The Garden of Forlorn Hope
In Plain English
This is for those of you who just want the stripped down basics. How is this world different from every other game you’ve played till now? How will these changes affect your character? What do I expect from my players? And what they can expect from me?
Ok. Here it is… An explanation of the whole world and resulting campaign – “In Plain English” _ A quick and dirty reveal of the essential story facts._
1. The world used to be Awesome. Or so people claim. Pretty much all of the “Happy and tolerant federations of powerful good people working to convert the misunderstood selfish people and standing in firm opposition to the perverse, ugliness of True Evil” that were spoken in any type published material did exist …Once Upon a Time. Hot and cold running blonds, glittery fairies, flighty elves, pure unicorns, tasty, butterflies, curmudgeonly dwarves, flatulent halflings, the best part of every fanciful, whimsical, myth of merriment and riches. [ All manner of what DnD is or is not presented here.]
2. Then Boom! [Every fantastic story and Mythos (above) is destroyed in a pyroclastic cloud of apocalyptic ecstasy. ] An physical and social upheaval collectively known as The Cataclysm; or more colorfully – the Great Fall. Various super destructive and utterly intolerant cultures held in abeyance by tenuous peace treaties and promises of mutually assured destruction fell apart with predictable results. Economies crashed. Systems of Law failed. Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies! Rivers and seas boiling! Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes. The dead rising from the grave. Human sacrifice, Dogs and Cats living together… Mass hysteria!
Real end of the world type stuff. The Fall out is ongoing.
3. The world suffers through a Dark Age. Years unnumbered passed in barbarism and savagery. Those who had individual personal power or access to it typically through magical items ruled through terrorism, domination, and brutality. The resulting degradation of societal mores and community control run amok. Whole nations use their strongest, and least tolerant, means of controlling the widespread destruction resulting in eternally oppressive regimes which ended despite themselves. Breaking the governing of man to its least common denominator. The social evolution of civilization return to a time when wars were again fought by hordes subsumed into clans, tribes, and nations. And, NOW, Humanity has begun to claw its way back into the light of reason perhaps a bit more cynical for the experience of having fallen from the heights of arrogance.
4. Still, all is not egalitarian grace and goodness. In fact, there remains a real disparity in power among the races. Most of world is at the social/technological level of an agrarian society and live in f. Though neither magic nor significant technology exists in great strength. There are some places that are more advanced than others. In order to deal with the bleakness of today, fear of the future, the happenstance of war between Feudal powers. People make up stuff that happened in the Age of Dreams. You know? All that great stuff before the Fall… when everything was awesome?!? – (See point 1.)
5. Man is no longer the Apex Predator. Sometimes the things that go bump in the night cannot be attributed to an overactive imagination. In the Age of Dreams there were a lot of things that were conquered, imprisoned, or over-shadowed by the power of the Gods. That was all BEFORE the cataclysm – but now they are a real threat. And, they’ve been growing in power for a long time without anyone to limit them… or to tell them to behave.
6. Gods? Which Gods? The civilized Gods of Church and congregation have less presence in this Age than they did during the last age of mortal reckoning. Stories of people, who had the power to do more than speak AT the Gods, is a persistent myth. And everyone on has got one. More popular than ghost stories having a friend of a friend who knew a guy that saw a guy who performed a True Miracle. No one you know has actually ever MET a Cleric [or Oracle] themselves. [And they are NOT available as player classes – at this time.] However if you’ve ever met a Questioner (an Inquisitor) or a Heretic (a Druid) you might have some scope of what a Cleric was supposed to be able to do. There ARE more savage gods, many of them in fact, and all of them are far more prevalent on the face of Arkos than the Imperial Gods of Church and congregation. Those who worship them however are far less centralized and as such are hardly a power in of themselves.
7. There is no Westfarthing, no Moria, and no Mordor. Although all of the known (standard) races have become more clannish, true. But no race has been insular since the Charduni War. YES, humans tend to enjoy the company of other humans and dwarves other dwarves and so forth. The races once known a ‘half breed’ have collected sufficient unique traditions to become their own discrete societies. BUT none of the races have a place that they own solely their own singular place – all of the races have depended on each others strengths during the return of civility … to one measure or another. There is no other place where only one race lives. With one very notable exception – (Elves) – all other races are integrated, more or less, into the pervasive human culture. Any true elf seen in any of the Prime Cities has labeled as unique to a generation. Annotated to areas and times of major upheaval – tumultuous moments of bloodshed. Written of in historic documents as prophetic moments of ruin comparable only to themselves and the Great Fall.
7a. Half elves have assumed an aggregate cultural identity. Calling themselves the iKKosi they have become a semi-nomadic tribal fellowship. Ikkosi have a reputation as deadly archers and accomplished equestrians and many gain employment as mercenaries – advancing their culture among other peoples. Their most valued crafts include the making of musical instruments, carpets of colorful and intricate design, and the production of silk of which they have a near monopoly.
7b. Half-Orcs have undergone the most divergent racial changes from the standard.. Now known as Ogrun, this race was eugenically evolved at a rapid pace over a thousand years by the arcane might of the Jotun Empire. The Apparent end of the Giants and their Empire is fabled in story and song – the Ogrun alone may know the Truth within the Myth.
7c. The traditional Dwarven mountain homelands of yore were lost during the reshaping of the world; what humans call the Great Fall. Modern Dwarves, instead of hopelessly attempting to resurrecting and rebuild the legends of yesteryear – the remaining clans have sought the return of civilization by stabilizing Human Society… during the last thousand years. Now, any Kingdom that has a Dwarves presence is considered blessed. As Dwarves have been long noted for their craft and their advances in machinery. Residing in isolated districts – Dwarven houses and shops are built to their own exacting standards – and sizes. Dwarves have a heavy presence in Craft Guilds, Mercantile Unions, and more recently city politics (for the last 400 years). Although they do conspicuously avoid direct national or kingdom governance, believing that humanity requires its own measure of independence – their own sense of ethics is a strong pulse in the heart of human guildsmen.
7d. It is believed that Elves have had a philosophical civil war which has destroyed the once powerful elder race. No other race really understands the specifics of this war and it has become subject to modern fables. The appearance of a ‘True’ Elf in the public office nor court of the Empire hasn’t been seen anywhere for centuries – though they ARE sighted with some regularity on the far points of the frontier. Should an Elf suddenly appear in urban environs reactions would vary between alarmed wonder and covert hostility – largely due the heightened level of nonhuman intolerance this generation.
7e. Halfling, or Yutani, society is rumor to be spreading from the far eastern archipelago, forcing this race to become natively seafaring to survive. So well have they adapted to this adventuresome profession they have become a feature of many coastal towns – their true homeland is subject to homespun ‘tall’-tales by landlubbers.
7f. Humanity is the most populace race on this world as the term ‘dominant’ can be argued against their rule of it. Humans are only separated in each other by attitude, philosophy, and regional culture. There are 8 cultures in the “Central Empire” – and human figure largely in each. These culture vary between themselves by technology, philosophy, and tradition but NOT law. Imperial Law is the common structure maintained by Legates and Lords alike.
8. Magic is blamed for the Cataclysm. The explicit knowledge of what is Arcane, Divine, or Mysticism is unknown by the populace and considered irrelevant for the purposes of ‘blame’. Open Magic use is simply not done for fear of reprisal to one degree or another by the general public. INDIVIDUALS may be exempt from this ubiquitous belief… but openly casting or using an obvious magic item in public is just as likely to get you cast as a villain by any civic leader who may demand you be “…drowned to protect the village from your demon worshiping ways”.
9. They ain’t wrong. It doesn’t help any attempt to mandate control over the populace to accept specific magic users as peaceful and helpful – if there really are powerful demon worshiping cultists who occasionally disguise themselves as benign. Raising demons for personal power making pacts with them for mortal souls which they may release havoc on the world already beset by it.
10. Miraculous powers are the domain of the Faithful… sort of.
Imperial Priests cannot cast divine magic themselves; instead claim they have sacrificed their ability to cast to stabilize the Gods control of the firmament. Anyone who can magically heal WILL be assumed to be linked with the church… or some God. Witches are a powerful force of control in league with the Imperial Pantheon. Bard’s often choose to pray before casting any curatives. Druids worship powerful pagan entities who grant them abilities in defense of man. Inquisitors are holy warriors who are sworn to defend us from internal corruption and external interference.
10a. Arcane powers may be hiding in the priesthood The camouflage provided by the miraculous is easily the most effective disguise, but papal authority has the means to castigate the independently minded ‘priest’. Expelling and excommunicated a charismatic leaders might make them into Cultists when the survive the process but many do not forging them into Heretics. The church might have started as a good place to hide from the wrath of Mob… but after a millennia the Imperial Pantheon is a guild of considerable power and ACTUAL BELIEF.
And of course Inquisitors do investigate the corrupt.
10b. Why don’t existing divine casters rule the church? Yes!, there are classes which have access to Divine magik but don’t have the right to govern the Imperial Papacy. Inquisitors, Rangers, and Paladins all have purpose BEYOND what is defined as priestly. Sure they may dispense advice, now and again. And, often as not they strive to serve as Paragons of behavior, by example. BUT they have purpose which cannot be redirected by either their OWN desire nor by social expediency. Likewise they are not directly subject to edicts by the existing Papal Authority. The Church may enter binding agreements with individuals inquisitors – but each semi-divine class remains subject to their own class guild authority.
10c. Priests are normal non-spell casters by DOGMA. For better or worse, proof that the men and women ‘called’ to shepherd the congregation have actual divine inspiration – written in the most ancient of texts. That an Elohim shaped the DIVINE WORD by which man’s salvation depends. “Man must depend on FAITH alone to guide him through the dark”.
11. More than simple magic items still exists in the world After the Fall, and the Ages of Burning, and through the resulting years beyond to now magic persists beyond or denying of it. Powerful Artifacts still exist and dispersed into the open, by the collapse of every odd empire before now. Though few may know of them. According to sailors scrimshaw fable at the edge of our own horizon there is a Ring of doorways / gate ways / pathways and portals. These apparently separate and distinctly described monuments are all connected as parts of ONE ARTIFACT. Some of these doorways are active, others are closed, all of them contain the means for anyone that walks through them to go …Elsewhere?