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3G: Gaming Goulash

On Friday some of my gaming group got together and we tried a spaceship combat game called Starmada (http://www.mj12games.com/starmada/). In the company’s own words, “it’s simple, but not simplistic,” which got me thinking about using it in for ship battles in a campaign setting like Spelljammer, or to simulate combat between astraljammers in the Astral Sea for Planescape 4E. That, in turn, got me thinking about what other third party supplements I’ve added to my games over the years.

Oathbound: Domains of the Forge
This is the #1 supplement that has contributed the most to my campaigns, especially my Planescape 3.5E game. Planescape, and to a lesser extent, Spelljammer, are the two campaign settings where it’s easiest to add another world…it simply becomes an alternate Prime Material plane or another planet. However, I didn’t incorporate the world of Forge whole hog; instead I borrowed pieces and parts to flesh out my vision of Planescape.

First off, I added the fantastic player character races to the setting, expanding the selection to reflect the varied and wild diversity of the planes. From the ceptu (giant telekinetic jellyfish) to the lunars (four-eyed shapeshifters) to the haze (eyeless beaked humanoids), these unusual races are fairly well balanced with the standard player character races and make even the most jaded planar blood do a double take. Even if my players don’t choose one of the races, I still have NPCs roaming around to remind them of the wonders of the multiverse.

The second thing I added were prestige race alterations…evolutionary changes to individuals spurred by magic. This concept fit so perfectly with Planescape and it greatly appealed to my players, so we’ve spent a lot of time over the years fleshing out and expanding the choices presented in the Oathbound supplements. Of course, I’ve modded it to fit my campaign, with the Evolve feat becoming Sculpt Self, and XP costs adjusted.

Tying specific changes to planar locales has also encouraged planar exploration. Want a prehensile tail? Visit the Beastlands, hang out with some monkeys, and spend 1,500 XP. Want to be able to summon baatezu? First, be a non-good tielfing, travel to the Gray Waste, beat up some baatezu with less than CR 1, then spend 300 XP. It’s added a lot of flavor to our games over the years (and cost a lot of XP, which is why the characters are only 16th level after 10+ years).

The third thing I added to my Planescape game were the four-horned feathered fowl – the main antagonists of Oathbound – Barbello the Mask of Fury, Bathkol the Unanswered Question, Colopitiron the Dark Master, Haiel the Blade in the Green, Israfel the Queen of Penance, Nemamiah the Leper, and Orif’elle the Scourge of the Wind. While they each rule a different realm in the Forge in Oathbound, I assigned each to a different plane in Planescape. I intertwined their history with that of Aoskar the god of portals and the Lady of Pain from Sigil, thusly:

Aoskar (a god) and Israfel (a primordial) married and had the following children – Barbello, Bathkol, Colopitiron, Haiel, Nemamiah, and Tashra. While young and still struggling with the wild urges of nature, Haiel seduced his mother, and she gave birth to Orif’elle. She told Aoskar the child was his, and both she and Haiel kept the secret.

Somehow, Tashra discovered the incestuous relationship between her mother and brother and exposed them. Aoskar confessed he knew of their affair but could not bring himself to punish them, as he loved Israfel, Haiel, and Orif’elle. Infuriated by the lack of morality in her parents and sibling, Tashra used the power of truenaming to bind them all with oaths that would exact what she felt was a fitting punishment.

Afterwards, Tashra felt remorse and shut herself up in the center of the multiverse. Renaming herself the Lady of Pain as a commemoration of her guilt, she squashed any attempt to discover the truth of the events. Eventually the deed faded from memory, although her family remained bound by the oaths.

The Book of Eldritch Might
This d20 supplement by Monte Cook seemed tailor-made for Planescape, and it helped me flesh out some parts with which I knew the players would interact. In particular, the graven one prestige class gave me what I needed to develop Fell’s special tattoo magic. (Fell is an NPC dabus who runs a tattoo shop in Sigil because he’s shunned by the Lady of Pain and others of his kind.) The mirror master prestige class also gave me the bones upon which to construct the kamerel’s mirror magic (the kamerel were a xenophobic race that lived at the base of the Spire in the Outlands and retreated into the mirrorverse). I wanted the heroes constantly paranoid, afraid that every mirror or reflective surface could potentially allow someone to spy or eavesdrop on them.

And new spells are always a boon, especially when players become jaded with everything in the “official” supplements. When they traipse to the far reaches of the multiverse and defeat the guardian of a long-dead wizard, I don’t want them to find magic missile, fireball, and wish in his spellbook, I want them to find guilt, mantle of egregious might, and zone of speed. It makes them hungry for more and spurs further adventuring.

Requiem for a God
This was a very plot-specific supplement I picked up because of the direction my Planescape campaign took. Also written by Monte Cook, this supplement delves into every aspect of the death of god, from what happens to its physical form in the Outer Planes, to the repercussions with the god’s church, clerics, lay worshippers, and the multiverse as a whole. Since I was running Dead Gods concurrently with The Great Modron March and Faction War, and since the party’s cleric has a dead god he wants to resurrect, I thought this would be a great campaign addition, and I was right.

The main points I incorporated into my campaign were the specifics of the decaying god – godsflesh, godsblood, divinity sparks, loosed divinity – should the party ever visit Gersa’s corpse drifting through the Astral Plane. I also added the prestige classes as organizations similar to Planescape’s factions, so the party had someone to turn to for advice on just how to return Gersa to life, and a foil to prevent such a detestable act. I added the spells, feats, monsters, and magic items as well, because the heroes are not the only ones to contemplate such an act, and I wanted the benefits and drawbacks of messing with a dead god to be visible should the heroes go down that path. I think I did too good a job at that, because they abandoned that story arc in favor of an easier one for the time being.

Dragonstar: Starfarer’s Handbook
I’ve talked before about the cyborg fey’ri player character from the future in my Planescape game, and how I’ve worked up to showcasing his back story by pulling the characters into the future, for a short time. Well, they’ve entered the future, and now this supplement comes into play. The authors have already taken the time to blend the fantasy elements of D&D with the sci fi elements I want, and I’m happy with the results so far. The transition of spellbooks and scrolls to computer software is especially genius, as are the new spells that demonstrate how magic would evolve alongside technology.

I’ll be the first to admit that there’s not enough information in this one book to do what I want to do, but it’s a great base upon which to gauge power level and feel as I pull additional material from d20 Future and similar supplements. I don’t want to lose the fantasy feel of the main campaign.

What supplements have become an integral part of your campaign? Let me know in the comments below!

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