From the Campaign: Tome Guardian

Even though I’m not entirely finished with this creature, I thought I’d share something I pulled together for my home D&D campaign. My party is going to be exploring many places which have not been seen for almost five hundred years or more, and this is one of the creatures they may encounter in their journeys. It isn’t finished, of course. Not only have my players not encountered it, and therefore I don’t want to be posting all of its abilities here, but I also envision this as the “base model”, with adjustments and changes depending on the race which created it and the specific site it was created to guard. But this is enough to be going on with, and I’ll adjust it as it comes into contact with the characters.

Feel free to use it in your own campaign if you are so inclined, as is or modified to fit your needs. If you do modify it, maybe share that with me so I can see to what purposes you put it.

*     *     *

Tome Guardian
Medium construct, unaligned

Armor Class 18 (natural armor)

Hit Points 55 (5d10 + 25)

Speed 30 ft.

STR DEX CON INT WIS CHA
18  (+4) 14  (+2) 20  (+5) 14  (+2) 10  (+0) 1 (-5)

Saving Throws Int +2, Wis +0

Skills Skill +0, Skill +0

Senses Darkvision 120 ft., passive Perception 10

Damage Resistances bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing

Damage Immunities Force, poison, psychic

Condition Immunities charmed, exhaustion, frightened, paralyzed, petrified, poisoned

Languages Understands Common and Draconic but can’t speak

Challenge
5 (1800 XP)

Force Absorption. Whenever the tome guardian is subjected to force damage, it takes no damage and instead regains a number of hit points equal to the force damage dealt.

Immutable Form. The tome guardian is immune to any spell or effect that would alter its form.

Magic Resistance. The tome guardian has advantage on saving throws against spells and other magical effects.

Magic Weapons. The tome guardian’s weapon attacks are magical.

Spellcasting.  Tome Guardian is a 4th-level spellcaster that uses Intelligence as its spellcasting ability (spell save DC 10; +2 bonus with spell attacks). The Tome Guardian has the following spells prepared from the cleric’s and wizard’s spell list:

  • create water
  • prestidigitation

ACTIONS

Multiattack. The tome guardian makes two melee attacks.

Slam. Melee Weapon Attack: +9 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 12 (2d6 + 4) bludgeoning damage.

Force Wave (Recharge 5 or 6). The tome guardian sends a wave of force energy from its outstretched hand in a 15-foot cone. Each creature in that area must make a DC 14 Dexterity saving throw, taking 16 (4d6) force damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one.

 

REACTIONS
Reaction. 4 (1d8) bludgeoning damage.

Built to guard libraries and other locations storing knowledge or artifacts, tome guardians are able protectors of both the location and the objects within. Imbued with minor abilities which allow them to care for the books and artifacts they guard, tome guardians also act as research assistants, as they are programmed with a catalogue of the items under their care. Tome guardians are unfailingly polite until one seeks to endanger a book or artifact they are charged to protect. They then go on the offensive quickly and decisively.

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RPGaDay August 29

You can game anywhere on earth, where would you choose?

cropped-cropped-brent-chibi-96.jpgI’ve had to break the answers to this question down by type of game, because of course the RPG makes a difference.

Fantasy (D&D, Pathfinder) – I’d pick any of the dozens of still standing castles throughout Scotland or Wales. I’d prefer something on the coast, in a room with a great view out over the ocean. Transform that room to double as a fantasy-medieval tavern, because every great adventure starts in the tavern! Big wooden tables, torchlight, fire roaring away in the hearth! And the beautiful Scottish or Welsh countryside and seaside to complete the feel.

Call of Cthulhu – If we’re going for classic 1930’s CoC, then I want to set-up camp next to the pyramids in Egypt in a style as authentic to a Dirty Thirties archaeological dig as possible. Or, since I know Egypt is rightfully protective of their heritage sites, I’d want a run-down old house somewhere in New England, preferably overlooking the ocean. Of course it would need to be in a sleepy, seemingly quiet New England village, so I could stash clues all over and make the Investigators have to poke around and, you know, investigate.

Shadowrun – Tokyo, in a glass-walled boardroom overlooking the centre of the city. Some might say it should be Seattle, but I think Tokyo already embodies what many imagine as a typical Shadowrun city. This would also work for Feng Shui, of course, although we could also reset to Hong Kong.

Post-Apocalyptic – I’m thinking games like Gamma World and the like. I’d want to pick one of the large-scale abandoned places, like an abandoned amusement park, or the massive airplane graveyard outside Tucson.

Now, it can be difficult to travel to all these places, not to mention getting your gaming group there as well. So I’ve also though about what I’d do with a chunk of property to turn it into a super-cool gaming location. But I think this might fall under a future RPGaDay category so I’ll leave it for now.

I’ve definitely left some games off this list, so what would be your choice of game/dream location? Let me know in the comments.

RPGaDay Catch Up!

PFS Dice CroppedYou’d think, after doing RPGaDay for a couple of years that I’d remember it was coming up. You would be wrong. So here is my standard update post, bringing us from August 1 to today. Daily posts will begin tomorrow, as is my wont.

August 1: Real dice, dice app, diceless, how do you prefer to ‘roll’?

Dice. Always and forever, dice. I can’t help it, I love them so much! I can appreciate diceless systems, and I can even enjoy playing them from time to time. And I do understand the usefulness of a dice app for convenience; Roll 20 would be a much more drawn out process without their in-app dice macros. So I’m not against either of those options.

But given the chance, I want to roll actual dice. I love the tactile feel of them in my hand. I love the tension as I rattle a handful of dice, hoping for the right numbers to come up. I love collecting the perfect sets of dice for each of my characters. Dice are too much a part of the game for me to ever give them up.

August 2: Best game session since August 2015?

I’d have to say my best overall session since last year was the first session of my 5e D&D game. It was a perfect confluence of the things I love about gaming; introducing new players to the game, bringing a new game world to life, navigating a new game, and building a new group of players. It was my first time back to the D&D game in over a decade, and I’d forgotten how much I loved the game. And 5e is a great edition to come back on.

A very close second? A recent session of Pathfinder in which the group fought a shadow-infested triceratops skeleton. It was so much fun to run, and the players were having a blast the entire time. Plus, any time you can have a triceratops skeleton smash open an enormous fish tank right in the middle of the battleground? Do it, you won’t be sorry.

August 3: Character moment you are proudest of?

This is a hard one to answer. I’m currently GMing two Pathfinder campaigns and DMing two D&D 5e campaigns, so my play time is limited to non-existent. But my buddy Scott has been in town while on holiday recently, and I got to play a swashbuckler character in a PFS scenario he wrote. Merrick has been a lot of fun, and my favourite moment with him so far was the inadvertent insulting of the aged matron of a Tian Xia family. How was I to know she wouldn’t appreciate my bawdy story? It killed down at the teahouse.

August 4: Most impressive things another’s character did?

No one thing, but it is an absolute delight to watch my friend Anita play her gnome sorcerer Twig in my Council of Thieves campaign. Anita plays a perfect gnome character, inquisitive with little regard for her own safety. The interplay between Twig and the character Kring (half-orc barbarian), her friend and self-appointed minder, is one of the best things about the each session. When two players can mesh their characters in such a way that it enhances the experience each session, it’s truly a gift as a GM. And relatively recently we’ve added in a Halfling rogue which has become Twig’s partner in crime. Fuel to an already robust fire…

August 5: What story does your group tell about your character?

As per my answer on August 3, I don’t get to play a lot. So I don’t think I’ve played a character enough recently to allow my group to develop stories about my characters. Things should change this fall, and I’ll be back to playing more. We’ll see what stories will come.

August 6: Most amazing thing a game group did for their community?

For the last couple of years a group of my friends have formed a team for Extra Life. Team Knifeshoes has raised thousands of dollars for children’s hospitals, and it’s one of the best things I get to be a part of every year. I’m looking forward to it again this year, and I have some special tabletop events ready to go which I hope I’ll be able to pull off. They also have a Tabletop Appreciation Weekend running September 16-18, so see what’s shaking for that.

August 7: What aspect of RPGs has had the biggest effect on you?

The social aspect of RPGs has had the biggest effect. I’m an introvert, so left to my own devices I will happily spend all my time alone in my room reading, or playing video games, or watching stuff on YouTube and Netflix. Having a fun excuse to get together with friends and play pretend? Yep, I’ll take it. And as a GM I get to indulge my introversion by sitting alone and dreaming up encounters and game worlds for my players. Really, it’s the best hobby I could have stumbled into (way to go, ten-year-old me!).

August 8: Hardcover, softcover, digital? What is your preference?

My preference is always for the physical book, whether it’s hard or soft cover. But as a busy GM on the go, especially one who has made several trips to Gen Con and PaizoCon over the last several years, I have also embraced the digital age. Currently, most of the Pathfinder books I own are in digital format, though I’m shifting the needle on that. Most of what I own for all my other games, though, are books on shelves. I enjoy cracking open a gaming book to look things up, and I like walking in to my game room and seeing the books lined up on the shelves. My library is only going to get bigger. [insert evil laugh]

August 9: Beyond the game, what’s involved in an ideal session?

It’s hard to describe what makes a session ideal for me, outside of the actual gameplay. I can describe it best as ‘easiness’. When my friends and I are just together, and none of us is having to work terribly hard at having or creating a good time, that’s easiness. I’m lucky enough to have several groups which achieve that on a regular basis, and so I’ve managed to get to a place where I’m excited about each session because of that. Play shouldn’t be work, and if it is that might be the time to find another group.

That’s it, tune in tomorrow for regular RPGaDay updates through August.

 

Encounter Locations – Part 2

Last time we talked about what inspires encounter location design, and how to start the cropped-cropped-brent-chibi-96.jpgprocess. Inspiration for an encounter location can really come from anywhere, so when you have an idea make sure to record it. You may not get to it right away, but it’s great to have a list of ideas on hand. If you’ve ever been faced with needing to run something for your players on the fly, you’ll find such a list invaluable.

But that’s not you right now. Right now you have your brilliant encounter locale idea, and you want to flesh it out. So let’s look at next steps. These steps don’t have to be followed in any particular order. And in fact, you will likely find yourself tweaking and adjusting each area as you go, based on something you come up with in another step. That’s good. Nothing is set in stone until the players get there, and even then it’s less stone and more a really solid but malleable clay.

The Environment

Think about the details of the setting’s environment. How is it going to impact the characters? Is interacting in the environment difficult, or is the locale outright hostile to people? Many of these details will have a mechanical impact on the characters, either damaging, debilitating, or in some cases even enhancing them. For instance, if your locale is an underground magma flow you may have to look up your game’s rules for high-temperature environments.

Not everything in your setting will have, or needs to have, a mechanical effect. Sometimes it’s just as useful for the setting to evoke a particular feeling or mood. I’ve definitely tailored my abandoned crossroads station around a particular mood, dread. The area around the crossroads is very open and bare, so the man-made features, like the gallows and the tower, stand out. But while those might be the most noticeable things from a distance, there are also features revealed as the characters draw closer. If you look at the map from the previous article you’ll see what appears to be an empty field in the northern corner of the crossroads. That field is anything but empty, but the players won’t know that until their characters get closer. Then it will become apparent that the empty, grassy field is packed with a series of small mounds, not unlike unmarked graves. None of them look like they’ve been disturbed (for now). But imagine describing this field of mounds, the wind rustling through the grass (almost sounds like whispering…), and across the field, ropes dancing in the wind, stands a gallows. Yep, can’t wait for my group to go there.

What Lives There?

Once you’ve filled out some of the details of your location’s environment, it’s time to think about what might live there. Looking at the magma cavern example again, fire elementals and fire giants would be really obvious ones (nothing wrong with obvious, by the way, as long as your players have fun). But there could also be creatures that just enjoy being warm, that have taken advantage of the magma flow to take up residence in side caverns close by. Duergar (or even just a group of regular dwarves) could have set up shop, taking advantage of the flow to aid in smithing or ore processing. Maybe the local goblins use the location for ceremonies, and the rare occasions they want to cook meat quickly.

Also take a moment to consider whether what lives in your location might have predators. I don’t know what might hunt fire elementals regularly, but if there was something, they’d likely be keeping an eye on local magma flows. If dwarves are using the location maybe orcs want to take it from them; the characters could arrive in the middle of such an attack. Conflict is always exciting, so think of ways such conflict might exist at your location.

Conversely, who is allied with the creatures in your encounter? If Duergar have set up shop at the magma flow, can drow seeking trade be far behind? Any number of subterranean races could trade with the grey dwarves in this situation, and it might be the perfect way to introduce your players to some creature they might not encounter without weeks of underground travel. Or if goblins are using the location for ceremonies, maybe there is a fire elemental smart enough to pretend to be a god, demanding tribute from the goblins in return for favours.

The more layers of creatures you can add to the environment, the more “lived-in” it will feel. That doesn’t mean you have to force something to be there if it doesn’t fit. And sometimes the environment is so hostile that your creature pool is limited. But do give some thought to the creatures you place in your locale beyond their stats and treasure.

Speaking of Treasure…

You’ve created a location interesting enough for the players to send their characters to investigate. You’ve given them cool creatures and challenges to overcome when they arrive. Now what do they get out of it? Sure, sometimes killing monsters is its own reward, but is doesn’t buy you a round back at the inn.

The most obvious sources of treasure are, of course, the creatures you’ve placed there. Duergar or dwarves will have items they’ve created, as well as the raw materials for making those items. Heck, the smithy itself is treasure, when looked at from a certain point of view. The goblins will have whatever they’ve been giving to their fire elemental god, as well as whatever they’ve been holding back from their fire elemental god. If creatures have lived in the location long enough, they’ll have likely collected a number of interesting and potentially valuable items.

Maybe your group of adventurers weren’t the first to find and explore the location, they’re just the first to do it casualty-free. Bodies of previous explorers are a time-honoured way to get loot into the hands of the next generation of adventurers (especially if that loot is cursed, or has a mind of its own). Who knows, somewhere down the line your player’s characters might continue that tradition.

This is a good time to think about what might have been in the location before the current creatures. Maybe there are items hidden away by the previous inhabitants, as yet undiscovered. May the current inhabitants have only just recently discovered hidden items or treasures, and the adventurers arrive just in time to take them away. Maybe the hidden item is why the characters journeyed there in the first place, only to find your creatures in the way. Hilarity ensues.

Is the location itself a treasure? Does, the burbling fountain in the corner, once part of an ancient temple, bestow some type of benefit if drank from? Is the magma actually the molten form of a very rare metal, and can it be harvested? If you spend the night in the haunted mansion, do you actually get to make a wish like the local rumours say? Never be afraid to make your location, or even just a part of it, something wonderful and precious. Then make the players work to earn the benefit.

That’s it for this post. Next time we’ll look in a bit more detail at how I’ve combined some of these elements in my abandoned crossroads station. And I may even have a nicer map to show you! Until then, feel free to leave a comment below and share your encounter thoughts and ideas.

Encounter Locations – Part 1

One of the things I’m enjoying about running a D&D 5e campaign is a return to setting creation. I talked a bit in an earlier post about the world I created for the campaign, and what a welcome change that was after years of pre-written material. As a busy GM I’m not knocking published material by any means; I’m not certain I could have run as much Pathfinder as I did without it. But to use Paizo as an example, their material is of such good quality that, except for adjustments I made to better suit my party and their specific narrative, I didn’t have to change the much of anything. So I was getting to check the box on the performer side of GMing, but I wasn’t getting to create much of anything.

Enter D&D 5e, and my creator itch is getting soundly scratched. Not only world creation, but locations in that world, and monsters, and magic items, and…let’s just say my group is in for some excitement in the weeks and months to come.

Today I wanted to focus a bit on encounter location creation, some of the steps I took (and take) when creating an adventure locale, and give a real example from my campaign. The example I’m going to use is an abandoned crossroads watchtower, something the group will come across as they explore the lands around the town they are currently in. I’ll be talking about this location over several posts, so I’m going to save the “big reveal” about what’s really there until after the group has explored the location. I know at least one of my players reads my blog so I don’t want to spoil anything (hi, Crystal et al!).

Getting Started

Location design can start in many different ways. Maybe you have a cool idea for a trap, and you build the location around that. Or you’ve designed a monster or NPC, and now you’re building its lair. In my case, I was doodling a map on some graph paper, just a tower at a crossroads, when I started to get ideas about what was going to live there. The ideas took further shape when I drew in a gallows on one corner of the crossroads. That little addition pretty much set the tone for what my players will encounter.

Abandoned Crossroads Tower

The map that started it all. Eventually I’ll fill in terrain details, but I usually start with a simple line map. The gallows (built for four) are on the eastern corner of the crossroads.

Try to figure out early on the defining feature of your encounter location. Usually that will be whatever inspired your location choice in the first place, but that may also evolve as you flesh-out the details. But there should ideally be one dramatic feature which sets the tone for the site. Is your location near magma? Maybe the cave is near deafening with the sound of ocean surf constantly crashing through the tunnels. Or your villain could lair in an abandoned knackery (slaughterhouse), and the smell is the first thing the characters notice. Pick one memorable detail to set the location in the players’ minds. In my case, one of the first things the characters will see is a lonely gallows set on a crossroad, drawing the eye even though there is a 50’ tall watchtower on another corner. Despite the wear and obvious age of the tower and outbuildings, the gallows seems oddly well-preserved in comparison…

As the examples above show, don’t be afraid to engage other senses besides sight. Yes, we want to tell our players what they’re seeing. But throw in details about notable sounds and smells, or describe the temperature. Though technically a visual description, give them an idea of texture as well. Is the wood worn and cracked, or new and freshly varnished? Is the stonework freshly fitted, or crumbling with age? Clean or dusty? Did the character get a face full of cobwebs when they walked in the door? If so, better get ready for possible vermin, hefty size or not. Don’t be afraid to use real world examples to help the players understand the environment you’ve created. In the case of the knackery example above, ask the players if they’ve ever smelled spoiled food, especially meat. Smell is one of our strongest sense memories, so if even one of them has you’ve just made that encounter a little more vivid for that player.

One note: Be careful in describing particularly gory scenes in your games. Not everyone has the same tolerance for gore, or descriptions of disease and so on. Be mindful, and check with your players ahead of time if you aren’t sure of their tolerances.

Next post, we’ll look at filling in the details around your initial idea to bring your new location to life. Meanwhile, feel free to share any tips or ideas you have in the comments.

Start GMing Now

cropped-cropped-brent-chibi-96.jpgIn honour of International GM’s Day, held each year on the anniversary of Gary Gygax’s passing, it seemed only right to post something about starting your GMing career.

If you’ve never game mastered before, it can seem like a pretty daunting task. And it isn’t for everyone; many gamers I know go their entire time in the hobby without running a single RPG session. There’s nothing wrong with that. As with most things we do for fun, there’s no point in doing it if it isn’t going to bring you enjoyment. But if you have ever thought you’d like to see what it’s like on the other side of the GM screen (and we’ll talk about those in a moment), then here are some tips to make that transition easier.

1) Gather Resources – There are plenty of resources out there to make a GM’s life easier, most of them available on-line and many for free or extremely cheap. If you haven’t quite decided what game you want to run, your first stop should be Drive-Thru RPG. Use “Free” as your search term, and then settle in for some serious scrolling and clicking. There are a metric buttload (yes, we use the metric buttload here in Canada. It’s about 2.67 of your Imperial Buttloads) of RPG material available for free on Drive-Thru. If you haven’t picked a game yet, you want to keep an eye out for anything marked as Quick Start rules. That will give you a bunch of options to choose from for your first game. Even if you’ve decided to run a standard Pathfinder or D&D game, there are pages and pages of free adventures to get you started, as well as PDFs of paper miniatures and map sheets. Yes, you’ll have to spend some time searching, but I did mention free, right?

If you have decided to run either Pathfinder or D&D, then I also recommend checking out the Paizo and Wizard’s of the Coast sites, respectively. Both have fantastic resources available, many of them free for download. At the time I write this, Paizo is running a Humble Bundle for charity. The value of the PDFs available is over $350, and you can get everything for about a $17 donation, an amazing deal by any standard. WotC will likely have similar deals available through Humble Bundle at some point, so it’s a site worth keeping on your radar.

2) Plan the First Session – Resources in hand, you can begin planning your first session. The details of how to plan are the subject of a separate article, so I won’t delve in to them here. But don’t bother planning any more sessions just yet. After all, your first may be your last, depending on how your players feel about the game, the setting, and a bunch of other details which have nothing to do with you. Probably the best way to plan the first session, and show off the game in its best light, is to treat it like this is the only chance you have to play it. That way you won’t be tempted to hold anything cool back for a future session. Why bother? Get all the cool stuff about the game in there right away. If the game is about exploring strange and dangerous old ruins, get them stuck into a weird old ruin right away. If the game is about mech warriors, get them in the pilot seat. Whatever is cool about that game should make an appearance as soon as possible, so your players can get excited. Then if you do go ahead with more sessions, your players are more willing to sit through quieter, slower bits because they know coolness is just around the corner.

Your first session is definitely one where you want to over-plan and under-deliver. Don’t worry that you won’t get to everything you came up with; you won’t. But you want more adventure than you think you’ll get to, just in case your players do something you didn’t expect. And as a new GM, that may happen a lot at first, so it pays to be ready. Don’t worry that you wasted that effort if the players don’t get to everything you’ve prepared for them. Just save it, make some changes, and use it for another session. All your players know about the game world is what you tell them, so they never need to know what they would have found if they went left instead of right. The left-hand encounter can show up later, with them none the wiser.

3) Gather the Players – Game chosen, an evening’s entertainment put together, it’s now time to gather your players. I’m assuming that you’ve come to GMing in the traditional fashion; a bunch of your friends were sitting around, lamenting they didn’t have a game, and you volunteered. But maybe you’re new to the hobby as well, and figured sitting in the GM’s chair was the best way to get your equally green friends to play. Whatever the case, the key to gathering your players is to pitch them on what’s exciting about the game. Easy enough to do, since you focused on that very thing during your preparation, right? Now is the time to really sell it to your potential victims…er, players.

Another part of successfully pitching the game is also knowing what your players like. If you’re pitching to veteran RPGers in search of a new game, you have a good idea of what they might like to play. But even if they are new to the hobby, you can usually find the not-so-subtle clues that point you to RPGs they might like. Did your group of friends flip over the Avengers movies? I see super-hero RPGs on your horizon. Are they action-movie crazy, or do they gather and discuss the latest fantasy epic? You might want to look at a cinematic action RPG like Feng Shui for the former, whereas the latter will be right at home in whatever fantasy RPG you land on. The point is, if you want them excited to play, pick a game based on something which already excites them. And remember, it’s just one session for now. If it doesn’t work, pick another game and repeat until something clicks. Hanging with friends and trying a bunch of different RPGs sounds pretty awesome in its own right anyway. And maybe you can convince everyone to take turns GMing for a session, so you get some play time as well.

Hope that helps convince you to take the GMing plunge. I’ll have plenty of GMing tips and tricks down the line (and you can search for past articles right now), so please come back for a visit any time. If you’ve got a specific question regarding GMing, or playing, or about RPGs in general, send your question to RenaissanceDork@gmail.com. I’ll answer when I can, and may save up questions for a Q&A post here.

Racial Backgrounds to Fit Your Campaign

cropped-chibi-brent.jpgOne of the most satisfying pieces of creating the world for my D&D campaign was selectively re-skinning the races to fit my world history. I didn’t want to change any of the mechanics, but I needed the racial descriptions to better fit my world. Besides satisfying that need, re-skinning also helped inspire some of the history I created. So there was the added benefit of additionally fleshing out my game world, simply by making essentially cosmetic changes to racial descriptions.

A bit of history. The nation the players start their adventures in is called Cotterell. A little over a thousand years ago, fleeing a losing war with the Dark Fey, the Light Fey (Elves) appeared in Cotterell’s heartland, ripping their way into the world through a massive inter-dimensional gate. Unable to close the gate after them, the Dark Fey army followed, embroiling Cotterell in a centuries long war. Despite blaming the Light Fey for the the ongoing conflict, Cotterell had no choice but to ally with the Elves. In a desperate attempt to end the conflict, the Light Fey enacted a plan to forcibly close the gate. They succeeded, but in doing so caused an explosion of mystical energy, carving an enormous caldera out of Cotterell’s heartland and ringing the world with a magical shock-wave which forever altered the face of the world.  Our story picks up almost five hundred years after that Cataclysm, when the nation of Cotterell is finally strong enough to begin the arduous task of reclaiming the lands outside the cities.

I’ll talk in a bit more detail about that history in future posts. But that is the world in which my player’s characters exist. You can sort of see why I couldn’t just leave the racial descriptions as they are, especially for the Elves. But the above history bite also changed how Tieflings came about in my world, where gnomes come from, and the origin of the dragonborn. And making changes to the racial backstory of these caused changes to occur in my campaign world.

Let’s look at the Tiefling race as an example. The standard background for tieflings is that somewhere in their family’s history, someone consorted with an evil outsider. That caused a taint in the bloodline, which allowed tieflings to be born. This demonic origin made tieflings mistrusted at best and despised at worst. In post-Cataclysm Cotterell, tieflings do not come from extra-planar evil, but from the arcane shock-wave which followed the closing of the Gate. Every living thing on the planet was “infected” by the wave of runaway dark energy. This led not only to perfectly healthy parents of all races giving birth to tieflings even hundreds of years later, but was the source of many of the world’s Aberrations. As a result of this, while tieflings are an uneasy reminder of the Cataclysm, they aren’t reviled by the majority of the races, and generations later have gained tenuous acceptance.

There you go. Same race, same mechanics, but re-worked to better fit the history of my game world, where High Elves (and to a lesser extent, Wood Elves) and not Tieflings are the oppressed race. If you are creating your own world, I highly recommend looking hard at the history you’ve created to see where you can sneak in changes to both player and NPC races. It will add a unique flavour to your campaign, and might also be a welcome surprise for your more experienced players.

Have you altered racial backgrounds or re-skinned a race for your campaign? Let me know in the comments.