Saturday, 4 July 2020

[OSR] Real places to use in RPG [4]: Eternal Flame Falls

[OSR] Real places in RPG [4]: 
Eternal Flame Falls

The Eternal Flame Falls is a small waterfall located in the Shale Creek Preserve in Western New York. The grotto emits natural gas which burns quasi continously.


Fire has always been a dual thing for humans. On one hand, it is what has permitted humanity to settle down and survive, and later develop technology, and on the other hand, humanity has always felt an unhealthy fascination for fire, for it's destructive power and potential to hurt.
It is no wonder that a perpetually burning flame is something dreaded and enthralling at the same time.
Water and fire have always been seen as adversaries in antic cosmologies (and often in fantasy), so a place combining those two elements is particularly bewitching.


Ancient European societies (celts, their contemporaries, and other cultures before them) erected structures along what they believed to be places with arcane power.
This is a concept seldom used in RPG, which I find is a shame, since it has a lot of potential.
Birthright uses them as magical power sources and they are an arcane incarnation of the raw magical power of nature and "the land" (which blooded character are attuned to). The more civilized a region gets, the weaker these magical places would get.
Another way to see these leylines is to bind them to an element: Ancient forests would create "wood/nature" leylines, mountains have stone leylines, rivers, lakes and oceans support water leylines, volcanoes contribute to leylines of fire.
Magician would need to tap into these sources of power either to power up rituals or recharge their arcane reserves (with mana, or elemental magic "atoms", to use later on)
What happens when two leylines cross each other? Well, I think the eternal flame falls is the best example of what I would picture for the crossing of a small fire leyline and an equally small water leyline.

Usage in a RPG quest

  • Alchemy:
Using the water and the flame could have interesting alchemical proprieties, for example for a water breathing potion that would also protect from heat, or anything related to steam or steam machines.
  • Enchantment:
Elementally enchanting a blade with the power of fire and water could be difficult, unless you are in an arcane locus saturated with magical energy from both elements.
  • Rejuvenation:
An eternally burning flame is certainly a symbol of infinite youth... Who knows if drinking the water from the fall heated on the flame would not lend you some part of that immortality?
  • Cure:
Thermal sources are renown to these days for their healing capabilities... What kind of ailings do you think this source would be able to heal? Burns, maybe, but what else?
  • Untapped power source:
In Birthright, the power sources are all controlled by someone. It is possible to create new sources, though... In a session, I would expect from the player wanting to create a new magical source which he or she strives to control to describe me a fantastical place like this one.
  • Doorway to another plane:
Planes of existence are suppose to spill through at places where they are near each other or in contact (like in Sharn in the setting of Eberron). This small grotto could be a doorway to the elemental plane of fire (or just believed to be, or an indication that a portal to the other plane would be easier to open there)

Do you see other usages for this place in a rpg game? What would the place mean to a nature defending Werewolf? What kind of creature would protect this place?
Develop that in the comments !

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

[OSR] Real places to use in RPG [3]: Harihar Fort

 [OSR] Real places in RPG [3]: Harihar Fort

This seemingly inaccessible Fort is in the Nashik district, Maharashtra. western India.
Its purpose was to look upon the trade route through Gonda Ghat.

Unreachable places

Fantasy stories often feature a quest for a mentor/professor type of person. Those are evidently the secluded type (how else would there be an adventure?), searching for peace and quiet... At the top of a montain.
Even if this photo shows a stair carved in stone to a fortification, it really opens your mind to the possibilities of hardship you could find along your path to get to your ermite source of knowledge

They normally won't get down into the civilization, so why have an easy route to come to visit? They WANT to be left alone, anyway...

Untakeable Fortress

This kind of fortress was not a defensive fort, more of an observation point and deliver intelligence on anyone taking the road down in the valley.
Sure, as a last time mesure, a sovereign could barricade himself up there, and could probably not be easily dislodged from there.
Not even a trebuchet could throw stones at this remote area. A frontal attack by foot soldier would also be doomed to die under the stones, arrows and bolds of the defenders.
A siege could also take a very long time, and the resources to invest into the siege would be tremendous (manpower must be paid, but also food, etc.)
Spells like Goodberries or Create Food and Water make the outcome of a siege even more difficult if divine or mundane spellcasters are in the ranks of the defenders

Aerial attack

Attacking from above would be an option... Griffin-mounted knights? Low tech goblin air ballons? Floating disk? Wind-elemental-powered skyships? Yes, fantasy gives you options. Don't think the defenders would not think of such possibilities in planning their defenses (unless the technique is a novelty)?


Spells like Dimension door, Teleport, or Gate could bring you within the fortress walls... Sure, it's not easy or the war won just because you got there, but these spells do take away a good portion of the usefulness of such fortification. Unless they are protected by runes, enchantments, glyphs or the like. Which again is a big cost added to the construction and upkeep of the place (try to send one of those cushy spellcasters to walk to the top of that montain, taking stairs)... They will even complain the lack of teleportation circle, which is a security mesure!

Other reasons to want to get up there

As I wrote in a previous post, this series of post is based on a collaborative "show me your rpg places"-Group on facebook.
Other people there had good ideas, too...
  • What about the moss? Could it be that this moss is a particularly rare and hallucinogenic sort?
  • Could this stair lead to a doorway to another plane?
  • Who else could you want to meet there? An orders of seers with peculiar knowledge about current events? A martial Art master tired of war and rivalry? 
  • Is there a magic source in that fort? With rejuvenative proprieties? Or just plain cure against the magical plague slowly decimating your village?
  • Is the sword of the Emperor of the 5 Kingdoms set in a stone up there? (that would diminish the amount of candidates...)
  • Is the Philactery of Lich hidden there?
  • Is it not the best place for a dark cult to practice their unholy rituals ?(humans to sacrifice might get scarce, though)

And remember: reaching the top and surviving whatever ordeal is waiting for you does not mean you'll survive the descent back to civilization...

If you have another idea about what could be done, write it in the comment (in here is better, everyone can then read it)

Monday, 29 June 2020

[OSR] Real places to use in RPG [2]: Cats' Alley

Real places in RPG [2]: Cats' Alley

One thing that is really often forgotten in fantasy gaming, is how compact medieval towns were. Streets were narrow (sometimes, like in this case, not even wide enough for a carriage to get through) and stone houses were very rare.

This is a picture of one of the few remaining very narrow streets in my home town of Troyes, Champagne Region, France. It is called "La ruelle aux chats", meaning cats' alley.
As you can see, the street is very narrow, the houses were not really stable, hence the beams connecting the buildings, to make sure they don't lean completely on each other (and don't crumble into the street either).
Since this is France, there is also a rumor saying the beams were used by lovers to get to each other stealthily...

Fantasy architecture

Broad streets and luminous housing is not a typical concept in a medieval town. Space was scarce (at least if you wanted to live securely protected by the towns fortifications) and wattle & daub was the most used building material (at least in my home region). What is that ? It is a method for making walls, in which a woven lattice of wooden strips is daubed with a sticky material,  like wet soil, clay, sand, animal dung and straw.
I guess some spells could help create or cut stones and make them affordable, but isn't magic expensive anyway? (I must say, a stonemason-wizard would look stylish, though)


Wattle & daub was quite cheap but had a tremendous disadvantage... It is quite flammable. The straw in the building material means that in a case of fire, a lot of buildings would burn down (this happened a few times in Troyes). The blaze will ignite other building quite quickly and fire spread easily and quickly.

Consequences on Fantasy

Well it means that uncontrolled open fire is to be banned, as much as possible.
If I were the burgomaster of a town, I would immediately ban all fire magic and either exile any petty offender, or just hang them high.
Imagine how many houses a fireball would set on fire! Remember, magical fire does not have to be a tamed resource, always in control of the caster and solely burning opponents.
Fire is non judgmental... Fire just burns everything it can: clothing, hair, buildings, cattle & mules, e-ve-ry-thing.
So next time your players are ambushed by assassins in a narrow street, jumping down on them from the house-stabilization beams, and defend themselves with a fireball or burning hands, don't forget to make them accountable for the destruction of at least a house block by the ensuing blaze. 
Just in case you were running out of troubles to throw at your PCs.

Alchemist fire

That is something that would be absolutely banned from any urban area in a medieval setting. This alchemy arson weapon is MADE to be difficult to extinguish!
Guards would search persons for this kind of dangerous weapon and confiscate it at the town's gates!
You might even want to ban its components (probably a combination of pine resin, naphtha, quicklime, calcium phosphide, sulfur, and/or niter).
Wouldn't that be a wonderful opportunity for smugglers?

Fire fighters

The ability to magically control fire (like the 5E cantrip "Control Flames") would be a must for a fire-fighting force in a city that can afford such a unit (most towns relied of massively levy the population in such cases). Having a sorcerer that can cast it would be nice, but having a wizard that would teach a unit of specialized guards this cantrip would be even better.
Not having a retired wizard adventurer on the roll could be a disastrous decision for a town.
If your party's wizard behaves badly or just plainly uses magic all the time, the town might want to have him sequestrated until he taught "Control Flames" to a bunch of illiterate town guards.
If you want your fire-fighters to be clerics or druids, the spell "Create Or Destroy Water" in its create rain version could be usefull and only is a lvl 1 spell. Still 10 gallons / 37 liters are not a lot of water to extinguish the blaze of an urban conflagration...

If you know of better ways to fight fire in a fantasy setting, please tell me so in the comments !