Thursday, October 29, 2015


Most people in Marakāven are human, though a handful of masadhi come and go with travelling caravans. The city is on the coast, and the outer districts are made up of small islands, most of which are connected by ornate, incredibly long bridges constructed in a previous age. The southern side of the city is walled by an immense mountain range, and on the lower slopes where these mountains begin many of the wealthiest families live and look out over Marakāven. The mountains of the Crown can be seen on the northern horizon, and smaller communities of dense townships connected to Marakāven spread upward along the coast, on a map the dots are a blood spatter of civilization.

Most of the buildings in Marakāven are constructed out of stone, but the outskirts are built out of wood. With no outer walls, the elite of Marakāven rely on a great river for protection which splits the city into northern and southern sections. The north of Marakāven is a compact archipelago of islands, all of which are joined by bridges of various sizes and differing artistic license. Some of the buildings tower over the islands, connecting into the buildings of neighboring islands.

Marakāven is divided into six districts:
Central, while it is not the true center of the city this district covers the biggest area as most of the islands that make up the northern archipelago fall within the Central district;
Mountainwall, where the city's nobility lives, a collection of buildings and castles built into the side of a mountain hugging the southern end of the city;
Portside, the coast of the city's southern section and where most of the city's trade is conducted, if you're looking for a bank or a storefront you can find it in Portside;
Rum Barrel, a "newer" section of the city where the homes are mostly simple wooden structures and where much of the city's labor force lives;
Scorpion, this small district comprises the northernmost islands of the archipelago where the city's buildings are tightly packed together and the canals are too thin for all but the slimmest boats to pass through, it is named for an infestation of water scorpions that once plagued the city;
Statue, the section of islands just north of the Crowkut River that also serve as port of calls for the city's trade so named for the prominent statues erected on every island - the Ghost Tower falls within the Statue district.

The shore of southern Marakāven is the primary trading port for the city. Almost all of the city's nobles live in the southern districts, Portside and Mountainwall. The southern districts are cut off from the mainland by the sheer face of the mountain, and the Crowkut River separating them from the rest of Marakāven.

Some of the bridges on these islands have stiff outer gates, making the residents capable of cutting off their island from their neighbors, while other islands have ways of collapsing their bridges and still others have no methods of protecting themselves. The ornate geography of how these islands connect together makes Marakāven a difficult city to pillage, but since the city extends onto the coast and has no outer walls the poorer districts have fallen victim to sieges and raids. The south of Marakāven is connected to the north by three large bridges left behind by the city founders. With so few access points to the southern districts of the city, the locals have become adept at protecting what is theirs.

Though magic was obviously used to construct parts of Marakāven's housing and many of its bridges, magic is today a rare commodity. There are a few magicians in Marakāven, but they either operate under a pseudonym or they are noble and can afford to protect themselves with guards and the relative safety of a home in Mountainwall. Any open display of magic will cause awe, surprise, or fear in the common citizenry. Trying to pawn an item as magical is more likely to make a merchant assume you are a crook, or a simpleton.

Castle Coldtrail sits at the top of the Mountainwall district and is home to Queen Enves Maliri, a skilled fighter and rumored sorceress. Her family owns or controls almost all of the land surrounding Marakāven, and plenty of properties within Marakāven itself. A parade of commissioners work under her direction and each governs their own section of the city, divided up into municipalities that seem to change and shift borders from month to month so that the commoners are never entirely sure who exactly represents their interests.

The younger sister to Queen Maliri is Princess Yvette, she resides in the Blue Tower of Castle Coldtrail and she is in command of the royal guards. Many believe she is a magician as she frequently hires mercenaries for work outside of the city who recover trinkets and artifacts from Wuunrlaan cities. She is a collaborative patron of the arts and her tower is often populated with artists who are also possibly her lovers. Though she never leaves the Blue Tower and has absolutely no interest in taking the regency from her sister, stories and rumors swirl about her intrigues with the other noble families. To receive an invitation to her parties in the Blue Tower is a prestigious honor that any noble would kill for, and a few have.

Trade, commerce, and production are all controlled and dictated by guilds and the nobility. Each island has it's own guilds for every profession and due to their territorial and competitive natures none are willing to cooperate with similar guilds on neighboring islands. This is exactly how Queen Maliri wants it, and keeping the guilds and their attendant nobles fractured is how her family has maintained control over Marakāven since they rose to power two centuries ago.

The Church of Sanglorius - the Proud Savior, the First Man, Creator of All Life - handed down from an oral tradition, they believe Sanglorius created all of humanity and strove for perfection in all things. The tales of Sanglorius are filled with sex and violence as he is said to have been an undefeated fighter and took many lovers. There were once temples to Sanglorius everywhere in Kosranon and his symbol can be seen in some of the ancient architecture of Marakāven. The Church now operates out of these buildings associated with his symbol and is strongest in this part of the world. Priests are trained fighters and many temples double as dojos for martial combat practice.

The Divine Heritage of the Three Kings - this church has a small presence in Marakāven and many of the locals are wary of them, even as they grow in numbers. Rumors of their church's crusades in the far west have reached Marakāven and nobody wants to see a holy war pour out into the streets and canals. The Divine Heritage has set up several churches within the Rum Barrel district.

Cults are everywhere in Marakāven, and though they are not technically illegal they often come to blows with Templars of the Divine Heritage or overzealous devotees of the Sanglorius Church so most do not advertise their presence.

Openly carrying weapons is illegal throughout the city, and city guards have the authority to execute anybody they feel is hindering their duties or causing a danger to themselves or others. People who carry weapons either keep them concealed or risk being arrested. City guards, however, don't patrol all of the neighborhoods and are more common the further south in the city one goes. Nobles often carry weapons for dueling, but also never venture far without a bodyguard or two.

There are few laws in Marakāven, anything that obstructs trade or imposes upon the nobility can be considered a crime. There are laws to protect the common citizenry, but city guards are often subject to bribery and will often look the other way if a noble is abusing one of their lessers. The harshest punishment that can be meted out by the courts is for a person to walk the Ghost Tower. Since nobody has ever returned from the Ghost Tower, this is assumed to be a death sentence.

Cities that serve as inspiration for Marakāven:

Venice, Italy

San Marino, Italy

Ronda, Spain

Saturday, October 17, 2015

no more reports

I don't plan on writing any more session reports for my Dwimmermount game. We've had three sessions since my last update and writing out what happened feels more and more like a chore to me.

Some interesting things that have happened in the last three sessions:

1) they destroyed the chaotic psychoplasm but now that room is just filled with rotting gore and intestines, some of it still levitating in the air under it's own unnatural power
2) the demoness, Aishapra, was slain and the library she was lairing within has become an outpost for Tsetsig and a small band of horngoblins
3) a band of goblins from a town neighboring Muntburg have ventured to Dwimmermount to pledge service to Queen Ilona
4) they re-activated the power on the 3rd level then used a portal to visit the Manufactory level where Ilona temporarily allied with the Termaxian cultists there
5) Horatius captured one of the doppelgangers who had been impersonating a dwarf, they slayed the rest
6) many magic items have been discovered and identified
7) led by Varazes the wizard, the Orcs who had retreated down to the second level had finally regrouped and surged back onto the first level to slay the horngoblins and anyone else they found, but they were routed and fled back down to the second level, Varazes was slain - literally cut in half by a horngoblin's sword
8) Queen Ilona has decided to stay on the first level and commanded Horatius to "go downstairs and slay every orc you can find!"

All of the PCs are at 7th or 8th level, which means some of the encounters in the dungeon have become tedious or downright boring. We had a fight during one session where I realized the green guardians spread across two rooms could only hit the two main fighters if I rolled a 19 or 20.

I resolved the mass combat between the orcs and the horngoblins by treating ability and skill checks like Dungeon World moves and having a narrative declaration for the roll results. The beginning of the battle seemed like a losing fight, with orcs streaming up from below and a few horngoblins falling while the rest of the horngoblins seemed hopelessly outnumbered. But the tide of battle turned after a series of lucky rolls, and soon the players were having the horngoblins rush forward to take out the wizard before he could unleash any more magics.

We're taking a short break at the moment, and when we get back into the swing of things I can't say for certain when I will write about the campaign again, or what it will be about. But for now, the session reports as I have been writing them are done.

the image is Marilith by zelldweller

Friday, October 16, 2015


Back when 3rd edition D&D first came out I was still playing quite a bit of Legend of the Five Rings and I was really excited when I heard Wizards of the Coast acquired the L5R license to remake the Oriental Adventures rulebook as a Rokugan sourcebook. I remember being really disappointed that Oriental Adventures merely reskinned conventional D&D classes while lavishing an Eastern-inspired theme over all of it. I immediately set out to write up Shugenja correctly!!!

These stats come from my original notes. I remember writing it as a rough draft and I handed it to a friend asking for his input, he wrote up a shugenja and tested it out then handed back the pages and said "This is great! They should have hired you to write this sourcebook." Validation! I tucked the pages away into a folder and then they disappeared, and occasionally they've surfaced whenever I clean out my bookcases or move my library around, but this is the first time I've pulled them out of the folder and said "Let's take a look at this again."

Originally for 3rd edition D&D:


LevelBase AttackFortRefWillSpecial
1+0+2+2+0Spellcasting +1, Scribe Scroll
2+1+2+2+0Spellcasting +1, Ability Increases
3+2+2+2+0Spellcasting +2
4+3+2+2+0Spellcasting +3
5+3+2+2+0Spellcasting +3
6+4+2+2+0Spellcasting +4, Ability Increases
7+5+2+2+0Spellcasting +5
8+6/+1+2+2+0Spellcasting +5
9+6/+1+2+2+0Spellcasting +6
10+7/+2+2+2+0Spellcasting +7, Ability Increases
11+8/+3+2+2+0Spellcasting +7
12+9/+4+2+2+0Spellcasting +8
13+9/+4+2+2+0Spellcasting +9
14+10/+5+2+2+0Spellcasting +9, Ability Increases
15+11/+6/+1+2+2+0Spellcasting +10
16+12/+7/+2+2+2+0Spellcasting +11
17+12/+7/+2+2+2+0Spellcasting +11
18+13/+8/+3+2+2+0Spellcasting +12, Ability Increases
19+14/+9/+4+2+2+0Spellcasting +13
20+15/+10/+5+2+2+0Spellcasting +13

SKILL POINTS at 1st LEVEL: (4 + Int mod) x 4
SKILL POINTS per LEVEL: 4 + Int mod
CLASS SKILLS: Concentration, Craft, Decipher Script, Diplomacy, Gather Information, Heal, Knowledge (any), Meditation, Listen, Ride, Scry, Spot
WEAPON and ARMOR PROFICIENCIES: Shugenja are skilled with two simple weapons and one martial weapons (player's choice). Shugenja are not proficient with any type of armor nor with shields. Armor of any type interferes with a Shugenja's movements, which can cause spells to fail.

SPELLCASTING: A Shugenja doesn't cast spells, but allows their own energy to mingle with an element, thus gaining its favor and influence. Spells are grouped into five elements, each with an effect that corresponds with the nature of that element. Shugenjas receive scores for each element based on their ability score modifiers. These bonuses, or penalties, help guide a Shugenja's growth.
AIR (Dex & Wis): Air, or Wind, cannot be seen directly, but its effects can. Air is the element of storms, although a Shugenja's abilities to influence storms is minor. Air is also the element of birds, and therefore the element of travel. Lastly, Air is the element of intuition and influence.
EARTH (Con & Int): Spells that invoke the quiet strength of the Earth are those that effect resilience and resolve. Earth also represents health and growth.
FIRE (Dex & Int): Fire is a symbol of intelligence as certainly as it is of destruction. Fire spells can invoke raging firestorms as well as inspiration and creativity.
WATER (Str & Wis): Water washes away stains and tarnish, and so it is the element of clarity. But water is also adaptable and can fit into any container which is why Water also represents transformation.
A Shugenja's quantity of spells is directly based on their ability scores.
For every 7 points worth of ability scores, the Shugenja can cast one spell per day (round down). Example: a Shugenja with all of his ability scores at 14 could cast 12 spells per day (14+14+14+14+14+14=84, 84 divided by 7 equals 12). All Shugenja start with the Sense, Commune, Summon, and Counterspell scrolls, as well as a number of scrolls equal to their Wisdom modifier (minimum of 1).
SCRIBE SCROLL: This is NOT the Item Creation Feat of the same name. Scrolls that Shugenja use are distinctly different from the scrolls that clerics and wizards use, and only other Shugenja would understand them.
ABILITY INCREASES: Shugenjas get twice as many ability increases as other characters because of their strong attunement with all of the elements.
CASTING A SPELL: Every spell has a DC that the Shugenja must roll against. He uses his Spellcasting bonus (based on level) and adds his Element bonus (or penalty, see above) for that spell to the roll.
PREPERATION: By doubling the casting time of a spell, the Shugenja can receive a +5 bonus toward casting the spell. Alternately, the Shugenja can take a -5 penalty to lower the casting time by 1 round (minimum of 1 action).
RAISES: Some spells mention that the Shugenja is capable of raising the DC for casting the spell, these are called raises. There is a way Shuganja can avoid raising the DC for a spell and receive raises. A Shugenja can spend an extra spell slot for the day to receive a raise on the spell they are casting.
RITUALS: Some spells are designed as rituals, in which any number of Shugenja can participate in the casting. Each participating Shugenja adds their Spellcasting bonus (modified by Element score) to the lead Shugenja's roll against the DC of the spell. Any Shugenja participating in the ritual can be the lead caster. A ritual can be cast by a single Shugenja, but a standard spell cannot be performed as a ritual.
CONCENTRATION: Each Shugenja spell has a Concentration level, since Shugenja spells are not categorized by levels, this is used to determine the DC of a COncentration check is the spell is interrupted by the Shugenja taking damage or being distracted. Spells that require no concentration cannot be interrupted, except by magic dispelling effects or a Counterspell. Total -15, Full -10, Focused -6, Casual -3, None = no roll.
MASTERY: Each Shugenja spell has a MAstery level, this number tells at what level the Shugenja must be before the spell becomes an "innate ability" and he no longer requires a scroll to cast it. A spell must be known for at least two levels of the Shugenja's career before he can master it. A spell with a Mastery of 7 can become "innate" for a Shugenja who learned the spell at 5tgh level or earlier, but only if the Shugenja is 7th level. Note that the four basic spells for all Shugenja start Mastered, and a spell with a Mastery of 3 can be mastered at 3rd level if it was one of the Shugenja's starting spells.

SENSE (basic spell)
Casting: 2 rounds, DC 10Save/SR: none / no
Range/Area: 60 foot radiusConcentration: none
Duration: instantaneousMastery: automatic

COMMUNE (basic spell)
Casting: 1 round, DC 10Save/SR: none / no
Range/Area: see descriptionConcentration: Focused
Duration: 1 roundMastery: automatic

SUMMON (basic spell)
Casting: 3 rounds, DC 20Save/SR: none / no
Range/Area: 1/2 cubic footConcentration: none
Duration: PermanentMastery: automatic

COUNTERSPELL (basic spell)
Casting: 1 action, DC 20Save/SR: none / no
Range/Area: line of sightConcentration: none
Duration: instantaneousMastery: automatic
When cast, a Shugenja must target another Shugenja who is in the process of casting a spell. The Shugenja must summon energies that directly oppose the Element of the spell being cast. Opposing Elements= Earth and Air, Fire and Water. If cast successfully, this spell raises the DC of the spell the opposing Shugenja is casting by 10 plus the level of the Shugenja casting Counterspell.

And THAT, is apparently, all of the notes I still have saved from this experiment. I know that I wrote up a few of the L5R spells, because I remember having Benevolent Protection on a 3x5 index card. I don't know what happened to the index cards I used, or the notes I had for the spells PCs learned, but outside of my friend's personal playtest, I used Shugenja in a short D&D campaign that lasted a few sessions and they worked really well. Rereading these notes now, there are obviously some gaps that need to be filled, and I wonder how high level play would look, but it's rekindled my interest into going back to Rokugan.

UPDATE: I found another piece of paper tucked away in a notebook that has a few spells written up: Benevolent Protection, Bo of Water, Call Upon the Wind, The Fires That Cleanse, Immortal Steel, Know the Mind, Mists of Illusion, Tempest of Air, and Wings of Fire. Plus, some basic stats for three Shugenja with examples of each spell.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Advanced Languages

Languages are composed of both Dialects and Literacies.
Dialects are spoken languages, Literacies are written languages.
Not every Dialect has a Literacy and not every Literacy has a Dialect, but most Languages have both.
Character sheets have separate boxes for Dialects and Literacies.
Characters start with 1 Dialect, their native tongue.
Some classes start with a Literacy in their native tongue (if it has one).
Some classes start with extra Dialects and/or extra Literacies.

Learning a Dialect is easy and can come quickly.
Characters have a 6-segment Wheel to track learning a Dialect.
Every time a Dialect you don't know is spoken and you wish to interact with the speaker, roll 1d20 and add your Wisdom modifier plus the number of segments in your Wheel.
On a 20+ you understand what was said and can communicate successfully.
On a 10-19, you understand essentially what was said but when you try to communicate you sound like an idiot
On a 9 or less, you misinterpret what was said and you sound like an idiot.
Whenever you roll a success (the 20+ result), you fill in a segment of the Wheel.
You cannot fill in more than one segment of a Dialect Wheel per day.
After all four segments are filled and you fail another roll, you've learned the Dialect and no longer need to roll 1d20 in order to be understood.
Having at least one segment in the Wheel means you can understand basic and simple ideas like "where is food?" and "can I sleep here?" but complex ideas like "can you help me scout this mountain?" or "let me show you how we should ambush those bastards in the valley!" or "don't kill him, we need to use his magic later!" will require a roll.

Learning a Literacy is difficult and time-consuming and requires study.
Every Literacy is different and some are more complex than others.
Each Literacy has a period of time in which in takes to learn.
Having a tutor can cut this time in half.
Having a skilled tutor can cut this time in half twice.
Common takes 3000 hours to learn, with a tutor it takes 1500 hours, and with a skilled tutor it takes 750 hours.
A skilled tutor is any character who knows the Literacy and has a combined Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma modifier equal to +3 or higher.
When you try to translate written text without any training, roll 1d20 and add your Intelligence modifier.
On a 20+, you understand the basic message of the script though nuances may be lost.
On a 10-19, you will miss something crucial in the translation or your translation is time-consuming and delays something important, GM's choice.
On a 9 or less, you have no clue what it says.