had a specific edition in mind (like 5e as seen on a livestream, for example), I wanted to run that. But the brief was more general, so I pitched classic campaign elements — dungeon adventuring, an open world, and real danger — and a few systems that seemed like a good fit: Moldvay Basic D&D (B/X, from 1981), Dungeon World, and DCC RPG.

All three got a thumbs up, and Lark picked Friday — today! — for our first session.

Choosing a game

This was a big choice, so I want to take a side street and talk about it for a minute.

As fate would have it, my Kickstarter pledge for Old School Essentials [affiliate link] arrived today — right as I was in the middle of settling on a system. I’d already ruled out DCC RPG, because as much as I adore it a solo funnel seems like a bad introduction. And while Dungeon World would be simple to solo, my gut said it wasn’t quite the classic experience I thought Lark was after.

B/X is my favorite edition of D&D, and I love Labyrinth Lord, but after spending some time with Old School Essentials I put them both back on the shelf. It’s that good.

OSE somehow manages to be clean, crisp, modern, and clear while still feeling like a mysterious, wooly box of oddities and delights. I wasn’t surprised it was good; I’ve been hearing that for years. But I am surprised it’s this good.

Ditto with an introductory adventure: Tomb of the Iron God [affiliate link] is one of my favorites, but the OSE adventure The Hole in the Oak [affiliate link] blew me away.

I also stumbled across Kevin Crawford’s Black Streams: Solo Heroes [affiliate link], the precursor to Scarlet Heroes [affiliate link]. Both enable one B/X character to be as effective as a party of four, letting you to run modules solo pretty much as-is, but Black Streams is shorter, easier to digest, and perfect for our needs.

Gaming with my kiddo

Lark and I have gamed together twice before. I designed Storylike for Lark (age 4), and we played it with my wife, Alysia, and our friend Jaben back when we lived in Utah. We had fun, but Lark was too young to remember it.

I also ran Murderous Ghosts for Lark and Alysia a few years back. That was a blast too (as it always is), but it was just that single session.

This session was different. Magical is the best descriptor I can come up with.

That started right from the jump, with Lark asking to play. Alysia and I don’t push our interests on Lark, so while I mention every year or two that I’m always happy to run a game that’s where I leave it. This was all Lark.

Partway through character creation

Life has thrown the Ralyas some curve balls lately, but today all the puzzle pieces of the universe clicked into place for a couple of hours.

All too often my Kickstarter pledges arrive and don’t interest me anymore, or I realize I didn’t need to pledge for the whole pile when just one book would have done it. Not this time: Every single thing in that package got used today.

The bones of our game: OSE, OSE Advanced, The Unlucky Isles, Black Streams, the gaming notebook I haven’t used in like three years (stupid pandemic), and a big bag of dice

After looking at all of the awesome options, Lark picked a species — goblin — from an issue of Carcass Crawler, and the beast master class from a different issue, and then asked if their pet could be a giant mantis. Of course! There’s no giant mantis in the OSE monster book, but I bet we can back into it with a couple of other insect entries…hey, wait a minute, there’s a giant mantis in the OSE Advanced monster book. (Click goes another puzzle piece.)

I seriously can’t believe there’s a giant mantis in OSE Advanced; I love this game

Lark also wanted to play in Godsbarrow, and I can’t adequately express how cool that feels. And again: Not coerced! I’ve poured my soul into this world for the past 20 months, and knowing that it piqued Lark’s interest is…well, it’s huge.

We talked about the Unlucky Isles, and how awesome it is that since I’ve never written the word “goblin” once in my Godsbarrow stuff that means Godsbarrow’s goblins will be introduced to the setting and shaped by Lark, and by the adventures of Hapishnei Tuθineσ, goblin beast master, who lives in Brundir’s haunted Ockwood.

And the whole time we got to just hang out, enjoy each others’ company, and geek out about D&D, dice, the long tradition of lived-in game settings, goblins, mantids, and all sorts of fun stuff. It was absolutely fantastic.

Character creation well underway

Lark wanted to draw Hapishnei and think about why they might be in the Ockwood, and whether goblins stick to the forest or are part of Brundiri society, so we called the session there for today. I view collaborative character creation as play, so this was the official start of the second Godsbarrow campaign.

Tomorrow we dive into The Hole in the Oak!

(As an aside, although I didn’t plan it this way, this is my 500th post on Yore! I knew #500 was coming up, but I didn’t catch that it had already happened until a few days later. I couldn’t have planned a post that makes me happier than this one if I’d tried, so that worked out nicely.)

Categories
Godsbarrow Tabletop RPGs

The Unlucky Isles is now available in print

Now available: The Unlucky Isles

The Unlucky Isles [affiliate link], the first system-neutral guidebook for my Godsbarrow fantasy campaign setting, is now on DriveThruRPG!

The printer’s proof of The Unlucky Isles has made its way to me and it looks great, and DriveThruRPG has now approved it for sale. If you’ve been waiting to buy The Unlucky Isles [affiliate link] in print, it’s available!

Cover of The Unlucky Isles, my first Godsbarrow book

As promised, everyone who purchased the PDF before the POD version went live has received a discount for the full cost of the PDF off the print edition.

Folks who have turned off the ability for Halfbeard Press, or all publishers, to contact them through DTRPG won’t have gotten that email. If that’s you, drop me a line and I’ll send you the discount manually: martin halfbeardpress com.

This feeling never gets old

There is no feeling quite like holding a book you’ve worked on in your hands. The printer’s proof didn’t need any updates, so if you order a copy this is what yours will look like.

I love Dean Spencer’s cover art so much
Sample spread showing the regional map and the intro to the Isles
The opening pages of the Brundir chapter

Thank you to everyone who has picked up The Unlucky Isles [affiliate link]! I literally do a fist pump every time I see that a another copy has been sold.

I’m closing in on covering the cost of the artwork in The Unlucky Isles with sales of the book. I’ll be rolling that money right into purchasing artwork for Godsbarrow Guidebook 2, The Gilded Lands, which is currently underway. I’m about a third of the way through the manuscript for that one.

Categories
Board games

Re-acquiring Renegade Legion: Centurion

Now available: The Unlucky Isles

The Unlucky Isles [affiliate link], the first system-neutral guidebook for my Godsbarrow fantasy campaign setting, is now on DriveThruRPG!

I try not to regret selling any board games, but I don’t always succeed. I’ve regretted parting with my copy of Renegade Legion: Centurion, one of the first wargames I played (around age 12-14), so I bought a used copy.

One of the joys of buying used games is finding treasures like this in the box: handwritten Centurion stats on the back of what’s either someone’s homework or a piece of scrap paper their parents gave them.

This anonymous former owner and fellow wargamer could easily have been me
This feels super familiar because I reused so many single-sided print-outs and copies for gaming stuff as a kid

My kiddo and I have had a ton of fun playing Car Wars 6th Edition together, and I’m hoping that a heavier game like Centurion might be a possibility in the future. The “damage stencil” system in Centurion (and Interceptor, I believe, though not Prefect; I’m not sure about Leviathan) is so cool, as are the little fold-up tanks.

Categories
Godsbarrow Tabletop RPGs

Now on sale: The Unlucky Isles, Godsbarrow Guidebook 1

Now available: The Unlucky Isles

The Unlucky Isles [affiliate link], the first system-neutral guidebook for my Godsbarrow fantasy campaign setting, is now on DriveThruRPG!

The book I’ve been working on since July is now available! You can buy The Unlucky Isles [affiliate link] from DriveThruRPG.

If you purchase the PDF now, I’ll send you a discount code that reduces the price of the print-on-demand version by the full cost of the PDF once POD is available.

The cover of The Unlucky Isles, Godsbarrow Guidebook 1

Large, high-resolution map

The standalone map of the Unlucky Isles region is also available as a PWYW product, and while it’s included in the book you should snag this version as well because it’s much larger (as it doesn’t have to fit on a page): The Unlucky Isles Region Map [affiliate link].

Print is coming

I’ve submitted the files for the print on demand version of the book, but it will probably be a little while until that’s available. The printer has to process them and then mail me a proof copy, and then if that proof looks good I can turn on the POD option; if it needs changes, that adds another cycle of approvals to the timeline.

Thank you!

When I first started working on Godsbarrow back in March of 2021, there was no guarantee this day would come. But after more than a year and a half on working on Godsbarrow every single day, and running an ongoing campaign in the setting, I love this place even more now than I did when I started writing about it.

Getting to this point, where I feel comfortable sharing my first campaign setting in published format, has been a long, fun road. If you wind up picking up The Unlucky Isles [affiliate link], thank you so much for your support!

Categories
Comics

Thirty years later, I finished Ranma 1/2

Now available: The Unlucky Isles

The Unlucky Isles [affiliate link], the first system-neutral guidebook for my Godsbarrow fantasy campaign setting, is now on DriveThruRPG!

I started reading Takahashi Rumiko’s brilliant manga Ranma 1/2 in high school back in 1992. My then-girlfriend (and future first wife) introduced me to it, and to quite a few other manga and anime series. Our time together was far too lengthy and often extremely unhappy, but a deeper interest in anime and manga is one of the few genuinely positive things I took away from the relationship.

And as I write this, that’s probably part of why it’s taken me thirty fucking years to finish Ranma 1/2. I’ve also gotten more into manga (and anime) since then, so that’s not the only reason — but it’s part of it.

Anyhoo, Ranma 1/2 was one of my ride-or-die tankōbon-only series for the past few years. Whenever I was in the mood for messy, funny, chaotic romance and gender shenanigans, I had a volume near at hand to work on. But once I realized how few volumes I still needed to finish the series and decided to buy the rest of them, I found that most of the final volumes were currently either between printings or just out of print.

I cobbled most of them together used, in the old flipped format, but folks are charging like $200 for the final volume and no thank you. So I wound up having to finish the series in digital format — which is fitting, in the end, given the long print-to-digital arc I’ve been on for years now.

Like when I finished The Walking Dead, finishing Ranma 1/2 was a bittersweet moment. This amazing manga has been a part of my life for thirty years — several relationships, two marriages, having my kiddo, friendships formed and lost, and living in three different states, not to mention the transition from childhood to adulthood.

It’s way more sweet than bitter, though. Part of why I put off finishing it for so long was than then it would be over, and I didn’t want it to be over. But I’m glad I finished it, and of course Takahashi stuck the landing.

Ranma 1/2 is one of the greatest manga series I’ve ever read, and even though I’ve finally wrapped it up it’ll always have a unique, special place in my life. Whole lotta transformations in the last thirty years — so what could be more fitting, touchstone-wise, than a manga all about transformations?

Categories
Leagues of Votann Miniatures Warhammer 40k

It begins! I built my first Kin

Now available: The Unlucky Isles

The Unlucky Isles [affiliate link], the first system-neutral guidebook for my Godsbarrow fantasy campaign setting, is now on DriveThruRPG!

My Leagues of Votann army box arrived today, so as is traditional I built my first unit: Yrsá the Unexpected, Theyn of Yrsá’s Boars, a squad of Trans-Hyperian Alliance Hearthkyn Warriors.

It’s too dark for good photos, so this one will have to do!

Like most Hearthkyn Warriors, Yrsá is a citizen-soldier — a miner, in her case. Yrsá is stubborn, tackles problems head-on, and is ferociously devoted to the Ancestors. Yrsá wields a Bolt Revolver and a Concussion Gauntlet. I sculpted (and I’m using that term extremely loosely) two crystals out of bits of sprue to go with my “alien moon” basing concept; those are visible in the foreground.

Her chosen name, “the Unexpected,” was in this case bestowed by her comrades in arms (rather than chosen by her) as a mark of respect. She has a knack for succeeding where others have failed, and for turning up where she’s least expected — which serves her equally well in mining and war. (It’s also a nod to how surprised I was when GW announced they were bringing back space dwarves.)

The codex calls out the largely ad-hoc nature of Kin fighting forces, so having Yrsá’s squad of Hearthkyn be nicknamed “Yrsá’s Boars” feels right to me. I’ve got nine more Hearthkyn to build for Yrsá’s Boars, but I’ll probably read some more of the codex before going much further.

As a dedicated, lifelong fan of dwarves of all stripes, I’m a happy camper — this is such a cool faction!

Categories
Leagues of Votann Miniature painting Miniatures Warhammer 40k

Testing basing schemes for my 40k Leagues of Votann army

Now available: The Unlucky Isles

The Unlucky Isles [affiliate link], the first system-neutral guidebook for my Godsbarrow fantasy campaign setting, is now on DriveThruRPG!

Lo, the fated day has arrived: The Leagues of Votann army box is finally available! Once I had my preorder in, I started considering paint schemes in earnest.

As soon as I saw the Trans-Hyperian Alliance color scheme — orange Void Suits with accents, grey clothing, tan soft goods — a few days ago, I was 99% sure that I’d be making a THA army. Orange is one of my favorite colors (the other is purple), and I haven’t painted an orange army yet — not to mention it’s a pretty uncommon 40k color, until now. On top of that I like the lore for the THA (adventurers and explorers, sort of a nomadic League) and this scheme is the “NASA-punk” concept that originally piqued my interest when folks on Reddit first suggested it.

Favorite fantasy/SF species + favorite color + perfect colors for a blue-collar spacesuit aesthetic = rad. And if the allure of making a custom League is too strong, I’ll just make my Kin a THA-affiliated League and tweak some element of the core THA paint scheme to reflect that.

Basing

There are already two great WHTV videos for the THA, one apiece for battle-ready and parade-ready, and they use an Armageddon Dunes (tan) base — which looks awesome.

But my Deathskulls Orks are on tan bases, and for some reason I just like putting my armies on different bases. Grey moon dust would pop against orange, but my Blood Angels are on grey bases. Someone on Reddit mentioned purple-tinged grey — sort an eerie moon dust color — and I liked that idea, so I decided to split the difference.

Here’s my first test base, a 50/50 because I didn’t feel like making two of them. (I really should have divided each rock like I did with the ground, but meh.)

  • One half is Astrogranite Debris > Druchii Violet > Genestealer Purple drybrush
  • The other half is Armageddon Dust > Reikland Fleshshade > Ushabti Bone drybrush
  • The small rock is Zandri Dust > Seraphim Sepia (I stopped when I saw this test wasn’t going to work out)
  • Large rock is Eshin Grey > Nuln Oil (ditto stopping here)
Nope!

That tan recipe isn’t the one in the WHTV video (which uses the more logical Agrax Earthshade as its shade), and it isn’t the one I use for my Deathskulls (which uses Agrax and Tyrant Skull). I guess I could also differentiate the tan from my Orks by using Dunes instead of Dust, or the grey from my Angels by using “plain” Astrogranite instead of Debris.

But at the moment it’s a moot point, because this is a failure on both halves. My tweak to the tan is neither interesting nor distinct enough from my Deathskulls’ bases, and the purple is kind of neat but looks like insulation foam or some truly alien world — and nothing like eerie purple-tinged moon dust.

I think where I went astray on the purple half was using a purple wash. I’m pretty sure I’ve never tried Druchii Violet before, and it’s a serious purple. But based on what’s opposite orange on the color wheel — blue and purple — I still like this direction.

My Blood Angels’ bases are Astrogranite Debris > Drakenhof Nightshade > Grey Seer drybrush, and maybe just changing that final layer will do it. Here’s test number two with four possible drybrush colors. Starting at 12:00 and working clockwise, it’s in quarters: Fenrisian Grey, Russ Grey, Calgar Blue, and Baharroth Blue.

Now we’re cooking

I like all four options. They get steadily more distinct from my Blood Angels’ bases. Side by side, Fenrisian Grey isn’t different enough, but the other three are. Baharroth is a bit much, and Calgar might be a bit too little.

How about Calgar Blue with a follow-up Baharroth Blue drybrush, just kissing the high points, and a Russ Grey base rim?

Test number three

That’s the one! It doesn’t scream blue, but in person it’s distinct from my much greyer Blood Angels bases — and the blue-grey base rim seals the deal. It’s also dark and fairly subtle, so it should provide a nice contrast with the vibrant orange of the Void Suits.

Orange Void Suits

I’ll probably test out two orange armor recipes a bit later on, as the GW color guide uses Fuegan Orange as its wash while the WHTV videos use the new Magmadroth Orange contrast paint as a wash. It seems like they’d look pretty similar, but you never know.

Tidy time

I spent a couple happy hours yesterday tidying and reorganizing my workspace so I’d be ready for the incoming LoV box. Clearing out a good chunk of my RPG collection has freed up plenty of shelf space, so I’m putting it to good use for more minis storage and display.

I can’t wait to see what the Kin look like in person!

Categories
Comics Miscellaneous geekery Tabletop RPGs

From pulp to pixels (and sometimes back again)

Now available: The Unlucky Isles

The Unlucky Isles [affiliate link], the first system-neutral guidebook for my Godsbarrow fantasy campaign setting, is now on DriveThruRPG!

I love comics. But how I read them has changed over the years, from all single issues as a kid to all TPBs in college to all-digital…and then back to single print issues. And now back to digital-only again, but this time for good (I think).

Reflecting on the notion of pulling or subscribing to single issues in this, the fourteenth year of the pandemic, it feels a bit like starting to buy CDs again. Would I start buying CDs again? Nope. There’d be no point.

Everything except the smell and feel of a printed comic, and the implementation of double-width splash pages, works better for me in digital format.

Looking back

From the early 1980s until 2000, I read all of my American comics in print as single issues. In 2000, when Preacher ended, I switched almost entirely to reading TPBs. It wasn’t until 2019 that I started up a pull list again.

That lasted about a year, until the pandemic hit and I fully committed to digital comics in March of 2021. I was subscribed to 12-15 X-Men books every month, and that eventually burned me out; after a break, I came back with a leaner subscription list that stayed steady for a few months. I transitioned back to print in February 2022, when comiXology went from awesome to pretty crappy overnight.

And then in May of this year I realized I just wasn’t going to read single issues in print again. Never say never, of course, but I canceled my pulls and went back to digital-only. Most of my big-two reading these days is older runs on DC Universe Infinite or Marvel Unlimited, and it’s incredibly rare for me buy TPBs anymore.

Manga

On the manga front, I was almost exclusively a tankōbon reader from childhood through the end of 2020. Subscribing to Shonen Jump online in 2020 was a seismic shift for me, and I’ve done about 90% of my manga reading digitally ever since. (Series I’m attached to in print for one reason or another make up the other 10%.)

Inevitability

Like music, and then novels, and then movies, as much as I love holding a comic in my hands the convenience of digital options outweighs that love 95% of the time. My eyes aren’t getting any younger, and it’s hard to argue with backlit pages I can read anywhere, zoomed-in as needed, without having to manage, store, and haul around hundreds of pounds of stuff every time we move.

I don’t think my love of print will ever vanish entirely; that connection runs too deep. But nowadays I mostly buy print comics as slabbed books, or intending to send them to CGC, so I can hang them up and enjoy them that way.

Look upon this trend, my creaking RPG shelves, and weep

This reckoning is coming — slowly, but inevitably — for my RPG collection and reading habits as well. I passed the tipping point where my PDF collection outnumbered my print collection years ago, and the amount of time I actually use my print RPG books in play has diminished steadily for the past 5-7 years.

For now, I still buy print RPG books that are special in some way, because they’re gorgeous, out of nostalgia, or because they offer usability advantages in some specific cases (mainly modules, sometimes, or handing books to other people). But I’ve thinned my print RPG collection by 40% over the past couple years, and I don’t miss a single book from the culling.

The intersection of convenience and usability is the ultimate reaper.

Categories
Godsbarrow Miscellaneous geekery Tabletop RPGs

10 years of Yore, and dusting off proto-Godsbarrow ideas from 2013

Now available: The Unlucky Isles

The Unlucky Isles [affiliate link], the first system-neutral guidebook for my Godsbarrow fantasy campaign setting, is now on DriveThruRPG!

Today is Yore’s 10th anniversary! I wrote my first blog post here on August 28, 2012: Reading Appendix N: The project, the appendix, and the goal.

10! Years!

That’s longer than my time blogging on Gnome Stew (just shy of 8 years) or Treasure Tables before that (just over 2 years). Hell, it’s almost longer than both of them combined.

Part of why Yore continues to work for me is that it’s my place to write whatever I want to write, not worry too much about whether anyone is reading it, and post when the mood strikes me — without keeping any sort of schedule, resulting in fewer posts per year than either GS or TT (by a long shot).

I do hope folks enjoy it, though! I’ve been posting gaming stuff online since the late 1990s, and one consistent throughline over the past 20-plus years is that I generally post stuff I find interesting that I think other folks might find useful, or enjoy, or both.

Waymark

Godsbarrow isn’t the first fantasy setting I’ve taken a stab at: It was preceded by what are, in hindsight, several “proto-Godsbarrows,” and from time to time I like to go back and cherry-pick my best ideas from those early iterations. A post that just says “Yay, 10 years!” is kind of boring — so I figured I’d blow the dust off an old proto-Godsbarrow post and see what it has to offer.

I picked a Yore draft post entitled “file” from March 18, 2013. I probably haven’t looked at it since then, and I have no idea why it’s a draft post rather than a Notepad file on my PC like the rest of my worldbuilding notes.

“file” is sandwiched between Reading Appendix N posts I never finished writing, a card game called Spires of Prague that I really need to get back to someday, and what I think is an archived draft of my free RPG Signal Lost, which I designed for Game Check 2013

Guiding principles for worldbuilding

That post included some stuff that very much informs how I’m developing Godsbarrow nearly 10 years later. Like these guiding principles:

  1. Don’t be subtle and don’t hold back: If it’s worth noting, it’s worth taking too far. Don’t avoid clichés; they work well in games.
  2. Dot no Is and cross no Ts: It doesn’t have to be done to be playable. It will never be done. Being unfinished is a virtue.
  3. The Rule of Two Things: Each point of interest on the map should be most notable for two things. Remembering lots of things is hard, especially as a player; remembering two is easy.
  4. The world is the world: If there are giants in the hills, it’s because there are giants in the hills–not because the PCs are “ready” to face giants.

I’m probably tempering #1 a bit these days, and #2 is less relevant as parts of Godsbarrow get more fully fleshed-out — yet entirely relevant in some ways. For example, the Godsbarrow campaign I’m currently running is going just fine despite the setting being nowhere near finished.

I don’t hew religiously to #3, but it does tend to be how I think of points of interest. If one needs more than two things to make it sing, that’s cool — but less is often more. #4 is 100% still how I worldbuild and how I run D&D-alikes.

Godsbarrow: at least 10 years in the making

This 2013 draft isn’t the oldest proto-Godsbarrow material, although it’s close. The oldest stuff on my hard drive that’s recognizably the rough clay from which I’m molding Godsbarrow dates back to April 2012. Like all worldbuilding, naturally there are much older ideas that bubble up and work their way into current stuff, but back in 2012-2013 I was actively building a setting — variously called Bleakstone or Waymark — using elements that are part of Godsbarrow.

Skulvezar, Godsbarrow’s god of skeletons, makes an appearance in that 2013 draft post. Proto-Skulvezar was more closely connected with demons; I tightened him up for Godsbarrow. Ditto the town of Cape Reckless, in the Unlucky Isles. I would have sworn Cape Reckless dated back to maybe 2016, not 2013, but there it was.

Hexcrawl points of interest

There are some names in there I need to pull into Godsbarrow — and the village of Garbriar definitely needs to make an appearance: “Garbriar is famous for its spicy prickleberry stew and for having the ugliest villagers in all of Saxum. By local tradition, village roofs are thatched with prickleberry branches.” (There’s a Rule of Two Things write-up, complete with breaking the rule with a third thing.)

Here are a few other points of interest, which I was writing up hex by hex in 2013. There’s some stuff here that would be right at home in Godsbarrow, and may just wind up there.

  • The Godsroad (0705): Maintained by laborers from Temple Town (often those doing penance or donating their time to a Church), the Godsroad is neutral territory between Saxum and Harth, traveled by traders, pilgrims, and soldiers alike.
  • Great North Road (0607): Laid down by the Vazdurak Empire centuries ago, the Great North Road is wide, clear, and well-traveled. It serves as the main trade route connecting Harth and Saxum. Waymarks — statues of demonic figures that stand about waist high, many weathered almost beyond recognition — are placed every quarter mile along the north edge of the road.
  • Cursed Grove (0906): This twisted, overgrown forest’s name isn’t hyperbole: Anyone who spends the night here has a chance of becoming cursed. Curses tend to last a few days and include things like being struck mute, seeing everyone around you as a demon, crying blood non-stop, or shouting “Hail Murgoth!” every few minutes. Every variety of mundane spiders can be found in the Cursed Grove, and in great numbers.
  • Galconny (0607): Galconny was previously the northernmost city in the Vazdurak Empire, and the present-day city is built on the bones and ashes of that one. Where the old architecture survives, it’s all devils and demons: sinister carvings in every archway, markets held in ancient arenas formerly devoted to blood sports and sacrifices, brown-stained cobbles that never come clean.

Our Dragons Are Different

Back in 2013, I had a whole thing where I was reimagining all of the staples of D&D monster manual — a perfect example of the Our Elves Are Different trope. I have mixed feelings about that trope, but I guess on balance I like it. It hearkens back to the grand tradition of heartbreaker fantasy RPGs, which isn’t an unambiguously good thing, but it also has real practical weight for anyone designing a fantasy world for publication. Why? Because it gets straight at this key question: Why should anyone play a game in your world instead of the countless existing fantasy campaign settings?

When it’s done right (which is the hard part), “because our elves are different” is a pretty solid answer to that question. (Not the only answer, of course!) If you’re running D&D or any D&D-alike, and the world is broadly based on some of the common themes therein, you probably need elves. But do they need to be D&D or Tolkien elves? No…but they should have enough in common that you can identify them as elves — while being different in ways that evoke the setting you’re trying to create and add to your enjoyment while exploring it.

As a concept, “elf” is delightfully mutable. (That same mutability is one reason superheroes are so neat.) I like elves, and dwarves, and halflings, and other staple fantasy species, and I’m enjoying riffing on the core concepts of these species in Godsbarrow. The only elves I’ve written up so far are from the Arkestran Dominion, and their species originates in the Wraithsea — their ancestors were literally born out of the dreams of sleeping gods. A lot of what makes an elf an elf clicks in a different way when that’s the starting point.

In that same vein, the dragons I wrote up for Waymark in 2013 are pretty appealing to me in 2022 — and thus far I haven’t written the word “dragon” in connection with Godsbarrow. Not every fantasy setting needs them, certainly, but I can see going this direction with dragons if they ever appear in Godsbarrow. (The petrified expanses led directly to the next iteration of this unfinished setting, Bleakstone.)

Dragons haven’t been seen in Waymark for over two centuries, and most people think they’re just a myth. The strange stony expanses found throughout Waymark are most often attributed to dragons, and are most often called Wyrmstone. They’re shunned and feared by just about everyone.

There are six dragons in the world, each a Prince of Hell. They’re arch-devils in service of Skulvezar, revered as the Apocalypse Dragons by the Vazdurak Empire and now simply known as dragons. Their touch petrifies everything around them — the ground, people, plants, animals, everything.

Waymark is dotted with expanses of Wyrmstone, places where a dragon set foot on the earth and permanently transformed the landscape–and anyone or anything unfortunate enough to be in the area–into bleak grey stone. Wyrmstone expanses have existed for as long as anyone can remember, but rumors persist that new areas of Wyrmstone have begun to appear, and that existing areas are expanding.

From my 2013 notes on Waymark, one of the unfinished settings that laid the groundwork for Godsbarrow

It was neat to find this old post, poke through it, and see the lines connecting it to present-day Godsbarrow. Hopefully you enjoyed this bit of noodling.

Thank you!

If you’re here, reading this, thank you for checking out Yore — whether you’ve been stopping by for years or are visiting for the first time. Here’s to the next 10 years!