Dark Sun Game Setting

Dark Sun

Overview

From the earliest moments of the day, until the last glimpse of twilight, your life is constrained by the giant crimson ball in the sky. This is the world of Athas, the land of the dark sun.

Fables of a mythical ‘Green Age’, where trees once covered the dunes and plains do not cool the brow of man stranded outside at mid afternoon. Tales do not change the 130 degree heat, nor do they slow the bone scouring sandstorms.

Athas is a world that was subjected to unbridled power. Eons past, Wizards warred with each other for dominion, and powered their spells by drawing life from the very planet itself. Such power transformed the descendants of all who survived.

Latent powers of the mind, have manifested in nearly every form of sentient life as a method of coping with the harsh world. A Slave is just as likely as a Nobleman to be born with the powers known as The Way, or Psionics.

This is the world of Athas, a world where the cost of power is paid by all, but where the ultimate law is that of the strongest.

The World

The City-States

Once there were more, but now there are but seven city-states in all of the known lands. Each city is different in customs, dress, laws, culture, economies, demographics, but each is controlled by an immortal god-like ruler.

The Sorcerer-Kings are the absolute rulers of each of the seven city states. None broker any challenge to their power, and each is in in turn served by hundreds of devoted acolytes. These acolytes, sometimes known as Templar’s are granted divine and legal powers by the god-kings in return for their servitude. Serving as the administration and police forces of the city-states the Templar’s are reviled by all others.

As the largest bastions of humanity, the cities attract any and all manner of intelligent life. Life in a city may be harsh and cruel, but life outside the high city walls is certain death for all but Elves and the Thri-Kreen.

Most of the cities are divided into castes, where society is formed into a heirichial pyramid. At the bottom and most numerous are the Slaves; the farm slaves, the Soldier Slaves, Domestics, the Artisans, the Concubines and the Gladiators.

Just above the Slaves, one would expect to see the Merchants, who do not possesses citizen ship, but retain a certain level of diplomatic immunity from the Templars. Above them, the common freedman, who may live a harsher life than a slave, but he can at least say that he is free.

Above all of these, are the Nobility and the Templars. Depending on the city-state that one is discussing, either may hold more power or influence, but they are often equal in the number of slaves and coins that they control. Of course the Sorcerer-Kings can be found at the top of the pyramid, sometimes, as is the case with Tyr, literally.

The Tablelands

Stretching East to West, for nearly 800 miles, the Tablelands is the moniker given to the lands found between the city-states. No two cities are closer than 75 miles and in most cases, the nearest city is at least 200 miles. That leaves countless miles of uncharted barren sands, rocky hills, and silty wastes to cross should one leave the trade roads.

Intersected by ancient roadways that connect the cities, a traveler would do well to fill every water-skin they carry at any Oasis they pass. A man can live without food for a week, but under the heat of the dark sun, not even the toughest barbarian can go for more than three without water.

Strictly speaking, the Tablelands are not composed solely of sand and rocks. Hidden pockets of lush greenery dot remote areas, higher elevations and a small crescent forest reaches between the cities of Gulg and Nibenay.

Yet even out on the plains, scrub grass may sporadically grow, showing a hint (and a hope) of life to those who know how to look.

The Fringes

Ancient Ruins

Athas fell to ruin through the machinations and misuse of Wizardry. No one knows how sudden the fall was, though evidence suggests it was rapid. Wanderers of the desert speak of great storms that shift the dunes themselves, revealing ancient fortifications, towns and even cities. A testimony to the power of ancients, entire rooms of metal weaponry are sometimes found in these ruins. Finding such a horde is the ‘simplest’ way to buying one’s way into a life of luxury.

Hidden Villages

Scattered throughout the edges of the Tablelands are hidden villages. Often composed of slaves that escaped their masters, these villages  depend on secrecy and self sufficiency. Others are not hidden in the traditional sense, but are mobile tribes composed of Elves of Thri-Kreen. With no fixed location, they roam the wastes as weather and resources allow. 

The Ringing Mountains

Forming the Western edge of the Tablelands, the Ringing Mountains prohibit all travel westward. Rising into the sky, with their tips obscured by the haze of the dark sun, the Ringing Mountains are even more dangerous than the wastes over which they loom. Home to tribes of feral Halflings and fel beasts, any who enter the mountains are best forgotten.

Silt Sea

While the Ringing Mountains border the West, the Silt Sea borders the East. Outside of the gardens of the richest Nobles, bodies of standing water are nearly unheard of on Athas, yet tales and ruins tell us that once a body larger than the Tablelands could be found to the East. Now, one finds a massive basin, filled with fine silt that rises like a fog and obscures the Eastern horizon.

Player Options

The effects of Magic and Psionics have left a mark upon all of the races of Athas, just as the survivor mentality has changed the skills that one needs to live.

Characters in Athas begin at second level and use a 30 point buy for creation. This reflects the hardening that the dark sun forces upon all who survive to adulthood. Only the strongest survive.

In all cases except where noted here, I will be using supplements for Dark Sun rules.

MAJOR EDIT 09/10/2017: While the below info on rules precedence is still true, I am editing/compling these articles into a PDF manuscript for the game.

Where information conflicts they rank in this descending order:

Wild Talents

Every player character is remarkable and has a greater than average chance at exhibiting a Psionic Wild Talent. Each character has a cumulative 25% chance per level of developing a single Psionic Talent (as per page 27 of the Unearthed Arcana – The Mystic Class). The talent is chosen at random by a roll of a 1D12. The Mystic class never develops Wild Talents.

The Character Tree

This is modified slightly (shown in red underline), but otherwise verbatim from the 1995 re-release of Dark Sun.

“DARK SUN campaigns are set in a violent world. Powerful magic and psionics, desperate hordes of raiders, and the unforgiving environment conspire against player characters. This makes death a very real possibility for player characters. To offset this in DARK SUN campaigns, players are encouraged to use character trees. Although they play with only one character at a time, they have four to call upon at the beginning of any particular game session thus minimizing the time needed to start up a game after a PC’s death.

A character tree consists of one active character (which the player is using as his player character) and two inactive characters. The active character takes part in the adventure, performing actions in the campaign world. When a new adventure begins, the player may switch to one of his inactive characters or keep playing his previously active character.

The character tree’s chief purpose is to give every player a pool of adventurers to choose from for different situations or when one of his characters dies. The player is familiar with these characters and can apply their strengths more readily than he might be able to with freshly created characters. If care is taken, the character tree can be a valuable tool for the player in an extended campaign.

To create a character tree, a player completely rolls up three characters, using the rules presented earlier in this chapter. Once this is done, the player selects the character that he intends to run for the first adventure, making that one his “active” character. The other two are considered inactive.

Every time the active character goes up a level of experience, the player may also advance one of his inactive characters one level. The inactive character
chosen must be of a lower level than the active character. Adjust the experience point total on that inactive characters sheet to the minimum number for the new level attained.

The three characters that make up a player’s character tree are unrestricted as to class or race; any combination is acceptable. However, the alignment of these characters is restricted. All of the characters in a character tree must be like-aligned as to good, neutral, or evil. Devotion to chaos or law makes no difference, however. For example, one character tree might have a chaotic-good dwarf Fighter, a lawful good Thri-Kreen fighter, a neutral-good human bard, and a chaotic-good elf Wizard. The Thri-Kreen couldn’t be lawful evil or even lawful neutral and still be a part of this character tree.

If a character is forced to change alignment so that it no longer fits within the tree, that character must be discarded (or, optionally, the player may discard the other three, inserting three new characters into his tree and adopting this new alignment). Discarded characters must be given to the DM for use as NPCs, likely against the party.”

Race and Class Options

Playable Races

The races of Athas have adapted to life in the dune wastes. Natural selection, mutation, and war have ensured that only the strongest survive. Therefore, each players race is different from a normal fantasy game. These races have been complied into a PDF as of 09/10/2017. Ask the DM for a copy of the PDF.

  • Dray (Dragonborn)
  • Dwarves
  • Elves
  • Half-Elves
  • Half-Giants (Goliath)
  • Halflings
  • Humans
  • Muls
  • Thri-Kreen
  • Waste Walkers

All other races and sub-races are non-playable.

Playable Classes

Just as the races of Athas have adapted, so too have the roles one may take. The classes and paths found upon Athas are listed here:

  • Barbarian
    • Path of the Berserker
    • Path of the Totem Warrior
  • Bard
    • Athasian Bard
  • Cleric
    • Elemental
    • Templar
  • Druid
    • Circle of the Land
    • Circle of the Moon
  • Fighter
    • Battle Master
    • Champion
    • Gladiator
  • Monk
    • Way of the Open Hand
    • Way of the Four Elements
  •  Mystic
    • Order of the Avatar
    • Order of the Awakened
    • Order of the Immortal
    • Order of the Nomad
    • Order of the Soul Knife
  •  Ranger
    • Revised Beast Master
    • Revised Hunter
  • Rogue
    • Assassin
    • Mastermind (Sword Coast Adventurers Guide)
    • Scout (Unearthed Arcana)
    • Thief
  • Wizard
    • Path of the Defiler
    • Path of the Preserver

All other Classes and sub classes are non-playable.

Revision Notes & Musings

I claim none of the artwork used in this article.

  • First Release, Saturday, March 25th
    • One of the reasons that I have taken so long to write this up, is the sheer amount of PDF’s, out of print material, and rules that I need to consult and cite. At the same time, I’ve held off ‘just encase’ an official release of Dark Sun was released. With the next official release of D&D slated for August/September, I’ve accepted that I’ll want a Dark Sun game before it comes out, so I’ll semi-homebrew it.
    • Over the years I’ve found a number of sources that give the flavour of Dark Sun;
      • The world of Mad Max as shown in Beyond Thunderdome and Fury Road.
      • The world of Dune, by Frank Herbert
  • Second Edit, June 2nd
    • Minor adjustments due to the announcement of the Tomb of Annihilation
  • Third Edit, October 6th-10th
    • Large edit pertaining to Classes and Races in preparation for the Dark Sun game.

An Update

Life’s been a little busy over the past week (our Internet went down last Wednesday and was only repaired on Saturday), but I’m eager to get back to some more writing. With The Lost Marches outlined, I’ll be turning to a Dark Sun write-up/campaign idea next. I’m eager to see which garners the most interest.

In gaming news, we had our third session of the Curse of Strahd last night. The players are doing very well, and touching upon all of the major plot points (that they have access to) so far. Further, combat has been going very quickly, and the pace of the game is fast (though not rushed).

Tomorrow night, we return back to Chicago by Night after a week long delay due to my own ISP issues.

And finally, next month, we will likely resume the face to face Giovanni Chronicles!

Giovanni

The Lost Marches Primer

The Lost Marches 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 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 pass 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 enough 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.

Unknown Races and Classes

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

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. 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 used the Revised Ranger from Unearthed Arcana.

Rogue – Rogues are prohibited from using the Arcane Trickster Archetype

Warlock – The only Archetype that Warlocks may use is that of The Great Old One, whose name is Vecna (detailed below).

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

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:

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.

.

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 in The Lost Marches, 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. 

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 toward specific purposes. They are composed of members of nearly any of the Orders, and work toward goals of their own choosing.

The Shield of the Realm

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

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.

Yeoman to the Baroness

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, addition of Factions and Orders, changed the document name to The Lost Marches Primer
  • Edit #7 – Wednesday 23rd August, addition of world/setting flavor, training for players

Crazy?

Back when AD&D 2nd Edition was the thing to play, we touched on a number of the published worlds/settings. Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms, and Dark Sun.

The one that caused me to expand my view of RPGs the most was Dark Sun. It’s a harsh world that breaks many of the tropes of fantasy. Metal is rare, and you fight your environment/surroundings nearly as much as you combat any foe.

I’ve had a love of that setting for over twenty years. In fact it was the Dark Sun that I brought with me and reread when our son needed to stay in the hospital due to complications, and I couldn’t sleep. I found comfort in that alien world.

With Curse of Strahd now underway, I’ve found myself in the usual ‘What is on Deck?’ phase of my gaming cycle. Unless things change drastically, I’ll be returning to Dark Sun for my next serious campaign. It has been a brainworm for a couple of years now, and it would have been my first foray back into D&D if there was published 5E content. I’m beginning my preparation phase for this game a little earlier than normal as I have considerably more content to generate.

And yes, for everyone who has heard my 90’s stories of Dark Sun, I will permit Thri-Kreen as a PC race.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This presumes that I don’t totally loose my mind and ‘Homebrew’ a campaign.

 

Through the Mists

After much anticipation the players have journeyed through the mists and found themselves in the Curse of Strahd. The first session has established the general setting and the ‘flavor’ of the game.

Mists, encroaching trees, grave light skies, noises in the underbrush, the smell of death, these are some of the things that make up Ravenloft.

 

D&D Wrapup

This past Tuesday, after 47 sessions and about 175 hours, we closed off the Tyranny of Dragons campaign. This was a semi-bittersweet ending to a Campaign that started out on a fairly high note, and reached it’s peak around levels 8 to 10. As the game and time wore on, the story diverged in a few ways, and some out of character personality issues did a bit of a number on the cohesion of the group. I’ve a laundry list of items that could have gone better, but overall it was fun time.

All of that aside, after sixteen levels of content, the players came together for one last grand combat and successfully drove the Dragon Goddess Tiamat back in the Nine Hells. The Realms are battered and bruised, but they are safe from the talons and influence of a Chromatic Dragon Army!

This leads directly into my next D&D game, which starts in the same time slot on Tuesdays as of March 7th. I’ve already posted about the Curse of Strahd, and the party makeup here. The game itself begins in the same world and time frame as levels 9-10 of the Tyranny game, with the PCs fleeing the rampaging forces of Tiamat as 1st level PCs.

I think that this game will be a little different, as while there is player overlap, the Tyranny of Dragons group was composed of my core gaming group from the past five years of straight gaming. The player mix is shaken up a bit, with player ages running from later 40’s to 19 years old (coincidentally, it’s a father and son that bookend the age span),  with a like range of RPG/D&D experience.

Have no fear, there will be more posts on this as we go!

 

 

 

Accessibility vs Inclusivity in Tabletop RPGs

I expect this post to be a little more controversial than normal, as it seems to differ from a growing trend within North American Society. That said, it’s not intended to be inflammatory, but I think that not every player needs to be allowed to play at your table. Read the rest to understand why!

Back when I started gaming, we needed to walk 10 kilometers uphill to school in the snow, both ways, etc etc….

Seriously though, back then, the most popular gaming system was Advanced Dungeons and Dragons 2nd Edition (AD&D2ndEd). While it was fun, it was not simple to learn. The rules were unintuitive, and they took a lot of study and memorization to master simple things like how to calculate an attack. The game was neither accessible to all, nor inclusive to all. Yet as I said, it was the most popular system! As complex as it was AD&D2ndEd was the go-to choice for our local RPG players (which ranged from four to a dozen local players), and everyone was expected to learn the basics of the game.

This was a fairly high bar to cross, and we did have a number of players who tried it for a few sessions and then gave up. It was always a bummer when it didn’t work out, but we collectively understood. In hindsight, I think that  given our age (Teenagers) the fact that we “understood the rules” was emphasized or worn as a badge of honor by most of our players, as opposed to being questioned as something odd or limiting about the game. Not all of our players were Mensa Candidates, and if they could learn it, they were worth playing with!

The flip side to this, is that when we did find someone who understood the game, we would play with them even if we didn’t really like the same types of play styles. Players were hard enough to come by, as the game was fairly inaccessible due to the complexity of the rules, we couldn’t afford to be too exclusive. More than one of our sessions broke down due to arguments between players who couldn’t agree on whether they should “kick in the door” or “Spend 5 minutes listening at the door for any sounds of movement, then take extra time to check the door for traps and magic.”. These players were only in the same game because we “needed a 4th player for this dungeon”. One had an expectation to savagely clear the room and grab all of the treasure, and the other wanted to be a Spy on a mission.

Returning to the present day, the growing trend has been a move for accessibility in all things, including Tabletop RPGs. When the latest Dungeons and Dragons version was released (5E), it was from the outset designed to be accessible. The game is no less fun, but it does use simplified mechanics in comparison to prior editions. With a short explanation, I have yet to see a player be unable to calculate an Attack Roll or Saving Throw in 5E. Truly, it is a more accessible game that can appeal (and therefore be sold to) a much wider audience.

This is where I come to the important distinction that I wish to make. I approve of an increased accessibility within RPGs, as it opens the player base to even wider cross section of people. Back in the day, it was always a bit of bummer when we needed to play with someone who had a very different playstyle (and who didn’t like how we played), just to get a group together. We were forced into inclusiveness by the game’s lack of accessibility.

While diversity is commendable, given that increased accessibility of RPGs today, we are no longer forced into a level of inclusiveness that might disrupt the game that we wish to play.  With even more people trying RPG’s (and more types of RPGs to try), it should be easier to find groups who enjoy your preferred playstyle. Or if you don’t have a preferred style, to find other groups who have different playstyles, so that you can try them all.