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So it's the middle of the night and I'm rewatching Gankutsuou on my recently reconnected dvd player, and the thought hits me- I really want to make a D&D campaign inspired by the Count of Monte Cristo.  I've loved the (admittedly few) adaptations, mentions of and sideflings to it I've seen, and it finally occurred to me how I could perhaps draw inspiration off of it without railroading players down a predetermined path.

The premise- all your characters are of noble or otherwise important families in a large and prosperous country.  Each family would have some secret it was hiding, perhaps a level of which the character would know, and a deeper level of which they might discover in the course of the game as various dangers begin to unfold, family missions begin to take on certain themes to protect interests or ignorance, etc. 

All these secrets, of course, lead back to the main big-bad, who's been manipulating things to get his vengeance from behind the scenes, and may or may not be publicly very friendly with the PCs.

While this goes on in the background, I want there to be plenty of swashbuckling, urban adventure going on in the forefront.  Nights at the opera with daring highwaymen and saving people who fall from balconies, receiving invitations from various important nobles as the young players navigate their way through high society of a fantasy kingdom.

So- I need a setting, most likely homebrew but with heavy borrowings from things because I'm equal parts rebellious and lazy; a big bad who's screwing with people from behind the scenes (and perhaps hiring the PCs at some point to go to the island of lost treasure, just because I figure our Island of Monte Cristo-equivalent is going to be a cool location that should be seen and used); and a bunch of people in high places who could have done him wrong.

Edit- hnn.  Perhaps I could use this to make use of that one campaign setting I kept thinking off back in the day, with the empire and the creepy fae and the orcs and such.  And the halflings who were some strange fusion of Japan and Ancient Greece, who might have slaves, including orcs, on barges, which is where that orcish equivalent of Ching Xi could come from, whose descendants are all urbane and cutthroat and interesting in owning large portions of the coast and hanging on to that turf and market.  Is a thought.
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The thing about the WALL-E/HB II crossover idea is that I need to figure out what it is in that world that people would want to play.  Is it supposed to be leaders directing troop movements?  Is it characters as colonists on the ground making the initial discoveries and experiencing the initial rejections, characters as galactic citizens either exploring or being sent to find what went wrong?  Is it playing fey knights out to defend home and hearth against the humans who first overtook the world and then abandoned it, only to return once more just as things were starting to return to normal?

That's the kind of thing I need to think of before I can really develop the setting more.  D&D has adventuring parties.  Shadowrun has teams looking to steal corporate secrets.  Most settings have a default niche that the player characters tend to fall into, and I've yet to figure that out for here.  Space marines, colonists, magical fey tribes, elf-kings' armies?  Are they explorers or assassin teams?  What kind of missions or adventures are there to be had, aside from all-out war?
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Been thinking about D&D game ideas again- I'm in the middle of running a short campaign for my highschool friends home from college, but as ever there's a number of other ideas muddling into my headspace and wanting attention.

For now- The Big Strange Unholy Lovechild of WALL-E And HB II: The Golden Army.

I want to play with this world, which is basically- the humans have left, leaving their desolate world behind- only to come back and find that it has renewed itself and been reclaimed by the creatures and beings that were older than man when they first became a power.  Huge parts of the world are totally new and wild and primal again, while others are junky post-apocalyptic wastelands, and there are places where the two blend together. 

The factions- there's the human explorers/recolonists who are back to see if Earth is ready to be populated again, and then there's the wild fey and monsters that have taken over the earth again, the myths that had faded grown healthy again and run wild.  I'm not sure if there would be a Seelie/Unseelie divide.

The big conflict- well, clearly there's going to be a major conflict between humans and fey, but I'm not sure an absolute, all-out war is the best setting to plop a story in.  Nor is it really fun when it's totally clear that both sides will annihalate each other as soon as they figure out how.

I guess what I need to really figure out is what sort of stage things are at for this.  Is this after the recolonization efforts, when things have settled into a pattern of 'humans live here, fey live here, there is war for territory in these places and a pattern of trade/conquest/slaving going thus'?  Is it the initial, explosive 'first contact'?  Is it set on Earth, humans fighting to recolonize and fey fighting to keep their retaken home, or out in space, with adapted fey and mythical figures fight amongst the stars?

I guess I want a 'mythology meets scifi' feel- I want it to be epic and post apocalyptic and space-operatic and frontiersy all at once.  I'm just not sure how to execute it. 

I'm also unsure of the system- I'm wondering if this is something that should be one of the D20 Modern variants, at least for the human side of things, and I definitely want a more mythical feel for the elves and things than standard D&D does- when I say HB II for inspiration, I'm not kidding, even if I'm not copying straight out of their book.  I want high-LA, unique, mythical lords of Faerie walking the earth and playing kings to their people in the old, mead-hall fashion when a kingdom was a tribe of warriors and a country was a stretch of land from hill to hill until someone challenged your borders.  It's prehistoric times all over again, and the First People (as they would think of themselves) are spreading out from their places of origin again- right until they bump into the expanding human populations once more.

And then it's on.

weirdlet: (Default)
No, not really.  Although that does make me think of hobbit-controlled mecha, a la Brain of Pinky and the Brain and his giant robot-suit.

No, what I'm talking of is halflings in Alucia.  Humans are the baseline, the empire and moderately civilized kingdoms, although they do have a few barbarian remnants remaining.  Orcs are the barbarians who have been absorbed into civilization while still retaining their own homeland.  Elves have no culture of their own, but live off of what they picked up or made up centuries ago.  Dwarves are hardy, insular miners who mostly keep to themselves.

Halflings are the traders, the sailors.  Alucia is oddly landlocked, barring its large lakes and rivers- tribal orcs control the west coast, north is all mountains, the western land bridge has mostly sunk, the east coast is taken up by Svartlund's old, dark forest that forms an effective barrier to mankind.  The southern coast is either uninhabited swamp or controlled by the Running Tribes.  That leaves the Floating City, cradled within the high Cliffs of Baenin, which is where merchants from the Halfling Isles have established a city of ships, with an actual island *somewhere* in there.  Life, business and cultivation take place on the ships, from the tiny fishing vessels and rowboats that sleep one or two to the floating mansion-barges that circle the huge bay.  The Floating City is truly a place where all the cultures of Alucia blend together- halflings bring their trade goods, Alucians grain merchants full of desire for silks and spices, Akyosians with cactus juice and dragon parts, Daanlanders with cheese and tulips, Svartlunders with potatoes and timber,  Eirish and Rogahnish horses and hogs, elvish entertainers, dwarven mineral merchants, orcish laborers and mercenaries.  All come with full pockets- very few leave with them.  The halflings have a great many things for sale- plenty of which cannot be gotten anywhere else but through them.  Add in bribes, 'protection' from thieves, and rental of boat-space, and you've got a tidy little racket that any number of people would love to get in on.

Not sure whether to flavor them Venetian, Japanese or otherwise.  I do know that sometimes the more rowing-inclined orcs from round about the lower southwestern coast and the swampland will sometimes have a lucrative bit of piracy going on with the halfling shipments, but there isn't a great deal of repercussion from the Empire on this front.

Edit-  Ooh.  I think I can blend this a bit...  I've been flipping worriedly between Japanese, Venetian and that 4th Edition kinda-Cajun flavor, and I think I can blend it a bit.  The Halfling Isles are vaguely Japanese in artistic detail, very orderly and delicate, but more egalitarian in government- I'm getting images of something like shoji screens, but in stained glass.  I'm thinking kind of a Japanese/Ancient Greek fusion, with some of the general weirdness that comes from being a D&D world.  A strong sense of order and delicacy, with a large emphasis on hospitality- guests are treated very well.  Halflings tend to behave at home, but loosen up when they get out and about.  The more hobbity ones stay home and fish and plant, while the more adventurous take ships out and sail for the horizons and the mainlands- for there are more mainlands out there, beyond the reach of Alucia.  I'm sure some have invaded/settled that huge tract of swampland down at the southwest corner, but they have to fight/make peace with the orcs there, as well.
weirdlet: (Default)
I enjoy making up worlds.  Sometimes they're more complete than others, sometimes they're not so much a world as someone shaped by them, or an interesting storyline, or a nifty setting to put some drama in.  Very rarely do I have many (or any, really) that all gel together to form a whole- that's why I've yet to write any novels.  Still- Alucia's kind of a blend of a lot of little notions I've had together- hopefully into a fun and playable whole. 

The thing is- what do I give to my players to play with?  I've got bits and pieces of interesting things they might want to see or interfere with, some vague ideas of potential for larger trouble that could be investigated and possibly stopped or corrected. 

There's the prince of a small chunk of Rogahn putting out the word that he'll pay a lot for the head of an orcish captain who 'paid him great insult'.  There's the fact that the Emperor has dismissed court- not unusual, it happens every year, but this time there was the little matter of lacking a date to reconvene.

There's the tourney circuit- technically open to anyone who wants to compete for prizes, it's a great way to earn cash.  Or possibly humiliation, but there you go.  There's frequent troubles from different woodlands, from Svartlund in the east where it's simply old, dark, and prone to magic, or the Bad-wood on the edge of the orcish lands that produces out and out deformed nasties.  And just what is it about King Olmrei the dwarf that makes him so all-fired eager to make friends with the humans, after a long policy of standoffishness?

Then there's potentially some elfin investigator who wants to find out more about his actual, fae heritage and not just the made-up culture the elves have been practicing for the last few centuries.  Nobles in some of the cities far from Alucia Herself might be pissy about their children starting to get involved in this supposed orcish priestess's cult.  Akyos is a mess, but it's certainly an interesting place, even as it's rather dangerous.  The Floating City in the Bay of Baenin, that's a rather nifty place too.  Overrun with halflings, and if you haven't got a boat you're rather homeless, but a fascinating place overall.

It seems like in order to draw in players, you need either an immediately interesting premise or a reason to all be in one place, then join up and investigate some adventure lead or another.  There's the Irregulars, there's the Mercenary's guild- Crystalmarch started off as a gathering of schoolkids/some people around the school who got sent on errands, then graduated and started freelancing together in search of loot, and found a fire-cult that was trying to bring about the end of the world.  Victoria started off with a bunch of different sorts being hired by Loyd's of London, then branching off into their own freelance adventures, switching some characters along the way, but essentially being a roving/investigative bunch who've found many different things along the way, conspiracies and the like.  Brightbanner's arcs usually start with something like- 'you're all barbarians' or 'you're all nobles, being sent on a mission.'  You adventure along, usually ending up fighting your way to the end only to witness something moderately disasterous or promising ill-omen but managing to escape with your lives- which is actually pretty damn cool and completely in keeping with the style of Song of Ice&Fire that it's based on.  I've even intended, one of these days, to do either a oneshot or the start of a campaign based on the premise of 'you're all the daughters of a barbarian king.  He's got no sons- you all have a chance to prove you're at least worth considering.  Go forth and loot, pillage and survive.'  Betsy's new things are 'vikings and werewolves' and 'pirate-city in Eberron'- both quite nice hooks.

So.  In Alucia, what shall my premise or starting point be?  Wherever I pick, from there I can fill in more details and get in some actual encounters and adventures.
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Yes, yes, this is hardly the place.  But it's my blogspace, therefore no one is going to read it but me, and I need *some*place to put these things that isn't going to get lost in the shuffle of multiple word documents.

I realized what I could really do to get that feel of 'weird ancestry' for sorcerers- bloodlines.  Not just bloodline or heritage feats, mind, which are honestly sorely lacking- but the Unearthed Arcana thingies.  I just found this neat little D&D wiki that lets people put up both regular Open Game License stuff and homebrew work- the homebrew's a little variable, but this is *useful*.

Would it be required for a sorcerer or other character to take a bloodline?  Hardly.  But it's an option and it's something that, in the background of Alucia, pops up a lot.  Not in every village, every generation, but it happens often enough that frequently, people will know the signs, if not always what to do about it- and not everyone gets in enough practice/living/PC levels to enhance their genetic inheritance to dramatic levels.

I think the people who live along the edge of the Northern mountains in Alucia tend to share a common plight, despite their being in different countries along the length of the border- dragons.  In my world, dragons are pretty dumb until and unless they reach a great age, at which point they are capable of breeding with each other.  Such great wyrms are legendary, verging on the mythical- nobody's been that far into the mountains and come back to tell tales.  But along the way to reaching that point, dragons may be beasts but they are highly magical beasts, and borrowing evidence from the mass of templates, bloodlines, and classes related to having their genes- dragons are also slutty.  They'll nail anything that moves, and possibly anything that doesn't.  The mountain-folk are where a lot of dragon-blooded sorcerers come from, and there will definitely be instances of having to deal with carnivorous, scaly sheep and fire-snorting bulls.  This is part of why Alucia had such a good base to start from when it first started organizing and sending out soldiers into the world- they drew strongly from the local peoples who were blase about having to defend their lands with pitchfork and scythe, and wrestle abnormally tough and magical animals into domesticity.  Farmers from the mountains are tough. 

Fey bloodlines belong more to Svartlunders, although anyone with elfin ancestry can pop up with traits that belong more to their mysterious progenitors- the elves that humans meet are outcasts from Underhill, cast out without names, powers or memories, not even true immortality.  But if the legends are to be believed- and the people who live in Svartlund believe in it religiously, because it's been what keeps them indoors at night and with horseshoes on doors- then genuine fae are frightfully powerful, even as they are rare and tricksy.  With the elves and half-elves having had several centuries to wander where they whist, these can pop up in random villagers.

Demonic or devilish bloodlines are rarer and more disturbing, and tend to come more from Akyos, which is slightly Egyptian, slightly fantasy-Arabian/1001 Nights, and all falling apart.  Once the height of civilization, the nobles have lost power over the last few centuries, and the thieves' gangs and guilds have taken over.  A long, long time ago, it used to be the norm to make pacts with demonic or devilish forces in order to gain power, as demons and devils are just as immediately potent and often more willing to talk face to face than some gods.  It's not necessarily a matter of good vs evil or Divine God against Unholy Devil- just different tribes of other-planar beings, each with their own shtick.  Fiendish blood used to be a sign of nobility, even royalty- but those bloodlines have faded, for the most part, and the old rituals to join a house to a particular fiendish lord are hard to come by and even harder to pull off.  But sometimes, just sometimes, someone can find a way to attract the attention of a being from the harsh, terrifying underworlds and otherplanes, and offer up something to make a bargain...

Celestial bloodlines are a little more rare, but not impossible.  For the most part, the only people purported to have a divine lineage (At least celestially divine- plenty of small kingdoms that have been absorbed into the empire used to say their kings and heroes were god-bred, though these might turn out to be exaggerations or association of local monsters or devils as minor deities) are the Emperors and their immediate family.  That does not preclude other unions of divines and mortals, but celestials are often not so hot to spread their influence into the mortal realm as other, more earthly or expansionist beings.


A friend of mine has run his own homebrew world for a few years now, loosely based but strongly founded in things like A Song of Ice and Fire, and in it, sorcerers are absolutely forbidden, it's a dissecting offense to be one.  Of course Erika (friend of mine, got me into D&D in the first place) and I had to play them- we made up a couple of brothers passing as wizards, and it was great fun. 

I wanted to keep some of that flavor of 'sorcery is weird, innate but called unnatural', without it being a complete forbidden thing.  Local villagers might get very creeped out, but the Empire of Alucia is founded on the principal of taking anything that works and making it work for them- there's a movement to collect potential sorcerers and teach them in an academy headed by a noted and highly-ranked sorceress herself, wherein there can be specialized and individual attention given to each student, as well as a greater knowledge of how to deal with manifestation safely.  That's another part of the flavor I wanted to include- sorcery is innate to the person casting magic, but not necessarily natural to their human-based anatomy.  Accommodating the changes required to do such things is a bit of a rough ride, and not necessarily without consequences.  Although there are no mechanical enforcements aside from player-policed min-maxing and the one ability in the sorcerer variant I'm thieving that lets you take ability damage for metamagic, sorcerers have a reputation as being a little crazy.  Some people put it down to the sickness of manifesting, especially with the old wives' tale that the worse the sickness, the more potential for power.

The official Search and offer of scholarship has been going on for many years, but it's still a relatively new thing in the sense of tradition- sometimes people are unwilling to send their children off to a school that isn't as structured as an arcane academy or university, such as those that produce wizards.  Then there are those who are unhappy with the reputation of the schoolmistress, the Lady Atia of Green Mountain, who is a notorious woman and subject to many rumors.

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Ran into the post limit last time- here is the rundown of classes, and organizations you could be from or aware of in my world.

  Classes-   (basically, anyone who would get 2 skillpoints gets 4.  Class skills and limits do not change, but I think that’s a fair enough little boost without screwing or overpowering anyone)

            Barbarian.  Not necessarily a people, but a mindset.  Anyone from the town drunk with a temper to those bastards across the river who steal your cattle.

            Bard.  The fae like bards- mortals can create, and bards create music, and that is especially attractive.  PC elves who have picked up bardic abilities are regarded as blessed by their kin.  Everyone else tends to like them as well, so long as they don’t steal the good silver or run off with the daughter of anyone important.  Guild musicians would, of course, never do such a thing, but their pieces and their prices aren’t generally suited to an evening’s entertainment in the village watering hole.

            Brawler.  A fighter who concentrates on direct application of bare-handed brute force.  A brawler trades proficiency with medium and heavy armor and shields for a monk’s unarmed damage and AC bonus progression, and trades his first-level bonus feat for Improved Unarmed Strike.  (If someone wants to play a bare-handed brawler, they can do that without having to be ridiculously high-level, and in this world, monks are cloistered holy men)

            Cloistered Cleric.  Sometimes the gods see fit to grant power to their followers, though granting more than a gift for rhetoric is rare.  Possibly this is because worship is so scattered and homogenized- most clerics multitask, caring for the shrines of the handful of gods that local people hold dear and learning more about them as they go.  The Circle is said to contain all gods, with the Emperor at its center as their main face on earth, and government-sanctioned seminaries teach a multitude of different variants of writ while enforcing the Code of Life as laid down on the first Emperor’s ascent to the throne.  Pick your domains and your ethos- whatever it is, there’s probably been a godling worshipped at some point, somewhere in the empire you could have picked up.  Alternately, one may concentrate on Auberon, the distant elfish god, or be a part of the orcish priestesshood of the Allmother and the varying shamanic animal gods that are patron to each clan, though these tend to be more of the battle-cleric variety.

            Cleric.  Prettymuch as above, but with more focus on combative abilities.  This is a class that has almost paladin-like overtones in the Empire, and there is indeed a special order of Imperial knights made up of just these sorts of holy warriors.  The orcish shamans and priestesses also have a knack for knowing how to beat the snot out of those who would give them lip or harm their kin.

            Druid.  Arbitrators between the wild and the civilized.  (They do need some adjustment, though.  Maybe limit Wildshape to a skin you've taken from an animal)

            Duskblade.  A sorcerer who’s chosen to concentrate on physical combat, but still cannot help but channel his/her effervescent life-force into the blade.  Such discipline as sword-work sometimes helps ease the symptoms that come about when a sorcerer manifests.  Alternately, a wizard who finds that a healthy body equals a healthy mind, and has altered his regimen to include just such exercises.  If playing it as sorcerous, use Charisma instead of Intelligence, but otherwise they are indistinguishable.

            Fighter.  Lots of fighters in Alucia.  Out of Alucia.  Around Alucia.  If it’s not a Knight of the Empire barreling down the lists, it’s a legionnaire tromping across the field, or a bravo from the lower streets getting into a lying contest with the hulking brute down from the mountains.  4 Skillpoints + Int mod.

            Ranger.  Somewhere between an army scout and a druid, these hunters wander, blending with the landscape but without the literal, spiritual spin on that that druids take.  Favored environment variant is permitted.

            Rogue.  Sometimes one’s job description requires a little bit of flexibility.  And maybe a little bit of discretion, and a strategic sharp point or two.  Not necessarily criminal, but not necessarily sterling, either.

            Sorcerer.  Some have magic flowing in their veins, cropping up every few generations from some long-distant ancestry, or an affinity with the forces of the world without necessarily a devotion to its rhythms, as the druid (some even say it’s something in the groundwater in some places- but that’s hardly a sensible notion, as any learned wizard will tell you).  While hints of odd kinships or abilities are not all that uncommon, those who survive the Ordeal of manifestation intact are slightly rarer.  Sorcerers are hardly forbidden- but they are, shall we say, nerve-wracking to those communities that produce them.  There has been much support of the Imperial offer of scholarship to those with arcane manifestations.


Full Mechanical Tweaks- )

            Wizard.  Some have a natural gift, while others have a natural gift for study, which they then apply to wresting control of the forces of reality for their own use.  That studious ability also applies to learning in other areas, so while they may not have a natural inclination to other skills, they can work at them and learn efficiently.  4 skillpoints + Int mod.

Please, multiclass freely.  I see no point in penalizing the spice of life, just be responsible for your own builds.  If I’ve forgotten something here you want to try, bring it to my attention, although I’m leery of psions at this moment.


Orcs-  The most common deity amongst the scattered orc-clans is the Allmother, who is considered to be both a deity and the world itself.   There are regional and needful variants to the Allmother, or different faces the orcs say She wears- when soldiers call on her, she is the Stone Bitch, unyielding and gleeful.  The keeper of secrets and of death is the Dark Grandmother, the dark between the stars and at the bottom of the ocean, while the War-Mother pushes all life forward with passion and will to thrive and survive.  Think Ishtar, Inana and Ereshkigal, earth and female and forest and underworld.  Life and death with equal passion, pain and comfort.

Priestesses of the Allmother give wisdom, comfort and honor to warriors, keeping their history and healing their wounds, but it is the shamans who teach them to be strong and cunning, emulating their totemic beasts and learning to harness themselves for the defense of home and the conquest of rivals.  The two roles can overlap, but most tribes have both.  They’re both also known to sling a nasty curse or two, when the occasion calls for it.


Elves- Exiled from Underhill with little memory of their pasts, elves can be anywhere from staunch atheists to druids or Imperial clerics to remembering their ancient king-

“There is one king Underhill.  Never let anyone tell you different- certainly not these silly boyars and princelings who rule each thane and glen for their own single court.  One Lord, one King, and one God.  Auberon watches, and waits.  Amused?  Who knows.”

Auberon is the High King of the Fair Ones, though few mortals know him through more than stories.  A few of the exiled elves have scraps of memory of revering that shining, horn-crowned figure, with bright sword and dark eyes.  He is regarded as Allfather, a distant being, but once the bringer of knowledge and the leader of the hunt.

Close to the ocean he is called Tyberon, the devil of the seas, and sailors make offerings to avoid his ire.  He’s one of the older gods, and not much in common worship.  When Imperial clerics offer to make room for a shrine, they are laughed at.

Humans-  In the heart of the Empire, the Forty Little Gods are the mainstay of local Alucien worship, while the Emperor is regarded as a descendant of celestial beings and a representative of divine will on earth, the center of the Circle.  In Svartlund there are a number of storm, forest and hunt gods, as well as some fearful worship of the Underhill denizens, in hopes that they will leave them alone.  Akyos had a fire-god, a lot of small devil-cults in the past, and something they called wind-saints, while the Southwest has had nature-worshippers, but they’ve often fallen by the wayside for a sun-and-harvest god named Luc who often gets conflated with the Emperor, or at least the Imperial ancestors.


            Imperial Knights:  There are two kinds of nobility- Imperially acknowledged titles, and everyone else.  In those countries that have accepted the Imperial banner, Imperial titles may be synonymous with local titles, but only those who have trained under official tutelage and passed the trials set to them will be accepted and recorded as such.  This makes them officer material, as well as permitted to challenge each other to combat for personal grievances, rather than resorting to the courts.  A man could be a knight of the Emperor and a prince in his own realm, a lord, a merchant, or in some rare cases a peasant who has shown enough talent to rise to scholarship in the Academies. 

The Knights of the Empire serve as enforcers of the overarching law of the kingdoms, both as officers and as elite warriors.  There are many branches of the service, including the heavily armored cavalry that the word ‘knight’ might conjure, but with plenty of other variants specialized for work in different environments one might find in the kingdoms. 

            The Legions:  Exactly what it says on the tin.  Imperial soldiers, made up of men from across the kingdoms and forged into disciplined, organized units.  Each legion is numbered and bears a standard blessed by the Emperor’s own hand.

            The Irregulars:  Usually, this title refers to mixed or variant troops attached to a legion, things like scouts or fighters of unusual styles or battle mages.  Unseen, however, it also refers to those who serve the empire in less visible and highly varied ways, unattached to any particular legion but answering to the Imperial spymasters.

            Mercenary Guild:  When those who desire enforcement cannot call upon their own men or the legions, they call upon these guys.  A business model started by the orcs has spread to contain members of every race known and occasional surprises, as well.  Pay what’s promised, and they’ll do good business with you.  Screw them over, and you’re asking for trouble.  Sometimes blamed by tribal orcs for drawing their youngsters away from the Roaming-Lands.

            Bardic Guild:  The mystical talents of bardship are, of course, rare and difficult to capture by mere training- but the ability to entertain, to gather and retain information, and to spread word makes the profession a rather useful one.  Guild-trained bards are often employed as one half of the Missi Domini, the Emperor’s voices who travel the lands making sure that word gets out of imperial edicts and news, as well as taking stock of things as they go out on circuit.

            Church of the Circle:  The Imperial cult of the Circle, wherein it is intended to encompass anyone who wishes to join up and contribute.  Deliberately designed to be as neutral and encompassing as possible, it maintains that the descendants of Lucien, the fabled first emperor, have a divine lineage that makes them the rightful and responsible rulers on earth where accepted, while acknowledging the existence and worship of other gods as equal, but not subordinate.  They are also one half of the Missi Domini, offering blessings, witnessing unions and taking records of same, offering healing when necessary.

            Arcane Universities:  Great centers of study and learning, where wizards and scholars delve into history, lore and practical experimentation in order to learn the secrets of the world.  There is also a move to gather sorcerous students from wherever they might be, both to keep them from being a disastrous blight on the world should they go astray, and to train useful magical citizens of the Empire.

            Council of Priestesses:  A more secretive and subtle net, connecting tribe to tribe, mother to daughter, elder to apprentice.  Keepers of the sacred caves in the mountains, they are recorders of history and practitioners of both healing arts and dark curses.  They decide, not when to fight, for fighting is a natural part of life and under the purview of the tribe chiefs and captains- but when to go to war.  For the most part orc-tribes are all about doing their own thing- but the word of the Circle of Mothers is respected, and if they think it important enough to send a command, then it’s a matter serious enough to unite the clans.

            They may also be in charge of a defensive line on their side of the river, intent on both keeping Rohganish ‘outlaws’ (unmarked soldiers) out and troublemakers from their own side starting fights.  This has had limited success.

            Thieves’ Guilds:  Such a thing would hardly be permitted in the heart of the Empire.  But in Akyos, this seems to be the new form of government- the nobles have died out or become so impoverished that they cannot compete.

weirdlet: (Default)
'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?

Players Guide


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.

 Starting Level:

 We’ll be starting at __ level. (To be decided)

 House Rules-

 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.)


Available Races:

 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...


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January 2015

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