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Illusees's page

Pathfinder Society Member. 71 posts (261 including aliases). No reviews. No lists. No wishlists. 8 aliases.


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Scarab Sages

So in designing my own homebrew world, I decided to implement a few minor house rules. This idea snowballed and lead to me incorporating a great deal of alternate rules from various Pathfinder books, as well the Spheres of Power system. Right now, the alternate rules I'm using from Pathfinder supplements are:

Armor as damage reduction (Ultimate Combat)
Wound thresholds (Pathfinder Unchained)
Automatic bonus progression (Pathfinder Unchained)
Revised action economy (Pathfinder Unchained)

Now, I'm aware that adding all of these rules, in addition to the Spheres of Power system, changes the entire game. I will need to add or change minor things about all of these rules to make them fit together with one another. However, I'm worried that even after tweaking everything, there will still be some glaring problems with the system that I'm not seeing, or that the rules themselves will not mesh together the way I'd like them to.

What I'm asking is for anyone rules-savvy to tell me how a game like this would play, and to offer advice on how to fix any potentially major problems with such a system. For instance, using wound thresholds means that healing magic becomes more important, but is a party without a dedicated healer doomed? Armor as DR means that attacks will probably hit more frequently, and the revised action economy allows up to three attacks per round right at first level - does this mean melee combat will be too deadly? Will higher CR monsters be horribly unbalanced?

Please note that this is a work in progress, and I have not yet had the time to actually playtest any of this.

Scarab Sages

"Shall we take a seat?" He says, leading the two of you over to an empty table.

"It is not that we cannot teach these magics. Rather, we choose not to... Magic is a powerful thing, child. Many people fear this power, because they do not understand it. Power is like a fire, and fear is a bitter air that feeds the flame. Without responsibility, this flame becomes wildfire. We of the academy are trying to teach others to respect magic, and embrace it rather than fear it. To use necromancy is to have control over the energies of life and death. It can be used for the greater good, but it can quickly become profane. It would not be in the academy's interest to teach this sort of magic. However, it would be foolish to completely ignore it's presence. Should the school ever have need to know about such things, I am here to provide my expertise.

As for how I myself learned to use this magic... It is a tale best left untold, I believe. In my younger years, when I lived in my homeland, I was a different man. But I have accounted for my crimes, and I have taken a vow to not repeat my mistakes."

Scarab Sages

Still smiling, Bravi bows and replies, "No, I am not a professor. I do, however, work with the academy. I am what you might call a consultant. There are certain kinds of magic we do not teach here in Dorlyn. Dark, dangerous magics. It so happens that I am well-studied in necromancy; death magic. And should the academy ever need my expertise, I am here to assist. Only for the greater good, be assured."

Ingjrd has her arms crossed in front of her, and she seems to have regained her composure as she watches Bravi speak with moon-eyed wonder.

Scarab Sages

As you turn to make your exit, you hear a man say, "Ah, students, my apologies. Did you have need of me?"

The thickly-accented voice comes from the man seated on the stage. He rises and begins making his way over to you. Ingjrd's eyes grow wide as she attempts to blow loose strands of hair away from her face. After a couple of failed attempts, she stares in bewilderment at you.

The man is wearing a flowing set of midnight blue robes, so dark they appear almost black. His sable hair, which is beginning to thin, is swept back with grease. His gaunt face produces an amiable smile.

"Good day to you," he says. "I am Bravi Gugosi. May I help you?"

Bravi Gugosi

Scarab Sages

You notice a subtle blush spread across Ingjrd's face, and she appears to be slightly embarrassed. "What?"

Scarab Sages

Guili is oblivious to your gesture. As you get closer to Ingjrd, you see that she is transfixed on the older man. Hearing your approach, she spins on her heel towards you. "...Hello." she says.

Perception and/or Sense Motive checks, please.

Scarab Sages

You spot perhaps a half dozen students still lingering in the hall, along with a couple of people robed in the noble blue of the school faculty. Beside one of the tables, Guili is fervently conversing with a professor. At the other end of the hall, Ingjrd stands with her back to you, her attention focused on a raven-haired man seated on the stage.

Scarab Sages

The excitable professor shouts, "Of course you may! In fact, I would insist... By the time old Froud is finished dragging you through the wilderness and making you scale mountains during his lessons, I suspect you'll want to come by divination class for a hot cup of tea. We'll be reading the tea leaves afterwards, naturally." she says with a wink.

She hands the book back to you. "Oh, there's Headmaster Megestus. My apologies, but I must be going!"

Krinia hurries to the pulpit at the head of the hall, where other professors are already gathering. The Headmaster approaches the podium and waits for everyone to find their places. When everyone is settled, he clears his throat and begins to speak.

"Here we are gathered, at midday on the beginning of yet another year of knowledge. Some of you have already attended your first classes, and with them have taken your first steps towards a brighter future. For others, this marks the beginning of the end, as when autumn's cold fingers come to choke the earth, their time here will be at an end, the circle of learning drawn to a close. Tonight will not be a night of study. Instead, with the annual Induction Ceremony and Feast, this night will be one of merriment and brotherhood. At the seventh hour, we urge you to gather here and enjoy a multitude of foods, drinks, and entertainment culled from every corner of Templore. You are asked to commune with your teachers, and with your fellow students, and if you are so inclined, to take a tour of the grounds afterwards. There will be no further classes scheduled today, so make the best of your free time however you see fit!"

Megestus steps away from the podium and takes his leave from the dining hall, along with several of the teachers.

Scarab Sages

Krinia beams as you apprach, taking the book from you and opening it to the first page. She giggles vivaciously and says, "Well done! I'm very pleased to see you taking well to your learning. How is Professor Froud treating you? Not too harshly I hope. Surely he must favor you for you to have learned something in his class so swiftly!"

Scarab Sages

At your inquiring of her school experience, Ingjrd shrugs and says "Fair." She stares at you as if studying you, while Guili steals food from her plate. She visibly pretends to not notice.

As you cut through the small crowd of chattering students which have gathered around the syllabus, eventually you get close enough for your eyes to scan the large sheets of parchment. See handout #1 in your PM inbox for details!

Searching the room for the headmaster, you find that he is not currently present, no doubt abroad performing important duties for the school. You do however spot Krinia laughing with a group of students at the other end of the hall.

Scarab Sages

You find yourself once more in front of the heavy wooden door to the dining hall. It is yet again filled with students and faculty noisily going about their business, primarily, eating lunch. You are waved down by the two students with whom you met earlier in the day, Guili and Ingjrd. Over a meal of stewed pork and radishes, Guili fervently explains his first alchemy lesson, and produces a small object, which appears to be a roll of paper with a thick string attached to one end; apparently the result of his work. He holds the string, which he calls a "fuse", over the flame of a candle. It ignites in a burst of sparks and Guili quickly tosses it into the air. The object explodes in a very loud crack, which echoes through the hall, causing many students to scream or hide under their tables. The school faculty in the room stir in alarm, and a couple of the more paranoid staff members begin shouting spell incantations and brandishing wands or weapons.

All in all the situation is resolved peacefully, with Guili receiving a few stern words from his teacher, Professor Morvela, and a sharp jab in the ribs by Ingjrd's elbow, followed by her assertion of "Stupid."

After the meal, the students begin lining up in front of two large sheets of parchment plastered to the wall beside one of the doorways. These parchments apparently list the courses and lectures available for study, many of which are mandatory for all students to graduate.

Scarab Sages

Froud pauses for a moment in consideration, his gnarled fingers eagerly raking through his fibrous beard.

"You're eager to learn, lad. That's good. But I only have so much time to teach you see, so you shouldn't expect to spend every day under my instruction, as brilliant as that would be," he adds with a sly grin. "You may consider pursuing another school or two of spellcasting, or perhaps brewing potions? Ah, but that would be an advanced curriculum indeed. I would suggest taking the courses on scribing magical texts such as the one you learned your spell from today, it is practically required for all other classes here at the school. Novices such as yourself are also highly advised to take a magical creature or object into your care to assist you with your work, so be sure to see to that. I believe tonight there shall be a feast, as there always are at the beginning of a semester. You can acquaint yourself better with the professors and your fellow students then, it may help you decide."

Apparently satisfied with his answer, he merely waves his hand with a huff of acknowledgment and takes his leave.

Scarab Sages

The orb of acid strikes a wooden bucket atop a broom handle, sending it spiraling to the ground. As it lies there, you can see effervescence of the acid slowly eating away at the wood grain.

Some of the class cheers as you hit your mark, others remain quiet. Froud has nothing to contribute but a sly grin and a cocked eyebrow.

"I believe that will be enough for today's lesson, and what a lesson it was! Those of you who truly pay attention will be learning things from this very experience for some time to come. Now go fetch yourselves some supper and meet in the dining hall. And don't forget to sign up for more classes!"

Treading over to you, he holds out his hand. "Well you didn't utterly fail! That means you have potential. But don't let it go to your head, or you'll end up like the rest of these cod-licking geenhorns. I'll be taking my ring back, if you don't mind."

Scarab Sages

Several minutes pass as you transcribe the instructions of the spell into the tome. When you have made the final marks, a strange noise, a combination of hissing and popping, alerts you to the scroll on the easel. You watch as the scroll curls and dissolves as if caught by invisible fire, the ashes being taken by a gentle breeze blowing on the lawn.

The other students react, some with shock, some with glee, others with anger. Froud pats you on the shoulder and raises his hand to the class.

"Oh yes, I probably should have mentioned this before, but an interesting thing about scroll magic: when a scroll's contents are copied exactly as written to another source, the magic stored in the scroll consumes itself. It appears that this young fellow will be the only one learning that particular spell today. Oh, are you disappointed? Well perhaps next time, one of you will take some initiative and volunteer yourself to practice when presented with another learning opportunity such as this! Welcome to evocation class, you greedy little magpies!"

Froud unleashes a loud roar of jeering, chortling laughter, complete with spittle, and grabs you by the shoulder, leading you to the line of mismatched objects. The other students stare at you, some cheering, others shouting insults, and some throwing very dismayed glances at the ground.

"Now for the real test. You should be familiar with the way acid splash works by now, are you not? Read over your notes once more, and give it a try. See if you can hit one of these objects. Remember to set a good example for your fellow students," he says, giving a mocking glance backwards to your peers.

Scarab Sages

Spellcraft check.

As your quill touches the page for the first time, the dry leaf of the tome greedily absorbs the ink like a mosquito to blood. The book seems to let an almost tangible sigh as the writing instrument scratches the page, as if satisfying a deep, unreachable itch.

Froud gestures for the other students to gather around and watch silently.

Scarab Sages

The familiar rush of magic comes coursing through you as before your eyes, the words begin to unravel in a way that is startlingly understandable. It now seems silly that such a thing, written in plain language, would have eluded you before. Nonetheless, what is scrawled on the page before you are instructions for casting a spell, and you believe it would be rather easy to follow.

The essay details a spell of the conjuration school of magic, and suggests a particular hand symbol to be made, in which the thumb and pinkie finger are held together with the other three fingers spread out, while the other hand is used to create a half-fist with the fingers pressed against the palm with the thumb pointing out. Then a short incantation, "as urea and vitriol, transgress", is spoken, and the magical energy of the spellcaster is said to respond, creating a missile of acid.

Professor Froud watches you study the scroll for a time before startling you from your concentration. "Well? If the look on your face is any clue, either you've figured it out or a slug has crawled into your ear. Show me you know how to pay attention. Copy it, without any mistakes, into your spellbook." he says, with a slight grin.

Scarab Sages

The sun's light covers you like a wool blanket as you exit the east wing of the academy, and the slight chill of the old stone building is quickly steeped from you. The east lawn is green and brilliant, and from a distance you can see your dwarven professor and a gaggle of students standing amidst a series of objects. These objects vary in size and type, but most are common household items such as buckets, cooking pots, and tattered garments, all of which have been affixed to wooden posts or positioned atop lengths of fence.

Approaching the scene, the students before you fall into a line in front of the dwarf, and you can see a couple more stragglers approaching from other areas of the school. The old dwarf clears his throat and begins speaking.

"Welcome to Evocation class, my young chickadees! My name is Professor Noddhiger Froud. Luckily for you my military days are far behind me, so I won't be making you dig trenches or polish your spears to start off our lesson. Likewise, I don't believe in giving long-winded speeches about success and belief and all of that - you'll either make it in my class or you won't; and no amount of lip-flapping is going to help you learn from me. That said, class begins immediately!"

Froud motions towards a large easel directly behind him, upon which has been placed a large piece of parchment bearing a jumble of writing in the sheax language. To your eyes it appears as if a madman had transcribed his thoughts in prose, as you pick out tiny fragments of sentences which seem to make sense, but as a whole it is beyond your comprehension.

"Now you'd think this school, for all of it's hoity-toity 'higher learning' attitude, could throw out an extra few coins to hire a professor to teach you the basics of magic. But unfortunately that job falls on the rest of us. So here we have a simple scroll containing the instructions on how to cast a very simple spell, typically called acid splash. However, I'm sure to you uninspired few, it looks like an orc's attempt to write philosophy. Well once again you're in luck, little moon-eyed sparrows."

The professor reaches into his pocket and brings forth a very tiny item: a simple silver ring with a clear cut gemstone set into it.

"In time, you'll learn to cast a spell which allows you to understand magical theses like this with surprising ease. For now, however, I had this little bauble made so I can cut the wheat from the chaff. Put this ring on your finger and take a good long look at that scroll. When you think you've got the gist of it, try copying it into your spellbook. If you make it that far, we'll see if you can do the real work of casting the blasted spell! Ha!"

He approaches you and motions for your hand, holding the ring out for you to place it on your finger. "How about you? You think you have what it takes?"

Spellcraft check please. The ring gives you the effect of a read magic spell, which in Templore gives you a +10 on your spellcraft check to read magical writings.

Scarab Sages

You find Ingjrd idly fingering through a pouch on her belt as she feigns awareness of Guili, who is eagerly expressing his interest in alchemy class. "Oh, and Professor Morvelo says that my calcinator is of an exceptional kind, so I may be able to assist the apothecary in making powders for extra credit! It was a gift from my grandfather, and he never did spare any expense..." he says, continuing to rave long after he and Ingjrd agree to meet you for dinner.

Examining your new spellbook, it appears to be anything except new. The leather cover was perhaps once a rich brown, but is now the color of dried clay and is cracked and peeling in several places in addition to wearing a thick coat of dust. The clasp jams momentarily as the oxidization causes the brass to stick, but comes open with a solid jerk. Inside, the pages are so old and yellowed they crackle like dried leaves, but seem to be oddly resilient and do not tear or crumble at your touch. It appears to be completely blank, without so much as a maker's mark or owner's signature to be found.

Perception check DC 10:
As you are shuffling through the pages, when you reach the middle of the book, a faint scent like musty incense smoke seems to cling to the pages but dissipates almost immediately.

Perception check DC 15:
A few moments after the scent passes, you hear a sound like deep breathing, but you are not able to place the source of the noise. The sound too passes almost as silently as it began.

Scarab Sages

"Ah? So you are. Sorry lad, my eyesight isn't what it used to be... too many restoration spells, I think." says the old dwarf, rubbing his eyes with stubby fingers that resemble pieces of leather that have been chewed on by dogs.

"Well young one, force magic is a very demanding discipline. The force of your magic is equal only to the force of your will. You must be prepared to master yourself first. Those as young as you rarely pass my class. But perhaps you will surprise me... aye, it has been many turns of the wheel since one your age graduated under me. We shall see!" he says, thrusting a gnarled finger towards the sky. "Class will begin shortly. Assemble outside, on the eastern lawn. Don't be late!"

Scarab Sages

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Krinia takes your hand and leads you across the pulpit to where a very short, elderly man is standing with his back to you, conversing with a group of students in a thick accent: "And then I grabbed him by the ears, put my fingers right into the holes, and scrambled his brains like a big, rotten egg! The other giants just laughed until they wet themselves! Aye, shocking grasp, fine spell. Take my class and you'll learn that and a hundred more uses for it!" he shouts, apparently concluding a rather exciting tale.

Krinia chuckles softly and chimes in: "Froud, I have someone who would like to speak with you."

The group of students dissipate as the old man turns toward you. The first thing you notice is the stark white beard covering most of his upper body, which is tucked into a wide leather belt on his waist. Hooking over the top of the beard is a long nose that resembles a hawk's beak, and two deep-set eyes glimmering brightly under a pair of bushy white eyebrows. The blue robe he wears is sleeveless, revealing two grizzled, hairy arms with stout muscles. It is then you realize that this man must be a dwarf, who you know are like cousins to your people, but are rarely seen above-ground.

"Hello, young lady. And who are you?" he asks, peering at you with his twinkling eyes.

Scarab Sages

You arrive at the procession of scholars, and see many of your peers up close for the first time. People of many races, male and female, old and young alike, with their clothing and demeanor equally as varied. It is a bit jarring, sheltered as you were from the outside world in your home town, but your gnomish curiosity allows no room for fear or prejudice.

When at last your time to take a spellbook arrives, a blue-robed woman with beautifully braided brown hair and a youthful face beckons you over. "Good day to you! You've been waiting patiently, so allow me to give you this... she says, reaching into the bottom of an opened crate. She produces a rather old, hefty tome, that is practically leaking dust. The hand-tooled leather covers are dried and cracked with age, and the brass clasp which holds it closed is severely tarnished. "My apologies for the condition, some people just don't have any respect for books... but I'm sure it was quite beautiful when it was new. It just needs a friend to take care of it, I would say. My name is Krinia, and I'm the professor of divination magic. If you have any questions, I would probably be the best to ask. I have a way of knowing about things, you see!" she says with a grin. "What's your name, young one, and what schools of magic will you be studying? I could point you towards the professors you'll need to become acquainted with, if you'd like."

Scarab Sages

Guili's eyes flit befuddled around the room. "So this is what real magic can do! It is quite exciting, isn't it? Do you think you'll be able to learn to cast spells like that, Jackobean?"

Ingjrd looks up idly from her meal and listens to the headmaster's speech, then silently resumes eating without another glance.

The rest of the students eagerly gulp down their remaining food and rush to the left side of the pulpit, where the blue-robed mages are removing the lids of the crates. They begin taking books of varying sizes, shapes, and colors from the crates and handing them to the students in line. The headmaster returns to the podium with a few more words to say.

"These books have been donated to us by some very generous patrons. Each one is unique, and the pages are completely blank. Within their covers you will not only record the fundamentals of magic, but your own thoughts, studies, and discoveries. Please accept these as a token of our desire to teach and your desire to learn! Like an old friend, the secrets we share with these books will be with us for the rest of your lives, so treat them well. And don't forget to introduce yourselves to our esteemed professors, who will be assisting in the handing out of your books!"

The headmaster then takes his place on the pulpit with an armload of books and warmly greets students who approach.

Scarab Sages

Nice picture. I may try and draw some of the NPCs that I can't find good artwork for.

The dining hall is a vast room with stone walls and a high, vaulted ceiling. The majority of the hall is dominated by five rows of heavy wooden tables, with matching benches for seating. On the opposite end of the room is a wide pulpit, presumably used by the faculty to address students and doubling the use of the room as a lecture hall.

You and your two companions find an empty bench and are served by the kitchen staff, who bring you plates of food stacked with rolls of almond bread, fruit pastries, and smoked sausage. Goblets of chilled fruit juice are poured to drink. You sit and enjoy the conversation of your fellow students, listening to the commotion of the few dozen others who are seated in the hall.

Before what seems like hardly any time at all, a clanging bell from somewhere outside announces the time is eleven of the clock. Two doors, one on either side of the pulpit, are opened and a strange sight greets your eyes as a series of wooden crates float through them and up onto the podium, seemingly by their own volition, suspended upon discs of glowing white energy. A moment later, a man and a woman wearing elegant blue robes enter with their hands held aloft in an arcane gesture, their faces concentrating on the floating crates.

The wooden double doors through which you entered the hall are pulled open, and in strides a man wearing exquisite robes of blue with a filigreed mantle resting on his shoulders and a circlet of woven, sparkling silver on his head. His neck is ornamented with a variety of pendants, and his right hand that is grasping a staff of exceptional quality is adorned with many sparkling rings. The staff is worked of polished wood, capped on each end with gold, and on the top rests a jagged, natural-cut point of some opaque crystal. He has long black hair, graying in some places, and his face sports a short, neatly-trimmed beard.

The man smiles warmly at the students as he makes his way to the pulpit, where he approaches a podium and holds aloft a wand-like apparatus. He speaks, and you are surprised to find that his voice is amplified many times over normal human volume, echoing loud and clear in the hall:

"Welcome, my students, to the Dorlyn Academy of Magical Learning! I am the headmaster of this institution, and my name is Armes Megestus. Some of you I already know, and some I have not yet had the pleasure of meeting, but nonetheless by the end of this semester I will make it my duty to become not only your mentor, but your friend, companion and trusted confidant. I see many bright, young faces this year, and it fills my heart with warmth to know that the flame of magical knowledge will be carried by you, the newest generation as bearers of the mystical torch. In the coming months, you will learn more, much more, than the principals of magic. You will learn to abide the responsibilities of your talents. You will learn to use your knowledge for the betterment of the world and yourself. You will learn what it truly means to be a magician.

But alas, there is plenty of time for such hard lessons. For now, be merry, eat, drink, become friends with one another, and be hopeful! For today a new turn you will take in your path to knowledge, leading us ever onwards to a brighter future! I will dine here with you, and when you all are ready, please come forward so that you may receive your new spellbooks! I bid you all a happy breakfast!"

The man then steps down from the podium and is seated at a table on the pulpit, where several other blue-robed individuals are now sitting, eating and talking amongst themselves.

Scarab Sages

The enrollment line is perhaps 20 or so individuals long when Per'Edhel and Ka'ri arrive. A few stragglers stand off to the side of the line glancing nervously between the tournament field and those already lined up, apparently apprehensive at testing their skill.

Eventually the participants are filed away into two groups, and it is down to Per'Edhel and Ka'ri. Stepping up to the short wooden table, you see a bald elderly man with a long lock of white hair under his chin, giving him a goat-like appearance. He clutches a quill with a gnarled old hand, which has been used to make marks of the participants on loose leaves of paper. He greets you warmly with a smile and says "Good day, young man! Which of the games will you be taking part in today?"

Scarab Sages

Awesome portrait!

"Magic? Oh, not me... I don't know anything about magic actually, heh heh! I'm here to carry on my family's tradition and learn alchemy. You know about alchemy, don't you? It's a sort of magic, I suppose. It's way more practical than normal magic, because it's something called a "science", or so my pa says.

"But Ingjrd here, I think she's used magic before, though not on purpose. She said it's in her blood, so she can't help but use it, isn't that what you said, Ingjrd?"

Ingjrd brushes a lock of hair out of her eyes and stops to open the heavy antique door to the dining hall. "I did. Eat and be quiet." she says.

"Hey, you should come sit with us!" offers Guili, struggling to fit his luggage through the door.

Scarab Sages

The fidgeting human boy throws up a gloved hand in a wave of acknowledgment, which results in his leather bag crashing to the floor. The sound of breaking glass and clanging metal is loud in the hallway. "Whoops..." he says sheepishly, stopping to laboriously heft the bag onto his shoulder. His broad grin returns soon enough, as he says with in the sheax language, "Hi there! My name's Guili, and yes, today's my first day. It's yours too, isn't that right, Ingjrd?" He peers over your head at the elven girl, who is still staring coolly ahead.

Ingjrd glances sidelong at Guili, her face never changing expression. "Sure." she says.

Guili laughs nervously and turns his attention back to you. "Anyways, we met a couple days ago, when we were getting settled in for the semester. But we haven't seen you around, so you must be new here too?"

I'm having a hard time finding a portrait for Guili, but I'll have one up when I find a decent one.

Scarab Sages

As you exit your room into the hallway, you are greeted with a rather majestic view of the outlying land through the endless row of arched windows stretching the west wall of the corridor. Hillocks stretch far beyond the eye can see, each topped with a jagged crown of fir trees. An arm of Dorlyn's urban area reaches slightly around the nearest of the hills, and their rooftops and smoking chimneys can just be seen above the emerald grass. The sky hangs milky blue like a painted backdrop at a bard's theatre.

As you walk, you soon become aware of two presences that have just moved up beside you. Glancing to the left, you see a human boy, perhaps in his mid-teens, with shoulder-length brown hair and the beginnings of a beard. He is sporting a sappy grin on his face, and struggling to carry a leather bag full of jangling objects. Glancing to your right, you see a rather stern-faced elven girl with lengthy blond hair. She doesn't seem to notice you. After walking a few paces, it becomes apparent you are all going towards the same destination: the dining hall.

Scarab Sages

Your room is small, about ten by ten feet, but it suits you well, being cozy and warm. On the eastern wall, the spring sun invites itself in through a pair of tall windows, which are currently ajar. The sound of birds and a slight breeze comes sweetly to your ears.

In one corner squats a meager wooden desk and a chair, above which is a shelf mounted to the wall holding a myriad of empty bottles. Next to the desk is a tall bookshelf, which contains very few actual books, and a variety of loose leaves of paper, ink, and quills. At the foot of your bed is a wooden trunk with a lock, to which you hold the key, that contains your personal effects. Finally, in the corner opposite the desk is a cast-iron cauldron, perhaps the size of a pumpkin, filled with various cups and ladles and strainers.

On the western wall is a wooden door which leads to the hallway. When you are finished with your morning routine, it is nearly ten of the clock, and your stomach rumbles as you realize you have not eaten breakfast!

Scarab Sages

Your pace is almost matched by the goblins as you fly through the forest. Your vision grows darker as the crystal formations gradually dissipate, and the underbrush nicks your bare legs with thorns and twigs.

Nearly exhausted and almost blind in the dark, at last the great black wall of the hedge looms in front of you. As you prepare to crawl under the hedge, the horde of goblins bares down on you. Your heart threatens to burst from your chest in fear, when suddenly you are jerked forward and out of your body, and everything goes black...

You awake with a start in your bed. In the bright sunlight of the morning, your eyes are dazzled, but you soon realize where you are. You're in the dormitory of the Dorlyn Academy of Magical Learning, and you are 45 years old. You still have nightmares from your experiences when you were younger, which is what lead you here to begin with, but perhaps you will relive those memories yet again in further dreams.

Today is your first day, and your first lesson is scheduled to begin at noontide. From the position of the sun, you'd estimate the time to be about nine of the clock.

Scarab Sages

Taking the girl's hand in yours, you feel a sharp tug of resistance. Looking back, she is planted firmly to the ground, and vainly reaching with one hand towards Wilmus, who is completely lost amidst the chaos.

When the shadow loses form and begins expanding to fill the night, the two white orbs of its eyes linger in place for a moment longer, and though they have no pupils you feel them boring into your very core.

The halfling girl turns away, tears welling in her eyes, and begins to run.

Scarab Sages

The shadow stares unblinking, straight through you. The sour odor of fermentation grows as the goblins stir and close in about the hilltop.

"So be it. Your kin are defiant to a fault, so they are. But still mortal. I will have eternity here in my court to toil, and when our worlds' paths next cross, you will have grown older and weaker, whereas I will have remained unchanged. That you should serve me now, to save you from such an empty existence, will be my final favor. Bring him to me, children!"

The goblins launch into an orgy of claws and gnashing teeth, pouring over the hill like ants. You feel the warm, moist bite of a goblin behind you barely miss your shirt sleeve. You are about to be overwhelmed when a small shadow, swift and hard, passes before you.

With a sickening pluck, the sharpened end of a tree limb blooms from the forehead of a goblin beside you. Your eyes reeling, finally you realize you are staring at the young halfling girl from Svenhus. Her clothing is dirty and ragged, and her face is tired and grim. She loosens her grip on the spear and lets the goblin slump to the ground.

She looks at you with desperate eyes and shouts, "Run!"

Scarab Sages

The shadow stares at you with its blazing white orbs for a long, still moment.

"Little one, your friend now belongs in my court. Soon he will remember who he truly is, and become like his kin." A wide column of shadow bends beneath the figure, implying a perfectly muscled arm, ending in an extended finger with a wickedly long nail. It points to the goblins.

"I would send them to retrieve you in time, of course. Always am I in need of more servants, but how stubborn you little folk are, hiding in your dell. But the ward was broken and slowly have I come to reclaim your kin. A pity my realm only intersects yours under these conditions, otherwise I should have been finished by now."

The shadow floats back, rising to its previous height. Below it, Wilmus is beginning to stir from his slumber, and the goblins begin nipping and clawing at him.

"But here I have a perplexing one. You defied your clan and came into my domain? This shows promise. If one was willing, I could give him a special gift. I could make you something marvelous, little one, of that I am sure.

"You are in my court, and at my mercy. Accept my offer, or anger me and become my thrall."

The shrieks and jitters of a thousand more goblins now echo through the trees, as they approach from every conceivable direction.

Scarab Sages

At a loss for what to do, you fret for a moment trying to formulate a plan when an intense pressure makes your ears drum and your eyes ache. The ambient light flares brightly and then fades away entirely... leaving only the crystalline formations as shining beacons of light in the dark.

You are instantly aware of a change in the environment. It seems natural, as a forest would be, and yet there is something very unnatural about it now. The six goblins suddenly begin screeching and scurrying on their hands and feet, close to the ground, like scared rats, and two perfectly round orbs of light float down from the darkness above.

A massive shadow, as tall as the trees is suddenly materializing on the hill. Two twisting horns and a wild mane of hair shoot up around the orbs of light, forming the haunting visage of a head with eyes. The body, crouching low to the ground, would be much taller if standing upright. It looms threateningly above everything in the immediate area.

The shadow.

The goblins begin shouting "Big Shadow! Big Shadow! but the shadow appears not to notice. Instead, the head floats down to stare directly where you are standing, and the ambient hum of the area is cut in half by a voice so deep and flat that is is almost like the complete absence of any sound at all:

"Welcome little ones, to my Unseelie Court."

Scarab Sages

Through the maddening flood of thoughts in your mind, you grasp onto one in particular about foul, impish things that live in the woods and prey on small children. Goblins they are called, if memory serves you.

1d20 - 1 ⇒ (7) - 1 = 6

The detestable things do not seem to have noticed your arrival, their attention fixed on the gnome child before them.

"I wants to eats him now!" says one in a gravelly, high voice. To your astonishment, they are speaking in your people's tongue.

"No! We saves him for the other one. Then we eat two!" says another.

"We eats none! We let them both play with Big Shadow, and then they dance like us! See?" says one other, and the figure launches into a dizzying display of thrashing about, its bones popping and moist flesh smacking the ground. Saliva and other bodily fluids are released and whipped into a sickening foam covering the horrid being's flesh as it moves. The other creatures begin biting and swiping at it in excitement. It cackles between spasms of the so-called "dance" and then collapses onto the ground.

Scarab Sages

Following the path, it's not hard to track your query, for as you begin to catch up to them, you catch on to a foul smell, like fermenting berries, that becomes stronger as you go.

The light around you has grown to illuminate the whole forest, and you can now see far ahead of you. The light is pale and green, almost azure, like creek water.

You are stricken with confusion as you advance, for between the trees large crystal formations have sprung up, ranging in size from toadstools to some that almost reach the forest canopy.

After a few more twists in the path, leading you suddenly uphill, the crystals eventually all but replace the trees themselves, and in some places you can see the translucent formations phasing through the bark of a tree.

Finally, as you crest the hill, you see them: small figures, about six in number, approximately three feet high. They have pallid yellow skin which clings close to their wiry bodies, and they are clad in materials found in nature: wood, leaves, vines, and the like. Their heads sprout few, jet black hairs. Their faces are frightening, with overlarge, wild yellow eyes with piercing black pupils and gaping mouths filled with needle-like teeth. In their midst you see Wilmus, though he is apparently unconscious and lying completely silent.

Scarab Sages

You cling to the damp ground and feel the bitter chill curl up around you. Though you cannot see anything, not even your hands as they stretch out before you grasping the earth, you feel the tunnel bear down and close in on you. Your breathing becomes sharp and short, and panic threatens to overcome your spirit, when at last your eyes adjust and you realize you have crawled a few feet beyond the hedge. Looking around you, you realize you are in a dense forest, with trees that stand immeasurably tall above you.

A rough path is worn on the ground here, and winds off further into the wood. You can hear the echoes of many shrill voices piping in the distance, accompanied by the jeering laughter you've been following.

It also now appears as if a dull green glow has begun seeping up from the ground itself, as you find your eyesight lightening considerably.

Scarab Sages

As you prepare to cross the natural border of Svenhus, suddenly the voice of your mother echoes in the back of your mind.

"A lunar eclipse is a very bad thing, dear," she once said. "The last one happened a long time ago, when you were very young. It was terrible. A lot of unfortunate things happen on the night of an eclipse. It weakens our little town... makes it easier for dark things to come in. The hedge protects us, but the dark of the moon is powerful. That is why you must never go out at night, and why you must never ever leave town. Don't question it further. I hope you will never have to understand what I mean."

On your hands and knees, you peer into the hole cut into the hedge. You are suddenly startled by many pairs of pale yellow eyes which shine in the inky blackness. They all blink out almost instantly and you hear the creatures they belong to scamper off further inside the tunnel, dragging something along.

"Help me!" you hear Wilmus cry, whimpering.

Scarab Sages

Searching your memory, you realize that you are standing beneath a lunar eclipse, a rare celestial phenomenon. You remember something your parents told you long ago, a dangerous secret about such an occurrance, if only you could think of what it was... Wisdom check.

You run through the loosely cobbled streets of town, which seem alien and discomforting in the night. You realize this is the first time you have ever been outside this late at night, and under such dire conditions.

After a couple of minutes you reach the edge of town, and the hedge rises a few feet above your head, an impenetrable wall of dark green. Against the rough tangle of roots and brush at the bottom, you spot a jagged portal cut through it, and hear the sound of struggle accompanied by raspy, sputtering voices from inside.

Scarab Sages

Why do I get the murderous moppets from Venture Brothers vibe from the halfling fishmonger?

Also, I tried warning Ilsa OOG that there would be a Scarlet Inquisitor hiding in that barrel of fish. Because no one expects the Scarlet Inquisition.

Scarab Sages

As you climb out of your window, the utter darkness of your surroundings strikes you again, and looking up, you realize that the dead moon Nexus is but a silver ring in the clouds. A disc of jet black is at its center. The living moon Xenus is nowhere to be found in the sky. Knowledge Nature check, please. The night is unusually chill, and a sharp breeze cuts through your nightclothes, coming from beyond the trees surrounding the town.

Away in the distance, you hear hissing, cackling laughter, followed by the renewed screams of Wilmus. It seems to be coming from somewhere near the hedgerow.

Scarab Sages

As you reach down towards the frightened boy, his hand rises to meet yours, but is quickly swatted away by a tiny clawed green hand. A shadow overcomes the boy and his erupting scream is cut off and muffled. In the murky darkness you hear the sound of many tiny feet scurrying off in unison towards the edge of town.

Give me another perception check, please.

Scarab Sages

Just beyond the darkness of the window, you can see a tiny figure with its face pressed up to the glass. You recognize the face as belonging to Wilmus, the missing gnome child. He appears to be distressed and is trying to open the window.

Scarab Sages

Your life began in the gnome town of Svenhus, larger than most gnome settlements of its kind, prosperous as it is due to its proximity to the human city of Dorlyn.

Your family are wealthy land-owning nobles, unusual for gnomes, but not unheard-of. They have used their social status to the best of their abilities, becoming active in the human politics of the region in an attempt to alleviate the presence of halfling slavery.

The current year is 1397 P.R., and you are 35 years old. You have lived a comfortable, protected life inside the natural hedge walls of Svenhus, with all of your basic needs provided by your parents. You have received basic tutoring on the subjects of language, etiquette and the like. Having taken on an interest in magic from an early age, your parents have told you about a school of magic learning in Dorlyn, which lies just a day's march north-east from town.

Your dreams of becoming a practiced magician, however, have always been daunted by the constant warnings of your elders to never leave the natural borders of the town until you are old enough. They never will say why, only that you must heed their command, especially at night. There is a strict curfew, and everyone must be indoors or leave the town until the next morning.

This seems especially strange to you, but young and carefree as you are, it never seems to be at the forefront of your mind. When you try to think of it, a vague, dark memory comes to your mind, but just as you are about to grasp it, something distracts you and the thought lies dormant.

In recent events, a neighboring family has taken a young halfling girl of about 12 years old into their care. She is an orphan, her parents having been killed by their slave masters in a fit of rage, or so you have heard. The girl seems quiet and troubled, and has not spoken to you in the couple of months since she arrived.

A couple of days ago, the legitimate son of the same neighboring family disappeared. This has caused a deep sense of trouble for the community, and folk speak of it only in hushed whispers. Just last evening, you spotted the halfling girl sneaking into the window of her home early in the morning, as if she had been out at night. You have not yet said anything of this to anyone, fearing for the girl's safety.

Your adventure begins on a late summer night. As you are lying in your bed and dozing off to sleep to the thoughts of magic and the amazing feats you will accomplish when someday you can attend the academy, you hear a faint disturbance at the window -- something is scratching from the outside. You are rudely jolted awake by this sound as it grows more aggressive.

Scarab Sages

As you approach the tournament ring, you can barely see over the heads of hundreds of spectators a ring made of fence posts and colored ribbon. On the eastern side of this ring is a large table, perhaps ten feet in length, with four chairs facing the ring. Sitting in one of these chairs is an aging man with shoulder-length graying hair and a nearly-white handlebar mustache. As the crowd begins to draw near, he rises from his seat and holds his hands aloft, addressing the crowd:

"My good people of Caedwall and our most humble of visitors, I welcome you this fine day to the Freyday festival and tournament!"

There is a resounding roar of cheers, and a hundred flagons of ale are lifted to the sky, drenching many spectators in the golden, sticky substance.

"I trust you have all been enjoying the festivities we have provided, courtesy of Belmont's Company of Heroes--" the old man is cut off briefly by more shouts "--Who have arrived just recently and are preparing for the tournament!

The tournament shall consist of three separate contests of skill. First is the contest of archery, in which participants will be given a bow and arrows and are to aim at a series of targets for points. The contestant with the most points at the end of the tournament shall win the contest.

Second is the contest of dueling, in which the participants will be matched one-on-one against another and are to fight to first blood. Weapons will be provided for those who require them. The contestant who defeats all others shall be the winner of the contest.

Third and last is the jousting competition, in which Belmont's Company will be personally competing! Horses and armor will not be provided for this contest, so only enter if you are equipped! Each participant will be matched against another and allowed three passes at their opponent, scoring points for each successful dismount. The participant with the most points shall win.

Those of you who wish to participate, please form a line beginning right this way so that the Principal of Arms may record your name and coat of arms for enrollment."

The crowd gives a final spasm of applause before they settle in preparation to witness the tourney. A few heads can be seen moving through the crowd towards the enrollment line.

Scarab Sages

A commotion begins to stir as the sound of hooves heralds the arrival of three men on horseback. As they ride down the road and into the fairgrounds, the crowd explodes in cheers and excitement. The horses carry the men out of sight, beyond the crowd and onto the lawn where the tournament is being held.

A few moments later, a series of low horn-calls signify that the tournament is sure to begin soon, and those wishing to attend or spectate should be gathered. The village folk meandering through the market, and even the merchants themselves see a quick end to their business and begin marching towards the tourney area.

Scarab Sages

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After going through the process myself, I've found certain things that work for me and certain things that don't. That is to say, to start with, you should decide which techniques appeal to you the most after looking into it. Some people will say that bottom-up is the only way to go, others say that top-down works best overall, but I used a pretty decent mix of both and filled in the blanks from there.

The first step I suggest you take is to find a blank notebook, blog, Obsidian Portal account, or something similar to organize your work. It will be radically convenient later on when you need to start connecting little things together (X nation was founded when Y nation ended and Z race migrated there, etc.). Cross-referencing your notes becomes important after a while, and the more organized you start, the better off you'll be in the long run. This was something I learned the hard way, after years of having ideas and not recording them and then forgetting them or worse, improving them and forgetting the changes later on. Even after I started writing things down, I've had to re-organize a couple of times due to laziness on my part. Not a fun thing to do with a 50-page word document, heh.

You'll need a map eventually, so why not make it the first thing you do? You don't even need a world map unless you're going extremely top-down, a single continent or even a single region will do. Even most officially published campaign worlds focus on a single continent or part of one, and it seems to work well enough for them.

As for making the map itself, there is a lot of trial and error involved. Some fundamental research on real-world geography will go a long way towards helping you. As quirthanon said, the World Builder's Guidebook is very useful in this regard. I referenced that book countless times in my own work. Finding a copy (digital or otherwise) is highly recommended.

Form an idea of the types of terrain you want to feature, from forests, to plains, deserts to swamps and so on, and figure out how these types of terrain interact with one another. Research will be your friend here and really throughout the entire process, so familiarize yourself with ways of finding information as well.

The medium(s) you use to create the map will depend heavily on how much time and effort you want to spend on it. Map creating software exists but can be pricey and often requires huge investment of time to learn the program and use it, but the trade-off is they produce maps of decent to fantastic visual quality. Using an image editing program such as MS paint or Photoshop has many of the same pros and cons. Old-fashioned pen-and-paper drawing is cheap, easy and can be fun, but unless you have some artistic ability may not live up to your ideals. Again, this step majorly involves trying different things and finding which you feel comfortable with. There really is no wrong way to go about drawing the map as long as you (and eventually your players!) are satisfied with the end result. Personally, I use the old 2nd ed. AD&D Core Rules Program which has a built-in mapping program for overland, city and dungeon maps, and has a very simple "point and click" interface. It also includes a very early version of the Campaign Cartographer software, but unlike the other program, has a steep learning curve.

I realize this post is a wall of text but maybe someone can get some use out of it. I can continue on with other aspects of world building if someone would like, otherwise I'll crawl back into my wizard tower and hope someone finds this useful!

Scarab Sages

Serabi: You wait patiently in the forest on the outskirts of the village, remaining unseen as you survey the area. A shift in the wind causes your companion to sniff the air, its bald, skeletal head leaning into the breeze. Its claws loosen from your shoulder for a moment, as if it wishes to take flight, but seems resists the temptation. It swivels its head down to eye level and stares at you inquisitively with narrow black eyes.

Ka'ri: Perception check:1d20 + 6 ⇒ (5) + 6 = 11 Something shimmering in your peripheral vision alerts you to a male figure standing perhaps fifteen feet away, wearing a plate of steel armor over his breast, the source of the shine. He appears well-dressed beneath the armor, and likely belongs to some form of nobility. Currently he is engaged in conversation with two other odd-looking individuals which you have never seen in the village before, one male who is wearing a long coat of leather, and the other a female with a visible streak of white in her hair.

Scarab Sages

With your perception check, you do indeed find your compatriots leisurely strolling down one of the aisles of stalls, idly glancing to and fro, and something strange catches your eye: a woman with two points of flesh protruding from under her black hair, which resemble your own ears but much longer. She appears to be carousing the market's wares as well.

The fairgrounds are a bustling chorus of the senses: merchants from across the sea bargain and hustle in accents strange to your ears, the smells of exotic perfumes and spices waft up from their containers, and the brightly-colored tents and clothing of wealthy people all create a dazzling array of activity.

The stalls offer both the basic and the bizarre, from fresh meat and fish, fruits and vegetables, tools and clothing, to more luxurious wares such as jewelry and scented oils. There are of course carts loaded with wooden crates and barrels, filled with a range of tobaccos and spirits.

Of the more unique attractions, one tent separate from the others has a tower flanked by two shocks of grain drawn on it in chalk (Knowledge Religion to identify the symbol, if you wish) and appears to be selling religious paraphernalia. Another tent being tended by a dwarf with a wild, crinkly orange beard hosts a variety of common weapons and armors. A third tent, very small and dark, is operated by a fat, bald man and most of the wares seem to be hidden by a curtain. Only a few crude, risque paintings and sculptures displayed on a table hint at the shop's true nature.

These are the things which immediately catch your eyes. If any of you are looking to buy something in particular, perhaps a more scrutinizing search of the market would yield results.

Scarab Sages

Thaddeus bids you farewell with a wave and crowds his way into the tavern, probably for a fresh mug.

Approaching the west side of the community, you see a large sprawl of tilled fields separated by fences and dirt roads. A handful of modest farmhouses, spread equally between the fields dot the landscape. One in particular, a house larger than most with fields of tall grass instead of crops, seems to be the one you're looking for.

As you walk the narrow dirt lane to the house, a tall, scrawny man with a straw hat is leaning against the front stoop. He peeks up at you under the brim of his hat, takes a lit pipe from his mouth and says "G'day, sir. Stables? I got some. Fine stock, this one. Kingdom bred, by the look. Two silvers a night; settle up when you take leave." Without waiting for a response, he clenches the pipe in his stern jaw and leads the horse around to the field behind his house, where you can now see a few other horses grazing on grass.

Scarab Sages

Heh, I love how Jesus doesn't even care.

As promised, here is the wiki page for The Order of The Lion.

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