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Saturday, April 19, 2014

#MtG's #Zendikar plane as a #13thAge setting! - Part 6: Story Hooks


From the moment I read +Philippe-Antoine Menard's article on +Critical Hits titled “13th Age” Musings: Story Hook-Based Adventure Prepping, I knew (and I told him) I would have used this method for my Zendikar project. And here I am!

I am well aware that half the genius of the ChattyDM's idea was that with this method you can turn those often-forgotten loose threads of adventures into new and exciting side treks, or even new courses for the entire campaign, but since the other half of the geniality is just the simplicity and quickness of the method, I decided to write a post providing these Story Hooks as possible campaign or adventure starting ideas for Zendikar, without actually referring to any loose threads of a pre-existing campaign (since we're talking about starting, of course!)

So this will be my list of Story Hooks, which in a fashion similar to all my latest post, will be a growing list that I will update over time. I decided I will only add Hooks based on the Locations I already described in my Locations list, With an additional "sub-focus" on one of the organizations or authorities present in the location.
I'll also link every first occurrence of an Icon or Minor Icon in each hook to the relevant section, if I've already written it.

So we'll start from the continent of Tazeem, which non-coincidentally is also the best land-mass in Zendikar to start a low-level adventure or campaign, since it contains the highest amount of civilized population in stable settlements, with the exception of the even more highly populated Guul Draz. Although around there, 90% of the civilized population enjoys sucking blood of intelligent humanoids, and must also do so to survive, making it probably a little less than recommendable as a starting place...

Note that, to keep the spirit of ChattyDM's Story Hooks, I purposely choose less-than-obvious and less-than-epic hooks here. Even more than to keep the original spirit of the method, because since the obvious and epic ones are already quite clear when reading the Locations or Icons lists, it would be redundant to also describe them here in this fashion.
Actually, I go a bit far from the original model in terms of length and detail: I can't help being as prolix as always!


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Friday, April 18, 2014

#MtG's #Zendikar plane as a #13thAge setting! - Part 5: Locations


One idea that I vented in my brainstorming on Icons (a post that I removed from the project, to avoid confusion), was that of having some locations in zendikar act exactly like Icons. That is, you can have positive, conflicted, or negative relationships with these places. It works in Zendikar, because the world is literally much more alive than your standard fantasy setting. So I would definitely allow some characters to have bonds to some places, if their story or their concept justifies so.

However, it must be said that even in Zendikar, locations are rather static. Maybe you come up with an awesome reason for which your Merfolk Sorcerer is really hated by the mysterious Jhwar Island, but then what happens if the campaign stirs away from it, and maybe doesn't even touch the nearby continent of Ondu? Rather disappointing.

So basically I'll just talk about locations, starting with the ones cited in the Detailed Icons section, and if relevant, I'll add info about using the whole location as an Icon. After all, it can also make sense for certain small communities to be in good or bad relationships with ceratin individuals, and if they are active communities, it means by extension to have such a relationship with its people.

Here we go! Text in italics comes from the source material, copyright Wizards of The Coast!

CONTENTS
(Tazeem continent)

 - 1 - The Enclave
 - 2 - The Magosi Portage


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Saturday, April 5, 2014

#MtG's #Zendikar plane as a #13thAge setting! - Part 4: Minor Icons


I still haven't finished the full list of icons in my Detailed Icons mega-post, and I'm already thinking about more icons.

The idea is a bit different though, than just adding more icons. I just noticed that some of my icons were very close to some other powerful figures that should have influenced them somehow. So instead of creating "dual icons" (which might be an option anyway), I will put here these kind of "minor icons" that complement some of the standard ones for my Zendikar adaption.

The write-ups will be smaller, and having relationships directly and only with these icons should be mostly impossible, as they exist in symbiosis with others, for one reason or another.

For now I'll put just one, and will update the post when I have more, as I'm doing for the standard ones.
I will start with what should have been my entirely fictional (that is, not present in the cards) Icon, that then I replaced with the more "setting-integrated" Stoneforger (aka Stoneforge Mystic)

CONTENTS
 - 1 - The Lord of Cliffhaven
 - 2 - Tuktuk, The Returned
 - 2 - The Enclave Cryptologist






Tuesday, April 1, 2014

#MtG's #Zendikar plane as a #13thAge setting! - Part 3: Detailed Icons


This post is going to be big, because I want each Icon of Zendikar to receive a treatment comparable to the Icons of 13th Age if not more extensive. However, it would take me too much time to post all Icons altogether, so I'm going to update this post over time, adding Icon over Icon, or possibly even expanding on Icons I already wrote about, although I will try to limit that.

I'm gonna post a small index here at the start of the page, with eventual updates on existing entries, so that if you're interested you can stay up to date. I will also share on Google+ and Twitter each time I make a change to the page.

CONTENTS:
 - 0 - Brief introduction
 - 1 - The Loremaster
 - 2 - The Vindicator
 - 3 - The Stoneforger
 - 4 - The Chronologist
 - 5 - The Treespeaker
 - 6 - The Surrakar
 - 7 - The Shield of Emeria
 - 8 - The Acquisitor

Welcome to Zendikar! :)



Saturday, March 29, 2014

#MtG's #Zendikar plane as a #13thAge setting! - Part 2: Quick Icons!


A flash of insight hit me suddenly about the icons in Zendikar and I had a stupid idea that proved less stupid than first thought.

It started thinking about the "everything goes" philosophy I was beginning to think was the only solution to the Icons in Zendikar. I thought: "At this point, you could even just take the cards that most closely approximate the 13th Age Icons, and call it a day." - And then I tried the experiment..!

The Archmage: Seagate Loremaster



It can definitely be a legendary (aka unique) figure in Zendikar, even if the card itself is not Legendary in type, and thus allows multiple copies of it to be in the game. But we're not playing Magic: we're devising a setting. So in our setting, The Loremaster is a legendary figure of which there's only one!

It's also extremely appropriate in Zendikar for the Arcane/Lore Icon to be a Merfolk.

#MtG's #Zendikar plane as a #13thAge setting! - Icons Brainstorming


It's proving extremely difficult to devise Icons that work in the standard 13th Age way for the Zendikar world.

A bit of background explanation is needed to understand why. Then I'm going to basically propose some "models" and see what you guys in the community think about this.

BACKGROUND: Why Zendikar lacks world-shaping NPCs.

First and foremost, we would be tempted to cut the matter short by stating that Zendikar has never meant to be role-played into. As all Magic: The Gathering worlds/planes, it's just meant to be a backdrop to battles that involve tapping the magical resources that are embedded into the world's lands (and this is also the focus of Zendikar compared to other MtG worlds), and havng creatures and spells summoned in this way.

But Zendikar has everything it needs to be at least a common D&D setting. It has dunegons, it has adventurers, it has sorts of guilds of adventurers, and it has all manner of artifacts and magical stuff, a strange unfolding prophecy and a culmination into an eldritch apocalypse involving three Chtulhu-like aberrant gods that will devour literally all reality unless they are stopped. (Oops, spoiler!)

So what it lacks is exactly the classical important NPCs/factions that the Dragon Empire of 13th Age has. Or doesn't it? It depends on the scale used to measure their possible equivalents in Zendikar

LARGE SCALE ICONS: Zendikar doesn't lack big players, but can they be Icons?

The three apocalypse-igniting alien gods trapped within the very earth of Zendikar are immensely powerful.

The triads of gods that the major religious races (Merfolk and Kor) have in their theologies, are just cargo-cult versions of the long-forgotten appearance of the three mentioned world-enders. That is, technically the "true gods" of Zendikar don't even exist: they are historians' failures in keeping the memories of those old terrors for what the truly were. BUT. But... There still are clerics of these gods that have powers. And there still is a connection between the true Eldrazi (the names of the alien elder gods) and the "theological illusion" gods. So two routes are possible here: either we consider the religons' gods as some kind of spiritual avatar of the imprisoned Eldrazi, maybe become so thanks to the mortals veneration, or we even think that while inspired from the Eldrazi in origin, these gods also became something "kind of real" as separate mystical entities.
In any case, we're still talking of distant entities, in all senses.



And that's the problem with the large-scale players of Zendikar: be them imprisoned, mystical avatars of the imprisoned that became somewhat stand-alone gods, or very abstract deities, they lack a lot of the characteristics required by icons.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

#MtG's #Zendikar plane as a #13thAge setting! - Part 1: Races


If you know me from the Wizards community or even just if you are one of the few regular readers of this blog, you know that I have a passion for Zendikar, the Magic: The Gathering world that I consider most playable and fun from a fantasy RPG point of view.

I already spent a lot of time in the past trying to "convert" the setting to D&D 4e, with mixed results, and now, after seeing how good of a job does the 13th Age system do in giving life to settings, thanks to the Icons idea, and pumped up for the opportunity to contribute to a 13th Age fanzine proposed by +David Eglinton, I want to try out a 13th Age conversion of Zendikar!

First of all, let it be clear that "conversion" should not be the term to be used. It's not about taking the actual Zendikar block cards and converting them to D&D or 13th Age rules. It's about making the world behind those cards into a playable setting.

Set this in stone, even before the Icons, which will prove quite difficult in Zendikar, compared to the straightforward Guilds->Icons correspondence of Ravnica, I want to start with the iconic Zendikar races, one of which, the Merfolk, I just re-wrote for D&D Next.

Races in 13th Age are extremely simple. They only get one ability score bonus chosen between two, and one racial power. There should also be a racial feat for Champion tier, but it's kind of secondary: you can play the first levels without it.

So let's do it!!

Part 1: RACES