Tuesday, November 30, 2010

XDMC 23 - 8 Golden Guardians Pt. 1

So, here is my silver medal entry. I hope you can steal it and use it for your game. An update first though: I have gotten permission from all of the XDMC 22 entrants, so, the PDF project will be up shortly with all entries in the PDF. I hope that some DM's will be able to use this as a valuable resource, it is FREE, so that is definitely a usable price.

The 8 Golden Guardians


The 8 Golden Guardians is a legendary organization which is commonly believed to have been responsible for protecting people all over the world as an extraordinarily powerful wing of the (a) church. Each member of the group possessed extraordinary martial prowess and extraordinary strength, dexterity, and constitution; they were also all wise men possessing incredible intellect and reasoning. The legend of the 8 Golden Guardians has gone on to inspire countless martial adventurers throughout the ages, but has also been used by the church to inspire the plain and ordinary people of common decent that they are not only being protected by the gods above, but also by plain and ordinary humans just like they are.

However, the legend of the 8 Golden Guardians is lie…

The False Legend

The legend of the Guardians dates back several hundred years and is closely linked to the (a) church. Common Knowledge about the organization is easily accessible. Many books have been written about their exploits and the clergy are all eager to tell tales of their bravery and honor.


Common Knowledge about the 8 Golden Guardians
Legends about the organization differ considerably regarding their exploits during life. Depending on the church one visits, the legend may change dramatically (this is mostly due to the fact that all reports of their activities are predominantly false). However, some facts remain the same:

It is believed that the 8 Golden Guardians roamed the world approximately 300-400 years ago. Some older dwarves and even elves proclaim that they met the 8 Golden Guardians while they were journeying at some point. Each of the Guardians relied not on magic powers or special magical weapons, but instead, relied on his own physical abilities in battle.Each of the 8 Golden Guardians avidly practiced a single martial style which he was eager to teach to others; each of the guardians frequently participated in duels, but only to teach, never to kill or show off one’s own strength.The 8 Golden Guardians actively traveled the world searching out the elder evils that plagued the people in order to slay them and thus bring harmony to the public.Golden Statues that depict the 8 Golden Guardians can be found in virtually any church around the world. They are most frequently located in places that the Guardians are believed to have visited.

Advanced Knowledge
Additional Information about the Golden Guardians can be obtained through a successful history check (note: this information pertains to the FALSE legend regarding the organization some of this information is grossly inaccurate, some of it is simply a twisted version of the truth)
Expert Knowledge – DC 20
The Golden Guardians were so named because of the color of their clothing and armor. Each member of the Golden Guardians wore raiment’s made of pure gold.
The Golden Guardians were renowned for being pure warriors who cleansed the world of evil – even from within the church and places of power. Wherever the people were being oppressed, it was their duty to purge that corruption.
The Golden Guardians were believed to come from another plane. Although human, their appearance was exotic and not typical for regular humans.
Master Knowledge – DC 25
The 8 Golden Guardians each had very different hair and eye colors. It was obvious that they were not related by blood, but by a common desire to protect and save the people from evil.
The 8 Golden Guardians were believed to have disappeared from the world when they believed their mission to be finished. They had brought hope to the people, purged the church and the kingdoms of tyranny, and had cleansed the land of its various taints. They left the material world satisfied by the fact that they had passed on their knowledge of the martial practices to the people and that those people could now protect themselves


Expert’s Knowledge – DC 30
The 8 Golden Guardians were responsible for slaying several key heads of churches all around the world. These church officials had been corrupted by demons and devils and had been using their position to do evil.
The 8 Golden Guardians were responsible for leading purges against several cities – each of which had been tainted by a despicable evil power, some by the plague, some by forces of pure darkness.
The 8 Golden Guardians are reputed to have overthrown at least one, if not more, powerful kingdoms which were ruled by tyrants. They slew the king, took his head, and displayed it to the people, who were overjoyed that they had been liberated and freed from oppression.
You discover that the names of the 8 Golden Guardians and their martial specialties: They can be found below.

  • Trypthis the Black – Dagger Rogue
  • Swelarcus the Blue – Longbow Ranger
  • Dormthindral the Green – Spear Fighter
  • Razamal the Red – Dual Wielding Sword Fighter
  • Pericus the White – Two-handed Axe Fighter
  • Zelkaedel the Purple – Fist Fighter Monk
  • Gromarde the Brown – Brawler Fighter
  • Harkus the Gray – Sword and Shield Fighter

Note: More difficult knowledge checks are probably unnecessary. If players are capable of making checks higher than 30 than they should have access to the TRUTH about the 8 Golden Guardians very quickly, as detailed IN TOMORROWS POST... cliffhanger...

Session 3 Adventure Report Pt. 1

When last we left our intrepid adventurers, they had slain a young purple dragon on the roof of an out of control steam train in the late ours of the night.

I will say up front that this session was a bit of a let-down. We were down two players, which forced me to change the encounters a bit; however, the players are in general improving their skills and know how to get through things quite a bit better.

To begin the session, the players tried to rescue as many of the nobles as they could from the 1st Class car. Most of them were either dead or dying. Among the group, an Elf noble pled for the aid of the PC's in recovering the cargo which they were hauling to Kalm. Although the cargo itself was highly valuable, the players were able to get enough information out of the Elf to find out that not the cargo, but the containers which were holding their cargo, were the real prize. The crates must be recovered at all cost - he informs them just before passing on.

The players held a little impromptu strategy meeting and decided to throw their steam train, now back in working order, into reverse and ram into the cars which they had previously detached. They were successful in this task, but were forced into a bottlekneck as the only perceived point of entrance into the enemy train was from their previously connected cargo car.

Inside the cargo car, the PC's were met with heavy resistance. An Elite Orc, wielding some powerful steam tech, accompanied by a Dragonborn elementalist, a pair of Ogres, and a squadron of minions put up quite the fight, but in the end, were bested without too much of a mess to the players. The biggest threats came from the Dragonbron and teh Elite Orc, but the Dragonborn was taken down by a single HUGE hit from the Barbarian which dealt over 60 damage. Quite the crit. The Elite Orc proved to be quite the burden in Mellee, but after he was shot up a bit, he went down hard.

However, the cargo car had already been plundered (those big Ogres made quick work of the heavy lifting), so the players sauntered through the big iron doors which led to the Orc train and got ready for the last battle of the Hammer.

Stay tuned and check in tomorrow for info on how the final battle of the Train raid went down.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Genesis Journal #12 - Who is the foreigner? - Blending Cultures

After thinking A LOT about the Meiji Revolution and about how the world works in general, something very obvious hit me in the face like a whip cream filled water balloon. In order to achieve something like the Meji Revolution you really have to have a foreign nation which can influence said nation of focus.

The Meji Revolution was the Meji Revolution because the people of Japan were drastically changed through their contact with outside forces from other European countries, as well as contact from America, and Japan's imperial push into China.

I am having trouble visualizing a stand-alone setting, like I want, which is dominated entirely by a quasi-Japanese, quasi-European look and feel. So, what do I need??? A foreigner, or a couple countries full of foreigners.

The grand map of Sigilsval which I drew up in the past was dominated by a massive land mass in teh center, but what I have decided since then is to open up this map and expand it. What it really needs is another half, another whole map to represent the other parts of the world which have influenced the world in general.

At this point, I am totally unsure of how I am going to accomplish this, or if I am even going to worry about it. I think referring to some ambiguous 'other' country during the design process is acceptable (as long as I get back to it in the end).

Does anybody else have any experience of this kind?? I would love to find out.

Elaborating on Campaign Characteristics #11 - Steampunk meet Cyberpunk

Based on some discussion about what Steampunk is really defined by, you would not define Mad Lands as the same traditionally recognizable Steampunk. It has elements that are distinctly different. However, you would not call it traditional high fantasy either - it is far too *cough* steamy for that. I would like to compare Mad Lands - my homebrew setting - as something that falls in between Steampunk and Cyberpunk. I'll explain after you read the following article.
by Sarah Brandel
After reading Sara M. Harvey’s novella The Convent of the Pure this weekend , I spent a while thinking about steampunk stories in general, and how their aesthetics, attitudes, and ideas compare to those of cyberpunk stories.
What struck me most with respect to these two genres were the differences in attitude, especially with respect to technology, society, and the individual. Below are some sweeping generalizations made about the genres with respect to these areas. Don’t take these as my last word on the genres; after all, these summaries are written to encourage debate!

Stories and novels in the steampunk genre seem to be more optimistic, with society riding a wave of technological wonders toward a brighter future, much like the scientific romances of yore. Of course, there may be rumblings of trade-offs and potential misuses of the new science and technology that underscore the optimism–and the novel’s antagonist may well be building a clockwork doomsday device–but a new era is dawning, and it is full of possibilities. Secret societies (composed of individuals in power) or conspiracies are often the source of problems rather than society in general. Individuals have the potential to accomplish great things, no matter how humble their beginnings.

Cyberpunk stories and novels, on the other hand, seem to wallow in dystopian futures where the world is overrun by megacorporations and the individual is just one more cog, or circuit, in the machine. Technology–specifically, plugging into a virtual network via computer or neural jack–can be both an escape and an addiction. Things have gone wrong with the world, or perhaps just a localized portion of it, and it’s up to individuals working outside of the mainstream culture to set it right. In general, however, there’s only so much that can be done, since society is sick to its core. Society is Darwinian with respect to individuals: the weak are swallowed whole and only the strong, the rich, and the clever survive.


My current setting although primarily a steam based fantasy world escpaes from the steam tech only standard through some very alien means; the Far Realm influence on the world is so strong that some have been able to tap into this power to create technology that simply goes beyond anything that human hands could produce. Therefore, the world falls, technologically, into both the Steampunk and Cyberpunk categories. However, I would say that I want the overall feeling of the world to be a little bit of both, and a lot of neither.

What I mean by this is that I want the world to be filled with unsurity and disharmony, much like the "modern" world we live in. It is not the optimistic past that you see so much in Steampunk, nor is it really the dystopian future. It is more of a very screwed up present that could go either way.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Silver Medal in XDMC #23 !!! Woot!

Just pulled down the Silver Medal in XDMC #23 - Create a Legendary Organization. This contest was a lot of fun. I am really excited to have placed for the first time. My organization, the 8 Golden Guardians, was a lot of fun to make. I hope some people will get some enjoyment out of it. I will be posting up this entry to my blog soonish...

Homebrew Update - Ramfolk (Ibixians)

Not to give away too much, but one of the component of my homebrew setting are the Beastfolk races, all of which are said to have been sired by the 12 Great Beasts. One of these Beastfolk races, which will make an appearance in an upcoming campaign session is the Ramfolk, or Ibixian (if you want to go by the 3.5 name from MM3). I decided to roll up a homebrew version of this race for 4e to add into the campaign guide.


Ramfolk (Ibixian) - 3.5 Update

Racial Traits

Average Height: 6' - 7'

Average Weight: 250 - 350 lbs

Ability Scores: +2 Stength, +2 Constitution or +2 Dexterity

Size: Medium

Speed: 6 Squares

Vision: Low-light

Languages: Common, Ramfolk

Skill Bonuses: +2 Intimidate, +2 Perception

Racial Weapon Proficiency: Greataxe and all Simple Weapons.

Herd Fighting: When fighting adjacent to another Ramfolk, you gain

a +1 Bonus to all Saving Throws and a +1 Bonus to attack while bloodied.

Headbutt: You have the Headbutt racial power.

Headbutt Ramfolk Racial Power

You ram your horns into the skull of your opponent dizzying him.


Standard Action * Mellee

Strength vs. AC

Hit: 1d6 + strength damage and the target is dazed until the end of

your next turn.

Genesis Journal #11 - Caste Systems

My homebrew world uses a caste system which is loosely based off of the four-tiered caste system which was present in Feudal Japan and the Floating World period up through the 1860's. I would love to explain this all, but I have found an excellent source which can do it for me, so I will defer here to this article by Kallie Szczepanski.

"Between the 12th and 19th centuries, feudal Japan had an elaborate four tier class system.
Unlike European feudal society, in which the peasants (or serfs) were at the bottom, the Japanese feudal class structure placed merchants on the lowest rung. Confucian ideals emphasized the importance of productive members of society, so farmers and fishermen had higher status than shop-keepers in Japan.
At the top of the heap was the samurai class.
The Samurai Class:
Feudal Japanese society was dominated by the samurai warrior class. Although they made up only about 10% of the population, samurai and their daimyo lords wielded enormous power.
When a samurai passed, members of the lower classes were required to bow and show respect. If a farmer or artisan refused to bow, the samurai was legally entitled to chop off the recalcitrant person's head.
Samurai answered only to the daimyo for whom they worked. The daimyo, in turn, answered only to the shogun.
There were about 260 daimyo by the end of the feudal era. Each daimyo controlled a broad area of land, and had an army of samurai.
The Farmers / Peasants:
Just below the samurai on the social ladder were the farmers or peasants.
According to Confucian ideals, farmers were superior to artisans and merchants because they produced the food that all the other classes depended upon.
Although technically they were considered an honored class, the farmers lived under a crushing tax burden for much of the feudal era.
During the reign of the third Tokugawa shogun, Iemitsu, farmers were not allowed to eat any of the rice they grew. They had to hand it all over to their daimyo, and then wait for him to give some back as charity.
The Artisans:
Although artisans produced many beautiful and necessary goods, such as clothes, cooking utensils, and woodblock prints, they were considered less important than the farmers.
Even skilled samurai sword makers and boatwrights belonged to this third tier of society in feudal Japan.
The artisan class lived in its own section of the major cities, segregated from the samurai (who usually lived in the daimyos' castles), and from the lower merchant class.
The Merchants:
The bottom rung of feudal Japanese society was occupied by merchants, both traveling traders and shop-keepers.
Merchants were ostracized as "parasites" who profited from the labor of the more productive peasant and artisan classes. Not only did merchants live in a separate section of each city, but the higher classes were forbidden to mix with them except on business.
Nonetheless, many merchant families were able to amass large fortunes. As their economic power grew, the restrictions against them weakened."

you can find the full text of this article here: http://asianhistory.about.com/od/japan/p/ShogJapanClass.htm

Saturday, November 27, 2010

L5R was really awesome!

I have been going back to some of my old L5R books. Working in a game store for a long time had its perks - getting books at a discount. I have a massive collection and it is nice to once and a while go back some old stuff for inspiration.

L5R definitely did the Japanese setting right. That setting did a fantastic job of creating a fantastic version of Japan which I would have loved to roll through with a Ronin or a Shugenja of my own creation.

I have been looking at the 4th edition book recently and really want to get my hands on it to do a review. Being a Japanese culture major, and speaking some of the language, I would really enjoy combing through the new stuff to see what they have changed, updated, thrown out, etc.

I really think I am going to end up imitating a lot of what L5R was able to accomplish, not really because I am going to be copying their stuff, but because they were so bloody complete in their production of these gaming texts that they really got to every single corner of the Japanese world which can be explored for fantasy role playing purposes. Then again, my game is a bit more recent in terms of the history of Japan. Aiming my setting at some time around the Meji Revolution, then turning that into a fantasy world, I think there will be a significant deal of new material.

Speaking of old books, was looking at "Sorcery and Steam" -
What an awesome book. Filled with so much great material. Anyone thinking about running a steampunk style game should go back to this book for some great historical information and inspirational material.

Genesis Journal #10 - Thinking About Numbers

I have been playing a lot with numbers lately. This may sound very odd, but, I guarentee that everyone thinks about numbers in some respect when it comes to playing D&D or just about any game in general.

However, I am not talking about math. I am not even talking about numbers from a combat standpoint. What I have been thinking about is the impact numbers can have in your campaign and what images, impressions, or power those numbers might have on your players.

For example, since I brought up the Dragonmarked houses from Eberron in a recent post, let us take a look at their number: 12! A very important number: Jesus had 12 disciples, there are 12 months, the 12 zodiac signs, all very important 12's.

It doesn't stop there though. Just about every number (at least up through the teens) has a substantial ammount of literary work/historical precedence from which your mind may be drawn to if you start to homebrew with it.

1 - the loneliest number that you will ever see, that ring
2 - only a little better than 1, a pair, twins, etc.
3 - the holy trinity, a crowd
4 - the directions on a compus, zelda: 4 swords.
5 - L5R, the five rings, etc.
6 - (actually having trouble thinking of anything off the top of my head)
7 - the lucky number, the number of clans in L5R, Jesus's favorite number
8 - the number of Bhuddhist Protectors which guard the 12 beasts of the zodiac
9 - ring wraiths

the list just keeps going and going and going.
I think it actually is a really important decision when making a story to think about numbers this way. I want to leave an impression on my players and the people that read my work, so I actually give this a lot of thought. Am I going crazy, or do other people think this way too?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Lenny the Loan-Sharkman Pt. 1

From Lone Sharkman to Loan-Sharkman

Lenny is an NPC which was inspired by some discussion over on the new RPG Table Talk Forums. A discussion has recently broke out regarding loans in D&D. He is a product of the discussion which you can read here: http://www.rpgtabletalk.com/index.php?topic=46.0

Lenny is a sharkman, he is half man and half shark. He doesn't fit in very well in mainstream society and has never been very well loved by anyone. He has however had a brilliant career as both a pirate and an adventurer and treasure seaker. Although he once had a love for the sea and for seaking out danger and gold, he has put aside his adventuring ways in order to pursue a career as a private banker of sorts. He offers loans to people who need money quick, but his loans come with some really steep interest rates. However, for a small fee, he will also keep a player's treasure and gold perfectly safe and available at a moment's notice.

Lenny grew up in the ocean. He was a lone shark in a big sea, but, an encounter with a group of drowning mages, some wild magic, and he turned into a real man - well, at least half of a real man. Lenny grew a pair of legs, and a pair of arms. He even began to start to think and speak like a human. It wasn't long before he decided that he wanted to try his fins at life out of the water. He headed to the nearest port, but, wasn't greeted with the warmest reception. He was an outcast, bitter, depressed, and alone.

One day, everything changed for Lenny. A group of unsual characters had formed something of a adventuring band. None of them were particulary heroic in appearance, but each had the heart of a true hero. Lenny was heartily welcomed by the group and they set out across the world in search of treasure and glory. Lenny felt right at home.

Over the years, the group lost some of its number and Lenny decided that he wanted to try something new. With his newfound wealth, and his combat skills, honed from years of dungeon delving, Lenny found himself a crew of misfits and built himself a three masted ship. He would be the captain of his very own pirate vessel.

However, after a couple years of pirating, and getting fat off of his lifestyle as captain, Lenny decided that pirating simply wasn't worth the trouble. He quit, took his vast fortune, and sunk it to the bottom of the ocean.

Lenny moved inland, built himself a little shack on the beach and tried to think up a way to make some money. It wasn't long before he had a brilliant idea. Becuase of his infamy as a legendary pirate and adventurer (partly true on both accounts) he constantly received visitors eager to get money out of him. Lenny however, was not eager to simply give away his money. One day, a traveller came to call and asked to borrow 1000 Gold Pieces, but, if he was lent the money, in a week, he would pay it all back plus an extra 100 gold. Lenny thought the deal sounded good enough and gave the traveller the gold. A week later, the traveller returned with all the money, plust the interest he had promised to pay. From that day on, Lenny became a Loan Shark.

The Services Lenny Offers

Lenny offers several service to virtually anyone who asks. He will loan GP out at a reasonable rate. About 10% interest per week (well, maybe it isn't so reasonable). However, loans of significant GP require a great deal of collatoral (something worth at least 20% of the value of the laon). Lenny expects his payments to be made in a timely fashion. Usually, he requires that the total ammount of the loan be repaid 10 weeks from the date the loan is given, but he requires a payment of 20% the base ammount every 2 weeks. Lenny is not very merciful when it comes to late payments. He has been known to visciously maul anybody who doesn't come up with the money on time.

Lenny also offers service as a private bank. For a fee of 500 gp, a player can open an account with Lenny and give hime money to hold in reserve. When a player gives lenny money, he or she can be assured that no harm will ever come to it. Over the years, if Lenny has learned anything, it is the art of teleportation, a skill which he uses daily and with incredible skill in order to get exactly where he needs to be - mainly, his massive vault, hidden at the bottom of the sea, containing all of his money, and all the money of the various adventurers with whom he does business.


I hope you like Lenny. I will post stats up for him in 4e D&D later on the blog. Stay tuned for a stat blog and adventure hooks involving Lenny.

The Astral Black Market Firesale- a D&D 4e Event

So, Black Friday has come again this year. I am really sad that I won’t be in the States to enjoy it. I have fairly religiously been a Black Friday shopper since high school; I used to line up at circuit city and sell coffee at 3 am. This was always a nice way to earn a few dollars to be put towards PS2 games. Last year, I lined up from 6 pm the night before in order to be one of the first people inside Best Buy in order to pick up a PS3, games, DVD’s, and lots of other goodies.
Since I won’t be enjoying these sales this year, I thought I might put a little something together for all of you D&D playing bargain hunters. This event is designed for 4e D&D, but with a little work, you could easily adopt it into other games.


The Astral Black Market Fire Sale –
“Everything an Adventurer didn’t know he needed and more!”

The Astral Black Market Fire Sale is rumored to have been started several hundred years ago. The sale is believed to have originally been started by a group of powerful and very successful adventurers who travelled the planes in search of treasure and found much, too much of it. In order to get rid of all their excess magical items, they put together a massive caravan of astral ships which they enchanted for travel to and from the astral plane to the material plane. Now, the original founders of the sale have long since stopped selling their goods, but others joined in and expanded the operation. It has now become a yearly even for selling off stock of old weapons, excess armor, and miscellaneous magical items ranging from the strange to just down right useless.

The Astral Black Market Fire Sale is an event which happens once a year. The location of the sale each year changes, but it always shows up somewhere highly populated, and densely packed with warriors, wizards, and other powerful people in search of powerful new toys. However, not only does the sale pedal magical wares, it also draws huge numbers of peasants because of the giveaways. During the fire sale, each of the dozens of merchants involved hands out free items to the general public for coming to see what is for sale. These items are usually not more valuable than a few silver pieces, but sometimes a vendor may give out something that is as valuable as a few GP. These items range from candles and cookware to small farm animals and rope. They could be just about anything. It is always a big surprise what will come up.

Part I – Getting what is on your shopping List
Of course, the biggest draw for the fire sale is the chance to pick up magic items. However, getting to the good stuff is not very easy. There are a lot of people buying a lot of stuff at this gathering. It takes some serious skills to get what one really wants.

The Wish List –
Before doing the fire sale event, each player must put together a wish list of 10 items that they want to buy. These items should be numbered from 1-10 with 10 being the item the player wants the most. The player cannot write the same item multiple times. The DM will use this list in determining what the player’s will have access to during the event

The Fire Sale is a moderate difficulty skill challenge requiring 5 success before 3 failures. Every time a player succeeds on a skill check, he or she moves one step closer to getting all the items on his list. Whenever a player gets a success, up to 4 success, he or she earns 1 point. If the player succeeds on the skill challenge, he or she gets an additional 1 point. When the skill challenge ends, the DM makes a d10 roll against the player’s wish list for every 2 points the player earned during the skill challenge to see what items he or she was able to obtain.

Players can use the following skills during the Skill challenge.
Athletics – to push and shove through the throngs of people.
Acrobatics – to jump and cartwheel above the crowd.
Stealth – to slip unnoticed through the lines and make your way to the front.
Arcana – to sense where the really good magic items are being stored.
Diplomacy – to convince someone to give you the item you want.
Intimidate – when you want it no matter what
Bluff – to lie your way into the best deals around.

All the DC’s of the above skills should begin as medium, but pulling the same trick multiple times gets harder and harder. Each time a player makes the same skill check again, increase the DC needed to succeed by 2.

Part II – What you didn’t know you needed
Although getting what is on your wish list is priority #1 during the skill challenge portion of the Fire Sale, this event also offers a plethora of other, less important magical gear, which could be a fun addition to an armory.

The merchants offer a variety of interesting items and weapons at a discount.
Non-Magical Weapon and Armor are 50% off.
Basic Adventuring gear, non-magical, is 75% off.
Alchemical items/consumables are 25% off.
Random items costing less than 5 gp are given away for free.
Magical Weapons and Armor are 10% off.
Useful Magical Items are 15% off.
Semi-useful magical items are 20% off.
Ok magical items are 25% off.
Basically junk magic items are 50% off.

Haggling at the Fire sale is encouraged, however it is very difficult. Players can use Diplomacy, Intimidate, or Bluff (DC – Hard) to get an additional 5% off of an item each time they make a purchase, however, failing on Intimidate of Bluff causes the price to increase by 5%. Each time a player uses the same skill, the DC of the check increases by 2.

This event provides a great opportunity for DM’s to put together a big list of random magic items, which aren’t really something a player would want or particularly use, but might provide an interesting flavorful addition to his or her character. The decreased price just might get the player to drop some gold on something he or she didn’t want.

Part III – Not knowing is half the fun
Several of the merchants offer grab bags of various levels. These are items which are covered and concealed. No skill checks are allowed to be used when purchasing these items.

The Grab Bags are generated by random D10 rolls when the player buys the item. Grab bags come in two varieties, weapon grab bags and armor grab bags. Each grab bag is guaranteed to have either a magical weapon or a magic suit of armor inside. Each vendor offers a grab bag of level equal to the average level of the player’s in the group. In other words, if the players are all level 10, the vendors sell a level 10 grab bag. The grab bag costs the same as an item of the player’s level ,but may or may not have that level of item inside. Inside the grab bag is a random selection of items, roll on the following charts to see what is inside.

Chart 1 – roll on this 1 time.
1 A random weapon/armor of player level -4
2. A random weapon/armor of player level -3
3 A random weapon/armor of player level -3
4. A random weapon/armor of player level -2
5. A random weapon/armor of player level -2
6. A random weapon/armor of player level -1
7. A random weapon/armor of player level -1
8. A random weapon/armor of player level
9. A random weapon/armor of player level
10. A random weapon/armor of player level +1

The grab bag also comes with several other items, roll on the following chart to determine how many items and of what levels they are before choosing what items to pick.

Chart 2 – roll on this 1 time
1. 1 magic item of player level – 5
2. 1 magic items of player level -4
3. 1 magic item of player level -3
4. 1 magic item of player level -2
5. 1 magic item of player level -1
6. 1 magic item of player level -1 and one magic item of player level -5
7. 1 magic item of player level -1 and one magic item of player level -4
8. 1 magic item of player level -1 and one magic item of player level -3
9. 1 magic item of player level -1 and one magic item of player level -2
10. 2 magic item of player level -1

The DM should feel free to throw the weirdest, strangest, most useless magic items that they can find into the grab bags, even if it means making new ones.


I hope you all have a good black friday, get some good deals, and enjoy some hot coffee, sold by high school kids, at 3 in the morning. Cheers.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Thanksgiving Skill Challenge, Let's Eat!

Let’s Eat – A Thanksgiving Skill Challenge

Given that in the United States Right now, everyone is preparing for their big Turkey day, getting ready to sit down with the family and fight over the biscuits and mashed potatoes, I feel a bit down. I am living in Japan, as most of you know, and right now, my Thanksgiving will probably be spent eating Ramen from a cup. Given my utter jealousy for all of you at this moment, you should fee happy that I have decided to write a little Thanksgiving Skill Challenge up for some 4e D&D. With that, let’s eat!


Note regarding level
This skill challenge is suited to any tier of play. All you need to do is adjust the DC’s to fit the level you are dealing with.

Once a year, each year, the King holds a massive banquet for adventurers and heroes at the Palace. This feast is in celebration of all their hard work for the kingdom throughout the year. The player’s may have done something good for this kingdom in the past, or they may be just wandering through, looking for something to do. Either way, they are generously given an invitation to the castle to take part in the festivities.

During the feast, the Players may be given an opportunity to get information out of the king or other nobles/adventures. They may also have the chance to earn some temporary increases to their stats for getting their fill – or, they may end up as a lethargic sleeping mess.

How does the challenge work?
This is a special type of skill challenge. It doesn’t use the traditional rules for skill challenges as presented in the DMG. However, it is very similar. During this challenge, the player’s have a chance to earn points with every success, which are tallied at the end of the challenge to find out how well the player did.

Part I – Taking their seats.
During the first part of the Skill challenge, the players must find their seats. They have the chance to use several different skills to get a better seat at the table.

Any player may use Diplomacy (DC – Hard) on the King in order to get a chance at a better seat at the main table. A success on this skill check earns the player 1 point. A failed result subtracts 1 point.

If the player sits down at the far end of the table, after having succeeded on a Diplomacy Check with the King, they are asked, by the King, to sit at his table. This earns the player an additional point.

If the player sits down next to the King, he or she will be asked to move, losing him or her one point.

A player may also use Bluff or Intimidate (DC – Medium) in order to get a better seat. Doing this grants a +2 Bonus during Part II of the Skill Challenge.

Part II – Getting a Good Whiff
Although a great feast has been prepared, some of the food is significantly better than the rest, some of it is almost on the same level as poison. There are several ways for the players to determine which food is good, and which food is filth.

All of the cooks are lined up near the wall of the hall in which the banquet is held, a player that passes an Insight Check (DC – Medium) notices that several of the Chefs look worried and some look very pleased when their creations are presented on the table. A success on this roll earns the player 1 point, a failed result subtracts 1 point.

The player’s may also attempt to discern through their senses which food is good and which food is bad – they can make a Nature check (DC – Easy), or a Perception check (DC – Medium), to determine which food is particularly bad. A success earns the player 1 point, a failed result subtracts 1 point.

Also, some of the food has been magically enchanted to taste better and be more nourishing. An arcane check (DC – Medium) grants 1 point on a success, but does not result in the loss of a point on a failure.

Part III – Get the Good Stuff
Once the players have all gotten a good look at the food, the King says a few words and then the feast begins. The Banquet is a massive brawl for the best food. Everyone wants to get as much as they can.

The Players can use Athletics, Acrobatics, or Stealth (DC – Easy) to try and get their hands on the best food. A Success here results in a +2 Bonus to all checks made in part 4.

Part IV – Eat until you drop
The final part of the skill challenge involves everyone eating until they literally pass out from all the food that they are taking in.

During this part, the player’s each take turns going around the table making endurance checks, which get progressively harder the longer they eat. The first round, the DC’s should be Easy, then, increase the DC’s every round. During the 3rd Round, the DC’s should be Medium, and by the 5th, they should be very hard. Each round that a player gets a success on an endurance check, he or she gains 1 Point. If a player fails an endurance check here, they lose 1 point and must make a save vs. lethargy (basically a death saving through, except that no player receives any kind of benefit to the roll i.e. a 10 or better saves). If you fail vs. lethargy, you go to sleep and lose 1 point and you may no longer make any rolls during the skill challenge, thus forcing the player to tally the score. A player may voluntarily stop eating at any time and tally their score.

Part V – “Never have I seen a more lethargic bunch of adventurers in my life!”
After all the players have either fallen asleep from lethargy, or chosen to stop making endurance rolls, the challenge ends and all the player’s scores are tallied. The challenge grants the following results.

Lethargic Curse –

Any player that fell asleep from eating in Part IV gains the lethargic curse which lasts until the player’s take their next extended rest. The lethargic curse incurs a -2 penalty to all athletics and acrobatics checks, a -2 penalty to initiative, a -1 penalty to speed, and if the character moves more than his or her speed in a single round i.e. through running or charging, than he or she must make a save or become weakened until the beginning of his or her next turn.

King’s Favor

Any character that was able to make 5 successful endurance checks during Part IV
gains favor with the king; the king offers to aid the player’s endeavors,
supplying them with weapon and armor from the royal armory (at market
price). The King will also grant information more freely to the
character’s if they seek it out.

Banquet Champion

If any player makes more than 5 Successes during Part IV, the player who made
the most successes during part IV is declared the champion over-eater of the
banquet (note: it does not matter if they gained the lethargic curse or
not). The Banquet Champion earns the King’s Favor, but also gains a Prize
of treasure and gold equal to the gold granted by one creature of the player’s
level (he is not forced to share this gold either). Also, the Banquet
Champion is given a year’s supply of trail rations inside a specially crafted –
“Belly of Holding” which is described below:

Belly of Holding Level 1 Wondrous Item, Rare
This stretched and tanned pig’s stomach is greasy, but it
smells really, really good.

This Belly of Holding acts as a lesser
version of the bag of holding. It can only hold food or other items which
are used to provide nourishment. Any item which does not fit this
description, which is deposited into the bag, is immediately vomited out and is
covered with yellowish-green slime. However, any food item which is stored
within it is kept in perfect condition and never goes bad. The belly can
hold an infinite amount of food and the bag’s weight never changes.

Benefits of Being a Great Big Over-Eater
The Benefits/Penalties of Eating at the Banquet can be found below and are based off of the number of points each player received during the feast. Each of these effects last until the player takes an extended rest.

0-1 Point -1 Penalty to Reflex, Lethargic Curse
2 Points -1 Penalty to Reflex, -2 Penalty to Athletics and Acrobatics Checks, -2 Initiative
3 Points -1 Penalty to Reflex
4 Points -1 Penalty to Reflex +1 Morale Bonus to Fortitude
5 Points -1 Penalty to Reflex +1 Morale Bonus to Fortitude and Will
6 Points +1 Morale Bonus to Fortitude and Will
7 Points +2 Morale Bonus to Fortitude and Will
8 Points +1 Morale Bonus to Attack, +2 Morale Bonus to Fortitude and Will
9 Points +2 Morale Bonus to Attack, +2 Morale Bonus to Fortitude and Will
10 Points +3 Morale Bonus to Attack, +3 Morale Bonus to Fortitude and Will, +3 Morale Bonus to all skill checks, +1 Action Pont, Temporary Hit Points equal to One Second Wind.


I hope you enjoyed this skill challenge. It was fun writing it. I can’t wait to run it myself. Stay tuned tomorrow for another world event – “The Astral Black Market Firesale”

Genesis Journal #9 - The Noble Clans of Sigilsval

So, I have really been playing around with the ideas of corporate nobility a lot. I think what I have decided to go forward with is a group of about 5 Mega-Families, who are the oldest, strongest, and most diversified, globally. Each of these Noble Houses is responsible for controlling a signficant portion of the world's wealth. They each have different specialties and backgrounds. They are involved in various industries and deal primarily within the family for gathering of materials, resources, etc. as well as the sale of their goods and resources to the public.

However, in addition to these 5 Large Noble Houses, very similiar to Conglomerates, There will also be a, yet to be determined, number of other smaller Noble Families, each with varying levels of business-mindedness and essentially making up smaller corporate entities.

There will also be another noble caste within the upper echelons of the world, represented by the Beast Folk, who have decended from the Great Beasts of legend, and are respected, for the bloodlines, throughout the world. Think Minotaur, Naga, Kenku, etc. These races will be more closely tied to the upper elite, and will possess a great deal of respect, but not so much on the corporate side of things.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Genesis Journal #8 - The Keiretsu vs. The Family Business

I have actually been going back to my business classes in order to get a better idea for the feeling of the Noble famalies and their clans which I want to build into my setting. I majored in International Business, specializing in mainly Japanese business and economics.

As many of you are probably not familiar with this world, i'll give you a bit of a summary. Prior to World War II, the Japanese economic world was dominated by the Zaibatsu, vertically integrated family corporations, which locked down and controlled Japanese industry. The Zaibatsu controlled each step of the product manufacturing process, from harvesting raw materials, to selling that product.

However, after the war, the Zaibatsu were forcibly disbanded and the Keiretsu were established. These corporations were not that much different; instead of being vertically integrated, they were horizontally integrated conglomerates. There may have been many companeis in many industries all of which resolved around a corporate bank and shared control of each other. Many of these conglomerates were also based off of the earlier Zaibatsu.

You might be familiar with the company Mitsubishi - one of the biggest and most well known of the Keiretsu. This company has its hands in numerous industries and has the power to loan itself money through its own bank.

If you compare these giant corporations to the family businesses in the rest of the world, you get a very different image in your mind.

The reason that I am writing about this is because I want to create an image of the Noble families of Sigilsval as being these giant Keiretsu spanning multiple industries and having their hands in a lot of different businesses. I hope the summary above is enough to provide an illustration of what I want to accomplish.

More Steam Attachments Pt. 3

Here is the third installment of my fresh batch of homebrewed Steam Powered Weapon Attachments.


Second String Level 1 360gp
This bow has been outfitted with a second
string which can fire an additional projectile at
the enemy.

Weapon: Bows, Crossbows
Supported Engines: P.S.P.G., Light P.S.P.G.
Free Action * At-Will
Trigger: You may spend 1 Steam Points when you
make an attack. If the attack hits, you fire an
additional arrow or bolt and apply that arrow or bolts
effect to the target. If the arrow or bolt does not have
a magical effect, then you deal 1d4 additional damage.


Pull Assistant Level 1 360gp
This bow has been outfitted with a series of steam
powered springs and pulleys which allows the bow to
grant even more power out of a single attack.

Weapon: Bows
Supported Engines: P.S.P.G., Light P.S.P.G.
Free Action * At-Will
Trigger: You may spend 1 Steam Points when you
make an attack with a bow. If the attack hits, you deal
damage as though the the bow was one size larger than


Shredder Blade Level 1 360gp
This blade has been outfitted with a set of
Additional motorized teeth that tear into a
foe when triggered.

Weapon: Axes, Heavy Blades
Supported Engines: P.S.P.G., Heavy P.S.P.G.
Free Action * At-Will
Trigger: You may spend 1 Steam Points when you
make an attack with this weapon. The weapon gains
Brutal 2 for the attack; if the weapon already had a source
of brutal damage, increase the amount of Brutal damage
by 2. I.E. a Brutal 1 weapon becomes Brutal 3 for the


Concussion Piston Level 1 360gp
This heavy weapon has been fitted with several pistons
that deliver a devastating blow that is capable of knocking
foes flying.

Weapon: Hammers, Picks
Supported Engines: P.S.P.G., Heavy P.S.P.G.
Free Action * At-Will
Trigger: You may spend 1 Steam Points when you
make an attack with this weapon. If the attack hits, you
push the target one square, or extend the range of any
push effect by one square. If the attack was a critical
hit, you knock the opponent prone.

Okay! That is all for this batch. What do you think?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The XDMC PDF Project - A work in Progress

I have recently voluteered to act as the assembler for the Expert Dungeon Masters Competition PDF Project. I have posted about this competition many times on this blog. You can find a complete list of all my entries in the competition at the top of the page under tabs. I even post many of the entries up here in full as well.

I really can't say enough good things about this contest. It may not have any big prizes, or any big payoff (other than a little forum tag under your name and the respect of your fellow entrants), but it does have a big payoff for people who play the game.

The entire point of the XDMC is to make a fun place to inspire creativity for the creation of new resources for DM's. The competition has a really great goal, which I think is awesome. But, I feel that the content that is getting posted may never get used in the longrun. Since the competition is forum based, you never really get to see any of the material in print, unless you do it yourself, straight off the web.

So, with the permission of the head of the competition, I will be starting the PDF project. I will be contacting all of the prior entrants to get permission to put their forum entries into a library of PDF documents which will be available free for download at this blog and at many others. We will probably even get them up on RPGnow. Look for these PDF's in the future. They can be a really valuable asset to any DM. I know that I have really enjoyed drawing inspiration from a number of the entries. I am sure that you will as well.

We now have a significant number of individuals who have dedicated themselves and their entries to this project. In addition, we have our own group on the Wizards Forums, from which we will be distributing this material. I anticipate the first one of these PDF's, XDMC 22, to be coming out in about 2-3 weeks.

More Steam Attachments Pt. 2

Here are some more of those attachments I have been talking about. This is part 2 of 3 for the current load.


Auto Reloader Level 1 360gp
This quick steam arm affixed to a crossbow or
to a firearm allows you to reload your weapon
with incredible speed.

Weapon: Crossbows, Firearms
Supported Engines: P.S.P.G., Light P.S.P.G.
Free Action * At-Will
Trigger: You may spend 1 Steam Points in order
to reload your weapon as a free action.


Bullet Shield Expander Level 1 360gp
Several piston loaded metal plates extend out
from your shield providing you with cover from
projectile attacks.

Shields: Light Shield, Heavy Shield
Supported Engines: P.S.P.G., Heavy P.S.P.G.
Free Action * At-Will
Trigger: You may spend 1 Steam Points in order
to gain cover from projectile attacks until the
start of your next turn.


Roto-Buckler Level 1 360gp
This light shield is fitted with several steam
powered motors allowing it to spin and deflect
blows more accurately.

Shields: Light Shield
Supported Engines: P.S.P.G., Heavy P.S.P.G.
Free Action * At-Will
Trigger: You may spend 1 Steam Points in order
to increase your shields AC Bonus by 1 until the
start of your next turn.


Reflex Xcelerators Level 1 360gp
The steam pistons equipped to this set of
armor allows is to help improve your reflexes
for a short period of time.
Armor: Leather, Hide, Chainmail
Supported Engines: P.S.P.G., Light P.S.P.G.
Free Action * At-Will
Trigger: You may spend 1 Steam Points in order
to gain a +1 Power Bonus to Reflex until the
start of your next turn.

More coming soon. You will have to wait. Come back tomorrow.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Giving My Students an Art Project

As many of you might now, I am an English teacher working in Japan. I happen to be lucky enough to be teaching almost 700 different students a week. That is a lot by the way. It is a very fun job, but it can be a lot of work. This week, I was delighted when several of my very talented students accepted a proposal of mine.

I have been working on a Campaign Setting for D&D 4e code name : The Mad Lands. It is still very much a work in progress. I have no intention to sell this setting bible. It will be available for a free download to anybody that wants it. As part of this project, I really wanted to deck my setting bible out with pictures and make it really, well, pretty. I think most people want that too. However, hiring an artist can be really, really expensive. I do a lot of my own art work, but this project is going to be way too big to make that happen. So, getting back to the beginning of this post, I have asked some of my students if they would like to contribute to my 'Game Manual' and almost all of them gladly agreed.

To summarize, a group of some of the most artisticly gifted high schoolers I know want to help me put together all the artwork I need for my Setting Bible. They don't even want any money for it. They are just really happy that somebody will look at and comment on their work.

Going forward, this blog will become a host for my student's artwork and their contributions to this game manual. As per my school's regulations, I will not be able to post their contact details here, but you will be able to comment on their work. They have also expressed some interest in working on other people's projects as well, so, if you see something you really like, and would like to have something drawn, they might even be up for that. I can't make that decision, but they seem very into the idea.

I hope you all enjoy what is to come. There is no current deadline for this project, so you could consider it ongoing. I'll probably be checking in with them every couple of weeks to see if they have anything they want to post up.

More Steam Attachments Pt. 1

OK, so here are some more of the Steam Attachments that I have developed for my setting. Some of the basics for these were suggested by various individuals accross a number of forums. Thank you for your ideas and contributions.


Friction Dampeners Level 1 360gp
You feel your armor move more smoothly as if
all the joints had been simultaneously greased.

Armor: Plate, Scale, or Chainmail
Supported Engines: P.S.P.G., Heavy P.S.P.G.
Immediate Action * At-Will
Trigger: You may spend 1 Steam Point to decrease
either the armor check penalty or the speed reduction
caused by your armor to 0 until the end of your turn.


Power Reach Level 1 360gp
The Steam powered springs fire a powerful
thrust of energy which allows you to reach
foes beyond your grasp.

Weapon: Spear, Polearm
Supported Engines: P.S.P.G., Heavy P.S.P.G.
Free Action * At-Will
Trigger: You may spend 1 Steam Point to increase
the reach of your weapon by 1 square for a single


Magnetic Xcelerator Level 1 360gp
Several magnets affixed to this suit of
armor, and then affixed through actuators
allow it to provide a burst of speed.

Armor: Leather, Hide, Chainmail
Supported Engines: P.S.P.G., Light P.S.P.G.
Free Action * At-Will
Trigger: You may spend any number of Steam
Point to increase your speed for a single movement
by the number of Steam Points Spent.


Quick Strike Valve Level 1 360gp
This blade is fitted so that it can automatically
deliver an additional blow under certain circumstances.
Weapon: Light Blade, Heavy Blade
Supported Engines: P.S.P.G., Light P.S.P.G.
Free Action * At-Will
Trigger: You may spend 1 Steam Points when you
score a critical hit against an enemy in order to make
a basic attack against that enemy, with this weaponas a free action.

More will be on their way soon. Have patience. Lots of Homebrew coming

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Rewriting Edge of Annihilation

I know I never got around to posting up my game, Edge of Annihilation, but I will be doing that sooner than later.

I have been revising the rules somewhat, trying to make it a bit easier to figure out, and a bit stronger on the roleplay section. I hope that this comes across when the game is finished and ready for PDFing. I might actually put together a box set for this game which you may be able to order.

I am really liking the coming results and I think many people will enjoy the new edition of the game.

Genesis Journal #7 - Examining the Dragonmarked Houses

The way I want to present the Noble Families in my campaign setting is somewhat similar to the way Eberron built up the Dragonmarked Houses, but with several distinct differences.

I thought I would take a closer look about what I like and dislike about the Dragonmarked houses and explain the way that I am going to go with it.

In Eberron, there are 12 Different Dragonmarked Houses. Each one is essentially a massive extra-legal corporate entity which wields a great ammount of political might. Each of the dragonmarks manifests within a single race, but sometimes manifest in other races out of some strange historical cross-breading. They also set the standard for each of their specific talents.

My Thoughts...
12 Houses is a good round number. I like it. But, in my setting, it seems to be significantly too small.
The Corporate nature of these houses is exactly what I am going to try and go for with my Noble Families.
The Political power element is interesting, but I want to go further with it.
They create a standard for each of their specific talents, but these talents are quite specific. I want to make my Noble families more broad.
I don't really like the racially specific nature of the houses, but I understand the reason that it exists in the game.

I am going to be doing something very different with the Noble Families in Mad Lands. You'll see. It is coming soon.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Edge of Annihilation Reviewed for Game Chef

Well, my entry finally got reviewed on Game Chef. It was about what I expected. I did a very rush job of putting this together and I was barely able to get through all the mechanics of the game, but given the feedback I received, I have a fairly good idea of how I want to improve this game to make it really good. I feel like once I put some more effort into the fluff, the mechanics of the game (once explained more fully) will hold up.

Thanks for the Review.

More Personal Steam Engines

I had a very good response to my post about the Personal Steam Power Generator, so, here are a couple more which will have attachments supporting different types of characters. Attachments are still coming.

P.S.P.G. Level 4+
The Engine lets out a steady hum of gears turning, excess
steam and smoke pours from its smokestacks.
Lvl 4 +1 840 gp Lvl 19 +4 105,000 gp
Lvl 9 +2 4,200 gp Lvl 24 +5 525,000 gp
Lvl 14 +3 21,000 gp Lvl 29 +6 2,625,000 gp
Weight: 50 lbs.
Property: At the beginning of an encounter, the P.S.P.G.
generates 1 Steam Point +1 Steam Point for each point
of its enhancement bonus. These points can be used to
augment attacks of attachments equipped to the character's
weapons or armor.


P.S.P.G. Light Level 3+
This small steam power generator is perfectly suited for
the stealthy mobile fighter or ranger.
Lvl 3 +1 680 gp Lvl 18 +4 85,000 gp
Lvl 8 +2 3,400 gp Lvl 23 +5 425,000 gp
Lvl 13 +3 17,000 gp Lvl 28 +6 2,125,000 gp

Weight: 25 lbs
Property: At the beginning of an encounter, the P.S.P.G.
generates 1 Steam Point for each point of its enhancement
bonus. These points can be used to augment attacks of
attachments equipped to the character's weapons or armor.


P.S.P.G. Heavy Level 5+
The heavy duty model of the personal steam power
generator makes heavy duty fighting an ease.
Lvl 5 +1 1000 gp Lvl 20 +4 125,000 gp
Lvl 10 +2 5,000 gp Lvl 25 +5 625,000 gp
Lvl 15 +3 25,000 gp Lvl 30 +6 3,125,000 gp
Weight: 100 lbs.
Property: At the beginning of an encounter, the P.S.P.G.
generates 2 Steam Point +1 Steam Point for each point
of its enhancement bonus. These points can be used to
augment attacks of attachments equipped to the character's
weapons or armor.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Elaborating on Campaign Characteristics #10

The Final part in my series detailing the campaign setting characteristics of the Mad Lands

#10 - The Great Beasts are Awakening
Long ago, during the early ages of the world, 12 great beasts were brought to life by Sigilsval, the Ancient Primordial which became the Material Plane. These beasts were a final menace, created in order to menace the people of the world. However, with the help of the gods, the humanoid races of the plane were able to use all of their greatest assets and imprison the 12 Beasts within the deceased Primordial.

Now, these 12 Great Beasts are beginning to awake. Some people have claimed to have witnessed the destruction their are creating, whispers grow of villages being destroyed and entire townships whiped out. However, the full extent of the power of these beasts has yet to be witnessed.

Why have they awoken now? What brought them out of the imprisoned slumber? Does it have to do with Azatar or the gods? What role will they play in the God War that is now beginning?

Harry Potter 7 Part 1 - Furious Envy / The Unknown

I am really, really jealous of all of you who are going out to see the first part of the last harry potter movie on Friday. I have been really, really dying to see this movie this week, but it looks like I am out of luck. It is going to have to wait till Xmas.

The one thing that I think I really like about this movie is that for the first time, we are going to get a cliffhanger ending! And... nobody knows when Part 1 of the movie is going to end. This curiousity, this unknown, in a world that is so familiar, really has me going.

Pondering over this film really got me thinking about how important a sense of the unknown is in role playing. If the characters know what is coming, have an opportunity to research the monsters they will fight before a session, it may really take all the fun out of the game for the players.

How can we, as Game Masters, add more elements of the unknown to our games? I have been thinking up several different ways of doing this, but the one that I keep coming back to is: Homebrewing. The more people make homebrew settings, homebrewed monsters, homebrewed items, the more exciting the game will be for the players - especially when you don't tell them about what you are homebrewing ahead of time.

I think I am experiencing that in my current campaign now. Since it is almost all a homebrew world, my player's don't really know what to expect. They aren't really sure what is going to happen next. I am not even using homebrewed creatures yet, but, by the shear fact that we are not in the standard D&D world, they aren't postivie on what is going to happen when they go into fight a room full of orcs.

So, keep your players guessing, not knowing is always more fun.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Why NOT to give your players treasure with rich backstories

This is a response to the article posted at the Wizards of the Coast website entitled Treasure Options. I guess this is the third part of the series, I didn't catch the first two or I probably would have posted this sooner.

The article explains ways to give your players treasure with rich backstories. I don't want to be a big downer or anything, but really? I may be alone on this, I probably am NOT though, but I have to say that I have never, ever met a player who wanted to have loot with a rich backstory.

My experience with this kind of loot has been two-fold.
1 ) Any loot that you give a player that has a rich backstory is usually viewed as the beginning of some type of quest or is a hook to start an adventure. As a DM, I really don't want to give a player an item with a rich backstory and then have that item, which I had not intended to be the start of anything important, as a derailer which leads the entire party on some quest which I was neither prepared for, or, really interested in doing.
2 ) Items with rich backstories, which don't provide a statistical benefit to the character are simply ignored in order to sell them, receive gold/platinum and then use that money to buy magic items or gear which does grant a statistical benefit.

I don't want to waste a lot of time creating rich backstories for my items when the player's simply ignore it in favor of vending said item for GP. It just seems wasteful on all fronts.

Givin that Xmas is coming up, I'll make this analogy; perhaps getting a gift is nice, it shows that someone was thinking about you when they gave it to you, but if the gift sucks, and you don't have any use for it, you will either a) return it to get cash/store credit in order to get something you want (that is if you can), b) give it to someone else or c) quickly forget about it in some corner of your home unopened and unused. If you give someone cash, it might not show a lot of forethought, but you are going to use that cash for exactly what you want. Yea, it might not mean a lot emotionally, but you are going to be much more satisfied with what you get.

This analogy holds up perfectly with respect to the article over at WotC for one reason - any player that gets some random item, which isn't mechanically benefical, is not getting what they want. All players want items/magic items/stuff that does stuff. In the end, GP is where to be.

Thank you.
End Rant.

Crimson Mystical Mages... Why aren't more people talking abou this?

Did the entire RPGBN miss SModcast #144 Dance 10, Move 3???

I don't know how this went unnoticed. Kevin Smith has started talking about his new project, Crimson Mystical Mages - their humorous Dungeons and Dragons-esq podcast to come. I can't wait. They must do this. It would be too awesome. Their humor, plust some great fantasy good times, I would be all over that.

I would also volunteer to write that source book.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Elaborating on Campaign Characteristics #9

Part 9 of 10

#9 - The Aristocracy Rules the Civilized World

The Cradle of Civilization, the three main nations which lie at the heart of the world, are rules strictly by an Elite Aristocracy. Although each nation may have its own Soverign leader, these leaders do not wield supreme power. The Aristocracy of Sigilsval is a cruel and cold mechanation. For the most part, they care little for the plights of the people, but rather seek wealth and evolution. They are constantly sponsoring new Scientific advancements for the purpose of war, even if the money for these project must come out of the regular citizen’s pockets.
The primary noble families of Sigilsval each date back at least a thousand years. Now, they function somewhat like corporations. There is a head to each Family, which governs the large scale decisions which must be made concerning the families stake in matters such as politics and war; however, day to day operations, appearances at court, and other such trivial matters are dealt with by lower members of the Family.
These Noble Corporations act as the decision makers and power brokers throughout the world. They are not to be taken lightly. They are also constantly in a state of flux. As one member of the family gains or loses favor with the Head, his or her rank may move up or down within the family. Results are heavily valued.

Zoom. Why o Why have you gone away...

Yes, this is another post about the new character builder by WotC. I got home from work, cleaned the house, put on some SModcast and sat down to check out the new character builder... then horror. I CAN'T FIGURE OUT HOW TO ZOOM!! I do all of my work on a Netbook. I am living in a foreign country and it really makes life easier. But, one of the drawbacks, very small screen. The old character builder let me zoom in and out. A very nice thing to have. I could make the screen smaller, to fit more of it on the screen, but still make things readable. This one. I don't have any idea how to change the size of things. This has essentially made the character builder totally unusable to me until I get myself an external monitor... so. Very sad day for Shinobicow

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Genesis Journal #6 - Geography and Nation Building

After the last adventure, in which the players finally fought off the advancing horde of Orcs, Ogres, Dragonborn, and Dragons, which had attacked their train bound for the capital of Jiyuland, the players have now exited the linear section of adventure that I had planned out. The literal railroading which I had plagued them with is coming to an end and now they are moving into the open world.

This is the scariest thing I have had to deal with as a DM up until now.

The problem I have is that we are playing in a world that isn't finished; it is my homebrew setting and it is very much still under construction. However, now that the player's have a bit more freedom and are able to roam around, the ball is now in my court to make the world vibrant and complete enough for them to have fun in it (well, at least the little corner of the world which they are in).

I drew up a map of the world a long time ago. You might have seen it on my blog or on Obsidian Portal. It took a long time and I am very proud of it. Now, I just need to flesh that map out.

I have a general idea of where things are and how things will work, but putting my thoughts down on paper is always harder than I think. Right now, even figuring out how to format a nation as I am writing it up is a real challenge. I have been looking at the older published settings and the newer ones in order to adapt the kind of information I should present.

Knowledge about the area should come first, followed by Important Places, and then finally leading into Organizations, NPC's, and finally into Adventure Hooks. But, looking at the 4e settings of Eberron and Forgotten Realms, you really lose some of the most important summary information that you had back in 3rd - i.e. Population, Ethnicities, Languages, Governmental Structure, Capital City, etc. I will be including these things as well.

The first area that I will be working on is the biggest, most prominent country in the Southern Kingdom - Jiyuland. From there, I will work on the border countries of Trobosk and Harinval. Although I chose to have a bit of an asian influence when it comes to look, I decided that sticking with fantastic names seemed like a better idea (just because the setting is inspired by the Far East of the Real world, doesn't mean it all has to sound the same).

Am I forgetting anything? Let me know.

Elaborating on Campaign Characteristics #8

Part 8 of 10

#8 - The Age of Great Adventure is Over...?

Near the beginning of the previous age, the number of adventurers traveling the world in search of treasure began to dwindle. The threat was simply too great when compared with the alternative life styles that could now be pursued through easier methods.
Now, during the current age, heroes are truly few and far between. Some say that the Age of Great Adventure has come to an end, but this may not really be the case.
With the world at a turning point, and the Gods declaring war, evil has become rampant throughout the land. Not since the dark ages, when the meteor Azatar brought chaos to the land, have the people needed heroes more. But who will take up this dangerous task? Who will confront the dark powers that are attacking Sigilsval and bringing chaos once again to the world.
Can the current age be continued? Can the world return to the peace that it is now attempting to secure. The few adventurers that take up this calling will most likely be the deciding factor in determining the fate of Sigilsval.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Review of: "Brother Ptolemy & The Hidden Kingdom" by Nevermet Press

Review of “Brother Ptolemy & The Hidden Kingdom”
An Adventure for 5th Level Characters by Nevermet Press

I recently got a hold of “Brother Ptolemy & The Hidden Kingdom” by Nevermet Press. This third party publisher is dedicated to building a better gaming community and this is one of their first big forays into publishing adventures for 4e D&D.

I very much enjoyed the introduction section of the book. It reminded me somewhat of the pyramid scheme episode of the TV series `Angel`, where Harmony, the vamp valley girl betrays Angel and his gang to a bunch of biters being led by a Draculean motivational speaker. Though i will say, the introduction isn’t nearly as campy as that episode of Angel (or Angel at all).

The Red Harvest is a great story element. I think it really does what it should: scare people. I would be really scared, as a player, if I faced potential exposure to that disease. Near the middle, and even towards the end of the adventure, I began having flashbacks to my time playing Resident Evil, especially at the Manor. Very powerful imagery going on here.

All of the Items presented in this book really help to add to the theme presented. I particularly liked the idea of the Golden Oak Mask, which I could see as being very useful for some characters even outside of the Adventure. I think the Bone Embalming Dagger is dangerously close to being broken, but walks that line between awesome and too awesome very well.

As a whole, and in general, I would say that the Adventure is extremely well written and is very well planned. It flows very well as an adventure and combines several really interesting elements. I like that it contains multiple small side quests that could be truly entertaining to play out. The NPC’s are all very well constructed and I found their back-stores to be very well laid out. I really liked the final part of the adventure. It makes for a VERY interesting conclusion to the campaign, if the player’s actually let it happen (not going to give away any spoilers here…).

The bones I have to pick are mainly small and mechanical. Some of the monsters seem to be a bit too powerful, or have too many powers. I also wasn’t terribly fond of the Feats section. Some of the feats presented here I feel are a bit off. They seem more like disadvantages to me than feats really. When you consider that the primary means of attaining these feats is through the use of a ritual, they really aren’t like feats at all. The organization for which I would have liked to have had Feats, Soul’s End, was not very well represented in the Feats Section. The familiar feats I found to be interesting though. They sound like they would give some good flavor to a character.

Some of the DC’s seem to be a bit off in places. For example, the DC for knowing that Brother Ptolemy is dead is only a 10 – this is below even common knowledge for Heroic Tier players, but that is something that can easily be worked around. That being said, some of the monsters are simply brutal. Ptolemy himself seems like a very well built, monster (as in hard) NPC. I would love to throw a group of the Red Monks at my players and see how they stand up to that encounter.

In conclusion, I think Nevermet Press really came through on this one. This is a story heavy adventure which relies less on the big picture and more on small relationships and small scale goings on in a little corner of the world. It feels like it could fit easily into any campaign setting, which makes it a very strong BUY recommendation if you are building your own setting, like I am, and will need an adventure to keep your party entertained while you are busy world building. Although the book had a few typos and some of the mechanics weren’t perfect, I definitely would rate this as a first class adventure for 4e D&D which easily rivals any of the material put out by Wizards of the Coast; i definitely would rather have bought this than the 'Slaying Stone' which I picked up a few months back. I think this is really a sign that even under the GSL, 3rd Party Publishers can still successfully write and release good material for 4e D&D.

Not only is the adventure really good; the people that made it are pretty generous. This month, Nevermet Press is holding a contest for the release of "Brother Ptolemny & The Hidden Kingdom". You could win yourself a free ebook copy of the module just by taking a picture. Check out the full details of the contest at their website: http://nevermetpress.com/thk-out.


Elaborating on Campaign Characteristics #7

Part 7 of 10

#7 - The Industrial Revolution has Begun

Steam, a power created by man during the previous age as a novelty and a convenience has become a force to be reckoned with. Now, during the current age, the full potential of Steam power is becoming wide spread throughout the world as a method to increase production.
The world has begun its industrial revolution. Farmers are taking advantage of steam power to speed up the production of cloth. Steam power has become Widely used as a method for mass production of weapons and armor, as well as basic clothing and goods.
This industrial revolution has begun to destroy the Craftsman. They are beginning to feel the weight of cheap goods pushing down on them as they strive to compete in a more brutal economic system.
Some craftsman have chosen to pick up magical enchanting as a method of distinguishing themselves from machine made goods. Although the power of magic is unpopular, these magical craftsman are doing quite well; magic items, especially weapons, and armor, have never been as available to the public as they are now.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Announcing My Adventures Project

I have decided to start working on several new adventures projects for D&D 4e. The Guys over at Nevermet Press really have inspired me. They recently put out a module for 4e titled "Brother Ptolemy & The Hidden Kingdom". It is a great adventure and I will have a review of the game coming out tomorrow. After seeing this, I really believe that I have what it takes to publish a 4e adventure that complies to the GSL guidelines.

I have the will and I have the way.

Starting over the next few weeks, in addition to my campaign building work, I will also be starting not only one series of adventures projects.

The first series, entitled: The Something Silly Adventures Series, will be a series of Mini-modules with very humorous plotlines. Each of these mini-adventures will be about 4-6 encounters long and could be played over 1 to 2 sessions. I envision the first coming out probably some time at the beginning of the new year, with the last coming out near the end of 2011.

In addition, I will be starting work on several adventures which will come out sporadically over the next year. These adventures will be based in my current campaign setting work in progress: The Mad Lands. As Such, they will be heavily influenced by the themes established in the setting.

I hope you all look forward to these new projects. I know I am.

Elaborating on Campaign Characteristics #6

Part 6 of 10

#6 The Gods have Declared War

As the people of Sigilsval have begun rejecting the gods and the gifts they have to offer, the Gods have decided to reject the people. A great host of powerful deities have assembled a great army. They no longer listen to or answer prayers of the great populace for they have declared war on the world.
The God war is starting.
The Gods, are assembling a great army and attack is imminent. Everyone feels it. They have created a vast fortress flying over the Black Sea, this castle, known as the Pillars of Creation, will serve as the striking point from which the Gods will attack the Cradle of Civilization, the three nations at the heart of Sigilsval. Their goal is currently unknown, but it is believed to have a strong connection to Azatar.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Personal Steam Power Generator * Stat Block

In my previous two posts, I put up rules for using the Personal Steam Power Generator and the Weapon Attachment "Heavy Metal". I thought I would put these into proper stat blocks and post them up here on my blog.

P.S.P.G. Level 4+
The Engine lets out a steady hum of gears turning, excess
steam and smoke pours from its smokestacks.

Lvl 4 +1 840 gp Lvl 19 +4 105,000 gp
Lvl 9 +2 4,200 gp Lvl 24 +5 525,000 gp
Lvl 14 +3 21,000 gp Lvl 29 +6 2,625,000 gp

Property: At the beginning of an encounter, the P.S.P.G.
generates 1 Steam Point +1 Steam Point for each point
of its enhancement bonus. These points can be used to
augment attacks of attachments equipped to the character's
weapons or armor.
Heavy Metal Level 1 360gp
You feel the additional weight of the blade in your hands,
its increased weight is ready to bring death down on
your enemies.

Weapon: Heavy Blade, Axe, Hammer
Supported Engines: P.S.P.G., Heavy P.S.P.G.
Immediate Action * At-Will
Trigger: You make an Attack with the Equiped Weapon.
You may spend 1 Steam Point to increase the damage die
of the attached weapon by 1 damage die.
I will have more stuff like this coming in the very near future.

Elaborating on Campaign Characteristics #5

Part 5 of 10

#5 - Azatar's Power is Leaking

The great meteor, Azatar, which struck the world of Sigilsval around 10,000 years ago changed the face of Sigilsval forever. It split the land and destroyed the great Dwarf Kingdom of Grogmar, creating an age of Chaos which lasted one thousand years. However, the full force of destruction that the meteor could have unleashed was never realized. A great conclave of mages, from around the world, sensed the meteor’s arrival and sacrificed themselves to create a barrier around Azatar as it struck Sigilsval. Although their efforts were too late to save the Dwarfs of Grogmar, they were able to prevent the complete destruction of Sigilsval.
But… the shield around Azatar is weakening.
The reasons for the weakening of the shield are unknown. Some suppose that the people’s turn from Magic to Steam has actually weakened the power of Magic around the world, thus, weakening the barrier. Others propose a theory that the increase in creatures from the Far Realm may have led to this leakage.
There is a great and widening fear of what would happen when the barrier breaks completely. If it were to dissolve, what would happen? Would the power of Azatar be fully unleashed onto the land, or would it simply fizzle, revealing a great rock at the center of Shatteria, the remnant nation of grogmar.
Some propose to strengthen the barrier, but don’t know how to do it. Time will tell how things will unfold.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Steam Weapons and Steam Attachments Pt. 2

Continuing from last time.

The idea of weapon attachments being continued over into steam power presents the opportunity to keep magic weapons the way they are, but allow the players to add steamy elements to their characters without getting rid of the magicky side. I have decided to work this out through the use of a particularly iconic steam punk item – the Steam Powered Backpack. Honestly, I don’t know what they call this, but I see it everywhere. Look on Deviant Art and you will see images of these things all over the place. The above Image was drawn by Gjomlez. You can see his work on Deviant Art here (http://fc08.deviantart.net/fs48/f/2009/203/a/9/Steampunk_Samurai_by_Gjomlez.jpg) . The thing on this guy’s back is what I am talking about, if you didn’t get meaning before. There are probably thousands of images with things like this. I love it. I like the image it creates and I think it presents the perfect opportunity to add in a bit of new mechanics to D&D 4e.

So, how does it work?

Enter – The Personal Steam Power Generator or… The P.S.P.G.

The P.S.P.G works like a magic weapon or armor. It has multiple levels and multiple Steam Ratings (similar to Enhancement Rating). The cost for a P.S.P.G. is the same as per a weapon of the same level.

So, at level 4, you have access to a P.S.P.G. +1. But now you ask, what does it do?

Well, the P.S.P..G. allows the player to access Steam Attachments which they can put on their weapons or Armor. Every Steam Attachment not only has a required Weapon or Armor for which it attaches to, but also has a required P.S.P.G. from which it gets its power. There are several versions of the P.S.P.G. which players can utilize, each of which does something slightly different, but has a variety of supported attachments.

No Really, How DOES IT WORK?

Ok. So the P.S.P.G. works similarly to the way Psionic powers work in the game right now. Each Personal Steam Power Generator can generate a number of Steam Points each round relative to the type of generator and its Steam Level. For example, the Above P.S.P.G would be able to generate 1 Steam Point base, plus an additional +1 for its Steam Level. (Some do not gain the base, others gain more).

These Steam Points act like Power Points. They can be used to augment weapon attacks or defenses when used with an appropriate Weapon Attachment.

Here is an example of how this works.

My Fighter has equipped a P.S.P.G. and has also attached the “Heavy Metal” attachment to his executioner’s axe. The “Heavy Metal” attachment has the following power:

At Will – Free Action
Trigger: You make an attack with the Weapon to Which this is attacked.
You may spend 1 Steam Point. For the next attack, increase the damage that the base weapon deals to the next highest damage Die.

When my fighter makes an attack with his executioner’s axe, he spends 1 Steam Point and pumps the damage on the Axe to 2d6, instead of its base damage.

So, that is how it works. Steam points regenerate at the end of the encounter of an encounter. You can use as many Steam Points in an encounter as you can generate.

How do you like? Good?

More coming later.

Elaborating on Campaign Characteristics #4

Part 4 of 10

#4 - The Alien is Among You

The forces of the Far Realm have begun invading Sigilsval, though not in a obvious way. Aberrant creatures have begun spreading throughout the various nations of Sigilsval – they can be seen virtually anywhere lately.
However, not all of these aberrant creatures are as evil as those of the past. Mind Flayers, a race which had been feared and despised throughout history, have become more and more common; not all of them possess the same urge to dominant other species – some serve the world, just like their civil humanoid counterparts which are native to Sigilsval.
Some other Aberrant creatures, such as the Modum, have actually become tools within the Second Renaissance. They serve the civilized races as something akin to biological mediums, connecting individuals throughout the world.
However, just because some of these Aberrant forces are not in Sigilsval to cause problems, it doesn’t mean that they all are. There are a great number of horrid beasts which have become a plague upon the people, causing horrible damage wherever they are seen.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Steam Weapons and Steam Attachments Pt. 1

I have been toying around with 2 different ways for implementing steam power into my world and I believe that I want to pursue both of them. I think this presents the possibility to build more interesting and varied characters. I will explain both of these options below.

Steam Weapons – Re-flavoring Magic Items

The first, and by far the easiest way, of dealing with steam powered items is to simply re-flavor existing magic items to fit into the Steam flavored world. Of course this does cause some problems, especially with anti-magic zones, but I haven’t really come across many of those as of yet in 4e. Maybe this is safe. Some items of course simply wouldn’t be able to make the change into steam power, but it is safe to say that most magical weapons and many magic armors could easily be converted using a flavor shift.

Steam Attachments – Just a little something something

I have been toying with the idea of adding weapon attachments into 4e Dungeons and Dragons. I feel like attachments are vastly lacking in the game, up until this point, but really shouldn’t be. So I guess I should first explain what an attachment is, in my mind.

To me, an attachment is a non-magical item, of low level, which can be attached to either a weapon or armor in order to gain some static, permanent, benefit. These benefits may be small or highly situational, but they would add flavor and character to a person’s fighting style.

I’ll give a fairly obvious example of a weapon attachment from past versions of D&D: The Armor Spike – this is something that can be attached to a suit of armor and really adds flavor to both that suit of armor and to the character that is wielding it. I love this little spikey bits. Who doesn’t? They make for a great addition to a menacing character in order to really give the look that one is trying to accomplish.

Now, as for my game, what kind of attachments am I thinking of adding to make the game more interesting? One example of a requested attachment came up from one of my player’s in our last session. He is new to the game, but is very much enjoying it. He is one of the few players which is really taking advantage of my homebrew setting. He is playing a Revenant Half-Elf Ranger styling himself after a Sniper of sorts. We often compare his character to a prettier zombier version of Irvine from Final Fantasy VIII.

As I mentioned earlier, black powder weapons are available in this setting for purchase and use, so, our sniper is using a long-rifle for his weapon of choice. But, getting back to the point, in our last game, he asked if he could get a bi-pod for his rife that he could use when he is prone. I thought this was a great idea. Why not? Being prone has its downsides, but it would be interesting to have a character who lies in the bushes with a rifle shooting at combatants from the sidelines. So, I thought I would make him a bi-pod (rules for this will be coming soon).

So, with the idea of attachments now firmly in your mind, I will continue this post in part 2 and explain how Steam Attachment will work in 4e D&D and the link they have to psionics. Have I got your attention now?

Elaborating on Campaign Characteristics #3

Continuing my ongoing series part 3 of 10

#3 - Magic is OUT

As stated previously, the power that magic grants is quickly losing appeal among civilized society. However, this is not to say that it has disappeared.
For the past 50-100 years, Magic began to lose its popularity among the people. Why use a power given to us by the gods, when we, the people, have created a power of its equal ourselves? This logic became pervasive approximately 50 years ago and has quickly escalated among civilized society. In essence, Magic is going out of style. It is an old fashion.
Magic, however, has lost very little of its power or potency. Although it is unpopular with civilized society, it is still practiced in the far corners of the world, and is widely used by the forces of darkness within the civilized nations.
Some forces are urging for laws which wholly outlaw the use of magic, however these voices are not loud enough yet to be officially recognized by anyone. The power that magic offers is still too great to be wholly thrown away.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Stuffer Shack NPC Creation Contest

This month, the Stuffer Shack is holding a contest to create an NPC. I have submitted my entry. Have you? It would be really cool to have a ton of NPC's uploaded for this contest. You should go check it out. They have some really cool prizes up for grabs. Good luck and good hunting. Follow this link to see their contest and the rules - http://stuffershack.com/contest-3-best-npc/comment-page-1/#comment-1553.

Genesis Journal #5 - Crafting Steam Punk Mechanics

I have been toying with mechanics for the last few days. There are two a couple things that I have been having problems with, lately at least, is the way in which Mechanics can or must change in order to fit the flavor of the campaign setting.

Steam Power - I am looking at you.

I really like 4e Game Mechanics. I think it has been a pretty big improvement over 3x and I really want to maintain these mechanics as much as possible. The game is great. I don't want to break it.

But, at the same time, it is difficult when working with something like Steam and where to put it into the mechanical (in terms of rules) world. Will Steam go into the class powers? Will it get its own class? Will it get its own race? What about Items? How far can steam powered items be taken? If you create steam powered items, how far are they going to go? How will Steam Powered items interact or replace Magic Items?


Here is the way that I see Steam power, especially when you apply it to adventurers.

Although Steam power in the real world was always more tied to manufacturing and industrialization (in addition to transportation to some extent), the way Steam gets tied into fantasy is really on a personal level. You see images of people wielding Steam Swords, or Steam Gatling Guns, or Steam Axes, etc. The imagery for Steam Punk is really inspiring to me when it comes to finding the fit for Steam in the world of Mad Lands.

Steam in the Mad Lands is not a complete replacement for Magic. It may be trying to do that, but it hasn't gotten there yet. Magic is the old way and still has a huge presence in the world. So, I don't see Steam replacing magic items outright. In fact, I feel like Steam Power and Magic can work together to some extent. Not necessarily being the Techno-Magic that you see in Eberron, but more of like Magic Weapons that are outfitted with Steam power-ups.

You will see what I mean by power-ups in some of the posts coming up on my blog. I think you will enjoy them.