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.

gonzo
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.

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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.

Chairman_Dies_of_House_Committee_investigating_Un-American_activities
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.

Henrik_Ibsen_by_Gustav_Borgen_NFB-19778_restored
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.

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Return of the King, or Better Living Through Cooperative Play

the_return_of_the_king_cover
Pictured: A ruthless marketing ploy by me

Hahaha, that’s a pretty good blog title. So ok, I believe that I need to get back into the blog racket.

I have been doing rather extensive writing for various companies, including some successful kickstarters, and I have filled my time with doing just that, but I feel like I have so much more to say that cannot be encompassed with a “for pay” product, or at least not until I can stand on my own two feet as a publisher… as I someday hope to achieve.

I have a lot of ideas, and I think  I can share them with people better through this platform. Things that amuse me and probably cannot be neatly monetized*. Things that strike my fancy and require more time and attention to refine into something that should be sold for money.

I also hope to bridge a crucial gap with my blog, and one that I think I had attempted to tackle when I started; I wish to help those gaming groups that are in conflict. I have witnessed, both first hand and through numerous broad gaming topics and forums, the continual ebb and flow of game table politics.

Player A doesn’t get along with player B. Game Master X has a problem with power gamer Y. A character dies, and arguments ensue over how it was handled… etc, etc, etc.

These are the issues that I feel should be tackled, and it warrants more attention. Do you have a gaming issue at your table? Feel free to leave a comment. I may even dedicate a blog post to it. Will I take your side and demonize the other party? No, I intend to be impartial and seek harmony over vilification**.

So I will attempt to start a new segment entitled “Across the Screen” in which I give advice, both targeted and general, aimed at helping the harmony of game play. After all, life is too short to have a bad role playing session.

* Such as conversions of intellectual property, done as FREE loving tributes, of course.
** It is entirely too common for advice threads that relate to game table quarrels to devolve into immediate name calling and side taking without any form of resolution. The intention here is for all sides to be considered, and an equitable resolution to be achieved.

Fiendish Friday: Katsuhiko Jinnai

Jinnai

This might seem weird, but I’m going to dip back into my anime roots to discuss what makes a good villain. And let us not get confused; a good villain is not necessarily a successful villain or a powerful one. Rather, a good villain (by my reckoning) is one that evokes villainy, feels fully (or at least mostly) defined, and is dynamic.

But I won’t beat you with buzzwords. Rather, let me show you by example.

El Hazard was a relatively underrated show that didn’t get much traction outside of being the cousin to a much more popular Tenchi Muyo. What El Hazard had going for it was far more action and excitement*, a better setting**, and arguably a better protagonist***. What is not up for debate is that El Hazard had numerous antagonists that stole the show compared to most other anime, to say nothing of Tenchi Muyo and its relative lack of quality antagonists****.

But I digress. Katsuhiko Jinnai is basically a high school student rival to the high school student protagonist. Outside of the ability to communicate with bugs (depending on the El Hazard variant universe), Jinnai doesn’t necessarily have any special innate abilities. In a world where people can bend elements (before it was cool), control ancient and potent technology, or just be big and/or strong, Jinnai was merely smart, and ambitious.

It’s quite clear that Jinnai is a megalomaniac with a napoleon complex. There is nothing especially ground-breaking about his motivations or demeanor, but his methods are impressive. He whips an army of bugmen into shape, convinces their queen to make him a general, and takes great sweeping risks for big payoffs; all for the sake of rubbing his success in the face of the protagonist.

His carman-esque level of dedication to his villainous craft is admirable. He smacks of some kind of character from Edgar Rice Burroughs or even Robert E. Howard; larger than life, commanding, outrageously bombastic, but somehow fun and enjoyable. His trademark cackle and sneer make him almost more cartoon than cartoon, but somewhere along the line you accept him as ridiculous but necessary to the otherwise somber presentation of the fantastical fantasy setting.

But as I’m almost at 500 words, counting footnotes, I’ll let you just go and watch El Hazard. The original OVA is short (7 episodes), but the episodes are a full 30-45 minutes. It’s a fun watch if you get the chance. Just… avoid El Hazard 2. It’s just not a good sequel.*****

Warning: Extreme Anime Nerdiness Ahead!
*Seriously, more fight scenes per capita than Tenchi Muyo.
** A somewhat pulpy “transported to fantasy arabia” setting rocks compared to the “Japan and sometimes empty space” settings initially explored in Tenchi Muyo.
*** Makoto beats Tenchi hands down. He’s smarter, has more of a personality, and just DOES more things. He even seems to have will and motivation. Ack, that’s another post altogether though.
****Outside of Kagato Tenchi had very few good villains. Dr Clay? Give me Dr Clayton Forester any day! But even outside of Jinnai, there was the Bugrom Queen (who probably should have seen more play), the weird blue skinned people with an axe to grind, and the spectre of ancient and dangerous technology that made things interesting.
***** El Hazard: The Wanderers is fine. I keep meaning to watch El Hazard: Alternative World, and thus have no opinion on it.

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.

Monday Mayhem: The Gravity Trap!

So it looks like we are in for yet another format change. I will be experimenting with a weekday posting schedule, and one that will result in more posts of shorter length.

You’ll get the idea as the week moves along.

Firstly, I will kick off Mayhem Monday. Here is where I will post and discuss challenges that the players might face, which includes monsters, traps, skill challenges, and role playing challenges (more on that later).

This week, we explore a trap of my own devising: the gravity well. Keep in mind that at this moment, most of my material will be for the 5th edition of a certain popular game.

You start with a 20 x 20 room, and place an orb on a pedestal in the center.

Kind of like this one. Except… in a dungeon. And the orb should probably glow.

This trap is placed at the beginning of a dungeon, usually in the first room. It’s purpose is to stall any invaders, and potentially kill those who can’t outthink the trap.  As one enters, they must make a Dexterity save (DC between 10 and 15 depending on your group’s collective level). Those who fail will fall towards the orb, taking 2d6 damage from falling, and are prone (this is only important if you happen to have further hazards in your trapped room).

orb grid
For your reference.

The orb itself is the focal point of gravity, and any attempt to leave the room must deal with the consequences of the altered gravity. Those who are aware may instead make an athletics check with a DC of 10 to land safely and without damage.

This is a pretty simple trap, and more of a puzzle, and the simple grid was meant more to stall my players than anything, as they were being scryed on by the dungeon boss. Also, this setup is relatively simple, but it was meant for a group of new role players. You might find that you could use gravity traps in more elaborate ways (think Portal). It was amusing to see my players trying to move animal companions, and two large oxen (long story) through the gravity trap. The group had fun too, and I hope that you do too.

Join us tomorrow as we have Off-Topic Tuesday!

A Curse as a Feature

Note: This is a contribution to the monthly RPG Blog Carnival, by John Four of Roleplaying Tips. Please see the announcement post on Cursed Items HERE.

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Cautionary tales abound!

Too often, we find ourselves thumbing through a list of cursed items, and nearly to the last they exist as a kind of codified practical joke. Now, I enjoy the legacy of the game’s origins as much as the next guy, but so much has changed since those early days. The question we should ask ourselves is, what do cursed items say about our setting of choice?

Why throw in a shiny object that zaps you any time you wobble it about? Magic items need not be a bothersome handicap or deadly debilitation, but rather a deeper element of a character’s growth and development. A man cursed to perpetually wear his armor is not so much annoyed by it as he is defined by the experience, and perhaps doing it out of some sense of honor or penitence. He choses to endure the curse, and may even refuse to have the curse lifted until he feels the time is right.

Consider the following item.

hairshirt

Hair Shirt
Wondrous Item- Rare

This shirt is composed entirely of coarse woven animal hairs. The workmanship, though good, renders this shirt offensive to both the eyes and to the skin. Anyone wearing this shirt halves healing received from short rests, and heal 1/4 of their hit dice maximum during a long rest (but still regain full hit points).

If you are a Cleric, and you don no other armor, you may consider any healing spells to have rolled the maximum amount possible. Healing spells that target you are considered to have rolled the minimum amount. This does not affect static healing (such as Lay on Hands). Monks may not recover ki points while wearing this armor.

Alternately, if you are an ex-Cleric of good alignment, you may wear the hair shirt to retain some of your powers. You have access to clerical abilities equal to those of a Cleric of half your ex-Cleric levels.

This item may not be removed without either the use of a remove curse spell, or upon the completion of a geas spell cast by a cleric of the same religion that you follow. Wearing this shirt prevents the benefits of any armor or spell or effect that grants armor, but does not interfere with other bonuses to armor class.

The hair shirt might be seen as a boon, but for someone who cared enough would realize that their character is wearing a torture device. Honestly, what does that say about this character? You don’t have to feel bad about it, but it should make you think. What led this person to do such a thing?*

There is also an aspect to this particular cursed item that could be employed as a plot devices, in the sense it could compel the cursed being to pursue a task; in this case, to redeem themselves, and see the potential road to atonement. Such an item may be the most utile for players and DM’s alike, given that they do not always remove choice, they merely present an opportunity. This kind of cursed item could turn a boring NPC into a memorable one.

And neither should any curse hinder the player any more than necessary; maybe the curse sword of prophecy compels the wielder to seek the end of tyranny, and it does so by whispering in its owner’s ear at night. This does not carry any specific penalty or hindrance, but it is a way to express a prominent motivation, and it doesn’t hamper the player’s effectiveness at the table.

While demons and sadists might work hard to litter the world with cursed items for their own sake, curses are not often handed down lightly. They are the result of a serious transgression, or an enduring vengeance. The gods themselves may twist the power of an heirloom to spurn the descendants of a fallen priest, and a dying archmage may channel his dark and dying soul into a potent magical bauble. These are not opportunities to play “gotcha” with your players, but rather a time to fill your world with style and personality.

It’s time to stop looking at your character as a collection of mathematically relevant game modifiers, and start realizing that the things they do and obtain are relevant to the story. That is the story that you are telling, through your actions, reactions, and the choices you make at every session.

*Ask Sir Thomas Moore.

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.