Saturday 29 March 2014

The Bitterstone Dwarves

On G+ +Chad Rose wrote:
How much would the Dwarves charge folks wanting to use the Undermarch, the underworld trade route, for travel between Anvil and Forge? I mean, they have maintenance and security to think about after all and that ain't cheap.
This got me to thinking, not really about how much - but to whom you would pay, and why. I've reposted my thoughts here so they more permanent and accessible.

The Bitterstone Dwarves

The dwarves of the Bitterstone clan have controlled the majority of the Undermarch passage for nearly 500 years. The rights to levy the travellers on the inhospitable and forlorn route was gifted to them by the Dwarf King, seen by many as an act of punishment for Oaths long broken, a punishment because, as every dwarf knows, those who would make a living from taxation and at the expense of others labour are amongst the lowest of dwarven society. And no dwarf has ever, or ever would, dare refuse a gift from the Dwarven King.

The Bitterstones have grown rich by burdening a heavy toll on those who would attempt to travel through the Undermarch, it has has brought them little discernible comfort however, as other clans are loathe to openly ally or trade with 'Coin Crows' let alone those who do it with such fervour and greed.

And so they have grown angry and resentful, rich in purse yet poor in soul, ostracised from their kin and perpetually consumed by a cycle of taxation and hunting those who would attempt to avoid their tolls - of which there is no short supply. In fact that such a volume of people are willing to risk death or worse, in order to avoid the draconian overlook of the Bitterstones has prompted an explosion in people daring enough to guide the poor - or those too miserly to pay the Bitterstone's their due through the warren like passages that make up the  Undermarch.

Thursday 27 March 2014

Icon - Release Schedule

Just for clarity and everyone who has requested to submit content here is the intended release schedule for Icon. I've also included submission deadlines for the releases, there's essentially a week before release where i'll stop including articles and run them in the following month - giving me enough time to finalise and layout the pages.

1st of May Issue
Submissions deadline 24th April

1st of June Issue
Submissions deadline 25th May

1st July Issue
Submissions deadline4 24th June

Interested in submitting? email

Wednesday 26 March 2014

Icon - A 13th Age Fanzine

So after some planning, talking it over with people and tentatively proposing the idea i'm finally at a stage where I can make an 'official' announcement. I'll take a moment to talk about some of the decisions i've made about the 'zine and why.

First of, I guess - the project is a go. 

Im going with a slightly modified APA or Amateur Press Association model for the 'zine. You can read more about that here. But basically i'll act as a main editor / producer that will compile submissions from readers and writers into a nicely laid out magazine.

The traditional APA model charges a fee for submission and a free copy, but because this will be a digital pdf there are no inherent costs my end to produce the finished magazine, so the final thing can happily remain free. There are also a few other things that are great about this model, especially as were now in a digital age - easy distribution, tools to create a high quality product, easy lines of communication to advance ideas and content. All of those factors should be helpful in keeping the project alive and healthy.

The exact opposite is the major problem I see with this model, if there is no interest - it will wither and die, that sounds gloomy but I'm just being a realist. So in order to make it successful it will require the support of many people, even if they just read and share.

The next decision to talk about is the name, i've gone with Icon. There were some awesome suggestions, a favourite was 13th Sage. I decided against this for a couple of reasons even though I thought it was great, for one its close to the copyrighted name of the game and I don't want to infringe on anything. Also having a name that doesn't explicitly lean on another thing for context lets the product grow and change, without feeling odd or unconnected to its namesake.

So where are we with the project?

I've already done the following : created an logo (above) built page layouts, chosen a cover. So were in a strong place to start submitting and compiling work. I've put together some submission guidelines, its nothing crazy but it is worth a read.

So how do we move forward? 

Share, Submit and Read. The more people that know about the project the more likely they are to read or submit. Likewise in a venn diagram kinda way, the more people that read - the more likely it is they will share and submit. So tell everyone you know, think of a cool idea - write about it and send it to me, then read it in digital print the next month.

Im aiming for an initial run on the 1st of May, we'll see how things go.

Thanks for taking the time to read the post, if you want to get in touch with submissions or questions email - i'll be contacting people who have expressed and interest over the coming days.

'Til next time.

- David

Sunday 23 March 2014

A 13th Age Fanzine..

So recently on G+ a conversation was had about creating a community driven fanzine for the indie RPG 13th Age. The purpose of this blog post is to act a public announcement and launching point for the Fanzine, and a place to link to through to for forums, social media and threads

So heres a quick outline of where the project is at:

I'll be acting primarily as a producer/editor and content creation where necessary. Because of my day job (Creative Designer) I'm in a good position to be able to A) create an approach to the project that will keep it sustainable and B) pull together the final product with pay layouts, art and distribution etc.

Here's what I'm thinking at the moment :

  • Will publish monthly at first, then looking to change based on it production schedule and demand.
  • Community contribution, articles should be written by the 13A community and readership of the 'zine.
  • Content guidelines should be broad, cover a lot of different stuff as long as the ideas are good.
A let me add, this isn't set in stone - one of the purposes of this post is to get people involved and have an opinion - it would be great to get something started that drives itself with people reading and submitting content, producing a 'creative conversation' - akin to the old HP Lovecraft letter writing buddies, but in a platform thats accessible to anyone.

So what do we need? A Name and Content, the first one already has a popular suggestion, The 13th Sage. I like the fact that the name can become a character in itself - like the White Dwarf, and of course there's a terrible pun in there. Depends on how you look at it.

Content relies to an extent on submissions and request from the community. So please get in touch if either you want to write something or want something written. I'll be on hand to create some stuff, however I won't be creating all the content because otherwise it would be no more than what I already do with this blog, I want everyone to get involved where they can.

: If you want to submit content, please fire me an email : :

Thursday 13 March 2014

Erull Partha Bann

Earlier in the week +Rob Bush wrote :
So, at the end of the Crown of the Lich King adventure, my players kind-of-sort-of killed the Elf Queen, and were arrested in a cliffhangery ending....we'll be coming back to pick up with these characters in a few weeks, and I'll be starting with them languishing in the late Elf Queen's dungeons.So, what do the dungeons of the Elven Court look like to you?
 I tried to come up with something a little bit different (I was thinking of Han Solo's Carbonite at the time) and came up with the following, Its stuck with me so I'm posting here so I can come back to it at a later date if I choose.

Erull Partha Bann

All the Elf queens prisoners are kept in the "Erull Partha Bann" (literal translation - garden of castigation). Each prisoner is forced to drink a admixture containing the tears of the Elf Queen, doing so puts the drinker in both a deep, unending slumber and inflicts almost unbearable pain upon them.

There are methods of escape from the garden but only through hidden passageways contained in the mind of the warden, a fey being tasked with keeping the prison.

After prolonged periods of time in the garden the minds and personalities of its inhabitants begin to corrode, becoming warped and strange. Several factions of prisoners have wrestled control of various areas away from the warden, their corrupting influence has begin to shape the garden into reflections of their inter turmoil.

Agents of the Elf Queen are actively seeking a solution to this problem, for if the corruption spreads much further there is a chance the warden himself may become corrupted, and in turn spread to other Fey beings.

Wednesday 12 March 2014

On Doctor Who, LoTR and being a sidekick

Recently i've been seeing more and more bloggers and gamers posting about game such as the Doctor and LoTR games. This is nothing new I'm sure, those games aren't new (heck even I own a copy of LoTR merps) but is something thats really only started to nag at me. Like a rot grub making itself cozy in my frontal lobes. So here it is :

Whats the attraction with games where the players aren't the core focus of the campaign narrative?

Surely the players are just second fiddle? Effectively the GM's sidekick in an already unfolding story that the players have no real influence over?

People will give you lots of example of how a GMNPC will derail players feelings of control and worth, so I'm guessing that games that explicitly work on the assumption that players will never be the shining stars suffer from the same problem? I could (and I'm kinda hoping) that I'm wrong, if you're a fan of these games do let me know.

Now lets just get it out there, i've not played any of these games in a loooooong time. I think the last time I played the aforementioned LoTR game was when i was 15, so this post really does come from ignorance and the inability or lack of will to get a game going.

So yeah, whats the deal?

Saturday 8 March 2014

"The players are there to keep the referee amused. If they don’t, he will find a way to make it entertaining."

-Dave Arneson.

The players have just spent 15 minutes discussing the minutia of an ill-fated scheme, and you're like "oh come on already!' choose or make them roll a relation ship die to move the game on - here's some Icon related ideas, as you use them think of new ones for next time.

Liche King

  •  A spectral apparition hints at danger.
  •  You sense an evil magic user scrying your thoughts.
  •  Gravefrost spreads across every surface.
  •  The dead rise.
  •  A talking crow brings ill news.
  •  The place they're in sinks into the shadow fell.


  • An influx of magical energy permeates through the area, re-organising its layout.
  • The doors and exits are transformed into planar portals.
  • Surplus magical energy ignites creating swarms of fire elementals.
  • The veil of night is pulled across the world.
  • A wizard reeling from smoking wounds collapses in front of the players.
  • A living spell is born, angry and confused.


  • Two powerful dragons duel in the sky, the loser tumbling out of sight.
  • An empire courtier appears, badly wounded and almost unconcious.
  • A passing bureaucrat and his retinue demands the characters show him reverence.
  • A pair of loud overweight squabbling nobles can be heard as their disagreement turns physical.
  • The secret police mistake a Character as a wanted enemy of the state.
  • Two dozen guards begin breaking down doors and begin hurriedly searching for something.

Prince of Shadows

  • Whispering and the rough sounds of a struggle can be heard coming from a storm drain.
  • An amiable assassin mistakes a Character for his mark, and attempts to carry out the contract.
  • An influx of cheap golden lotus seeds floods the market, causing gangs to fight bitterly over its control.
  • The characters are pick-pocketed, only to find the thief face down dead.
  • A beautiful daughter of a wealthy merchant seeks sanctuary in the underworld.
  • Swarms of rats begin to pour out from every drain, hole and conceivable space.

Orc Lord

  • An eclipse occurs, signalling an Orcish festival of bloodshed.
  • Several wildmen encounter the characters whilst hunting.
  • The savage tattoo of tribal drumming is noticed and gets louder and louder.
  • A shaman appears to the characters in his spirit form seeking their council.
  • Smoke rises on the horizon, an orcish warparty has sacked a local settlement
  • The players find a hideous totem laden with fresh sacrifices.


  • The players are heckled and jeered for being blasphemers and non believers.
  • Road-weary and Pilgrims pass by offering alms and prayers to the faithful in need.
  • A distant bell tolls, announcing a religious period of atonement.
  • A holy spirit gives visitation judging all present.
  • The characters find a truly ancient text of verses, hymns and prayers trapped within is a disquieted soul.
  • Heavy rain and a flood of biblical proportions threatens to sweep the land clean.


  • A small, fat demon, falls from its hiding spot – it appears to have been following the characters for some time.
  • The heavy influence of the far realms begins to twist and bend space and the laws of physics.
  • A small child appears, with a deep and guttural voice it intones a dire warning, pointing at a character.
  • Droning and unintelligible speech of several voices fills the air, ever rising in volume.
  • An unholy altar bursts through the earth surface, faint chaotic runes let of an eery glow.
  • All inanimate objects suddenly begin to laugh and dance wickedly, only to stop a quickly as they began.

Dwarven King

  • Someone calls attention to the fact that all the players coinage is part of an ancient dwarven hoard.
  • A book of grudges is produced, one of the characters ancestors is in it.
  • The hubbub of angry striking miners can be heard, demanding better pay and greater share of wealth.
  • The dwarven masonry begins to crack and crumble, so much for a lifetime guarantee.
  • Everyone is required to take part in a long and difficult drinking game, lest someone be deeply offended.
  • Someone called someone else's honour into question, and no one leaves until the culprit is found.

The Three

  • Two volcanic dragons eggs tumble from a rocky slope, resting at the characters feet.
  • A mated pair of Chromatic dragons demand the local populace give up the PC's
  • Chromatic dragons underlings fight a fleeing young half breed dragon with exotic magical apparatus.
  • A small golden box, with delicate inlaid dragons falls from a rapidly moving cart amongst a busy throng. 
  • Twinned magical mirrors reveal a glimpse into a Chromatic dragons conversation with his vassal.
  • A pugnacious and badly wounded adventuring party seek aid, they say their comrades have been slain by dragons.

Gold Wyrm

  • A gravely wounded Metallic dragon has polymorphed itself into a coin that one of the PC's in possession of.
  • In the distant skies the glinting of hundreds of metallic dragons, convening an ancient wyrm court can be seen.
  • The PC's overhear the drunken boasting of thieves claiming to have raided a Paladium Dragons hoard.
  • Worshippers of the Gold Wyrm clog the streets, chanting and ringing bells.
  • A young metallic dragons seeks out an audience among the PC's hoping to inspire both fear and admiration.
  • Through a small land slide the ruins of an ancient Wyrm bastion are partly revealed.


  • The local witch finder is asking questions about the PC's and their associates.
  • A rusted iron gibbot, its most recent occupant hold a delicate piece of parchment in a withered fist.
  • Some haphazard thieves flee in a state of panic and terror, a masked vigilante hunts them.
  • A well respected, yet secretly evil local sorcerer is found dead much to the outrage of the locals.
  • The brash sounds of labourers can be heard, they appear to be erecting a wooden stage, complete with trapdoor.
  • Several manic agitators begin stirring up resentment and hatred in plaza nearby.

Elf Queen

  • Members of the Fey court come across the PC's during the courts progression.
  • A raven appears with a delicately written summons, calling PC's to give evidence at the Fey court.
  • Elven supporters end up worse for wear after a heated encounter with another icons followers/agents.
  • The PC's discover a secret door in a tree, leading to an ancient barrow beneath the earth.
  • By public proclamation an elven blade singer stands accused of unearthly crimes, and a great bounty is set upon his head.
  • The players find a rare seed from a Life Tree.

As you can see some if not most of these refer to intentionally vague or implied pieces of story/game lore. The purpose is to make them your own, and weave them into whatever story you've got going on - or to help kick start a new romp.

Enjoy - and if you have any more, please post them into the comments i'll happily update this post with them.