Symbaroum: A Review

Symbaroum. A Dark Fantasy setting and system created by those crazy folks over at Järnringen and published by Modiphius. An interesting beast to be sure, and my first Core Rules review I have done either here or on my old youtube channel. Strap yourself in because this is going to be a LONG one.  I want to thank the folks at @Team_Jarnringen for giving me a PDF Copy of the rules as well as the Art Book.  All Art in this post is from the books directly and belongs to the original creators.

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Emotional DND is Best DND

Last night during my Monday Night DND Game, I had to kill a party member at their request to save them. Why did this happen? Well here is the entire story with some background information so you understand the context.

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Encounters in the Savage Cities: A Review

It’s time for my first written review here on the site, and I am rather excited!  Today I am looking at “Encounters in the Savage Cities“, put together by Jeff C Stevens but housing a multitude of themed encounters written by various Dungeons and Dragons creative types.

This particular volume covers City and Town encounters of which there are 26 in total, each one created by a different author.  In each encounter, you get stat blocks when needed, scaling suggestions, notes for the DM, maps, and even some art.  There is also a new background called the Museum Curator which I did not expect.

Given the sheer number of encounters I am not going to try to talk about every single one.  If I did that, I would end up with a massive post and no one would read it.  I sure wouldn’t.  Rather, I am going to talk about the book overall, and mention a few specific encounters that I thought were well done.

First let’s talk formatting.  Thankfully, the text chosen is easy to read and matches what most of the official books use.  The PDF overall is super easy to understand, with each encounter following the same basic formatting.  You have a Title, Level Range, location suggestions, then an introduction to the idea behind the encounter, back story if needed, and then the actual encounter.  Any maps are insert in the text for ease of use, and the maps are solid as well for the most part with a hand drawn feel.  I am not surprised as many of the maps are created by Elven Tower, and he is a solid mapmaker.  For a PDF it works great and I am very happy with the overall design.  I would have liked to see the Table of Contents be hotlinked so I could click on the name of an encounter and go there, but it’s not a deal-breaker by any means.

Onward now, to the actual meat of the book, the encounters!  Most of the encounters cover level ranges 1-10, with a few listed as Any, and a couple listed for larger ranges or even specific levels only.  You get a lot of value for your dollar here, and for the most part the encounters themselves are solid.  Thankfully, the Scaling Suggestions help cover any issues you might have as a DM with adjusting an encounter to your party’s level range.  One thing I have noticed, going through many of the encounters, is just how many “thieves and con artist” based encounters there are.  Granted, the theme was Cities so it makes sense, but it seems like every other encounter I read was focused on some form of thievery or con artists trying to kidnap, ambush, rob, or otherwise screw with the players.  Not necessarily bad of course, but I couldn’t help but notice it.

A few of my favorite encounters have to be “The Puppeteer’s Assistant” by Ken Carcas, “The Leaning Door” by Chris Bissette (a literal knockoff of the Yawning Portal!), “Bad Parenting” by Benoit de Bernardy, “Party in a Bottle” by Richard Jansen-Parkes, and “The Deadly Fountain” by Chris “The Kind GM” Karelis.  Each one is fairly unique, fun, and offers a ton of options for the players to move forward.  I really love the Leaning Door idea as well and want to try that one personally the next time I run a game and the party finds themselves in a large city.

One I want to mention that I did not like was “Fool me Once, Shame on You” by Glen Cooper.  The encounter itself is fine involving a giant mimic messing with the party, but early on he offers the option for players to make an Investigation (Int) check, with each higher DC met offering more info.  My issue is that beating a DC 20 actually gives the party a Red Herring, IE FALSE INFO.  This should not be in a high DC.  If anything, the Red Herring should be in the DC 12 or even if the players don’t meet the minimum.  I do not like the idea of actually penalizing the players when they get high rolls like this.  Because of things like this, you will want to make sure you read each encounter in detail before you run them, so you don’t get caught off guard with stuff like this.

Overall, this was a pretty solid book of encounters for any city or town setting.  One thing I felt was missing was a “City Size” entry for these however.  Some of the encounters clearly cannot work in small scale locations, such as the “Bad Parenting” encounter which requires a Sewer system, which you are only going to find in a large city and not a small hamlet.  I would have liked to see some indication, at a glance, of which size of city/town these encounters would fit best.

Finally, I want take a minute to talk about the new background, which I did not expect to see when I opened this PDF.  I love the idea of this background, and its highly flavorful.  The creator of this, Cody Faulk, should be applauded.  After reading the background, the features, and the Traits, Bonds, Ideals, and Flaws, I really want to make my next character a Curator.  Especially if I get to name and create my own Museum!  I mean how can you not like the personality trait of “Sometimes, at night, I like to move the skeletons around and scare the cleaning crew.”  That’s freaking GOLD.

Do I think its worth its purchase price?  Well that honestly depends entirely on whether or not you find yourself needing quick easy to use encounters to slot into city and town time.  If you find your party faffs about a lot when in town, you could throw in things like “Bad Parenting” to spice things up and get them moving, or perhaps using “Harpies in the City Limits” to get the blood pumping.  But if you are able to come up with ideas on your own and improv easily in these sort of situations then you may not want to bother with this book.  Personally I can at least find a use for the concepts here and maybe modify them to come up with my own ideas for later.

You can purchase “Encounters in the Savage Cities” on the DMs Guild for $6.95 by CLICKING HERE.

Thanks for reading, and remember: STAY NERDY FOLKS!

**all images in this post are direct from the PDF and owned by their respective creators, all rights reserved by them**

 

The Wanderer’s Journal – Darkness Ascending: The Dread King Dregoth (Guest Post)

This is a guest post written by my patron & friend Saevrick, as part of his fantastic “The Wanderer’s Journal” series.  He is a huge fan of DarkSun and Planescape, and there will be more from him about these subjects in the future.  Enjoy folks!  You can find Saevrick on twitter by clicking his name.  If you have questions about Athas he is the man to ask.


Deep within the darkened recesses of the earth, away from the scorching hammer of the crimson sun, a body stirred upon the boundaries of life and death.  Fostered by the chanting of one devote, stalwart ally, life began to return to the mangled body of the sorcerer-king.  Emerald waves of negative energy crawled up the torn flesh, knitting through bone and hide, gathering at the face and lingering as a ghostly mask.  Then the body lurched up from the ground, the waves flooding the eye sockets and throat, and a great roar thundered forth, shaking the walls loose of stones and earth.  The rotted mass of flesh dug its fingers into the stone, sending pinpricks of sparks flashing like steel against flint.  Its visage lowered to the Templar before it, bathing him in a haunting, pale verdant hue from the waves of deathly energy gushing forth.

“Abalach-Re will pay.  They shall all… pay.”

The Fall of the Dragon King

We find ourselves following the years of the imprisonment of Rajaat and the ascension of Borys to dragonhood in the sprawling city of Guistenal.  Its master, the Sorcerer-King Dregoth, was unlike the rest of the champions, in both mindset and power.  The walls of his city were adorned in draconic imagery, celebrating the growing strength of their ruler.  Dregoth was on the cusp of reaching that which Borys had obtained through the power of the dark lens, however, Dregoth was doing so on his own accord.  His mastery of the will and of magic was immense, and he was but a breath away from joining Borys as a dragon.

Unfortunately for Dregoth, the rest of the Champions knew this as well.

Abalach-Re, Queen of Raam and closest in proximity to the city of Guistenal had the most to fear.   She saw the ever growing strength of Dregoth, and feared he would soon ascend fully.  With the continued rampaging of Borys in her mind, Abalach-Re reached out to the other Champions and divulged her fears and concerns.  As they met, they devised a plan to strike at the very heart of Guistenal and usurp the Dregoth upon his ivory throne, and deprive him of both city and life.

They came all at once, stealing into the palace, and laid siege to the powerful king.  The lush gardens and trees of Guistenal turned to ash as the Dread King fought back against the onslaught, and hundreds of his loyal followers and subjects fell to their knees as the remaining champions stole forth their life to fuel power arcane might upon the infant Dragon King.

It was in the ruins of his majestic city, upon the stones of his palace floor, flanked by the corpses of his Templars and the ashes of his ruin that Dregoth, Ravager of Giants, Champion of Rajaat, and the Dread King of Guistenal died.

At least, for the time being.

Rise of the Dead King

Dregoth during his years had become obsessed with the idea of true godhood.  Unsatisfied with the power that Rajaat had given him as his Champion, The Dread King had searched for a path to become more powerful than any entity on Athas.  Through his experiments, Dregoth had uncovered a way to magically prolong his life beyond the boundaries of death itself.

After the scourge that laid waste to his city and stole him of life, Dregoth did not spend long broken in the tomb of his city.  As the magical bonds took hold onto his form, he would gather what was left of his Templars and subjects and retreat fair beneath the city.  There he would build New Guistenal, and plot bloody revenge.

Not only would he build a seat of power, but he would also build a people worthy of his presence.  Following years of twisted experimentation, Dregoth would finally perfect a spell of metamorphosis.  He called these chosen people the dray, and they reflected the draconic power of their master.

The Outer Planes and Godhood

Deep within the ancient ruins that New Guistenal would be built, the Dread King had discovered an artifact of immense power and bewilderment.  The Planar Gate, a psionically imbued artifact from the Green Age of Athas, offered a view to the king unlike he had ever scene.  It was a portal into the Outer Planes, and Dregoth would spend centuries travelling the numerous planes of existence.

On his travels he witnessed many new ideas and creatures of power beyond his own.  Dregoth bore witness to true gods, and it only further enriched the ideas that the Dread King had searched for during his living years.  He made a declaration to himself that he would be Athas’ one and only true god king, and learned all he could about the doctrines and faiths of the worlds beyond the dark sun.

The Coruscation

Returning to Athas, Dregoth began to unfurl his plan.  Understanding that gods were given sovereignty by their worshippers, and the greater their belief and number gave rise to increased power, he was satisfied that his “chosen people” would grant him the strength he needed.  After seeing their king rise from the dead as it were, Dregoth had no worry that his worshippers would be a firm foundation.

Next would be sacrifice, and the dray preached the doctrine in every imaginable way.  From labor, time, wealth, to the lives of animals and demi humans, the followers of Dregoth would go forth and practice his will.  They would erect symbols of power in his name in their temples and streets, and bathe them with blood in his honor.

For their sacrifice, Dregoth gave them a solemn promise of prophecy entitled the Coruscation.  The Dread King promised his followers they would be led from the dark and into the light of the crimson sun, and would lay siege to the city of Raam.  In one final sacrifice, from the blood of thousands of Raamites flooding the streets crimson, their faith would empower the sun, lighting it anew, and bring forth the return of the Blue Age.

All Dregoth needed now was a symbol of power, a vestige and holy relic worthy of his prominence.  He would find it among the Outer Planes, returning with a huge dragon skull from a creature that walked another world.  Into the sloping forehead, a crimson sun trapped in a dragon’s claw was etched into the bone, and its eye sockets were filled by orbs of blackest obsidian.  Dregoth believed that bathing it in the blood of the Coruscation would be the final step in empowering the relic, and ultimately, be the final step in channeling divinity from the dray.

Then, he would be a god.

*                          *                      *                      *

In the city of New Guistenal, Dregoth would continue to unfurl his plan.  He had revenge, bloody and dark to plot upon the Champions who laid waste to his beloved city and his life, and he would not be denied this revenge.  He vowed to rob them of life as he had been, but their people would have the choice to lie down in reverence to their new god king, or else join them in the afterlife.

 

Will Dregoth become the deity of Athas and see his revenge through?  It is unknown whether the chosen people of New Guistenal will one day be the first divine worshippers of the world and bow down before the Dread King, for such stories have not been written.  It is believed that the conduits that funnel powers from his devote people simply do not exist on Athas, and that while Dregoth may exact his revenge, he may never see his dream of godhood come to fruition.

But it is here where we, the story tellers of Athas, have to make that determination.  New Guistenal, the City by the Silt Sea, may harbor a power beyond that of even Rajaat.  Will we keep our Athas godless, or shall we see the birth of the Dread God in our time?

One thing is for certain: Rajaat is ever looming, as is Borys of Ebe, the Dragon of Tyr.

Or are they?  Do you remember last time we spoke, that a rag tag group of adventurers would turn the world on its head?  Well, it may be time to tell their tale.  In the city-state of Tyr, under the shadow of a grand ziggurat and Kalak, the Tyrant of Tyr, the Champions of Rajaat would see their world begin to change, as a people would rise to challenge their might.

But we shall save this story for another time.

*                          *                      *                      *

Next time, we will take a look into the Prism Pentad, a series of novels that would change the entire scope of Dark Sun forever.  Join me for “Beyond the Prism Pentad: The Verdant Passage”.

I hope you have enjoyed the tale of Dregoth, Ravager of Giants, Third Champion of Rajaat and Betrayer of Rajaat, the Dread King of Guistenal.  If you’ve any suggestions for future writings, feel free to lurk in the comments below.  As always, thanks for reading, and all hail the Dread God!

ELEX: A Science Fantasy Action RPG by the makers of Gothic/Risen (A Review)

Its good to get back into the video game review seat, as it were. The video above covers the game Elex, developed by Pirhana Bytes and published by THQ Nordic. THQ did provide me a key for the purposes of review.  Mind you, everything I say in the video above and below is just my opinion.

This game is quite the janky trip: with strange animations at times, stiff controls, poorly worded or flat our incorrect tooltips and information, and brutalizing combat.

But there is a heart here. A wonderful world designed from the ground up by hand, with items and lore strewn about it. The entire world is also without load screens which is amazing, and its a pure joy to just wander the wilderness, trying to find hidden nooks and crannies. Also I love the mix of Sci Fi and Magic here, and I am eager to play Elex 2 (yes it was announced).

I have had an absolute blast playing this game, even if 3 hours of my playtime is death related (yea, I died enough times that 3 hours of steams playtime is related to dying and reloading). This game is not for the faint of heart, even on Easy.

If you are willing to put up with the oddities of the game, its well worth your time. Is it worth the $50 price tag? That I am not so sure about. For a hardcore RPG lover, who loved the old Gothic games and can put up with this games eccentricities then absolutely. But if you are not sure you can handle a game that will regularly and without warning hand you your ass, then avoid this.

Also, be advised, for the first 5-10 hours you basically want to avoid combat. The monsters, even the lowliest ones, will MURDER YOU. Getting a companion (Duras is the first one you can access, just complete the murder investigation quest chain), is REQUIRED. Even on Easy.

You can purchase the game on Steam, GoGXBox One, and PS4

As always thanks for reading everyone and Stay Nerdy!  Make sure to follow me on TwitchYoutubeTwitter, and join my Steam Group and Steam Curator pages!  Pledge to my Patreon!  Spread the word on social media & help me get out there so I can bring even more content to the masses.  You do want more content yes?

The Wanderer’s Journal – Crimson Dawn: The Champions of Rajaat (Guest Post)

This is a guest post written by my patron & friend Saevrick, as part of his fantastic “The Wanderer’s Journal” series.  He is a huge fan of DarkSun and Planescape, and there will be more from him about these subjects in the future.  Enjoy folks!  You can find Saevrick on twitter by clicking his name.  If you have questions about Athas he is the man to ask.


I spoke sparingly in my previous entry about the history of Athas.  Before I can continue further, I feel it is necessary to flesh out the annals of time regarding the world of Dark Sun.  This segway will follow into the Champions of Rajaat, and hopefully give you some understanding to why the world of Athas became the post-apocalyptic icon of Dungeons and Dragons.

The Blue Age

Before the world of Athas was devastated and mutated into a baked, barren landscape, there was the Blue Age.  The majority of the world was a vast sea under a cerulean sun, wild and constant.  On the land that remained untouched by the vast world ocean, the original inhabitants, the halflings, built wondrous and sprawling civilizations.  They were creatures of the land, nature masters, able to manifest their desires from the world itself in harmony.

Unfortunately, some also tried to manipulate the world to bend to their whim instead of in concert with it.  In the city of Tyr’agi, nature masters tried to increase the bounty of the sea and it’s fruits.  In their attempts to push nature beyond its capacity, they instead released a terrible toxin into the sea.  This contagion, known as the brown tide, swallowed up life as it spread, killing anything that inhabited the same waters.

The Rebirth

The halflings saw their harvest falling before them, and desperate to save their people, they created what was called the Pristine Tower.  These masters drew power from the blue sun, empowering the tower, and while it was successful in burning away the brown tide, it also warmed the world.  The ocean began to recede, exposing more land mass.  The sun’s once brilliant blue rays faded to yellow, cutting its very life in the process.

Those nature masters that remained were in turn transformed by the power of the Pristine Tower, mutated into what would be known as the races of Athas today.  These races would go forth and populate the new green world, and usurp the halflings from their once prosperous civilization.  Those that remained retreated to the mountains—eventually falling into savagery.

The tower would continue to produce new creatures into this new world, and a rebirth took place on the stage of Athas.

The Green Age

The new races began to thrive on Athas, as humans, dwarves, elves, gnomes and countless other species spread out onto the continent.  Tyr’agi’s empty streets would be reclaimed, and renamed Tyr.  Numerous other cities and civilizations would spring up near the ocean’s edge, and for a time, prospered.

The Pristine Tower had also imbued these races with a powerful, inner focus.  Psionics would manifest in every creature.  While no gods ruled over the world, not for lack of trying by religious sects who begged for understanding and communion, the Way of the Mind would fill a niche needed in many individual’s lives.  The methods were mastered and taught freely, and wonders of achievement blossomed in the cities as the Way brought a higher level of understanding and meaning.

Of the races born of the rebirth, perhaps the most reclusive and mysterious were the Pyreen, and among their ranks was a particularly gifted student of the Way named Rajaat.   Rajaat would take to wandering the world, experiencing and learning everything he could.  He became obsessed and manic, his own self-loathing laying foundation to his views on the world before him.  It was unnatural—imperfect.  Taking possession of the Pristine Tower, Rajaat would lock himself away and begin to create the arcane ways of magic.

The First Sorcerer

Rajaat would learn to perfect the art of magic, and eventually learned that magic could be drawn in one of two ways: by a slow, controlled method of harnessing the energy of the world and shaping it thoughtfully and carefully, or by a greedy torrent, sapping the energy recklessly and defiling the very ground and world around him.  Of the two, Rajaat would openly teach the ways of the preserver, seeking students that were gifted and ones he could twist to his ways.

He would find fifteen students in his trials of teaching sorcery, and to them, he taught the ways of the defiler.  Rajaat would send off the remaining pupils, and focused on these fifteen to mold and forge into the greatest threat Athas would know.  These would be his champions, his arm and sword into the world.  Once again, the Pristine Tower’s power would be harnessed, and with the dulling of the sun from yellow to swollen red, he imbued his Champions with immortality and the ability to draw energy from life itself using obsidian orbs as their focus.

The Warbringer and the Cleansing Wars

Rajaat would send his Champions into the world with one purpose: to exterminate the races of the Rebirth.  He deemed his own existence an abomination on the coming of the Green Age, and in secret, wished to return the world to that of the Blue Age.  But first, he would wage bloody war on the world.  The Champions set forth and laid waste to Athas.  The verdant fields would turn to ash and desolation, leaving only a ravaged, withered husk in their wake.

The 15 Champions

  • 1st Sacha of Arla “Curse of the Kobolds”
  • 2nd Kalak “Ogre Doom”
  • 3rd Dregoth “Ravager of Giants”
  • 4th Myron of Yorum “Troll Scorcher” replaced by Manu of Deche “Troll Scorcher” (Hamanu)
  • 5th Uyness of Waverly “Orc Plague” (Abalach-Re)
  • 6th Gallard “Bane of Gnomes” (Nibenay)
  • 7th Sielba “Destroyer of Pterrans”
  • 8th Albeorn “Slayer of Elves” (Andropinis)
  • 9th Tectuktitlay “Wemic Annihilator”
  • 10th Keltis “Lizard Man Executioner” (Oronis)
  • 11th Inenek “Aarakocra Scourge” (Lalali-Puy “The Oba”)
  • 12th Wyan of Bodach “Pixie Blight”
  • 13th Egendo “Butcher of Dwarves” replaced by Borys of Ebe “Butcher of Dwarves”
  • 14th Daskinor “Goblin Death”
  • 15th Kalid-Ma “Tari Killer”

The Champions Revolt

While the cleansing wars raged on (and some were successful in their purging), Rajaat’s plot would slowly be found out by his Champions.  Rajaat had no intention in leaving his students in this world after the wars had reached their conclusion, and fearing their end would come at his hands, they staged a revolt against the sorcerer.  Led by Borys of Ebe, they used an artifact known as the Dark Lens to trap Rajaat in a demi-plane known as the Black.

The Champions would begin to carve up the spoils of the Tyr region, and placed themselves on seats of power.  They would become the sorcerer-kings and –queens, and held almost godlike reverence.  In the wake of their own victory, however, the prison in which Rajaat resided became weakened, and threatened to spill the sorcerer back into existence.

Fearing their annihilation, the Champions would turn to Borys of Ebe to be the sole protector of the Rajaat’s prison.  But the magic required to keep the magical binds strong would be too much, even for the powerful sorcerer-king.  Their only choice was to use the Pristine Tower as their master once had, to transform Borys into something of greater power, a being capable of keeping the wards in place.

The Dragon of Tyr

Those Champions that rebelled against Rajaat harnessed the Pristine Tower one last time.  The magics they unleashed upon Borys were complex and intricate, and the long process scorched the sun further.  But at the end of the rituals, Borys would emerge in the form of a powerful Dragon—a creature unlike the world would ever see.  The metamorphosis sent Borys into madness, and he began to rampage across Athas.  His unbridled rage would be the final tipping point for the world, and it would become the truly barren wasteland that it is now.

The others retreated to their cities and barricaded themselves behind large city walls and countless troops, fearing the rage of the Dragon.  It is unknown how long before Borys would finally regain some semblance of sanity, but by the time he had, the wards around Rajaat’s prison had weakened to near breaking point.

Borys would go forth into the Tyr region, and require a boon for the spells that would fuel the ritual.   The spells required the life force of living souls to empower.  The Dragon would demand 1,000 lives from those city-states, and those who refused to pay would be annihilated from the world.  An age of slavery would erupt in the world, as countless creatures would live under the whip until the time the Dragon returned for his bounty.

While being the greatest threat the world would know, The Dragon was also its protector from the onslaught of Rajaat.  Borys would be the Athas’ greatest threat and only hope.  That is, until a group of adventurers who started in the thriving city-state of Tyr would go forth and turn the world on its head…

But that too, is a story for another time.

*          *          *          *

Next time, we’ll take a peek into who is perhaps my favorite Champion of Rajaat, the dreaded Dregoth of Giustenal.  Join me for “Darkness Ascending: The Dread King Dregoth”

I hope you’ve enjoyed learning some of the history behind Athas and its terrible beginnings.  If you’ve any suggestions for future writings, feel free to lurk in the comments below.  Thanks for reading, you son of a kank!

The Wanderer’s Journal – Dark Sun Rising: An Introduction to Athas (Guest Post)

This is a guest post written by my patron & friend Saevrick.  He is a huge fan of DarkSun and Planescape, and there is a good chance there will be more from him about these subjects in the future.  Enjoy folks!  You can find Saevrick on twitter by clicking his name.


In 1991, then publisher and owner of Dungeons and Dragons, TSR published the original boxed campaign set for Dark Sun.  Beneath the cardboard lid was a world so brutal, so apocalyptic, yet so rich with history and wonder, that to this day it still leaves me breathless.  Its concepts were dark and new, brought to life by the vivid imagery of the insanely talented artist Gerald Brom, who’s very artwork laid the foundation of Athas.

I instantly fell in love.

Imagine, if you will, a world so ravaged by magic, that the very ground has been turned to a barren wasteland.  Once expansive grassy fields and rolling countryside lay in ruin, stretching hundreds of miles, replaced by rolling dunes and rocky badlands, scrub plains and sapping salt flats.  Clear lakes now resemble nothing but dried and cracked earth, and even the enormous sea is nothing more than a terrifying, choking sea of silt, where beast headed giants dare its depths to carve out their existence.  The land is so parched of water that wars are fought over scraps of small oases to gain control of those life giving springs.

Metal is a scarce resource, and beyond repute in value.  A steel sword is worth a king’s ransom, and most tend to be heirlooms or artifacts of ages long forgotten.  So rare is metal that barters are exchanged in ceramic pieces.  Weapons are forged not of iron, but of sharpened bone, wood, stone and obsidian.  The latter seems most frightening to me, imagining the jagged, crimson gushing gash from ebony stone that shatters in the wound like glass.

Your favorite races will be unfamiliar in this land.  While dwarves will still be stocky and small, they are broad and dense as the earth, hairless and sun baked skin, driven by only a solitary focus for the rest of their natural life.  Elves are taller than most races, lanky, and run endlessly into the wastes in roving tribes.  Halflings are wild and feral, living in isolated tribes, and have a wondrous affinity for flesh.  Half elves are hated by both of their kinds, and have no footing in either world, always seen as half of something and all of nothing.

Arriving new on the scene are the rough and muscular muls, half breeds of dwarves and human-kind, bred for the public’s carnal desire of combat in gladiator rings or the terrible rigors of slave enforced  labor.  Thri-kreen, large insectoid humanoids, hunt silently and mercilessly in packs well into the night needing no sleep and little rest.  Half-giants, humongous creatures born of magical nature, find their temperament constantly shifting between law and chaos or good and evil.  You never know what a half-giant will wake up becoming at the dawn of a new day.

You will not find gnomes, orcs, pixies, trolls, or other races you may be so familiar with.  These races were exterminated through bloody cleansing wars long ago, and the traces of these wars are the end result of why the world is so twisted and burned to its core.   It is  also why the sun itself is charred to a dark sphere.  Born from this era were monsters and horrors so beyond our imagination that they continue to haunt my memories.

There are no deities watching over this husk of a planet—for they left long ago.  Presumably they were at the losing end of the war against the primordials, and abandoned any hope they had clung to.  Then the primordials too, simply disappeared.  A vast expanse known only as the Grey swept around the sphere and cut Athas off from the multiverse.  Only the elemental planes had any hope of catching the attention of the populace, and it is they who are worshiped and grant divine magic.  But the nature of elementals are a fickle thing, and their power demands a sacrifice.  While fire may grant a boon to heal an injured ally, it may leave a scorched, blistering pain in the injuries wake.  Only through pain and ashes will come the rebirth of new flesh.

Their worshipers also tend to take a part of the elements into their personality.  Fire clerics tend to be insane and lust for the carnage; an endless desire to see the world burn around them.  Air clerics may be free of spirit and whimsical as the changing winds.  And perhaps the most tortured are the disciples of water, for so little resides on Athas that they tend to go insane and primal protecting what little supplies they do find.

Those that dedicate their mortality to the elementals are not guaranteed their power.  Sometimes a person must take a leap, and pray that their actions are taken into notice.  Many a wind cleric may dive off a cliff to show their faith in the air to protect them, and while some are swept up into the embrace of wind spirits, others find nothing but rejection and demise on the rocks below.  Faith, for good or worse, always comes at a cost.

The arcane is not guided by the Weave or by godly influence.  Magic was simply discovered and born of raw energy from life itself, ripped from the very ground and vegetation.  It is widely hated, for it is no secret that the magic of the defiler, a wizard who steals the life of the land around her, leaving what little plants and ground turned to ash, is the sole cause of the constantly expanding sands.  The Veiled Alliance, a group of preserving wizards, has sprung up like a thieve’s guild, and makes promises of rebuilding the world anew and green.  Yet they are seen as nothing but terrorists and are immediately slain whenever exposed.

Everyone from the lowest slave to the most vicious carnivore roaming the sand dunes has a touch of power residing deep within their psyche.  Known as the Way, the psychic energies of all creatures is known and feared, yet respected.  Seen as the only true will of the land, and the only power that is not frowned upon.  A person is wise to pay caution any living being it crosses, whether it be made of flesh or plant, for neither are immune to the Will of the Way.

Large city-states hold all the sway and power, over seen by sorcerer-kings or queens.  These powerful and terrible entities are looked upon with disdain, fear, or reverence.  Their existence seems endless as does their power.  They grant spells to their divine followers known as the Templars as if they were deities themselves.  But these sorcerers hold a dark secret inside them that few will ever know, for they are in various stages of metamorphosis—seeking to one day be reborn a dragon.

Yet there is only one dragon on Athas—the Dragon of Tyr.  A creature so strong of body, wizardly might and mastery of the Way, that the sorcerer-kings and queens erected walls around their cities to protect themselves from its might and rage.  Yearly they buy off his cruel eye with thousands of slaves.  They hunker in fear at the madness that overtakes the Dragon’s being.  

Yet the Dragon serves a greater purpose than anyone will ever know.  

But that is a story for another time.

There is so much more to explain about the world of Athas, and this is but a taste of the wonders that  this campaign set unfurled before us.  It is no wonder why it still leaves its claws into our own imaginations, and why this brutal, dark, and bloody fray into the world of the Dark Sun deserves so much recognition and respect to this day.  It whet an appetite that we had no clue parched our souls, and with its absence, the scars are deeper still, and bleed crimson longing.

I personally yearn for a day that we can all walk the lands of Athas, and continue on the tales born under a dark sun rising again.

* * * *

Next time, we’ll explore a little bit of history.  More importantly, we’ll focus on the might of the sorcerer-kings and queens, and the inventor of the arcane arts.  Join me for “Crimson Dawn: The Champions of Rajaat”.

I hope you enjoyed our little trek into Dark Sun. If you’ve any suggestions for future writings, feel free to lurk in the comments below.  Thanks for reading, you inix toenail filth!

It’s Dark Sun jargon, I swear!  No, put the sword down…

The Past Revisited – Actual Play Streams/Podcasts: Perception vs Reality

So, my first Patreon Supported post.  Feels good!  This is for the Blog Carnival I found thanks to Chris (HI CHRIS!) and the idea was to write a sequel about a previous blog post you had done (The Topic is called “The Past Revisited” after all!).  Well, considering I had not done any blog posts yet, but HAVE done videos, I figured I would write about one of those.  I chose my literal most popular video, “Actual Plays: Perception vs Reality” where I basically criticized shows like Critical Role for having a possible negative impact on the D&D Community at large, by creating a skewed idea of how D&D works out.  How do I think about it now?  Well read on!

Firstly, lets link the original video from way back in January 2017:

When I originally did that video, it was a spur of the moment event.  I had been in a twitter conversation with Matt Mercer and a gent named Goblin Stomper about the idea of professional D&D players / actual play streams.  I went home after work, recorded that, posted it, and got quite a bit of flak.  Some deserved, and some undeserved (no one seemed to get that I knew the issues involved self esteem were my own!)

Now, at the time I had been doing D&D related content for a grand total of 4 months.  That’s not very long in the grand scheme of things at all.  At this point in my online life, I have been doing D&D related stuff for nearly 15 months!  And I have learned a great deal and changed a surprisingly amount since then.  The biggest question is: Do I still feel the same way about Actual Plays?

The answer is no, and here is why.

“Perception is Everything”

Originally, I felt that the idea of professional D&D players was rather absurd.  I mean, how could you “BE” a professional Roleplayer!  Further, I was kind of against the idea of being paid to DM at that time.  Obviously my ideals have since changed.  I have been involved in a long running online game since then, run one myself, and I have seen the positive impact things like Critical Role, the C Team, Hyper RPG, EncounterRP, and others have had on the community.

I realized that I don’t NEED to be like Matt Mercer or Will or Grant Ellis or Askren or any of these fantastic DMs.  I have my own style, for one, and people seem to like playing with me.  Further, the sheer popularity of these online streams and podcasts have expanded the audience for both content like this AND more supplements from indie companies to heights I have never seen before.  Sure, you might get the occasional instance of someone seeing one of these professional produced shows and after playing realize that a home game isn’t anything like these, but I don’t think that really hurts the hobby as whole like I originally did.

When I posted that video, I had seen a single episode of a single Critical Role, and had not watched nor really listened to any Actual Plays before then.  I simply hadn’t bothered.  I was basically being an uninformed opinionated idiot (Oh hey, a common person on the net!).  I have since watched 2 episodes of Crit Role (the very first, and the climax), and jumped in here and there when I could watching some other shows and listening when I can to podcasts.

Some of them are professionally produced sure.  Our home games will never be like them simply due to budget.  I mean I can’t afford that much Dwarven Forge!  But they don’t have to be either.  Because what things like Crit Role / C Team / Others show is the utter passion that D&D can bring out in a person.  Watching Sam Reigel tear up because he could not save his friend as Scanlan shows just the kind of impact this silly game we play can have on a person.  Watching the expression on Matt Mercers face when the events unfolded at the table.  The emotion on Liam’s face when he realized just what Sam had done.  It was beautiful.

Further, its inspired me rather then upset me.  I want to achieve the level of emotion that Crit Role has achieved in my own games.  I want to see my players get wrapped up into the story and their characters.  Its given me a goal to aim for now, rather then made me feel inferior.

Additionally, the mainstream appeal of shows like the C Team and Crit Role, and their prominence in cons like Pax Unplugged shows that more and more people are embracing our hobby.  Just look on twitter and reddit and you will see people asking how to get started with Dungeons and Dragons, how to setup their own streams and podcasts.  You will see artists appearing showing off amazing work, and you will see people helping each other to understand how the game is played.  More indie authors are finding work and creating amazing adventures for others to use.  The industry is booming with opportunities!

And frankly, I want to see MORE!  I want to see more people post their games, talk about their games, write about their games.  I want to see more stories out there shared.  I want D&D to become more mainstream, where we can see people like Vin Diesel play online and show off their nerd side (No joke, Vin played in a special episode of Crit Role to promote the Witch Hunter).  I want to see friends of mine realize their dream of becoming published adventure writers and creators.  I want to see my fellow bloggers achieve notoriety.  I want to see Dungeons and Dragons, and the Tabletop community at large, GROW!

Dungeons and Dragons is coming out into the spotlight and I am happy to be here to see it, and more so to be a part of it.

Maybe one day I will see you play your game reader.

Anyway, that’s all I have for today.  Thank you for reading and always remember: STAY NERDY!

This place is starting to feel like Home

My first official post here. Its strange. Its like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders. I hadn’t realized how much stress this whole changeover was causing me till the decision to go through with it was made.

The best part? This place? Right here. Its MINE.

No rules beyond what I make for myself. No restrictions. Nothing. What appears here, and when it appears here, is all on me at my pace. The design, the feel, its under my control.

Its kind of exciting to be honest. And a little scary.

While I felt in control, to an extent, with my Youtube channel there were issues and restrictions. For example, the biggest one was a matter of time. You see, I work a 40 hour a week job, Monday thru Friday, 8am to 5pm. My wife works a similar schedule. I am usually up at 5:30am to make sure she gets to work by 7am (we share a car).

This means my free time is after 5pm during the week, and on the weekends. The weekends are when I do most of my adult errands. Car repairs, appointments, banking stuff, laundry, cleaning, ect. All the major adult shit gets done on the weekends.

Also, my wife usually works on the weekends. And, given that our apartment is tiny and our computers are in the same room, the ONLY time I have to record or work on videos is when she is at work. That gives me 2 days with 8 hour periods in them to do EVERYTHING related to my Youtube Channel on TOP of all the usual adulthood crap I gotta take care of. This is one of the major limiting factors in doing things like collaberations. I am literally bound by time.

Stressful doesnt even begin to cover it. Especially when you factor in that each video takes around 2-3 hours total to create, edit, and upload from start to finish. You can kinda see how rough this might get with 4-6 videos a month. Nevermind all the work that goes into “promoting” a youtube channel which is required to actually grow (tags, video length, retention requirements, ad friendly stuff, thumbnails, ect ect)

But writing? Blogging?

HA! I dont need quiet to do this. I dont NEED my wife to be out of the house. I can do it after work during the week, on the weekends, on breaks AT WORK. I have much more available time for the act of WRITING. Further, I can easily have guest writers on here! I already have one lined up, a friend of mine. He was originally gonna try Youtube but after hearing about my own issues he has decided to write for me on occasion, focusing on Dark Sun and Planescape. If you follow me on twitter you might have a guess who he is.

I do have to watch my output of course. And I may branch out. I may do a book review here and there again (I do read a lot) and I may talk about video games and tabletop news.

Writing comes naturally to me. It helps that I have a 100 wpm typing speed for one. And it lets me organize my thoughts better.

I already have a few ideas of things I am going to write about. I need to upgrade my Patreon page (points up) to reflect the new focus, I need to check and see what my current patrons want from me, and I might even dabble now in writing up some DND Encounters / Dungeons for my Patrons only!

Anyway, thats all for now.

Thanks for reading and remember: STAY NERDY!

Hail and Well Met Traveler!

*stretches legs*

Tis good to be in my new home I suppose. For now, I am still learning my way around my new website, but the beginning of Terminally Nerdy Version 2 is here! Soon I hope to fill this place with awesome DND and Tabletop RPG content, as well as videos and other such nonsense!

I may even have a few friends show up to espouse some wisdom!

Welcome to the new world. Always remember: STAY NERDY!