Friday, September 8, 2017

The Avremier Metagame

The evolution of Avremier as a campaign setting came about partially due to attempts at making many of the rules-based game specifics a rational part of the game world. For example - why humans were able to pursue certain classes and demihumans could not. Avremier is, in part, an exercise in the mitigation of metagaming.

Many of the background elements and setting secrets exist as world-specific answers to player (and DM) concerns over what has been perceived as gaps or weaknesses in the rules. In Avremier, there are setting-based reasons for the following:

  • Human "superiority" in the adventuring classes.
  • Human "mastery" of arcane spellcasting.
  • Human cleric adventurers - while there are no demihuman cleric PCs.
  • The lack of half-human races (an Avremier standard).
  • PC level limits.
  • And others...
Not every rule or option is explained or incorporated into the setting - but, those that caught my attention are. The setting also was not created around these efforts - it was an organic progression that built upon specific needs and preferences. Avremier has been about 35 years in development, through almost every edition of the game. The entire campaign history of play has been incorporated into this development - meaning that there is actual played history to the campaign setting. The actions of countless adventuring parties have contributed to the history and evolution of Avremier as a game world.

So, Avremier is a combination of my own writing and preference combined with the choices and influences of many, many players of the game throughout the years. It has been my goal to use what works best along the way. That practice continues to this day. 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Evolution and Development

I'm kind of afraid of the sea. The impossible depths. The sheer magnitude and fury. Drowning. Sharks. But, that's not really the point of this entry.

Avremier has been evolving and developing for over 30 years. I've been asked quite a few questions about my creative processes and source of ideas. I'm not sure I have a "process" and my ideas come from everywhere - and sometimes, I believe, nowhere at all. To truly answer such queries, I'd have to share my notes. In fact, maybe I will.

As I compile and compose the Avremier Setting supplements, there is a lot of reference and research into my extensive archives. Though much effort has been spent in editing and organization, the volume of information is sometimes staggering - even to me...the guy that wrote it all. I tend to add more as thoughts and ideas come to me. Sometimes, I'll delete a line or two that no longer work. Mostly, I just add. And, add.

What follows is a direct copy+paste of my concept notes for something called a Charybdan. I could try to preface it here, but it will probably be just as pointless to give you the infodump. The creature will make its debut in the forthcoming Eldritch Avremier supplement (currently in progress). When it does. you can see for yourself how all these notes (and it is ALL of them) and ramblings were distilled and streamlined into something relevant and usable. Hopefully.

CHARYBDAN: Possibly the ultimate expression of the Shaukoru lines. Primordial aberration similar to a gibbering mouther. Able to devour anything. Can form a powerful whirlpool/whirlwind with maximized bite attacks. Charybdis > Dis > Dispater. Probable progenitors of the koru species, these are terrible monsters of voracious appetite and insatiable curiosity. A member of this species generally appears as a large chitinous globe of gnashing mouths, but is able to alter its general shape to suit its environment or needs. One default shape resembles a gibbering mouther with a gleaming exoskeleton, while another common form looks something like an armored roper or yochlol with lashing tentacles. In any shape, the charybdan is slate blue in color and has gleaming white teeth, has no visible eyes and is able to devour nearly anything with its numerous mouths. The creature has an odor similar to oily clay and can secrete a non-flammable mineral oil that is exceptionally slippery, acting as a grease spell. Any strike against a charybdan has a (yet undetermined) chance of hitting an open maw, which gives the creature an opportunity for an immediate bite against the item. Conversely, an attack by a charybdan will also inflict a bite attack, as a toothy maw may open on any part of the creature’s surface at any time. It is possible that a charybdan’s bite will ignore item hardness, at least up to 15 or 20. Hitting the creature’s mouth, and having the item devoured, inflicts no damage upon it. 
   A few moldering texts speak of the charybdans as the survivors of a Creation that died to birth the current one. It is written that these creatures cannot be truly destroyed - only contained. However, since they can consume just about anything, it remains to be seen what material is capable of confining a charybdan for any length of time. These same accounts claim that a charybdan may even devour space and time to open dimensional vortexes between the planes through which they may steal forth into the furthest reaches of the Vastness.
   Though the creature lacks visible eyes, it may perceive its surroundings by a variety of stimuli acquired through the absorption of energy wavelengths, sonic wavelengths, and changes in pressure as well as temperature. The charybdan’s body is formed of cells that each constitutes a complete organism and the genetic structure of the monster is enormously complex. This gives each cell all of the knowledge and essential traits of the entire organism and makes the charybdan practically immortal. Additionally, a charybdan may split itself into two distinct entities of equal size – both one size category smaller then the “parent.” This is a common maneuver attempted by the creature when it wishes to flank an opponent and the charybdan may rejoin separate parts of itself at will.
   The monster’s form is capable of enduring nearly any extreme of temperature, pressure, energy, or deprivation – allowing it to survive in a total vacuum or the heart of a star. It is theorized that surviving the destruction of an entire universe has given the charybdans a physiology that endures any punishment dealt by this one. Possibly, this fact could change if the Vastness underwent another catastrophic change, but none can say for certain.
   A charybdan may devour nearly anything and digests it all. They leave no waste behind and precious little survives consumption by these creatures. As a creature that consumes all and gives nothing in return, the charybdan lies firmly outside of the ecology of the Vastness and has always been an alien presence within the current Creation. For game purposes, the charybdans are certainly an epic-level threat – at the very least. It is thought that there are six charybdans in existence and that they lack any means of true reproduction. One charybdan seems to have spent a number of centuries in a meditative and largely inert state. It was thought to have been an exceptionally large bag of devouring, until it awoke and ate its way out of a hidden vault.
   Charybdans will probably have the earth subtype and the earth glide ability. It is thought that xorns and similar creatures are descended from the charybdans. The charybdans themselves are the progeny of the ancient creature known as Charybdis – spawn of the Effluvium. The Effluvium’s most ancient name is Charybdis – or simply Dis.
   The hideous abomination known as Charybdis is said to have spawned from the Effluvium – or could be a manifestation of the Effluvium itself. The Effluvium is a morass of dark and decayed planar energies that  forms a bottomless whirlpool at the center. It lies at the bottom of the Planar Axis and the whirlpool that drags everything within this benighted sewer leads below and beyond to…no one knows where. Perhaps to the true Charybdis. Perhaps it is the maw of Charybdis. Some planar scholars speculate that Erebus is somehow related to Charybdis – or that Erebus once devoured this entity in an age long past.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Avremier Fiction

I'd like to address this long-running topic in an open and comprehensive manner.

For years, it has been suggested that I write novels based upon my RPG setting and campaigns. Some people want to be in a book. Some people don't play, but would like to follow the adventures. Others do play and want to see more of Avremier. That's all good.

But I still have no plans to write Avremier novels. Avremier is but one milieu for my creative endeavors. It is meant for gaming. I know there are famous writers that have made their fortune by translating game to novel. I know how much interest there is in Avremier - that's why Mothshade Concepts is publishing supplements at a brisk pace.

Tell you what we are planning to do...

Avrethology. A collection of short tales, journal entries, amusing dialogues, and expanded scenes - collected and organized in a single volume. No rules or stats - just story and color. Avremier for the masses. We hope you'll join the adventure.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Homage du Jour

The Avremier 0e project started as an homage. In numerous ways, the booklets have honored the earliest days of the game. That trend is not likely to change anytime soon. The latest tribute is to the late, great Dave Trampier - specifically, his AD&D Monster Manual rendition of the rakshasa.

In the course of my research, I was reminded that the rakshasa did not always have the backward hands we all know and love today. That seems to have come from a Dragon Magazine #84 article. The accompanying illustration also may be the first non-tiger rakshasa I'd ever seen.

Starting with the 2e Monstrous Manual, these traits were included with the standard rakshasa description. Still, just about every piece of rakshasa art I've ever seen has the thing with a tiger's head. The rakshasa of Avremier are different - this one in particular.

  • Nycaniculus: The rabbit-headed rakshasa of Black Rabbit Manse – the ruling seat of Duskfell Glebe. White-eyed, he often pretends to be blind. Has a talent for manipulating luck, and known to be something of a gambler. Dressed in severe black garb similar to traditional clergy. Lord of the Duskfell Glebe al-mi’raj. Known as the Black Rabbit or the Black Hare.
Upon deciding to render a portrait of the villain, I was reminded fondly of Tramp's iconic version. My sketch, with DAT's for comparison, is pasted below.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Going Fourth

Mid-year is nigh and another Avremier 0e supplement is in the can. Three out of five. Not gonna lie - it feels good, and a bit overwhelming. This project is more than halfway done and still going strong.

What's next? Eldritch Avremier.

This whole thing started as an homage to the original books - including the supplements. Avremier (Supplement 0) was a direct homage to Greyhawk in every possible way. Dhavon (Supplement I) was something of an homage to Blackmoor. Mauvolg is essentially more of the same - because it was important to the project. Next up, by way of logical progression, is Eldritch Avremier. For the purpose of this project, Eldritch Avremier deals with the nature and use of arcane magic in the setting - the Arcanaflow. Divine magic will be covered in the final volume. Eldritch Avremier will also introduce the Vastness - other planes and their structure in the well as some of their denizens (monsters). And, as might be expected, there will be artifact items.

The cover mockup of Eldritch Avremier references the color range of an arcane spellcaster's personal aura - the means by which the caster perceives and interacts with the force of magic known as the Arcanaflow. In total, the Arcanaflow "system" of magic for Avremier is complex and versatile. The current challenge is deciding how much to present in this small booklet so that is it usable in gameplay, but not too overwhelming as a starting point. But, that's *my* problem.

Eldritch Avremier will be a departure from the three existing volumes. It will be dealing less with the Avremier setting and more with what lies behind-the-scenes. The final volume, Deities, Deminities & Personalities, will be structured much the same way.

What about the rest of the campaign setting - you ask? What about those nifty-sounding regions beyond the human lands? When will we get to learn about Parateva, Undomni, Mara Imperium, Nekari, Chongoku, and the rest? They sound neat! Well, I can promise they are all coming. In what format remains to be determined. The intent is to bring the entirety of Avremier to those who want it.

The first five booklets started as a project for myself. With each supplement published, demand and interest have grown. It has expanded nearly beyond my limited resources at the time of this writing. Plans are being made for publishing Avremier (and more) in 2018 - and beyond. For now, I give you Supplements 0, I, and II. By this time next year, you shall have Supplements III and IV. Then, we shall truly celebrate!


Sunday, June 18, 2017

And Mauvolg Makes Three...

Another six months have passed and the third volume of the five-book Avremier 0e set is due to go to press very soon. I will confess, this was a tough one. Still need to finish the cover art.

Mauvolg has never officially existed in the setting, until very recently. For many years, it was quite a different place on the developing map. It even went through a phase as the cliched "evil empire." Wacky times.

Now, Mauvolg is the "second human domain." The land that suffered a great disaster and fell into the ground. Now, the place is mostly at the bottom of a really big hole. Mauvolg is a kind of eastern-flavored place - inspired by many different cultures and legends...adjusted and re-skinned to suit the Avremier vision. A place of floating halfling villages and huge riding birds.

Following the original homage-driven design aesthetic of the project, this volume showcases the druid and monk classes. Mauvolg is much less of a "western civilization" than Dhavon (the previous volume of the series).

Mauvolg was tough because so much of it needed to be written out. Very little of the content for this supplement existed in a format intended for the use of others. It is not a region I've been using much in my own games. To even my own players, most of this stuff is going to be new. That means it hasn't really been playtested. THE HORROR!

So, I shall let others judge the merits and flaws of the supplement at the end of the month. When it finally goes to press. When people other than myself get to see it all for the first time. Mauvolg is going to be different. Probably not as different as the non-human lands to come...but, definitely a contrast to Dhavon. Here's hoping I can pull it off.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

One down - two to go.

About five years ago, I started on a personal project to compile and edit (for clarity and conciseness only) all the rules and options (as I felt necessary) for the original edition of the First Fantasy RPG. The goal was three volumes for my personal use, and to share with all those who might be interested. Along the way, I got distracted by a similar project to compile and edit my own Avremier campaign setting for similar publication – except that one became a business venture. Today, I have pushed to complete the first of the three original volumes, started in 2013. While the other two volumes are forthcoming – it may be some time, as work on Avremier takes precedence.

What the OD&D Compilation is:

·         A personal project made for purposes of historic research and personal utility. As there is no original material, no claim of ownership is made by the author and every volume will be offered without cost in PDF format. For the purpose of this project, “0E” refers to any rules or options intended for use with the first published edition of the game, offered through what the author considers official TSR sources.
·         All 0E material deemed relevant from the original three books of Men & Magic, Monsters & Treasure, and The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures + Supplements I-III + The Strategic Review + The Dragon magazine.
·         All included material organized as coherently and as sensibly as possible. Rules and information sorted into full sections and in a sort of Players Handbook style of organization.
·         Information organized, edited, and worded to the author’s preferences. Made as clear, consistent, and concise as possible, without altering or adjusting any rule or detail. Ideally, the game can be played with only these three volumes, with every available rule and supplemental option deemed suitable by the author.
·         A simple PDF file, suited to the needs and preferences of the author.

What the OD&D Compilation is not:

·         A retroclone of any kind. This is a compilation of the original rules and options, presented in a fashion that the author considers easier to use and consult. Nothing has been changed — only worded and organized with an effort toward better coherence and clarity.
·         An illustrated compilation. These volumes contain only text and tables. No frills. No art.
·         An original work. Everything is derivative of earlier works and sources — just presented as the author prefers.
·         For sale or publication. This is a personal project offered as-is, at no cost, in PDF format, to anyone that wants it.