Sunday, April 26, 2009


Okay, a while back I finished up running Midnight Circus for the old world of Darkness system. A fun but complicated sub-setting in that it uses EVERY old world of Darkness setting (bar late commers like Demon, Kindred of the East and Kindred of the Ebony Kingdom). Now, I don't just run one game till no one shows up each week. I run stories... Players make characters, I make a narrative. So, as I'm planning my next story I've got an itch for fantasy. And here I've got D&D 4th Edition given to me by my wife for our anniversary this very year. I think 'gee, I could really go doing a long-ish Sword & Steam (a sub-genre of Steam Punk [well, sub-sub-genre]) epic. So, I make up Steam World! Didn't work too good when I gave it a dry-run. Seems, well, the setting was bit convoluted. For some reason I was the only one in touch with 19th century political structures. At any rate, one of the players for this dry run later saw my Critter Cache 2 from Goodman Games (the Dinosaur one) I'd downloaded for my equivalent of Africa in Steam World; an Orc/Goblin/Gnoll continent with lots of Dinosaurs and animal people. Sort of Henry Rider Haggard meets Edgar Rice Burroughs meets Garry Gygax! An this friend's face lit up and he screamed "Dinosaur World!" And thus, I give you Sauria (I even did a map! Cannae have a fantasy world without one)!

The day of flesh-and-fur creatures has yet to come, though they are seen like the first lights of the coming dawn. Still, the noon-day sun shines on cold-blooded and scaled creatures. Dragons, Drakes, Behemoths and their kin rule this age. This is an age of fang and claw, where the only steel held rest in the scaled hands of the Dragonborn. This is the Age of Scales…

The Age of Scales
Eventually the Dragons moved from being predatory sky-nomads to settled cave-cultures, and it is here that they discovered sources of both Arcane and powers. Suddenly, Dragons found themselves in a world populated by creatures that could not be simultaneously more similar or different from their race. Drakes, Behemoths and a myriad of others were similar in that they were all creatures of scale, claw and talon, yet different in that they lacked the same mental capacity as Dragons.

Of particular interest, however, were the Dragonborn’s ancestors. These presented the potential for civilization; hunter-nomads who existed much as the early Dragons had been. Interestingly, however, they were at small crafts. Seeing their potential as servants, the Dragons set about cultivating and enslaving this race for the greater purpose of furthering their civilization.

Through their employment of the Dragonborn, the Draconic civilization dominates the world. Dragon Lairs have since become the sites of Dragonborn cities. Still, it is an isolated civilization. The cities of the Dragonborn are besieged and surrounded by vast stretches of trackless wild. These wilds have since become home to other primitive races, now under the Dragon’s rule- living and dying at their whim. Other civilizations have even risen in the blind-spots of the Draconic eye.

Empire of the Dragon Clans
The rule of Dragons
Dragons might rule the grand continent of Sauria, but they are divided. Each Clan- defined by colour -holds a different territory. Though each Clan is ruled by the eldest Dragon of its kind, no central authority holds the Clans together, and so feuds between Clans are quite common.

Nor do the Dragons rule directly. While they claim all within their territory as their property, they seldom raise the surrounding primitives. Instead they administer their rule indirectly through their Draconic kin; the Dragonborn. By far the greatest city-builders of this age, the Dragonborn have built urban hubs around their masters lairs. Though they do farm themselves, the Dragonborn also extract tribute from their lords’ savage vassals.

Hierarchy of Dragons
By far the most basic organization for the Dragon Clans is that of the Klutch- an immediate family. Each Klutch controls a portion of the Clans territory and is led by a Maekrix (leader). The right to lead the Klutch as Maekrix is by combat, and often ends not only with the victor killing their opponent, but their opponents offspring as well. Likewise, the right to lead a Clan is by combat- though one must be a Maekrix to undertake this challenge. The winner of this challenge is termed Vivex (victor). This is usually where the similarity between challenges over Klutch and Clan end as is extremely rare for a Vivex to eliminate their Klutch. While trail-by-combat amongst the Vivex is often used to determine the leader of all Dragons- a Sveratrix (overlord) –it is rare that such a thing occurs and for the most part, the Clans are autonomous.

Dragonborn Society
Dragonborn are divided into Clans similar to Dragons. The chief difference is that a single Dragonborn Clan serves a single Klutch, with individual family-lines of Dragonborn serving individual Dragons. The chief Dragonborn of any one Dragon is termed a Thurgrix (Loyal Claw). Dragonborn are forbidden any political organization above the family level.

The Dragon Clans

Black Clan (Vutha)
South of the Red Clan’s volcanic mountains the land cracks, but does not break. It is a peninsula of endless swamp dominated by the Black Clan. Orcs are the main race to dwell here under the Dragons and Dragonborn, but they are not the only. In the north, where the ground is still hard and good for building, dwell Half-Orcs; a race born of long passed mixing of the Teifling’s ancestors and the Orc-tribes.

Blue Clan (Ulha)
The islands of the Blue Clan are home to Halflings. Far from being a maritime people, these Halflings can do scarcely more than simply hop from island to island (and thus eventually the mainland). The Dragonborn, likewise, make use of the Halfling tribes for their own transport.

Brown Clan (Rater)
Eventually the jungles of the Red Clan and the forests of the Green give way to grasslands, where the Gray Clan dwell. The grasslands, likewise, eventually cease and the desert of the Brown Clan. The Brown Dragons and Dragonborn alike dwell in desert-cities. The Humans whom they claim exist along the Great Wyrm- a fertile river valley.

Gray Clan (Vuthsir)
Between the seemingly endless desert of the Brown and the trackless woodlands of the Green is the Sea-of-Grass, held by the Gray Clan. War is common here, encouraged to no small end by the Gray Dragons, as the Half-Elves of the southern grass do not take well to the Shifters of the north. Nor do the Razorclaw and Longtooth Shifters bode well with one another.

Green Clan (Achuak)
Trees define the land of the Green Clan, which is home to the race of Elves. There is also a good measure of Half-Elves within this land, existing on the grassy borders with the Gray. To the south, in the temperate jungles beneath the volcanic mountains of the Red Clan, the wild pygmy-Elves known as Gnomes dwell.

Red Clan (Charir)
The Red Dragons dwell in the Mountains-that-Burn, a great volcanic mountain range beneath the realms of the Brown and Green Clans. The Dragonborn have their cities in these mountains, one the slopes below which the cave-dwelling Dwarves live. The Dragonborn have long since grown to appreciate the skill of the Dwarf craftsmen. Crude though they were, the Dragonborn have since supplied them with proper tools and schooling that they might be of true benefit. Additionally, on the Red Clan’s southern border, dwell Half-Orcs.

White Clan (Aussir)
A mountain-barrier divides the Green Clan from the white, and the ground does not drop from this rise but rather plateaus, forming frosty peaks. Here the White Clan dwell. Predatory to the extreme, the White Clan have little love for the Goliath’s who dwell beneath them- seeing them as little more than prey. The Goliath’s, for their part, have raised themselves from savagery to form a crude mockery of civilization. Because of this, they are often taken as slaves to fight as gladiators for sport or to be used as beasts-of-war. More commonly, the White Clan utilize Kobolds and other primitive examples of the Draconic races in the same manner as other Dragons use Humans or Elves.

Purple; The Lost Clan
Ages ago Draconic history records one other Dragon Clan- the Purple or Chahar Clan. This clan was a group of deep cave-dwelling Dragons, deemed odd for their tendency towards introspection. It is commonly thought that these Dragons have gone into an extended period of hibernation or else become extinct, though none are sure. All that is left of them are their Dragonborn, seen occasionally living amongst other Clans or else as independents answering to no master.

Other Civilizations
Off the coast of from the Green Clan lies the city-island of the Eladrin. It feeds itself mainly through fishing and gains both wood and grains through trade with the mainland. The races whom the Eladrin trade with are often happy to part with items that have in such vast quantities in exchange for metal goods. The ore for these, along with stone for other works, is dragged from mines beneath their own streets by the Drow; a purpose-bred race of slave.

Land of the horned folk known as Teiflings, Ba’al-Turath is found just west of the Brown Clan at the delta of another fertile desert river-valley. Since their earliest times, the Teiflings have made dark pacts with the beings who dwelt in flames and given over themselves to vast rituals and sacrifice in honour of their Devil patrons. It is with the twin-tools of blood and magic that the Teiflings have built their kingdom.

Gods & their Faiths
Gods in Sauria are strictly for the Civilized races and no others. While Barbarians do have gods, they are often silent and distant- speaking to their followers through totemic animal-spirits. Savages revere only Spirits.

Draconic Dualism
Religion for Dragons and Dragonborn is a dualist faith, divided between the principle of light, represented by Bahmaut the Platinum Dragons, and darkness; embodied by Tiamat; the many-headed Dragon.

Dwarves and Moradin
Dwarves are monotheists in the sense that they revere Moradin. While this is indeed the case, they still maintain a strict hierarchy of spirits under Moradin. After this fashion, the Dwarves must communicate with the lowests of Spirits, their own Ancestors, who mediate through the grand hierarchy to Moradin’s Throne.

Teifling Emanations
Teifling religion is of the Evil Alignment. Teifling’s revered Dis the Inferno. Beyond that, Dis has nine emanations, each one reflecting a different aspect of the Great Flame. Each aspect of Dis is thus embodied by an Archdevil.

The Eladrin Pantheon
The isle of Thulantis is home to the Pantheist faith of the Eladrin. Corellon, Erathis, Ioun, Melora, Sehanine and Lolth are the gods of this faith.

The Goliath Pantheon
Goliath’s revere strength above all else, worshipping gods that will destroy rather than create; they bow to Kord and Gruumsh, Bane and Asmodeus. This may seem odd, but the Goliath’s know that from the seed of their foes destruction, their own flower will bloom. Still, the Goliath race is strong and silent. They do not yet prey, but revere their gods through totemic animals that embody strength- such as the Mammoth.

Spirits are not gods. Rather, Spirits are seen as intermediaries between the world of flesh and world of magic. In this sense, Spirits are not worshipped but bartered with. If there is a drought, for instance, water Spirits may be partitioned for rain. If there is war, ancestor Spirits may be called on for strength.

It is Savage Races which have Spirits, but not gods. Cultivated races, on the other hand, have gods. Barbaric Races, likewise, have Gods- though these are often distant, silent deities.

Ancestor Spirits
These Spirits are the souls of the dead who have passed to the Lands-of-the- Shadows-Fallen. Often as benevolent as they are malicious, the Ancestors are as fickle and varied as the living. Ancestors are the least powerful of all Spirits.

Celestial Spirits
Spirits of the Sun, the Moon, the Stars, the Clouds and the Sky; the movements of these beings is clockwork as they embody the principle of Lawful. Additionally, because of their station above the world in the Sea-of-Skies, they are deemed the most powerful of all Spirits.

Terrestrial Spirits
Wild and varied beings, each individual Terrestrial Spirit is tied to a elements, the plants and the beasts of the land. Because of this they are rhe most common kind of Spirit for any of the living to encounter, and also the most malicious and demanding of all Spirits. Terrestrial Spirits come from the world itself. These Spirits originate in either the Wood-of-Elements


The ‘Common’ language for Sauria, being under the Dragons thumb, is Draconic. Many races in particular have stopped speaking their own languages in favor of the Dragonborn’s tongue.

While in many D&D worlds any race or culture may access any Power Source, such is not the case in Sauria. Here, in the savage and primitive world, civilization as it exists in most worlds is absent. Thus many races and cultures have yet to develop proper martial or arcane arts. Some have do not even have gods, worshipping a collection of spirits. Only old races, such as the Dragonborn or Eladrin fully grasp civilization. While others, being particularly predisposed in one way or another, such as Dwarves or Goliaths, have managed to forge rude imitations of civilization.

There are three levels of Cultivation, each tied to particular Power Sources.

Cultivation Level = Power Sources
Savage = Primal.
Barbaric = Primal & Martial.
Civilized = Arcane, Divine & Martial.

Race/Dragon Clan or Kingdom/Cultivation Level
Dragonborn/By Breath/Civilized
Half-Elf/Brown, Gray or Green/Savage
Half-Orc/Black or Red/Savage
Gnome/Red or Green/Savage

Dragonborn Dragon-Breath
The Dragonborn, their current state being the work of the Dragon Clans, share both colour and breath with their ruling kindred. In this sense, the key word options for a Dragonborn’s Dragon-Breath is expanded to reflect the full extent of Dragon colourings.

Dragon Clan/Dragonborn Dragon Breath

Teifling Language
The Teifling culture of Ba’al-Turath exists in something of a modest glory-age, openly worshipping their Devil Patrons and flaunting their hellish visage. As such, Teiflings have their own language- Ba’esh. This occupies their second, normally free language choice.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Dixie Adventures

An idea I've been toying with for some time came when I first saw EGYPTIAN ADVENTURES: HAMUNAPTRA from Green Ronin for the 3.whatever D20 system. A little while after that I'd seen AFRICAN ADVENTURES: NYAMBE; published by Atlas Games. Needless to say, both were done in the same vein as the ORIENTAL ADVENTURES books from TSR and now Wizards. That is, they recontextualized Dungeons & Dragons to a specific cultures mythology, providing a setting as an example (though for Oriental Adventures this shifted from TSR's original oriental world- Kara-Tur -to Alderac Entertainment's Legend of the Five Rings setting). All three have since become two of my favourite settings for their originality, daring to step outside the box and their ability to balance all the traits and tropes of D&D while staying relatively close to their core mythological inspirations. But I've since been wondering, what about other cultures folklores that this kind of product doesn't usually explore? What about DIXIE ADVENTURES! Its an idea I've been toying with for a while, and the setting basically goes a little something like this (though, thinking now, I figure the Kingdom's heirarchy goes something more like Elf, Half-Elf, Human, Half-Orc, Orc)...

The Elf-lords of Elamin founded colonies on the savage continent of Sinandor, using humans as their colonial vassals. There was war and rebellion. The colonies won, founding the Republic of Sinandor to the north and the Kingdom of Dixie to the south. The Republic was a new type of society, but Dixie was still like the old. Elven Aristocrats rule Dixie, their work done by Orc Serfs taken from their homeland and into forced serfdom. Between the Orc and the Elf sits the Human- Yeomen farmers who work and defend the land with their honour and hands.

Twisting Racial Profiles...

Note: This post was revised on the 29 June 09.

One thing I've always had a love/hate relationship with regarding fantasy rpg's is the whole Racial profile thing. Especially the half-whatevers. The idea of being this perfect split between Elf/Orc/Werewolf and (because an Orc and an Elf would never screw!) human just seems silly. Perhaps its because I'm an Austrialian and we're all pretty much a mixed brood here (I'm Prussian, Welsh, English and God knows what else!), the idea of someone being 100% Elf and having a set of features that make them Elven seems stupid. So, for my Savage Worlds (great system- check it out at Fantasy setting- THE TWIST -I stripped some standard (and a couple of non-standard) fantasy rpg races down to some key attributes in a point-purchase system. Now, instead of being merely an Elf or Half-Elf (or whatever race or half-race), you can be a Dwarf whoose Grandpa was half Elven and mother was one-quarter Orc! Rules-wise, heres how things panned out (not- the Chakubah are this setting's equivalent of Half-folk. They're short, hair-footed flesh-eaters);

Racial Heritage for Savage Worlds.
Rather than purchasing a single Race, players gain 2 points with which to construct their characters Racial identity from the three lists of common racial traits listed below. To be a ‘pure’ breed of any race, one must take all three types of Heritage (though by most social standards, two points is a ‘pure’ heritage these days). Most folks are, however, just different degrees of mongrel.

Note, though, that racial abilities that begin a particular Ability at D6 mean that and only that Ability may be raised to a maximum of D12+1. No more than four Racial Traits may be purchased per character.

2 Points

  • Agile (Elf); Start with a D6 in Agility instead of a D4.
  • Burrowing (Chakubah); Burrow Power with 5 Power Points. If an Arcane Background is purchased, these Power Points do not stack.
  • Survivor (Human); Draw a bonus Beanie per game session. May be combined with Luck Edges.
  • Stout (Dwarf); Start with D6 Vigour instead of D4.
  • Strong (Orc); Start with D6 Strength instead of D4.
  • Wings (Gargoyle); Fly and Climb at Pace.

1 Point

  • Claws and Fangs (Chakubah); Chakubah have retractable claws and prominent (non-retractable) fangs. Unarmed bite and hand attacks do Strength +1 damage.
  • Diverse (Human); Free D4 in any two Skills.
  • Hardy (Dwarf); +2 to resist the affects of Heat and Cold.
  • Low Light Vision (Elf); Ignore Dim or dark Lighting attack penalties.
  • Stone-skin (Gargoyle); +1 Armour.
  • Warrior (Orc); Free D6 in the Fighting Skill.

-1 Point

  • Lazy (Elf); Elves dislike manual labour, gaining the All Thumbs Hindrance.
  • Nocturnal (Orc); For combat during daylight hours, draw two Action cards, acting on the lowest.
  • Only Human (Human); Human’s are renown for not being particularly good at any one thing. -2 Charisma.
  • Rock Faced (Gargoyle); Lack of facial expression. -2 to Persuasion rolls.
  • Slow (Dwarf); -1 Pace.

-2 Points

  • Short (Chakubah); -1 Size.