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Cam Banks
Works at Atlas Games
Attended University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand
Lives in Saint Paul, MN
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Cam Banks

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Swordbridge in 5th Edition: Kindred

AKA Races, but I like the word "kin" a lot, so I'm using it here.

In the world of Swordbridge, which is more or less like our world following the Crimean War only with a few low-level supernatural trappings, the dominant player character kindred is humanity. Leaving aside the faerie realm, there are two other kindreds that have arisen in the world: dwarves and trolls. Each of them was once a fey kindred but surrendered supernatural power in the face of overwhelming pressure from the Church. Now, the dwarves and the trolls are among the most religious - they fall on different sides of the Schism, however, with dwarves being Protestant and the trolls being deeply Catholic.

Dwarves use standard D&D5E hill dwarf stats. Trolls are probably going to be half-orcs renamed, though I want to make sure they have some kind of faster healing if they don't get it in core 5E.

Across the Swordbridge, the Courts of the Elves are divided into 4 seasons: Summer and Winter, the strongest, and the two moderate courts, Autumn and Spring. The Winter Elves are basically drow but they're corpse-pale and have black or silver hair; the Summer Elves are high elves as per Basic Rules, usually blond, skin a very dark copper. The Spring Elves are 5E wood elves, while the Autumn Elves are reskinned gnomes.

There's one other kindred that has surfaced in recent years, and which lives among humanity in its crowded cities. The crow folk, also known as ravenkin or corbies, are kenku. They're black-feathered flightless crow-headed people, and claim to be the daughters and sons of the Morrigan. Where they were hiding and what their secrets are isn't yet known.

I don't have any specific stats for the kenku yet, but they're probably easily represented as reskinned halflings, just with a facelift. This keeps me from worrying about the gnome thing, and the crow folk can fill the halfling's standard niche easily.
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Okay. I've read, and considered. Me likey!

I've been working on something a little similar with the whole "faerie-kin" for a future fiction, but it's grown quite a bit away from that.

I love the seasonal courts. After watching Tinkerbell moves way too often, I like the idea that certain lands are seasons. Just calling the courts by their seasons gives that feel.

I very much like this!

Cam Banks

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Another Elizabethulhu character portrait. This time it's +Clark Valentine's rustic priest, Padraig, who was a cleric/druid. In the setting, Grail Christianity was a thing that had held over from the time of Merlin and Arthur, but it had only been maintained by the sidhe and not by humanity. By the time Elizabeth came to power and invited the fair folk back to Britain, it had almost entirely left the mortal world, so Padraig was one of a handful to bring it back. Anyway, I don't think the proportions are great in this picture but I got a kick out of the beard.
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The medieval feel of these really makes them extra special.  I really like the lithograph look, and the general drawing and proportions work well for medieval imagery.  Really cool stuff dude.

Cam Banks

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Here's another one of those Elizabethulhu sketches. This time it's my friend Jon's monk, Ian, who traveled to the Orient and came back to England to incorporate what he learned in those far lands with his personal beliefs in the hierarchy of being. It was probably a bit of a stretch, but Plotinus and Neoplatonism were really taking off in the 17th century and we credit the rise of the Cambridge school to Ian's later scholarly works. When he was younger, though, he just punched deep ones to death.
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You should attach this setting to the WaRP system and put it out. 

Cam Banks

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Some arguments are like White Castle. I need to remember that as appealing as White Castle is on the surface, a sack of sliders will make me sick.
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The last time I ate at a White Castle was when I lived in Chicago. I could tolerate their burgers, oddly, but then I want and had the kids in the car with me, and I saw they had chicken rings. Chicken Rings. There is no part of a chicken that comes in a deep-friable ring, much less a pack of them -- and the parts of a chicken that might be cut into a ring shape are nothing I want to eat, thank you very much. I had the brief thought of "what the hell are they doing to the chicken to get rings???"

And then I could never eat there again. 

Cam Banks

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"Harassment is a health & safety issue, treat it as one."
"We are accustomed and encouraged to use frames of reference in thinking about harassment that aren’t helpful, so let’s clear a couple of those up right off the bat. Harassment is not an 'interpersonal issue'." - Stephanie Zvan in a guest post
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I ran the D&D Starter Set adventure for my wife and 12 year old son yesterday. Here's how it went.

(Spoilers for those who intend to play the adventure in the Starter Set.)

My son picked Immarel the elf wizard, an acolyte of Oghma, while my wife took Prilla the human fighter, folk hero from Thundertree. To give them some help, I grabbed the dwarf cleric, named him Fargrim Ironfist, and described him as their combat medic. I had them do their round of introductions and got right to the first encounter. The enemy got the drop on them thanks to surprise, and things went quickly south from there.

Turns out that at 1st level, taking on four goblins when your group only has 3 members is really tough! Especially when they get to go first. Within 2 rounds, Fargrim had been taken out by goblin arrows, although he'd used his cure wounds on Immarel to keep him from being chopped into hamburger. My wife kept rolling terribly, although at one point I introduced the Inspiration rules and let her roll again for her playing up of the folk hero side of her character. Still, she was somewhat frustrated.

Finally, my son asked me what the sleep spell does. He'd avoided using it because he didn't want to catch the other PCs in the radius of effect, but once Fargrim was unconscious and Prilla was all the way back, retreating to gain distance to use her bow, it was just him and the goblins. "Hey, elves are immune to sleep, right?" he said, and rolled a bunch of d8s. The 3 remaining goblins keeled over, sawing logs.

Fargrim had been rolling badly for his death saves, and was about to shed his mortality there on the trail to Phandalin. Luckily, Immarel stepped up and rolled a Medicine check. "Can I use my mage hand cantrip to pull out the arrow, and then shocking grasp cantrip to jump start his heart?" I was impressed! "Sure," I said, and he rolled his check and succeeded. I was going to give him advantage but he rolled so well the first time it didn't matter. I described Fargrim sitting bolt upright, exclaiming various oaths to his god, and then grudgingly admitting that the elf had saved his life.

We took a break then as the heroes showed up at the mouth of Cragmaw Cave, poised on the goblins' doorstep. And, as it often happens around here, a break turned into my son going outside to play and then dinner needing to be made, so we're going to pick things up some other time.

Overall, as a DM I felt right back in my comfort zone. I was never very confident running 4th edition, running about six sessions of a campaign back when the new edition had just come out. I'm one of those people who got REALLY intimate with the way d20/3E worked, writing up thousands of stat blocks and running 3 extensive campaigns as well as lots of freelance work and development. The shift to 4E was difficult. This was a return to the style of rules I was more used to, a cross between 3E and the AD&D2E games I ran through college. I'm a fan.

I'll pass on more thoughts later once I get through more sessions, but there are folks who have been running this a lot more than I have. That said, I'm fairly confident that this edition is going to scratch the #DnD itch, despite my fondness for other F20 games now on the market.
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Well, I can sympathise with that, certainly.
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Cam Banks

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Swordbridge: A Campaign Setting Idea 

Inspired by Neil Gaiman's Stardust and Stargate, my 4th edition D&D campaign was set in what was basically that novel's little town of Wall only blown up to the size of a full-on city. I called the city Swordbridge, and it was a sort of grimy industrial steam-powered metropolis inspired by early 19th century London or Manchester. In the middle of the city was a hill, and on the hill was the Sword Bridge, which was kind of like a Stargate portal with a massive door set into it. You could walk around it and it'd just look like a freestanding structure but if the Bridge Wardens let you open it, you could pass through and see the narrow bridge that crossed over into the realm of Faerie.

Faerie was laid out like a wheel divided into quarters, with the Summer, Autumn, Winter, and Spring courts dominating each. I think I had the Summer fey be eladrin, the Autumn fey were gnomes, the Winter fey were drow, and the Spring fey were elves. Anyway, the Sword Bridge opened only to whatever season was currently dominant, so that you could step out into the Summer Court and then in 3 or 4 months it'd be the Autumn Court.

It was a fun setting to throw together and I made up most of it as I went along. 4E was a struggle for me though because I was always trying to design toward the setting and wasn't able to separate my 3rd edition brain from the demands of the new one. 

I do think it'd make a pretty sweet setting to eventually write up and publish, though. I could even see mashing it together with Elizabethulhu somehow - putting the fey completely into their realm of courts and magic and including the Cthulhu mythos as the eldritch horrors from the Void, but that'd take a little work.
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That's a great premise.

Cam Banks

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Over 20 years ago... closer to 25, I think, I ran a long-term Marvel Super Heroes RPG campaign that went on through most of high school and then into college. Since I like to illustrate the player characters in my games, this campaign was full of opportunities for that. Here's an example: Blackjack, who could summon a playing card style club and smash people with it:

F IN (40), A GD (10), S AM (50), E MN (75) (I forget what his RIP were)

Which is pretty bad-ass, as you probably know.
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I had a guy (I forget the stats) who was named The Aria, had sound powers like Banshee, and had an extended whole note sign on his chest. He was horrible ;)

Cam Banks

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My Birthright 3E campaign was not actually set in the world of Cerilia but instead in a version of Argylle, the setting for Elizabeth Willey's Well-Favored Man series, which is still one of my favorites. The players were all movers and shakers with their own realms and bloodline powers, and every once in a while I had to shake things up a little to kick off a new story arc. Here's a letter I wrote up to hand to the players:

TO THE PRINCES of the Noble Realms of RHIANNED, GRAMERCY and faire ARGYLLE

FROM THE PEN of the Fireduke GASTON, Prince of Landuc, Marshal of the West, Scion of Panurgus

MY MOST WORTHY ALLIES, Children, Cousins, Friends to Montgard,

The season draws long in Perilous Arden, realm of my late brother Herne the Wilder Duke, where six months have the pikes and spears of fabled Montgard clashed against the villainy of the New-Made God, hight Maglubiyet of Goblinkind. I will not speak of the losses, for it is a tale of great anguish that passes such, and I, a Blood-Born man of Kingly repute among the soldiery can but hold fast to their heroism and press upon the foe in vengeance due. It is not a thing I shall dwell on, while battle is wanted and sword granted. Fie upon the Children of Azrai! Fie upon the Green stained scarlet in their wake!

This missive I put to you in kindly and humble request, that you do set aside your prince-a-day matters and hither go on labors thus: North of Montgard, three days at canter or one by dint of Road, there shall you chance upon the realm of our brother, Esclados, hight the Red, a Known Sorcerer. Summon him hence as ally and friend, for his talents are needed. By this word shalt ye bring him thus: “Esclados, Scion of Panurgus, Keeper of the True Road to Morven, Bearer of the Grievous Rune, hail! We bring summons to Perilous Arden at the behest of thy Brother, Gaston. Thou Rune is needful ere we slay the Goblin God and deliver Landuc and the West from his wrath. Invictus Ardor, Rex Ignuus, Rex Terra, Aquae Dux.”

Be you hastened now to Esclados, and bring him to me, and henceforth bright the horizon o’er Landuc shall be.


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I always liked the birthright system better than the setting. 

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Way back before I started getting freelance work, I was into mashing together RPGs and rules like mad. I would convert modules and sourcebooks to other rules, hack AD&D, RuneQuest, Rolemaster, Fudge, and Feng Shui. This was a period between... 1996, I think, and 2000? When D&D3E came out, I was into that hard core. We went to GenCon in 2000 with my long-time friends +Rob Donoghue & the gang from AmberMUSH, those who were into it, and I was hooked right away by the way 3e worked, the feel of the game, the direction Wizards was going.

I discovered a ton of old hacks and files I'd thrown together from those days. WotC setting contest entries, my Elizabethulu & Birthright campaigns for 3E (all prior to 3.0), some pulp characters, just folders and folders of it.

I don't really know what I'm going to do with it, it's mostly fun to look at now that it's been 15-20 years on. There's a part of me that remembers what it was like before we had kids, before this was a paying gig, before we knew what the difference was between story games and RPGs (answer: there wasn't any).

I also used to draw a lot of the player characters, too. Here's one of the Elizabethulu PCs, my wife +Jessica Banks's anarchist bookseller & thief Margaret AKA Maggie the Book.
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I have two illustrations in an Ars Magica book from a year or so ago. :)

Cam Banks

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I'm interested in reading articles, blogs, etc about playing, running, or analyzing Dungeons & Dragons by writers or bloggers who identify as persons of color or who are otherwise non-white. Links would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
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I write about D&D and other things on my blog,, though I haven't updated in a while. I am working on a post at the moment though, about the playtest at large. :P

Cam Banks

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I'd like to take this time to point out that if I'm trying to make you aware of someone doing a shitty thing that's actually not an excuse for you to go and do the exact shitty thing back to them, or to do worse. Look, don't touch; and don't perpetuate the culture of anonymous intimidation and harassment. Sending someone anonymous death threats over the internet is only contributing to making that tactic more germane among everybody.
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Game designer, writer, editor
  • Atlas Games
    Brand Manager, 2013 - present
  • Margaret Weis Productions
    Creative Director, 2007 - 2013
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Saint Paul, MN
Lake Geneva, Wisconsin - Auckland, New Zealand - State College, PA - North Shore, New Zealand - Lawrence, KS
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Ginger Kiwi Game Designer and Family Guy
Born in the mythical antipodean utopia of New Zealand, wisely regarded by scholars as the fountainhead of cultural excellence and the only place on Earth capable of filling in for Middle Earth, Narnia, and Ancient Greece, Cam Banks was lured away by the siren call of a life with meaning and purpose. Cam now lives a quiet, pastoral existence in the Twin Cities of Minnesota with his beautiful wife, their two sons, and a cat. He pays the bills by writing and editing role-playing games. In his free time, Cam likes to read and write fantasy fiction, watch movies and television with his wife, play video games with his oldest son, and allow his youngest son to chip away at his sanity.

Cam’s work has appeared in almost every one of over a dozen Dragonlance game sourcebooks published by Sovereign Press and Margaret Weis Productions, and twice in Dragon Magazine.
His work on the Bestiary of Krynn earned a silver ENnie Award in 2004 for Best Monster Supplement.

Following his work on Dragonlance, Cam has been involved in the design and editing of licensed roleplaying games based on Universal's Serenity and Battlestar Galactica, Dead Gentlemen's Demon Hunters, The CW's Supernatural and Smallville, TNT's Leverage, and Marvel Comics.

Cam's first short story, “Chain of Fools,” appears in the Dragonlance anthology Dragons of Time; Tracy Hickman Presents the Anvil of Time: The Sellsword (April 2008) is his first published novel.
  • University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand
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