'Allo, all. I figure I'll use this space to set up the start of a guide for the campaign setting I've been making up half-bakedly for the last few years. Somewhat of a collection of different things that either bugged me or just seemed like good ideas at the time, I'm hoping to one day be able to share this world with a group of players, once I've cut my teeth DMing and there's an actual slot open with my friends.
Hear you now, of the Empire of Alucia. Alucia, light of the civilized world, brings together the far-flung reaches of a continent to serve, trade, debate, represent their peoples to the senate and to pay tribute to the Emperor, both political and religious. His knights defend order, his messengers travel the kingdoms, his blessing is upon the land and its peoples.
But obviously nothing's perfect, or else you wouldn't be here, would you?
( Early Version )( Later Version )
Well- I’ll have a better introduction at some point when I actually know who would be doing what and what direction we’d be going in. Basically, you’re in a world where the last major organizations and kingdoms had a huge collapse during which humans were introduced to orcs and mortal elves, and during which anarchy reigned. Out of the ashes comes the first Emperor, Lucien, who establishes the kingdom and then the Empire of Alucia, by legendary accounts a gift from the many divinities, intent on bringing some measure of order back to the world.
Six hundred years later, the continent on which our intrepid heroes find themselves is full of several different types of people, overlaid in many parts with the Empire’s gloss but still retaining plenty of dark fringes and hidden corners away from the law and the light. Call it a mix of early to mid Rome, medieval times as if Rome had been in existence instead of just a title granted to German kings for pleasing the Pope, basic D&D fantasy and a little bit of old fairytales, creeping in on the edges of the night.
Or at least, that’s what I’m going for. One of the original things I’d been thinking of was the Five Hundred Kingdoms of Mercedes Lackey’s latest series, wherein there’s a land called the 500 Kingdoms, a ton of little patchwork lands flavored from Russia to France to Germany to China and Japan and Arabia and even classical Greece, that all have the Tradition strong at work, a force that pushes people down fairytale paths but which can be guided or redirected by clever Godmothers- that’s not so prevalent anymore, but it was where I started out at. I figured another name for Alucia might be the Patchwork Empire or the 300 Kingdoms, but I figured it would be a good idea to have at least a couple large patches of land named and organized. I’m also trying to both insert my ideas, make them workable, and not crib too much off of Rob, Terry, or Betsy. Am also worried I’ve set out far too ambitiously, as seen by the large blank of Imperial territory on the second map.
Roll 4d6 and drop the lowest, best of three. Re-roll ones.
We’ll be starting at __ level. (To be decided)
Mostly standard 3.5 D&D rules, with some exceptions.
• Use either Dex or Strength as your basic melee bonus, whichever best fits your ethos (this means pick one or the other at first level, and stick with it as your main thing. Write it down on your sheet. In ink.).
• Show me and talk to me about things from other sources. I’m flexible. Be prepared to lend me the book to scavenge from.
• There have been some alterations to race and classes- see below.
• Same dying rules as for Crystalmarch- disabled at 0 to negative Con modifier, dead at negative Con score.
• Drop alignment. See me if this causes problems.
(I am wondering if I should perhaps drop the alignment system for this- it’s more dependant on who’s being the most obnoxious or dangerous at the moment, rather than who’s truly eee-ville or shiningly holy-good. Doesn’t prevent a hero from being heroic or an enemy from being opposed to their goals, but it does fit with my little view on how things work in this world. There are people who do horrible things with good reason and people who do good things with bad reasons, and there are vast planes of beings who are vicious or nurturing, but neither of them deserve complete destruction or veneration. I’m not looking to make a crapsack world like Fire&Ice or a totally nice place like Care-Bear Land, just allow things to exist as they do without overly arbitrary limits. Good and Evil are most frequently defined as Good For You and Bad For You. It is said that angels and devils are two sides of the same coin- you know where you stand with them. Elves and the fairfolk are the edge- you can’t predict what will happen with them. They’re scary.)
(The more I think about this, the more appealing it is.)
Human, orc, great-orc, elf, half-elf*, half-orc*, (dwarf, halfling?)
(I’m also wondering about possibly dwarves and halflings- dwarves having just recently emerged from the mountains in the last fifty years or so, are not a vast part of the citizenry yet. They’re mostly interested in staying in their mountains, trading for supplies and selling artifacts and minerals. Some of them are interested in the mountains that are in orcish hands, and not all of them are willing to wait until the Emperor says it’s okay, especially in those places along the Akyosian borders. There’s some bad blood there that’s going to get worse unless someone puts the kabash on it now, and even then, it’s likely to keep on. Halflings are from the Halfling Isles, sending trade to the island city of ____, sheltered in the Cliffs of Baenin. I’m not sure what their shtick is- the automatic assumption is to make them Japanese, but I’m not sure I could pull that off, and I think it’s been done. Still- it’s worth considering.)
One extra feat at first level, 4 extra skill points at first level and 1 extra at every level thereafter. Humans are, at least nominally and for the most part really, the dominant race and culture in Alucia. They occupy territory from the enlightened and refined heart of the empire nestled into the base of the northern mountains, to the moldering desert kingdom of Akyos, where the collapse of the noble bloodlines’ power has led to magical tutors and scholars fleeing for the better-funded universities of Alucia, leaving the rest at the mercy of the thieves’ gangs.
To the Northeast is Svartlund, a cool region of rich farmland and dark woods, divided into many small baronies. People from there have a reputation of being dour and sober, though with good reason- with the Black Woods encroaching from the east, the cold mountains full of dragons to the north, and the savage Running Tribes always looking to gnaw away the southern tip of their lands, they take a diligent and stubborn approach to bulling through the next task.
The Running Tribes themselves are fast-moving raiders over the extent of the coastal plains, so named for their famed (if inaccurate) disdain for riding, in favor of being as fleet of foot as horses themselves. While it is noted that youths are encouraged to toughen themselves and avoid dependence upon their mounts, nevertheless, they are fearsome mounted combatants. There have been efforts to include them in the empire, or at least get them to agree to stop raiding, but unfortunately, their leadership has proven too fractious and prone to switching (or being thrown over) as soon as the ink’s dry on the treaties.
Alucia itself is a bustling metropolis surrounded on three sides by fertile farmland, backed by high mountains, divided by a powerful river with a direct route to the jaunty trading grounds of the Floating City, the only connection with the Halfling Isles. The many public works in the city and countryside help lead trade in and out, along well-built roads. The continent’s great libraries and universities are there, as well as vast temples and markets that buzz with the collection of all that the world has to offer. The council of representatives from different nations meets in the great Imperial palace grounds, there discussing matters of great import and hammering out law that is intended for the betterment of all. Or so say the Alucians.
Rogahn and Eiran directly borders the Roaming Lands. There is bad blood between them and the orcs, and they continue to needle each other across the border to this day, although there has been some cultural exchange (although, as usual, no one will budge on admitting who had the bagpipes first).
Tian-Og- a kingdom close to the warm marshes. They still have the nature-worshippers that Rogahn pushed out in favor of the sun-god Luc.
Daanlan- a very civil kingdom, very picturesque. Farms, monasteries, good-natured jousts, and a lot of cheese. Somewhat holier-than-thou to everyone, including the Imperials and the Akyosians.
(I still need to make up lands for humans, some different places that can both be partially fit under the Empire’s hold, and still make trouble with those parts that are still outside their control. That big stretch of things to the east, between Alucia Proper and Svartlund- that’s too empty, I need stuff to go there, aside from just that stretch of land that belongs to the Running Tribes. For that matter, I still need to figure out the scale of the damn map and the world. And find some better names for places and cultures.)
+2 Strength, +2 Wisdom, -2 to Intelligence and Charisma, Darkvision 60 ft., Scent ability.
“You humans fail to understand even the most basic things- respect between warriors, honor between hunter and prey, love for you goddess- all you know is survival!” Translation from the Orcish, Kergash son-of-Irg.
Your average orc is a rough sort, and though craft and guile are valued, booklearning and manners (or what those soft flat-toothed sorts call manners) often fall by the wayside- but while they can lack tact, they are rarely fools. Compact and tough, they are often considered coarse and ill-favored by human standards, even bestial- but say that to an orc-man’s face and he’ll either laugh at you or punch you, and you’d better hope his shield-sister didn’t hear you ‘cause she’ll do worse.
In the bounds of the Empire, you find a lot of orcs in the legions, where they have a long history of serving with honor and sheer bloody-mindedness, as well as populating the laboring classes. While they are considered Imperial citizens, though, not all of the Empire’s component kingdoms have a large population or a great love of them. This may have to do with some people remembering a time when orcs were the screaming invaders from the West, or the fact that a large swathe of land was granted them for their mercenary services when they turned to the fledgling empire for leadership when their own was destroyed.
In the lands outside the empire’s borders, orcs default to wandering tribes, but there are camp-like settlements and even villages that can be found in both their granted lands and those countries where they are welcome. There are cities that are primarily orcish in nature, usually built around large forts or keeps along the western borderlands, meant to keep both sides apart- but the Roaming Lands, as they are called, are mostly undeveloped in a deliberate attempt to hold to tradition.
Ethnicity among orcs is along clan lines, while society is along tribal lines. Your clan is what kind of orc you are; your tribe is the band you live and travel with, and your family is your mother and siblings- fathers come and go. One tribe is most often of one clan, but may have adopted or captured members of others (above a certain rank or number of battles survived, a warrior may take (or be taken) as war-mates from amongst captured fighters, keeping them captive for a certain number of years before allowing them to return to their original tribe). Each tribe will have a priestess to the Allmother, and a shaman to the totemic god that the clan is named for, such as Boar or Snake or Raven. Some groups are more aggressive and isolated than others, squabbling over territory and driving off or destroying competitors, but such reckless behavior carries the risk of being ganged up on by smaller tribes, as well as being vulnerable to forest beasts and monsters.
City-dwellers intermingle more freely, while still tracing their lineage and taking pride in it. Some of the stauncher traditionalists, however, have taken to calling ‘civilized’ orcs members of the “Dog”-clan, something changed from the wild to the purposes of men. Some think the name accurate and take it as funny, and some take it as a deadly insult.
I had a list of possible orc-clans one could be from, and was picking out bonus-feats for each, but I'm beginning to think I'm possibly overcomplicating things, especially things that should be the players' to decide. I do know that the Extraordinary ability Ferocity, stolen from the description of the monster entry for boars, fits with the Boar clan and orcs in general, and given the vast amounts that dwarves get, I suppose it's not unfair to give most of the races a *small* boost. Still- there are several different orc clans, including Boar (heavy, battle-crazy and with longish tusks), Snake (skinny, flexible, good archers), Wolf (general good hunters), Stag (fleet-footed), Horse (good runners)... And then there's the Squirrel clan (goblin stats). We don't talk about the Squirrel clan. That last battle turned'em funny- now they live in the Bad-Woods, where the dark and aberrant nasties come from, and they're all nuttier than fruitcakes.
( Longer Blather )
Great Orcs- +2 Strength, +2 Constitution, -4 Intelligence, -2 Charisma. Darkvision 60 ft., Scent ability. (Basically, these are the Uruk-hai- taller than most humans, built like body-builders, tall skulls and more even features than craggy standard-orcish ones, more brownish tones than green. They started out mage-bred, and while they are organic beings, they're a little more- orderly in their construction, and there's some speculation that there were humans in their genepool.)
Divided into the Bear, Bull and Jaguar clans, great-orcs are regarded as the really orthodox orcs. They don’t like humans, and they mostly retreat into unspoiled areas to live in feral tribes, trading with other clans but not outsiders (as they regard humans and especially elves). This doesn’t preclude them from wandering into civilization entirely, but does often set the tone for their encounters with others. There have been unkind but not entirely unfounded comparisons of great-orcs with some of the larger apes- shy, living in family groups well away from the glare of civilization, speaking little and using unsophisticated tools- and prone to showing anyone who messes with them just how dangerous five hundred pounds of muscle and teeth are when provoked.
The Bear clan occupies mountainous, wooded areas above the snowline, preferring a colder clime than their smaller cousins. The Bull clan, however, is generally found on the plains, chasing (usually) wild herds for food, and often killing their prey bare-handed to show strength and bravado- a contingent of Bull and Horse clan orcs have made their way to the land of the Running Tribes, and have established themselves as nomads there. The Jaguar clan is rarer, hailing from the hotter forests in the lands they originally came from, but can still be found in small numbers near Akyos.
(I was thinking, if I did that bonus-feat thing for the different clans, Bear would get Hibernation, the ability to recover lots of hitpoints by extended resting. Actually, to account for their misbegotten origins as the Evil Overlord's improvements on his natural orcish soldiers, I was thinking both Hibernation and Ferocity would be useful, showing how they're made to be tough, unnaturally durable soldiers)
+2 Dexterity, -2 Constitution. Immunity to sleep effects, +2 against enchantment spells or effects. Low-light Vision, +2 to Listen, Search and Spot, Search check on being within 5 feet of a secret door. Rare beings in the world of men and sunlight, elves have the grace to get themselves out of trouble, but are oddly frail for this rough world. Their uncanny senses are said to mark them as slightly off, just a little bit away from the here and now.
Which is absolutely true.
Elves as mortals know them are exiles from Underhill, cast out with little memory of what they were, and much reduced in glory from their immortal brethren. An elf either appears in a grove near where fae are known to dwell, barred from returning- or he is born to parents who arrived in this manner, growing up never knowing the legacy that many imagine might be his. Some are even found as youngsters in the empty cradles of human children- changelings, traded or rejected for some unknown reason. Such a being may yearn for the legendary Underhill and the immortality promised there, or may throw himself headlong into the several centuries he can expect of everyday hustle and bustle that makes up mortal living, wandering the roads or staying in the small enclaves of his fellows scattered throughout the kingdoms. After centuries of appearing and with their long life-spans, even given their few numbers a small, but viable, population has built up. Beautiful and not well-understood, even by themselves, there is a human fascination with elves that some are confused by and some take advantage of, becoming entertainers, scholars, even politicians.
Immunity to sleep effects, +2 against enchantment spells or effects. Low-Light Vision, +1 to Listen, Search and Spot. These guys need something, for sure. Especially given the boosts other races are getting, or already have (lookin' at you, dwarves...) But as is- bleh.
A natural outgrowth of elfin curiosity and human fascination with otherworldly beauty, half-elves are often considered just as exotic as their full-blooded parents, without the frailty that causes so many to stay so close to home. Frequently, they are used as emissaries by the elfin enclaves, and far from being rare hybrids, they're starting to outnumber their pure-elf counterparts, much to the elders' consternation.
Half-orcs aren’t precisely a specific player race- plain ol’ orcs are everywhere. Interbreeding just tends to happen when the beer’s flowing, but the strength of orcish features plows it under again in short order. In cities it’s a more common sight to see orcs who’ve clearly got human blood, but who remain recognizably orcish; simply a little taller and less densely built, skin more grey than green, occasionally with different hair or eye-color than average. Their mixed heritage can be represented by the 1st level-only feat Human Blood, which grants +4 skillpoints at 1st and +1 per level thereafter, and signals one as human for all effects related to race. Alternately, they may trade their +2 to Strength for removing the -2 penalty to either Intelligence or Charisma.
Dwarves- +2 to Con, -2 to Charisma, -2 to Dex. Land speed 20 ft, but without penalty for medium or heavy load. Darkvision 60 ft. Stonecunning and all its bonuses. Familiarity with dwarven waraxe (no 'urgosh'. I hereby ban any two-headed weapon that isn't a quarterstaff). Stability: +4 on checks against bull rush or tripping when standing. +2 bonus against poisons. +2 on saves against spells and spell-like effects. +1 bonus on attack-rolls against orcs and goblinoids). +2 bonus on Appraise and +2 on Craft checks that relate to metal and stone. (Wow, that's a lotta stuff. Even with that extra negative I gave to Dex. Suddenly I really don't feel guilty about giving orcs and such a few things to even things out. Must think on this.)
A relative newcomer on the scene of Alucien politics and trade, the dwarfish mountain-kingdoms tend to keep their secrets and their silence, floating down their trade-goods from the mouths of rivers and marching back up in stoic standoffishness. For the most part they present a united and highly sober front- it is said that a dwarf-man and a Svartlund-man can have an entire conversation in ‘harumphs’. Recently, though, a dissident group has apparently broken off from the fellowship of underground sovereignties and moved to establish itself across the Lake of Stars from the last known dwarven trading post, at the point where the foothills of the orcish mountains meet the corner of the lake and the edge of the Bad-wood and the Akyosian desert. Some people are getting edgy about their intentions, but so far it looks as though all they are doing is settling in on some unoccupied territory, technically outside the Empire’s borders, and trading up a storm. Emissaries from King Olmrei, leader of this odd expedition, are showing up in the nearby major courts and making polite and highly opulent overtures, such as invitations to the king’s upcoming wedding.
--Have run up against the post limit- to be continued...