The Cordus Primer

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Introduction

The initial setting for what has become The Cordus Primer was the campaign backdrop for my Lost Marches game. Set in one corner of a world, post ‘event’, The Lost Marches is a ‘western marches’ style of play. As I’ve expanded the world, the Primer needed a new name that would reflect all of the various realms within. Cordus, latin for aftermath, fit the bill.

The Cordus Primer

 Overview

Over fifteen hundred years ago, three forgotten Empires united together as one. Together they were known as The Great Compact. The borders of this realm extended far beyond those of the lands today. It’s said that several wars and too rapid of an expansion took its toll upon the populace of The Great Compact. This and other matters led to the inner collapse of the Compact and the time of The Fracturing.

A millennium later, a handful of successor Kingdoms has had time to heal and grow. Once again humanity has reason to spread and retake some of the lands that were lost during The Fracturing. With this return to expansion, some fortunate settlers have found ancient riches among the ruins of the Compact.

Those with a poor chance of inheriting, or with a sense of wanderlust, now travel to the border of the Kingdoms. From the border, these Settlers and Adventurers strike out into the wreckage of the once great Compact.

If their luck holds, Adventurers may be able to find a lost horde, or they may be able to establish themselves as Nobility over the reclaimed lands. With no law enforced, these lands are full of opportunity, and even more danger.

The World

The Civilized Lands

Over the past century with no wars and much milder winters, the surviving Kingdoms have seen a large population surge. The harvests have been bountiful and new fields have been ploughed with each generation.
 
In years past the main concern of a Farmer was planting enough food to see their family through the harsh winter. For more than two generations, this problem was replaced with ensuring that a Farmer has enough land to award upon a child when they reach adulthoodFamily plots have become smaller and smaller, and the next generation will likely be the last where all children may inherit
Likewise, the Nobility have always ensured that they had Heirs to spare. Least a war or machination claim their bloodline. With stability that has been unknown since the Great Compact, no war or major plot has thinned the ranks of the Nobility for ages. Brash young nobles that once led hosts against their neighbours now sit idle at home. Now, it is not unheard of, for a Duke to see a half dozen children reach adulthood. Dowries and suitable titles must be found for each, often at great cost. 
 
A decade ago, the greatest Houses of Insulia began to encourage that second and third children travel to the borders. Showing foresight they now rally the young to resettle the lands of the Great Compact. 

The Calendar of Insulia

Withing The Lost Marches (which shares the calendar used in the Kingdom of Insulia) the calendar contains eleven months, each matching the thirty-day lunar cycle of the moon Bahamud. Each month is in turn, broken into three tenday’s, each ending in a Market Day.

The year begins upon the first day of Spring, in the month of Pelor’s Return.  While Spring and Fall come and go quickly within two months, the seasons are longest in Summer and Winter with three and four months respectively.

  • Spring is a time for rejoicing and sowing the fields.
    • Pelor’s Return
    • Planting
  • Summer, the season for travel, war, and campaigning.
    • High Water
    • Flame Sun
    • High Summer
  • Fall is the time of harvests and the final preparations for the long winter.
    • Harvest
    • Palesun
  • Winter is a time of study and crafting at home. Few dare venture far.
    • Winter’s Eve
    • Homebound
    • Deepsnows
    • Winterswane

The Emerald Jungles

None reach the Emerald Jungles by accident. First one must make their way to the Southern coast of the Insulia, and lay eyes upon the Sweltering Sea. Strong winds constantly rake along the coast from the Southwest, driving sea traffic further East. If one does dare board a ship, it must be well stocked.

The journey South, will take you twenty-five days away from land, and through waters that are warm enough to brew tea. Around the twenty-fifth day, landfall can be made upon the Dragon’s Chain. A series of islands that are home to several active volcanoes and the single ‘City’ of the Southern Seas.

Dragon’s Chain Islands & Open

 To call Open a city is a stretch at best. It’s an outright lie to nearly any northerner who is used to the prosperity of Civilized Realms such as Insulia. Open has a population that fluctuates between one thousand during the cooler months and two thousand souls during the trading season. As a ‘free port’ city, bedecked with shops and docks that dot it’s deep water bay, Open is both a merchants paradise and nightmare. As a ‘free port’, there are but two laws of Open, No blood may be shed within Open and Honor all deals once struck. Breaking either law means death.

After Open, another five days aboard ship are needed to skip through the rest of the Dragon’s Chain and it’s reefs. Seasoned Captains follow the established shipping lanes to either The Port of Crackclift or Bottle Bay. Those who wander from the lanes have been known to fall to the blades of pirates and sea-beasts. This has left much of the southern coast un-explored.

The Port of Crackclift

Three days west of Open, lies the Port of Crackclift. As the older of the two southern towns, it is home to a small Dwarven mine and an exotic lumbering company. A trio of retired ‘Merchant Captains’ has made Crackclift their permanent home. Going so far as to pay for a small temple of Pelor to be established in the East end of the small town, Crackclift would be nearly familiar to new arrivals.

Bottle Bay

So named for the shape of the low breakwater that has been formed, Bottle Bay is an unruly place with only three permanent structures. One, the Lodge, houses  rich visitors from the Civilized Realms. The second is the Ivory Ossuary, which is used for the storage of trophies from big game hunters that visit the Lodge. The third and final building, the stoutest of them all, houses the spices collected for the Red Tounge Spicing Company.

Thundering Lizard River

Bottle Bay’s proximity to the great Thundering Lizard River, allows would be Big Game hunters the opportunity to travel deeper into the wilderness of the Emerald Jungles by small boat. A far easier method of travel than on foot.

The Eludo Kingdoms

The local Lizardmen have spoken with Druids and Rangers on more than one occasion, hen pressed on the subject of ruins in the jungle. Tales hold that The Eludo Kingdoms once warred with each other throughout the Emerald Jungles of this Southern continent. What befell them, and how long ago is a mystery to date.

The Lost Marches

Reaching The Marches

The Lost Marches are found on the northern side of two mountain ranges, The Barriers and the Shieldmounts. Separated by natural borders, the nearest of the human Kingdoms is that of Insulia. Access to the Marches is difficult without leave from the nearby realms of the Dwarves, as they control the pass, through which a cart may head North.
 
The Dwarven Halls of Barak Dur, act as the gateway to The Lost Marches, much as they did in the days before The Fracturing. By ancient treaty, and enforced with Axe and Hammer, any man or woman may pass North through Barak Dur’s gates at no cost. To cross into the South again, the Dwarves charge a steep fee; one thousand pieces of Gold, or the like in gemstones, for every 
 man woman or child.

 

 

The Town of Limen

A decade of concentrated migration has settled the lands of the First Valley. The town of Limen is the only settlement that offers any true protection in the Lost Marches. Founded sixteen years past by the Baroness, Limen is placed upon a bluff that overlooks the First Valley and bookends Barak Dur.
 
On a clear day a resident of Limen can stand atop the high granite walls, looking to East one will see the gates of Barak Dur, to the South they will see the First Valley, and North lies the Second Valley.
 
As commerce is driven by settlement, trade tools and weapons are easy to buy in Limen. Whereas comforts and exotic goods that are common in the Kingdoms are attainable, but costly, in Limen.
Law and Order in Limen, and its immediate surroundings is all but indistinguishable to that of the Kingdoms. While not a title granted by the King of Insulia, the Baroness of Limen acts as the Feudal overlord of Limen. The Baroness is unchallenged in her claim, and the church of Pelor recognizes her rights over all citizens of Limen.

Adventuring

Beyond Limen and the Second Valley lies the hinterlands. Few hearty souls have made their homes in the vast wilderness since the return to The Lost Marches. With no law and order beyond a day’s ride of Limen, only Adventurers risk such a distant base of operations.

While no formal tally is kept, at least a dozen Adventurers have returned to Barak Dur, paid the Dwarves their thousand gold, and then still had coin en
ough to buy estates and titles of Nobility in the Kingdom of Insulia. The rumours hold that each found riches in the ruins of the Great Compact, but no two stories agree.
Further, one newly minted Duchess has spoken of fighting a Dragon. When outside of her hearing, most scoff at the idea, as Dragons are creatures of legend. Any child knows that even if they did exist, the last Dragon died during the days of The Great Compact.

Race & Class Options

The Lost Marches are in a world that is being reborn after a dark period. Considerable knowledge was lost with the fall of the The Great Compact, and some options are limited because of this.

The Known Races

The Civilized Lands are predominantly composed of, and completely ruled by, Humans. The last census of the Kingdom of Insulia showed that forty-five of every fifty citizens were human, while three of the fifty were Halfling. The other two were most frequently Half-Elven, Half-Orc or wayward Dwarves.

 

The Unknown Races

Gnomes and Tieflings are simply unknown in the lands that once belonged to The Great Compact. As a direct result, the languages of Gnomish is unknown.

Beings that resemble Dragonborn are creatures of legends, akin to Dragons. Nonetheless, the most erudite scholars claim to both speak and read Draconic, the supposed legend of Dragons.

The elder races watched the Great Compact crumble, and they have maintained a certain distance from the survivors. Dwarves and Elves are unlikely to travel with Humans into The Lost Marches, while Dwarves are somewhat more likely to journey south to the Emerald Jungles or at least be seen in the Capitol of Insulia. Otherwise, they remain within their own realms and generally refuse to discuss the world that once was.

Differences in Classes

Fighter – Fighters are prohibited from using the Eldritch Knight Archetype.

Monks – Monks are restricted to the Way of the Open Hand monastic tradition.

Paladin – Paladins are prohibited from following the Oath of Ancients.

Ranger – Rangers use the Revised Ranger, with the Hunter and Beast Conclaves from the Unearthed Arcana found HERE

Rogue – Rogues are prohibited from using the Arcane Trickster Archetype

Warlock – Unavailable to PC’s

Sorcerer – Unavailable to PC’s

Sword Coast Adventurers Guide – All Archetypes are acceptable unless noted above.

Xanathar’s Guide to Everything – Highly restricted, check with the DM first.

Divine Differences

Since The Fracturing, the Pantheon of Gods that actively respond to the prayers of Clerics has dwindled. This has caused a fundamental change in society, with Pelor’s acceptance as the de facto religion of all of the human Kingdoms. The Gods who are known to have active Clerics are:

 

Moradin – The father and creator of the Dwarven people. A harsh but fair judge, Moradin favours strength and force of will in his children but insists that they are tempered with Honor and Law at all times.

Domains: Forge, Knowledge

Alignment: Lawful Good

 

Pelor – The sole God worshipped by ‘Goodly’ people. Pelor the Lightbringer is the God of Justice, Light and the natural world.

Domains: Light, Nature

Alignment: Lawful Good

 

Ioun – The Goddess of knowledge, magic and study. She remains neutral in all things except her hate for Vecna.

Domains: Arcana, Knowledge

Alignment: Neutral

 

Raven Queen – The Goddess of the dead and dying. Goodly people only turn to her during funeral rites.

Domains: Life, Death

Alignment: Neutral

 

Bane – The God of war and slaughter. Bane’s power has been on the decline for over a century.

Domains: Tempest, War

Alignment: Chaotic Evil

 

Vecna – The God of evil secrets and the Undead has been all but forgotten due to his silence.

Domains: Knowledge, Trickery

Alignment: Neutral Evil

 

Arcane Differences

One of the few bastions that survived The Fracturing was the Academy of High Magic. All but a few rogue Wizards belong to the Academy, and they maintain a stranglehold upon higher magical learning. When a Wizard reaches second level they are restricted to the three Arcane Traditions listed here:

  • School of Lucrum

    • The School of Lucrum focuses upon magic that protects and informs. Wizards who join this School wear white clothing to identify themselves as defenders. Wizards of Lucrum may learn spells from the following schools:
      • Abjuration
      • Conjuration
      • Divination
      • Enchantment
      • Evocation
    • Lucrum Savant
      • Beginning when you select this school at 2nd level, the gold and time you must spend to copy an Abjuration or Divination spell into your spellbook are halved.
    • Life’s Blessing
      • Starting at 2nd level, your focus upon light magic grants you an advantage on saving throws versus spells cast at you.
    • Lucrum’s Protection
      • Starting at 6th level, you can cast the Shield spell without expending a spell slot, a number of times equal to your Intelligence modifier. This ability refreshes at a long rest.
    • Preservers Aura 
      • Starting at 10th level, you develop an aura of magic resistance of 10′. All friendly creatures within your aura have resistance to the damage of spells.
    • Arcane Mastery
      • Starting at 14th level, the following spells no longer consume spell slots when cast; Detect Magic, Identify, See Invisibility, Teleportation Circle.
  • School of Aequus

    • The School of Aequus focuses upon magics that empowers its practitioners. Students of this School don grey clothing to show their commitment to walking a middle road. Students of Aequus may learn spells from the following schools:
      • Conjuration
      • Divination
      • Evocation
      • Illusion
      • Transmutation
    • Aequus Savant
      • Beginning when you select this school at 2nd level, the gold and time you must spend to copy any spell into your spellbook are halved.
    • Initiates’ Study
      • Beginning at 2nd level, you gain the benefits of the Magic Initiate and Ritual Caster feats.
    • Journeyman’s Focus
      • Starting at 6th level, your Arcane Recovery class feature can be used with any Short rest.
    • Master’s Empowerment
      • Beginning at 10th level, you double your Intelligence modifier for the purpose of determining your spell DC.
    • Archmage’s Reality
      • By 14th level, you have learned the secrets of weaving magic that has not been known to others since The Fracturing.
  • School of Nocens

    • The School of Nocens focuses upon magics that summon forth or steals power from another. Servants of this School dress in black as a deceleration of their ambition. Servants of Nocens may learn spells from the following schools: 
      • Conjuration
      • Divination
      • Enchantment
      • Illusion
      • Necromancy
    • Nocens Savant
      • Beginning when you select this school at 2nd level, the gold and time you must spend to copy a Conjuration or Necromancy spell into your spellbook are halved.
    • Death’s Caress
      • At 2nd level, your devotion to the darker side of magic imposes disadvantage on all saving throws caused by your spells.
    • The Dark Step
      • Starting at 6th level, you can use a reaction to invoke the Misty Step spell without expending a spell slot, a number of times equal to your Intelligence modifier. This ability refreshes at a long rest.
    • Channelling the Void
      • Beginning at 10th level, your relationship with the dark arts is so intimate that once per long rest may deal maximum damage from a spell. You may choose to use this power once you have confirmed that the spell successfully hit.
    • Death Blow
      • Starting at 14th level, you may change the damage type of any spell to another type. This damage reduces the hit point total of the target until healed naturally.

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Factions and Orders

The Lost Marches lie on the bleeding edge of the wilderness. The countless Guilds, Noble Families, Merchant Alliances, and intrigues of the Civilized Lands have not yet fully spread to the Barony Limen. Those that have can be broken down into Orders and Factions.

The Orders

What has made its way there, are the various Orders that guide young Campaigners. These Orders take a multitude of forms, and all have their roots in the Civilized Lands, but each seeks to train and recognize its members.

As a Campaigner advances in skill, the Orders recognize this with certain titles and training. While titles hold less value outside of Insulia, they are still respected and all would be advised to heed the word of a Radiant Servant of Pelor, least they need his healing might later.

Numbers in parenthesis indicate a level or level range. 

Bardic – Royal College of Lore

  • Storyteller (3-5)
  • Historian  (6-8)
  • Loremaster (9+)
  • Playwright to his Majesty (Seniormost Loremaster)

Druidic Circles

  • Aspirant (1-2)
  • Druid (3-8)
  • Archdruid (9+)
  • Hierophant (Wisest of the Druids)

Brotherhood of Warriors

Fighters and Rangers

  • Novice (1-2)
  • Sergeant (3-4)
  • Captain (5-6)
  • Marshall (7-8)
  • Warlord (9+)
  • Grand Marshall (Determined in Trial by Combat)

College of the Open Hand

Monks of the Way of the Open Hand

  • Initiate (1-2)
  • Brother/Sister (3-4)
  • Disciple (5-6)
  • Enlightened (7-8)
  • Master (9+)
  • Grand Master (Determined in a Contest of Wills)

The Academy of High Magic

Wizards of all three Orders

  • Apprentice (1-2)
  • Wizard (3-4)
  • Spellweaver (5-6)
  • Archwizard (7-8)
  • Magelord (9+)
  • Magus (Most senior Wizard of the Order)

Church of Pelor

All Clerics and Paladins of Pelor

Order of the Radiant Sun

Paladins of Pelor

  • Squire (1-2)
  • Sir (3-4)
  • Commander (5-6)
  • Holy Knight (7-8)
  • Knight Commander (9+)
  • Grand Knight of the Sun (Determined in a Trial by Combat)
The Grand Temple of Pelor

Clerical Worshipers of Pelor

  • Acolyte (1-2)
  • Priest of Pelor (3-4)
  • Adept of the Light (5-6)
  • Radiant Servant (7-8)
  • High Priest of Pelor (9+)
  • Patriarch of Light (Most senior servant of Pelor)

Factions

While a Campaigner is accepted by an Order for who they are, Factions are groups that work for specific purposes. They are composed of members of nearly any of the Orders and work toward goals of their own choosing.

Ancient Brotherhood of Mariners

Found in: The Emerald Jungles

Despite its name, the Ancient Brotherhood of Mariners cares not which sex you belong to, as long as you have served upon the Sea. Composed of the nautically inclined, the Brotherhood acts as a union which controls shipping across the Sweltering Sea.

Symbol: Members of the Brotherhood frequently wear either a red sash about their next or waist. Alternatively, those who are committed to a life at sea may have a tattoo of a red parrot on their left forearm. In either case, once a month the sash or tattoo allows the Mariner to benefit from the effect of a potion of water breathing as a bonus action.

Advantages: Whenever you serve aboard ship, you’re considered a true Mariner, and your advice is headed. Should you speak for a person, your word is likely to be taken at face value. Likewise, in any Port, you are understood to be representative of the Brotherhood, and you’ll see steep discounts from businesses that cater explicitly to Sailors.

Disadvantages: You represent the Brotherhood, and some establishments have banned all members as undesirables. You’ll be prevented from entering most shops that cater to the upper-class.

The Shield of the Realm

Found in: The Lost Marches

The Shield is a solid traditionalist group. They wish to bring the First Valley, Second Valley, and Limen under the Fedual oversight of the Kingdom of Insulia. All expansion is done in the effort to gain political power and advantage for the Nobility of Insulia.

Symbol: A cloak clasp in the shape of the Royal Arms of Insulia. The clasp will cast Gentle Repose upon the body of the owner if they die.

Advantages: In exchange for your dedication, The Shield protects their own. If your body is returned to The Shield’s headquarters in Limen, they will raise you from the dead.

Disadvantages: You must tithe 20% of all new wealth to the Crown of Insulia.

The League of Cartographers

Found in: The Emerald Jungles, The Lost Marches

Dungeoneers, Tomb Raiders, Relic thieves, and Mystics make up The League. Set upon plundering The Lost Marches for the riches of the Great Compact, The League will frequently aid one another.

Symbol: A pin in the shape of a Feather/Quill worn on the lapel or chest. This pin is well known, merchants will charge you 10% less for all of your purchases and pay you 10% more for goods they buy from you.

Advantages: You have the option to purchase items that were nearly unknown (or frowned upon) in The Civilized Lands. You may purchase Potions of Healing, Greater Healing, and Poisons at the League’s Hall.

Disadvantages: Each lunar cycle, you spend at least one-day copying notes and/or carrying messages/packages for The League.

The Slayers

Found in: The Emerald Jungles

Trophy Hunters, Safari enthusiasts, and ‘biologists’ form the bulk of the group known as The Slayers. Known openly for their goal of ‘taming’ the savage world of the Eludo Kingdoms, Slayers roam deep into the emerald jungles in the hopes of discovering new beasts to add to their trophy rooms.

Symbol: A mithril hat pin in the shape of an arrow identifies a Slayer. Once per short rest, you can rub the blood of a fresh kill into the pin as a free action. Your next melee or ranged attack has advantage.

Advantages: You know that there is big money to be made in helping nobles hunt big game. As a downtime activity of at least three days, you may join a noble’s Safari as a guide or hunter. You’re paid a handsome fee for this service, all expenses and 5GP per level/day.

Disadvantages: You are a proud murderer of the wild things of the Eludo Kingdoms. All creatures native to the Emerald Jungles can sense this, and automatically treat you as unfriendly (at best).

Yeoman to the Baroness

Found in: The Lost Marches

Yeoman serve Baroness Limen, the founder of Limen and the woman accredited with taming The First Valley. Yeoman act as a force of Order and Law in the name of the Baroness.

Symbol: A heavy silver chair worn about the neck. This chain grants you advantage on Charisma saves and checks within Limen or the First Valley.

Advantages: As a Yeoman, you answer only to the Baroness and her Constable. While in Limen, you are provided with accommodation befitting your rank in the Castle at no cost. Further, you will be granted land and assistance should you wish to settle/fortify The Lost Marches.

Disadvantages: You are in Feudal service to the Baroness, and as your Liege, she may call upon you at any time for any service.

Revision Notes

  • Edit #1. – Saturday 11th of March, this is most of my first draft, I may refine it tomorrow. 
  • Edit #2. – Sunday 12th of March, refinement and expansion have begun with more info for the players added.
  • Edit #3. – Sunday 12th of March, edits after feedback from S.M. 
  • Edit #4. – 24th – 26th of July, major refinements to the Schools of Magic, and minor tweak to allowed classes. 
  • Edit #5 – Sunday 6th of August, Kingdom of Confersus renamed to Insulia, Arms of Insulia added, reference to Dragons, minor grammatical changes. 
  • Edit #6 – Monday 7th of August, the addition of Factions and Orders, changed the document name to The Lost Marches Primer
  • Edit #7 – Wednesday 23rd August, the addition of world/setting flavour, training for players
  • Edit #8 – Friday 16th March, the addition of world/setting expansion for The Emerald Jungles and the rename to Cordus Primer.
  • Edit #9 – Saturday 17th March, further fleshing out of the world, races and classes permitted.