Hey everybody So, I'm new to GITP and this is my first attempt at world-building, which means two things--one, I'm unfamiliar with a lot of the forumspeak I've seen people using on here (for example, I have no idea what PEACH stands for) and two, I'd welcome any feedback you have on my ideas. For the moment, I'm going to just go over some of the basic concepts and thematic elements I'd like to work with. I have more ideas pretty firmly in place as of now, including the name Shadelight which ties into my history, but for now I just want to start with the basics.
So, here we go:
I want the mythology and culture of my setting to focus a LOT on astrology and the influence the movement of celestial bodies has on the world. This won't be just superstition--the common cultural thread of astrology will be a very real part of life, and impact the players in tangible ways. I'm thinking of implementing a mechanic where each character has a particular birth sign that will grant them certain bonuses and attributes, and change how they are affected by certain magic and stuff.
Demons and devils are great, but I think we've got plenty of settings that make ample use of them already. I'm thinking of making aberrant monsters and the Far Realm a much bigger player than in most settings, to fill the gap. Because I like the idea of settings with slightly more ambiguous morality and alignment systems, this gives me an opportunity to work with a huge extraplanar threat that isn't necessarily Evil, but still undeniably dangerous. Aberrant monsters are so insane and alien that mortals really just can't grasp how they think, but whether or not they mean to, they have a hugely transformative effect on the world just by existing in it. That sounds really cool, and also fits totally with the astrological theme I'm going for.
Like I said above, I'm a fan of settings that eliminate, or at least significantly reinvent, the traditional alignment system. I'm thinking of doing something similar here, possibly getting rid of alignments and replacing them with the aforementioned system based on characters' birth signs. The powers that define the cosmos in Shadelight aren't bound by Good, Evil, Law or Chaos--I want them to feel more primal and alien to mortals, with gods that are pretty much uncaring and aberrant monsters that are so insane they just don't fit into the traditional system of alignments. Hopefully, if I can pull this off, it'll allow for a lot more freedom of choice and challenging morality conundrums.
I don't want this to be a "low-fantasy" setting, really--it'll have all the core races and classes, its fair share of magic items, and quite a bit of fantastical influence on its history and current state of affairs. However, I don't want it to get to the point where every town has its resident wizard and magic items can be bought in shops wherever one goes. Even though magic will be undoubtedly real and known by the common people, actual practitioners of the arcane arts will be rare and dangerous. Arcane magic won't necessarily be inherently a dark art, but most people won't understand this, and those who use it will face suspicion and fear almost everywhere they go. Divine casters will have a much easier time of things--their positions as respected faith leaders and pillars of the community will remain largely unchanged, and divine magic will be far more common than arcane in most places (though still not completely accessible for everybody).
So, what do you think? Could this be something worth developing further? Let me know if you want to see more
Ok, after a long interim period (I had other stuff to do) I'm back to work on my setting. Up next is a quick overview of the cosmology and the gods of Shadelight.
As far as mortals know with reasonable certainty, there are only two planes--the Material Plane, where pretty much everything recognizable resides, and the Void. Various religions and mythologies make mention of other worlds--heaven, paradise and the like--but if other planes exist in the multiverse, they cannot be reached or contacted by any means known currently.
The Material Plane is pretty standard fare. It includes the planet of Arendia upon which mortals and fey live, the sun that it orbits, the six moons that orbit it, and possibly other stars and planets unknown to mortals. The Void is a bit like a mix between the Ethereal plane, the Astral plane, and the Far Realm. Rather than the matter and energy found on the Material Plane, the Void is a realm occupied by Dark Energy. Exactly what Dark Energy is is something of a mystery, even to those few who study such matters in secret, but it is known that arcane spellcasters draw their powers from Dark Energy pulled from the Void, transforming it into the positive and negative energy and various forms of matter that their spells rely on using Words of Power. It is this connection to the Void that earns mages their unpleasant reputation throughout Arendia, for the Void is not uninhabited--it is home to the horrific, insane alien monsters known alternately as the Others, the Outsiders, or by other names as varied as they are themselves (think of Cthulu, the Great Old Ones, or any of the regular aberrant monsters from D&D). While arcane magic does not necessarily require communication with the Outsiders, the manipulation of Dark Energy draws their attention and entices them to interfere on the Material Plane, with disastrous consequences. Even worse, some mages actively court the attentions of these entities in attempts to increase their powers, making dangerous pacts with them and even summoning them directly into Arendia on purpose. Not all practitioners of arcane magic follow this path, but those who do have caused some of the greatest disasters in history, with the result that most common folk hold an attitude of deep suspicion and fear towards the arcane arts.
The Gods and Divine Magic
Arendia is orbited by six moons, each roughly the same size and orbiting at close to the same distance. The moons are far more than dead lumps of space rock, however--each corresponds directly to one of the six gods of Shadelight. Their movements across the sky and the patterns they form in relation to each other play a significant role in determining the course of Arendia's history and the destinies of individual mortals.
It is unclear exactly where the gods themselves reside cosmologically. Some cultures believe that the moons are the homes of the gods, others that they actually are the gods; some say the moons are windows into the planes the gods inhabit, still others that the moons really are simply objects, created by the gods and placed in the sky so mortals could mark the passing of months and years. Regardless of where the gods actually are, they do not communicate with their mortal followers directly. The fey are fond of claiming that the gods do speak to them--they group themselves based on which god they claim to descend from, and see it as their role to impart the will of their god to mortals of like mind. Whether or not this is truly the case is the subject of much debate among mortals. Many theologians believe that it is this relationship with the fey that is the source of Arendia's religious diversity--through the fey and their divine magic, mortals are aware of the gods' existence, but even among fey who claim descent from the same god, there is much inconsistency in their description of their divine heritor. One particular fey dedicated to Kane, the god of war, might describe him as an honorable and just warrior who protects and cares for his faithful, while another claims him to be a vicious predator who must be regularly appeased to avoid disaster.
Divine magic does not come from direct interaction with the gods themselves, but rather with their fey intermediaries. Divine casters gain their powers from contracts made with particular fey entities--their spells are actually the means by which they call upon their fey patron, or one of their servants, to aid them in particular tasks. A cleric casting a Cure Wounds spell is merely praying to her fey patron to use their divine powers to heal a comrade, or to send a weaker subordinate faerie to do it on their behalf. Because a particular faerie will only work for a follower a limited number of times (after all, they have many other things they'd rather be doing), divine casters are limited in the number of spells they can call upon every day. Divine scrolls represent written contracts with a fey patron to perform specific tasks at a later time outside the user's normal spell allotment. While arcane magical ability must be either inherited at birth or learned through long study, divine magic is as simple as proving one's devotion to a fey who can grant the necessary powers, and as such, divine magic is far more common than arcane across most of Arendia. Its derivation from the fey and the gods allows its practitioners to operate with much more freedom than arcane casters. On the other hand, a divine caster who displeases their fey patron might find that patron's willingness to perform magic on their behalf suddenly lost in the middle of battle.
So, there you have it. Next update will go more into the specifics of describing each god and their realms of influence. After that, I'll move on to the history and geography of Arendia itself. Please reply with any commentary that occurs to you
I'm really liking the vibe that this campaign setting is giving me.
-What's the tech/culture level? Medieval? Reinassance? Early Modern? Steampunk/Victorian?
-What's seperates the gods from the outsiders? Is it simply that the gods have worshippers, or is there a fundamental difference?
-What system(s) do you have in mind for this setting?
-What astrology is your astrology system going to be based off? Greek, Chinese, or something entirely unique?
The tech level I'm planning is pretty traditional high medieval fantasy--steel is fairly common, plate armor is used but is very rare and expensive, no gunpowder in the known world. Also, very little magical technology, due to arcane magic's unpleasant reputation and divine magic's being restricted to the devoted (of whom there are few).
The separation between the gods and the outsiders...think about it like this: the gods, while being distant and unknown for the most part, are still a natural part of the world. Their existence is tied closely to the survival of Arendia--if they were killed, the world would probably be destroyed. They are natural and essential. The Outsiders, on the other hand, are not part of the universe as we understand it. They exist "outside" creation, and on the rare occasions when they manage to take physical form on the Material Plane, they have a corrupting and destructive effect on reality just by existing. That might not clarify it very much, but don't worry about that--the subject is just as confusing to most inhabitants of the setting themselves.
I'm planning on writing this as a Pathfinder setting, while also adapting some 3.5 material for the Pathfinder rules whenever necessary (particularly one prestige class I'm thinking of...more on that in a future update). Unfortunately, it might be pretty difficult to run Shadelight in any other system, since one of the things I'm focusing on in my design process is to avoid having the flavor of the setting clash with the rules of Pathfinder.
As for the astrological system, that's going to be completely original Hopefully, with only six basic lunar signs to work with, it'll be slightly simpler for both me and any players to design and play, but I'm planning on designing an extremely detailed calendar system tied to the astrology, so it might be a while before I can go into detail about it.
Anyway, I just managed to find my notes on the gods, so that update will be coming later today. Stay tuned
Ok, time to talk about the gods. As explained in the last update, none of the gods communicate with mortals directly, so interpretation of them varies greatly--based partly on information dispensed by the fey, who can rarely seem to agree about anything, and interpretation of this information by mortals themselves. There are, however, common elements of each god's mythology that are agreed upon by many of their followers.
An aside--you might notice that these descriptions make references to druids and lycanthropy. This is part of what I'm doing with the druid class in Shadelight, and will be explained later, when I go into more detail about the roles of classes and races. Also, the gods are all technically androgynous, but I assign each of them a gender for this update--this is based on the mythology of one particular religion that, again, I will describe more later on.
Anyway, back to the gods:
Kane, the God of War
The blood-red moon of Kane is revered by the races of Arendia as the bringer of battle. When it waxes full in the sky, it is said the blood of men boils and drives them to war, and the carnivores of the wild are filled with a ravenous, insatiable hunger. Among the barbarian cultures, Kane is seen as the ultimate predator, and hunters beseech him for the strength and cunning to triumph over prey and the enemies of their people. More "civilized" religions look to Kane for victory in war, asking him to protect their armies and ensure they fight with honor and courage. Kane's domains are War, Protection, Destruction and Strength. His sacred animal is the wolf, one of nature's most fearsome hunters, and his druidic followers are sometimes granted the lycanthropic power to take on lupine forms.
Idra, the God of Wisdom
Scholars and wise men of all sorts revere Idra as the keeper of knowledge and the source of inspiration for great inventions. Those born under his silver moon are believed to possess great wisdom and clarity of thought. Druidic followers of Idra seek to emulate the cunning and resourcefulness of his sacred animal, the raven, and those who do so faithfully sometimes receive the gift of wereraven lycanthropy. In the temples and churches of larger cities, clerics of Idra usually take on the role of educators and loremasters, keeping records of history and seeking to spread wisdom and enlightenment among their followers. Idra's domains and Knowledge, Healing, Law and Luck.
Shamesh, the God of Trickery
Shamesh is the clever and mischievous goddess of trickery, and perhaps the least popular among the six gods. Nights illuminated by her golden moon are said to bring great prosperity and luck to those who pay Shamesh the proper respect, and sorrow and grief to those who spurn her and find their fortunes stolen away by those in better favor. Whatever petty misfortunes might befall one's family are usually attributed to her pranks--when the year's crop of barley fails or someone scribbles in Father Cole's most expensive books, Shamesh is often blamed. This love-hate relationship with the trickster goddess leads most cultures to have few direct worshipers of Shamesh, but most everyone keeps a stash of offerings to her in a safe place. The cunning and agile cat is Shamesh's sacred animal, and those among her druidic worshipers who possess the gift of werecat lycanthropy can be deadly foes indeed. Her domains are Trickery, Luck, Chaos and Travel.
Toth, the God of the Earth
Rarely will one find any sort of large community that is not primarily composed of Toth-worshipers. As the god of land and earth, the influence of Toth is certainly among the most widespread of any god's, and possibly the most crucial to the daily lives of most ordinary mortals. His worshipers range from farmers who pray to him for bountiful harvests, to hunters who appeal for plentiful game, to masons, smiths and woodworkers who venerate him for providing the materials with which to practice their crafts. Equally importantly, Toth is worshiped by many cultures as the god of death and rebirth, particularly among those who bury their dead (cultures who use cremation in funerals more commonly attribute this sphere of influence to Rokkur, see below). Those born under his verdant green moon are widely regarded as being greatly blessed, marked to enjoy good health, long life and fruitful labors for all their days. Toth is often depicted as a coiled serpent holding its own tail in its mouth, representing the unending cycle of life and death as well as the shape of Arendia itself--more powerful druids of Toth become wereserpents when they call upon their lycanthropic gifts. Toth's domains are Earth, Animal, Plant and Death.
Nissa, the God of the Sea
The favored deity of sailors, fishermen and seafarers of all stripes, Nissa is the alternately benevolent and wrathful goddess of water. Next to Toth, worship of Nissa is perhaps the most generally popular, particularly among the island-dwelling peoples of the Broken Sea. She is revered by any who make their living on the waves, and her name is also sung by anyone beginning or ending a journey over water--the former in prayer for safe passage, the latter in thanks for arriving unharmed. Like the sea she rules, her perceived moods and attitude are somewhat unpredictable--some depict her as a loving and protective goddess bringing forth great bounty for those in her favor, others as a wrathful and destructive force who must be appeased regularly to keep her from swallowing up the land. People born under Nissa's aqua-green moon are usually most comfortable living a seafaring life, or so it is said. Nissa's sacred animal is the shark, the top of the aquatic food chain--because of this, druids of Nissa who become weresharks when they shapeshift almost always live near water, though they are equally mobile and deadly on dry land. Her domains are Water, Animal, Destruction and Healing.
Rokkur, the God of the Sky
Rokkur's royal blue moon is believed to mark the births of people possessed of great presence, influence and personal power. The influence of the sky goddess' religion tends to carry over to many aspects of even the other gods' traditions--after all, the sky is where the moons themselves reside, and it can be seen almost no matter where one goes in Arendia. Rokkur is the ruler of wind, rain and thunder, who calls down rainfall to nourish crops and splits open the clouds to unleash thunderstorms. Together with Shamesh, she is worshiped as the patron and protector of travelers, sending wind to speed them on their journeys and stretching the sky over their heads to watch over them everywhere they go. It is largely due to her connection with the immense power of storms that those born under her sign are said to possess powerful personalities--the phrase "speaks with the voice of thunder" is used to mean that when someone speaks, everyone listens and obeys. Rokkur's sacred animal is the majestic eagle, whose form can be assumed by some powerful druids. Her domains are Air, Strength, Protection and Travel.
So, that's another big update out of the way. Next time, I'll start talking about geography to prepare for more detail about history and cultures. As always, PEACH at your convenience.
Ok, next update Now, up until this point, I've pretty much just been posting stuff I already had written and clearly defined. Now that's going to change. Although I have a pretty clear idea of most of the important stuff in my head, all the actual written content for the setting will be completely original for this thread from here on out. This means I might end up editing or retconning some minor details as the setting progresses, but hopefully not too often or drastically.
Now, back to content. What follows is a brief overview of the history of Shadelight, starting from the beginning of recorded history (the genesis mythologies will remain, for now at least, ambiguous). Spoiler-ception indicates world secrets for GM eyes only--if you're approaching this setting as a player, skip the double spoilers.
The Age of Ancients
Four thousand and some years ago, virtually the entire known world was ruled by a civilization known now, in various languages, as the Old Kingdom. Ruled by a High King and a collection of Magisters, the Old Kingdom is known to have been a cosmopolitan civilization incorporating most of the civilized races--rather than referring to the people of the Old Kingdom by race, most simply call them "the Ancients" collectively. There are few surviving records of this period, but based on those that have been recovered, it is known that the Ancients possessed incredibly powerful arcane magic that has rarely been duplicated since, and by using this magic to discern information about the nature of the world, they also achieved a level of technology unthinkable to most people today. The greatest mages in the Old Kingdom were the ruling Magisters, and the greatest among these was the High King himself. Though records on the subject of where the Magisters drew their powers from are among the scarcest of all, it is the almost universal opinion that the High King's godlike arcane mastery stemmed from an artifact called the Shadelight.
Exactly what the Shadelight was and where it came from is a mystery today. Some say it was the core of a star that fell to Arendia, others that it was once the heart of a mighty dragon, still others that it was a fabulous jewel unearthed from deep beneath the ground. Numerous depictions have been found in Old Kingdom ruins of the High King holding aloft a mirror-smooth orb radiating incredible power, and scholars who study the Ancients commonly believe this to be a representation of the Shadelight, though how accurate it is is unknown. Regardless of its exact nature, it is known that it was the source of the Old Kingdom's rulers' incredible arcane strength, extended the lifespan of the holder dramatically, and served as a power source for much of the magical technology the Ancients used.
How did such a powerful civilization come to an end? Alas, that is one of the many mysteries surrounding the Ancients. At a date marked by modern astrologers as precisely 4021 years ago, all records left by the Ancients abruptly cease, and none truly know what became of their writers. Many of the faithful believe that the gods punished the ancients for their hubris and increasing decadence by sending some great doom to purge them from Arendia, sinking their great capital city of Danu Talis beneath the ocean and destroying all they had built across the rest of the world. This theory has become quite popular, not least because, although other ruins from the Old Kingdom era have been found, no trace of their great capital has ever been located, nor has any clue as to the final resting place of the Shadelight itself.
The Age of Doubt
The end of the Old Kingdom was followed by a dark age that lasted for most of the next thousand years. The formerly civilized races dissolved into tribal communities and preyed on each other to survive. Almost no record of that period has been uncovered--what has been found is almost entirely discerned from cave paintings and other such images, since literacy was virtually lost. Magic was virtually forgotten without the Shadelight to serve as a power source for its practitioners, and the technological prowess of the Old Kingdom vanished completely. The absence of any reliable evidence as to events during this period led later historians to name it the Age of Doubt, and it remains a glaring gap in historical knowledge to this day.
The Age of Tribes
The end of the Age of Doubt was brought about not by changes in mortals, but by the intervention of the Fey for the first time in recorded history. Why the Fey chose to wait to begin making their existence known to mortals until now is unknown, but there are two primary theories--the first is that the gods, having thoroughly purged the pride and decadence of the Ancients from mortalkind, took pity on their creations once more and sent the Fey, their own children, to Arendia to help mortals rebuild, while the second is that the Fey had been present in Arendia for much longer, but had concealed their presence during the Old Kingdom era because they feared conflict with the Ancients. With continued contact with the Fey, the situation of mortals began to improve--the Fey taught mortals about the gods and brought them knowledge of divine magic, allowing them to begin rebuilding the civilizations they had lost with the Old Kingdom's fall. The loose bands of raiders and cannibals into which mortals had grouped themselves during the Age of Doubt evolved into more regimented tribes and clans dedicated to particular fey patrons and their respective gods. Among the tribes, some individuals chose to dedicate themselves to the gods and the teachings of the Fey more fully than their peers and serve as spiritual guides, and these people became the first druids. Many mortals began to rediscover the ruins left behind by the Ancients so long ago and attempt to pursue their arcane knowledge, but these people met great resistance and continual persecution from those who followed the Fey's teachings, for the Fey taught their faithful that they must not allow the Old Magic, as they called it, to once again seize control of their lives, and so those who continued to pursue it were forced to do so in secret and remained few in number. In this way, mortalkind began to redevelop civilization for approximately eight centuries.
The Age of Kings
1238 years ago, the Age of Tribes ended with the appearance of two particularly powerful Fey beings--the husband and wife Oron and Tiandra. Assuming the roles of protectors and guides to one particular tribe of humans in the northeast, the Ilarns, they taught a new approach to worship of the gods to which their brethren dedicated themselves. They told their followers that in order for mortals to progress, they must unite the disparate tribes under the banner of a cohesive civilization with a single, universal faith. Selecting six humans as their greatest disciples, they granted each one the magic of a particular god, and these six became the world's first clerics. Tiandra and Oron taught their six disciples that together, they could unite the mortal races and eliminate all trace of the Old Magic's taint from the world, ushering Arendia into a new golden age even greater than that of the Ancients.
With this as their goal, the disciples returned to their people and told them of what Tiandra and Oron had taught, and this soon led the Ilarns to found the Six Cities, crown their first kings and queens, institute the Temples of the six gods, and begin building armies to conquer the other tribes. In the 712 years since, the cities have gradually become more distant from each other, and their rulers scheme to steal power and dominion from their former allies, yet they are still united under their common goal of spreading the word of their "one true faith" to all the other civilizations of Arendia. And while they fight their battles and navigate their intrigues, the ruins of the Old Kingdom remain scattered across the world, many still unknown and waiting to be uncovered and explored. It is in this era, when opportunities for adventure hide around every corner, that we set our stories.
Ok, so I didn't get to any double spoilers, but hey, you can't have everything. Next time I guess I'll put up a "real" history that clarifies everything GMs are supposed to know that the players don't. Anyway, PEACH when you get a chance, and keep checking back for more