Adventures in RPG Freelancing Part 3- Elven Wizard Prince


What had drawn me to Pathfinder was my wish to start a new game with my favorite GM, whom decided to give the relatively new Pathfinder system a try. In our game, the Obsidian Portal entry of which I may link to later, we all played as the children of elven royalty. I was initially hoping that we would get to play a World of Darkness game, but I was willing to try, as I had not stretched my wizard muscle in quite a while.

Houdini Showing How To Escape Handcuffs
I’m pretty sure that a pulled wizard muscle was Houdini’s downfall.

I retook to wizardry quickly, creating a character that, while not optimized per se*, was prominent in both personality and potence. My Elven Wizard, Lorathorn, had saved the group from a few tight spots, and at times with only his wits and planning. He would go on to be king of an elven nation (thus the name of the blog), and make hard decisions that rankled his many siblings. I loved this game, and it resparked my hitherto latent interest in a system that I had largely turned my back on for its “lack of storytelling potential” ** Ultimately, what I had come to crave were these complexities that I had long spurned. The difference now was that there was a system that was more adequately geared to accommodate such complexities without the pretense of being “realistic” or what have you***.

Now, I had heard virtually nothing of Pathfinder outside of my tangential brush with Paizo through Dragon Magazine, thanks to a miniature promotion that appealed to my  interest in collectible figurines. Through that portal, I knew that Dragon and Dungeon were soon ending, and that the company would roll out a new magazine. I would refer you specifically to their blog entries beginning here.

While I had my fill of D&D some time in 09, thanks to a somewhat turbulent and unwelcoming campaign, I had been away long enough to yearn for the complications and puzzle-like mechanisms that could link to form potent rule combinations. Pathfinder, as it happened, was even more fiddly in terms of complex interlocking rules, but with a somewhat more unified approach than Dungeons and Dragons 3rd edition (et al.) had been able to offer. This unity is what line developers do, and in Pathfinder it was done well.

I like how intricate Pathfinder system is. I can’t say that the experience is for everyone, given how popular 4th edition D&D ultimately was (feel free to challenge me on this), but Paizo and it’s Pathfinder game occupy a space in the role playing panoply that caters to this need for intricacy.

Like a rubik’s cube of violence and adventure.

I say this because here I find myself, waist deep into my renewed interest in writing in a (somewhat) more professional capacity, and coming to terms with my strengths and weaknesses. I love the crunch and interlocking methodology of D20 and it’s component offshoots, but my passion has (and ever shall be) with prose writing, as I prove here. Wherever my strengths may lie, I would have to use the mirror of community, both for self reflection and to understand an audience with whom I had not yet been acquainted.

It bears mentioning that Pathfinder has been very kind to me. The only thing stopping me from involvement with the community at large was my frictious time spent delving into the other groups, which had left me trepidatious to the prospect of trying again.  From the time I started playing as Lorathorn in 2010, it took me nearly 5 years to finally get the nerve to initiate contact, which I did by entering the 2015 RPG Superstar contest at Paizo.

And while my entry was not stellar****, it did help me take a step in the right direction. I have since initiated contact with a number of great people that have dispensed invaluable advice and wisdom regarding topics from proper formatting of statistical blocks to the philosophy on rules balancing. While all of this contains my experiences with Pathfinder, I have also been listening to a steady stream of podcasts that have filled my head with ideas from independent role playing games, a subject about which I will discuss next week.

* I rather dislike optimization as a rule. I don’t mind maximizing your potential as one would, but following rote templates takes the fun of discovery and adventure from developing a character. It’d be like playing a game of Magic: the Gathering with a deck made by someone else, thus robbing you of the pride of architecture. [Achievement unlocked: paragraph footnote]
** Powerful storytelling can be done with any role playing system, but a system can tend to pick a GM, as it were.
*** See part 2.
**** I seem to do poorly at contests, it seems

Adventures in RPG Freelancing Part 2

Circa 2004- 

So, now I had learned about Exalted. It was a slow boiling love that would one day culminate  into a pitched fever, though it started out lukewarm. My favorite GM introduced out group to  it, and we were all reluctant. Our first game might have lasted about 3 sessions, not including  the tedious first time character creation. We were all new to it, and we hadn’t jelled to the thematic just yet, but all the same, it took us that first bit of stumbling to see what the  game could be, and to shake off the dust of standard fantasy gaming and realize the potential  of a gonzo mythical setting.

Much as with all things, I threw myself into Exalted headlong once I saw that it was more than  just a repainted fantasy setting. It was a dynamic, exciting and organic world that was still  growing out of the heads of people who had inherited it from the original authors. Those  initial authors had at first seen it as a prequel of sorts to the World of Darkness at large, and thought to treat it as a Hyborian Age style survival conflict epic; a more bare and honest treatment of their current lines. Similar to Systems Failure*, the premise  was changed for the better, and the result was phenomenal.

What could not be predicted was the way in which Exalted evolved from a primitive survival  drama into a fantastic animistic epic of mythic proportions. And neither could they have  controlled the colossal scope that sprung from a fertile concept that begged to grow into  absurd proportions. Every encouragement was there to simply cause the setting to burst into a  myriad of wonderful directions. This did not always happen**, but Exalted did its best to  self-correct towards its disastrously gonzo path.

As gonzo is given to do.

This having been said, I was at the margins of the community for quite a while. I had done some  time at the first iteration of the Exalted Compendium, which did a good job of attracting some  of the more corrosive personalities attached to Exalted at large. There were also side projects  and contests in which I participated, but a lump sum of my involvement saw fruit in the official White Wolf forums. From here I made friends and enemies through the naturally socio-anthropological discussions that were (and likely still are) inseparable from the zeitgeist of  the Exalted community.

That having been said, I was a fairly polarizing individual within the community, as I had been  in the Palladium Books forums as well. However, while I held a position of infamy within the  Palladium forums, the actual creative minds behind the books were less involved with the fan  base. Through the development of Exalted into its current iteration, the fan base and the creative teams were so intertwined as to be indistinguishable.

And perhaps I am wrong, but I will state my opinion without hesitation; I believe that the  creative team behind Exalted suffered for being so close to its fan base. I was too close to  see it then, but I can look back clearly to several events that intensified the metamorphosis  of Exalted. The game switched subtly from being a very vibrant setting about greatness and  tragedy, to being an abstracted thought exercise about trans-humanist philosophy and moral  relativism.

I’m not going to name names, but…

Where once you could expect to play an analogue of Alexander the Great or Hercules, the  expectation shifted into a navel gazing exercise that favored ambiguity over excitement. This  is not at all a bad space to explore in role-playing games, but the fundamental alteration had  forced the game to surrender its identity.

Worse still, there was a surging and eminently vocal portion of the fan-base that espoused the  need for the rules to be “realistic”, a term that I maintain was not understood at all by this  subset. I’ll humor the concept for sake of fairness.

In brief: if there was a way to win the game through a combination of abilities and powers, it  was unrealistic for anyone NOT to immediately secure these combinations, even if that skewed  the balance of the game towards a resource-grubbing tedium.

It was perhaps one of the most  baffling instances of meta-gaming I had ever seen, at once favoring the realism over meta-game,  but also wielding the meta-game unfairly against the game itself.

This poisonous perspective wrought much havoc throughout the community. On the one hand, some  aspects of the realism stance were valid. For instance, characters could accrue so much  experience that optimization was inevitable. Higher level play tended towards insurmountable  defenses that could last until one side was exhausted of energy points. This was not ok, but it  represented only a segment of play. What this “faction” accomplished was to take the problems  on the back-end, and convinced people to apply them universally.

Here a committee is hard at work to ruin it for everyone.

In short, a game that was at least functional 70% of the time now became non-functioning 100%  of the time. There was a great call for the game to be fixed, but each successive fix was  informed by the same group that cleaved to some twisted sense of realism in a game about  glowing godlings. For that reason, the fixes were flawed in the extreme, as the collective  community fragmented further.

The game’s philosophy and underlying mechanics were so warped that it undermined the very  experience of playing the game. The change came late for the poor majority that was not plugged  in to the strange commune-like atmosphere that decided what was best for those who didn’t speak  or know to be informed, in an almost eerie Orwellian way. And while I might have been initially  fooled by some of these changes, I soon began to do what I could to counter the worst of the  assertions, only to be challenged or ignored by the actual staff in charge of the game line. I  quickly realized that the fight was neither winnable, nor legitimately mine. The game that I  loved was lost in a procession of egos.

I could still play MY Exalted, even if it was considered “wrong” (a concept that rankles me to  this day). No one could take from me the vision of the game to which I held. Conversely, the  true tragedy was that organic nature that initially propelled Exalted was now its undoing. Some  could blame the merger between White Wolf and CCP, but the writing on the wall was evident that  Exalted was being upended by its fanbase.

I shall appropriate Ibsen for my indignation.

Even though I had written for Exalted in an extremely limited capacity***, nothing came of it. As a freelance writer, this would be a time of dearth and unrealized potential. Though I  painfully learned many valuable lessons, my writing was stunted. I had written campaign notes, but I  wrote very little that I could consider professional or polished. Crushed as I was by my prior  freelancing experience, Exalted was at once the balm and bane to my creativity.

I’m aware that there is a new edition. I’m not interested in the slightest. The  new architects are the very people who had, in some way or another, sent Exalted careening into a direction from which it can hardly be recovered.

Though the game had really consumed nearly 8 years of my attention, it was not the only game  that I read or played. In the between times, I played an ample amount of Rifts, Heavy Gear  (Dream Pod 9), Dungeons and Dragons, and even Pathfinder. And from the otherwise badly apportioned time taken by Exalted, a number of events would change my perspective for the better.

I was starting to fall in love with Pathfinder, and more importantly, I met and married the  love of my life. Both of these events would spur my muse to consider two important decisions.  First, I needed to write, and be published, even if it was primarily to sharpen my skill.  In the next post, I will discuss the details of these endeavors.

* See part 1

** see Exalted: the Lunars, first edition

*** I never got credited, and I probably can’t give details as such, but I did.

Adventures in RPG Freelancing Part 1

When I started writing role playing material circa 1999, it was on a lark. Really, I had already been compiling my own gaming notes for a lame web page that I had assembled hastily so that I could share my equally lame ideas with the internet.

The important part of the equation is that I was part of a community. I felt the need to share, just as I do today. As important as a release schedule is to the lifespan of a game line, so too must the collaboration among its actors work to infuse it with both new members and creative energy.

So as goofy as my attempts were, they were welcomed and lauded. I was heartily engrossed with the little known game of Systems Failure, and I had decided to detail the exploits of the game that I had been running. Those exploits were seen fit for publication in Rifter issue 12. I even own the original art prints from the article, graciously offered to me by the article’s artist.

While I still cringe a bit as I read the article with more than 15 years of wisdom as a filter, I can still appreciate my own diligence. Here was a complete portion of supplementary information, and perhaps a blueprint of what a post-apocalyptic bug fighting chronicle could be. In my idealism I had created an alternative to the default of gritty survival and abject conflict. It did not invalidate the default, but rather appended to its thematic in a way not unlike the suggestions near the back of the book for blending the setting with other genres.

And while the Systems Failure game line is sadly as dead as “Street Fighter: The Storyteller Game”*, it remains near and dear to my heart. If my work was appreciated in only small measures, I still pride myself in having been a part of it. It taught me that I could become a part of the gaming zeitgeist if I really tried, something that I’ve done on and off for the last 15 years.

Ultimately, it is my desire to internalize a game and its component parts, to really understand and appreciate the product as a whole that drives me to demonstrate that understanding. Systems Failure went from being a survival nut/millennial crisis pastiche of jokes to instead explore a deeper subtext of freedom and existential survival. This was what excited me, and this is what I wanted to be a part of.

So as I moved on from Palladium Books** in 2001, I hitched my wagon to the next most interesting thing, and became ensconced in the world of anime role playing. The sadly defunct Guardians of the Order was just starting to produce licensed anime products, precipitating a meteoric rise, and really espousing the then burgeoning world of blended nerdiness. It took two things that I loved and put them together, even if it didn’t come out exactly right***.

Somewhere along the way I ran into Seraphim Guard and their flagship book, Heart Quest,and was conscripted to write for said book. Seraphim guard was, at the time, looking to fulfill a still unrequited need for anime role playing that wasn’t just hi-jinks and explosions. Guardians of the Order themselves sort of beat them to the punch with their own book, though neither really got any attention. For a very long time, my most prominent writing credits were for Heart Quest. I wrote their “Magical Girl”, “Historical Romance” sections.

Sadly, they used an earlier draft that was still full of errors, but I was still proud of my work, by which I stand even today. Though I am not sure, I believe that the same bungled draft was reprinted in the 2nd edition (or a diceless edition, it’s hard to say) without any further input from me, which brings me to the next event. Seraphim Guard had sadly been some sort of weird ponzi scheme that was divided and sold into three separate entities. Seraphim Guard still exists, in a sense, but the rights to publish Heart Quest were then sold down a river to another company, and yet another game that was to be part of the line was sold to a third company.

At the time, I was in talks to develop an entire setting for Heart Quest, which I had been doing with aplomb until I came to understand that my new bosses (spread across three companies) were ambivalent and hard at work scattering the hard work of myself and other authors to the wind.

I had tried in vain to understand the new delineation, and to present the work I had done to that point. I had hoped to salvage some semblance of interest in my projects, but it was to no avail.**** Suffice to say, I had poured my heart into a whole lot of nothing, and it was a hard pill to swallow. Connections that I had built had nearly vanished overnight, and I was unsure of what to do. So I did what I do when a setback occurs; I ruminated. I may have been defeated, but I also learned from the experience.

Eventually, my attentions turned to a new source of interest. I had been introduced to Exalted. I will continue on with my musings as a middling freelancer next week for part 2 of my series.

*I always predicted that there could have been a Darkstalkers supplement that begged to be part of the World of Darkness. Alas…
** A long story.
*** Part of the problem for Guardians of the Order is that there was not enough role playing design experience to provide a solid foundation for the decidedly fun books they had published. This is likely to be a topic for a future blog post.
**** This was in the early days of self-publishing, at a time when I hadn’t conceived of doing it all myself. Had this event occurred today, I might have taken those lemons and turned them into lemonade as I am doing now.

Off Topic Tuesday: Fitness

a gym
“ohhhhh… a JYM!”

I’ve been fortunate enough to have been blessed with a wife that is not only keen on good food, but also good health. We bolster each other continually through many trials, and we egg each other towards better health. I think of this due to my new fitness wrist device*, and focusing on just how healthy I really am.

Now, be careful not to let this focus cause obsession; health can make you crazy just like the myriad stressors that plague our modern lives**. Let it be a guide, like a goal post, a lighthouse or a landmark. Let it be that dot on the horizon to which your body points as it strains to edge closer.

I find myself re-evaluating my health decisions now, wanting to work harder, both at the example at my amazing wife and from this strange wrist trainer that quantifies my exertion and sleep quality***.  I want to do better, as my wife has, and I will, now that I have a guide and a guideline.

I feel good about the future, and I feel excited about the prospects. I’ve been doing more exercise than I ever have, I’ve been feeling better than I ever have****, and I’m looking forward to doing even more.

I’ve heard and seen lots of examples of gamers letting themselves go, and relying on fast foods to keep them going. It’s an unfortunate statistic that seems to apply to our hobby, and I’d sooner be another voice in the choir singing the praise of a life in good health. Already I’ve seen too many people in my life suffer needlessly for the comforts of an easy greasy meal or a sedentary lifestyle.

Do yourself a favor, do your loved ones a favor, do your internal organs a favor, and work on yourself as you would work on your hobby. Give it the love and devotion that you would give your favorite pastime.

Heck, you could even treat it like a game.

*Name redacted so that this doesn’t sound like some insipid advertisement.
**I will never ridicule those who lived in the past, as they did not have digital schedulers, alarms, and days packed with arbitrary foolishness.
***I still don’t know how knowing my restlessness helps me, but somehow it feels good to know.
****Seriously, exercise and eat right, and you’ll wonder why you ever did anything else.

Off Topic Tuesday: The Blogging Format

I’ve seen it said that long form blog posts seems to be a misuse of the medium. People don’t subscribe to blogs to get long diatribes, or at least I don’t, and it’s been my immediate experience that the longer my posts are, the less likely it is that people read them. Perhaps it’s simply the nature of writing and reading on the internet.

And it isn’t just word fatigue; blogging is probably more given to short blurbs than anything else. The realm of essays is elsewhere, in some unattainable place. And that is what I have realized**; that I wanted to write essays, and not blog posts that necessitate a condensation of my thoughts and style. I don’t always excel with condensed writing, because I am a verbose mother fucker.

On the other hand, this revelation brought me to a different conclusion, in that I can still deliver content through the blogging medium. I can expand my role playing content, speak my mind in more indirect and succinct ways, and dither on about topics that don’t call upon the passionate belly fire that fuels my need to write, which brings us to this very blog post.

So Tuesdays now are for my personal off topic rants, like this one. I won’t do one every Tuesday, just like I might skip an occasional Monday Mayhem, or Wednesday World Building***, but the format suits me, and in time I will be delighted to have a good group of tags that challenge me as a game writer while helping me to keep my offerings organized.

My hope is to keep these all under 500 words, and I think that so far it is working. I’m not writing any sweeping oeuvres of writing (yet), but this format keeps me happy at least. It also keeps me focused in a weird “writing prompt” kind of way that is probably more suited to the RPG industry. It could be worse, after all; it could be 140 characters.

*I wish that they were called blurbs and not blogs. A more apt desctiption….
**Achievement unlocked; two uses of a semicolon in one paragraph.
*** A spoiler for tomorrow’s format.

Lame “next week I promise” post

Hi everyone,

The few of you that read this blog might have been disappointed that I did not post this week.

I was doing pretty good for a while as far as keeping my schedule, but this week just fell through. Rather than just chalk it up to a bad week, I thought that I would write a brief something to at least inform you that I have not been entirely dormant.

I have been writing! Just not for this blog, and not even for Diem Mundi, but I shall soon return to the mini-setting as well as some insights into game design. Within the week, I should also be adding more reviews, and updating the mini-setting tab with additional information (including a much needed society section added to the fox folk).

For now, I want to extend my thanks to Raging Swan for helping me to run a most excellent 5th edition campaign. Although I will try not to sound like an infomercial, their array of products have helped tremendously with my prep time. If you do any sort of fantasy role playing, please see their patreon page, and give some support. You won’t be sorry that you did.

Raging Swan Patreon page

Also, I must share with you that part of my writing has been for some projects at Fat Goblin Games. There are some exciting new things coming in the next few months, including more Call to Arms guides, more Astonishing Race guides, more Vathak support  in the form of three new core rule books, and much more! With luck, I will soon be posting about the projects to which I’ve contributed.

Fat Goblin Games

If you’ve had enough of me selling you on these companies, I will leave you with something more thoughtful.

homer D&D

As I continue to learn about new games, I find myself continually impressed with new approaches to old games. For instance, the so-called Old School Renaissance is actually a rather apt name, as it is not simply a return to old sensibilities, but a reinterpretation of the foundations of the game through newly learned methodologies. It is an improvement without losing the soul of the game, or so I would argue.

13th Age has caught, my interest. It grabs you by the lapels and tells you to role play, or at least define your character in such a way that he stands out from others by description alone. I think I might see what I can learn from it and perhaps integrate this into 5th edition, though 5e already does a great job of evoking characters as people and not character classes. I only regret that these games were not around 15 years ago.

I would also like to eventually discuss my love for the Storyteller system. As I am left without a game (other than the one I am running), I consider either digging back into the Storyteller System, given the recent revisions to some of my favorite games. Even if I were to run a game, I would be happy to once again pick up a handful of d10’s with a mix of hope and fear. It’s an exciting prospect.

5e Free Mini Campaign Part 1- A Diem Mundi Primer; The Jhorrund Nation; the Kal Dor Empire

To build upon the short story that I posted recently HERE, I want to share with you some related work that I once did as a freelancer some years ago. More details on that soon.

I feel that it has both been long enough and that I don’t want to simply throw away my work, and will continue to append and compile the setting information onto the blog, as well as another tab at the top of the page. First I will give an overview of the premise of the setting, as well as a mini-description of two of the five nations that hold sway on the world at large.

So I share it here with you the setting information for Diem Mundi: A world that might have never been.

Origins of Strife- The Advent

The Dark Continent of Selna is a land that once gave birth to a nation of evil and decadence. It is known to some scholars as Diem Mundi, or The World of the Gods. Its dark history is spoken of only through ancient whispered fables. Once, in ancient times, Diem Mundi held the secrets of the world within its powerful belly, ready for any who might use it to control existence.

And so they did. A once proud and wise people, named the Selnus, found the power and intended to use it for the better good. As with all things, this absolute power twisted the Selnus, turning their wisdom into avarice, and their good intentions into outright cruelty. In short order, the world went from a modest collection of civilizations to an advanced empire with brutal leaders exploiting the masses, forming what was known as the Advent Empire.

Darkest Before Dawn- The Fall

With no enemy strong enough to oppose them, the Selnus Overlords grew fat and decadent as they continued to command the very firmament with their grand power. Soon, their dark desires brought them to conjure the deepest evils from the far reaches of existence to imagine new and more vile degradation to inflict on the world.

Proving to be their own worst enemies, the Selnus supplied their own undoing. With demons as their consorts and advisers, the rulers of the Advent Empire decided that the world would have to be remade. To do this, everything would have to be undone, and this was the ultimate goal of the foul demons that continued to whisper lies into the ears of the Selnus rulers.

Were it not for the brave actions of a select few from the various tormented nations, the world would have been tossed into oblivion by the blind rulers of the Advent Empire. These valiant souls bravely entered the Advent Empire in secret during the Ritual of Unmaking, and prevented the worst of its effects.

Though these heroes were lost to the events of that fateful day and the world was warped beyond recognition, the world was saved from total annihilation. Away from the damned continent, the meager Selnan colonies rejoiced, for even the worst calamity was preferred to the horrible things the Advent Empire put them through. Not to be forgotten, the heroes of this climactic event have been honored by the surviving colonies, whom have since taken these heroes as their patron guardian spirits. Some went so far as to revere them as gods that allowed the world to continue existing, nameless though they are.

From the Ashes- The Return

And so, the world marched on, slowly healing the scars left behind from the horrible power that once ruled the world. People slowly forgot the calamity that warned of the power within Selna. Centuries passed, as did the fear and aversion associated with the foreboding continent. Against strong religious condemnations, new generations of explorers discarded ancient admonitions as antiquated superstitions, and explorers soon tempted fate to rediscover Selna for themselves.

Following this exploration, several groups took great pains over many decades to establish new colonies, braving the terrible weather and chaotic magic that had sprung up since the calamity centuries ago. More daunting was the shocking fact that it was already occupied by  a handful of other hardy peoples. Despite these setbacks, various settlers began to tame the wild continent, and in time the five nations took form to claim various stretches of territory.

So immediate and desperate these colonies were that petty land disputes began to tear the political landscape apart almost as soon as it had been formed. From the approximate time of forming of the first continental colony, Selna saw 100 years of warfare that now threatens to rage for 100 years more.

And even now, in the midst of constant battle and discord, hidden dangers lurk. Preying upon the great greed that has now returned to Selna, these silent workers once again threaten to unmake the world.

Enter the Hero- Present Day

Selna, as it is now, is a world of opportunity. Five nations have built their glorious cities atop the bones of the ancient empires of evil. Hundreds of ruins remain dormant, hiding the secrets of the Advent Empire. Political powers go to war over the slightest dispute, and mercenary armies clash regularly on the battlefield in the name of their sponsors. National politics force nobles to match wit and steel, creating endless intrigue in the royal courts.

The Dark Continent sits on the cusp of ruin or greatness, and it might just take another band of brave adventurers to decide the outcome.

Picture a world recovering from a cataclysmic event. Once ruled by a tyrannical and powerful empire, the survivors slowly recover from a horrible past. On the blasted continent of the historic and terrible rulers, 5 nations rise up to reclaim the home of the empire of evil. The world at large watches as these nations slowly come into conflict with each other, and threaten to once again tear the world asunder with arcane magic and destructive technology.

Like any other entry into fantasy role playing, Diem Mundi is steeped in the kinds of fantasy elements you would expect from your typical Fantasy Role Playing setting. Unlike those fantasy settings, Diem Mundi aspires to both capture the feel of modern adventure, while also trying to be unique enough to stand out among the plethora of available settings.

Instead of a world mired forever in the 11th century, this is a world of progress coming out of its own dark ages. Present in this world are magic and technology, both still in relative infancy. Both remain an important part of nearly all society in the world of Selna.

There are the expected fantasy races, like elves and dwarves, and of course dragons and trolls exist among a plethora of standard issue fantasy creatures. Yet even these creatures are curiously different to accommodate the strange and shifting land of Selna, reflecting the ways in which the world was made anew through strange and forbidden sorceries.

Ultimately, this particular setting presents an exciting world with a dubious history and uncertain future, and should provide enough material for epic journeys and fantastic adventures. With sweeping empires, political intrigue, and national conflict, the setting should be able to cater to a wide range of tastes and preferences. Moreover, this setting should offer even veteran fantasy role players something new and interesting.

Little is known about how the Jhorrund peoples came to inhabit Selna, but they are either the first colonists of the dark continent, or the only survivors of the arcane disaster that rocked the world centuries ago. Some would call them savage, and those that fight under their banner are indeed ruthless warriors, but to call them savage is a gross underestimation of their deep culture.

Though the Jhorrund are mainly composed of dragon folk*, there are also various distinct tribes composed of other races that have banded together under the Jhorrund banner. When or how this happened is a story that each tribe tells differently, but the consensus is that it was a peaceful joining of tribes that all apparently existed before any other colony rediscovered Selna.

As one, they form an impressive power block that rivals that of any colonial powers, both boasting a lack of support from outside of the continent, as well as an intimate knowledge of the lands that most colonists are still tenderly exploring. This does not mean that the whole of Selna is known to the Jhorrund, as there are many lands that remain taboo to the tribes, and many other that they simply have not traversed for various reasons, pragmatic and otherwise.

The Jhorrund once claimed sacred lands in the cold regions to the Northwest, but they were displaced by the Kar Dol colony. As a result, they harbor a seething hatred for the ruthless magitechnicians. The Jhorrund are not normally given to all out war, but they struggle ceaselessly to undermine their sworn enemies by any means they can afford, including subterfuge, raids and open warfare.

Despite their nomadic culture, the Jhorrund are incredible opportunists and adaptable. They regularly capture, scavenge and recruit people and resources into their society to assist in their survival. Rather than steeping themselves in a rigid tradition, they see advancement and subsistence as their tradition, seeking always to be ready to repel their enemies and overcome hardships.

To that end, the Jhorrund are given to using magic and technology that is transportable and benefits their nomadic lifestyle, as well as to bolster their war against those that would challenge the mighty nation. They count foreign magicians and engineers as esteemed members of their society, usually brought in by marriage or friendships. It is said that some of the more lucrative and successful explorers start out with  sponsorship by the Jhorrund, only to eventually join the tribe out of willing loyalty to their patrons.

Being naturally mobile, the Jhorrund also maintain a healthy trade, exchanging goods with every nation other than Kal Dor. This has assured their place within the continent’s economy, especially due to their ability to keep trade routes that the other nations cannot.

Despite their cultural flexibility, the Jhorrund enjoy their varied traditions, finding days in which to celebrate and revere their respective beliefs, mixing old and new cultures into their unified whole.

Kar Dol
Founded by industrious venture captains that readily threw caution to the wind, Kar Dol established its colony decisively through a cunning blend of magic and technology. Though shunned in their homelands, the mystic engineers saw an opportunity. Their rejection and lack of compunctions led them to do the unthinkable: to claim the untold knowledge from the Dark Continent for themselves.

The movement was founded by West and Charles Hart, two brothers that pioneered the techniques for using magic to bolster the new fields of science. Magicians scoffed at them for muddying their field with an untested methodology, and scientists rebuked them for not keeping science distinct from the established field of magic.

Though this did not stop them, it was difficult to find resources and facilities in which to conduct their research. Seeking donors and students, they eventually came to discover a breakthrough; science was not new, but only being rediscovered. Untold mountains of knowledge lay over the ocean, in the Dark Continent of Selna.

Though most people of the Free Continents were far too fearful of the forbidden land, the brothers were inveterate pathfinders, willing to eschew any superstition in search of success and advancement. As inveterate sweet talkers, they amassed thousands of volunteers to flee the drudge of the Free Continents with promises of riches and wonder, while begging, lying, and stealing to amass a fortune from various investors, confident that they would make greater fortunes on the dark continent.

With these riches, and an army of volunteers, the brothers bided their time, building an armory of weapons meant to defend and establish their new colony, as well as other inventions meant to maximize their chances of survival, no matter the climate or dangers present in the new world.

The brothers eventually launched a mighty fleet, shaking the confidence of the Free Continents; such a fleet was fit for invasion. And so they did invade and form the first of the Free Continental Colonies, but were beholden to no foreign power. Future colonies would bring various claims to the loans taken and crimes committed by the Hart brothers, but there are yet to be any compensations.

The brothers found a beautiful land that seemed abandoned by its people, only to find that it was merely a seasonal site of worship for a native tribe. Unbothered by these flimsy claims, they tested their new army, and drove out the ceremonial procession, making haste to build defenses for whatever came next. History disagrees about what happened next, and both sides speak of attempts at peace. The truth lies buried alongside the thousands that died supporting the edicts of their leaders.

After 100 years of colonization, the empire of Kal Dor is amongst the mightiest in all of Selna. They have few friends, owing no allegiance to either the Free Continents, or any of the other colonies on the Dark Continent. This does nothing to shake their confidence, as the industry of magitech has given them the power to do as they please.

But even Kal Dor has paid for its hubris. The lands inhabited by the mighty empire are dark and tainted with the byproduct of their untested technologies, and the founders found bittersweet success in their venture. Charles Hart was irrevocably murdered on the eve of an experiment that promised to extend the life of the Hart brothers. West successfully carried out the experiment, and found that eternity without his brother was more painful than any condition of mortal life.

Kal Dor continues to succeed under the careful guidance of a bitter and ruthless emperor. The youthful optimism that once pervaded the national identity of Kal Dor has been replaced by a cynicism that seems almost supernatural. Even so, many Kaldorians continue to see a world full of adventure and discovery, hoping to make a discovery that will reverse the strange and wicked transformation of their adopted homelands, and of their society.

5e rules-

Though this setting was originally intended to use the FUDGE rules, time and experience have shown me that 5th edition suits the setting far better. I will begin posting various rules that will expand upon various new player options and unique rules for playing in Diem Mundi, including at least 2 new races, and one sub-race!

I will continue to catalog these posts for people interested in enjoying my setting. Look for more posts soon.

*For the purposes of this setting, dragon folk are effectively similar to another race born of dragons, but are culturally distinct.