Wednesday, May 20, 2015

More on Completionism

(Whoa, two posts in one month, when was the last time I pulled that off?)

I don't expect this will be a very lengthy post, just an addendum to what I had to say in February about feeling the need to have everything I  want present and accounted for. Much as this previously led me to spend a great deal of time and stress attempting to get the exact system I wanted, it also tends to haunt my creative process when it comes to creating settings or planning out adventures or campaigns. A place for everything and everything in its place is a fine ethos when it comes to tidying up the house, but when it comes to worldbuilding it is somewhat trickier-- it's fine to utilize it, but sometimes that place has to be well off from the path the adventure is likely to follow.

Let us take the Eberron campaign setting as an example, mainly because it consigns some very popular elements off to certain corners of the world, well away from the continent where most of the "main" action takes place. As obvious as it might seem, an Eberron campaign will probably not involve a lot of giants and dragons, unless one goes out of one's way to allow for trips to Xen'Drik and Argonessen. Something focused on the internal politics of the five nations doesn't generally need them-- and that's perfectly alright, more than that, it's something that one needs to learn and internalize to DM Eberron well. This does not only apply to published settings, of course-- it's okay for things to be out there in your campaign world that the players may never see, may never even hear directly about.

I guess what I'm getting at is that an important skill in GMing, and one I struggle to master, is restraint in the name of focus. This is important in general, but especially so when one is building from the bottom upwards-- a barony or province in the Tiny Bickering Fiefdoms does not need to contain the whole of your Monster Manual, just enough variety to keep things interesting. This is something that to the mind that has already internalized it seems obvious, but something I think it benefits us all to hear now and again.

Friday, May 8, 2015

In which a background is described: The Refugee


You've seen the worst the world has to offer and survived. You lost your home, you lost almost all your possessions, and you probably lost somebody, or a lot of somebodies, along the way, too. What stayed behind? Who will you never see again? Something took your old life away from you, and that something has made you brave, crazy, or desperate enough to turn adventurer.

Skill proficiencies: Survival, Insight

Tool proficiencies: One vehicle or artisan's tool of your choice

Language proficiencies: One of your choice

Equipment: A moth-eaten blanket given in charity, a precious reminder of the home you've lost, a small knife, five GP you've suffered to scrimp together, and the clothes on your back

Ordeal: Something happened that caused a lot of people, including you, to be displaced. Choose a disaster or tragedy, or roll on the table below to define the trouble that plagued your homeland.

  1. Plague or epidemic 
  2. Famine/drought
  3. War, invasion, or civil war
  4. Natural disaster (hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunami, etc.)
  5. Supernatural disaster (Demons or undead overran the land, magical cataclysm destroyed/sank your homeland, the tarrasque awoke and devastated the kingdom, etc.)
  6. Political crisis or genocide

Feature: Object of pity

You've long since learned to give up pride if it means having food and a warm place to sleep. Provided you don't make yourself a threat or a nuisance, you can always find enough people moved by the story of your suffering to allow you to maintain lodgings and food of a meager or poor standard for you and your companions-- and maybe even a modest or comfortable standard for a night or two-- in exchange for minor tasks (for instance, help around the home for a generous peasant family, or attending religious services for a temple or mission.) In addition, as word gets out of your terrible ordeal, strangers in a place you've been living a while may show you a certain level of sympathy.


1) I never, ever let anything go to waste.
2) I've seen and done terrible things to stay alive. I don't want to talk about them.
3) My trust comes justifiably slowly but it is built to last.
4) Experiencing lean times has made me relish the good life all the more when I can get it.
5) I have no interest in thinking too much about my former life, it's all dead and in the past now.
6) Losing everything has strengthened my religious convictions.
7) I don't want to lose anyone else, I lost too many people already.
8) I still haven't cried, but I'm not ready to smile yet either.


1) Nihilism: Chance will have its way with all of us, better to accept it and try to adapt than try to impose order where none exists. (Chaotic)
2) Faith: Even if I can't see it, there is some greater cosmic plan and what I've been through was a necessary step (Lawful)
3) Resentment: The world has been unfair to me, why should I be fair to anyone else? (Evil)
4) Drive: I've always had to struggle and fight, and it's made me strong. (Neutral)
5) Strength: I know what it's like to have no one else to depend on, therefore I will make sure I am someone on whom others can depend. (Good)
6) Hope: I saw the worst the world could show me and I survived. It can only get better for me from here. (Any)


1) I know that the one I love is still alive out there.
2) My mother was taken from me on that day, but I hope we will see each other again.
3) When I crossed the border and I was hungry, the farmer I met slaughtered his only pig to ensure that I would get the best meal he could provide me.
4) We never met before it all happened, but escaping together made me and another survivor as close as family.
5) Exhausted and on the edge of death, I met an itinerant priest who rescued me and helped me make it across the border. One day I'll repay him for saving my life.
6) So far as I know, only one other member of my family made it out. We're all each other has now.


1) I hold the world responsible for not doing more to save us.
2) What happened was a terrible tragedy... and I'm pretty sure we all know who were really responsible for it.
3) If you'd seen what I've seen, you'd never trust anybody either.
4) I used to be rich and powerful, maybe even a noble. I'm disgusted by myself and what I've been reduced to.
5) I may accept your charity, but I'll resent both you and myself for needing to.
6) I've turned to terrible vices to cover up my grief.