Welcome to the Scroungers Campaign Setting, a world of ships and shores, paucity and poverty, crowding and conflict. This world was designed especially for the DUNGEONS & DRAGONS game to provide players with new options for their campaigns. The world seamlessly incorporates the bewildering variety of content available for the d20 fantasy rules set and can support almost any style of game imaginable.
The Scroungers setting centers on the continent of Stha Lui, the world’s only remaining refuge for terrestrial life following a catastrophic flood known as the Torrent. Originally a high plateau surrounded by tall mountains, Stha Lui is the last large area of dry land left on the world. The rest of the planet is covered in a single large ocean dotted with islands. Most (if not all) of these islands are uncharted and provide opportunities for Dungeon Masters to insert almost any type of game content into the setting. Some island chains are described in this book (though their general locations in relation to Stha Lui are not) and DM’s are encouraged to create as many new islands or archipelagos as needed for their campaigns.
The Tone of the World
This setting establishes a tone unique among D&D campaign settings; one that combines high fantasy with scarcity and desperation while maintaining as many of the fantastic and magical elements associated with fantasy roleplaying as possible. Other settings attempt to establish this feeling of scarcity by severely limiting the class and race options available to the players or simply recommending a reduction in access to magic. The Scroungers setting, on the other hand, limits the players’ monetary resources and depicts an economic system that addresses issues of social breakdown and overpopulation.
A campaign set in the Scroungers setting should feel desperate and exciting as the characters try to stretch their resources to their limits, make due with sub-standard or non-ideal equipment, and embark on desperate quests for resources. Simple commodities like wood, ore, and foodstuffs become precious sources of wealth in this climate, grounding the game in the sorts of economic transactions that players are familiar with from history, current events, and every-day life.
Another major theme of the Scroungers setting is racial and cultural interaction. A wide variety of racial and cultural groups exist in an extremely limited area where a majority of the population is, on some level, immigrant-based. This forced mingling plays out across the landscape of the setting in unique solutions to social, political, and economic problems as well as violent conflict, discrimination, and simmering hatred.
Additionally, all this takes place against the backdrop of a complete social breakdown. Approximately 600 years before the start of the campaign, a disastrous flood known as the Torrent inundated the world, submerging all but the highest mountain peaks. The area that became the continent of Stha Lui (the central land mass of the campaign setting) was once a high plateau surrounded on three sides by towering mountain ranges. It is now the only known land mass of any great size.
Over time, the few survivors of each race all found their way to Stha Lui and attempted to establish themselves on its shores. This has resulted not only in the melting pot effect mentioned earlier but also in the complete destruction of most social networks and the need to establish a new society. The society of Stha Lui is in its infancy and remains fractured and chaotic.
Finally, the setting is marked by a strong sense of nostalgia and longing for home. Every cultural and racial group is in some way dislocated, whether it is as a result of the Torrent’s destruction of their original homeland or because they were pushed from their lands by the arrival of refugee groups (commonly called “newcomers”). Almost everyone longs for home while stories and songs of long lost lands fill many a head.
Ten Things to Know About Scroungers
- Everything is Scarce: From food to wood to metal to magic items, almost everything in the Scroungers setting is scarce. Money is tight, resources are slim, and there are a lot of people competing for the same things. This means that adventurers will be less powerful at any given level but also means that acquiring and selling things like timber or apple trees is a legitimate means of accumulating wealth.
- The Torrent: Approximately 600 years before the start of the campaign, a catastrophic flood submerged most of the world’s land masses, leaving Stha Lui as the only known continent of any size still above water. A number of uncharted island chains also dot the surface of the world’s ocean.
- Scroungers: As Stha Lui’s resources are rapidly being depleted, a new group of entrepreneurs has sprung up to seek supplementary resources at sea. These individuals, known collectively as “scroungers,” sail in search of wealth on islands or underwater. At best they’re innovative businessmen and honorable traders. At worst they’re little more than pirates. At all times they compete with each other for information, customers, and commodities to sell.
- Nostalgia: Almost every group in the setting is displaced in some way, either by the Torrent or by the arrival of new groups to Stha Lui. A sense of nostalgia and longing for semi-mythical lost homelands pervades the setting.
- Landborn Versus Newcomers: The original inhabitants of Stha Lui, known as the landborn, are bitter about the arrival of the newcomers. Similarly, the newcomers see the landborn as hostile and threatening to their survival. While there are always exceptions to this rule, in general, landborn and newcomers are in conflict.
- Racial and Cultural Interaction: Stha Lui is small and full of people from diverse backgrounds, all trying to eke out an existence and build a community. Wherever you go, there is cultural mixing. Languages have shifted, traditions are being shared, and cultural lines are blurring. Simultaneously, there are people who oppose these trends.
- Linguistic Diversity: The cultural and racial groups making up the population of Stha Lui speak a number of distinct languages. A common trade language has developed but is sharply limited in utility. As such, there is no equivalent to the “Common” spoken in other D&D settings.
- Regional Focus: Stha Lui is divided up into a number of different regions, each with its own cultural fabric, economic resources, and racial makeup. The setting offers a number of new options based on a character’s home region. Regional identities are very important in the politics of Stha Lui.
- Go-Stone: While magic and psionics are still prevalent on Stha Lui, a new technology is being developed based around energy-emitting stones known as “go-stones.” No one knows how these stones came into existence but they can be used to power ships, construct fantastic machines, or even enhance weapons and armor. But be careful! They can be dangerous if mishandled.
- Island Hopping: The uncharted nature of the ocean surrounding Stha Lui allows the DM to insert any sort of game content he or she desires. Want to run a session of encounters with dinosaurs? Have the players go to an undiscovered island populated by dinosaurs!
Games in the Scroungers Campaign Setting
The Scroungers setting was created with two types of campaigns in mind and can easily be used as the setting for either type of campaign. The two types of campaigns assumed in the creation of the setting are: traditional ongoing D&D campaigns and episodic campaigns.
The traditional campaign is what most frequently comes to mind when people think of games like D&D. This campaign usually has a strong overarching plotline and the events of each session follow each other in a more-or-less continuous timeline. Downtime and breaks in continuity can be a part of this sort of campaign but tend to be short in duration and occur only when the plot allows for a break. A traditional campaign has the feel of a novel or movie, with all of the action unfolding before the eyes of the players.
The Scroungers setting was also designed with a more episodic campaign style in mind. In contrast to a traditional campaign, an episodic campaign features frequent breaks in continuity and significant events that occur in between sessions. In many cases, episodic campaigns set in the Scroungers setting take place at sea with the PC’s as members of a scrounger crew. Given the large number of possible uncharted islands, each session can easily focus on the PC’s experiences at a different location, with travel time, re-supplying and other events taking place “off camera.” Similarly, Stha Lui’s relatively large number of urban centers, undeveloped hinterlands, and mountainous borders can make an episodic land-based campaign a reality. An episodic campaign has the feel of a television series, where each session is not necessarily immediately following the previous session.
It should be noted that these two styles of campaign are not mutually exclusive. It is entirely possible to insert an overarching plot into an episodic campaign and to link a number of sessions together temporally while maintaining an episodic feel. Similarly, a DM can easily insert an episodic section into a larger traditional campaign.