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How do I make a Realm design?

Why are you doing this?
In what order do I play the games?
How much will there be when it's finished?
What changes are there from the original modules?
Why do all the games start out with zero experience?
What's all this about Find Traps spells?
All right, I'm looking...Where are all the new items?
What's wrong with searching?
What do I do with the items in my inventory?
Should I map?
How do I know when I have finished a game?
Are there any pre-made parties available?

dragon1

 

 

Why are you doing this?

My original idea was that UA was going to be five years old in 1998, and that this would be a great anniversary tribute, going back to its roots in standard AD&D. Of course, since the fortieth design wasn’t done until 2007, and the fiftieth came out in 2017, it turned out to be a better fifteen- or twenty-five-year anniversary tribute!  Still, the work got done, and I’m pleased with the results.

 

botanic7a

In what order do I play the games?

My first answer is, in whatever order you want! That is part of the fun of The Realm.  You can piece together a UA campaign just as you would a pen and paper one. There is a more structured routine available, going region by region. If you check the list at the top of each region on this site, you’ll find a suggested order of modules. A lot of thought went into the placement of these modules, and care was taken that sufficient items are available to be successful throughout (for instance, near Guidio's Fort, which is plagued by hobgoblins, is the Lost Tower of Castanamir, where you may remember an encounter with stranded hobgoblins in the kitchen...).

Also, though, I have reserved the most challenging adventures for the final series, which will be completed last. As Introduction explains, demons, devils and huge bands of giants plague the northlands, where only the bravest may tread.

 

botanic7a

How much will there be when it's finished?

Just like any other ongoing campaign world, The Realm may never be completely finished. Currently, I have finished all four of the known regions of the Realm, as well as a fifth region based on the Thunder Rift campaign setting.  You can explore the Eastlands, better known as the Beastlands, to the much more civilized Westlands and the embattled Southlands. Ultimately, there are also the Northlands, where the Realm’s greatest challenges await: Nightmare Keep, Death's Ride, Dragonspear Castle and, ultimately, Against the Giants! But I imagine Acererak would be upset if mere second-edition fire giants could be the climax of The Realm...So, you’ll also find a little Tomb of Horrors in there, too.

 

botanic7a

What changes are there from the original modules?

Naturally, there are some encounters which could not be dealt with perfectly in UA, but I assure you that I did my best to incorporate the majority of those encounters regardless, one way or another. Most, and I do mean most, of the events are exactly as they appeared in the original text. Only two major changes have been made:
1. The maps have been redrawn where necessary to both fit on the map grid and compensate for UA's thirty-foot line of sight. Sorry, not much I could do for those round rooms, but at the same time I hate big, empty rooms that are supposed to be crowded.
2. To avoid a Monty Haul campaign, I made a catalog of every magic item in every module I own. While this was partially for use in the items files, it also served to give me a perspective of whether a magic item should remain in a given location. The two factors of such a decision were, Does the magic item fit here, and, Will the party have another chance to find at least one of these?

 

botanic7a

Why do all the games start out at zero experience points?

All Realm games, no matter how difficult, start out with first level characters with thirty-five pieces of gold in their pockets. There are two reasons for this, as well.
1. This is meant to be a campaign world. When I made the bulk of these designs, I still lived by the rule that—in my pen and paper campaign—every character started at first level. While that is no longer the case, the Realm does not easily allow character generation that includes gear appropriate to level.  The heart of the game is based around starting at first level and then developing to higher levels.
2. There is no way to determine what magic a party will have at a given time. It is possible that the only weapon a third-level party carries is a longsword +2; but that weapon would be very important in a battle with a lone gargoyle. By the same token, to make a party with all +1 equipment given them at start would be the opposite extreme.

 

botanic7a

What's all this about Find Traps spells?

One of my greatest pet peeves in UA is when a designer is too lazy to put in the extra events for a Find Traps spell. While The Realm is not perfect to say the least, I was adamant about use of this spell. If you cast find traps, I feel safe in saying it will alert you to the presence of every mechanical trap and MOST magical ones. Sometimes, I have to admit, the magic falters when trying to detect glyphs and the like. Such things could, I suppose be warded against detection, though.

 

botanic7a

Where are all the new items?

In case you haven't noticed, the emphasis in The Realm is to create a coherent, sensible campaign setting. Reading the Game00, Introduction does more than provide a backdrop, it clues you in to important notes on the setting in general. Along the same lines, some items can only be found in the proper locations. Not many warriors in Hommlet know how to use a war boomerang, and armorers at the Keep on the Borderlands are hammering out platemail, not fine-tuning suits of full plate. Look around, use forethought, and you'll do well.

 

botanic7a

What's wrong with searching?

The Realm actively discourages a party from constant searching. First of all, it doesn't make sense. If monsters are lurking around every corner, not many parties want to spend ten minutes to travel ten feet. The following is taken into account in The Realm:
1. Searching takes ten times as long. Ten minutes pass with each step, making you ten times as likely to encounter a wandering encounter (if there are such in your location).
2. Searching involves actually searching. Most town watchmen and the like do not appreciate strangers poking around in their business.
BUT
3. In some locations you will find that you simply need to pass time. Most notably is the first day in the city of Specularum in Game05, The Veiled Society.  Your party has one full day to purchase equipment and find its way around the city, but hours are likely to remain.  Furthermore, during some of your time in Bloodstone Village in Game38, the Bloodstone Wars, will go much more easily if you take this approach. Searching in these instances can be seen as 'walking around, shuffling your feet.' Of course, there are other ways to waste time in the city, and be careful not to waste too much time!

 

botanic7a

What do I do with the items in my inventory?

In Realm games, inventory items generally fall into three categories. First, and most commonly, are items that are automatically used by your party. UA checks to see if you have a given item, and then uses it if your PCs have acquired it. These items require little effort on the part of the player, the challenge is mostly in finding or acquiring them. Some designs use a second sort of item, though, the treasure item. This is an item that represents a treasure that your party has found during the course of its adventures. Take such items to a shop to sell them, but be sure you take the proper items to the proper shops! Third, and most rare, are items which require direct player action to be used. These items appear relevantly in the conversion of Realm Game 25, WG4 The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun. Be careful when typing in item names that you type the name exactly as it appears in your inventory.

 

botanic7a

Should I keep a map?

Mapping is a process that can seem boring and tedious, but is often the hallmark of a serious player, either in an actual role-playing game or in a computer game such as UA. In a "live" environment, mapping can save PCs from starvation or getting lost once all the monsters are defeated. In UA, mapping can prevent the boredom that results when a dungeon is cleared and the party must find its way home. Keep in mind that these are conversions made as loyally as possible to the original products; there are no extra monsters thrown in to keep the party moving. If all the monsters are dead, all that remains is to pack up and go home. Adding such random monsters would make The Realm more an emulator of Gauntlet than one of classic AD&D.

 

botanic7a

How do I know when a game is over?

With rare exceptions, each Realm game ends with a clear statement that the adventure is over. Most often, bonus experience is awarded based on individual objectives met during the course of play. Sometimes even minor heroic deeds can bring about a positive experience award in the end. However, as part of a campaign series, Realm games almost never eject you from play after this message is delivered. Your party will be left on an overland map, free to walk the four regions of The Realm until you find your next adventure hook. Ideally, an entire Realm campaign could be played without ever leaving UAShell.

To date only two Realm games do not have such a "lingering ending." They are Game 01, A1-4 The Aerie of the Slave Lords; and Game 25, S4 and WG4 Tsojcanth and Tharizdun.

 

botanic7a

Are there any pre-made player characters?

To promote campaign play, The Realm does not provide any pre-made parties for gaming use.

 

botanic7a

How do I make my own Realm game?

Anyone is welcome to make a new Realm design. Just download the basic worldhack files that appear in every Realm design, and feel free to mess around with any other file in the game to give it a distinctive appearance flavor unique to your design.

Here are some things to keep in mind when designing a Realm game, in order to maintain the same feel that exists in the current designs that are available:

1. Realm games are written in the second-peron singular tense, so the game speaks directly to the person at the keyboard as if he is the leader of an adventuring party and calls all the shots. Gender-specific terminology should be avoided whenever possible when referring to party members, to allow for female PCs and gamers. When using gender-specific pronouns is required for some reason, however, existing Realm games are written to a male audience.

2. When referring to the PCs, the Realm routinely refers to them as a group of friends. The terms party or group are impersonal and desensitized, and appear only rarely, usually in verbatim boxed text.

3. In creating new items, be careful not to add any item that the party will not be able to take from one adventure to the next. The goal is 100% compatibility.

4. One of hallmarks of The Realm campaign is its careful use of find traps. While no one is perfect, a concentrated effort has gone into rewarding gamers for careful play. If you use traps, please enable the Find Traps spell.

5. Don't assume that a party will have a certain powerbase. Any group of any level should be able to play any adventure. If someone wants to walk through a first level adventure with his twentieth-level group, it would be very frustrating to read text stating that his group is overpowered by four dozen kobolds. There should be a melee involved, which any low-level group would lose, but high level characters would win.

6. Be careful in event structure. If there is a chest, use a quest event to ensure that the chest remains until it is opened, and consider using that same quest to then trigger an event stating that there is now an empty chest. Try to give the semblance of a real, functioning world whenever possible.



deco2

TEMPJ

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