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And Then Two Years Went By...

...and a few days.

Wow. It really has been two years. Okay you should know that that old Shallow campaign below went on for some months. They encountered Dire Chickens, released a Hobgoblin Vampire Alchemist named Urvlad, and had the beginnings of an epic dungeon delve in my personal version of 0one's Undermountain maps, WyrmHive. And then... I dunno... it was two years ago. I think we started playing the Kingmaker Adventure path (I got to play instead of run). I also started up a new Friday night group that includes two younger players, and we played some Greyhawk and Temple of Elemental Evil using Castles & Crusades. Maybe I'll do a quick review of C&C some time. I guess that's what a blog is for. Anyway, the ToEE ended in almost a TPK - one character survived through a brilliant escape, and the other missed the night's session altogether.

A lot has happened. Currently, I'm running two games a week - both Pathfinder. Tuesday Nights I'm running Way of the Wicked, and on Fridays we're running Skull and Shackles. Both Adventure paths are still on the first book - aka low level. MAYBE I'll tell stories from time to time. But neither are Shallow.

I stumbled across (well, actually I went searching for) the hex maps from the Welsh Piper, and I've been making some fresh Shallow maps, just sort of for fun. Hex crawls are always a good time. I'll post some stuff. And I was daydreaming about populating this new version of the world, and I went back to what I used to do when I first started running these things: what have I got figures for? This led to some interesting histories. 

But with two games going, I realized this stuff is never gonna see the light of day. So I figured what the hell - I might as well throw it out there, and maybe folks trolling the web looking for Stuff will find it, and that's cool. If not, well, at least I'm leaving a Lame Legacy behind on the internet.

And how else would I have known it's been two years?

The Adventurers' Guilds

In many ways, I'm a grognard. There's a bunch of stuff from the older editions I missed in my d20 games, and I decided in Shallow to reinstitute them. One of these was the concept of training.

The nature of Shallow is such that the characters understand their world, in many ways, in terms of the game mechanics that define them. If you've ever read Order of the Stick, or Goblins, then it is somewhat like that. Characters understand they have Hit Points, and Levels, and Experience Points. These are real things, not abstract representations of some other aspect of their nature.

Training serves a two-fold purpose in Shallow. First of all, it forces characters to move. Each territory in Shallow is rated for a range of levels - Northamber is levels 1 to 3 - and this is reflected not only in the general difficultly of the encounters in that area (not exclusive difficulty, but generally), but in the levels through which trainers can train. So while a character could stay in Northamber slapping low-level encounters around, they could never level beyond third level because no one there can train them.

Also, not all feats are available from all trainers. The most common feats are generally available, but certain specialized feats are only found at certain trainers, and the characters must choose to go there if they want to learn them.

The Adventurers Guilds are there to provide training and some resources to their members. These guilds are officially recognized across national boundaries, and there are no guilds for NPC classes. In order to be considered an Adventurer, one must be a member of a Guild, and carry a Guild Ring.

In addition to indicating a character's membership in a guild, the Guild Rings provide two things. First of all, they provide a counter of the characters ongoing Experience Points. The character knows how much XP he has because the Guild Ring shows him. Secondly, the Guild Rings are attuned to a location associated with the Guild that provided the last level to the character. Given a minute to concentrate, the Ring provides a limited, single-person teleport to the attuned location (quite similar to the way a hearthstone works in WoW).

Guilds charge dues. The Guild dues are assessed at the time the character goes to level, and are fixed at 10% of the Experience Points needed to make that level. These dues cover the cost of any training, and the Guild Rings, and they exempt Adventurers from having to pay any other taxes, as the Guilds pay the taxes on their behalf.

The following is a list of the Guilds found in the northern kingdoms - North and Southamber, The Principalities of Gaspar, and Ulshudder. Gothmark has similar but not identical Guilds, but they are all related and compatible.

The Benevolent Order of Alchemists and Thaumaturgists : Wizards and Alchemists
The Circle: Summoners, Witches, and Sorcerors
The Lodge: Rangers and Rogues, some Barbarians
The Iron Brotherhood: Fighters, Barbarians, Cavaliers
The Church: Clerics, Paladins, Inquisitors, and some Oracles
The Green: Druids and some Oracles

The Way: Monks and some Oracles

In addition, there is a Guild known variously as the Grey League, or the Grey Circle, or the Syndicate, or a number of other guises. It supports thieves and assassins. I have not allowed PCs to take this guild - yet.

The Mighty Sweeney, Exalted Representative of the Benevolent Order of Alchemists and Thaumaturgists, was heard to give this speech to the children of Harmony on the evening of the Midsummer's Festival. As The Mighty Seeney is a great Wizard, then it all must be true...

Very well, young ones. Listen well, and you will learn of this territory in which you live. I've lived a long time, and I know what I'm talking about.

Up until slightly over a century ago, this entire area we now call Northamber was a wild and untamed area known only as the Dragon's North. A mighty drake ruled over this huge forest, and it was inhabited only by his children the kobolds and other dragonkin. Such was the might of this dragon that the armies of all the other races lived in fear of his wrath, and hoped only that he would not attack them.

Then, mysteriously, a little over a century ago, the mighty wyrm just disappeared. It took years for the idea of it to reach men's ears, and then, another decade before they believed it enough to venture into the once-forbidden forests. Amber was the kingdom just on the other side of the Wyrmwall Mountains, and they were the first to settle here. With the riches from mining and foresting and raiding the lairs of the remaining kobold tribes, Amber fast became a mighty power, quickly conquering its neighbors. The new nation recognized two territories - the more civilized lands of Southamber, with the capital city, Ambergard, and the frontier of Northamber.

The expansion of Ambergard would probably have swallowed the neighboring Principalities of Gaspar, if not for the Great Red Plague that happened about 20 years ago. As you all know, The Red took damn near every adult in the cities over the age of puberty up through all but the oldest men and women, and decimated the countryside, including Northamber, only slightlly less severely. It affected every race - although different races were impacted slightly differently - and removed two generations of adults in less than month. All warfare ground to a halt - there were no adults left to carry on the fight. The Elders did their best to train the children to carry on civilization - and with the aid of magic and the help of the gods we survived.  This was made even more difficult by the perchant of the dead to spontaneously arise from the grave and attack the living. We quickly learned to burn our dead, a principle we have learned to rely upon.  We have even reclaimed some of the frontier and once again reap the riches of this land for the betterment of Ambergard.

Northamber is shaped like a triangle set on its point. A river, the Tumbleshed, runs from this southernmost tip northward, emptying into the huge Thunder Bay over 100 miles north of here. The Tumbleshed finds its source in the lakes known as the Three Sisters, over a hundred miles to the south.

On the eastern border lies the great Huron Forest. This is a dark and cool deep pine wood on rocky forested hills. It is the home of the Elvish nation - the High Elves rule from their great tree-city of Hurondwell, while the Winter Elves live far to the north, led by their Druid clanlords, who constantly war against the attacks of the forest beast-men.

To the southeast lie the Daelic Highlands, where the halflings live in their tight-knit family clans. Until The Red, these clans constantly fought each other, but the new generation of kyndar, as they call themselves, is more bucolic.

Beyond the Daeles, the mountains rise dramatically to the craggy lands of the Dwarven Höms.  Each Dwarven citystate, called a Höm, is a self-contained entity existing both above and below ground.  So I have heard.

Then to the west lie the Wrymwall Mountains, that long separated this territory from its neighbors. Through the Gauntlet Passage lies the great nation of Southamber, and beyond that the Principalities of Gaspar, and the dark Hobgoblin kingdom of Gothmark. I have heard of a far land called Ulshudder, where gnomes have invented strange magics.

 This I say, for I am a very powerful wizard, don't you know?

Shallow - A Pathfinder Sandbox

Hi there. Welcome to Shallow.

There's been a lot of interesting talk about Sandbox gaming on the web of late, and I had been reading several postings, particularly the very interesting series on Ben Warren's Westmarch campaign, with a lot of curiosity. I was running a rather famous published campaign at the time, but I couldn't resist starting to toy with the creation of a world that allowed for the kind of unstructured play that sandboxes represent. I built maps, I dreamed up history, and I doodled out NPCs and new creatures. One evening, after a session that concluded one of the major chapters of our current campaign, I casually presented my players with a gazetteer-type overview of the world as it was evolving, and I was surprised how enthusiastic everyone was. So we dropped our existing campaign (yet again - it's true, I have Gaming Attention Deficit Disorder!) and began new characters in the frontier territory known as Northamber.

We've been going at Shallow (I call the world Shallow because it is not supposed to be very deep - the name has been an inside joke with our group since early 3.5 days) for several months now, and I figured I'd start publishing some of the material I've been developing for it. This site will be primarily devoted to background and backstory. This is a continuously evolving environment, but I've developed some basic maps and a general framework for the world as a whole, and some sweeping story arcs that players can bump into as they choose what to take on next. 
What Shallow isn't is an Adventure Path campaign, where a linked series of stories carries the players from 1 to 20 in increasingly difficult levels of play. Rather, Shallow's territories are defined by the levels they are designed for (generally a 3-level spread), but within that territory the players are free to do whatever they wish. I admit to being influenced by the way areas are handled in World of Warcraft - with the additional caveat that you can only level up to a certain point in any specific territory.

We're using Pathfinder, including the new Advanced Player's Guide, but I suspect that this could easily be adapted for any system - even those not using classes and levels. Nonetheless, most of these articles will assume Pathfinder or some similar d20ish system. At this point in the campaign, the characters are all on the verge of 4th level, so I have 3 levels of material available.  I'll be posting gazetteers, stories, NPCs, and other useful campaign aids - as I get around to it.

After all, it's Shallow...


That which does not kill us, makes us level...

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December 2012


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