Dec 31

January Blog Carnival: Gates & Portals


RPGBlogCarnivalLogoSmallThis January, Tales of a GM is proud to host the RPG Blog Carnival. I enjoyed connecting with so many bloggers last summer, so I wanted to repeat the experience in 2016.


The theme when I hosted in June was Summerland.


Blog Carnival

The monthly Blog Carnival was launched by the RPG Blog Alliance. This group disbanded in 2015, but the Carnival was too good an idea to fade away. Thus, it migrated to a new home under the care of Johnn Four at his Roleplaying Tips website.


Read more about the current incarnation of the Carnival at Johnn’s website.


January Carnival

Every month, the host launches a new theme for the travelling Carnival. During January, this page will act as the central list for all the articles. If you have written something as part of the Carnival, then please leave a comment and a link here, so everyone can find your page. During the month I shall write a couple of contributions, probably based around some of the ideas suggested below.


At the end of January, I shall write a short compilation article uniting all the submissions. I look forward to reading the contributions.


But first, we need a theme.


Gates and Portals

Inspired by the season once again, the theme for the January Carnival is Gates and Portals. January is a transitional month for many people. We are embarking on a new year, a new adventure in life. This is the time for resolutions and fresh starts, where we try to transform some aspect of our life. January can be the gateway to a new path in life.



Such transformations can be true for the characters in our games. There are many ways to step into a new world, or embark on personal transformation. Here are some ways you could explore the topic of Gates and Portals:

  • Planar Gates
  • Fantastic Portals
  • Gate Guardians
  • Portalwrights
  • God of Gates
  • Personal Growth



Before examining the potential categories of Gates and Portals, here is a quick note on the inspiration for this theme. January may have been named after the Roman god Janus, as there is a strong thematic link between the month and his portfolio. The other contender is Juno, but for the purposes of this Carnival, I was thinking of Janus.


The ancient Roman deity Janus, or Ianus, was the god of beginnings and transitions. He was thus the god of gates, portals, doors, doorways and passages. Janus had a strong connection with travel and journeys.


He was commonly depicted as having two faces, representing his ability to look into the past and the future. Thus, he represented beginnings and endings of events. This broadened out his interests to births, deaths, personal transitions and even historical events.


The range of Janus’ portfolio is reflected in the scope of this month’s theme for the Blog Carnival.


Planar Gates

The most obvious incarnation of this theme, and directly linked to Janus, is the planar gate. This topic is uppermost in my mind as our Tales of the Hero Wars campaign is currently set in Sigil. Planar Gates need not be quite the puzzle they are in the City of Doors, you could describe a simple gate location.


A gate to an elemental realm may create a perpetual supply of one element. An open gate to the Plane of Water makes for an interesting location in a desert environment.


Fantastic Portals

You could choose to write about more mundane gates and portals. Anything from the gatehouse into the Imperial Palace, to an ornate stone entrance into a lost dungeon. Fantasy gaming has long been about exploring forgotten locations, and every such location must have an entrance. Perhaps there are clues or magical runes hidden within the stone carvings.


Gate Guardians

Any of the gates suggested above could have interesting guardians. The door itself may be sentient, or maybe the ramparts above the gate are heavily guarded. A well-stocked gate house could constitute a satisfying mini-dungeon all by itself.



If the trans-planar gates appeal to you, then you could write about the mages who create them. Is there a Guild of Portalwrights, who control the manufacture and operation of these planar gates? Or perhaps there is an order of sages dedicated to mapping every such gate in the land.



God of Gates

You could take your inspiration direct from the source, and add a god of gates and portals to your campaign world. This could be inspired by Janus, although you may want to find a different name. Or there could be a demon lord of gates, who waits to snatch those travellers who use a gate without the correct Ritual of Opening.



Personal Growth

Jan Blog Host QFinally, you could take the more philosophical approach, and write about achieving personal growth in an RPG.


This could just be a new Prestige Class. However, all manner of resolutions and physical transformations fit within this theme. There can be many ways for an individual to achieve a personal change, tools which act as a gateway to a new individual.





As you can see, there are lots of ways to write about gates and portals. You can choose a narrow interpretation, and write about some of the gates found in your game. Alternatively, you could explore the organisations who focus on the creation, defence or lore of gates and portals. Finally, you may take a broad interpretation and discuss personal growth and transformation. Once again, there should be enough scope in this topic for everyone. I look forward to reading your submissions to the January RPG Blog Carnival.


Please leave a link, and perhaps a brief introduction, for your submission for the January Carnival in the comments below.


Read more about the RPG Blog Carnival and the schedule of hosts, at Johnn Four’s Roleplaying Tips website.


Read all the entries to last month’s Carnival at World Builder blog.


Do you need more Tales?


To receive notification of my next long essay, please sign up to Whispers of a GM, my weekly-ish newsletter.


Happy Gaming



If you enjoyed this article, then please share it, or the associated quotations. You may also be interested in the following links:


Something for the Weekend last week: Red Fungus Maze


Something for the Weekend BONUS article: 2016 Resolutions


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  1. seaofstarsrpg

    A gate optimized for combat, an assault gate, here: http://wp.me/pylJj-27I

    1. Phil

      Hi Sean,

      That is such a great idea. The assault gate will change siege warfare in fantasy games.

      Many thanks for contributing

  2. Phil

    Hi Everyone,

    Sean beat me to the first article of the current blog, but I have not been idle. My first essay for Gates & Portals considers the question of who runs the network of inter-planar portals:


    Here I introduce you to the Collegium of Planar Travel, and the portalwrights it trains.

    Happy reading

  3. Phil

    Hi Everyone,

    Ryan at The Mysterious Lever has posted a short piece exploring the story potential with inter-planar portals:


    This is a short piece, but well worth a read.

    Happy Reading

  4. Phil

    Hi Everyone,

    I have also stumbled upon a fantastic series of posts by Mike, over at the Campaign Mastery blog. As part of his November hosting of the Blog Carnival, Mike posted FOUR amazing articles about portals. These articles are too good not to include within my Gates & Portals Carnival.

    Mike posted an amazing summary of these posts as part of his lengthy summary of the November Blog Carnival:


    If you are interested in using portals in your game, then you need to read these posts.

    Happy Gaming

  5. Jaye Foster

    Great starting article Phil

    Here are three little adventure seeds based on the theme : http://6d6rpg.com/rpg/gates-and-portals/


    1. Phil

      Hi Jaye,

      What a wonderful article, with some brilliant ideas. I especially like the druid shepherds. There is something for almost any game in your three adventure seeds.

      Many thanks for sharing

  6. Phil

    Hi Everyone,

    Friday has rolled around again, so I have posted another long article to Tales of a GM. This week sees my second contribution to the Gates & Portals topic, with an essay about the Demon who lurks within the inter-planar portal network:


    Or is it all a plot by the Collegium?

    Happy Gaming

  7. Phil

    Hi Everyone,

    Fitz at Moebius Adventures has posted a great article about the properties of gates.

    Even better, he then describes three gates, one each for Fantasy, SF and modern. I want to make use of his fantasy example, as it is rich with story potential:

    Gates and Portals: Describe the Gate

    All the best

  8. Malc

    Hi all
    My short article on a rather unusual ‘Gate’ – hope this suits somebody’s needs 🙂

    The Gate of Laima’s Bounty


    Let me know what you think….

    1. Phil

      Hi Malc,

      Great contribution. This fantastic gate will fit easily into most games, adding a little magic to almost any town or village.

      Thanks for contributing to Gates & Portals

  9. Phil

    Hi Everyone,

    I have a couple of additional articles for you.

    First, there is another excellent contribution from Sean, at Sea of Stars. This article is another in his Tuesday Magic Item series:

    Death’s Doorway Ring

    This is a very clever item, with a superb limitation which should keep Players from using it too many times.

    Great work again, Sean!

    Happy Gaming

  10. Phil

    Hello again,

    The second article, as promised, is from Alan at Mythusmage. This is a broad article about travel in general, but fits within the broad theme of Gates & Portals:

    We Get There How

    Most games feature travel of one sort or another, so take a look at what Alan has to say.

    Happy Reading

  11. grnknight

    Hi Phil – thanks for pointing out the 2nd post I wrote on your topic in your latest update… I also had this one:


    in addition to this one


    and I’ll try and post two more in the next couple of Fridays. 🙂

    Great topic and I’m having lots of fun exploring it in a few different ways!

    1. Phil


      So glad you are enjoying the topic. Thanks for haring your articles, and I look forward to reading the next one.

      All the best

  12. Aaron B

    This is a great topic, I jotted up some 5e magic items, 2 on topic and one tangential. I’ll revisit you’d again.

    1. Phil

      Hi Aaron,

      Great items. I especially like the combination of magic item and riddle. Finding such an item will make for an entertaining scene. My Players always seem to enjoy a good riddle.

      Thanks for sharing, and I look forward to your next contribution

  13. grnknight

    Here’s another one for the pot from Moebius Adventures – http://www.moebiusadventures.com/gates-and-portals-the-guardian-awaits/

    1. Phil

      Hi Fitz,

      Thanks for another great contribution to the Gates & Portals Blog Carnival.

      Bonus points for including a reference to Janus in one of the entries.

      All the best

  14. Rodney Sloan

    Gates and portals are the awesome sauce of fantasy adventure design—use them to their full potential with these five pro tips: http://www.risingphoenixgames.com/blog/5-tricks-for-perfect-portals/

    1. Phil

      Hi Rodney,

      Thank you for contributing to the Gates & Portals Blog Carnival.

      You mention some great ideas here, a door really does have plenty of story potential. The trick is to make the most of that potential during the game.

      Many thanks for sharing

  15. glacier68 (@glacier68)

    Hi Phil!

    Here is a brief scenario involving some extra-dimensional critters.


    1. Phil

      Hi VA,

      Thank you for participating in the Gates & Portals Blog Carnival.

      This is a great scenario, suitable for either a fantasy or a horror game. Excellent work, and some game stats too.

      Many thanks for sharing

  16. Phil

    Hi Everyone,

    Over the weekend, I posted my third submission to the Gates & Portals blog carnival:

    Gates & Portals 3: The Bronze Gate at Far Vale

    This presents a border location for a fantasy kingdom, plus a cool picture to use as a Player Handout.

    Happy Gaming

  17. Phil

    Hi Everyone,

    I have stumbled across another bonus post for the Gates & Portals Blog Carnival. Sean at Sea of Stars has posted another cool magic item which fits the topic. The Gatebreaker Javelin is designed to explosively close planar portals:

    Gatebreaker Javelin

    Happy Reading

  18. Lowell Francis (edige23)

    My contribution: OCI: Portals, VR, and Campaign Iterations

    1. Phil

      Hi Lowell,

      That is a lengthy, and comprehensive, overview of a very clever nested campaign concept. Engaged Players would love that sort of layered game.

      Thank you so much for sharing

  19. Aaron B

    Hey Phil,
    Another contribution, a Traversal ritual for Fate Core and two extradimensional guides:


    1. Phil

      Hi Aaron,

      Thank you for adding a Weird West portal to the Gates & Portals Blog Carnival. The two GMCs included give GMs plenty of opportunities to use the gate you described.

      Many thanks for sharing

  20. glacier68 (@glacier68)

    Hi Phil – one more under the wire – a short discussion of wards using a Biblical example…


    1. Phil

      Hi VA,

      Thanks for another contribution. I love the use of Wards, an excellent folk magic addition to a setting.

      All the best

  21. Phil

    Hi Everyone,

    This evening, I posted my fourth submission to the Gates & Portals blog carnival:

    Gates & Portals 4: Personal Growth in RPGs

    This topic proved so fruitful, however, I am writing a second part for next week. So, a bonus essay to follow, which will delay the final summary article. This will also give a little more time for other people to contribute to the topic.

    Happy Gaming

  22. TriangularRoom

    I wrote a little bit about the personal growth and immersion factors of tabletop RPGs:

    1. Phil

      Hi Abigail,

      Your article about how RPGs are gateways to imaginary worlds really should have been one of the first posted, as the link is so clear. So, thank you for filling this gap in the coverage for Gates & Portals.

      Many thanks for sharing

  23. Phil

    Hi Everyone,

    Just before the official close to the January Blog Carnival, my wanderings on the Internet have stumbled upon another entry for Gates & Portals. Tim at Another Caffeinated Day has a contribution presenting a magic item linked to the stars:

    Gates & Portals: Isha’s Azyr Armillary of the Heavens

    Many thanks for your contribution, Tim.

    Happy Gaming

  24. Phil

    Hi Everyone,

    I have stumbled across another bonus post for the Gates & Portals Blog Carnival. I know it is February, but Sean, at Sea of Stars, posted this last week. His latest contribution is yet another cool magic item. The Exile’s Gate is a one-way planar portal every ruler would want:

    Exile’s Gate

    Happy Reading

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