Of late, beyond working on The Purple Lotus (the third Lost Age Adventure), I’ve been pondering how to start a campaign in this world. I’m hoping you can offer some suggestions to improve it, but here’s what I have so far… (It’s long, sorry!)
Introducing the World of the Lost Age
The World of the Lost Age is a primitive place filled with muscles, madness, and magic. Tribes of Humankind have been scattered across the globe and are doing their best to survive in an environment where beasts on two feet or more are on the prowl to live on the misfortune of others.
You will begin in the Endless Plains of Agatti. A veritable sea of grass, hills, and the occasional small forest. Several rivers criss-cross the plains, acting as makeshift borders for the local nomadic tribes who call it home. Occasional border disputes arise over river shifts, flooding, and other problems, but for the most part it’s a peaceful existence.
The tribes, known collectively as the Gatti, survive with herds of cattle, deer, and goats moved from grazing land to grazing land. The rivers provide plentiful fish. Trade occurs between some of the more sedentary farming tribes, those who make their living in the trees, and the stone men from the quarries.
There is also more distant trade with the people of the coastal regions and islands of the Tethys far to the north and east. Beyond the flaming mountains in the distant north lies the roof of the world, a place of snow, ice, and hearty souls. And there are also rumors of monsters beyond the mountains in the deep waters to the far west, though none have returned to confirm those tales.
Every few years, the Gods of the Gatti use their earthly representatives to do a “Calling” – that brings together individuals from the many tribes to form a mini-tribe for a purpose. That purpose varies, as the Gods are fond of mixing things up from time to time for their own amusement or to right things wrong with the world. Sometimes both.
This is not a traditional world of Dungeons & Dragons. Instead, this is a world populated entirely by the People. Everyone must be human.
That said, there are tribes of very tall people and very short people (like attracts like) among the Gatti. If you so choose, you can be among them. Extremely tall characters (the Giants of the Green Tree tribe) will gain extended reach, but must drop their Dexterity by 1. Extremely short characters (the Wee Men of the Twilight Caverns tribe) will gain bonuses to Stealth, but must drop their Speed by 1. Come up with your own tribe names (or use the Tribe Name Generator at the Fantasy Names site).
Traditional classes are accepted and all characters begin at level 1. All classes are possible except where a fantasy race is required. Ask your GM.
Alignment Be Gone
For this campaign we are not using traditional D&D alignment. Instead I will ask each player to choose two opposing forces that fit their character. You can go with the traditional Good and Evil, but here are some other possibilities:
- Law & Chaos
- Fire & Water
- Air & Earth, Ground & Sky
- Pain & Pleasure
- Harm & Healing
- Light & Darkness, Day & Night
- Liberty & Imprisonment
- Reality & Illusion
- Heaven & Hell
- Insight & Ignorance
- Spring & Winter
- Summer & Fall
- Outside & Inside
- Mind & Body
- Truth & Lies
- Chance vs. Order
- Extrovert vs. Introvert
- Passion vs. Calm
- Faith vs. Ego
- Carrot vs. Stick
Feel free to use your own, but run them past the GM first. Each side gets a point value. They start at zero. But each character decision has the potential to change the counter.
Let’s say a character has the qualities of Mind & Body. Attacking another creature and doing physical damage would count for Body. Looking for knowledge counts for Mind. If it was Pleasure vs. Pain, healing might count as Pleasure (i.e. ending pain) while hurting another being would definitely count as Pain.
Not every action has to change these potentials. Just the big ones. Combat. Encounter-changing decisions. Even little things. But you get to decide.
The justification for each should be done by the player, but confirmed by the GM. The GM can keep a list of key events during a session that may affect the continuum that might be slightly different than the player’s list, but there should be a reckoning at the end of the night.
Also keep in mind that the player’s age or experience may come into play here. It’s not meant as an exercise in frustration to use terms or concepts unfamiliar to the player. Even Friend vs. Foe works as a simple way to judge the point value of a particular action. It’s not that one side is better than the other – just that they are different.
How are these opposing forces used?
The GM can then ask for the Continuum values and make some intriguing decisions based on them.
For instance, if a character has reached some threshold the GM has decided… let’s say 10 points one direction or another, let’s say they’re “noticed” by beings of that particular flavor. If it’s Fire vs. Water and a character has gained 10 points of Fire, perhaps a minor Fire elemental is in the area and looks in on the character. Nothing says it will harm the PC – only that there’s a level of interest.
If it’s a bigger number down the line, it’s quite possible… let’s say a character has 50 points of Earth – that a bigger creature may awaken or be disturbed when the PC enters the area. A troll or giant may come to see what “feels” off and cause difficulty for the party.
At perhaps the gods themselves get involved, sending minor servants to watch and aid or hinder based on values – or ask for help down the line.
Imagine a Goddess appearing before a group of PCs and asking for help for a particular cause. Wouldn’t that be interesting?
As a player, you must decide whether your character is the type who will simply go with whatever decision regardless of the consequences or will try to balance these forces.
In addition, each character will get a trait. These can be as simple as gaining the ability to somehow be able to find an herb or spice wherever you are to improve whatever meal you happen to be cooking that day. Or perhaps they see The Lost Ones (see below) where others cannot. Come up with something that fits your character’s role among their tribe before they are summoned to the Calling. This is not an ability or feat that provides a bonus in combat or to skills, but instead adds a bit of color to the character you are creating.
Also, if you are a spell-caster, alchemist making potions, or wielder of rituals, I would encourage you to take any spells or spell-like abilities you may have and change the names to fit your opposing forces. For instance, if you have Fire and Ice, you might change “Magic Missile” to “Flame Bolt” or “Ice Pellets”. If you have Day & Night, perhaps “Fireball” becomes “Sudden Sun”. Use your creativity and keep track of the original spell name as well as your modified one.
The same applies to fighters and other characters. Take those feats and attacks and make them your own. Just keep track of the original names as well as the new and improved ones.
Many of the names are already pretty cool, so if you want to leave them be, that’s ok as well. This just offers you some intriguing opportunity to customize your characters even further.
The Gatti are largely a people native to the region, with tales of tricksters, forces of nature, and larger than life figures from history through which traditions, values, and morals are taught to the young. These tales explain why the storms come, why the stars are in the sky, and why the gods are usually fickle beings, not to be trusted.
Each tribe may have a slightly different name for these figures, but they are all represented. Here are a few:
- Lady of the Waters
- The Trickster
- Cleansing Fires
- The Harvester
- The Shepherd
- The Breath of Life
Beyond the spirits and gods of the Gatti people, they also believe in the Worlds Beyond the World, simply known as The Beyond. When an individual dies, their bodies are prepared for the Way to the Beyond in such a way that they may be well received by the spirits there. Some tribes burn their bodies on a funeral pyre to send them on to the Cleansing Fires and the winds of the Breath of Life or to the bosom of the Lady of the Waters. Others bury their dead, returning them to Spider and his helpers. A few, shunned among the Gatti, consume the flesh of the fallen to keep the power for themselves.
There are those who can *see* those spirits who have not found their way to the beyond. They are known as The Lost Ones and can cause all sorts of grief for the living. Some even go so far as to make it their mission to lay these sometimes vengeful or spiteful spirits of the dead to rest. And there are stories of some who have used them to further their own ends. The Fallen.
But let us say no more of them for now. 🙂
Peace Pipes and Smoke Seeing
The Old-Born, those wise among the Gatti who know the ways of the world, choose to share their medicine with the people sparingly. They share it with those they deem worthy and can handle the smoke. For sometimes, through the smoke, spirits and other things in the Beyond look back through the space between. That can be disconcerting and has been known to drive even the strongest among the people to madness.
But each tribe member Called into action must submit to the smoke. That experience marks them among the strong of the Gatti and worthy to represent them on their sacred missions. Any visions witnessed during the smoke test are interpreted by the Old-Born present and those interpretations are shared with the participant. They may share their visions with others should they choose, but that is not required.
[Once a character is created, the player must present the character to the GM and the GM will act as the Old-Born for this ceremony.]
When it is time for the Calling, the Old-Born of your tribes will send you on your way to Gods-know-where. May you succeed in your journey my friends!