Structure in Gaming and an Introduction to the PBeM Campaign
by Rich Staats
Greetings to all the _IR_ subscribers!
This was originally going to be about a fifty page zine, but common sense
and work requirements got the better of me! :-) I'm going to publish the turns
for my PBeM Campaign in _IR_. The PBeM is an extension of my 15+ year FRP
Campaign. (For additional details check out http://126.96.36.199/staats.htm) To get
the most out of the posted turns, you need some background, and that is why this
started off being a much longer zine. Fortunately the topic this time in _IR_,
structure, lends itself to some campaign introduction.
In this issue of _IR_ I'll present: some views on structure in role-playing
(including a "how to" article on writing an introduction to a campaign), an introduction
to my FRP Campaign, some Campaign history and character descriptions, some
cartoons of Widdershin Rabbit (sprinkled throughout the issue as filler), and, for the
first time ever, some comments on other zines from the previous issue.
By the by, if you have questions or comments on this article or the
Widdershin Rabbit cartoons, please drop me an e-mail at: email@example.com I would love to
hear from you and attempt in future issues of _IR_ to give you more of what you are
The article this month will heavily use concepts, names and places from: TSR(TM),
Chaosium(TM), Palladium(TM), GDW(TM), GW(TM), Judges Guild(TM), Avalon Hill(TM), etc. As
always, my use
of these names and concepts in no way or form constitutes a challenge to the proprietary
use of those names and concepts by the companies, authors or legitimate heirs.
Structure in Role-Playing
The successful Gamemaster (GM) must strike a balance between spontaneity
and structure in the gaming session. As a GM, you are responsible for helping the players
suspend disbelief and making the gaming experience enjoyable for all concerned.
During play, there are three complimentary principles I generally follow which
flow from observations of and discussions with Steve Perrin, Greg Stafford and Sandy
Petersen. These are Rich Staats' paraphrases and interpretations, not direct quotes
--- any abuse should be heaped on me, not thhese folks. :-)(Michael O'Brien used
my concepts in an article he did for "Questlines," edited by John Hughes on "Maximum
Perrin Principle: As a GM, consistency is desirable, and *what* you
do (although important) is not so significant as that you understand *why* you
did it. If similar circumstances arise again and the characters involved
undertake the same actions, they should reasonably expect similar results. This
helps the gamers become comfortable with the gaming milieu. They will be able
to picture the world in their minds during and between sessions. This adds to a
sense of fairness and balance in the gaming world and the campaign.
Stafford Principle: As a GM, it is important to maintain a sense
of wonder in the world. It is not possible for any mortal to fully understand
the workings of Glorantha, and to do so takes away from the pleasure of the
unexpected. A dragon-newt won't do the same thing every time you encounter one.
Leave room in your campaigns for the unexplained, the mystic and the mythic.
No matter how much you learn and experience, there is always more to discover.
Petersen Principle: As a GM, you should do things that make the
campaign fun. If you have a choice between two courses of action, choose the one
that will bring the most enjoyment to the GM and the party. The party will come
up with things you never expected, and these plans and explanations might not
bear any resemblance to what you anticipated. So what!?! If the new
explanations are more fun and overall consistent with the workings of the world,
go with them!
By applying each of these principles, the GM can go a long way toward
making the campaign world come alive for you and your players and having that
journey of exploration be an enjoyable one for all concerned.
The amount of structure you employ has to be dependent to some extent on
the players and the gaming system you are using. For example, for a one-shot TOON(TM)
adventure might have quite a bit different flavor than a Traveller(TM) campaign.
The GM does not have to dream up structure. He can derive much of the gaming
mechanics from the real world. In my campaigns, I have always assumed that Earthly phenomenon
operated unless otherwise noted. For example, Yelm runs from east to west each
day (the same as the sun), but if a character could find some way of getting
close enough, he or she would actually see (and perhaps be attacked by) some guy
in a chariot (quite a bit different from the real world --- or at least I would be
quite surprised to discover otherwise :-O ;-) ).
The length of the campaign and session must be taken into consideration when determining
the amount of structure necessary. For one shot sessions, the GM can afford to play "fast and
loose," but for longer campaigns, it is more important to be consistent. The GM might not
remember some "trivial" detail, but the players might have spent hours planning to use that same
"critical point" revealed in an earlier session.
One of the things I have found most useful for a long campaign is a formal, written
campaign introduction. Back when I started GMing, you relied mostly on a Selectric(TM)
typewriter to produce the introduction, but with the ubiquity of word processors and PCs, it
is a snap to produce a professional looking, well written campaign introduction.
The campaign introduction should be both a description of the gaming environment as
well as containing personal information about the GM. The more information you give about
the campaign to the players in advance, the better prepared the players will be when you start
that initial session. One word of caution is in order. If you have secrets in your campaign,
it is better to give a peek at the kind of secrets that exist rather than reveal them fully or
leave the players totally in the dark. Like the wrapping paper on a gift, if presented
properly, a great mystery will draw the players into the campaign more quickly than any other
An example of the type of elements in the campaign introduction include:
GM biographical information, phone numbers, meeting place and time for the campaign, gaming
system to be used, what supplies the players should bring, duration of a typical session,
GMing style and preferences, unique aspects of the gaming world, gaming world history and
geography, commonly known cosmology, guidelines for the introduction of new players, and
any house rules.
A sample campaign introduction is attached. This also serves as part of the
introduction to the PBeM I'll be posting.
Introduction to Fantasy Role-Playing with Rich Staats
Copyright 1996 by Rich Staats
Introduction: This guide is an introduction to playing my campaign. If past experience is a valid
guideline, you will find it to be both extremely enjoyable and challenging. The guide begins with a
description of my experience and style and ends with a description of the campaign world. There are
several appendices which deal with specialty topics. I referee a variety of role-playing games and have an
extensive reference collection with several hundred periodicals, modules and games. I have refereed for:
AD&D, RQ, T&T, Traveller, Paranoia, et.al. There is variety to be had if that is what you are looking for.
A. I have been involved with role-playing since 1978. I am from Wisconsin and can still remember
playing with the original boxed D&D set out of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. I have seen role-playing go
through several phases. The result of that is there are a bunch of GM styles out there ranging from guys
who started “way back” and use massive amounts of random tables to folks who can grab something “off
the shelf” and referee like a master.
B. My personal style does not involve large amounts of random tables, but I do use them. You will find
“dungeon bashes” in my world, because they are pure, unmitigated fun. You will also see a lot of
“realism” in my Campaign, because that adds flavor.
C. The players are the most important part of the game. I mean that sincerely. You are an intimate part of
the Campaign. Together, we will write the story. Once I know you as individuals and your style, I will
create scenarios around your desires. If you do not have fun then I have failed as a Gamemaster! Fun does
not mean that every encounter is a pushover; fun means challenging, but not impossible.
D. Difference players and parties have different personalities, and they will find various challenges in my
Campaign. I divided players into four broad, nonexclusive groups:
1. Wargamers - who concentrate on tactical combat and combat realism,
2. Power Players - who want their player characters to be as powerful as possible within the
context of the game,
3. Hack/Slash Players - who wants lots of monsters guarding lots of loot,
4. Role-players - who concentrate on playing out their persona’s.
I am flexible and will support any kind of group, but I am partial toward the fourth group, the
E. I reward good role-playing, and my scenarios tend to work that way. “You catch more flies with honey
than salt.” I have a variety of “types” of scenarios, but many times, you are better off talking than fighting.
A party should be prepared before it takes off adventuring. If you go into the desert without water, I do not
feel duty bound to keep the party alive. On the other hand, it is extremely rare in my Campaign for random
bad luck to kill an entire party. Take chances, live heroically. I reward daring, not stupidity. There is a
F. You can do whatever you want to in the Campaign, but it is neither always easy or always safe. If you
want to assemble the Artifact of Ultimate Destruction, you can do it, but it will prove truly challenging.
“Roll the dice, pay the price!”
G. I use guilds and other organizations as repositories of information. Generally, if you do not know what
you are doing, go to the sages guild. But, do not forget that sages are human too ...
H. I will not play a party without some type of party contract. There does not have to be a signed, sealed
contract on day one, but I have seen some great parties go down in flames over some minor point which
could have been avoided if the group had had a party contract. Key points in the party contract are division
of treasure, use of resources and a description of the party organization, e.g. whose in charge, what it takes
to join, etc. I have sample party contracts from past groups if you need some guidelines. Besides
everything else, writing the party contract is a great way to start the role-playing and have some fun.
I. Certain areas in the Campaign world specialize in specific things. If you want to be a great mage then
you need to find a powerful mage to be your master. If you want to be a pirate, do not go to the Great
Waste. Talk to the Non-Player Characters (NPCs). Follow leads. Have fun, and be active! Don’t wait for
adventure to come to you! Players (folks like you) are just as active in my world as I am (if not more so).
That does not mean the world is static unless you do something, far from it, but if you let yourselves get
caught in the flow of something beyond your control --- take your own risks. In the last fifteen plus years,
not one party has ever accuse me of not giving them enough to do!
J. If you give me the chance, I will “side track” the party . Fair warning! Sometimes the roads less
traveled give you something you want and need - actually, almost always, but these side trails will always
cost you time. The Campaign starts/ends/runs with your party. If you play impulsively as a party then
the Campaign will be a series of one time adventures which are totally unrelated --- or so it might seem. If
the party sees sub-plots and spends large amounts of time planning then the Campaign will become more
complex and subtle. I have played parties ranging from the pure dungeon delves to a political intrigue
motif. As long as everyone has fun, it does not matter to me.
K. I am “big” on party unity (e.g. I like party charters). But, I also like individualism; each PC should be
unique. The more time you spend developing the special traits and abilities of your character, the more you
will enjoy playing that character. My “rules system” is a combination of many years of experience and
several gaming systems, and the system will definitely give you a chance to develop some unique abilities.
Don’t worry though; I won’t “spring something on you” the first session.
L. I will play a party in small groups in a large city if you are looking for information, bartering, etc., but if
the party splits into smaller groups to go adventuring then we need to schedule separate times to play.
Again, I will support any method you want to use, but is boring for six people to sit around while two
M. I like to see you invite new people to play in the Campaign. I introduce new people as henchmen of
the regular player characters; that allows the new people to have someone “show them the ropes” as well as
play right away. Many times the new PC will have some unique ability or information to offset their lack
N. Note passing is a sign of a healthy game. Sometimes I send bogus notes to keep the party on their
collective toes. You should send notes to me every so often to liven things up. Not everyone in the party
sees the same things or has the same goals. In one of my campaigns, I had a PC who was a member of a
vampire cult in a party on a vampire hunt. He called himself Reginald, and his goal was to obtain new
“cattle” for his master. But, the player portrayed Reginald as a paladin around the other PCs. The party
knew they were getting close to the vampire, because so many people kept disappearing ... We exchanged
a lot of notes.
O. I play out the NPCs, and I like to diagram movement (especially when combat is an option). I am a
stickler about positioning when it comes to missile fire, spell/psionics use, searching, etc. I will also
occasionally ask you to act out a specific action to see the types of precautions you are taking, etc. (This is
more common at the beginning of the Campaign.) Don’t fall into the rut of “my PC does it just the way
she always does.” That has killed more than one hearty soul over the years! Many of the villains you
confront will be clever and motivated; I play them that way --- it makes their final defeat at your PC’s
hands that much sweeter. Sometimes I will ask you to play out a scene word for word, especially in
political situations. Do not be bashful or nervous. It adds a whole new dimension to the game. Acting
things out also demonstrates that carrying a great sword, a shield and a lamp at the same time is not
P. I do not use miniatures. I use a system of wooden shapes and counters. I am not opposed to miniatures
though. If you have a miniature you want to use to represent your PC, by all means, go ahead and bring it
to the session. I find the blocks and counters to be more useful in representing the huge variety and
number of characters in the Campaign. You will see a method to my madness with respect to my choice of
colors and shapes represented by the blocks if you watch closely. On that same note ...
Q. Colors, shapes, symbols and smells are very important in my Campaign. I like to use props. I give a
lot of description. For example, I tend to hand out samples of the scrolls and maps your PCs find.
Sometimes the significance of what you find is not immediately apparent. I give the items out so that the
party can plan actions in-between sessions. “This map indicates a blue sky rune, but it smells of
R. Along the same lines, I encourage you to talk to each other outside the confines of the game. I am also
available to talk to you about the Campaign outside of the sessions, and a personal visit is sometimes the
best. (I might have to beg off if I’m briefing a Deputy Secretary or a Congressman.) My phone number is:
(703)442-8310, and my address is: Box 1232, McLean, VA 22101. I look forward to hearing from you!
S. The Campaign will be very enjoyable and rewarding. There are many more things I could tell you
about the Campaign, but half the fun will be discovering its secrets. There a few more I items to tell you
about the world though ...
A. You will be playing in a world that has evolved over the past 15 or so years. I have liberally stolen
from many sources. So, you will find elements of: Tolkein, Glorantha(TM), TSR and many others. It
sound overwhelming and chaotic. The way the Campaign will enfold, it is not. First of all, you will only
play in small sections of the world at a time, and even that will be tailored to the type of milieu you want to
play in. Second, and most important, my basic rules don’t change from one section of the world to another.
Basically I have adapted plots, places and faces to my operating system. Your own characters are going to
write a portion of the world’s history. Don’t be surprised if you run into former player characters or hear
about them during the Campaign. They will appear as any other GM controlled character. It is a source
of pride for many of the players to have their PCs immortalized (either figuratively or literally) in the
B. My world is based to a large extent on the world we find ourselves in with three exceptions. Magic
works. Some people have psionics, and the player characters are all heroes to rank with Conan, Merlin and
Kalaban Keen-Eye. (Of course, you don’t start out that way!) Even though those are three pretty big
exceptions to our accepted physical laws, you can guide your character’s actions based on real life
experience. You worry about: the weather, food, money, speaking the local language, etc. Your character
needs to worry about these things as well. Disease was/is a big killer in our world; it is in the Campaign
world as well. Politics are very important; religions have a big role to play. Guilds and large organizations
“call a lot of the shots.” Commerce and marketing are important in the scope of things. Of course the twist
is that magic can be just as effective a answer in the Campaign as technology is here.
C. The world is divided up into regions. Each region has specific: climates, religions, cultures, businesses,
languages, flora, and fauna. Generally the regions are not set apart by “magical barriers.” Two areas may
be separated by: a sea, a mountain range, a large desert, etc. I have sections based on: Africa, the Orient,
Persia, Europe, and places you have not heard of. (You are lucky that H.P. Lovecraft does not have a large
tract of land in my world.) Each area has its own specialties. The far eastern portion specializes in
arts/crafts and skills which require integration between mind/body/soul. The southern central human
kingdom specializes in cabalistic/elemental magic and sea craft. My Persia, the Thousand Isles, specialize
in rare spices and places where rare magics are hidden and guarded. The list goes on. If you do not like
the place your character is at the moment then just go somewhere else. Of course that is generally easier
said than done ... by the by, where does one go to get a good map?
D. The Campaign world is populated by many races. Races control or predominate in various areas.
Trolls live in the Troll Lands. Elves populate areas with plentiful foliage. Dwarves live in mountainous
areas. Centaurs thrive in Beast Valley. Humans dominate Xanduru, Timeria and the Eastern Empire. Orcs
and goblins can be found in abundance in the Yin Sloth jungles. There are even races bred by wizards
which roam the lands.
E. The forces of various factions clash on the world seeking cosmic supremacy. The “gods” nearly
destroyed the world long ago and voluntarily agreed to lit their own powers and never again intervene in
the world so direct fashion again. Yet, some of these powerful beings offer mortals bargains to do their
bidding. Sometimes these “bargains” are not in the character’s best interest. Evil and chaotic factions are
generally shunned by all right minded peoples. Therefore, the gifts of these gods are dearest of all. You
will discover the balances of the forces as play progresses. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it
almost certainly is.
F. As already alluded to, there are powerful organizations in the world. Generally, as your character
becomes more powerful, you will have to ally yourself with one or more of these organizations (at least
temporarily), or you will not survive. These organizations have access to magics, wealth (material goods)
and contacts. They can also train you, but each organization has certain requirements to join and remain a
member. The “real world” works this way and so does the Campaign world. At the very least, your
character needs to understand these organizations to avoid angering them. (A petty thief might be ignored
in a big city, but a master assassin is asking for trouble if he works on his own!) The organizations fall into
1. Religious - related to ethos,
2. Guilds - related to specific skills,
3. Political - feudal/state relations.
Commonly Known Aspects of Cosmology and Geography
Cosmology: In timeless ages past, there was no world or peoples or creatures. The boundless and
energies of destruction festered and lay untapped in the great cosmic egg. It was smaller than the hair of a
newtling, but yet, it contained everything that was or would be or could be. A force touched that egg and
laid its hands and breathed its features upon it and broke the egg. The egg exploded the world into being,
and this force, the Invisible God, shaped the world, the moons and the lesser gods. The world was not
quite as we know it now.
The gods walked freely on the face of the world, and all was exceedingly good. All the creatures
were immortal. There were the dragons and dragon-newts and great serpents of the seas and stone men and
octavian dwarves and mistress trolls and pixies and fey folk and unicorns and many others whom are not
seen today. But, there were no elves or men or halflings or orcs or morkanth or gnomes or other mortals.
The octavian dwarves were said to work great magics in those days, and it is known that the gods
themselves wrought great powers in their affairs in the world. Many of the relics and artifacts of great
power are left over from these days. The dwarves were the favored of the Invisible God, and he
commissioned them to work the Great Machine that allowed the world to exist. But, the world was without
form and subject in its content to the whims of the individual gods and dragons. The great god of the
waters, Magasta, was the first to act, and he carved out the seas from the lands and jealously protected the
waters from those who would take them. Next, Yelm, god of the light and would permit no one other than
himself to bask in the shine. With this, Xiola Umbar, goddess of the night, stole the darkness and hid it
under the world and called the place hell. And, soon each god and goddess took a portion of the creation
unto themselves and forsook its use to all others. The Invisible God looked upon all this and was greatly
troubled. He gathered together all his lesser peers at the Spike, the center of the world, the home of the
gods and stated
You have stolen each a foundation of the creation, and now consider yourselves
to be the masters of that which was meant for all. So it shall be! Today each of you is
marked with a Rune, a sacred symbol of power incarnate, and that Rune shall hold sway
over the pieces of creation which you have sundered! Who controls these Runes controls
that element of creation!
And so it was that the first Runes were these: Plant, Fire, Darkness, Water, Harmony, Disorder, Life,
Dragon, Movement, Stasis, Air, Spirit, Cold, Illusion, Truth, Beast, Fate and Chance. The Invisible God
retained Mastery, Magic, and Infinity unto himself.
While the gods held the great cabal, one from “outside” entered the world. He is known by many
names. The Grandfather, Grandfather Mortal, and Oussindi are but a few. The Invisible God spied the
stranger though and questioned this new creature from the outside of creation. The stranger cowered in the
face of the gods, but they comforted him. At last he spoke “I have brought gifts from outside of this world
from the space beyond the chaos which is cold where many worlds lie in seas of dark circling many suns.”
The gods looked at each other in wonderment. The Invisible God harbored many things unto himself, and
at length he spoke to the stranger “what have you brought to this world, old friend?” The Grandfather
opened his bundled blankets of metal and jewels and arcane glyphs and sigils not seen before or since on
this world .... the items inside were three: Death, Man and Void. The Invisible God took each and turned
them into a Rune. The Rune of Man he assigned to Grandfather, but the Runes of Death and Void he hid
deep in the darkness of hell where none, even Xiola Umbar, could find them. The Invisible God cast a
great magic and put the Grandfather to sleep for the Invisible God feared the tidings the stranger brought.
For a time, the gods were pleased with the newly formed Runes; this was especially true once they learned
after a span to use a bit of the other gods’ Runes.
The gods used each Rune to produce new creatures and conditions. Aldrya used the Runes of
Plant, Man and Fertility to create elves. Many gods created many new races, and through it all,
Grandfather Mortal slept. After a timeless period, some gods and goddesses tired of this perfect world in
which they lived, and at last two conspired to travel through hell in search of the two lost Runes. They
were Humakt and Eldar. Their adventures were many, but in the end, they each recovered a Rune.
Humakt brought forth Death, and Eldar brought forth Void. Humakt stole up upon the Grandfather while
he slept and used the Rune of Death on him. When the Rune pierced him, Grandfather screamed “I am
slain!” Where his blood fell on the world, men sprang up. The place where Grandfather died is called the
Dead Place to this very day. When the other deities saw what Humakt had done, they were exceedingly
angry, but Humakt used Death to slay those who opposed him. Seeing this Eldar fled into the hills and
forests far from the Spike and halls of the gods. The other gods fell back afraid, and again the Invisible
God intervened. First, he took the first men from the Dead Place and hid them far to the south I Palmalta,
the land apart. The Invisible God wept for his friend from the places beyond and called the second great
cabal of the gods.
While the gods gathered, Death was loose in the world, and creatures experienced mortality. The
wisdom of the ages was lost as the elder races began to die, but still the magical wellsprings of the world
flowed. There arose the greatest sorcerer ever known amongst the elves. His name is still whispered only
in the darkest nights ... Lichtadon! Lichtadon was a young elf, only 10,000 years old when he met Eldar
carrying the Rune of Void. Lichtadon asked Eldar what the Rune did, and Eldar in his pride replied “friend
Lichtadon, surely this Rune will grant you the powers from beyond needed to defeat Death, and your
praises will be sung forever!” Lichtadon’s pride was also great, and he endeavored to use the Rune in a
mighty spell. Lichtadon wished the spell to truly be the pinnacle of creation, and while the gods debated,
Lichtadon crept up the Spike into the chambers of the Invisible God and stole Magic, Mastery and Infinity.
When Lichtadon added these Runes to his spell, a great rent was torn in the fabric of the world, and
hideous creatures were released into the world.
The creature’s names are terrible to hear. Their very blood was like magic, and their forms were
hideous beyond compare. Others called them the Old Ones, but they themselves called: Xy, Agu, Al-vil,
Erva, Netosa, Tarm-kin-toe, Ya-ank-met, and Yablik. Everywhere they wrought destruction. They
destroyed the Great Machine and drove the Invisible God to the blue moon beyond the world. Many gods
and goddesses were slain. The great cities of the dwarves were ground to dust. The forests of the elves
were blighted, and the trolls were cursed. The dragons were driven back. At last the gods and creatures of
the world rose up against the menace and fought against the Old Ones. Terrible were the magics and great
the battles! Many gods betrayed their brothers when the battles went against them and sealed their own
fates with those of the Old Ones. The gods and goddesses steeled themselves for one last battle against
Old Ones, and as the gods and godlings drew up their battle lines, each one knew that the forces unloosed
would destroy the world while ridding it of the menace of the Old Ones. A great glow appeared in the sky
above the battle, and the Invisible God was there! He invoked the greatest spell seen since the creation of
the world, and it was ever afterward called the Great Compromise. The Old Ones were buried deep within
the bowels of the world and each god was taken away from the mortal plane. The Invisible God looked
upon the world and said “to my children that remain, heal the rent, and never again shall the gods so
directly intervene in the affairs of this world. But as a grim reminder, I give you two new Runes, Evil and
Chaos, lest you ever forget the dangers of invoking that beyond your comprehension. I likewise give you
the Rune of Law to balance the destruction of the world. From this day forward, no man will know my
And so it was ... the world was created and all its creatures and the gods gave the world their
Runes and the gifts of magic. Many are the tales and from many lands the names and deeds of the gods
and their avatars, and many more were the great spirits who called themselves gods to mortal men in the
days that followed, but these are tales around other campfires on other days.
The History of Man: The first men were the sons and daughters of Grandfather Mortal who fell
from his wounds in the Dead Place. They wee all taken away by the Invisible God to Palmalta to the south.
Great were the adventures that these first mortals knew, and men were known to have great sorcerers in
days. The ancient cities of Palmalta hide the origins of the human race. Great bargains were struck with
the forces which inhabited the world and beyond. Some were evil and some were good, and there still
remain legends that the sorcerers of old will walk again if properly conjured. Some of the sorcerers built
great cities, and some were strangely changed through the pacts they made and the formulae they cast. The
first men lived for many years in this land, but at last, the men grew weary of the place they called home.
In the days following the Great Compromise, men ventured in small craft across the great waters
of the world to the land later to be called Timeria. The land here was not so touched by the foul hands of
Chaos as Palmalta, and the man that lived here prospered. In those days, the elves and dwarves were still
weak from their encounters with the Old Ones, and men naturally expanded into the areas vacated by the
Many men moved into the land of Lei Po, and they formed a great nation there. The leader of the
great nation was known as the Invincible Overlord, and this elder land made its capitol at Traagor. The
peoples of this land also moved across the Zhorante mountains and west toward the Pool of Magasta.
Also in these days evil remnants of the Old Ones continued to ravage the land, and some men of
this elder nation bred with demons of the Void. The chief priest of the Overlord was called Mung, and it is
rumored that he made foul pacts with the forces of evil and struck bargains with the Immortal Vampire and
There came a day when the evil practiced by the humans of Lei Po could no longer be tolerated,
and each of the kingdoms of troll and elf and dwarf sent liaisons to the Timerian Empire (for indeed an
empire it had become) and asked Arco the Great to take some action against his brethren to the north. Arco
the Great gathered his three most trusted advisors: Hrothmir the Bold, Carrastinian the Adept, and Tien the
Wise. Together they left to face the great menace to the north, and this is their tale.
During their journey north, Hrothmir received a vision from Yelm. Yelm instructed Hrothmir to
travel to the Yagha Tsorv mountains and seek out the Temple of the Rising Sun. The band immediately set
out through the mountains to find the temple. Every foul creature of Chaos found them in the mountains
and attempted to held them from their appointed place, but onwards, always onwards the intrepid party
journeyed. At last they reached the temple. Inside they received further dreams and visions. Hrothmir was
instructed in how to find or construct the globe of Zeal, shining sphere of green, imbibed with the magics
of the gods of Law. Carrastinian was told how to find or construct the globe of Magic, a shining orb of
red, swirling with the magics of the gods of the Compromise. The Tien was instructed how to find or
construct the globe of Mentalism, a clear globe, filled by the mental energies of the gods of the
Compromise. Each was also given gifts by the deities to the furtherance of their mission.
Arduous and long were each of their journeys. Hrothmir traveled north to: the top of the Spike,
the Place of the Dead, the Citadel of Lead, and the plains of the Prax. Carrastinian traveled to the west to:
the Thousand Isles, the Dwarvish Citadel of Iron, and the Place of Magic in the Silver Mountains. The
Tien traveled to the east across the Zhorante mountains to the Citadel of Dragons. After many years, the
three reassembled south of the Spike to erect the sacred tower which they called the Tower of Indomitable
As if by magic, as the heroquesters gathered, members of the elvish, dwarvish and trollish nations
also assembled and helped to erect the tower. These members of the elder races also brought with them or
assembled the last portions of the Artifact, two Runes of Stasis, because the Artifact was so powerful that,
once created, it had to exist partially out of Time lest the world be destroyed.
Finally came the day when the Artifact was completed, and the three left the tower to do battle
with the Overlord and his evil minions. The battles were long and the magics awful to behold, and in the
end, the entire kingdom of Lei Po lay in waste. To this day this region is called the Great Waste. Traagor
lay in ruins, and evil and Chaos were pushed back everywhere. At long last, the world was nearly rid of
Chaos and only a few pockets of foulness remained in the northern continent: the foul swamp of Fess, the
upland swamp of Dialecti, Snakepipe Hollow, and the jungles of Yin Sloth to name a few. The heroes
prepared with great confidence for the final destruction and annihilation of evil and Chaos, but that evening
as they gird for battle, the Invisible God appeared to each of the heroquesters and said
Great is the work you have done, but do not forget the Great Compromise!
Lichtadon burns yet in the pyres of hell for his error! Do not repeat it! I ordain you each
as priests of balance. Scatter the fragments of the device and trap them lest they be used
again in ignorance, and leave one portion with a dark lord of Chaos as a symbol of your
trust in the Great Compromise.
And so, they dutifully scattered the fragments of the device which was known to the people of that day as
the Artifact of Ultimate Destruction. But, in the end, Hrothmir withdrew his pledge and founded a city of
Law which he called Slot in honor of his shield bearer. It is rumored that Hrothmir was slain by the
balance for his sacrilege by a vampire, a powerful servant of Chaos, who is cursed forever to guard the
tomb of bold Hrothmir. Little is known of what became of the Tien or Carrastinian although it is rumored
that when the forces of Law lay in peril again, they will aid those who seek to right the balance.
Men went forward from Timeria again, and they first settled a land called Tumeria in honor of
their great empire of origin. In Tumeria they built a great city called Tiola Moldre. Next men settled
Eldenvaan and founded Xanduru. Ultimately Xanduru became the capitol of these new lands. Magrax was
settled next; its capitol is called Resserlin. The Lunar empire was settled next combining the ways of Law
and Chaos; their ruler (whose mortal name is lost to us) was deified in 2050 Y.O.L. as the Red Goddess
and added the Lunar Rune to the list of magic sigils. Hamarsin was the next to be settled. Tanarsa, Nerria
and Hemem were all settled in their time.
So many worlds, so much to do, so little time such things to be!
I look forward to playing with you in the Campaign!
This next portion is some history from the Campaign prior to the PBeM. This will help
clarify later installments of the PBeM. In the next _IR_, I will publish some additional
history with supplemental details on the characters.
The original message was put out by Phillip Hume, a long time player in the Campaign.
I added some comments in italics. Enjoy! Rich
My name is Phillip Hume, and I'm one of the people playing in Rich's play by
e-mail campaign about Armageddon in his old campaign world. He asked me (and
one or two other people) to bring you up to speed on events in the history
of the world in the last two campaigns that lead up to this point. In the
first campaign that will be mentioned in this information, I played Alin (a
paladin) and later Branahm Stephenson, who's currently bouncing around at
the end of the world, and in the latter campaign I played Huvis the halfling
Note: I'm going to try to write this from the perspective of a historian
in the campaign world; after each section I'll include notes that I would
guess that a powerful old figure would know.
Campaign I, the War against Nigilranthrib
In or about the year 5100 Y.O.L. the arch-lich Nigilranthrib launched a war
of conquest from the Tower of Death in Nerria against the kingdom of the
Overlord. Prior to launching his war he had gathered around himself an
array of other liches and other evildoers into a powerful organization
that was refereed to some outside of it as the Order of the Iron Rings, a
reference to iron rings worn by it's members which denoted their rank
within the organization. Nigilranthrib's ultimate goals were unknown when
he started his war, but it was known that he had recovered several powerful
artifacts immediately prior to or in the opening stages of the war, among
them one half of the stasis rune.
Very few were aware of the threat Nigilranthrib poised. Nigilranthrib had
bided his time and formed his organization discretely over time; a lich is
nothing if not patient. He had been ``killed'' by the Life Sword
approximately 2400 years earlier by Sir Prinham who went on to become the
king of Nerria. Power tended to corrupt Prinham though, and in the end you
saw cities like Kalabay, a festering port city, arise under his reign.
Eventually the Life Sword stopped working for him, and in shame Prinham hid
the sword in the structure where Phineas, Granth, Kroonchie, Branham and
Rose recovered it millennia later. After the fact, it seems reasonable that
the Balance Cult and it's White Wanderers was aware of the threat and also
started machinations to disrupt Nigilranthrib. In fact, because
Nigilranthrib was thwarted in his initial excursions, he acquired the
artifacts. Also, Carrastinian placed the enchantments on the Chalice and
Lichtadon's copy of the Book at this point, as a last ditch defense. The
more worrisome threat was the Necromancer who had started tampering with
large dimensional portals and disrupting the structure of Zhalindor at a
planar level. Whereas Nigilranthrib was out for conquest, the Necromancer
was out for godhood . . .
Nigilranthrib's War caught many of the defenders of Law and the Cosmic
Balance off guard; in short order his armies of the undead had seized
Nerria and were making steady progress into the other kingdoms of the Lands
of the Overlord. For reasons that were not entirely clear to this
historian, the Overlord himself was reluctant to send his armies into
conflict with Nigilranthrib; thus the various national armies were left to
face him. A substantial setback was dealt to the forces opposing
Nigilranthrib when he used the half of the stasis rune that he possessed to
place the entire city of Lhormar into stasis; this effectively eliminated
the Council of Mages from the war, as they were frozen in time and the
other half of the stasis rune was still lost.
The other half of the Stasis Rune was entrusted to Astrogard the Wise, son
of Lord Eldar. Astrogard hid the Stasis Rune in the ruins of Trogaar, a
trading city from the ancient Northern Empire. Astrogard also hid away the
Black Sphere and the Void Rune. History revealed that Astrogard liked the
Tien, but he never fully trusted Carrastinian and refused to let these
artifacts fall into the hands of the Balance Cult. (Legend tells us that
Hrothmir the Bold disagreed with the decision to disassemble the Artifact
of Destruction and was killed ``by the gods''. Historians suspect that
Carrastinian may have been this instrument, and it is known that Astrogard
and Hrothmir met each other during the ``cleansing'' of the great Northern
Empire. If the Tien was Astrogard's salvation then Hrothmir was his
spiritual leader who led him back from the precipice of the Void.) Nerria
fell entirely under the sway of the black forces of Nigilranthrib. Hemen
was crushed in a futile resistance. The southern half of Tanarsa (just
below Alyrien), the western half of Hamarsin (to include Lhormar) and the
northwest portion of Tumeria (to the gates of Tiola Moldre) also held the
minions of the Lord of Death, Nigilranthrib, at the height of his conquest.
Al Alfredo, the Overlord, and his chief counselor Mung held back the
Imperial forces and used them to bolster the defenses of Eldenvaan. (Some
speculate that Al Alfredo and Mung were neutral at best and may even have
been in league with the Lord of Death although no one would have even
hinted such a thing during Al Alfredo's ancient reign. As a side note,
Nigilranthrib played with a young Al Alfredo in the decadent city of
Xanduru while the young prince of Tanarsa, Padrag Eoin later Nigilranthrib,
still had human form.) The minions of the churches of Kemer-Lexi, Filean,
Alimanros and Roazite also held their forces back to defend Magrax. In the
end, the Overlord did commit the Imperial reserve to fight in Hamarsin, and
Nigilranthrib's forces never penetrated Eldenvaan en masse.
Meanwhile, an obscure but evil individual known as the Necromancer was up
to no good. Having concocted some evil scheme to acquire massive amounts
of power, he killed the chaos priest who wielded the Crystal Sphere
(a.k.a the Dimensional Key, a.k.a the Rune of Mastery) and used it to
send himself somewhere else, leaving the Crystal Sphere itself safe in
his fortress, guarded by his fearsome undead and orcish forces. It is
known that the Necromancer and Nigilranthrib were allied at some point,
but how closely they were connected or how much each trusted the other
is lost to history.
The Necromancer was an immortal whose exploits ranged back to the time before
the sundering of the World Machine. Few names have survived in mortal annals
from those days before the assigning of the Runes to their patron deities. A
few include Cragspider, Dialecti and the Necromancer. Interesting that both the
Necromancer and Cragspider seem to have known of this land where millions of
people lived under other suns (blasphemy!) separated by regions where Xiola
Umbar had truly banished the legions of Umath (primal air) and Yelm (heat and
light). We can speculate that Nigilranthrib having once been foiled in his
plans of conquest by the Balance Cult was more than willing to aid the
Necromancer just as an effort to keep the Balance Cult occupied.
Into this catastrophe a group of adventurers was cast. After several
early deaths, this group stabilized into the rangers Fineous, Tremir, and
(Joe), the paladin Alin, the mage Granth, the healer Focalwind, the bard
Alloysius, and the priestess Rose. They stumbled onto the conspiracy that
Nigilranthrib had started before his war began in earnest, and frequently
interfered with operations of that organization, killing their way up the
hierarchy of the organization. Eventually, they were recruited by the
Celestial Balance people to pursue the Necromancer into the dimension that
he had ventured; Exactly what happened there is not known, but it is known
that two of the individuals (Alin and Alloysuis) who followed him did not
return, and that at least one person who did return didn't go with them
in the first place, an individual known as Branahm Stephenson. The
Necromancer did not return, and it is believed that he was slain.
Shortly after this, the ranger (Joe) was also slain and was replaced in
the group by the halfling thief Kroonchi. While the party had been in
the alternate dimension, Nigilranthrib took the Crystal sphere from the
fortress of the Necromancer and used it to further his own nefarious ends.
At last able to turn its full attention to the thwarting of Nigilranthrib, the
Balance Cult lost a score of its best in the defense of the Crystal Sphere.
This was when Nigilranthrib first revealed his mastery of the Stasis Rune.
Immortal blood was spilled on the dark night when Nigilranthrib strode into the
craggy keep in the Yagha Tsorv mountains where the Crystal Sphere rested. The
Tien and Carrastinian bolstered the defenses of Slot and Eldenvaan at large
using the Red and Green globes. In the end, Astrogard agreed to give
Carrastinian the other half of the Stasis Rune when the armies of Nigilranthrib
swarmed for the first time over the borders of Eldenvaan. Coincidentally, this
is when the forces of the Overlord were first deployed out of Eldenvaan to halt
the advance of Nigilranthrib's forces. The clash between the two armies was
surprisingly bloodless, and there were rumors of large sums of gold and precious
gems being polled up the Dhortha river under cover of darkness to Xanduru,
guided by helmsmen best unseen. Of course, the peasants always say such
Nigilranthrib, in association with the Devil Eloise (who had once been a
mortal whom the party had ended up killing) and the destroyed Arch-Lich
Vecna came up with an evil scheme to both destroy the party and resurrect
Vecna; the party was to be banished to an alternate plane, where they
had been heroes responsible for destroying Nigilranthrib and had in turn
been slain trying to pierce the tomb of Vecna. Piercing the tomb of Vecna
would have been exactly what it would have taken to free the arch-lich, but
only a group of non-evil or chaos heroes could accomplish this task.
The group decided that charging into the tomb of an arch-lich was a fools'
quest, however, and did not follow the course of action that the forces
of evil hoped that they would. Instead, they pursued an alternate plan,
following a message from the goddess Eldryia which told of a way to defeat
Nigilranthrib; in the alternate (peaceful) universe they recovered the Book
of Infinite Spells and the Chalice of Worlds from an island in the Thousand
Isles and used the Chalice to return to their world. In their expedition to
do this, the mage Granth was apparently slain by a slaver named Klopkarch (who
the party later killed, twice.) He would pop up several hundred years later,
apparently not having been killed at all but having used divine intervention
to escape back to his home universe. The party later entered the Tower of
Death and attacked Nigilranthrib; everyone was killed except for Tremir and
Rose, and then Tremir gave the Book of Infinite Spells and Chalice of Worlds
to Nigilranthirb (on advice from Aldryia again) who promptly got himself
imprisoned due to a safeguard enchantment that Carristinean had placed on
the two to protect against anyone using them both at the same time.
The Tein and the Master Summoner Astrogard promptly laid waste to the rest
of the council of the Iron Ring group, and that ended the war. The
party members were rewarded by the Overlord for their work, with Fineous being
made King of Nerria, Tremir being made a Duke, and the rest of the party
being promoted into the position of baron.
When Nigilranthrib was imprisoned in the Nexus, his spells of necromancy which
animated his dead legions faded, flickered and died. The dead fell back into
the grateful embrace of Ky Tora Lek, and the mortals began the process of
healing the ravaged land. Fortunately, the dead consumed none of the food
stocks in their march through the lands, and famine did not destroy the
population. Astrogard relented and allowed the Tien to use the other half of
the Stasis Rune to release the Council of Mages at Lhormar. (The half
Nigilranthrib used was part of the trap which captured him.) The majority of
the mortal members of the Iron Ring fled although many of them were hunted down
by parties of vengeful vigilantes across the breadth of the Overlord's
dominion. The mortal members of the Iron Ring left in the Tower of Death were
apprehended by the Tien and Astrogard; Nigilranthrib was jealous of his power
and only allowed one lich, Maub, to survive the centuries with him. Maub had
wisely fled with his entrails when Carrastinian, the Tien and Astrogard were
noted approaching the Tower of Death. Phineas and his companions were richly
rewarded by the grateful Overlord. Phineas never did trust the Overlord though,
and Phineas and Tremir swear that the Overlord seemed almost brooding and
resentful at times for the party's victor over Nigilranthrib. It was odd that
the Overlord assigned a public opponent of Phineas as the only Imperial
appointment to Phineas' court; this was Baron Borgbad who was a member of the
Iron Ring. Interesting to note that in the alternate dimension where the party
was hailed as heroes, Baron Borgbad was a great champion of law and justice;
apparently Baron Borgbad's lineal ancestor was into the dark arts, but he turned
around after a group of adventurers thwarted a plot of his involving Tim Hel and
a powerful vampire sorcerer.
End Part I.
Notes that would probably be known to an old and powerful individual but not
the general public:
Tremir: An elven ranger who is currently near 600 years old; was known even
several hundred years ago as one of the best bowmen on the planet. Currently
being played by John Tewksbury; I'll let him describe him more.
Granth: A half-elven mage/martial artist who is rather powerful; he was fond
of large-area destruction spells. Spent the last few hundred years teaching
magic and rune magic to people he deemed worthy; a very dangerous character.
Tremir's brother; Tremir was unaware that Granth had survived Klopkarch's
attack until they met in the Blue Crater. Currently an NPC.
Branahm: psionicist from another dimension. Same age as Tremir, which
is rather odd considering that he's apparently human. Was a known and active
ally of Tremir, although he was frequently at odds with King Fineous following
his coronation (reasons why will be discussed in the next section. )
About 200 years after the battle with Nigilranthrib, when rune magic started
working again and the seas were opened (again, details about this will be
in the next section) he disappeared, although infrequent contacts with Tremir
were recorded after that. Regarded by some (including Myria among the current
group) to be mad. Played by yours truly Phillip Hume.
Who Caliban Keen-Eye would have been most likely to know would depend, but if
he spent time in Nerria he would probably have met Tremir. From past behavior,
he would estimate that Tremir and Granth would be unshakable allies, and in
most cases they would both be strong allies of Branahm as well.
Here are the known alliances:
Leoshi: initiate of the Dragon-Newt cult. (PC)
Trakh-Chi: Zorak-Zoran worshiping great troll. (PC)
Huvis: Halfling mage, member of White Order (PC)
Voorindril: Elven spirit-summoner. (NPC)
These four are in the second party, and can be considered fairly strong
allies, unlike these next two (although they are also in the party)
Guy: human mercenary and oppurtunist (NPC)
Luck: Halfling warrior. (NPC) AKA Risk
Myria was a character from the summer after the main first campaign ended;
a brief sketch of the history of that time will be given in the next period.
She spent the last few hundred years fighting slavers and other evil
types in Pamalta. (NPC)
Last are some comments on the zines in the last _IR_.
Let me begin by saying I thoroughly enjoy each issue of _IR_, and it was very nice to
get to meet some of the contributors up close and personal during Arisia!
Comments on Issue #18
Peter Maranci: Congratulations on _IR_’s birthday! It is a testament to your blood, sweat and tears that the
publication is still going. If anyone doubts that, take a look at “professional” publications like _The
Gamer_ and _Pegasus_ which went under. Bravo Peter! I thoroughly enjoyed reading your descriptions of
Arisia, and on that same note, it was very nice getting to meet some of the other _IR_ contributors in
Virgil Greene: I enjoyed reading your column as always. :-) Your vision of a near future RPG set in the
Newtling America reminded me of a combination of “the Handmaiden’s Tale” and “RoboCop.” I hope it
remains only an RPG setting! It is interesting that none of the more recent “near future” literature, games
or movies depict a very happy setting. Your predictions for the future of gaming were very upbeat, and I
sincerely hope that your oracles are correct. What do you think of the future of cross-genre games?
Joseph Teller and Kiralee McCauley: It was very nice meeting you at Arisia! You predictions for the
future of gaming were very interesting. I especially enjoyed your description of the tension between the
old gamers and the newbies. Very good point! What could we as a community do to address this
Gilbert Pili: I read your zine three times. It was interesting to see the process your group used in arriving at
an RPG system and setting. I’ll be curious to hear how the campaign progresses. I’m a fan of the folks at
Chaosium (all really neat people). You’re right though; the ever mutating Glorantha has caused some
gaming problems over the years. I’m not sure I’d recognize Gloranthan heresy anymore. :-) If you ever
need an extra set of eyes to proof your CoC screenplay, I’d love to help out. It sounds like it is progressing
nicely. Good luck on that endeavor! I loved your writings on the Molkesha setting and look forward to the
George Phillies: It would have been fun to play in the “This Shining Sea” world. :-) I thoroughly enjoy
your writing, and your zine is one of the first things I read in _IR_. Your novel about the invasion of the
Americas sounds very interesting. The duel between Pyrrin and Elaine was engrossing. You might have
mentioned this before, but this question came to mind as I read chapter five. Is it quite unusual that Elaine
was able to call the form of the Rune to mind, or can anyone who learns the secrets of magic practice it in
Michael Lavoie: Your zine was packed with cool information! You mentioned that your fiction was
inspired to some extent by your gaming experiences. What types of things do you extract (e.g. character
descriptions, plots, funny gaming exploits)? I will miss GDW too. As the field of RPG companies shrinks,
the pool of talent and creativity goes too. It seems recently like the trend is for many of the really good
paper gamers to go into the electronic media. Sandy Petersen took me to an electronic gaming firm down
in DC to visit some of his friends, and I was amazed at how many well known, “big name,” paper RPG
designers were sitting in one room (all from previously competing firms too). It bodes well for computer
gaming, but it seemed like a death knell for face to face RPGs. :-( Happy anniversary on your
contributions to _IR_, and many happy returns of the day!
Timothy Emrick: Your CoC campaign sounds interesting. How often do you meet? I’ll be curious to see
how it progresses.
Andrew Howes: I’ll be out your way soon after the next issue of _IR_ hits the streets to visit Pacific
Command (PACOM). Your module was great fun! It reminded me of the hey day of the Judges Guild. I
look forward to seeing more of your work in future issues of _IR_.
Curtis Taylor: I’m going to go right now and check out that website of yours! Sounds fun!