I am running a game tonight and I need some lore to help develop my arc story, and yes, I wait until the last minute to prep for game night - It’s how I roll.
Creating lore for your campaign is actually really easy. You see, most gamers aren’t that picky and what they like is a bit of cheese and campiness mixed with pseudo poetics.
Additionally, “perfection is the death of creativity” - Chris tells me this when I get pinned on some minor detail and feel paralyzed for a week. For your own campaign no one will read what you write but your gamer group. They won’t be very critical because you can write things that are easily better than anything being produced by WOTC in the past few years. Their writers are all hacks and you can and will do better!
Above all - this is supposed to be fun. It’a called gaming for a reason.
The Fall of Ghebelin
And the Elfaren ever deceitful small minded and cultivators of jealousies did secretly conjure an abomination to unleash upon the land and all the decent citizens and a great cloud gathered and rolled slowly like boiling water a dark curtain over the warmth of the sun and the giving night sky of she of a thousand eyes as it grew and grew ever outward obfuscating of the everything it touched with choking dust and putrid festering spell linger
Ok, what am I doing here?
I’m name dropping. Some bad people are doing bad things.
Instead of saying exactly what things are I am using adjectives to describe things as being like other things. Yup, Similes!
Hmmm.. She of a thousand eyes?
Ok, here is more…
And the greatest queen of the Ghebelin who ever ruled in the blessed heavens on this earth could sense a presence of the unknown and gathered her advisors unto herself and summoned the seekers who cast the divination sticks at the ground and the wands revealed dark paths fraught aplenty with many doors which cannot be opened and sit silent and mute and a dark fate as hard as stone
Notice the lack of punctuation? Yep, ancient writing should be sans punctuation just to age-ify it.
More name dropping and describing who these people are. Easy peasy, you can do this too.
And then I use verbs to name who and what people are - seekers. Oh, they do some kind of divination, they’re soothsayers!
And I add in a bit of weirdness by hinting at fate being closed doors - oh oh , badness is coming.
In this last moment of her rule the queen gave unto her faithful Duaraven cohort the ancient scrolls of the Ghebelin the crowns of power which adorn the wisest of her nobles and the blood seed sapphire pulled from her own diadem and bid him go to and forth and with great effort conceal for near an eternity all these sacred gifts with cleverness and cunning in readiness for her return in ten thousand thousand flights of the three sisters
More names, Duaraven, hmmm wonder who they are, Ghebelin, err… huh? And we’ve already had Elfarren.
If you want it to seem like some old lost scroll make sure to use bad grammar too. Back in ye olden days no one had a copy of, The Elements of Style.
Gee, you’d think I was bopping my players on the nose with these names. Sure sounds like Dwarves, Goblins, and Elves. A tee and hee and another hee.
Don’t obscure it too much. It’s just a dumb Elf Game so put neon signs on things to point the way and speed things up. Also, the players who are either elves or dwarves are now wondering what is going on here. Things are about to get really crazy in the campaign.
What about these scrolls, crowns and blood seed sapphire - oooh, ancient relics!
And then the great queen leading her retinue of nobles lords and maids descended into her sacred underworld of the palace where they await in court stepped outside of the riverine time until the day of reckoning when the Ghebelin shall rise once again to assemble a great legion of faithful and avenge themselves upon the cruel Elfarren traitors
Ok, so some queen is now dead, or is she? She’s promising to come back?
This is really weird stuff here.
And the mountains and the great cities fell ever downward and dark waters charged in a flood washing away what had been once great and beautiful leaving a flattened world of rot and desolation and those who remained of the proud Ghebelin hunted like animals by the cruel Alfarren were bled and others of them fleeing to hide deep under earth and rock away from warmth and light and she of a thousand eyes are now downcast fallen and without consolation
And now greatest of Queens Arruanni watches and awaits and speaks in the dreaming of the gods to those who are willing to listen to her tale
This I write Stone Frothingel last of the Duaraven cohorts to shining Arruanni Queen of all Domains
Whao some dwarf dude wrote this a long time ago. He must be the same dude who was supposed to hide everything, maybe?
The elves killed the goblins but some got away?
What is this dreaming of the gods and is this queen going to talk to our players in their dreams?
Final Lesson of the day - Let’s do Cut Ups!
A long time ago I took a writing class. As part of it we learned how to make sort of fake poetry. Poetry uses language in ways that aren’t “normal”.
And you can do it yourself very easily by re-arranging other peoples words to make your own poetic phrases.
Cut the text from my little lore snippet and copy it into a text document. Then take that text and print it out.
Now comes the fun part. Take real scissors and cut it up into pieces of sentences. Pile them up and randomly pull out several and arrange them to your own liking to create a rambling sentence or two. Is it starting to feel like ancient lore yet?
If you need any extra words in there just steal some from your favorite fantasy novel and add them in. Maybe chop up your own sentences too. Just remember to use lots of descriptive words.
Use lots of simile and metaphor. Perhaps the sun in the sky can be the fiery charioteer who arrives at dawn. It’s really ok to be campy and cheesy when you make up lore for your game as it actually adds to the oldness and flavor of past times.
I wrote this a few weeks back and have since used this lore sheet with my players.
Thus, after some small adventures in Vestfold and Chris being given gifts by the earl himself for the previous week's battle at the old gate where Chris earned the title of, "The Gate Crusher," (The gift was a mixed blessing, a hand painted shield and a land grant for his own domain - an overgrown patch of land in the swamps where he can go build a castle of sorts.) a mysterious woman in leather armor contacted the party and showed them these writings of ancient lore.
My house players hadn't met Lavender yet.
She features prominently in my game. In a sense she is me. I use my little assassin lady to drive my story. It's fun to get to play as a kick ass girl too.
It was at this point I left the room and my players began to read the handout which I gave to everyone. They went over every detail of it. I could hear them reading it aloud to each other from the other room. They even pondered what the different spellings of some words could mean. This taught me to make sure to keep misspellings of names of things in future lore handouts to confound my players even more!
Chris quizzed me after the game session about the Three Sisters. He is the one who rolled a 1 on the mountain pass and was transported to have an audience with the the Three Sisters. Thus he asked if the Three Sisters were also a constellation. He guessed that the passage of time since the queen must be 10 thousand years. I deviously commented something along the lines of: That is a good guess. What I didn't tell him is that the Three Sisters are both those same deities and a trio of comets which appear roughly every 100 years, thus making this lore more along the lines of 100,000 years old.
Now my players are off to the Forest of Forgetfulness where it is assumed the resting place of the Ghebelin queen may be located.
This is pretty awesome for me, because they are heading into a rift between the 999 realms of existence and may even step from one world to another and end up in The Dreaming City.
IF YOU SEEK MORE GAME REFEREE INFO:
There are 6 more days left to pre-order a copy of The Lost Dungeons of Tonisborg hard bound book.
More info and a red pre-order button are here:
DVD'S, Books, T-shirts, games and more available on our store.
Secrets of Blackmoor is a Feature-length documentary about the birth of the “Mother of all Games;” Dungeons & Dragons.