Fiendish Friday: How to Make a Villain Stand Out

Starship Troopers

So, Fridays will likely be for big bads. That is to say, rather than some monster that you might run into in droves, this segment focuses on villains, boss monsters, and motivations for said forces of evil.

Today it is about the creation of a memorable villain. No matter what, we as GM ALWAYS struggle with making a cool villain that is worthy of the party; for what defines a group’s awesomeness and heroic nature better than a villain of commensurate dastardliness?

Take for example a villain that I employed in a Rifts campaign. I was running a game that paralleled the then big plot push that went with Siege on Tolkeen.* I was running two games in tandem for both sides of the war. Today I will focus on one side, being the military based campaign of Coalition States soldiers** fighting against a wizard city-state.

But the villain here wasn’t a wizard war band nor a marauding elemental. It was racism.

The Coalition States modus operandi was largely predicated on the superiority of humans, despite a lot of contradictions***. But the players weren’t fighting racism in the traditional sense. Rather, they faced it through tough choices made in the field as they decided how to act on their orders; Orders given by a commanding officer by the name of Captain Mauler.

Mauler was the embodiment of their struggle with racism. Did they give in and follow orders to the letter, or let their decency shine through and break ranks? It made for an interesting campaign, with a lot of poignant moments and choices.

And rather than posting stats for Mauler****, I’d rather talk about how I made him stand out. He had stark white hair, and wore a chiseled scowl. He was calm in a way that was unnerving, like a stalking jungle cat. Everything about him was severe, embodying his inability to yield to a point of view, with echoes of Captain Beaty from Farenheit 451*****.

If you have a villain, sometimes it is best to have him be inaccessible but prominent. It could be a magistrate that interacts with the players early only to seek revenge for a perceived crime spree that they didn’t really commit. It could be a dragon that masquerades as a human, spurned by some social interaction and driven to follow the group closely before a fateful encounter.

But above all, the presentation needs to be definitive. A good villain needs style, motivation, and purpose. Without any one of those things, the villain falls flat as just another obstacle. But with all three of those elements, you face a villain that not only challenges your players, but the themes of the story as well.

What convictions drive a man to excel at brutality against non-humans? Can he be convinced to see a different way? If not, what do you as a soldier do to reconcile his egregious nature with your desperate grip on morality? Alternately, what might you do if you fall in line with his sensibilities?

A good villain begs questions like this.******

*If you care.
**Basically, the “federation” from the Starship Troopers, including the psychic elements.
***Such as “employing” mutant dogs and psychic mutants.
**** It would be kind of pointless.
***** Though I had yet read it.
****** On a somewhat related note: Kekfa > Sephiroth.

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5e Free Mini Campaign part 4: Talhanas, and Two Adventure locations

Talhanas: A New Nation of Blended Cultures-

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Among the most interesting cultures to come to Selna is the Nation of Talhanas. Talhanas is not a colony, but rather a nation born out of the cultural blending of the Jhorrund and the Walkonians. So closely had they become that a number of Walkonians had begun to romanticize the nomadic lifestyle of the Jhorrund, which was of course reciprocated by the nomads that took interest in the relatively exotic immigrants.

Many of these relationships had altered entire tribes, and emptied entire villages, as the cultural exchange became a wild and unpredictable journey. The journey ended in a relatively benevolent surprise, as the resulting product was a splinter nation, a merging of the two cultures into something entirely unique. Some see Talhanas as a watering down of the respective cultures, and fear for what it could mean for all three societies, though these dissenters are relatively few in number.

And so was born the city-state of Talhanas. Initially created as a trading post, the settlement quickly grew from visitors and immigrants that wanted to live a different life than those offered by the Jhorrund or Walkonians. Though the city-state is treated as a sister tribe by the Jhorrund, the resulting leadership has since declared sovereignty, recognizing that the burgeoning culture was not compatible with strict Jhorrund traditions.

Despite the stark divide, Talhanas acts as an able go-between for Walkonia and the Jhorrund, and maintains amiable relations with both nations. It has begun to consider expansion into untamed lands, and has commissioned several charters for these purposes.

The society of Talhanas is indeed unique, and combines a respect for the land with the benefits of a stationary culture. There are many people of Talhanas that wander within the bounds of the territory, maintaining a semi-nomadic lifestyle, but even the prospect of a central hub is a vastly different cultural experience than the nomadic life of the Jhorrund.

Culturally, Talhanas is focused on respect, honor, and a simple life. While not exactly Spartan, many farmers and city folk are expected to practice a habitual austerity for the sake of those unable to sustain themselves. Many of the composite communities see it as their duty to raise up the less fortunate for the sake of all.

Attempts by outsiders to alter these values are usually met with anger and even violence. It is difficult, for instance, to see any enterprising merchants make a profitable living within the city state of Talhanas. Any such endeavors tend to be appropriately understated.

On the topics of war and conflict, Talhanas is both too peaceful and too new to participate in any military campaign. However, they do offer some assistance to the Jhorrund in crafting war supplies. The Talhanas sensibility has led them to a special appreciation of crafting in general, and Talhanas  arms and armor are treasured across the continent.

Despite being approximately 70 years old, Talhanas is among the most impressive cities on the continent. As they expand their settlement into the countryside, they have stumbled across various ancient secrets. Even now, the site of a planned expansion has been stalled due to the discovery of an older city buried by time.

Castle of Thundering Bells- An adventure location.

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On the lonely plains of Selna’s eastern half stands a monumental castle that stands out against the horizon. It is surrounded by featureless plains, the only feature for hundreds of leagues. So old it is that it appears to some as a lonely green hill from a great distance, as it has been covered with moss and ivy that cling to its walls tenaciously.

The castle is large, and may have been a redoubt in some ancient war that even the Adventists had forgotten in their hey day. Whatever its purpose may have been can only be guessed at, for it holds a powerful curse to this day. Within its walls, all sound is silenced. This effect supersedes the strongest magics, and may be the work of an artifact buried deep within. However, as one attempts to skulk within the ancient halls, a sound disturbs reality, as it resounds from within each intruder; a bell.

Faint at first, the incessant ringing grows ever more oppressive. Within an hour, the maddening gong drives most intruders out. Those that resist the bell will find themselves lost within the maze of the castle, surrendered to addled madness with the castle as their tomb.

Curiously, those who are somehow permanently deaf are left undisturbed by the gongs, but attempts by such people to enter the castle have all failed. None have seen what fate awaits the deaf treasure hunters that enter.

The castle has long been a subject of curiosity for many of the colonists of Selna. Jhorrund tribes are banned from going, though this has not stopped the occasional tribe member from attempting to plumb the depths of the castle for treasure or knowledge. Kaldornians have continually attempted to experiment with the castle’s strange properties, only to lose vast sums of research grants, at the least.

The curious rumor that seems to have circulated recently is that the castle is showing signs of change; the moss has been receding. Astronomers have tied these changes to an upcoming astrological event. It could be that for a short time, the castle will relinquish its secrets to those who have an abundance of bravery or recklessness.

A Missive to the East Walkonian Magistrate:
“A strange and disturbing discovery was made near a the hamlet of Merzost. Unauthorized explorers have uncovered an ancient ruin that contains an ancient technology. The locals are beset with anxiety as tales of the ancient complex become known, and imaginations run wild with the curses and terrible dangers that might spill out.

The Walkonian Guild of Explorers has quickly apprehended the perpetrators, and they have been found to be spies from Kal Dor. My sources tell me that they were intent on discovering alchemical secrets. We have already done a thorough search of the complex, and found nothing.

We are fortunate in one respect; the place has been empty for centuries, and it seems that it was in disuse. The troubling thing is that it did contain a map… I have it in my possession for safekeeping, but it details three additional areas, and we cannot be sure that the spies have not already disclosed this to their leaders.

I humbly request that you draft a charter to find and secure these locations. The contents of these additional Alchemical Stables are of great importance, and could present a danger for the entire region. I only hope that it is not too late.”

Alchemical Stables of the Golden Age-

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The Alchemical Stable of the Golden Age were a haughtily named set of buildings commissioned by the Selnan nobility. Few know of their existence, and fewer still have set foot in one, and they are the subject of wild speculation. What is known is that they hold ancient technologies, though so far all of it has been broken beyond repair.

The currently explored complex offers only a hint of what the other complexes might contain. Strange abstract frescoes seem to suggest that its purpose was to generate wondrous and horrible life forms, or for the crafting of terrifying weapons. Whatever the complexes might actually hold, the potential for danger is higher than any potential for gain. This risk has done nothing to halt the plans for the despoiling of the ominous compounds.

5e Free Mini Campaign part 3- Anwuld, and an Essay on Magic and Technology in the world of Diem Mundie

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Anwuld-

It is difficult to classify Anwuld as anything but a nation of magic. The initial colonization attempts were for discovery and research rather than for some nefarious purpose. However, many joined for other reasons, such as arcane curiosity, or the desire to prove magic better than technology. Whatever the reason, the colonists were hopeful that they could discover arcane secrets that might bring prosperity to the world, and avert meddling that would mirror past mistakes.

The Anwuld colonists would include with them wizards and mystic scholars, as well as various mystical creatures and beasts. The mystic beasts served both as companions and partners in the expedition, though some were taken along for relatively benign experiments. The Anwuld nation now contains an ample population of creatures that include dragons, fey, unicorns, and many other mystical creatures not already native to Selna.

Initially, the intentions of the colonization attempt were relatively noble, considering the cutthroat Kaldornians, and the ethnic cleansing carried out Walastia. However, any notions of forming a new nation of peaceful wizard-archaeologists was spoiled nearly as soon as the Anwuld colonists stood on Selnan soil.

Anwuld takes its name from its own founder and visionary, Diedrich Anwuld. Not only did Diedrich know the Hart brothers before they made their voyage, he was instrumental in dashing their hopes of getting any funding or positive attention among the academic circles of the outer continents.Though Diedrich had expected the Hart brothers to have failed, given their lack of communication with their investors, he was shocked and angry to find them striving on Selna.

The new colony used its magical might to establish a beachhead, but they numbered so few that they posed little risk to the established Kal Dor Empire. The Hart brothers quickly dismissed the new colony of upstarts as nothing more than a nuisance. That is, until the colony had contact with the Jhorrund. The partnership was a disastrously amicable one, as the colonists egged on the nomads to stoke the fires of hatred against the Kal Dor, and the nomads in turn asked the magicians for stronger mystical weapons to level at their sworn foes.

What followed would tarnish the hopes of many optimistic wizards and scholars, removing the chances for serious research and inquiry to the secrets of the continent’s rich and dark history. Instead, War rages, as the potent but small colony continues to seethe at the Kal Dor Empire. The nomads continue to harry and isolate the otherwise prosperous nation, and all the while the continent suffers under the stress of an escalating war of magic that threatens to invoke ancient calamities.

Though not originally so stolid in their approach to primitive technology, the nation of Anwuld has banned the use of any device containing moving parts. Choosing instead to let magic do the work for them, they ban anything remotely technological. The ban is so thoroughly enforced that there exist inquisitors who work doggedly to sniff out and expunge any signs of technology, sometimes treating transgressors with a ruthlessness reserved for seditionists and sociopaths.

Though this makes some aspects of life difficult for the commoners of Anwuld, the government strives to maintain a base level of comfort for their citizens through magical labor saving techniques. This does little to eliminate the classist struggles facing Anwuld, but the nation would surely collapse into rebellion without such logistical magics.

The combination of perpetual war and an institutional ban on technology has turned the once tolerant and scholarly Anwuld colonists into xenophobic curmudgeons, as they reserve happiness for the eventual celebration of total victory.

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A Primer on Magic and Technology-

(This is the first of a series of essays on the strange and sometimes symbiotic nature of magic and technology in the Diem Mundi setting.)

The important thing to understand about the world that encompasses Diem Mundi is that it has been fundamentally changed. It was once a world like ours, with rules and laws that were firmly cemented in and incrementally understood by science. The event that nearly destroyed the world brought it back together in such a way that it could only maintain its integrity by internalizing the magic that nearly destroyed it.

That’s a very stodgy way of saying that the world was now infused with magic to its very core.

Everything from friction to molecular biology was now so infused with magic that it could not function without it. Every living being and piece of matter is now partially magic, which is why magic is so prevalent in the world today. Far from making the magical mundane, it has made the mundane magical. The musical notes of magic are played by pulling the strings of matter, as incantations can transmute atomic structures. Machinery can be made to function through the mystic principals seated in ambient magical radiation levels, and the very ether can be evoked through elegant mechanical principles.

But this doesn’t mean that there aren’t drawbacks to these methods. Many of the laws of magitech seem to rely on the presence of ambient magical energy, just as certain technological wonders can be thwarted by natural phenomenon. Relatively sophisticated technology in our modern world can be rendered useless by magnetic fields, or its efficacy diminished by lack of sun or wind.

So too are many of the magitech wonders reliant on the strange ambient energies that seem to coarse through the bones of the Dark Continent. Though not unknown on the outer continents, the lines and zones of energy present on Selna have made the blending of magic and science all the more successful. Slowly, these advances trickle back to the outer continents, mastered in such a way that they work even lands that are not as rich with magical energy.

Though the Kal Dor Empire has benefited from blended discipline of magitechnology, it is not an entirely new feat. The Selnus found such glory in the melding of magic and science that it allowed them to shackle the gods and command the earth. Though this nuance may be lost upon the modern era, there are students of history that tremble at the fantastic descriptions of the strange and dangerously new art of magitech.

Prevalence-

While magitechnology does not especially affect the way that magic works for wizards and clerics, it does bring the gifts of magic to engineers and men of science, if they are so inclined to accept them. Even now, men of science draw stark lines dividing magic and science as mutually exclusive fields, but for those that recognize the inherent nature of the world as magical, they can unlock secrets once attainable only by studied magicians and blooded wild-talents.

But it also means that magic is so prevalent that it can occur more frequently than it ever had before. Potent wild beasts might manifest strange magical traits, and auspicious peasants might express a mutation in the form of a meager supernatural ability. Whole parcels of land might take on various strange and sometimes dangerous traits that warp earth and beast into things both wondrous and terrible. While it rankles the various magic using entities of the world, they are no less distinguished or important for sharing the world with these occasional oddities.

Though there are many occult engineers that ply their trade across the countryside, and the Jhorrund employ many of them for their ability to create impressive and portable devices, the field is stymied by the official magitech guild centered in the Kaldornian capitol city of Charlesburg. Bounty hunters are regularly hired to smash backwoods workshops of those occult engineers that don’t pay lip service to the guild, and are further harried by other groups that see their craft as evil or dangerous. Still, the unaligned magitechnologists persevere, hopeful that they can show the world a better way.

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.

Introduction
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.

Jhorrund
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.

World Building Series #001- A Nation is the Sum of its People

Hendrick_Avercamp_-_Winterlandschap_met_ijsvermaak Lessons in World Building- As one builds a world, it is easy to focus on the cool bits. Sourcebooks meant to showcase such bits include fanged beasts, fun items, and vibrant locales. But what they sometimes lack is character. What do we know about a place if not for the people (or lack of people) that reside within? An abandoned region may be interesting if the reasons for its abandonment are explored. More importantly, an inhabited region is only as interesting as those inhabitants.

I like to point to several Rifts sourcebooks for this (e.g. Rifts Japan; Triax and the NGR), but there are other offenders as well. Ultimately, the character of a location is the way in which it reacts to the players. Are the peasants god-fearing crucifix clutching worry-warts? Is the lord in the keep a stern man with disproportionate machinations and compunctions? Is the nearby forest cluttered with dangers that keep causing disappearances?

Anyone can present an archetypal creepy location, but giving it character is really what makes it shine. One thing that I have always enjoyed of Dream Pod 9 (though which was notably absent in their 3rd edition of Heavy Gear) was twofold; an attention to the overarching sci-fi inspired story, and a very careful curation of interlocking characters and personalities.

The Heavy Gear Character Compendium is among my favorite sourcebooks for that reason. I own it twice (three times if you count the pdf copy). At that time, very special consideration was being given to the living and breathing world of the Heavy Gear setting, and it showed in spades. There was a sense of history, purpose, and the implacable march of destiny bound in the description of the setting’s major players.

But neither did that take away from the sense that you as a player could play a part. These people were not Elminster, they were simply important figures that shape the world into something compelling for players to enjoy. It treated the world as an organic social ecology that begged for interlopers, which made for a lush environment that welcomed players to partake in the intrigue more than even the mech fighting.

In hindsight, that may have been something of a weakness for the game, but the implementation of the setting and its characters was top notch in my book. But that is why I’ll always pick a rich setting over a novel premise. I may need to know how many buildings are in Town A, or what the local militia can bring to bear in case of emergencies, but those are not the details that bring a setting to life.

I want to know the plight of the people, the attitude of the leadership, and the mood of the town. The other information is great, but can only be invested with meaning if the character of a location is properly expressed. Is your town full of people with depth of character, or 1d6x5 townsfolk that fill rote positions?