An Adventurous Proposal

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An Adventurous Proposal

Postby Rosemadder » Sun Jun 28, 2015 3:44 pm

An Adventurous Proposal

Note: Please read the entirety of this post before responding to the associated poll questions, which will be going up in separate threads momentarily. Thanks!

I. An Introduction: Why are we having this discussion?

This site has been open a long time. For the first three years of its existence, this was a D&D Forgotten Realms chat-based game located in Silverymoon, at the time also hosting other games on site (World of Darkness, primarily). Later, we managed to not quite lay waste to Silverymoon, though the DM team let Obould Many-Arrows and his army do some heavy stomping. Awards were given, medals were handed out, and then we packed up and headed to Waterdeep for warmer and less war-ravaged climes.

We've been playing here in Waterdeep though for over eight years now, and haven't successfully laid waste to a major section of anything in a long time. Mind, we HAD plans. We had several sets of plans for lots of fun layered destruction, but to some degree, our plans have either gone awry or haven’t come to fruition just yet.

To quote Ian in a previous discussion, "... it feels to me like Waterdeep has grown stale as a setting. We've been here for twice as long as we were in Silverymoon, and frankly, I can't tell you a whole heck of a lot that's been run here that would be distinctly different had it been run in any other city in Faerun (with a nearby dungeon to stand in for Undermountain). We've not done a great job in making Waterdeep a distinct place (I lump myself in with the "we," mind, perhaps even more than most given how much effort my metaplots make to actively ignore the trappings of FR), and having asked around a little bit, I don't get the sense that there's a site-wide attachment to the location. Waterdeep has the advantage of giving us a lot of different storytelling options to choose from, but in so doing I think it's sacrificed depth for breadth, focus for broad but ambiguous or generic treatments."

Waterdeep also comes with certain limits, which many of you have railed against: too much civilization for your taste, not enough Monster, too many deities, too much magic, too far from other parts of the world that intrigue you. Some of you have desired more...weird. Mind, Forgotten Realms on its own is so huge, so vast, so Documented, we have no real idea how to play the whole of Toril or even Faerun in an online setting in a practical way, after 11 years. We have looked for a manageable way to deliver, for this site to give you everything you want in one location. FR IS its own wonderful monster. And we’ve had a great ride with it, we’ve had fun, but perhaps now we should consider if there’s some other way to meet all that you collectively want.

Therefore, we write to all of you our players to find out how much enthusiasm you might have for changes, and to hear from you ideas and feedback! No formal decisions have been made, and we want to do what's in the best interests of fun for the group. Also note that we aren't concerned about any one DM being the primary contact, and we don't want a single speaker for the players. Please feel free to send anonymous polling responses, though we will also welcome FPM or in-forum feedback.

Please Note! This initial posting of questions is just the beginning of our discussion. Based on your opinions and suggestions, we will return with other questions and have other discussions, and you--our Digital Dreaming community--will have other opportunities to discuss and propose options as the process continues. Point being, nothing has been decided or set in stone yet.

In the meantime, players should continue gaming as usual without worries about the impact of these discussions. Any changes that could eventually be made would take months to implement, and/or be phased in over time. For the moment, enjoy the new benefits of the new character slots! Play!
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Re: An Adventurous Proposal

Postby Rosemadder » Sun Jun 28, 2015 3:45 pm

II. Our questions for you, the players

Before getting into the thrust of this topic, we should take a quick look at the game we’re playing now--including the pros and cons of Faerun as a setting, at least as the DMs see them.

Forgotten Realms wrote:Forgotten Realms: Greyhawk aside, many people consider FR the flagship D&D setting. A vast array of splatbooks and fiction have made it as thoroughly-documented a setting as has ever existed in WotC’s offerings, and most D&D players know what they’re getting into with it.

Its game-wide themes are clear, for better or worse. Deities take a firm hand in what happens day-to-day in the temporal world, and no character can escape their influence. Magic is extremely powerful and an integral part of the setting (making magic-users relatively more potent than in other settings), and high-level, deity-backed NPCs are a major part of nearly all the important goings-on. It’s a setting where good typically has the upper hand over evil, making it a solid base for those that enjoy light-hearted or highly-heroic games, but to some this also suggests that PC actions have less meaning in the greater scheme. (Note that this doesn’t mean good always wins, but that taking the setting to its logical conclusion, good is usually going to come out ahead even without PC intervention.) The most documented and familiar parts of the setting are in the Sword Coast and Heartlands, which are culturally pretty homogenous.

The high-level of documentation makes the game easy to dive right into, but it also becomes a straitjacket of sorts: Players looking at FR expect certain aspects of the setting to remain similar to what they’ve read about previously, which limits the ability of players and DMs alike to make truly earth-shaking changes to the game. At the same time, the sheer number of special organizations, churches, pantheons, and the like make it very difficult to provide focus to any particular element, leaving the overall metaplot a muddled mess. (This also makes it difficult to provide special attention to PC backstories and plans for advancement, because so few of them end up having any sort of common thread.)

Based as it is on the supremacy of magic, the relative power level of FR is very high. This tends to make high-level games more difficult to run than in other settings (as the flexibility of magic is the greatest factor in running high-level scenes), and fuels many of the house-rules we have had to devise over the years (plus many of those that have been proposed and either denied for added complexity or not yet addressed).

It is in the context of the above discussion that we bring forth the following question. Specifically: Given the choice, is there another campaign setting that players would rather work with than Forgotten Realms, or would players prefer to continue playing in the current setting?

To lend some focus to the question, DMs have looked at a handful of other settings as possible targets for a new campaign. Below, we introduce them and talk a little about how the game would change in those settings as compared to now:

Eberron wrote:Eberron is among the newest of the core WotC settings, devised exclusively in v3.5. Set after a great magical war, it takes many of the standard D&D themes and adds to them a “pulpish” flavor such as you get in a lot of early-20th century fiction (Robert E. Howard, Jules Verne, etc). There’s scientific and steampunk elements (trains, skyships, and sentient robots) alongside dinosaurs and magic, and a less intense focus on the divine and extremely high-level magic than FR. In Eberron, technology and magic function side-by-side. Also unlike FR, good does not necessarily have the upper hand over evil--it’s by no means a dark setting, but it tends to be easier to play up some of its darker themes in a postwar setting.

Eberron preserves a more traditional D&D feel than some of the other options we’ve included here, while being distinct enough to definitively not be a rehash of the current game. (Bonus: The whole setting isn’t puppet-stringed by epic-level NPCs from the fiction!) It’s also a very well-supported setting with a wide array of materials (making it easy for players to pick up and learn), including some fiction for those that tend to use that as a means of learning more about the world. That said, it also includes plenty of less-documented areas that give us the option for storytelling flexibility and pitching you all curveballs, and the fiction is not so voluminous that it straitjackets us as the FR fiction can sometimes do. Its themes are clear, giving us options for focus.

Perhaps the biggest drawback is that Eberron is a less-familiar setting for many. Those that know FR like the back of their hand may not be as interested in playing a 3.5 game set in a less-known setting (which could inhibit some new players), and those that are interested in a new setting will still have at least a short learning curve.

Spelljammer wrote:Spelljammer is a highly unusual setting that can best be described as "D&D in space, with pirates and giant hamsters." It’s a meta-setting in which every D&D campaign setting exists, in the form of crystal spheres floating through space, with players crewing space-faring ships that travel between them (and other locations). Between the spheres is a great void that lends itself to all sorts of adventures on its own. And, you know, giant hamsters.

Because of the breadth of different settings that comprise Spelljammer, it is extremely flexible in terms of the stories that can be told. The fact that Forgotten Realms exists in this setting likewise allows for cameos and other links back to the existing game.

The open nature of Spelljammer brings some drawbacks, though. A nearly-infinite breadth encourages far-flung parties without a clear point of player congregation--DMs would almost certainly try to provide one, but adventures are likely to draw players far afield from one another and inhibit the formation of a PC "community." Further, like Waterdeep, the vast array of options may leave a Spelljammer game feeling very unfocused. This can be a pro or a con, depending on how highly you value the idea of game focus, but if nothing else could lead to a "novelty" factor that wears off and leaves us looking at new settings again shortly thereafter.

Finally, there is no official 3rd-edition adaptation of Spelljammer--there is plenty of source material, but all of it is 2nd-ed and earlier. (An unofficial/partial adaptation exists, but has not yet been reviewed for quality purposes.) This means that while the "fluff" is well-established, a great deal of work would be required to adapt setting-specific rules to our chosen edition.

Planescape wrote:Similar to Spelljammer, Planescape is a sort of meta-setting in which all other settings and planes are reachable. The hub of the multiverse is the city of Sigil: a metropolis within a torus in space ruled over by the mysterious Lady of Pain, with a vast array of portals leading residents wherever they desire...so long as they have the right key. Aside from the Lady of Pain, Sigil is ruled by 15 different philosophical Factions.

While many settings eventually delve into the concept of planar and multiversal travel, Planescape emphasizes it in a way that is typically not achievable in other games until much higher levels. This gives it a very "fantastic" flavor distinct from a more typical D&D game. Like Spelljammer, this also makes for very flexible storytelling, albeit in a more grounded fashion than a game based on spacefaring. (Like Spelljammer, this could also lead to a lack of focus and/or a "novelty-based" game that wears off quickly.) With Sigil forming an obvious hub city, there is a ready point of focus for PCs to form a community and relationships within. And rather than dozens of different organizations, the 15 factions form the basis of relations and conflict within Sigil, presenting enough variety to interest players and a narrow enough range that PCs will find themselves organically drawn together.

Planescape does share the Spelljammer drawback of having no official 3rd-edition adaptation. This is not as strong a concern due to the setting’s overlap with a number of 3e books (Manual of the Planes, for example), but does still present some issues to be worked through before deployment.

Other Toril-Based, Non-FR Options wrote:Other Toril-Based, Non-Faerunian Settings (Maztica, Kara-Tur, Anchorome, Zakhara): Maztica and Kara-Tur are obviously still on Toril, but are sufficiently removed from Faerun to nearly constitute brand-new settings in their own right. Maztica is effectively Mesoamerica in terms of technology and theme, which lends itself to focused stories based on low technology and more primal, nature-themed magic. (Anchorome is a similar continent to Maztica’s north.) Kara-Tur is more or less the FR-equivalent of ancient China, anchored by the empire of Shou Lung, which many of us would recognize. All of these will require some adaptation, as they are not described in-depth in any 3rd-edition materials; Anchorome is not described anywhere, while Maztica and Kara-Tur received FR supplements only in 2nd-edition (note that 2E Oriental Adventures covers Kara-Tur, but the 3e Oriental Adventures is set in the L5R setting of Rokugan), and Zakhara is home to the 2nd-ed campaign setting Al-Qadim.

The overlap of these settings with Faerun means that they are easy to link with our current game, and yet remote enough to ignore some of the overarching drawbacks. That said, their sheer lack of documentation and relatively alien cultures (there’s a reason most FR games tend to center on the Heartlands or Sword Coast…) would likely make coherent stories in these settings more difficult, and what overlap does exist means we wouldn’t escape the implications of "standard" FR completely.

Other Options wrote:Other Options: Obviously, there are many other settings than the three we’ve discussed above, and many other ways to answer this question. Feel free to comment further in the thread if you have a suggestion we haven’t made, or have more in-depth thoughts on those we have suggested.

Note! Settings known for their dark themes and natures (Ravenloft in particular, but also Dark Sun and the like) have been discussed among the DMs, but have not made this preliminary list. This is because those settings are somewhat controversial: players who enjoy those settings and themes tend to enjoy them a lot, and those who don’t tend to absolutely hate them. People who do enjoy these themes and settings are free to make that known, as this would have some sway in terms of encouraging DMs to make sure those themes can be utilized effectively in any new setting (or finding more effective ways of bringing those themes into the current game), but it’s worth noting up front that our focus for general enjoyment is on settings further up the light-dark spectrum.

We know that our very Faerun-specific characters will not all be on a state to be played in each of these settings being discussed. There are many setting-specific feats, classes, and other mechanics limited to Forgotten Realms materials, and these specifically would not be conducive to a setting shift. Still, we acknowledge that many of you have invested a great deal of time and energy into your current characters, and while some might want a fresh start, others may be interested in changing things up but only with their long-time PCs to hand. As such, presuming we come to some kind of agreement on a new campaign setting, we are open to the idea of engineering some level of PC migration if there is a consensus in favor of that.

Yes, we have just given you an extra character slot and a new toy (the LA+1 slot) to fill it with, and now we’re sure it feels like we’re saying, "Hey, lets maybe break them and go away and make new ones!" As noted, though, we want to proceed in the form that most of you feel comfortable with. So what happens to your characters if we do vote to move location in some fashion? Let's discuss those details.

Specifically, we present the following question, in addition to the one above: If the game were to change settings, what are your feelings about whether your current PCs can be migrated to the new setting (as opposed to a totally fresh start)?

Some of the DMs have suggested Blowing Up Our Metaphorical Bridges and starting with a brand new slate of first-level characters. The gamut of suggestions from there runs all the way to Just Transfer Them, What the Hell (within reason, since "no changes at all" may not be possible in certain settings). The poll question attached to this post presents some options the DMs have seen, and leaves the question open to more detailed feedback for those that have it. Some options will be more feasible than others in different settings, and some settings will likely present different options altogether (what is considered super-rare in Faerun might not be in Spelljammer, etc.) but this is just the point where we’re gauging general sentiment. So...let us know what that sentiment is.

Final Note: The highlighted red text will link you to poll questions elsewhere in this forum. Please respond to those questions, then feel free to come back and give more detailed thoughts as desired. Thanks!
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Re: An Adventurous Proposal

Postby Stam » Sun Jun 28, 2015 5:31 pm

I figure Planescape is probably going to be the best of the setting choices. It has ample room for city intrigue if someone wants to play/run with that, and stepping through the wrong doorway can land you anywhere else you could conceivably desire.

Heck, we can even drop in on Faerun every so often to make sure they don't blow up Waterdeep! :)

I would prefer the option, at least, to keep some of my PCs. Even if in modified form.
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Re: An Adventurous Proposal

Postby J.C. » Sun Jun 28, 2015 5:47 pm

As all of you should know by now, I am getting on in years and find myself in serious need of a braincell transplant to newer and fresher and more active cells. This being said and understood, I would be willing to take on another "setting" but since it took me the better part of 10 years to even remotely learn the mechanics of the characters I have, I would have a strong objection to a different set of "mechanics". Yes, I have long lived genes in my blood, my mom just the 12th of this month, turned 95, but I don't really want to spend the rest of my D&D years fumbling like a 6 year old trying to learn the mechanics of a new game.

So, I am all for change, and perhaps another area of the FR map is needed, the setting can and has been just as exciting as we make it, and if we are getting lulled by the aroma of the Marketplace then maybe it is time for a change.

With the opening up of the 4th slot I have JUST got my fondest wish granted, it would grieve me to lose that wish.

My 5¢
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Re: An Adventurous Proposal

Postby Arrow-Bolt » Sun Jun 28, 2015 5:51 pm

I would like to keep playing 3.5 D&D. (I am glad to read Ian's post and know the rules will most likely stay D&D 3.5 --- viewtopic.php?p=26354#p26354 )

I would like to play somewhere in Toril.

I would like to bring my characters as is (since all of them are less then half a year old and are level 1 or 2 right now, and I wanted a chance to play them a bit longer ^^;)

I had 2 ideas though.

Idea 1) SETTING GAME IN CORMYR
Cormyr is a kingdon on the frontier of the wilds. Good parts civilizations and wilderness, and both at odds with each other. We could have the new setting in a town or settlement trapped in the middle. Easy to have adventures take place in the shining capital of Arabel or the untouched forests of Cormyr's borders or somewhere in between.

Idea 2) WORLD SERPENT INN
Also in Dragon Magazine 351, page 22, it is an article written about the 'World Serpent Inn', an inn with portals to many different worlds across all of Toril and other settings too.

The article says the appears in all settings, but in Faerun it appears in the city of Arabel, in the Forest Kingdom of Cormyr:

"Tales of the Wild Goose

Although a portal to the World Sperpent Inn can appear anywhere in the Forgotten Realms, just like in any other campaign setting, the only regular means of accessing Mitchifer's demesnes on Faerun requires a visit to the Wild Goose, a run-down tavern along the northern wall of the city of Arabel (location #152 on most of the city [maps]) in the kingdom of Cormyr. Access to the World Serpent Inn requires passing under the signboard of the Wild Goose, standing in front of the regular door, knocking on an imaginary door in the air, and calling on any divine being by name. The invocation must include a proper name of a deity and the words "I" and "enter" in the language being spoken. For example, say "By the honor of Azuth, I will enter" or "In the name of Set, I enter." Once performed, the would-be etrant sees the signboard change to read "The World Serpent Inn" across a horizontal figure-eight of a serpent eating its tail."

If we include such an inn as part of the setting, it would give folks chances to adventure and RP in a various settings. I would limit the portals of the inn to take you to different places in Toril personally.

So we can maybe include Idea 1 and 2. Or just one or the other I thought ^^;
Last edited by Arrow-Bolt on Sun Jun 28, 2015 6:27 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: An Adventurous Proposal

Postby Ian » Sun Jun 28, 2015 5:56 pm

For what it's worth, J.C., while we could see some rule changes associated with a setting change, I don't think I'm going off the reservation to say that the core of the game would stay based on D&D 3.5.

There would be new PrCs and feats and setting-based mechanics in a setting swap, and possibly even some dropping and adding of house rules, but it's been acknowledged throughout DM discussions that most of us are highly comfortable in 3.5 at this point, and sticking largely to that would be the priority. (Hence the notes in the post about adaptation being needed for some settings.) The core mechanics would probably be the same, the devil would just be in the details.

(Also, regardless of the results of this discussion, the topic of rule changes is a separate piece that we intend to bring forward down the line. But the form of that discussion will be based on the results of earlier discussions, so stay tuned.)

This doesn't address your entire post, but is a point I wanted to put out there.
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Re: An Adventurous Proposal

Postby Arrow-Bolt » Sun Jun 28, 2015 6:08 pm

Oh!

Idea 3) Lantan

It is a center place of new technologies of Faerun. The source books say the nation is on the verge of creating the printing press. We could play D&D 3.5 with less of a 'medieval' feel and more an 'Renaissance OR Age of Enlightment' feel (like IRL 14th to 17th century Italy)

Idea 4) Kara-Tur would be awesome!
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Re: An Adventurous Proposal

Postby Zach82 » Sun Jun 28, 2015 6:18 pm

If we do move settings, I personally prefer a generic, medieval fantasy setting, so moving to a place like Cormyr or the Dalelands would be nice. I feel that RPing settings should have a balance between being relatable and being fantastic. I think FR manages a nice balance between the two.

I've never thought much of Eberron—I already live in a cosmopolitan city with a diverse population, skyscrapers, trains, and airships. In its desire to be fantastic Eberron looks more like Boston than a fantasy city! This is the same problem with Lantan. I am already surrounded by gadgets of all kinds. What difference does it make if the run on magic or electricity?

As for moving characters, letting people take their low-level characters over either as is, or with minor background changes makes the most sense to me.
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Re: An Adventurous Proposal

Postby Ian » Sun Jun 28, 2015 6:24 pm

A quick note for clarification: A vote to stay in FR is not necessarily a note to stay in Waterdeep. That will again be a separate discussion based on the results of this initial talk--in the mindset of starting with a broad look and narrowing focus as we go, we've elected to start by talking broadly about campaign settings, and then moving in to discuss location, rules, etc., letting each discussion be informed by those before it.

So don't think that you have to vote for a new setting if you want to leave Waterdeep, and that if we don't change settings that we're locked to the City of Splendors and the status quo. We're just trying to take this discussion in bite-sized chunks!
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Re: An Adventurous Proposal

Postby Murdling » Sun Jun 28, 2015 6:36 pm

Okay, so I share the concerns about Planescape and Spelljammer possibly being too special to make a real niche for us in but it's not impossible, and I really like the sound of Eberron.

I would love to try Ravenloft, a lot. A whole hell of a lot. However I understand if I'm in a minority there.

If we stay in FR I'd say we should try someplace with a serious case of local laws being something that can cause conflict - like Calimport's slave markets or Westgate's being ruled by vampires.
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Re: An Adventurous Proposal

Postby Sister » Sun Jun 28, 2015 7:23 pm

I know I've been here a while, like a couple of years now, but I'm still learning what I already have. While I don't mind a change in scenery I don't want to change the entire thing. And yes I have read Ian's posts about staying 3.5.

My next thing is, um I'm not interested in changing my characters and making new ones. Not any of my characters are even over lvl 8 yet. And you just opened the LA+1 slots up. I particularly do not want to give up my LA+1. I don't know if this a concern or not but honestly if a new setting means new characters then i don't want it.
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Re: An Adventurous Proposal

Postby ChronoregulatorBeta » Sun Jun 28, 2015 10:24 pm

All of my PCs are under level 3 at this point, though Teng is close. Moving would not be a big deal if it were somehow able to either move characters entirely and be allowed to swap out Faerun specific Feats for similar ones from another setting (within reason); or given the same amount of EXP to build characters with as the ones we lost, me thinks (if they cannot be moved at all). Also, it would be nice to have all of our earned PC slots at this point, or at least get them back at an accelerated rate. Personally, I would like to stick with FR if at all possible, but Eberron would not be too bad I suppose, steampunk and all ^_^

But, like I said, personally I would like to stick in FR; though not necessarily in Waterdeep. I haven't really been around enough to grow attached to it as some of the others have, I'm sure. I'm just happy it'll stay 3.5 and nothing -too- crazy will happen sitewise :lol:

So, my suggestions for PC Migration:
1.) If PCs can't be moved, then the EXP is kept to be used to rebuild in the respective slot
OR
2.) Choose ONE slot to keep the EXP for, and all others are set to level 1

Neither situation removes slots earned for being here the allotted time
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Re: An Adventurous Proposal

Postby tooitalian » Sun Jun 28, 2015 10:46 pm

First of all, I would like to say that this site is where I learned to play D&D, I have zero tabletop experience (other than observing a few games) so my opinion will be one derived only from the few years experiance I have playing here. One thing that has frustrated me since the start is the imbalance of good vs evil, and the world breaking power of magic. Both of these points were made, and those are very specific FR problems. If we are going to move, I would like it to be someplace that doesn't have the same problems. Cormyr would be an interesting change from Waterdeep, but it would still have the same problems, and for that reason I would vote against it. Eberon seems to be a good fit, but I haven't heard the cons and I am too unfamiliar with it to give a solid opinion. Planescape and Spelljammer seem way too vast, another problem we have in our current setting, and I am initially against it. I am curious about Ravenloft, I know nothing about it. Honestly, my biggest concerns are, if we are going to move, move to a setting that gives evil and good an equal chance with equal consequences, a place that is not so huge we can have DM's and pDM's creating megaplots with consequences that are not always played out because the setting is too huge to accurately depict it. but big enough where the players can build fresh foundations INTO the game rather than feel like they need to destroy the old ones to lay the new.

A suggestion: create our own setting that fits everyone's needs, a post apocalyptic Waterdeep. Our characters could stay the same, and the DM's could wreck havoc to the city like we all know you've wanted to for years. Hell, I wanted to after a month. While I know the DM's are hesitant to start making a lot of house rules and have people rely on the site, doing something different would be a draw to new players familiar with FR, and it would give us an opportunity to do away with the nonsensical shit WotC has put into their books and correct the errors. If we really do have a problem with where we are, and we want to make it better, let's really make it better and not just play with a whole different set of problems.

As far as my characters are concerned, I am very attached to two of them. Even if their mechanics and classes cannot be copied over, I would still recreate those characters in that new setting, and play them the same. Like Sister the highest PC i've ever played is 7+1, and it would really suck if I were to have to start over again.
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Re: An Adventurous Proposal

Postby Mark » Sun Jun 28, 2015 10:48 pm

I am all for changing the setting and starting all over. I think a whole reset will bring us all back to playing together on the same page with everyone starting at the same place. As the 1st generation of players to this site (of which I think only Ian, Raina and I are the only survivors from), and having the longest played character on the site (Garland Waynwood) I am getting a bit stale with FR. It sounds like people want to keep their 4th slot and ECL though, which I can totally see and agree with.

My vote is optimally for Ravenloft. But anyone who has spoke to me for more than 10 minutes on settings will totally grasp that. I can totally see why people won't dig it though, but I just wanted to make sure that stance is known.

Otherwise I dig the idea of Eberron.
I move the stars for no one. You've run so long you've run so far. Your eyes can be so cruel.  Just as I can be so cruel.
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Re: An Adventurous Proposal

Postby Murdling » Mon Jun 29, 2015 6:04 am

If anyone is unfamiliar with and wants an idea of what Ravenloft is like?

Short version: If you have played or seen Silent Hill? That's about the gist of it. Mists, impossible to leave the area unless the mysterious forces that control the plane allow you to, a strong lean toward evil instead of good, and lots of curses and karmic punishment.

Longer version: The realm is watched over by powers that are neither gods nor fiends, and exists primarily to punish a few exceedingly evil inhabitants who it also empowers. These beings are called Darklords and the realm may be empowering them so they don't seek redemption. The other inhabitants are mostly just caught up in the wake of those Darklords, but any sufficiently destructive or evil acts may find you attracting their attention and that's never a good thing.

Tech level / magic tolerance depends on WHICH Darklord you are in the domain of. When Ravenloft seizes a new prisoner it creates a home for them much like the one they left so the realm's different lands vary wildly.

Common features: The only people you'd call 'native' to Ravenloft would be the Vistani. (Everyone else is either a transplant from another realm or is the descendant of such people.) Gypsies that come and go between domains. Not a lot is known about them by outsiders but it's speculated they know a great deal about how Ravenloft's enigmatic masters work.
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