Welcome to Telrhin. A world setting for dice & paper rolepaying games. Home to my campaigns since 1984.

Game Design

Content about building worlds, rules, making the soup.

Session Notes: Valley of the Drowned Kings

A few thoughts on a recent one-off adventure. It was a tomb in the Lowlands in a place called the Valley of the Drowned Kings.

The adventure was meant to be easy. It was a classic "go explore the dungeon" setup for some friends, two of them new to the whole Dungeons & Dragons thing. It was set in the Lowlands, the main gateway region of the world that's easy to grasp and step into. All standard fantasy fare.

I decided to jump start the story at a campsite a half day from the tomb. They had a map. They had an NPC guide.

Unidentified standing stone located between Millstreet and Ballinagree, Co Cork, Ireland (public domain)

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Normal Folks in a World of Monsters

Wolves, bears, garden-looting rabbits: real problems for medieval villagers. They also had bandits, plagues and feudal wars. Add in some griffons, goblins, ghosts, dire wolves and a few heartless fairies and you wonder how normal people get through a single day in a fantasy world.

How do things work in a world with magic? We focus on the beasts and monsters in the wild, but villages and settlements have to have some way of surviving. Following are some thoughts on how it all can work, making better sense for a world while adding layers of story and even -- gasp! -- adventure hooks.

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Seven Years

Seven Years of the Rahman Campaign

It all ended in the mining town of Pitfife near the Copper Lake in the Cairn Hills. Grimly, as expected. The final showdown with Kleg Blacklung, the man who killed their grandfather, came down to the wire. Abas and Kleg took each other down, and though not dead the brothers were bleeding out and the last of the Rahmans standing was a henchwoman named Hissie. Not that Kleg had many men left, and some of them were still on fire: but either the brothers would die there on the floor or at best find themselves chained and battered on their way to execution.

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Rope Bridge Frying Pan

Adventure Setup: The Rope Bridge Frying Pan

Rope Bridge

I wrote this as an adventure setup, in the style of a (long) event promo blurb:

The gorge looked a lot nicer when you weren’t running for your life. The sagging rope bridge bounces more than you’d like and you’re not making good time, what with all the loot you’re carrying.

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Ravines and Other Killers

The party's been stuck in the wilderness for months now. Winter-edge-of-nowhere wilderness. It turns out the biggest npc killer is ravines. You'd think wolves, bears, oversized spiders, bloodsucking vines, tentacled freshwater things, or the usual hordes of hostile humanoids. Angry fairies. Carniverous pandas. Nope. Ravines.

Pretty sure we've lost six party members to ravines.

The fantasy genre gets a little dull in a winter wilderness. Most things are hibernating. No farms or towns to explore or draw out the hordes of humanoids or country brigands. You're stuck with dragons. And that's if they're even warm-blooded. I found myself making up reasons why there are kobolds with catapults.

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Dwarves and Elves: De-Elfing the Fantasy World

As we rebuilt Telrhin a few years back, the impulse was a full embrace of nostalgia. The whole panache of beloved geek fantasy from our gaming years. But there comes a time to de-elf the world.  We may have re-invented everything top to bottom in Telrhin Mark IV, but the old names were still there, ripe with stereotypes and the stolen ideas of others before us. The backstory to the "older" races was re-imagined, history re-thought, origin myths re-invented. But as soon as someone hears the world elf, that's all out the window.

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