Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Die, Frodo Die...

I hate halflings in D&D. Hobbits, too. Whatever. Kender, I freaking loved them when I was twelve but a lot of water has passed under the bridge since then. I read Tolkien and it was fine. I watched the films and it was fine (barring the stupid, clunky love triangle in the last one, although not halfling related.) In my first ever game of D&D, my mate Ste played a halfling (who had a dire wolf as a pet, George RR Martin is basically fanfic of my 1988 Karameikos campaign) and it was fine. Now however I'm just not okay with it. Little, fat people with hairy feet who like staying at home and eating pies fourteen times a day should do exactly that. Don't bring your short swords and your pipe weed to the Grim North because you will die.

Essentially, and it's been discussed everywhere, halfling are a literary device or they represent the common man or Tolkien's experience of WW1 squaddies or whatever but essentially they're his. Unless you're running The One Ring or something similar should you be using them? I mean comedy value, yes...The Hobbit's Armpit was the name of a tavern I shamelessly stole from a Thrud the Barbarian strip at the back of the only issue of White Dwarf I ever owned. The bar staff were all interchangeable stereotypical halflings with rhyming names: Bob, Hob, Nob, Job etc. My player's loved it and wouldn't drink anywhere else.

Playing a halfling straight though is just too limiting. Of all fantasy tropes they're too specific and trying to mess with them, such as the cannibal halflings of Dark Sun, just ends up being ridiculous and causes a failure in suspension of disbelief.

GM: The halflings grimace at you and draw their tiny yet artfully named blades...
Player1: I sprinkle bacon the ground to distract them and then use my torch to ignite their thick, luscious foot hair.
Player2: Then I effortlessly murder them all because they are tiny, fat and weak.
GM: So... Trolls...

Monday, 28 April 2014

Your Gilded Houses Will Give No Shelter

Who built Nox Aeterna? This is a question I have asked myself many times. The Grim North is based on my own homeland in the North East of England with a thousand fantasy influences from Norse and Celtic mythology, Howard, Lovecraft, Gemmell, George RR Martin, Joe Abercrombie, and everyone else who wrote a cold, bleak Northern setting where life was tough and the inhabitants were too. So where does this dark, many spired metropolis of strange cults and high intrigue fit into the landscape of dark faerie beasts and warring barbarians? It's hardly a medieval analogue of Middlesbrough or Newcastle. Although each represents about the same chance of getting glassed in a tavern.

So the image of this hideously deranged mass of towers poking out of the snow covered moors, looking for all intents and purposes like it was the architectural brain child of Tim Burton and Euronymous while both were cracked off their tits on acid and pure evil, is one born out of Lankhmar, Gotham, Dark City, and Zak S's Vornheim. This place was built by a mysterious race of dread, godlike beings known to the state religion who worship them as the City Fathers, the Builders, the Hidden Masters, the Unbidden Creators or any of a hundred different names. They are cast as tall, emaciated and pale skinned, hairless and robed in black. Some say they are immortal and still live, hidden within the city itself. Others claim that they live on only through sinister necromantic rites and exist as liches or vampires. Of course openly touting such beliefs will likely see a man dragged off to the battle pits to have the heresy chewed out of him by a pack of wolves.

If the City Fathers do remain in some sort of immortal slumber or foul unlife, then it is beneath the sewers, beneath even the crypts and mausoleums of the Dead City, somewhere in the deep ruins that they rest, waiting, until the fulfilment of whatever forgotten prophesies will presage their return. After so many thousand years who can say what would happen if such ancient and terrible beings should they arise? Except, of course, that no good will come of it..

Friday, 25 April 2014

No Orcs, really.

Ok so there are no orcs in the Grim North. No hobgoblins. No bugbears. No gnolls. No lizard men (it's too cold.) Troglodytes? Negative. Kobolds? Pointless. For my mind there's general overpopulation of generic humanoid species in the books that just don't seem necessary.

There are a lot of barbarian tribes. The Rekkar are the most numerous, one people but divided into conflicting tribes. They are sometimes found in the city, acting as mercenaries or seeking their fortune. In the Far North there are almost limitless smaller tribes; who even the Rekkar consider barbaric, cruel and unduly hostile.

There are goblins. Lots of goblins and they're weird and crazy. More on them another time.

There are the dark faerie creatures of the woods. The Faun and Satyr are bloodthirsty hybrids of beasts and men, horn and hoof, axe and spear. Centaurs and Harpies hunt men for food and sport but there are no orcs...

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Does anyone still play Basic D&D?

I hope so. I'm advertising my upcoming game wherever I can. It's been a long time since I ran a game so I settled on the rules light Basic/Expert/Companion/Masters/Immortal version of the game for my first foray back into the world of RPGs. 

You want to take a couple of levels of Ninja? Well, you can't. You're an elf. That means you can cast spells and fight and find secret doors. Plus you can see in the dark and it takes you practically forever to reach the next level. Added to that your people are rare in the Grim North, their grand forest homes were burned to ashes long ago. Now the few remaining elves wander listlessly, having fallen into decadence, drug addiction and the pursuit of the esoteric.


Of course the Grey Elves aren't the only flavour. There's Red Elves, Frost Elves, Salt Elves, Shadow Elves...

Still, I'm sure if I was running Pathfinder there would be no problem finding players.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

The Grim North Awaits

It is the Age of Samhain: The countless black spires of Nox Aeterna,
City of Eternal Night, rest upon the crypts of a thousand forgotten 
civilisations. Insane patricians, bizarre cults and shadowy, 
eldritch forces all vie for power. Outside the walls barbaric tribes
war constantly with each other and the unforgiving winter. In dark, 
cobwebbed forests and haunted ruins stalk malign beasts who want you
dead, and hordes of weird goblins steeped in slaughter and madness. 

Fighters, Clerics, Magic Users and Thieves required. This is old
school D&D,where great dangers yield great rewards and a glorious
death or an ignominious demise, penniless, bleeding out on the snow.