All posts by Stargazer

Michael Wolf is a German games designer and enthusiast best known for his English language role-playing games blog, Stargazer's World, and for creating the free rules-light medieval fantasy adventure game Warrior, Rogue & Mage. He has also worked as an English translator on the German-language Dungeonslayers role-playing game and was part of its editorial team. In addition to his work on Warrior, Rogue & Mage and Dungeonslayers, he has created several self-published games and also performed layout services and published other independent role-playing games such as A Wanderer's Romance, Badass, and the Wyrm System derivative Resolute, Adventurer & Genius, all released through his imprint Stargazer Games. Professionally, he works as a video technician and information technologies specialist. Stargazer's World was started by Michael in August 2008.

Iron Kingdoms

The people who followed my Dungeoncraft articles may already have guessed that the Iron Kingdoms setting by Privateer Press was one of the major inspiration for Asecia. In the beginning IK started as a trilogy of adventures that later even spawned the miniature games WARMACHINE and HORDE. IK consisted of the beforementioned trilogy (the “Witchfire” trilogy), the IK: Character guide, the IK: World guide, two Monsternomicons and several smaller sourcebooks. IK was using the d20 System License, so you probably won’t find many copies in stores nowadays.

But alas there hasn’t been any new releases for the IK campaign setting for quite some time now and Privateer Press recently announced on their forums that they will not release an updated version with D&D 4th Edition rules. But they can’t sell their existing material because the d20 System license is no more. The only way to reprint the books would be to make them compliant with the OGL, which in my opinion would be no impossible task.

But if you ask me, I am sure that Privateer Press is focussing on new projects and the IK campaign setting is more or less dead. With WARMACHINE, HORDE and the new Monsterpocalypse they have three miniature game lines. And I don’t believe they have the manpower or will to reinvigorate their roleplaying game line.
And although I own lot of the IK books I haven’t run more than the first part of the Witchfire trilogy. When I’ve concluded our current Pirates of the Spanish Main campaign returning to the Iron Kingdoms could be one of my possibilities. BUT shall I run it as it was intended (using D&D 3.5), shall I try to convert it to D&D 4th Edition (my group really likes the new system) or is converting the setting to a completly different system like Savage World, True20, GURPS, whatever the way to go?

Deep in my heart I still hope that Privateer Press will surprise us with their brand-new IK roleplaying game that perhaps even is compatible to their miniatures line in the future. But I doubt this day will come. So what would you do, if you were in my shoes?

Tales of Asecia

“Tales of Asecia” is a short story (or a start of something more, who knows…) set into the world of Asecia I wrote some time ago. Perhaps it helps to set the mood for what I have in mind with my campaign setting in the making.

It was raining again. But even the heavy rain couldn’t clean up the smog-filled air in Cerynia’s industrial district. The streets were filled with tired workers of all ages who slowly made their way to their homes. Their individuality was robbed by the dirt, oil and grease on their faces and clothes. Since it was late autumn, sun was already down and only the white-blue light of the magic powered streetlamps shone upon the wet cobblestone street. Tycho Starkweather was working his way through the crowded side-walk. It was obvious that the adventurer didn’t belong here. The most obvious sign was the heavy leather coat he was wearing that was clearly of Tovenari design and the rifle he carried in a scabbard on his back. If the wide-brimmed hat and the bad lighting hadn’t concealed his features his looks would have been another indication of him being foreign to these parts. With his right hand he pulled a golden pocketwatch from his coat. It was almost eight o’clock. His informant had asked him to meet at a local tavern this evening. This was most unusual, so Tycho had made sure he was well-armed. Cerynia’s industrial district was a dangerous place especially if you were an agent for the Principality.

The tavern was a small brick house near one of the major Cerynian factories. When Tycho arrived there were a few workers sitting at the tables, playing cards, talking about their work or drinking. The common room was filled with the stench of sweat, beer and tobacco. But the room was pretty well lit by the warm light of gas lamps and the fireplace provided a comfortable warmth. Behind the bar a large muscular man was standing, chatting with some patron about the latest sports events. While heading for the bar, Tycho searched the room with his eyes. Still no sign of his informant. “Excuse me, gov’ner. We allow no guns in ‘ere”, the tavern’s owner said to him. Only now Starkweather noticed that the man’s right eye was blind and that his face was scarred. He had obviously been the victim of a knife fight or one of the many industrial accidents. Without a word Tycho produced a scroll from his pocket and showed him to the one-eyed man. “Oh, I didn’t know you had a permit of the mayor. No offense, gov’ner. ‘Ave a seat and take a beer on the ‘ouse!” the man exclaimed. “Thanks, good man”, Tycho replied and sat down.

He had almost emptied the pint of beer when suddenly the door swung open and three men with a grim demeanor entered. They were all heavily built and were wearing blue workers clothes and heavy boots. And all of them were armed with heavy clubs. “Starkweather, this is your last beer. Drink up and come with us”, one of them cried out. With a sneer he added “If you don’t I will have to crush that pretty face of yours.”
His companions were laughing out when he said that, obviously enjoying the idea. Slowly Tycho turned his head towards the ruffians. “If I were you, I wouldn’t make any claims I could not fulfill” he said slowly. The three men came slowly closer, clubs in hand. The tavern’s patrons were retreating from the intruders and the owner hid behind his bar mumbling something like “please don’t break anything”.

Without further warning the leader of the ruffians swung his club trying to hit Starkweather. But the man in the leather coat dodged his attack with incredible speed. And before the three could react he already held one of them at the throat and lifted him up from the ground. With astonishment the bullies watched as their friend was thrown through the common room as if he were a mere puppet. Then the speaker of the group realized that Starkweather must be one of the mages, one of the few people gifted with the talents of magic. And now they saw the white-blueish flame-like aura around him, as he concentrated for his next spell.  “Please don’t!” the first ruffian cried out, throwing his weapon to the ground, “We surrender. We were just doing what the boss told us.” Tycho’s aura slowly faded and he approached the two men. “Tell your boss, that I am tired of his games. Now help your friend up and take him to a healer.”
He then sat down on his stool again and emptied his glass. “Could you pour me another pint, good man?” he asked the barkeeper.

And while the ruffians were fleeing with their hurt companion, Starkweather’s informant finally arrived. “It’s good to see you again” he said, as the beautiful young lady entered the room…

(To be continued …?)

I have to admit it’s not easy to write prose in a language you are not 100% fluent in, but I hope you enjoyed it nevertheless.

Dungeoncraft: Winds Of Change

The world of Asecia is a world constantly in the flux. That’s true in several ways. The campaign I am planning will start with a revelation that will change the world for years to come. On the other hand my thoughts about the world, my ideas are constantly changing, evolving, developing. When I wrote the first sentences in August the concept of avatars hasn’t been there yet and the world in mind looked much like Europe in the Victorian age with some magic thrown in. Asecia has changed a lot in the last weeks.

When you read all my Dungeoncraft articles in one session you’ll probably noticed that there are some things that don’t quite fit. That’s because Asecia is a world under construction. And sometimes I even introduce a new idea while I am writing it all down. My plan is to sit down in the end and write a definitive guide to Asecia. So please bear with me.

The look and feel of Asecia
During the last week I decided to make Asecia a more dark and gritty world as it has been before. But don’t fear it will turn into some horror game. Although there are already some horror elements (like the secret of Rivenar), there will be a lot of space for heroic adventure.
The major cities in Asecia have grown enormously in the last few decades and the industrial revolution is present everywhere. The outskirts of the cities are dominated by factories and the homes of the poor worker class. The city centers are usually the home of the more influential people including mage families and rich industrialists. The cities are always bustling with activity, heavy-duty industrial golems are transporting goods or constructing new buildings, airships are high up in the skies bringing passengers and cargo to their destinations.

Initially Asecia was planned as my version of the Arcanum world from the computer game of the same name. But early on I decided that it was much cooler to combine technology and magic instead of having a magic-tech dichotomy. This combination of both worlds is called Technomancy. Technomages from the Principality of St. Michael are using advanced technology and millenia old magical techniques to create wondrous contraptions like the war golems that are in use in many armies of the world or the airships that are the backbone of modern transportation.

In Asecia the cities are points of light in a dark world. Most of the hinterland is unsafe for travelers, forests are the home to many dangerous beasts that pose a danger to the communities in the area. From time to time local rulers and the central goverments send out their troops to make sure the trade lanes are kept safe. There are also a lot of ruins dotting the wilderness and many adventurous types try their luck and venture into these dark places in the hopes of finding lost treasures.

There are many opportunities for adventurers in Asecia. Although its a time of peace, the different nations use several methods to get advantage of the other nations. They employ spies, saboteurs, sometimes even mercenaries. In recent years many of the nations of Asecia have paid adventurers to fight monsters in the hinterland or protect caravans, because it’s usually cheaper than to send the army.
Often adventurers and mercenaries are hired as bodyguards or to help solve crimes when the local police doesn’t have enough manpower or skill to handle the situation at hand.

Clothes make the man
Clothes have been always an easy way to show off your wealth and standing. And this is still true in modern day Asecia. High ranking mages often wear the traditional sorceror robes. But a lot of younger mages combine modern suits (double-breated jackets are currently in fashion) with a lighter version of the mage robe (much like the lawyers and judges of our world, who have to wear special robes of office). The modern Asecian man usually wears a suit, leather shoes and a leather coat and hat for protection against the elements. People better off usually wear suits created out of better and more expensive cloths. The most expensive cloth is mageweave which has threads of pure magic woven into the fabric, that make it more sturdy and creates an elaborate magic line pattern.
Women in Asecia usually wear dresses but in recent years women have started wearing trousers, too, much to the dismay of traditionalists. The favorite fabric for clothing is wool but often leather is also used, especially for coats and heavy jackets. Clothes for craftsmen, technomancers and adventurers often have a lot of pockets to help store all the tools and equipment these people need.

“You’re in the army now”
The armies of the Asecian nations have been reformed greatly over the last decades. Armies of force-drafted peasents are now replaced by smaller armies consiting of highly trained individuals. The standard soldier wears a woolen uniform, sometimes an armored coat, leather boots and a wide-brimmed leather hat or a metal helmet. A modern soldier carries a rifle and has a large knife or a sword for defense in close quarters.
In earlier times most officers where sorcerers but nowadays there are only a few mages in the armies.
The age of industrialisation has brought the introduction of large numbers of war golems to the battlefield and airships allow the quick transportation of troops through the air. 

This concludes this episode of Dungeoncraft. I hope you have a clearer picture of Asecia now. If you have any questions or criticism let me know in the comments below.