Wednesday, January 14, 2009

draft player handout

Top Ten Things to Know About The World of Cinder

Lava, Lava Everywhere

Cinder is much less geologically stable and more volcanic than most campaign worlds. Earthquakes are relatively common and pretty much all mountain ranges have at least one active cauldron of lava. Open seas and rivers of magmas are more common than liquid water. The campaign begins near the Boiling Sea, the largest open body of water on the planet. The lands immediately adjacent to the Boiling Sea are much more green and pleasant than most of the rest of the world. But even so, don’t act surprised if your character falls into a pit of lava.

Life, Jim, But Not As We Know It

Dwarves, elves, halflings, goblins, orcs, trolls, and all those other standard D&D monsters can be found on Cinder. But they don’t always look or act exactly like their baseline D&D counterparts. For example, elves always wear hats and many goblins know strange magics. It is up to the players to find out more about the difference between Cinder monsters and run-of-the-mill monsters.

All Politics Are Local

At the present there are no world-spanning empires and few decent-sized kingdoms on the world of Cinder. Certain city-states are able to rule over nearby towns and villages. But for the most part urban areas have a great deal of independence for outside authority and the feudal ties between the various rural Lords are often quite tenuous.

God is a Dragon and Satan is a Frog

The Lawful faith is basically a faux catholic medieval affair called the Church of the Great Gold Dragon. Chaotic types tend to worship various loathsome toadlike demons.

A World Haunted By Dead Gods

The Neutrals have a pantheon called the Twelve. Many different gods have belonged to the Twelve over the ages, as its members are not immortal and sometimes they’re killed by rival gods or high-level adventurers. The upside of this is that one may occasionally find things like Thor’s hammer deep in a dungeon, since Thor is dead and no longer using it. The downside is that when you find Thor’s hammer it may be in the hands of an angry balrog.

A Hero Ain’t Just a Sandwich

Levels are a precious commodity in the world of Cinder. Most folks you encounter will not have any levels in any class. That’s why they call on you to kill the monsters.

Dungeons Aren’t Just Big Lairs

When you go down into a dungeon you are leaving the normal world behind you. Different laws of nature can apply, almost as if the entire dungeon is located inside a nightmare. Staying too long in a dungeon drives men insane or transforms them into horrible monsters. Only the brave or foolhardy would dare venture into these hell-holes. Still, that’s where all the best treasure is to be found.

Destiny Is For Suckers

The GM is not going to hit you with some world-spanning epic plotline that he expects you to follow. Adventures will be proposed, but if you choose to not take the bait that’s entirely okay. The GM is entirely prepared to just make stuff up on the fly if you opt to go off-script, though he may call for a brief recess to whip something into shape. Either way, you are free to seek out the adventures you want.

Hey! You’ve Got Your Sci-Fi In My Fantasy!

Cinder is part of a larger science fantasy universe, though the only spaceport on the planet is in the Obsidian City, one of the domains of the inhuman Lava Lords. Still, even in the realms around the Boiling Sea one can occasionally encounter sci-fi junk like robots or laser pistols.

The Games Rules Are Not a Physics Engine

Labyrinth Lord is a great refinement of the awesome Basic/Expert D&D of yore. The GM is in love with many of his house rules. But neither the rules as written nor the house rules are as important as having a fun, exciting, imaginative adventure. Sometimes things will happen that aren’t described in the rules. For example, let’s say your PC falls into a 20’ pit. The rules say you take a couple d6 of damage and get on with the game. But the GM might say “You don’t lose any HP, but you landed awkwardly and you’re pretty sure from the pain that you broke something in your left arm.” On the plus side, if you want to attempt something not handled in the rulebook the GM will generally give a lot of latitude. In fact, the more you do stuff that isn’t strictly in the rulebook, the better your chances are of making it to second level.


  1. Awesome work! I might have to steal a point or two. I really want to see what playing in Cinder is like...

  2. Brilliant. I wish I could play in Cinder, but geography proves to be an obstacle.

    And I still love the "elves always wear hats" thing. Genius.

  3. It's like Febg Shui, but kinda not. Seriously awesome! I'd totally play anytime you have a weekend event.

    BTW: please feel free to come by tomorrow for the boy's b-day shindig should you choose- at the store, totally low key. Pizza and games, fun, frivolity.

  4. Ogre likes your world, especially your "pantheon". Madmen Cults who who worship froglike thingys vs. a pseudocatholic golden dragon church. Ogre considers to steal it.

  5. The Games Rules Are Not a Physics Engine

    Even speaking as a filthy 3E-playing oik I wholeheartedly agree with this position, and wish more players understood it.

  6. Anonymous1:05 PM

    I strongly advise you to NOT use this as a player handout.
    i. g. show, not tell.

    "This game is about deep personal horror..."
    "Oh, really?!"

    I criticize, because I love.

  7. I really like refining a setting down to key points like this, it's important to make sure players know certain things before you start playing.

  8. "This game is about deep personal horror..."
    "Oh, really?!"

    Man, I'd have be a lot more introspective or at least more audacious audacious to claim that my campaign was about anything. It's just a stupid game, you know?

    I feel like I need to give the players a few clues that my game is not exactly analogous to baseline D&D, whatever their personal baseline is. Howzabout something shorter? Like this:

    1. Watch Out For Lava
    2. Don't Assume Anything About Monsters
    3. No One Keeps The Realm Safe
    4. Religion Is Weird
    5. Dead Gods Have The Best Treasure
    6. Levels Count
    7. Dungeons Are For Adventurers, not Ecologists
    8. I Hate Metaplot
    9. More Lasers
    10. The Rules Won't Save You

  9. Your new format, I must have it, precious... I wasn't sure if it was tongue in cheek, snarky or other, but it works for me!

  10. Anonymous3:52 PM

    THAT´S IT!

    I bow before the master.

  11. I wasn't sure if it was tongue in cheek, snarky or other, but it works for me!

    I was being totally serious. Set had a legit concern, but I felt cutting the whole dang handout was a step too far.

  12. @Jeff - maybe I'm just thick headed, but I didn't get the "deep personal horror" thing aside from perhaps telling the players what they were going to be feeling.

    The show/not tell idea is good. That's what inspired me to majorly revamp my handout. Thanks Settembrini.

    NB - how cool that my captcha phrase is 'unsithed'.

  13. "good authors plagerize,
    great authors steal"
    Tennessee Ford?

    I really, rfeally like this, but

    I still need my shatner