View Full Version : Developing a campaign setting, critique/commentary? [Part 2: Magic]
11-29-2008, 04:26 PM
I'm working on writing the campaign setting that's been bouncing around my brain for a few years into one coherent entity instead of a dozen assorted concepts, and having just finished writing the creation story about how the world came to be in the first place, I thought I'd throw it out here to be looked at and poked over. Any flaws in my writing style, or unanswered plot holes questions that need filling, do point them out.
Ye Be Warned, There Be Walls of Text Ahead.
The First Age:
In the beginning, there first was nothing. Out of nothing, there arose the One. The One Spoke, and by the Words the world was made. It was a bountiful world of plants and beasts and wonders, and for a time, the One was content.
But this was not to be eternal, for the One found that It was alone. Not just alone, but lonely – It had created the perfect world, but there was no one else to share it with and appreciate Its craftsmanship. And so the One set forth on Its next project; the creation of Another like Itself. In Its naivety, the one brought forth an equal to Itself, alike in every way except one – It was not the first. Moreso, the Other was aware of this fact from the moment it awoke, and it envied the One for existing before itself. It believed that the One considered Itself superior for its age, but as the One had not created envy and had never experienced it, It never considered the possibility of envy’s existence in the Other. And for a time, the One was content – but the Other was not.
Time passed, and the Other’s envy grew and festered, transforming into resentment and anger. As the Other’s feelings increased, so did Its sanity decline, till there was nothing but Its burning hatred of the One and an all-consuming desire to see It destroyed. Eventually, the last remnants of the Other’s mind collapsed, and it struck out with hidden treachery at the unsuspecting One. Instantly aware of Its folly and the mistakes It had willingly blinded Itself to, the One fought back against its insane twin with every bit of power at its muster, the universe coming close to collapsing under the force of the blows traded between the One and the Other. Two such beings of near-limitless power and identical to each other in every way would normally have fought to a standstill at the end of time itself, but while they were close to omnipotent, they were not so, and in the end, it was the Other having struck the first blow that decided the battle. The One fell defeated, and the Other laughed loud enough to shake the foundation of the cosmos.
But the battle was not yet over, for even as the One’s remains struck the ground, the fragments sprung up again as the Few. Each reflecting a small portion of the One’s all-encompassing nature, but both individual in their natures and with their power undiluted by the death of the One, they carried on the fight against the sorely weakened Other. Drained by Its long duel with the One, the Other had not the strength necessary to swat down the Few like the insects they would normally be. Overwhelmed by the concerted attacks of the Few, the Other reached the limits of its endurance and beyond, and finally joined its creator in oblivion. It was the turn of the Few to rejoice, but their joy was equally short-lived, for the Other had truly been identical to the One in every way. Its remains too rose up again as dark mirrors to the Few, which became known as the Fallen, leaping into combat once more avenge their fallen progenitor. With this ended the Age of Eternity, the First Age.
The Second Age:
On their own, each of the Few and the Fallen were far weaker than the One and the Other from which they had been born. Thus deprived of the ability to direct a similarly overwhelming force against their foes, and similarly burdened with a far greater number of enemies to combat, the manner in which they did battle changed. Now, the world that the One had created and lavished over suffered, for the Few and the Fallen were not so mighty as to ignore the worlds beneath them as inconsequential. Many times, the world itself served as the battleground between the titans, entire continents and seas raised up and torn down under the force of their strikes and counterstrikes. Other times, it served as a battlefield by proxy, as both sides sent armies of pawns and followers who worshipped them out of devotion or fear to destroy the minions of the other side. The nature of the creatures who swore thrall to the divine combatants has long since been lost to time, but they had much in common with their masters, not the least of which was the degree of ruin they could put forth in war.
To break the stalemate, the greatest of the Fallen developed a most devious plan. Seeking to imitate the greatest of the Other’s power, the gift of creation, they wrought a mighty spell to capture the very souls of the elements and bind them into bodies of flesh and bone mixed with magic, a brand new race of beings who could lay waste to their foes with powers never before dreamed of by the Few. They were gifted with unimaginable power, and armored against all but the deadliest of blows. They were the dragons, intended to be a secret weapon to turn the tide of war. Unfortunately for the Fallen, when it came time to put their weapons to the test, it became all too clear that they had far to go before matching the skill of the Other – they had created, true, but lacked the ability to bind their creations to their desires. Free-willed and with no stake in the outcome of the clash, the dragons refused in unison to fight as they were commanded to, instead departing to the world for designs towards their own end. Weakened by the energy they had expended, and disheartened by their failure, the Fallen were forced to give ground for a time to the onslaught of the Few.
However, the Few were no less given to hubris than their twisted counterparts – born as they were from the flesh of the original creator and not his lesser copy, they foolishly believed that it was possible for them to succeed where the Fallen had failed, and bring forth a new creation that would cement their ultimate victory in the universe. Even more foolish was their decision to relent temporarily in their offensive, giving the Fallen much-needed time to regroup and regain strength while the Few worked to complete their own ritual of creation. They did not seek to harness the elements as had the Fallen, but turned instead to the primal essence of Life itself, the energies permeating every aspect of the world that had escaped the Other’s personal touch. Their focus was not brute power like the dragons, but victory through manipulation, channeling Life’s eternal endurance and resilience to form a race of creatures who could not be stopped and could not be avoided or outsmarted. Living embodiments of nature, they were christened fey by the Few, and instructed to join in the battle against the now-reinforced Fallen forces. But like the Fallen before them, the Few lacked any ability to compel their creations into servitude – as fickle and impersonal as nature itself, the fey chose to flee into the depths of the world from which they had been drawn and where they still felt most at home.
Luckily for the Few, the Fallen were still concerned with recouping earlier losses, and so failed to take advantage of what could have been a decisive weakness on the part of the Few. Eventually, they realized their error, but by this time the status quo had been restored and the two sides were once again equal. With this ended the Age of Wonders, the Second Age.
The Third Age:
Despite these setbacks, both sides continued the fight with every weapon at their disposal. Reduced in number and weakened in strength by their constant struggles, they turned increasingly often to combat by proxy through their minions. The bulk of these combats occurred between the Many, a collective term used to refer to the lesser creatures spawned from both the Few and the Fallen in a process similar to how they themselves were originally spawned out of the One and the Other as a replacement for the unnamed races long since rendered extinct in battle, but as a voluntary act of creation that left the “parent” greatly weakened for some time instead of slain.
New races, as well, were beginning to spring up of their own accord, unintentional products of the steadily dwindling direct clashes between Few and Fallen.
Where divine blood fell and soaked into the bare stone, there arose the dwarves – sturdy, taciturn and introverted creatures with an innate connection to the earth that birthed them. Where that same blood touched the soft sands of the coasts and islands, it brought forth the halflings; agile where the dwarves were sturdy, companionable where they were solemn, and always happiest in sight of the sea.
The great dragons had survived and prospered since their rebellion, though they preferred to dwell far away from the lesser races that surrounded them. Their essence seeped into the very land around their lairs, and when divine blood was spilled inside those boundaries, it took shape as the scalekin. Bearing a trace of draconic power within them, their physical might and protective hides echoed that of the creatures they were named for, to a far lesser degree. The fey as well had their undesired “children” when Few or Fallen blood was shed on ground consecrated by natural magics and creating the elves. While their forms were more uniform and conventional than the myriad shapes of the fey, their minds resonated with equal parts intelligence and flightiness.
But as numerous as the other races were, the most common new species was that formed of divine blood from both factions pooled together, making humans. Inventive and energetic, these otherwise unremarkable creatures proved far more adept at innovation than their more stoic peers, combining this with their higher relative population to spread rapidly across much of the land.
The one thing that they all had in common was mortality, a set span of years for them to live their lives. Thankfully, the world was large enough to support all five races, especially considering their varied habitats. Dwarves were most at home underground or in the mountains, surrounded by their beloved stone. Elves preferred the wilds and forests, close to where the elusive fey occasionally ventured out from the odd parallel world that they dwelled in. It was rare to see a halfling off the water for more time that it took to stock up on new provisions, while scalekin only rarely ventured outside of their close-knit communities in hostile climates as close as they could manage to the homes of the obsessively and homicidally private dragons. And for the humans, they took most of the land that was left, as well as the occasional island not bearing a halfling harbor-town.
And high above it all, the survivors of the divine conflict saw these newly awakened races, and both sides sought to turn them to their advantage. Openly or in disguise, they ventured to make contact with the mortals as they spread across the surface of the world. Promising gifts and assistance in building their civilizations, they asked only for devotion and loyalty in return. Oftentimes, this was accompanied with threats of wrath and retribution should the worshippers fail in their offerings, but the threat of revoking the boons they had granted served as warning enough.
For both Few and Fallen, the intent was to gradually build their strength while recruiting and training new legions to carry on the war in their name, but as time passed, the greater beings realized that they had made a dreadful mistake. All of them knew they had been dying, slowing bleeding out the metaphorical energy that sustained them as they squandered it squabbling with one another. When they first forged their pacts with the mortals, becoming patrons of certain areas or races, it seemed as though the trend had reversed itself and they were regaining strength once more. But now it became evident that this was not a coincidence; the reverence and obedience of those same mortal beings was the source of this newfound vitality, and having tasted it, neither Few nor Fallen could give it up. Those who tried, severing their bonds with the mortal world, quickly fell ill and died for good, unable to survive without the fealty of entities not directly dependent on them for existence or survival.
The survivors were forced into an uneasy truce with one another, for while they could remain alive by feeding off the metaphysical energy generated by mortals, the act of going back to war with each other would consume them far greater than any amount of worship would rejuvenate them – and neither could they turn their mortal followers into mass armies as they had with the first races, for if the mortals died out in turn, the Few and Fallen died along with them. Thus the Greatest War did fall into armistice, and as it did, ended the Age of Creation, the Third Age.
11-30-2008, 10:25 AM
Ok, I read through the creation story. I didn't see any particular flaws that need amending, it seems pretty consistent. Also, I thought that the idea of having the fey and dragons as being weapons made for the war between the Few and the Fallen was cool. :smallcool: I don't think I've seen that anywhere before.
11-30-2008, 01:26 PM
I've actually seen the idea of dragons being created as divine weapons before. Fey are new, though.
On the setting itself, I can't really comment. You've got a detailed creation myth, yes, but the players are probably only going to care about the fact that you've got good gods and evil gods at war with each other. Give me something unique and interesting about the present of the setting.
11-30-2008, 11:24 PM
Don't worry, I have lots more to write about. Here's the introduction of magic into the mortal world, for instance, and a description of the sentient Mechanikals - similar to Warforged, but with a different origin and much more varied purposes.
Magic and the Words
In the First Age, when the One spoke aloud, Its words had such unimaginable power behind them that they became Words. What the One spoke of became real, brought into being by Its willpower. The universe defined itself by the Words used to name its individual components, forming the framework of reality upon which everything else was hung. Knowing the Words as a native speaker, there was literally nothing that the One could not accomplish. But when It and the Other died, the Words almost died along with them. No language can ever truly die, but it can be forgotten, and though the Few and the Fallen had knowledge of the Words, they could not wield them with the same skill or power. They could use the Words already spoken to change what existed or create more of the same, but lacked the ability to invent entirely new Words and the entirely new concepts they would be used to describe – the fey and dragons two prime examples of the results that came from overstepping their mastery of the Words. It is said that the ancient races used the Words as their native tongue as well, though without the raw energy backing their speech that was possessed by their masters. Likewise, both dragons and fey had great knowledge of the Words, though they fueled their usage of such by the inherent magical power that originally brought them to life.
And when the Few and Fallen descended from tireless combatants to being stewards and overlords of the newly born mortal races, they brought the Words with them. Selfish of their knowledge, they taught the use of the Words sparingly and infrequently, as little as they could to benefit their chosen disciples and earn their trust. But knowledge is very difficult to bottle up, and bit by bit, the Words did spread through accident or design. Mortals who learned to command one or more Words became known as magi, and for a time they reigned supreme over their fellows by way of controlling the shape of reality in degrees over their surroundings.
Unfortunately for them, their monopoly was not solid no matter how strongly they tried to maintain it. Some discovered Words of their own, while others went in search of power. The Many were eager to earn the service of mortal servants of their own to use in the same manner the Few and Fallen used them. Likewise, the fey did occasionally employ servants and emissaries to act on their behalf, and even the dragons deigned on occasion to accept the fealty of a mortal to carry out their whims on a scale too small for the dragon to bother with. In each case, the price said mortal was forced to pay differed, but their reward was the same – knowledge of the Words to further their own ends as well as those of their masters, contributing further to the weakening of the mage monopoly. When the appearance of the mentalism arts – a rare talent that substituted sheer willpower and conviction for knowledge of specific Words and allowed the universe itself to “fill in the blanks” – became a phenomenon instead of isolated incidents, the magical strangehold finally collapsed in on itself, and mortal society entered yet another blossoming age.
As humans spread across the world, they began to come into contact with their fellow mortals more and more frequently, and it became more and more apparent that their comparative lifespans were a disadvantage in direct competition. Humans bred faster, but both the halflings and scalekin were far more resilient than the average human, and even a sickly dwarf or elf could be expected to reach twice or three times the age of a man. They could afford to take their time on projects, being far less constrained by their technical mortality. Seeking to overcome this weakness, a group of enterprising human artificers and mages set about the act of crafting a race of mechanical slaves to perform tasks and labor for them. Built from metal and wood and animated by magic, the first of the mechanical men seemed to follow their intended parameters perfectly. Standard models could be programmed to do housework, heavy labor, simplistic arcane research assistance, or any of a myraid assortment of other tasks. There was a flaw, however, one that none of the inventors could track down or explain. It may have been a mispronounced Word in the spell that animated the servitors, or a missing Word, or an unnecessary one.
But whatever the cause, the result was that a noticeable percentage – nearly one in three – of the robotic slaves began to develop a rudimentary sentience that eventually blossomed into full-blown sentience. This proved to be a somewhat of a problem, as the owners of the machines had typically bought or commissioned them to do menial labor, and were unwilling to give them up or worse, pay them wages, just because they had become intelligent after the purchase. With no one willing to give them a name, the sentient machines chose a name of their own, Mechanikals, and set about earning their freedom by any means necessary. Luckily for them, owning a Mechanikal (sentient or otherwise) was sufficiently expensive as to be considered a luxury, and thus they were not an indispensible cornerstone of human civilization like many slave-using cultures. It was a long and difficult struggle, but eventually Mechanikals who developed clear sentience were universally considered to be free of any servitude imposed upon them while mindless, though they were still considered second-class citizens in most nations and relegated to the sort of tasks they would have been performing anyways if they had not awoken.
If anyone is reading at this point, where should I expand further in the writings? I'm still compiling crunchy aspects, so fluff is the name of the game for now.
12-01-2008, 04:27 PM
What about the world itself? What's the geography like, what countries are there, how well or poorly do they get along, etc?
12-02-2008, 03:15 AM
Is all magic based off Words?
I mean, Sorcerers, are they all drawing from the innate power?
Do bards just dance around the true words with bardsong?
Druids tap into the words inherant in the pattern of forests?
12-19-2008, 06:14 PM
There are two types of magic - Spoken magic is the use of Words to influence the world, while Channeled magic taps into the innate power of magical energy leylines instead. Here's a detailed examination of the four primary forms of Speaker - the wizard, cleric, sorcerer, and druid - along with the opening of a description of Channelers - the psion and warlock.
More On Magic:
The Words are the foundation of reality, the framework by which the world itself is defined. Everything imaginable and much that is not has a Word that describes it – knowing something’s name gives knowledge of it, and knowledge is power. This is the base principle of the magical arts; knowing the proper Words that describe a certain aspect of the universe allow the one who knows them to change that aspect by speaking those same Words. Without the sheer power of the Elder beings, such changes can be only temporary at most, but temporary is often more than long enough. Practitioners of the magical arts are known variously as adepts, magi, or magicians – they have their own terms by which they define themselves, but for the most part they are uniform in the eyes of the common folk. Collectively, learned individuals refer to them as ‘Speakers’ to distinguish them from the ‘Channelers’ who tap into the inherent leyline energies, bypassing the need for long study of the Words.
The first and most common form of adept are the devotees and priests of the Few and Fallen, referred to collectively as clerics. The term is somewhat of a misnomer, for the beings that they offer their worship to are not gods in the traditional sense – but worship them they do all the same, and so clerics they become. The Few and Fallen are addicts, dependent on mortal energies to sustain their immortal lives, and in exchange for that energy, they offer power. To their most favored clergy, the Few and Fallen teach Words as rewards for servitude, granting them a pale imitation of the ability they themselves once wielded with abandon. In return, the clerics feed them and act as their agents amongst mortals.
A typical cleric does not serve under compulsion, and can freely choose to turn their focus to another patron if they so desire – once learned, Words cannot be unlearned, and so there is no direct penalty for a cleric who withdraws his fealty. Only the very clever or very foolhardy attempt to do so, however, as it is still unwise to spurn an entity of such potency from whom they have taken gifts – nor do the Few and Fallen allow such to become common knowledge, maintaining as best they can the illusion that only through their continued blessings can a cleric maintain his given knowledge. The easiest manner of being willingly released is to recruit replacements, enough of them to equal or surpass the energy supplied by the cleric’s own devotion; in this way, some particularly mercenary clerics have walked in the name of a dozen or more patrons over the course of their lives, learning new, different, and more powerful Words from each in turn.
The second type of adept is the wizard. All wizards were once normal individuals pursuing one goal or another, until they took it into their heads to seek out and master the Words that lay out the terms of their existence. Words cannot be extracted from the minds of those who know them, nor can they be compelled to surface against their bearer’s will, but there are still plenty of records for those with the temerity to seek them out. Ancient tomes, crumbling manuscripts, engraved tablets, and countless other forms of information storage bear Words to learn and understand.
The art of wizardry is a difficult one, and not for the faint of heart or weak of will. There are more Words in existence than mortal civilization can comprehend numbers to count them, each of which with at least as many variations. The Word that would induce growth in a tree is entirely different from the Word that would do the same for a man, and both can have no relation at all to the Word referring to ‘growth’ as a metaphysical concept independent of structure. It can take years for an aspiring wizard to construct their first spell, and even then they are not assured of success. It takes a strong mind to funnel the very essence of the universe – a mind too weak to bear it can crumble into insanity, coma, or death under the strain. Even for those who succeed, the power they possess is a heavy burden to bear, and wizards have an alarming tendency to die young as their bodies or minds collapse beneath the weight of existence itself.
Kin of sorts to the clerics are the sorcerers, third amongst the forms of adepts. But where clerics pledge their services directly to the Few and Fallen, sorcerers instead seek out more direct sources of power, ones less impersonal in their dealings with mortals, sealing a binding pact to a more powerful being in exchange for magical knowledge and the strength to wield it. Three types of sorcerers exist, each with their own form of patron to whom they are bound – felpact, feypact, and dragonpact.
Felpact sorcerers are those who have signed a contract of blood with one of the Many, the lesser creatures born from Few and Fallen flesh and trapped in servitude to them. True to their name, the Many can take any one of a vast variety of forms, appearances, and motivations – but the one thing they all have in common is their desire to command servants in the same manner that they themselves are commanded. To this end, they seek out mortals who desire power and offer it to them. The price of their offering, however, is the mortal’s death – not the event itself, but the state that occurs afterward. A felpact grants its signee magical power, the ability to employ it, and an extended life in which to do so, but at the end of that life, the entity to which they are sworn collects its payment. Most souls depart the mortal realm to a peaceful, blissful oblivion; felpact sorcerers, however, are bound to serve until release upon their master’s death – something that can take a very, very long time.
Feypact sorcerers, naturally, are those who instead seek out the elusive fey, enchanted by legends of their majesty and beauty. This is not without risk, for the fey are terrible and incomprehensible in their true nature, as unalike to mortals as mortals are to beasts. An entreaty to the fey can often end badly, torn apart by a wandering fey beast or a horrible death at the hands of the curious and impersonal fey themselves. But at the same time, it can end greatly, for the fey have one great truth about them directly tied to their greatest weaknesses. Immortal creatures, born in the Age of Wonders, they have a burning curiosity regarding the mortal races. Mortality and all of its many side effects fascinate them, drawing their attention like moths to a candle flame. They struggle to comprehend and understand mortality, but they are fettered by one important thing. The home of the fey is a strange place born of natural magic and desire, out of phase with the rest of the world and intersecting it in only a handful of locations. Fey are creatures of living magic, feeding off the power that surrounds them in their home – outside this wonderland, it is not long before a travelling fey begins to sicken and weaken, eventually dying. This frustrates them to no end, and so it is with great glee that they will take the oaths of those mortals brave and hardy enough to make the journey to their own lands. Like the Many, they grant their supplicants eldritch abilities to use in their travels, but unlike the many, they have no interest in a mortal after their death. Instead, they desire life, the experiences and intrigues of mortal existence – and they take a portion of their payment in advance. Upon swearing a feypact, the aspiring sorcerer loses forever a tiny portion of themselves, some facet of their mortality that the fey desire. It can be their sense of smell or taste, the ability to sing or speak above a whisper, the memory of a loved one and the capability to love anyone else, or something else appealing to the fickle nature of the fey. Additionally, they are required to return once every so often to the realm of Faerie to have their memories and experiences dissected and pored over under the scrutiny of their alien masters.
Rarest of the sorcerers are those who have sworn a dragonpact. Amongst humans, the phrase “dragon’s grudge” refers to an enmity that will never, ever be forgotten or forgiven. Few if any could explain the origins of the saying if questioned, but the truth of the matter is that dragons literally do not forget. Blessed (or cursed) with absolutely perfect photographic memory, a dragon can remember every thought and sensation of every moment of its life from hatching onward in crystal-clear detail, and nothing in existence can strip those memories away. They crave new experiences to complement the monotony of their memories, but they must ration such introductions carefully to avoid imbibing in life too much. Dragons have been known to go mad, their brains unable to contain everything they have lived through but unable to dispense with any of it, and all dragons live in fear of suffering a similar fate. As such, they tend to isolate themselves, finding desolate and inhospitable homes suitable to their temperament where they can strictly control the rate at which they learn and see new things. To balance out this trap of memory with the constant hunger for novelty, they can, from time to time, accept the services of a mortal who dares intrude upon their solitude. More often than not, the intruder is obliterated, but occasionally they are not, and they become bound by name and blood to the dragon in question. Only the truly desperate or dedicated sign a dragonpact, for while the Many are content to claim one after death, and the fey desire only the occasional taste of life, a dragonpact permanently surrenders its signee’s existence and desires to the whims of the dragon. The dragon forges a telepathic link of sorts with the aspiring sorcerer, allowing it to pass instructions to the servant from the safety of its own lair, as well as a shadow of the dragon’s own perfect memory retention. A dragon that has lived its entire life deep inside a mountain cave may send its supplicant on a long ocean voyage, and the sorcerer is sworn to obey. Upon its completion, the dragon will call its sorcerer back to its lair, where the mortal will recount the entire story of their journey for the perusal of the dragon. Such secondhand accounts are far less strenuous on the mind of a dragon, as they can fill in the sensations and details to whatever degree they wish instead of being presented with everything. With their duty fulfilled, the sorcerer is then free to purge their own memory of the experience if desired, and departs to live their own lives until their dragon calls them to do something else. Dragonpact sorcerers can also likewise turn out as errand runners for a dragon who does not wish to venture out of their lair, clearing the surroundings of pests or intruders threatening the dragon’s security, as well as interfacing with the scalekin communities that tend to develop nearby.
Technically a subset of clerics, the reclusive and hermitlike druids are the final type of true Speaker seen in general practice. Like clerics, druids learn their Words as rewards for service from the Few and Fallen, but unlike them, their price is not direct worship of the Few or Fallen that taught them. Only a small percentage of the Few and Fallen recognize the need for custodians of the natural world, though for their own individual reasons. The more benevolent among them consider it a service or a gift to the world, while the more self-serving view it as merely maintaining a healthy ‘food’ supply. Still, recognize it they do, and to this end they select mortals that they deem appropriate for the task to watch over the wilderness and prevent outside tampering with its stability on grand scales. Towards this end, many druids grow more attached to the wilds that they protect than to the civilization they hail from – some internalize this bond and gain the power to alter their own shape to more closely resemble the residents of their adopted home, while others externalize it in the form of a loyal animal companion who seeks out the druid as a kindred spirit.
Usage of Words, however, is not the only way to exert magical influence. The world itself retains the magic used to bring it into being, circling its power in a constant cycle. Magical energy tends to divert along certain mystic pathways that prove especially conductive to power, forming ley lines that traverse the entire world in a twisted, criss-crossing network. The ley lines are mostly passive, but remain essential for the functioning of any sort of magic – in the absence of a nearby ley line, the surrounding area is essentially static, immutable by Word or any other source short of brute labor. Thankfully, such magical dead zones are few and far between, most often found in desolate areas devoid of intelligent life. Where enough ley lines cross each other in sufficient strength, they form ley nodes, great pools of intangible energy that trained adepts can tap into for additional power. This talent is very rare, unfortunately, and not enough to relieve the pressure that builds up in the ley network over time. When this pressure grows sufficiently, the world takes steps of its own to relieve the strain, manifesting in the form of ‘Channelers’, individuals with a permanent inherent bond to the energies of the ley lines and the ability to use them. The path that a newly developed channeler takes depends of their ability and temperament – those who successfully harness the talent thrust upon them join the ranks of the mentalists, while those who reject or fail to master it are consigned to become warlocks.
12-20-2008, 01:44 AM
Sorcerers in your world seem like it would be pretty interesting to play one, no matter which pact they have. What are the Many in game terms? Outsiders? Completely new creatures?
12-20-2008, 11:02 AM
The Many are basically a collective term for the non-deific outsiders, everything from Lemures on up to Solars.
Yes, those are two different alignment spectrums, and that's intentional. You shouldn't be thinking classical D&D Good vs. Evil here so much as a more Diablo-like view of the situation, or even a slightly Lovecraftian one. The Few and Fallen and the Many care more about each other - nominally good and evil, but neither side has too much concern for the mortals who get in the way except as pawns or the spiritual food supply that they depend on. The lower you get down on the power scale of ousider, the more likely you'll see one personally interested in mortals, but even that'll just be a means for them to one-up their fellows in the heirarchy; those are the sort of Many who make Felpacts.
12-20-2008, 12:59 PM
My only question is this: Do you need a map?
12-20-2008, 04:17 PM
I'm still working on the geography, but once I've got that figured out, I'll probably want to map it...I'm fairly miserable at such though, are you volunteering? :)
12-20-2008, 05:28 PM
I'm still working on the geography, but once I've got that figured out, I'll probably want to map it...I'm fairly miserable at such though, are you volunteering? :)
PM me your geographical notes when your ready. Try to keep it down to 200 words or so. Or send me a sketch. Then give me a week, & you'll have a map.
12-20-2008, 06:51 PM
12-23-2008, 10:48 PM
In the meantime - as promised, writeups of the two remaining primary "caster" classes - the psion and the warlock.
The manner in which newly awakened channelers develop their powers is mysterious, even to those who are subject to it. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to when or how a channeler appears, coming from all races, ages, and social stratum. Nor is the manner in which their power grows uniform. The first sign that an individual might be a latent channeler is a sort of hyper-natural awareness of their surroundings; everything starts becoming brighter, louder, or more intense. Most do not recognize these signs for what they are, until they begin to express their abilities unconsciously. Whether it is hearing the thoughts of those around them, moving small objects with sheer force of will, or finding that they can conjure fire from thin air, this is the point where all but the most obtuse must admit that they are becoming something different. As time passes, the warning signs grow more and more blatant and obvious, and someone who tries to hide or ignore their new talent eventually find it confronting them instead of the other way round. For those who make the effort to take control of the growing force within them and succeed, they join the ranks of the mentalists, the psions and the psychic warriors. A close-knit group by nature, mentalists of any form have an innate ability to recognize others of their craft on sight, and often tend towards a friendlier disposition than they would otherwise. Many successfully awakened mentalists remain in their previous homes, improving their day-to-day lives or those of others with the use of their power but otherwise staying the same. Others find themselves struck with an incurable wanderlust, pulling up all their roots and setting off across the world in search of who knows what.
Some scholars liken mentalists to safety valves on the leyline network, release mechanisms that allow the world’s natural magic to regulate its own ‘pressure’ safely. By this analogy, if mentalists are safety valves, the unfortunate individuals called warlocks are leaks. They emerge in the same manner as mentalists, but where a psion or psychic warrior successfully masters their latent power, a warlock is one who tries to do so and fails, or denies themselves to the point where they cannot suppress it any longer and it breaks loose on its own. Once tested and broken, a warlock is forever cursed to be a natural produce of magical energy. They can often harness fragments of the power flowing through them, though this control is limited to blasts of raw destructive energy and a handful of other abilities, but for the most part, their power simply surges forth of its own volition. Odd things happen around warlocks, things they cannot control or prevent. Sometimes these surges take a form similar to the manifestations of a burgeoning channeler, though at greater strengths and with uncontrollable targets. Other times it can be something even more bizarre – all plants within a certain distance of the warlock could wither and die, or the nearby air might start to shimmer and twist much like a heat haze. Harmless household pets can mutate into savage beasts overnight in close proximity to a warlock, or every piece of ironwork in the house could transform into glass. Naturally, this makes warlocks extremely unpopular individuals, frequently driven out of town by villagers angered over some new disaster that the warlock has unwittingly engendered. Many seek to perfect their skill at disguise and chicanery to mingle unknown amongst ordinary people, but even those who accomplish it must move on from time to time in order to escape exposure. Over time, intense meditation and inner study can provide a warlock with a modicum of control over the timing of their releases, but even this is a temporary measure at best.
COMING SOON: Part 3 - Races. Dwarves are up first!
01-04-2009, 11:47 PM
“How many dwarves does it take to light a torch?”
“I dunno, how many?”
“Three – one to hold the torch, one to strike the flint, and one to witness the contract they signed before starting!”
-A typical ‘dwarf joke’
Each of the four non-human races that dominate the world (excepting the mechanikals) were first born out of a mixing of blood spilt from the Few and Fallen, and some aspect of the natural or magical world. In the case of dwarves, their “parentage” is with that of earth, the rock and soil that forms the backbone of the mortal world. Inherently distrustful of others, they tend to put great stock in written agreements and guarantees – but as guarded and insular as the mountainfolk are, this is more than frequently the only aspect of their deep and complex culture that outsiders become aware of.
The height of a dwarf ranges between three and four and a half feet tall, with the average falling just under four feet, though with the bulk appropriate to a much larger creature. Their bodies are exceedingly dense for their size, a typical dwarf easily being capable of outweighing a man half again his size. The torso and legs of a dwarf are proportionate to one another, but its arms are unusually long for their size, capable of reaching to the dwarf’s shins without any bending of their knees. The gangly appearance this might otherwise promote is countered by the dwarven habit of keeping their arms tucked close to their bodies, leading many unfortunate would-be tormentors to be caught off guard by the reach of a dwarf victim’s arm - and weapon. Dwarves are naturally hairy creatures, sporting scalp hair (on both male and female dwarves) and facial hair (males only) in a range of colors from reddish-brown to pitch black. Whatever form of hair they happen to bear, it is a given that it will be kept clean and well-groomed, as well as styled appropriately. Their eyes follow a similar fashion, mostly restricted to browns and blacks in various shades, though “starry-eyed” dwarves with green, blue, or even violet eyes are not unheard of, and said to be blessed with good fortune. Their skin tends towards the pale side, though most dwarves spend enough time above-ground that they can do so without burning easily.
In terms of clothing, a dwarf’s foremost priority is functionality and efficiency. Unnecessary ornamentation is minimal or dispensed with altogether, with a simple set of earrings the fanciest personal decoration commonly seen on dwarves. They most commonly dress in a simple tunic and pants of woven cloth or leather, atop which they wear an overjacket of varying thickness dyed or otherwise marked in their clan colors. Finally, each individual dwarf can and will customize their outfit to preference, usually adding whatever tools or accessories they most often need to use throughout the day.
Clans, Contracts, and Clanholds:
The interior of a dwarf’s mind is a very interesting place, for where almost any creature not born as part of a hive mind would instinctively put their self-preservation before any others, a dwarf is literally raised from birth to weight two things in equal value – their safety and survival, and that of their clan. A dwarf’s clan is the most important facet of his identity, outstripping even blood. Indeed, a dwarf reciting his family history is more likely to know how many generations of ancestors he can count in a particular clan on either side of his heritage than the names of those same ancestors. Functionally, a dwarven clan is far more than a simple extended family, with a structure most easily likened to a cross between a socialist nation-state and a massive business corporation. Each clan claims dominion over a certain area of surface territory and the earth beneath it, counting multiple families and bloodlines, bearing a unique set of colors and heraldry. The clan is led by one or more ‘elders’, who make major decisions on behalf of the clan in terms of expansion or development. The exact number of elders varies, and they are typically the oldest and most experienced dwarves in the clan.
A dwarf’s clan plays a very active, if subtle, role in his or her daily life. To a dwarf, the needs of the clan as a whole are always viewed with equal weight at minimum against their own individual needs, and the same situation applies in reverse when it comes clan resources being employed on behalf of its members; the clan may be paramount, but it is only as strong as those who count membership in it. Dwarves constantly evaluate their own behavior and actions, calculating how they might benefit, profit, or potentially harm the clan. Anyone within their clan is instinctively elevated to a higher level of trust, while anyone outside it is considered with suspicion at best and hostility at worst. Any dwarf in need can appeal to clan authorities for assistance, receiving clan funds to purchase food, clothing, and/or shelter until such time as they can support themselves again. In return, they are expected to supply an annual tithe to the clan, both in time and money. Coordinated by central administrators, all dwarves must devote a certain portion of their time to serving clan interests or performing some vital duty for the clan, free of payment or compensation beyond any survival necessities. This labor tithe places dwarves where they will be most valuable, but it is purely in terms of time served and productivity gained – a dwarf whose mind gives him skill at calculating large sums is weighed no more or less for his tithe than one who allots his time digging up ores and precious gems. Since many choose to complete their obligations by serving in the clan’s military, there is almost always a trained fighting force close at hand, and a significant majority of the clan will have combat training of some sort or another. Additionally, a percentage of every dwarf’s income during their own time is also taken by the clan, used to keep it functioning and to replenish the previously mentioned communal fund available for dwarves incapacitated by illness, injury, or other unfortunate circumstances. Beyond these requirements, however, all dwarves of the clan are free to make their own ways or fortunes, and they have the full backing of their clan when investment capital or support is needed towards a new potential venture. Failure to meet tithe is a crime akin to tax evasion, and dwarves that appear to be potential freeloaders are met with sanctions and punishments aimed at rehabilitating them into productive members of society. Few dwarves are completely without value or merit whatsoever, but those who simply cannot or will not contribute may find themselves banished, stripped of their clan identity and exiled into the lands beyond clan borders.
Dwarves tend to be very trusting of one another from their own clan, particularly after an oath sworn on the clan, as it would be unthinkable for any dwarf to knowingly and willingly dishonor their clan to such a degree. When it comes to other clans, however, and especially non-dwarves, they tend to be much more suspicious. Anyone not of their clan is inherently untrustworthy, and they will only enter into dealings of any kind with such a person if the arrangement is backed by a written agreement or contract. All dwarves take contracts extremely seriously, promises indelibly written in ink or even blood – it goes against everything a dwarf’s culture stands for to violate a written contract, and they tend to hold other beings to a similar standard once such an agreement has been signed. A contract can be put in place for any number of reasons, most commonly for business. Two individual dwarves might write up a short contract guaranteeing the exchange of a portion of one’s mushroom harvest for a supply of skillfully tanned leather to make clothing out of, or two clans might contract together to jointly construct a new security watchtower in between their territories, one clan supplying material while the other supplies workers or construction expertise. As a pragmatic side effect of this tendency to rigidly define their obligations and duties, setups such as arranged marriages for political or business alliances are likewise framed in terms of a contract – the intended pair is only required to be married until the deal towards which they were used for is concluded, after which they are usually free to dissolve the marriage or form up a new marriage contract on their own terms. Contrary to common belief, dwarves do not literally rely on contracts for every small action in their lives, only those of great importance – despite this, the jokes persist, and dwarves themselves maintain a low enough opinion of non-dwarves to begin with that they rarely make an effort to dispel the image.
Within each clan’s territory, its population is typically divided between the central clanhold and a variable number of satellite settlements in important locations. The clanhold itself is a broad, sprawling metropolis of buildings and tunnels that stretches both high into the sky and deep underground, supplying both living and working space for a majority of the clan’s membership. Beneath the surface, precisely mapped and excavated tunnels and rooms can stretch for dizzying distances in patterns that only a dwarf has any hope of navigating without a map or guide. Everything in a dwarven clanhold is planned out and prelocated before the first pick is swung, with the aid of skilled dwarven adepts who can scry deep into the earth and note the locations of geological features that must be taken into account. Even if a particular expansion or area is not needed immediately, its future location is considered for purposes of infrastructure. A clanhold’s aboveground portion is similarly impressive, due to the underlying dwarven philosophy that if anything is worth doing, it is worth doing big. They also tend to have a significant supply of leftover building material from their underground excavations, allowing them plenty of supplies to fulfill their ideal. Dwarven structures rarely, if ever, number less than three stories, and often stretch as high as four or five. Hulking constructions of stone, brick, and mortar, they serve the clanhold as storage buildings, multi-family apartment buildings, or interaction areas for non-dwarven visitors who would be exceedingly cramped underground. Occasionally, they have no purpose at all, mere empty structures kept maintained and clean in waiting for some indeterminate future time when they will be needed for one reason or another – a buffer of sorts against random acts that the clanhold planners could not anticipate. Each clanhold is, for the most part, self-sufficient, feeding its inhabitants off a combination of surface soil farms and underground caves used to raise mushroom crops or blind fish. The clan’s forges and refineries will be located within the clanhold, though smaller settlements are often constructed near distant mine sites or other crucial resource nodes for easier collection and processing. Finally, the clanhold is the seat of the clan’s government, hosting both regular meetings of the clan elders and the periodical Clanmeets that give every dwarf, no matter how inconsequential, at least a small voice in the overall affairs of the clan.
Dwarves as a rule tend towards stoicism and caution, being very unlikely to rush into a situation without surveying it carefully beforehand. They prefer elaborate plans, complete with plenty of contingencies for unexpected complications, above spur-of-the-moment planning and improvisations. In battle, they operate in a similar manner, setting themselves a specific chain of goals to complete or foes to slay and methodically working to accomplish them one by one. They are implacable foes, incredibly difficult to defeat or drive away without killing them all, and even such victories tend to be only temporary ones as the dwarves in question regroup to resume their assault. In the case of the feared elite dwarven battle-trancers, they must literally be cut to pieces in order to stop their advance. For weaponry, dwarves overwhelmingly favor weapons both similar to those they wield in daily life and well-suited to their body type. Heavy hammers, picks, and axes are the most commonly seen dwarven weapon of choice, though dwarven swordfighters are not unheard of, and many dwarven knives and daggers have won alley brawls by taking advantage of a foe underestimating the blade’s reach. No prejudice against magic exists in dwarven culture, though wizards are typically favored over clerics due to the inherently split loyalties that a cleric must endure. Sorcerers fall somewhere between the two, as the instinctive appreciation for a formal contract such as the pacts any sorcerer must swear clash head-on with the dislike of engaging in such a binding with a party potentially hostile to the clan’s interests. Dwarven sorcerers must walk a fine line to avoid either losing the favor of their clan or gaining the wrath of their patron. Psions are judged primarily on the means towards which they apply their un-asked for powers, while warlocks are as loathed in dwarven communities (sometimes moreso) as they are anywhere else.
Dwarven Racial Traits:
-Small Humanoid (Dwarf)
-+2 Constitution, -2 Charisma. Dwarves share the resilience of the stone in which they dwell, but too often this transfers over into an equal inflexibility towards their dealings with others.
-Speed: 20ft. Dwarves in heavy armor do not suffer a reduction to their speed.
-Stonecunning (Ex): A dwarf can instinctively analyze nearby stonework, gaining a +2 racial bonus to any Search or Spot checks to detect traps or other unusual features made of stone.
-+2 racial bonus to Appraise and Craft checks related to stone and metal items.
-Powerful Build (Ex): Dwarves may consider themselves one size larger whenever it would be beneficial to them. This allows them to make checks or opposed checks with a modifier based on size as if they were one size category larger, and they are affected by special attacks such as Improved Grab and Swallow Whole as if they were one size category larger as well. A dwarf may wield weapons designed for a creature up to one size category larger than themselves, though their space and reach remain the same. This trait stacks with spells, powers, and abilities that increase the subject’s size category.
-Resilience (Ex): Dwarves gain a +1 racial bonus on saving throws against poison and death effects.
-Stability (Ex): Dwarves gain a +4 racial bonus to resist being bull rushed or tripped.
Alignment: Frequently Lawful.
Next in docket: Elves!
01-09-2009, 11:02 AM
“How many elves does it take to light a torch?”
“I dunno, how many?”
“Seventeen – one to hold the torch, one to strike the flint, while the other fifteen get bored and leave.”
-A typical “elf joke”
Where blood fell and pooled in the land long ago consecrated by the fey, the product of the two was elves. Creatures simultaneously mortal and Faerie, they are eternally torn between the two realms that call for their blood. Like the fey, they carry an innate hunger for the many and varied experiences of mortal life, but unlike their alien ancestors, they bear the potential, at least, to gain those experiences for themselves. Towards this end, they wander unceasingly, constantly trying new things to mute their curiosity for as long as they can.
At first glance, an elf might appear to be nothing more than an exceptionally tall human. They tend to be thin and pale, rarely shorter than five and a half feet and often taller than six. Their eyes are almost universally green or blue, with hair ranging the gap from black to white-blond. A closer look, however, will bring to light the subtly unsettling differences that indicate that an elf is not human at all. Their limbs seem slightly too long for their bodies, combining with their inhumanly graceful movement to give the impression of something more insect-like than humanoid. The planes of their face are too sharp and angular, and their ears come to angular points. Even their eyes can disturb an observer who expects the round orbs of a human and encounters narrow ovals like those of a cat. There is no discernable pattern to the manner in which elves dress, as it varies considerably by individual and frequently depends on their current interests at the time.
At their core, the central motivation that drives an elf to explore is their hunger for new experiences. A mere shadow of the overpowering desire that drives full-blooded fey, it is still powerful enough to form the base of any elf’s personality and desires. The fey wish to know all that there is about mortality, with all the time in the world to learn it but lacking the ability to do so. This is the direct opposite to the dilemma facing any elf - they are not immortal, though they do live far longer than any of the nominally mortal races that they dwell amongst. Still, they cannot escape their innate desire for new things to discover and learn, and so they choose to wander the world in search of anything that will satisfy their hunger even temporarily. To an outsider, an elf might seem incredibly flighty and unfocused, having dabbled through their lives in carpentry, cooking, poetry, sailing, farming, and herbalism. To an elf, however, ‘dabbling’ takes on an entirely new meaning. When an elf chooses or stumbles upon a topic or subject that interests them, it becomes the entire focus of their existence. Aside from eating and sleeping, they do nothing that is not related to practice of theory of their new obsession, working tirelessly to master it. Again, an elf’s concept of mastery can differ greatly from that of another creature’s . Where a human master craftsman might achieve their status by devoting an entire lifespan to their craft, whatever it may be, an elf engaged in the exact same activity remains interested in that craft only so long as it still has something new to offer. Knowledge or experience is inconsequential, but repetition is boring. For example, an elf who desires to make clocks will engage in study of the clock-making craft, likely offering themselves as an assistant or apprentice to an experienced clockmaker. Clockmaking becomes their life, but once they have comprehended every aspect of the theory behind clockmaking and successfully built a clock on their own, the activity can no longer hold their attention. Whatever the cosmetic differences that a second clock might have, it would still be the same overall process that they just went through the first time. With nothing more to learn about clockmaking, and nothing new to experience in the act itself, they move on to some other area of life, quite likely never picking up the tools of a clockmaker again in their life. In between manias, elves tend to drift aimlessly, offering their many and varied services to whoever needs them in order to support themselves.
Elves in general tend to be extroverted more than solitary, since so much of mortal life revolves around interacting with others. They are not always adept at such interactions and their unsettling demeanor and appearance can cause problems when dealing with strangers, but the art of mingling with humans and other races is frequently one of the first activities that a travelling elf chooses to dedicate themselves to encompassing. There is no unified elf culture to speak of, as elves tend to adapt to their surroundings wherever they go. Two elves who happen to have a common interest may associate for a time, but this lasts only as long as their particular foci overlap. The only activity that can drive an elf to form long-lasting relationships is producing offspring; elves have a much higher chance to breed true than most other races in an interspecies pairing, and they will typically remain close to their partner and child until they have grown enough to strike out on their own, a span of approximately twenty to thirty years for an elven child. Even after the child is grown and they move on to yet another sphere of interest, the elf will usually maintain occasional contact with their partner, though it is too much to expect them to settle down permanently. An elf’s attitude towards others, and how they appear to those around them, depends heavily on whether they have a current primary interest. Elves wandering in between interests are the primary source of jokes regarding their lack of attention spans, as they tend to pay a little bit of attention to everything around them, jumping between focuses as they search for something new to catch their curiosity.
Elven Racial Traits:
Medium Humanoid (Elf)
+2 Dexterity, -2 Wisdom.
Base Speed 30ft.
+4 skill points at 1st level, +1 skill point at each additional level.
Spell-Like Ability: 1/day – expeditious retreat.
+2 to saves vs. Enchantments, Illusions, and Telepathy.
+1 DC when using an Enchantment, Illusion, or Telepathy spell, power, or ability.
Alignment: Typically Chaotic.
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