THE GLORY OF BEING AN adventurer is not without its headaches. When one is comfortable and warm in one’s favorite chair, and pondering the possibilities of embarking on a grand adventure and coming home rich, I dare say that one is a fool.
A successful adventurer is measured not just by old age, but of course, by his wealth, as well. And I must say that wealth is not an easy thing to deal with, but if you are intent on following this fool’s quest of yours, then I suppose that I must release some of our trade-secrets.
When one slays a dragon, or explores an ancient city left for dead thousands of years ago, yes there is much money to be had, but like all things, it isn’t that simple. One has to think about the state of the world which one lives in. If you go to the market, you pay the merchants with copper. You pay your land lord with silver, you buy drinks, pay for supplies, eat, and pay for services all with either silver or copper, all the while wishing for gold, but the problem is, once you’ve got gold, then what do you do with it? Most inns, once handed a gold coin, often look at it and then at you like you stole it! They don’t have change for that kind of cash. Of course, the problem with gold isn’t the worst of your trouble, I mean, think about it man! Many of the coins that an adventurer finds in his journeys are so old that as they are, they aren’t worth anything but the weight of the metal itself.
Treasure itself is usually handled just as shaky and abstractly as combat. Most players dread role-playing scenes in shops because they just aren’t interested in the money aspect of the game, but as an adventure idea, why not try something that explores the troubles and tribulations of finding a large treasure. This probably works best as a one-shot deal, and it can be fun just to figure out how this stuff would work in your own world.
Of course, I don’t know your world, so I’m just going to stick as close to Core Rules as possible.
COINS OF THE REALM
The first thing to consider is the coins which are in circulation at the time, and which ones are most popular. Looking at the supplies lists quickly tells you what shops are capable of handling what kind of cash. Weapons dealers are more capable of handling large quantities of money, then, say a tavern. In the standard game an adventurer can pay for drinks with a gem worth 800gp and get the proper change back, but think about it! How much money do you think that a tavern owner has in the tavern, and what kinds of coin is typically paid? He probably has lots of copper, some silver, and the odd gold coin from large parties celebrating a victory. He simply doesn’t have the kind of cash to break a gem.
Lets examine the common coins to find their place in the game.
Copper: This is the most common coin, but it must bear the proper seals. A coin from one realm won’t work in another, it must be traded in to the right place and exchanged for the proper coins. This is the coin which everybody has access too, and is easiest to move. Everybody excepts copper and it is the preferred method of barter for simple goods and services which are common to the common man.
Silver: This coin is the backbone of society. The copper is broken down to make chance for this piece. Silvers work everywhere and even foreign coins are generally excepted as Silver itself is worth more then copper. This is another coin of the commoner which can be used to purchase equipment and services which are equally as common.
Gold: Now we are entering the coins of a different society, the upper class! Gold is jealously guarded, the economic foundation of the D&D world is not Capitalism. If a poor man tries to pay for something with a gold piece, the automatic assumption is that he stole it!
This coin is more excepted in cities, but is extremely rare in rural communities. Shop keepers who sale expensive items will gladly take it, but common services won’t generally have the cash to make change, especially if they deal mostly with Copper, like a tavern.
The gold pieces which an adventurer starts out with is considered their life’s savings, and probably isn’t in the form of gold at all, but a combination of silver and copper. Gold is typically not gold at all, but gold written on paper. It measures the worth of something big, like property. Just because a merchant owns a ship worth 15,000gp doesn’t mean that he ever had that much gold, or that once he sales it, he’ll get that much gold for it. Typically he will trade it for products worth that much gold, such as a nice house or 15,000gp worth of horses and wagons. Gold is an abstract measurement of wealth, while the coin itself is fairly rare.
Electrum: This is a very rare coin, probably a metal that isn’t used to pay for anything anymore and bares seals which are ancient. Everybody who isn’t a collector or has the education to realize what this is, is going to just assume that it is counterfeit. It is a curiosity, and nothing more. Electrum is worth more melted down then it is to the market.
Platinum: Much like Electrum, this is an even rarer coin used only by kings and not for the general public. If one finds a large horde of Platinum, one is still broke because there just isn’t any way to move it, nobody except for wealthy dwarves would touch it. This probably is a dwarven coin in the first place, and they won’t look highly at humans who are using it and demand to just have it returned because it was never theirs to begin with. And making change for it? That is simply not going to happen in even the largest of cities. A collector might buy one or two pieces, but getting rid of an entire chest of the stuff would be next to impossible.
Now that we got an idea of what each coin is worth, and who uses them, we have to look at the economy in general. We are typically in a world where the Rich stay rich and the poor stay poor. If this changes then the entire system collapses. The rich enforce their status with an iron fist. Most adventurers are surfs, and first must buy their freedom, this might not even be possible, especially if the Lord in question believes you to be a money machine. He may allow you to adventure, but he is still going to demand his share, and if he doesn’t get what he thinks that he is owed, then he could take it out on the adventurers family and loved ones.
One must also take into consideration about what would happen if a large horde of cash suddenly was introduced into the overall economy. It would be good at first, but the more wealthy the common man becomes, the more the truly wealthy will push them down by raising prices.
For example: Adventurers slay an ancient old dragon, much of the treasure he horded would be coins that he slowly took away from the economy for years, now suddenly all of this money is back. The original boom would be massive! But once the king finds out, suddenly the amount of his treasure has been devalued, it isn’t worth as much as it would be if the dragon had been left alive, thus a Dragon is good for economy, and adventurers powerful enough to slay him is bad.
In order to protect his own interests, the king needs to find a way to take as much treasure for himself as he possibly can, and discover a way to devalue the horde at the same time. This can be as subtle as raising the taxes, or as advanced as minting all coins with a completely different seal. Either way he would find a way to suffer the people because if he goes broke, then his kingdom collapses.
Once a treasure is found, typically it just appears in an adventurers coin purse, regardless of size and weight. This is highly illogical! It is a pain in the bottom to have to deal with this aspect, but it is the stuff that a character has to figure out when he isn’t being roleplayed.
Treasure typically comes from ancient ruins or monster hordes. The chests that are there are typically rotten and worthless, bags are even worse off, and loose coins are even more common. In order to get the treasure itself out, the party had to bring the supplies to carry it out with. The best is a combination of Chests and bags, with a wagon to carry it all.
This all takes place BEFORE the adventurers embark on their quest. They have to estimate how much treasure that they think that they can get out of the place, and plan for it accordingly. For that, we need to know how much each coin weighs.
This is a huge problem! I am but a simple poor man, and I have no idea of what a coin would weigh, but I’m lazy too! I’ve looked all over my books trying to find weight of coins, but so far, nothing. In the interest of just settling the thing once and for all, I’ll say that 10gp=1 pound. Not to say that 1pp=5lbs. But you get the idea.
If we stick to this method, a small chest could hold 400 coins and a large chest could hold 1,000 coins. Of course now we have an additional problem, a full chest weights 125 pounds, and getting it from point A to point B is still a huge problem that must be overcome before you can even get it on the wagon outside.
The more time it takes to actually move the treasure, gives the vultures more time to plan to take it away from you. God forbid that you are forced to leave the treasure trove, because once you come back, much of the treasure will either be looted, or in the process of being looted by folks who planed better then the adventurers did.
The DM is strongly encouraged to go over the Encumbrance rules, and get to understand them so that they can be imposed upon your adventurers with all of their hateful glory!
ACTUALLY MAKING A PROFIT
Lets just assume for a moment, that the adventurers were able to some how haul a bulk of that stuff out. Naturally it is impossible to get it all, the next problem is turning it into something that the player can use, which isn’t always that simple and the DM needs to dream up ways to hassle players even further, something that I know ALL DMs really enjoy doing.
Exchange Rates: The party will have to take their treasure to a big city, which if we did our job of setting the game up properly, should be a LONG ways away. The Exchange office buys coins from other realms and exchanges them for coins currently in circulation. Of course they don’t do this for free, they’ll charge 10-30%, and since they are under the direct influence of the king, they will be very interested in where they got this much treasure. The longer that the party can keep it out of these peoples hands, the more headaches they will save themselves from enduring. Of course, even the Exchange Office has a set limit of how much money they can handle. Being expected to handle thousands of gold coin is a strain on any office, no matter how big.
Appraisers: Of course before we can give our players a headache, we have to deal with one ourselves. The abstract treasure is in our favor just as much as it is for the players. We need to figure out exactly what the treasure consists of, and just because it is listed in Gold Pieces, doesn’t mean that it is all gold pieces because it is much easier to move wealth around with gold items. Jewelry is a great way to carry it, as is objects created from metals such as silver and gold. Art objects are a big pain in the head, but we need to define what these items are. The player won’t, and shouldn’t have any idea of what this stuff is worth until he can get the stuff appraised. This also includes having a treasure counted, because adding machines weren’t common, this is a specialty and requires a hireling. Even if a player has the appraising NWP, he still won’t be an expert at it, and the treasure will have to be examined by an expert to classify it’s exact value. This must be done before a player can hope to sale the treasure.
Of course appraisers aren’t always honest, this trade attracts many swindlers and thieves. An appraiser can lie about the value of an item, he can also slip things into his own pocket. An appraiser is entitled to a percentage of the treasure, usually between 5-10% because it is time consuming, especially with large treasures, and he may need the help need the help of a sage which will also cost the adventurers more money.
Adventurers will probably complain about this, but the facts are that the prettiest stone could be nothing but colored glass, a golden statue could simply be carved wood leafed with gold foil, and an ugly stone could be worth 1,000’s of GP once it is cut and polished. The Appraiser Expert can spot this stuff. Granted, it will take some time, depending on the size of the hoard, any were from 2 weeks to several months to go through everything and classify it for the players. He will also earn a daily rate for himself, because he will have to dedicate himself to counting this stuff and finding the right histories, we are looking at a very large chunk of cash, but luckily the money doesn’t have to be paid up front and can come from the treasure itself.
Buyers: The next stage of this game will be finding a buyer. This can be very challenging, particularly with weird items, such as spell components. If it is in the form of expensive incense then a church might buy it . . . of course they will try to get away with you just donating it, which might not be a bad idea if you really think about it. Having a church indebted to you can get favors from it. Say an adventurer needs risen from the dead, normally this would cost him at least a 1,000gp, but he can probably get it done for free because he is on such friendly terms.
Other buyers are merchants, haggling should be brisk and it has to be an item that they are interested in. A trader of livestock would be less interested in a silver pendent worth 500gp then, say a jeweler. Of course the Jeweler is going to try and haggle down the price to something that is easy for him to afford, and he may also be a swindler, because he himself would be able to appraise the item.
The other kind of buyer is the rich collector. Great care must be taken when dealing with the upper-class! One’s charisma score really comes into effect here because we don’t want to offend the buyer who can just as easily have our heads legally as he can to actually pay us what we want for the item in question. In dealing with the rich, haggling will be slow and careful. The lord will typically ask how much you want for it, and examine it, he could also be an expert appraiser, especially if he is a collector of specialty items.
Naturally a collector will buy one or two items at most, therefore, if you have lots of items, you’ll have to contact lots of collectors. Getting the word out that you have these items requires another hireling, and an expert who knows who buys what. This also lets thieves know what you have and they’ll be trying to get their share as well.
Fencing is probably the quickest way to get rid of a product, but these guys are only going to give you a max of 50% of its worth, and depending on the size of the hoard, it could be impossible to obtain the gold itself to actually buy the item. Nobody has 12,000gp, or if they do, they won’t be willing to give it up for something that can be stolen from them in a heartbeat, leaving them broke. Fences will buy small items quickly, but probably won’t be all that interested in large items, however if they do know that you have it, then they may send out a band of thieves to relieve you of it.
Finding the right buyer is more important then actually finding the treasure to begin with, because if you can’t turn the treasure into wealth, then it really isn’t worth anything at all!
Lessons of the Game
This kind of game will reveal a lot about our games, and also how we can use money more wisely. What does an adventure need with 2,000gp? It’s not like it is convenient to carry around, and if he’s forced to run away then he will do so by leaving his wealth behind. There are no banks to keep money, and wealth will be counted with property. Buying a house or investing in a business can make all the difference between a successful campaign and a weak one.
What can we gain from giving the money away? It may sound stupid at first, but say that we give a lord the spoils or a treasure trove, for example. That lord is now indebted to us and if he fails to grant us favors, then word will get out that he is cheap and stingy with his money and he’ll fall out of favor. This will be bad for the lords reputation, and bad for the lords title. Granted, a lord won’t drop whatever he is doing to help the adventurer, but he will pull lots of strings that a typical adventurer wouldn’t have access too. Favors can be worth more then gold.
Titles are also something that a character might be interested in buying. Of course this opens up a completely different aspect of the game which a player may or may not want to really get into. Wealth comes with more responsibility, and if we keep this in mind then we become all the better gamers for it.
Art by Larry Elmore
BEFORE WE GET TOO FAR, I do have to get something off of my chest which pertains to this race. I personally hate it, however I will be as subjective as I can as I am looking to get over my bigotry and personal preferences in favor of a nice round gaming world. Hopefully I can keep neutral on the subject of these disgusting creatures.
HALFLINGS IN MYTH & LEGEND
The halfling is just a word that TSR came up with so that they wouldn’t get sued for using the term, Hobbit. Everybody knows this, it isn’t a secret. There are no cultural reference to hobbits or halflings, and are purely rooted in the mind of the writer, Tolken. This doesn’t change its role in a fantasy realm, in fact it helps it more then hinders.
A HALFLINGS PLACE IN THE WORLD
The halfling is a simple supplier, well known for their ability to cook the finest foods and brew the greatest wines and ails. Typically a halfling village will work together to specialize on a specific specialty, such as wine, or cheese. This will be the finest item of its kind and make the town famous, however this specialty is different for each halfling village, thus the halfling enjoys a brisk trade with other cultures and other halfling towns, and unlike the other demi-human races, the halfling alone understands the coins of the realm, and are masters of bartering.
RELATIONSHIPS WITH THE OTHER RACES
As far as the rest of the races are concerned, the Halfling is always the preferred demihuman to deal with, and they enjoy the warmest reactions. This is not an accident, the halfling is a naturally charming and charismatic species who find themselves welcome in foreign lands which are normally off limits to foreigners.
All visitors, regardless of race, are welcome into the community. The halfling loves to trade with them, and they love hearing the stories that the guests have to tell.
Halflings have no racial enemies, and a peculiar way of trying to get along with all neighbors, even the ones that the rest of the races consider to be monsters. Perhaps this is their secret to creating such famous products?
Even stupid beings, such as the Orks have realized that it is better to kidnap a halfling and force him to cook for you, then it is to just out-right eat him . . . not that they don’t enjoy eating halflings or nothing.
THE RACES OF THE HALFLING
The halfling is an odd race who has evolved subtly depending on who their neighbors are. The most common neighbors being, elves, dwarves, and humans.
Hairfoot: This is the most common Halfling, choosing to live close to rural human settlements and villages. They live similar to humans, with all of the trappings of a human village; their crafts being practical and ordinary which will be desirable to the humans whom they cater too. They will create as many different items as possible, but become famous for specializing in one especially.
Stout: This halfling prefers to live near Dwarven cities, and typically have several agreements with each other in regards to all aspects of life. The Stout villages are usually made in hilly, rocky country, near a river stocked with fish. The stout is a capable miner, and has developed some infravision. Their products typically cater to their dwarven allies, and are capable of concocting some amazing technical marvels to get much of the work done, however what makes this halfling unique is that he isn’t as afraid of work as his cousins.
Tall-fellow This, the rarest of halfling, live near settlements and camps of the wood elf. The tall-fellow are carpenters and artists, as well as hunters and gatherers. They keep their homes in the forest glades and live off of the forest, as well as have many agreements with the wood elves for barter.
MAGIC AND THE HALFLING
The halfling isn’t as magically resistant as some races, but he isn’t very good at it either. There are no halfling mages, they simply don’t have the dexterity or the drive to make good wizards. The do collect magical items, or items that they claim to be magic, but in reality, the proud owner has no idea as to what it is or what it does.
THE RELIGIONS OF THE HALFLING
The halfling is a very visual creature, they see the evidence of their gods all around them. Like the gnome, the halfling has no place in the creation myth, they’ve always been here and they always will be here.
The closest thing that they have, and that they all share, is the belief in the legend of Little Man, and the goddess whose name is different for each village, but it is typically the same story about a wondering goddess who searched for the perfect followers and discovered Little Man. She sent him on a quest to tell all of his halfling brothers and sister to worship her, and in exchange she will protect them and let them florish.
Before this time, the halfling led a cold life of hiding and starving. This was called “The Bad Time”. Because they worship the goddess, they are protected and can live in communities and at peace with all around them. There are many versions of this story, with subtle changes depending on the village, as all of them claim to be the very village which Little Man called home.
There are a few other gods, but Halflings don’t worship as humans do, they don’t typically build churches, and it is usually acceptable to make a few sacrifices to the gods, and more important to tell your children about these stories so that they will learn from them. The local clerics are more healers and doctors then community leaders. The true acolytes of the religion are the grand parents who entertain the children with their stories, and if the Halfling would have a temple, it would be the hearth. All Halfling homes feature the hearth which is used for warmth, cooking, and to socialize around.
THE LIFE-CYCLE OF THE HALFLING
The halfling enjoys helping adults as soon as possible. Business is a family affair, with no distinction between the sexes, male and females are equally allowed to succeed or fail at what they do with no one person in a relationship having more say so then the other.
The young are loved and cared for, and much like human children, are born absolutely helpless and fully dependent on their parents. If a parent dies, then a relative will be quick to raise the orphans with love.
The young halflings aren’t forced to work, and have a lot of time to socialize with one another, and encouraged to play games which secretly teach them skills such as rock pitching and hide and seek.
Once an adult, the halfling is concerned with keeping himself and his family as comfortable as possible. He will work hard to earn the coin needed to buy the best that he can afford, however, he won’t work so hard that he isn’t enjoying the fruits of his labor himself either.
The Halfling is highly family oriented, and burrows house extended members of the family. The old do what they can around the house, and rarely live by themselves unless they have suffered some terrible tragedy, and even then somebody will come and check on them regularly.
Because of the myth of Little Man, the halfling never forgets to be thankful for everything that he has, and this is why he usually stays were he is. He lives content and happy, he’s got a warm fire and wonderful food and drink, and his family is right there to enjoy . . . so why leave? Not all halflings feel this way, a few get bitten by a wonder bug, and they feel that they must answer the call.
A Halfling can become an adventurer for a lot of reasons, such as out of necessity, or to make money, but the most common reason is out of boredom. He wants to live a life of excitement and adventure and simply isn’t as content just hearing about it from guests. In his mind, in order to better understand Little Man, he must become Little Man. His family doesn’t encourage this, but they don’t discourage it either. Neighbors will shake their heads, but wish the traveler well and a safe return.
The quest for fame is also prevalent in halfling society, some have a desire to start their own homestead, believing that a better place is out there where they can find wealth and fame and immortality, as all Halfling villages are named after their founder.
These are things which halflings do when they are still young enough to fail. Typically an adventurer returns to a heroes welcome, even if he has failed: As, to a halfling, failure is just as much of a learning experience as success is, maybe even more so! Therefore, common Halfling myths and stories involve tales of failure. Even the myth of Little Man ends sadly, as Little Man loses everything in the end but his wife, and for his wife he is still thankful. This speaks much of the philosophy of the halfling in general.
Halfling villages are typically all pleasant, as like the gnome, they prize craftiness and intelligence over fighting, indeed, it is a taboo to pick a fight with another halfling, even if you think that you can beat him. In these circumstances, it is considered more honorable to simply walk away. For this reason, crimes of any kind are very rare.
Most Halfling settlements have a sheriff to enforce laws, normally he enforces laws in regards to unruly visitors. He has the power to arrest, and to organize a party in cases where he requires assistance, however, typically the strongest and best fighter will lead this deputized party, even if it isn’t the sheriff himself.
Once arrested, the sheriff will keep a prisoner confined until he can figure out what to do with him. This is usually only for a couple of days, and the jail is in most cases the sheriffs shed and if it rains he’ll be needing this space back.
Lawbreakers are given a chance to redeem themselves, but if a law is broken too often, or if it is warranted because of violence, then he is banned from the village and is disowned even by his own kin. To a halfling, being removed from one’s family is the worst punishment that can be imagined. This will either leave a halfling enraged and bitter, or cause him to strive to reform and perhaps one day prove that he is again worthy to carry the family name and return; a very long and hard processes.
The village itself is ran by a mayor, this is typically the most wealthiest halfling in the village, and bears the family name of the town itself, when a village name dies out, then an election is held and the most popular person becomes the mayor.
Typically the mayors are not your average halfling: they are bossy, rude, and used to getting what they want. If they weren’t born into it, then they have gained their position of power by being loud and making promises that they may’ve intend at the time, but once elected didn’t ever seem to get around to actually doing.
Not all mayors are this way, but the majority of them are nothing but bullies who take advantage of the Halfling taboo of fighting. The rest of the halflings honestly ignore them most of the time, saying pleasant things to their faces but only doing as ordered if they really see a benefit to doing it. The only exception to this rule is the poor sheriff who has to put up with the mayor on a daily basis, and doesn’t have the option of just walking away and ignoring him.
The most powerful person in town, with the most sway and favor, is a Burglar. If a town is lucky enough to have a burglar in it, then they feel safe, and famous themselves! A burglar is a local hero who has lived an adventurous life, full of experience and knowledge, and if a bad time comes to the people, he can help them out by bringing money back. Burglars don’t make good mayors, as they are prone to up and leaving on adventures or visiting with friends in far off lands; but in regards to “REAL” power, the local burglar is the true leader of the town.
A Halfling burglar never steals from his own kind, and exemplifies what it is to be a true halfling! He values his sharp wit and luck more then violence, and it is he who has the largest sway in getting help if the village comes under attack because other races listen to him and respect him as well.
Halflings are brave, but by their own standards; they care little about how other people think. Like the gnomes, they have developed tactics which are common with the little folk: Preferring to out-wit their enemies and allow them to retreat.
The halfling will keep hidden, while the most talented stone pitchers and archers clobber the enemy directly, and others make a lot of noise, well out of sight in an attempt to trick the enemy into thinking that reinforcements are coming, or that there are more halflings out there then what there really are. A band of 300 halflings can effectively trick an enemy into believing that he is being attacked by 3,000. This isn’t magical, it is just that a halfling knows the land better then an enemy can hope to, and a subtle defense has been lying in wait for centuries. Each halfling knows exactly what to do in cases such as this, and they will bravely comply.
An extended war against a halfling village is completely unheard of! Enemies can always be trusted to underestimate them, and the halflings are always willing to take advantage of this gross miscalculation yet reinforce the belief at the same time.
HALFLINGS AND YOUR WORLD
Not all halflings are whining crybabies, they make able bodied warriors and all of them make excellent thieves!
The finer points of roleplaying require the halfling to value all life and allow retreats, and to never fight anybody except as an option of last resorts. Therefore, we DM’s need to make it possible for creative players to outwit their enemies.
Halflings also have a knack at getting the best prices for everything. They have a different sense of moral obligation to others then humans do. To a halfling, it is perfectly expectable to entertain a merchant and eat or drink much of his supply without paying for any of it. After all! They were entertaining him, granted, the merchant may not feel this way when he wakes up, hung over, in the morning, but this is no skin off of a halfling’s nose.
Thieves are local heroes, and this weird sense of right and wrong are common to all halflings. If they see something that they feel that a person doesn’t deserve, wouldn’t miss, or secretly desires to be rid of, then the halfling will take it without the slightest problem. Perhaps one can say that the halfling is selfish, but not when it comes to his family or village, he isn’t morally bankrupt, and despite this fact, humans still enjoy doing business with them, knowing full well that they aren’t going to make a profit by doing so.
Halfling NPC’s will go out of their way to keep adventurers comfortable, and if they are entertained themselves, will treat the adventurer with the same respect as they treat a merchant when the shoe is on the other foot. Entertaining adventurers will be treated to free meals and drinks, and possibly even cheaper lodging then adventurers who keep to themselves.
Halflings know the value of coins, and the more that they have, the better that they can live. This is the prime concern of the halfling, and as long as we remember this, then we’ll be playing the characters correctly.
ART: “The Five Shires” by Clyde Caldwell
THE DWARF AND THE ELF ARE both fairly well known, and well played, however the gnome is one of the most understood AD&D races of them all. In fact, both Players and Dungeon Masters accidentally play them incorrectly, well, if they play them at all, which is sad because they do have some excellent features, and are capable of doing things that no other race can do without magical intervention.
THE GNOME IN MYTH & LEGENDS
I’m not sure of the exact source of this mythical race, but it is probably Celtic. The gnome has entered our current mythology in many ways. You see lots of people decorating their homes and especially their yards and gardens with them, this stems back to a belief that an image will draw beneficial spirits into your area and protect what needs protecting.
The dwarves in the story of Snow White are probably NOT dwarves at all, but gnomes. The gnome is a rich part of our fantasy worlds, especially on film; there is just something pleasant about gnomish faces, a wonderful blend of acting and makeup which keeps us entertained an wanting more of it.
A GNOME’S PLACE IN THE WORLD
The gnome is closely related to the dwarf, but different enough to form their own race. Like the dwarf, the gnomes are miners, typically they work mines that dwarves have given up as dead, and are able to pull out gems and metals missed by them for centuries afterward.
The Gnome is obsessed with gems, and they make the finest jewels in the realm. The finest jewelry and gem-work comes from gnomish craftsmanship, they also require a booming trade industry as they are not as industrious as their neighbors. They seek to live peaceful lives with everyone around them, and richly reward those whom they cherish as friends.
RELATIONSHIPS WITH THE REALM
The gnome relies on close relationships with their neighbors to make life better. Because of their size, gnomish blacksmiths are rare so all tools, weapons, and armor must be brought in. The gnome is a gatherer, what can’t be found in their environments need to be brought in from the outside. They tend their environments like large gardens, knowing exactly where to find what they need. They don’t keep domesticated animals of any kind, and rarely hunt the creatures that they share their environments with, instead they befriend them.
The gnome is capable of communicating with the wild-life, including the giant varieties. These creatures are not pets, but each consider the other to be allies which depend upon the other for survival.
The Dwarf, which will never admit the superior level of skill that the gnome has in mining, commonly keep relationships with nearby gnomes as friendly as possible. While the gnome isn’t capable of creating steal, or crafting weapons of dwarven quality, they are more skilled at actually finishing the items. A dwarf will grumble about working besides gnomes, who tend to play jokes and sing while working, but they won’t grumble about the finished products that they are able to make together.
Elves also enjoy gnomish company, and even the reclusive Wood Elves allow them into their cities with open arms. While the gnome has a difficult time working magic himself, because of his attention to detail and craftsmanship dedicated to his art of gem cutting and mounting, his work is more capable of excepting magical charge then the work of any other race. Why this is has been the subject of debate among scholars, but this blog is simply not the place for that kind of language.
Halflings also gladly share their hearths with the gnome, recognizing them as small folk as well, but their relationship is closer then that as they tend to see things the same way, especially in regards to the Too-talls.
Humans, typical of their race, requires a little bit of effort to get along with, but the gnome does try. They are actually intreged by each other, and do depend on humans for a bulk of the supplies which they bring. Merchants absolutely love dealing with gnome towns, as the gnome won’t go to far out of their way to establish a trade route, however those traders who do maintain their relationships with the gnome is always richly rewarded.
Gnomes aren’t foolish with their money, but they are a bit on the odd side as they see wealth more along the lines of knowledge and experience and not in material objects. They won’t give their treasures away, but they will over-pay for services when they judge the person is going out of their way to aid them. The gnome is also strongly driven to craft jewels, and they will gladly trade fully worked and finished jewels and jewelry for unworked and raw gems.
The gnomes strive to keep all relationships with the other races as friendly as possible, with the exception of goblins and kobolts, who seek to take away the gnome’s land and homes, these creatures will typically be either killed or driven off on sight.
THE RACES OF THE GNOME
Rock Gnome: The rock gnome is by far the most common, and is primarily what this article is based upon. This gnome typically forms small communities in areas where they can find the gems that drive them so. This gnome makes for perfect Player Characters, as they are very curious and often spend a part of their lives adventuring and discovering what lays over the next hill. They commonly make temporary residence in the cities and towns of other races, seeking to learn new things which they can one day bring back to their people. They will establish trading routes, but once they are set up then they typically won’t maintain them more then overpaying the merchants who bring them the things that they need.
Deep Gnome: Also known as the Svirfneblin. Many races simply assume that the deep gnome is the evil equivalent of the race, such as the Drow to the Elf, but they are incorrect, and the Deep Gnome has become such an extremely distrustful and reclusive race that they don’t bother correcting this misconception.
The Svirfneblin, unlike their cousins, are completely self-relient by necessity, as they live in possibly the most hostile environment in the world, the Underdark. The deep gnome has become a military state, as all of their neighbors, typically Drow and Drueger, hate them. They befriend only the wild creatures of the realm, bats and such subterranean creatures who can give them advanced warning when an enemy arrives. They are not sociable as the typical gnome, and do not use a calendar nor measure time in any way. Holidays and feasts, a gnomish cornerstone, are only practiced when a leader feels that it is time to do it to keep spirits high, but the different kingdoms of Deep Gnomes live so far away from each other that they rarely keep contact with the other clans.
Forest Gnome: This subrace is one of the most elusive and shy of any race, they are so apt at hiding their existence that not even the sharp eyed elves will be aware of their existence unless the Forest Gnomes choose to be seen.
Forest gnomes are not miners, and, like the Deep Gnome, completely self reliant. They tend the forests and secretly maintain friendships by supplying those who live within the forest with things that they can find. These gnomes never leave their forests unless forced to do so, which is rare since most of the time nobody is even aware that they are there in the first place.
GNOMES & MAGIC
Many people believe that the gnome is kin to the brownie, and magical in nature. This simply isn’t the case, gnomes have just developed a method of getting by in a world where they are viewed as undersized, and under powered. They have keen eyesight, and a knack for perfect timing. A gnome simply has this incredible ability to disappear at will, not by magic, but by misdirection and subtle distraction. Even in a busy tavern, a gnome can up and disappear without anybody realizing it, even if they are paid to spy on the gnome in question.
The fact is that gnomes are terrible with any magic with the exception of illusions. Nobody is sure why this is, but the facts remain that most magical devices and items are prone to malfunction or fail to function at all in the hands of a gnome. The gnome is immune to many spells, especially spells which target their minds. The gnome has evolved because of their sharp minds and their attention to details that most folks simply miss, perhaps this is the key to their gifted ability to work illusions.
A Gnomish village relies on illusionists, as this magic is a basic part of gnomish life. Illusionists hide the town from enemies, they level the fields of battle against stronger enemies, and it is the illusionist whom lead the festivals which each gnome holds dear to their hearts and bring the gods and their mythology alive.
The gnomes don’t claim to be the first to arrive, nor do they have a creation myth at all! The gnomes simply always were, and they always will be. The Gods of the gnome are many, and each of them are as real to them as you or me, as it is just excepted that they walk the earth, and they appear to! Unlike many races which fear their gods, or blindly worship them with no need of proof, the gnomish gods and goddesses are well known to send their avatars to make earthly visits.
Gnomish clerics keep to natural magics, and typically keep to themselves, but are always welcomed by all of their gnomish neighbors as if a part of the family. They are respected by the public and lead the many festivals, giving guidance to the village illusionists in how best to make their gods come to life.
The Rock Gnome calendar has more holidays and festivals then any other race, these festivals draw huge crowds of gnomes, but anybody is allowed to join, and encouraged to participate. The shortest festivals last for at least 4 days, and the longest can last for over a month! The most important festival for the gnome are those that observe an eclipse, either a solar or a lunar, both are significant. For it is during these eclipse festivals which all gnomes travel to one location to celebrate and party. It is during the eclipse festivals which families are reunited and everybody gets to see each other. Even those who have been ostracized from the communities are allowed and expected to join the major eclipse festivals.
The gnome is deeply tied to the element of earth in a way that no other race is. Elements of earth will never attack a gnome willingly, and seem to enjoy their company. Perhaps this is why a gnome can continue to yield stones from a mine that the dwarves have judged as dead?
The gnomes do observe some evil gods, but they usually don’t worship their gods as the other races do. The gnomes seem to use them as reminders to themselves, particularly with the evil gods, to reassure each other of their morals and what could happen if we don’t observe them. Those gnomes who actively worship evil gods are not tolerated within the communities.
THE LIFE-CYCLE OF THE GNOME
Gnome children are openly loved and cuddled by their parents, and aren’t forced to be productive in any way until they reach adolescence, which happens around their 50th year. A gnome is then expected to begin learning a trade, however they are encouraged to try their hands at several trades to find the one that they best enjoy. It is during these formative years in which a young gnome is most likely to go out in the world and “sow one’s wild oats”. Adolescence lasts for another fifty years, and the most important day in a gnomes life is his 100th birthday, for it is on this day that he becomes an adult. He settles down into his new role as a productive member of society.
The gnome loves to celebrate, so naturally every birthday is regarded as a big deal, but when a gnome turns 200 and every hundred years after that, the party is humongous and can last for days!
A gnome is happiest while at work, however they aren’t as content with doing it as their cousins, the dwarves. Gnomes merrily sing while working, as well as concoct practical jokes to play on each other. Everybody has a job to do, and that is why life is so good, because everybody does their jobs, and because they took the time to explore different callings, they are most pleased by what they are doing.
The most common job in Gnome Villages is, of course, Miner. Each miner has a task to complete based entirely on his personal knack. Strong gnomes break up the rocks, quick gnomes dig out the gems and ore from the rock, while the gnomes blessed with great constitutions remove the rock from the worksite. A company of gnomes can mine faster and more efficiently then any other race, including the dwarf.
Once a gnome gets too old to work anymore, he or she changes from a worker into a village leader, for the gnomes respect experience and knowledge more then anything, and it is the elders which guide the younger, more able bodied gnomes to true fulfillment.
A typical gnome can expect to live a full and happy life of 300 years, but it isn’t unheard of for an elder to celebrate their 700th birthday.
Young women are expected to get married, and raise a family, and there job is to tending to the household; gathering foodstuff from the gardens, shopping and preparing meals, mending clothing, but once they achieve a respectable age, they also become elders who have just as much say, and have an equal amount of power as the men do.
Women are not judged badly if they chose to hold respectable jobs, many can be found tending family shops, engaged in gem-work, and anything else that they fancy, but jobs such as mining and soldiering are left to the men to perform. A woman is just as capable of fighting as the men are, however they are required to care for the welfare of the young ones during times of trouble.
One final word about Gnomes, which really sets them apart from the other races is their emotional state and how they express themselves. Gnomes are very emotional creatures, and unlike the other races, whom strive to hide such things, the gnome is very open. Gnomes kiss and hug one another, regardless of sex. When a gnome is happy he sings, and when he is sad he openly weeps. This openness has a tendency to make the other races uncomfortable to be around, however because they are so open, many darker emotions such as revenge and greed are almost unheard of within a gnomish community. Even the grieving period for gnomes who have lost loved ones to death is shorter, not to say that it isn’t intense, but once a gnome stops crying over their loss they quickly come to terms with it.
Gnomes are not typically prone to committing violent crimes, and because of the clannish nature in regards to property, a gnome never knowingly steals from another gnome, however, legal disputes do happen. Many times this is because of a gnome who fails to observe the strict gnomish code of etiquette, which is very involved but can be summed up simply as, never mock another gnomes short nose to his face. This breach of etiquette has caused more squabbles then any other crime in the community. Still, some disputes over rights and property do happen. In these cases, the two gnomes who are squabbling are ostracized from their own family, not out of hate, but simply to allow the two to deal with their grievances without getting involved yourself.
Typically the two gnomes can come to some agreement on their own, but if this takes to long, or is too upsetting to productivity of the clan, then the two will be taken before the elders and the elders will make a judgment after hearing both sides of the case. To all gnomes, the word of an elder is final and correct. The two gnomes are always pleased with whatever decision that they make, and acceptance of the matter is had right then and there and both gnomes make up, normally celebrating their rediscovered friendships with a feast.
In the rare occasion were a gnome has committed a violent or willful act against a fellow gnome, then this gnome is discharged from the community. Depending on the degree of the crime, he may at some time be forgiven and allowed to return, but if the act was heinous enough then his banning will be permanent and all gnomes will find out about it and shun him as well. This lack of kinship is the ultimate punishment to a gnome, worse then jail or death. A gnome who is truly alone experiences a hell which no other race can begin to fathom. It is this fear which keeps a gnome on the right path, and those who suffer this punishment will be remembered for a very long time as a warning to those who give into such actions.
GNOMES & WAR
By nature, a gnome is not bloodthirsty and is repulsed by bloodshed no matter whose veins are spilling it. The gnome is not a coward, however, and though he will avoid going to war for as long as possible, and in any way that he can, if push comes to shove, then those that do the shoving will quickly learn that they have grossly underestimated the gnome as an enemy.
In dealings with other races, the gnome will refuse to go to war unless they themselves are physically attacked. Typically the gnome will send a diplomat into the village or city of the enemy who is currently trying to take away their freedoms, there he will engage in talks, keeping negotiations as long and as drawn out as possible. If the enemy refuses to listen to the gnomish pleas for peace, then the gnome will give up, however this race finds its greatest pride in outsmarting and outwitting their larger enemies, and any victory that a race can get over a gnome will be made as hollow and as meaningless as possible.
Most threats against a gnomish village will be brief and quick. The gnome does not try to rout an enemy, the gnomish way is to force a retreat. Even against such hated enemies as the goblin and the kobolt, the gnome will allow them to retreat with their lives.
They have developed ways of using their size and agility against bigger and more powerful enemies, and are masters of lowering an enemies moral as quickly as possible. Usually they will attack not with violence, but with the gnomes innate ability to distract an enemies attention away from what they are doing, and attack their pride before actually hurting them. A typical gnome tactics involves cutting the saddle straps of mounted Calvary when they aren’t looking, or lighting small fires in the shoes of a companies general.
Failure to embarrass an enemy into a retreat calls for a harsher response. The gnomes strive to always know the terrain more intimately then their enemies. Illusionists will create obstacles where there aren’t any and hide traps and the natural pitfalls that are there while archers stay hidden from view and pelt them with an unending wave of stones and arrows.
This is typically enough to even cause stupid orcs to launch a retreat and inform their grand children about the gnomish terror years later!
GNOMES IN YOUR WORLD
Gnomes make great player characters, but we do have to watch how they attack their enemies. Gnomes respect life, even the lives of those who wish them harm.
Deep gnome and forest gnomes are good for specialized campaigns which take place in their areas, but the do make excellent NPC’s for DMs, particularly because PC’s won’t initially know what to make of them, or their intent, but they will make great allies that will surprise them if, and when, their assistance is required.
While elf players are generally considered overpowered, we must not neglect players who want to explore the way of the gnome. They have some sever limitations, simple things like not being able to buy armor that isn’t specially made, as well as clothing and most weapons. All of their gear must be special, and because of this limitation we DMs must remember to play up on their strengths as much as possible.
Gnomes are capable of going where larger characters can’t go without limitations themselves, as they are used to fighting in cramped quarters and can fit into spots where even the dwarves are too big. Gnomes can disappear and blend into a crowd without penalty, they can move through their native climates without leaving a trail or making any noise. They are closer to the earth then any race, and the earth itself seems to help them along.
Gnomes are not halflings, and aren’t homebodies. They enjoy going out and seeing the world for themselves and should be more common to encounter then what we are probably giving them credit for. They may not observe the same currency as the dominate races, but they do have a knack of fitting in and earning a living in foreign cities. Many gnomes open up shops in the cities of other races for a time, establishing different trade routes into their hometowns which they will one day return to, and learning how the other races live so that they can take back the best of their world with them.
All player races have a good relationship with gnomes, this can be very helpful for any adventurer who has a thirst for gathering information. Nobody can gather intelligence with the speed and tact as the gnome, and typically the almost work for free! Talk about an untapped resource for adventure.
Art is a selection of “Teamwork” by Larry Elmore
THE ELVES ARE A RACE that wishes to forget it’s dark past. Elves are known for arts and music, however, there is a darker side, one which plunged all of the worlds into chaos and war! And not just any war, but a world war which almost destroyed all that the gods had created.
Great technical marvels, sciences best left undisturbed, and blood shed greater then any war before or since. The world was a much different place back then, monsters the likes of which haunt the nightmares of man, creatures of such power that life was almost impossible. Great warriors arose from the ashes created by the old ones, the titans which ruled the earth through fear, brute strength, and secret magicks; it was these great warriors who, though they were few, defied the titans of old and drove them from this world forever.
Peace would not last long, for such things never do. While the unified elves were strong, jealously and greed infiltrated even this wise society. The swords once used to drive out the abominations now turned upon their own flesh. Brother slew brother; mothers lay slain at their daughters feet. The earth itself cried in anguish, all because of a Goddess named Lolth who promised great powers to those who swore allegiance to her. She, Lolth, warned of a new threat, one which one day, if not taken care of while it was still young, would rival the powers of the Ancient Ones, it’s name was man. A very elven creature, though short lived and brutish, it was unpredictable and intelligent. Lolth and her belief in destroying this young race split the elves into two factions, those which saw that this was an evil act engaged in mortal combat with the dark ones, this war was called The Elven War. No one knows for how long it raged, some say 3 generations while others say it was much longer, the scars left in the earth keep their secrets, but we do know that the elves pushed the dark ones underground, and the elven gods punished those who lost by forbidding them to ever set foot into the sunlight again.
This war, the Elven War, ended quickly. The enemy routed, the vengeance of the gods placed upon the Drow, the elves simply dropped their weapons and abandoned their old cities to the jaws of time where they sit to this day, exactly as they were millions of years ago; many forgotten even by the elves who built them.
ELVES: KEEPERS OF THE REALM
The elf is not a human with pointy ears and killer bonuses, they are known for their grace and their bravery. They view humans as equals but pity them for their short lives and do not like how they treat each other, or other races. They realize that humans are all individual but racial tensions can still get inflamed, especially in areas where the humans destroy the primal forests where the elves dwell, in their quest for logging.
Dwarf and Elf relations are never all that good. They both strive to enforce the spirits of goodness, but they have incompatible methods of achieving this goal which has led to short wars, as well as a few very long ones which can grow cold for centuries but fester quickly.
Elf and Halfling relations are good, however the elf tends to coddle them and treat them like children, something that the halflings hate but put up with simply because complaining would do no good.
The orc and the Elf are always engaged in battle, they cannot tolerate the other existing and both sides have sworn genocide for the other, however, the elf suffers the same problem which is common for all long-lived races, breading is slow and the birth rate is not very good, while the orc breeds quickly, too fast for the elves to ever fully realize their goal.
ELVES IN MYTH AND LEGEND
The elf was first mentioned in the Norse Mythology, which bled into the Celtic myths and beliefs where it grew very popular. It was only natural that these wondrous creatures found their way into fairy tales throughout the ages and are still quite popular today, the most famous elf character of course being Link, the hero of Nintendo’s “Legend of Zelda” videogame series, and one of the most popular videogame characters of all time.
The elf of AD&D strives to keep it’s fantasy roots in tact. The elf is a highly spiritual creature, who is tied to the land in which they were born in such a way that humans assume that it must be magical, and it is! But when one has a life-span that is measured in centuries instead of decades, one has all the time in the world to develop a keen understanding of the world and the creatures who inhabit it. When one cares for the world, the earth cares for them as well.
Often these creatures have been confused by men, to be gods themselves! How many people worship the heroics and deeds of elves is unknown.
ELVES AND MAGIC
It is the elf who developed much of this science, and in many cases destroyed and keep hidden dark magics from those whom seek to use them for personal gain. The most magical of the elves is the Drow, the dark elf who has developed a keen understanding of the blackest magic which rivals the mightiest human mages, and use it daily in their undying thirst for vengeance.
Dark elves aside, the magic of the elf has been muted willingly by the race as a whole. They chose not to delve as deep as they once had, though none will admit that this is the case, the evidence is too plain to fully deny.
While the elf holds off to some extent when it comes to wizardry, their skills with bows and swords are unmatched. They have developed the hardest to master and most disciplined art of Bladesinging, not to mention crafting the most noble knights of all time, the mighty Windriders whom protect the impenetrable kingdoms of the Grey Elves.
ELVES AND RELIGION
The elves claim to be the first being to be created by the gods, and for all we know this just might be the case. The elven year has more holidays then any human year, but uses the same cycles as our own. Elven gods are many, but they aren’t worshiped as other races worship them; elven myths are many but each seems to tell stories on several different levels, almost as if these are just stories to be learned from. It has been said that it is the elven magics of the festivals themselves which bring about the changing of the seasons, it is no small wonder that many civilizations actively worship these beings.
THE ELF’S PLACE IN THE WORLD
There are several species of elves, the Aquatic Elf build giant kingdoms of the sea, the Dark Elf or Drow resides in magical cities built deep underground where they worship their evil gods and wage unending wars with the other denizens of the underdark. The Grey Elves build massive kingdoms far from the eyes of men high up in the mountains, the Wood Elves, the nomads of the forests hide in ancient woods, while the most common elf to man, the High Elf, has chosen to live almost peacefully among us.
The typical elf, if one can be typical, views him or herself as a collector of sorts. They have developed a love for art, and for music and the finer things in life. Experience is what they are always out looking for.
They are the most educated of all of the races, spending almost the entire lifespan of a human to fully mature to what we would call teenage years. That time is spent reading great stories, learning to play music, as well as the art of sword play and developing remarkable skills with the bow. A rounded education is considered a must for any elf, and in fact is so important to the overall welfare to them that those who were raised by other races did not live the long happy lives which those who dedicated their first years to education enjoy.
It is rare for elves to make friendships among the shorter lived races, not because they lack the love and understanding to see the benefits, but because of this love and the closeness that they feel to friends is so intense for each elf, and when a friend dies, this can bring on a long and agonizing grieving period which they will typically not repeat again. Death as we mortals know it is unheard of in elven society. Not that elves don’t die, because they do, but it is still a rare thing, even among the High Elves who are prone to adventuring.
ELVES AND DEATH
Most elves choose to leave the plain of man, spending the bulk of their lives in a foreign land they call Arvandor. Elves who are unfortunate enough to lose their lives in this world MUST be taken back to where they were born. They MUST be buried in the sacred ground of their people, else they may rise and wreck havoc among the living for eternity.
Elves keep many secrets, and one of the greatest elven secrets is the terror of the undead which they all share. The undead are the most hated enemy of the elves, even to the dark and mysterious ways of the drow, they are still held in the deepest of contempt. Un-death to the elf, is the greatest terror, they see death as a good thing, though they do not to rush to it, but to arise as an undead oneself is the ultimate nightmare, and one that the race as a whole takes very seriously. An elf who dies in combat must be retrieved and returned to their homeland for burial or its equivalent. The most nightmarish forms of undead which haunt our planet all share origins which are distinctly elven, and all elves will stop whatever they are doing, even if it is a blood oath, to hunt these creatures down and destroy them.
Elven society is different depending on your race. The Wood Elves of the forest are distinctly chaotic in nature, fighting individually but at the same time relying on ambushes and attacks of traps and stealth, while the Grey Elves have formed shock troops, and often take it upon themselves to police the world.
Elven law, regardless of alignment, is typically relaxed, but at the same time, distinctly structured, not to the extent of the dwarves who rely on structure for everything, but there is still a number of social orders within elven society that must be observed. Elves typically have leaderships based on ones ability to rule fairly and in a way that the society as a whole feels is Elven. The Grey elf being the most structured, believing themselves to be above all lifeforms and races. Aquatic elves are always ruled by Kings or Queens of the great ancesters of the highest class. Wood Elves follow a system of strength in the form of Chiefs which rotate through the years, and the Drow are ruled by women, where only the strong can survive. The High Elf usually complies to the systems which are popular with the humans, either because the humans have adopted this system themselves, or just to keep relationships with the neighbors more palatable.
Elves do make the best thieves, however an elf will rarely rob another elf. Laws governing property are more relaxed in Elven Society. An elf has no problems sharing what he has as long as it will be available for him when the time comes that he has a use for it. Elves do not observe money as the other races see it. Gold is beautiful to look at and make crafts with, but that is all!
The lowest class of elf are still provided for. The filthiest areas of Grey Elf kingdoms are still cleaner, and more beautifully kept then most human cities. Wealth is judged by knowledge and experience rather then by collecting coins. The high elves see the reasoning behind it, but only fleetingly. They understand that if you want food, then it takes a coin, but that is about the extent of it. All other races ignore them entirely. They value trade in the form of barter. Everybody has a job to do, and they do it for the betterment of each other. This is even true in Drow societies where one must kill their superior to get a better job.
Valuables to elves are always useful items, both magical and nonmagical. Their system is fair, but no elf should ever be wanting, and an elf without shelter, food, or water is absolutely intolerable. The only exception to the rules is in regards to the Drow, which will be killed on sight, and vice versa, the Elfwar will never end until either the Drow are extinguished or the rest of them.
ELVES AND WAR
Elves are still a warrior race, the Grey Elves fight with Dwarves for land, as do Wood Elves with humans. They are remarkably different from humans and other races as they strive to leave no footprints behind. The Wood Elves build somewhat perminent shelters during winters, but these tend to disappear the moment that they leave them. The Grey Elf build perminent structures, however they carve them with dwarven skill directly out of the mountains themselves. War with each other, is of course, not unheard of. Though the humans assume that they are the same species, the elves do not feel this way, and indeed, each are remarkably different when you view them separately!
Elven war is not the same as it was during the great Elfwar. No prisoners were allowed during those times, thus the reason why the elves have given up so much of their former power, so that things can’t get that bad ever again! When war does break out between elven clans or factions, it is as civilized as possible. It is still bloody, but prisoners are kept and traded regularly, and negotiations are nonstop until both parties can reach an understanding. Of course war with the other races is not so clean, as the elves have realized that many races view this tactic as weakness.
Most humans will never see the inside of a Grey Elf city, and the Wood elves will kill all humans and dwarves who come close to finding their camps as quickly and humanely as possible.
ELVES IN YOUR WORLD
The elf is a very popular player character simply because of all of the bonuses that one gets from picking them as a race. The DM has to be strict about keeping the level limits to offset all of the bonuses, they are there for a reason. I remember when I first started, all of the elven players would bitch about the level limits, and even the best DM’s would cater to them, or at least pretend to, as typically we didn’t keep the same characters very long so it wasn’t a problem.
The biggest factor of the elven presents in your world should always be the great Elfwar which leaves the forgotten temples and hidden dungeons scattered all over the place which PC’s just love to explore. Now keep in mind that any forgotten city may still not be forgotten to the elves, and they have left the artifacts kept within them there for a reason, they won’t take kindly to people looting these hidden places.
Elven players also need to be hassled about how they run their characters. As stated above, these guys aren’t humans and should have a totally different philosophy in regards to everything. They don’t like human food, they think that our cities are filthy and disgusting, the concept of the POOR is utterly alien to them. They don’t horde money, they take care of other elves without question, they are suspicious of forming bonds with humans, and don’t like how they rape the earth to fit their own lifestyles, but they are bent on letting the humans make their own mistakes.
It is up to the DM to make a elf PC truly an elf PC. Hassle him/her with orcs and undead at inopportune times. They won’t leave their dead, nor will they loot elven enemies. Be mindful, for there has to be a price to pay for all of those bonuses!
ART credit: "Music Lover" by Robin Wood
THERE IS ONLY SO MUCH THAT A Dungeon Master can do. When you are dealing with large groups of players, one has to know ones limit. Large groups take more time to go through, and require more enemies to challenge. If it takes a half an hour to complete your rounds, then it is time to add a Co-DM into the mix.
PLAYER VS. DUNGEON MASTER
I honestly don’t believe in magic numbers, I think that Gygax stated that the magic number is 12 players to 1 DM, but I am nowhere nearly as talented as Gary was, I am comfortable with 8 players, anything above that and I’ll need a Co-DM. This number will no doubt, be different for everybody, and it shouldn’t be about the DM’s ego. This isn’t about the DM, this is about keeping a game smooth and fun for everybody.
WHEN TO ASK FOR HELP
Like I said, if it is taking over a half and hour for everybody to take their turn during a round, then it could be time to shorten up the groups. This is, after all, a game! And nobody wants to just sit there for too long waiting to attack. This is about player enjoyment, not the DM’s will to control everything. Everybody at the table should be equal, and be allowed to influence the group, PC’s aren’t henchmen and shouldn’t ever be treated as such.
Sometimes it is obvious, if the players decide that the best course of action is to split up into smaller groups, this is a big hint that it is taking to long to resolve conflicts, or that they want to break away because they aren’t having fun just going with the flow.
To many people talking over each other is a bad thing too. We are suppose to pump up the excitement, but if we can’t calm it down long enough to resolve combat fast enough for the players, it is time to get a co-DM.
We need to keep the players engaged in the game, we are shooting for total immersion, and to much free time leads to idle chatter which, of course, leads to us getting upset. . . well maybe not us, but me. I get upset. Grrrrr. That gives us another hint, players ignoring the DM. It isn’t usually because the game is boring, it is just that it is taking to long, and they feel that they can’t influence anything anyway.
We always need to watch everybody! There are loud players, and there are players that are quieter, not because they don’t have ideas, or don’t know what they are doing, but because they are just quieter people who don’t find competing for room to talk as something that they want to do.
Overall, the best advice that I can give you is to be mindful. Pay attention and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
If you are a new DM, you shouldn’t go above or below 4 players. From my experience, this is the perfect number, anything to low and you’ll probably kill them all, and anything over that they may not be challenged enough and you’ll overcompensate and end up killing them too. You should definitely use a co-DM when first learning the ropes.
DUTIES OF THE CO-DM
There are different degrees of co-DMing. The job is simply to take off some of the duties of the Dungeon Master. The first degree is simple bookwork. Most of our work should take place during the prep stage, but nobody is perfect, and nobody can anticipate all of the crazy stuff that player characters think up. The first degree of co-DMing is the simplest, simply looking up facts. Don’t be afraid to toss a player a book and tell them to look it up while you continue working with the other players. This can be a fact that is only useful to them, or even a fact that you yourself need to know.
The second degree requires more trust, as you’ll be giving them information. They will be running combat for half of the table. Essentially, the party will be cut off from one another and the CO will be working semi-independently from you. If he has a question, you’ll need to be ready to answer it quickly, and you will need to prep this for him well before you can let him have at it. The prep may just be a list of monster stats, or it can be a map and a magic item which a monster is using.
The third degree requires the most trust, and the most forethought. If the party is too big, then they may need to be split up permanently at a completely different table. This party will be in the same dungeon, but split, either by choice or by a magical device that teleports them away from you. This co-DM will have the same amount of authority as you, and needs to know everything about the dungeon, or run a completely different adventure depending on how big the group is and if they are regular players or not. This essentially is running a completely different game. This could be just for a specific amount of time which was preplanned by the characters where they decide to split up and meet back here when they all know more. Or, like I said, it could turn into a completely different game for awhile before the party meets back up with one another. It doesn’t take much of an imagination to see the potential ramifications of this happening, but it does happen.
CHOOSING YOUR CO-DM
For the first degree, we are just throwing them a book. Anybody can do this, and it doesn’t require any skill what-so-ever. If it is to answer a question put forth by a player, then make them look it up themselves and read the answer aloud. If it is something for you, then you need to chose somebody different, but who?
If an experienced DM is playing the table, then they probably already know the answer, or can look it up the fastest. If you are more minded to give back to the hobby by teaching others, a player who is playing a wizard is probably your best bet. It takes a lot of experience and reading to play an effective wizard. Of course if they are just trying the class out for the first time, then you’ll want to leave them alone from being a runner, but if they are experienced, then they probably know the books just as well as you do.
We will be looking for somebody who isn’t currently engaged at the time. If it is during combat, warriors are usually out, but some characters are best left hanging out in the background and have a bit more time on their hands. If it is just a quick fact, then ask somebody with a ranged weapon to look it up for you.
This is also a test! Watch your quiet people, because sometimes, it is the quiet people who make the best Dungeon Masters, and you can possibly keep them engaged with a game by allowing them to Co-DM. If they are just shy, then it will force them to talk with their split party.
For the second degree of co-DMing, we’ll need an experienced player preferably with some experience DMing, but that really isn’t necessary. Running combat is a skill that is best learned in a trial by fire situation. Perhaps their character bit the dust and died, or you believe that they are capable of running their character on a temp NPC status. Of course the above is still true, we don’t want a warrior who is always on the front-line to actually have to run the combat, but somebody who is more in the background. You should also be very clear as to what your expectations are! Let them know that their character isn’t allowed to come up with brilliant plans, and he isn’t allowed to use the information that he is about to get for his character. You are still the DM and if he ends up with anything that isn’t on the info that you gave him, then it didn’t happen. Your authority is still the final word in any matter, but we ourselves will need to be fair about all judgment calls in regards to the co-DM.
For the third degree, of course the player has to lose his status as a character altogether. It simply isn’t possible to play a character and referee fairly at the same time. Depending on the situation, the co-DM can have total authority, or, if it is in the same dungeon, semi-equal authority with exceptions made for continuity reasons. This is actually one of the best ways to learn the art of DMing, because an experienced DM is right there for quick questions, and all of your notes are laid out for you. If the two parties will be playing in the exact same dungeon, then a meeting should take place between the two DMs before and after each session to compare notes for continuity reasons, for example destroyed objects, dead NPC’s and monsters, fallen comrades, treasure taken, etc. If it is two different dungeons, then continuity won’t be a problem, but the new DM might want to touch base and just chat with the experienced one.
To reiterate: A candidate for a co-DM is someone who isn’t always engaged in active combat such as a wizard or a thief, somebody who is quiet and doesn’t actively lead the party on a regular basis, someone who is disrupting the game and can be given more responsibilities to keep them more engaged, or somebody who has lost their character to death and doesn’t want to spend the game time writing up a new one.
Good traits of a co-DM include the ability to separate himself from his character, and doesn’t mind the temporary NPC status, and has the ability to play dumb when the time comes.
MAKING GOOD NOTES FOR THE CO-DM
This isn’t something that can just be done on the whim, you have to have the forethought to know when, and who you can lean on for support. Before leaning on a co-DM talk to him or her and make sure that this is something that they’d be interested in doing to begin with. Most people will at least try it, but if you can tell that they absolutely don’t want to, then don’t push it.
If they are first-timers, then you’ll need to make really good notes, and teach your CO how to read them. I know that I keep my note-taking pretty consistent as far as creatures are concerned, however I leave some stuff out which I don’t think that I’ll need. If I were to require a CO, then I would make my creature notes complete, and include the page numbers in the Monster Manual incase they have to look something up. If I am going to have them run a specific rule-set, then I’ll also need to write were the relevant information is at.
They won’t be prepping the dungeon themselves, but they should have all of the related subjects reviewed prior to running the combat or scenario. Of course if they are DMing their own parties at a separate table, then they will need to do some prep. It is easier now for a DM to prepare easy to read, professional looking, module-like, quality dungeons with almost no extra work. Naturally, if you are coming up with this stuff as you go, then a CO is impossible. If you are using a module, then go through the thing with them and tell them about any changes that you are making, and listen to their suggestions as well. The third degree is the hardest to pull off, but if your communication skills with your CO is good, then it can turn into something really special.
SCENARIOS REQUIRING A CO-DM
Now this list is nowhere near complete, or a end-all be-all guide. It isn’t even something that I would suggest doing on a regular basis, but if the right situation presents itself, then by all means, resort to co-DM’s!
Chances are, you do this all of the time. When a player tracks a henchman NPC he is essentially co-DMing. You still have the final say-so involving all decisions in regards to the henchman’s safety and property, but you trust much of the work to the player who is responsible for him.
Looking up magic items and spells are a pain in the butt. As a DM, it is hard enough keeping track of your own spell users, don’t be ashamed to ask a player exactly what a spell does, or if he finds a magic item, toss him your DMG or whatever book the thing is from, and have him either review it aloud, or write it down for himself.
A party needs responsible people. There are two roles within the party which are important, the first is the leader. This person will be responsible for rolling the groups initiative, as well as in times where everybody at the table falls victim to mass-hysteria and the DM needs to find out what is going on. The leader will have the final say-so in regards to any group decision making. It is his job to calm down the table, and lead the party to reach their goals. The leadership can change, and often does, at any time and from game to game. It is this person who major NPC’s will want to deal with, and talk directly to.
Another important part of the group is the Quartermaster. While the leadership of an adventuring party can change frequently, the Quartermaster should always stay the same. It will be the Quartermaster who is in charge of buying supplies and keeping tabs on everything that the party uses, typically this will be done with a WIS check, thus the Quartermaster will be the wisest party-member.
Now since there will be two Dungeon Masters at one table, folks will have to keep calm. This is typically done during large combat scenarios and require the party splitting up temporarily but staying in the same general area. The DM is paying attention to what they are doing on the other side of the table, but running his NPC list independently.
Three armies are engaged in warfare, two enemy armies, and the PCs who must split up and fight on two different fronts at once or be destroyed.
Enemy has the party surrounded.
Part of the PC party decides to flee, or give chase to fleeing monsters for a short distance but without leaving the battlefield entirely.
A PC wants to split from the party to accomplish a goal or objective with the aid of the co-DM’s character. This can be used in the city where a thief wants to sneak into an NPC’s house and steal information or clues, or even for a wizard who wishes to sneak away and find a better place to fight from at a distance.
Anytime a party-member wants to split to accomplish a goal that can quickly end a conflict, but requires a majority of the party to keep fighting as a distraction until the party-member and his support member (read co-DM’s character) can complete the objective.
Since there is so many different degrees of this, phase, we’ll break it down into two different groups. The first degree is Joined, meaning that they will not leave the general area too far and stay in the same continuity with plans to rejoin the main party later; and the Second degree is Divorced, meaning that they have split off permanently in either the same continuity or in a completely different one.
This second party can be as big as what the co-DM is comfortable with, or as small as just the CO and PC playing 1-on-1. This differs from the Phase 2 because this time the party will be leaving the area entirely.
For instance, a large group decides to split up inside of the city limits and complete two different objectives independently of the other. This may be two separate villages or locations entirely! But they do have plans of meeting up again at a specific location once they are finished.
The party has been split by a villain or a device to different areas of a megadungeon, or the party has decided to split up for the duration of the dungeon. This will require continuity and the party may meet each other again at some point in the dungeon.
Members of one race or class, such as elves or thieves, want to explore without losing their bonuses for moving silently and can complete a different objective inside of the same dungeon as their peers.
There is just to many players and somebody wants to learn how to DM, so he runs the same dungeon as you but not in the same continuity.
There is enough temporary players to form their own separate party and it sounds like fun to have them compete for items and treasure in the same dungeon as you, and in the same continuity.
So many people didn’t show up one week that they were simply left behind by those that did. They will remain in the same continuity but be severely behind and have to play catch-up. Naturally, you yourself could do this one on an off night if members of that party had legitimate reasons for not attending or have no interest in leaving the game.
The party collapses because of lack of cohesion and dissension among the ranks, or they start out as just scouting a separate hall, but can’t find their way back and are left behind. This can either be in the same continuity or not depending on the skill of the co-DM.
Sometimes a party can become unbalanced, and two games need to be run in different ways to help those that are behind in levels to catch up so that they can survive. This happens for a variety of reasons, and a co-DM can either help XP wanting players get the XP they need, or just run the fun time-passing, low XP gaining game with folks who are their to simply play. Whatever you or they agree on! For stuff like that, a higher level NPC really should accompany them anyway, so why not have the co-DM take his PC in there with them, just to soften the badguys up some and aid them if they need it. It is easier for smaller groups to gain XP then it is for larger groups. This should also be a factor in if you need a co-DM that night or not, but it really does depend on the situation. I know that I have people coming in and out of my games all of the time, stuff like that happens! We all have families and work so it isn’t a big deal, but I still need to keep things in continuity. God forbid that everybody shows up one night!
HABITS OF A GOOD CO-DUNGEON MASTER
Being chosen as a CO is a big deal. It means that your DM trust you with his baby, and finds you to be a responsible hobbyist. We don’t want to let him down. Below is a quick list of some of the traits that will convince him that he didn’t make a mistake in choosing you.
- No new house rules without his okaying them.
This is a big one, and can anger players and your DM alike. Say if you use a “Fumble on 1” rule and the DM doesn’t, your players are going to get mad when you come out of left field and make a call which is inconsistent to how the game was ran before.
- Be creative, but don’t add anything major.
There is a balance of power which the DM is observing, it is this balance of power that keeps things like “+22 Vorpal Fire Swords” out of his dungeon, don’t add them yourselves because you think that it would be cool. Observe the balance of the game and limit yourself to the things which the DM gave you to give out. If you feel that the party is underpowered, go ahead and talk to him about it and find out why he has it that way before just giving out magic items like they are tic-tacs. He may agree with you and let you add some things on your list, but for drastic changes like that seek his approval. Limit your creativity to describing what the players are seeing and feeling.
- Take good notes yourself.
If we add a secret door, this is fine, but jot down a note and get it to the DM as soon as possible. Being a good communicator is part of DMing, you don’t need to be loud to be a good communicator, just good at telling him the things that were changed because of your own mistakes, or because of the actions of the players under you. They needn’t be advanced, but they should be good enough that he can read them and find the change immediately.
- Take initiative.
Don’t bug him over little things every five minutes. Minor changes and major decisions are completely up to you in regards to refereeing the player characters. These people are experts at catching the DM off guard, and they will do the same thing to you, just go with the flow and try your best to make sense of what is happening with what the DM gave you. Keep the core information, but how you interpret it is up to you.
- Separate yourself from your character.
If you are playing a character at the same time that you are co-DMing, keep him as an NPC, but remember that he is now an NPC. It isn’t any fun for an NPC to take a game over, he should just be there to assist, and hang out in the background. Do not give any ideas, or do anything else of your own initiative. Only perform a skill if you are asked to, and let all of the playing up to the players themselves. If your DM did give you any secrets, it is your duty to remember that your character is not aware of them and you cannot use this information once you get back to playing. This includes maps, items that went unfound, weaknesses within the ranks of the enemy, anything which you learned from your time co-DMing, this can be hard but, after all, if the DM didn’t think that you couldn’t do it, then he wouldn’t have picked you to begin with.
HABITS OF A GOOD DM
- Be understanding.
There is never an excuse to be a jerk. Never yell at the Co or belittle his ideas. He isn’t a stooge, he should be a partner. If he makes a mistake then just go with it. We all do it and you know it. As long as he doesn’t abuse his new-found powers then he’s doing a good job.
- Give him just enough to get him by.
Leave him enough leeway that he can use creativity, but within a structured setting. Give him the toolbox with everything that he needs and just let everything that you didn’t define go. Have faith and let it go. The more that you define, the greater the chances of him screwing it up are.
- Pay attention but don’t dominate
The reason for doing this is so that you don’t have to do it yourself, just let it go you control-freak you. Repair damage later, if in fact that it was damage.
- Keep him up to date.
Communication is a two way road, and you are the teacher or the most responsible one because this is your story. He can learn more about what you want from the notes by writing them well yourself.
- Don’t leave out important details.
Have faith in him that he won’t use secrets against you. For the right character, this can improve his game once he rejoins. If you keep secrets that are important to the scenarios that you gave him then he is doomed to failure because he can’t fully grasp the motives of the monsters which he is running. He should know exactly what they know incase he gets interrogated by the PCs.
This solution is not perfect for all groups, in all degrees. Sometimes players play under a specific DM for a reason and they don’t want to change. Other times a DM is simply not capable of giving up a single ounce of power, or has a personality which makes teaching others impossible. Though this, I find to be in bad form, I’d rather them NOT teach others rather then chasing folks away from the hobby completely.
On a brighter note: This can lead to some extra work for a Dungeon Master, but in the long run, it can relieve you from duties when you really feel like playing! It also gives back to the hobby, which is just as important. DMing is a hard skill to master when you don’t have a good teacher.
A few of the scenarios that I laid out actually sound like a ton of fun! I mean, imagine two independent parties looting the same dungeon. There is just something about that that really gets my Geek-Gland dancing and spewing oozy-gooey nerd juice all over my innards.
Art: "Companions of the Lance" by Larry Elmore 1988
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- ▼ February 2009 (5)