Thursday, June 18, 2020

Glen Welch and the Mystara Players Handbook

Complete, thoughtful, detailed. Over two hundred pages faithfully transitioned to 5th Edition.

Honest and faithful to the original.

A massive undertaking to have completed so well.

That is the short review.

So, the longer review.

Mystara is a huge setting spread over many, many books.

This guide takes all the material and places it in one book of over two hundred pages.

Now. The majority of the material can be used with any edition of D&D.

But this book also lovingly and faithfully translates the necessary parts to fifth edition.

That means spells, abilities, character class tool kits and magic items.

The net result is a product perfect for fifth edition but great for any fan of the original Mystara who did not get each supplement (some which are now virtually impossible to find).

How comprehensive?

You can see the excerpts from the table of contents.

That comprehensive. Light on illustrations and filler. Heavy on context.

224 full sized pages of living, accurate and accessible content.

That comprehensive.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Heroquesting and the Godlearners Secret

It hit me that for a normal campaign to introduce heroquests it needs two things.

First is a myth that the question should follow.

Second is a structure that follows the bones that the godlearners discovered.

A heroquest involves:

  1. The call to adventure.  This is where the characters align themselves with the myth.  They achieve the right runic affiliations.  They acquire the appropriate regalia.  They align themselves with the correct community. They basically pay the entry fee for the quest.
  2. The stations of the quest.  This is where they retrace the path through myth in the footsteps of the hero.
  3. The reversal or loss.  This is where they now pay the price for the benefit that they are going to take back into the mortal realms.  This is why every heroquest has a reversal or failure built into it.
  4. The recovery or triumph.  This is where the characters overcome the reversal, converting the price they have paid into a benefit.
  5. The return.  This is where the characters return to the mortal realm from the mythic realm with the benefits they are bringing back for themselves and for their community.
The godlearners secret (not the official one that dooms you, but the secret to their power that Arachne Solara broke when she bound time) was that they learned to sidestep 3 by using the mythic realm to sidestep cause and effect.  While this increased entropy by minuscule cosmic amounts, it also allowed them to achieve great power.

Imagine all the benefits of Yelmalio or Humakt and none of the constraints.  Imagine being able to avoid the spirits of retribution.  To gain every benefit without paying the price.

Of course when Arachne Solara bound the sun, she also caused all the sidestepped debts to come due.  Which is why dooms found every godlearner no matter how they attempted to outrun them.  All of the delayed causality, all of the unpaid prices, all came due.  Since that mythic event, the sidestepping that they used also ceased to be available.  That secret is no longer relevant because it is not available.

A note on costs: costs are in the aggregate so that entropy does not increase.  But that means that if twenty heroquests attempt a path, if half of them fail in disaster, yielding up "payment" so to speak, and half succeed, the half that succeed can capitalize on the "payments" made by the half that failed.

If 100% of the heroquests on a path succeed, then each time at the step three reversal they will have to pay the price.  Consider how Yelmalio's followers all take penalties.

A note on costs:  costs may be paid by the community that supports the heroquest.  Lets say that one hundred members of the community each sacrifice a point of power.  The heroquest can achieve a result similar to the hero sacrificing a hundred points of power.

What a heroquest does is allow the community to achieve supramundane results that they couldn't reach, not results that it cannot pay for, by following or recreating the right path.

In designing heroquests:

  1. Pick a myth or a story.
  2. Work out the way that the characters can fit themselves to the story.
  3. Pick an outcome or benefit (the why they characters are going to do the quest).
  4. Fit the outcome or benefit to a price.
  5. Determine how and by whom the price is paid.
  6. Add in additional difficulty or wrinkles.
Sacred time each year is a two week community heroquest.  But the path is well trodden, the costs are well understood, the benefits in reducing entropy are clear.  Reviving Tada in Prax -- that hasn't been done yet, though the grisly portions, the runic identities and the path seems clear enough.

Anyway, it occurred to me that this is a different way to explain heroquests that might make it more accessible.

And no, you don't get the forbidden godlearner secret from this essay, just the one that was extinguished and the knowing of which is harmless.

On Alignment

The initial D&D campaign surfaced out of a Castles and Crusades Campaign.  The original alignments were based off of Three Hearts and Three Lions with Law = Civilized and Chaos = Feral.  Neutral was the borderlands between those two realms.

The next fantasy campaign was Barker's with Good/Evil for alignments, but the Good was stasis and the "Evil" was change.

At the same time, there was Moorcock's Law and Chaos with Law = Good and Chaos = Evil (and the chaos gods were worshiped with cries of "blood and souls" and similar things).  Of course Moorcock did not stay still, and his Law/Chaos eventually moved to Stasis/Change.  Moorcock's Neutral was exemplified by Tanelorn -- where people attempted to step aside from the wars of the gods.

My preference was Order / Chance (Tychism).  Though my law/chaos eventually shifted to Order (external rules) vs. Anarchy (internal whims).

In each of these the possibility of a good/evil axis also fits in.  Good can be defined a number of ways, but the two that fit fantasy campaigns are (1) seeking positive outcomes for the greatest number and (2) aligned with the positive energy planes -- both resisting entropy.

Evil is either (1) rapacious self serving action or (2) malicious action.  Both are aligned with the negative energy planes (or why all undead that energy drain end up evil) -- and increasing entropy.

For the most part, #1 is the general understanding of evil -- something that admittedly creates some tension with players who want to play #1 as neutral and assert that as long as their rapaciousness isn't malicious, it isn't evil.