Wednesday, February 25, 2015

D&D Campaign: Setting

For this Campaign, I wanted to try something with a bit of a different flavor from standard western fantasy, but I wanted to keep things grounded. the distinction here, I think is between the flavor of a setting and the grit of a setting. Most D&D - and western fantasy in general - tends to go with a high-fantastic setting wrapped around an English-French-German flavor. Conversely, I wanted something that was more grounded, but with an unfamiliar flavor. That in mind, I decided to head for Eastern Europe.

My campaign is centered around the Constant Sea, an analogue for the Black Sea in actual Europe. It relies heavily on trade among the various nations that border it, as well as for the seas that lie beyond the southernmost inlet. This has led to the city of Icos, situated along this inlet, to become a dominant power in the region, at least economically. The other nations, I'll get to as they come up within the game, but there are a couple of elements that need to be established. Most of this is background - stuff I'll bring up and explain  briefly in the logs as they become relevant. If you just want the background on the starting area for the game, scroll past the break until you see the next map.

Elves are a nomadic society. Some tribes roam all along the borders of the sea, but the Elven Territories in the northwest is the most holy center of their lands. Magic is passed down from teacher to student rather than through texts, and they tend not to build much of anything - not because of a lack of knowledge or civilization, but because they are likely to outlive any structures that they create, at least unless they spend an extraordinary effort in creating it. 

They tend to be fairly isolationist, with the exceptions being their constant battles with the Orcs who incur from the steppes north of them, and their somewhat tense trade agreements with the Dwarves.

Dwarves are in a period of turmoil. For most of their history, they've been ruled by a theocracy, who wield the blessed word of the single Dwarf god Moradin as a tool of ultimate authority. Their legends hold that dwarves originated deep beneath the surface of the earth, until select priests heard the call of their god beckoning them to dig up. What followed is called the Quest for the Sky, a period of brutal hardship as all of dwarfkind was bent towards tunneling upwards out of the darkness. When they at last emerged, it cemented the rule of the priesthood, though there is some debate over whether there was a LITERAL quest for the sky, or if the story is perhaps some sort of allegory.

The turmoil has stemmed from the harsh, totalitarian rule of the Theocrats, and has led to revolution in several holds, overthrowing the divinely empowered aristocracy and replacing it with populist councils of workers. This cultural movement and counter-movement has made now one of the bloodiest periods in dwarf history, as the holds - each a nation on their own in a way - struggles with civil war.

Halflings exist as a primarily nautical race, with deeply personal connections to their gods. Being sure footed, good natured, and well suited to the cramped quarters on ship-board, They have adapted into a culture based around shipboard ritual, superstition, and mercantilism. They have a vast pantheon of small gods, and ritual plays a large part in their lives, from large ceremonies to minuscule superstitions, whether a part of the town-like flotillas or vicious pirate crews. 

Gnomes are a kind of symbiotic culture. Being clever and quick, they tend to favor skilled labor and scholarly pursuits rather than manual work and building. As a result, they tend to move into the cities of other races, forming close knit neighborhoods of craftsmen and shopkeepers, leaving the act of actually constructing the city to those better physically suited to it. This has led to a certain amount of discrimination against these Gnomish quarters, with many seeing them as opportunistic and condescending. Even so, there's no denying that nobody makes finer jewelry or mechanical devices. 

Goblins are relative newcomers to the region - in that they are not native. To the west of the Constant Sea lies a jagged mountain range that stretches further than any person has encountered. As far as anyone was concerned, these mountains - called the Old Bones, was the edge of the world. However, eight centuries ago, the races around the Constant Sea met their first goblins, in the form of a massive invasion from a previously unknown homeland beyond the mountains. Eventually, the invasion was thwarted, and the goblins that remained found themselves separated from a country that they had no idea how to return to. The result is chaotic and impermanent bands of goblins, settlements ruled with the iron fist of hereditary lines of Hobgoblin general, and Bugbears willing to lend their services to either, so long as they are allowed food and violence. Each variety of goblin has their own god - Goblin Maglubiyet, Hobgoblin Bane, and Bugbear Hruggek, who form a generally revered tribunal over goblinkind. 

The Campaign begins in the city of Durnham-Bray, a city divided against itself which, understandably, cannot stand. 

Originally, it was two cities, situated on either side of the Saros river - Durnham in the north, Bray in the south, divided along national lines. When tensions between the two nations - the Kolechian Reach in the south and the Iron Principalities in the north rose to fever pitch, the two cities began warring with each other. Durnham won the battle, seizing control of Bray, but the Kolechian Reach won the war, when the Iron Principalities cededa large swath of land - Durnham included - to the Reach. When the Reach reclaimed Durnham and Bray, now cut off from Principality support, the reprisals were bloodthirsty and devastating.

With Durnhamside in ruins and both sides hating each other, Brayside essentially left Durnham to rot. They don't provide law or any sort of stability, but they take care to break up any attempts for independent government - after all, that would be treason. The result is that Durnhamside is essentially ruled by a variety of gangs, who are the closest thing to law that that half of the city has. Anytime the gangs become to powerful or unruly, the Brayside nobles send in an army of mercenaries to subdue the population.

And that has roughly been the state of Durnham Bray for the last ninety years. It still remains to be seen whether the presence of the PCs will change anything - but if they want to improve the situation, they have their work cut out for them. 

Next post, I'll toss out some brief character descriptions, then we can get into the campaign itself. 

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