Shadow's Apex Part 11: Filling in Racial Flavor

I want to first thank everyone for the feedback I received the last time I posted about the Shadow's Apex campaign. Even though it has been weeks since I worked on the campaign wiki, I am keeping all of the comments and suggestions in mind as I move forward.

Most recently, I have updated several of the race entries. While several are short and perhaps a little pathetic, the dragonborn entry might actually be worth visiting. I'd love to hear some feedback on what you think of my take on the dragonborn.


The draconians are a troubled people descended from abominations born of magic rituals that corrupted metallic dragon eggs and produced humanoid dragonspawn. Though draconians are not inherently evil, they are most often distrusted by other humanoid races because of the war for which they were bred, in which they allegedly fought alongside an army of mercenaries and chromatic dragons against the established human, dwarf, and elf kingdoms. Despite the tales that surround draconian history, no one has yet found any archaeological evidence to support the claim that such a war ever even took place. This has led some to believe that either the stories are incorrect or that the war was fought on some far off continent (or perhaps another plane entirely). Regardless of evidence, the draconian people are often judged according to their racial history rather than their own merits, a fact that leads to many disputes between the draconians and the other races.


Though draconians and draconids look much the same and have been known to interbreed, they are in fact two distinct races. While draconians were created in foul magic rituals that corrupted the eggs of metallic dragons, the draconids are the descendants of a single red dragon who sought to build an army by mating with countless humans and producing an alarming number of half-dragons. His full blooded dragon children did the same, and what resulted was a breed of humans with pronounced draconic features. The first draconids were trained to be mages, hence their name, and have passed the craft on to their descendants. Their progenitor has long since died, but his dragon offspring still lead isolated clans of draconids as representatives of their father, who supposedly ascended to godhood to be Tiamat's eternal mate. These dragon cults are fanatical and often contain members of non-dragonborn races, but these are encouraged to mate with dragons in order to strengthen the numbers of the cult. Most draconids live in and among human settlements instead of as members of the dragon cults, finding niches in human societies as long-lived mages, sages, and scholars. Draconids look like other dragonborn, but have skin that ranges from deep crimson to bright orange instead of the usual greens and browns of the draconians.


Eladrin are less common than elves because most live in the Feywild. Also called grey elves, they often have bronze skin with blonde, copper, or black hair. Eladrin are seen as the most civilized and haughty of the elves, preferring to remain separate from humankind and other nonelven races.


To the other races, kender seem like a race of children. The diminutive kender have short attention spans, intense curiosity, and a fearlessness that serves them well in battle but often lands them (and those traveling with them) in danger. Kender use the stats for Halflings in the Player's Handbook.


Last time I wrote an NPC Spotlight, it was Ghost to received all the attention. This time, it is one of Ghost's rivals, an archfiend from Dyval who now makes his home on Rifts Earth selling slaves to the Splugorth. This NPC's image was generated with Hero Machine, an old favorite of mine for creating character portraits. Please note that those are supposed to be red fangs... not lipstick... even though in lower-res it is hard to tell.

Real Name
: Unknown
Aliases: "The Devil"
Alignment: Unknown
Weight: 1100 lbs
Height: 15'
Age: Unknown, perhaps thousands of years
Disposition: Very confidant in his superiority over "lesser" races and quite arrogant.
Experience Level: Unknown
Enemies: Unknown
Allies: Maryanna (a dar'ota), a cyborg bodyguard, several fiends, and a small army of grave ghouls (a few dressed in tattered "dead boy" armor)
Magic Knowledge: Unknown
Psionic Powers: Unknown
Abilities: Unknown, though he speaks of having "talents that make mortals think me devilish"
Skills of Note: Unknown
Weapon Proficiencies: WP Sword
Weapons and Armor: Wears long flowing robes that hide any other clothing or armor he might wear, carries a greater rune sword that once belonged to Ghost

This particular character currently has the PCs a little on edge. They chose to travel all the way to Splynn to acquire a greater rune weapon to trade with him rather than fight... quite an unusual turn of events for my players.

Rifts Session Eight: Dimensional Shifting and Char

It has been quite some time since I posted last. Real life has taken up more of my time than usual, and though I've still been able to game, the metagaming just hasn't been convenient. Hopefully I'll be able to afford some spare time to write over the holiday break next week.

For now, an update on our adventures on Rifts Earth:

After making a deal with the creature known only as The Devil, the group began their journey east toward Atlantis. Unfortunately for the party, the journey was far from safe. Isaac and Minos hopped on Pyro's back and the hatchling dragon flew the group over the dimensional shifting zone of the Appalachians. In the d-shifting zone, the party found themselves shifted into a nocturnal setting for a few moments and later were pelted by a rain of boulders from the sky. They sustained only minor wounds, but the experience was unsettling at best.

As they emerged from the dimensional shifting zone and entered "safe" skies once again, the group gazed down upon a jungle-like wilderness as far as the eye could see, with a large expanse of strange silvery trees to the southeast and the outer shells of skyscrapers off in the distance.

Though they found the strange trees intriguing, Minos sought to visit the skyscrapers in hopes of replacing or repairing his damaged armor. The rest of the group agreed and after Pyro metamorphosed into human form, they entered the city of Char (resting amid the ruins of the city once known as Charlotte). The group was almost immediately approached by members of the Concrete Vipers, a local street gang, with offers of safe passage in exchange for weapons and/or equipment. It didn't take long for the players to realize that the biggest threat in the area was the Concrete Vipers themselves, and a firefight ensued, beginning in the streets and ending inside a nearby building as Pyro hid to avoid dying from his grievous wounds and Minos mopping up the gangsters who survived the first few rounds of combat.

After this, the party looted the corpses and left Char immediately, hoping to avoid any retaliation from Char's most notorious villainous organization.

Next time: Will the group remain in or around Char long enough for the Concrete Vipers to avenge their dead? Will the group investigate the strange forest? Will any notable NPCs show up this far east?

Session Seven

Session Six
Session Five
Session Four
Session Three
Session Two
Session One
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Rifts Session Seven: A Deal with the Devil?

When we left off, the party had gone in search of a rune sword that their patron wanted returned. They defeated a pair of warlock marines and we ended the session with both a prisoner to interrogate and a base of operations to plunder. Instead of continuing their search for the sword, they immediately took the prisoner back to Ghost.

They were not received as they anticipated. Ghost was disgusted with the half-finished job (keep in mind that this mission was for the party to prove their worth to Ghost's organization). With this cue, the party interrogated the prisoner and got back to the task at hand, learning that the warlock marines had traded the rune sword to a being that they called the devil. The prisoner agreed to give the group the coordinates of the devil's lair but refused to return even if it meant losing his life.

After negotiating their way past several of the devil's guardians (a dar'ota, a cyborg, and a fiend), they came face to face with a fifteen foot tall shadowy figure clad in dark robes, an archfiend. The group soon realized that there were only two ways to acquire the rune sword: taking it by force or replacing it with a similar weapon.

After a fierce debate that ended with a simple vote, the party decided to replace the blade with one of equal power if the archfiend would only tell them were to find such a weapon. His reply was ominous, though the group has yet to see just how dangerous this mission will be. "You can find such a weapon in Splynn."

And thus, the campaign has taken a turn toward Atlantis. This is going to get very interesting... assuming they survive the trip...

Session Six
Session Five
Session Four
Session Three
Session Two
Session One
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Campaign Wiki Design: How Much Canon to Include?

Although I'm struggling with this personally because I'm working on my very first campaign wiki, this decision could apply to a campaign handout or perhaps even in play during an introductory session. The question is, "How much of what has already been written should I include in my description of X?" If you are creating a race, town, or organization from scratch, this whole issue isn't even... well... an issue. You describe it as you have created it because no one has seen it before. But if you're borrowing material from an existing source, all of the following questions may impact the success or failure of your work:
  1. Is this information that the players already know or do I need to present it to them?
  2. If I include this information, will it discourage my players from reading the entire document?
  3. If I leave it out, will my players make ill-informed decisions during character creation or gameplay because of it?
  4. How much will it really impact the game if the players don't know?
  5. If I include it, will the players retain it between their first encounter with the info and the next game session?
On one hand, you want your setting to be detailed, and it is always nice to have descriptions of everything relevant stored in one place (as opposed to scattered across a collection of source books). On the other hand, most of us don't have the time to compile all of this information. Add to this conundrum the above questions about whether or not your players will actually benefit from the info (or suffer from the lack of it), and my head is spinning.

I started struggling with these when I began adding the "Races" sections of my campaign wiki. The drow came first (ABC order and all... no way they're my favorite villains... ahem...), and I stared at the page thinking about these two extremes: a long, well written description of drow culture based on all of the Realmslore, Dragon Magazine articles, and old adventures that I have stored up in my collection -OR- a short "X is what makes these guys different from what you've seen in other campaign settings" summary. For now, what I have is much closer to the latter than the former, but I'd like to move in the other direction if time allows. By the time this is all finished (if you can ever really say that a campaign setting is finished), I hope each section of the wiki will include plenty of canonical information, with the bits that are unique to our campaign either highlighted or in bold.

The real question is the last one in the list: Will my players retain the information long enough for it to be relevant? In other words, is the whole process a waste of time altogether? Personally, I think not, but I am idealistic enough to believe that a great resource for a campaign is not a waste of time even if the players never use it at all. Just organizing one's thoughts can be a refreshing exercise for DMs, and I'm enjoying both creating and blogging about the Shadow's Apex campaign.

Cutting Time from Character Creation in Rifts

One of the most common complaints about the Palladium game system is the lengthiness of character creation. In my experience, the skill system is the number one cause of the process taking so long. So, in an effort to reduce this for my group, I put together a database of the skills in Microsoft Access. The database is sortable by category and by eligibility to be taken as a secondary skill. The database also includes the base value of the skill and the amount increased per level.

You can check out the Rifts Skills Database here or in the Rifts Downloads section on the right sidebar. If you already play Rifts, ENJOY! If you haven't played for some reason or another... I hope this eliminates an excuse.

Shadow's Apex Part 10: The Name of the World

While working on the Shadow's Apex Wiki, I decided that the land needed a name. The campaign has a name already, but the people of the world wouldn't call the world "Shadow's Apex", so what would they call it? For a meaningful name, I immediately went to a resource that I have described earlier, After searching through names from various cultures that have meanings associated with "earth" and "land", I finally tried "forest". And then I realized that Mielikki isn't a fabricated Forgotten Realms name at all... it is actually the name of a nature goddess in Finnish mythology. How cool is that?

In any case, I finally settled on Vidarr... which actually means something like forest warrior, but will work great for the Shadow's Apex campaign.

Shadow's Apex Part 9: Stepping Into the Wiki World

Inspired by this post over on, I have started the process of developing a campaign wiki for Shadow's Apex. You can find it here, and although there isn't a whole lot there at the moment, I hope to update it on a regular basis from here on. Each time I make a major update (or find that one of my players or readers has contributed), I will post comments on the new material. I hope that the campaign wiki will become a great resource for my players and that my blog posts can serve as a form of designer's notes.

In the meantime, I welcome any feedback, ideas, and inspiration from the blogging community. With its own site, Shadow's Apex almost seems "official" now.

Game Night Derailed (Again)

Although we are usually pretty consistent, my gaming group sometimes gets into slumps... and we're in one right now. For two weeks straight, our usual Rifts campaign has taken a rain check and we have resorted to other games to kill time. Last week it was my frustration over Fallout 3 not working (which has since been fixed). This week it was a combination of car trouble and relationship drama (but hey, when the boyfriend of the girl you are seeing just found out about you, the crap is destined to hit the fan...). Hopefully our regularly scheduled campaign will continue as planned next Tuesday night.

We can't be the only group that gets hopelessly sidetracked from time to time. Does every group have a fallback game or two? What are yours?

The DM Drawback: The characters I'd like to play but never will...

As much as I enjoy DMing, there are some drawbacks. One is obviously the time needed to prepare for each session, but I actually enjoy the preparation most of the time. The worst drawback of DMing is never getting to play. I know that many DMs don't have to deal with this, but in my neck of the woods, if I don't DM, we play Magic instead. NPCs, even recurring ones, just don't do the trick, and the DMPC is a struggle to pull off without the party having a completely silent companion or a hint machine.

The following is a character I'd love to play but will likely sit on the back of my mind wasting away for eternity. The inspiration comes from South Park's underpants gnomes. If you take their business plan and replace "steal underpants" with "manipulate others" and replace "profit" with "power", you'll have Tilloch's game plan.

Tilloch Blayder
It is amazing how much ego is stored up inside Tilloch's small stature. Taking pride in himself for being the power behind the throne (whether he is in reality or not), Tilloch avoids the spotlight as much as possible and allows his pawns (errrr... friends) to do most of the dirty work. He spends the majority of his time attempting to manipulate people into doing what he wants, and when that fails, convincing them that whatever they did was due to his influence and was a part of his master plan all along.
Tilloch is primarily motivated by three things: the pursuit of power, the avoidance of any real responsibility, and delusions of grandeur. Tilloch's goal in life is to be powerful, but he wants to be a behind-the-scenes power monger so that he will never have to deal with the negative aspects of power. While he is intelligent and charismatic, Tilloch doesn't realize how easy it is to see through his schemes.
Tilloch would be a valuable member of any adventuring group, but his personality quite often drives would-be friends mad with rage. He is friendly and cordial, but tends to take credit for more successes than he deserves and blames failures on everyone else.
Game Mechanics: Whatever the system, Tilloch focuses on social interaction first, sneakiness second, and combat ability third. I like sticking to heavily personality-based character ideas because they are adaptable to any system. Tilloch could easily be a halfling or gnome in D&D, a ratling in Rifts, or just a small human in another game. In 4th Edition D&D, Tilloch might look something like this:

Tilloch Blayder
1st Level Unaligned Halfling Trickster Rogue
Str 11
Con 12
Dex 18
Int 14
Wis 8
Cha 16

Hp: 24
Healing Surges: 7

AC 16
Fort 11
Ref 16
Will 13

Trained Skills: +8 Bluff, +4 Insight, +8 Intimidate, +4 Perception, +9 Stealth, +11 Thievery
Feats: Nimble Blade
Equipment: Leather Armor, Short Sword

At-Will Powers
Piercing Strike
Sly Flourish

Encounter Powers
King's Castle
Second Chance [racial]

Daily Powers
Trick Strike
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