"Ancient Lands": Basics for a "tribal / prehistoric" campaign setting; opinions wanted


Homebrew


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I've been doing a bit of work on a new campaign setting for a couple of years and have already been running two short mini-campaigns in a "proto version" of it. Now disappointed with the other RPG systems I've been trying I've finally nailed it down to Pathfinder, mostly because it's a much neater and more ordered version of the game I already know best, but also to some extend because of the possibility of making it available to a greater audience. For free. And having checked on the terms, I want to apply for the PFRPG Compatibility Logo as well.

If anyone is interested in the specifics of the world, you can take a look at a great deal of the semi-completed work here or at the website I created for it, the Barbaripedia (still in an early stage).

In this thread, I want to give a short summary of the general concept, followed by the specific differences between the standard Pathfinder rules and assumptions, and an Ancient Lands campaign. The aim of this thread is to get some input from other people, how much these peculiarities seem to be a good and working solution to represent the game world, but also for other things you think could be useful additions.

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Basic Concept
The name Ancient Lands has two meanings. For one, it is a world, which from our perspective is ancient to what we consider a "common" fantasy world; but it is also a world that is regarded as ancient by the people who live in it, because of its age.
At the core of the entire concept stands the idea, that the Ancient Lands are a world that is dominated by tribal or pre-historic societies. The social, economical, and political situations are losely modeled on those we associate with post-Roman Europe, ancient India, or the prehistoric Mediterranean. Ancient Egypt, Mycenae, merowingian France, pre-christian Germanic people, American Indians, or the Huns are all good examples for the kind of world people in the Ancient Lands are living in. One aspect that is important to me, is that I don't want any of the races and cultures to be real world analogs. There are no Germanic tribes, no Aztec empire, no Pacific islanders, no Chinese, and so on.
I draw many inspirations from the continents Xen'drik (Eberron) and Kalimdor (WarCraft), but the main difference is that the current age of the Ancient Lands is not a time thousands of years after the local civilizations of elves, giants, and lizardfolk have been destroyed or faded into obscurity. Which is also a strong theme in the worlds of Middle-Earth or the Forgotten Realms. Instead, the world that is described in the Ancient Lands is one, in which these great civilizations are just starting to emerge from the prehistoric barbarian tribes. It is an age in which kingdoms are founded, but many of which also disappear quickly to be eventually forgotten in time, in which mages are starting to turn their attention to other worlds that might exist outside their own, and in which the mighty dragons and giant kings still have to be slain. But it is also an age, where most of the world is still uninhabted wilderness entirely dominated by nature spirits who have a much greater effect and more direct influence over mortal humanoids than any distant and abstract gods. And deep below the surface of the earth and at the bottom of the oceans, there are still beings from a far older time, when the planet was a hostile world of lava, boiling seas, and permanent storms that have never been seen anywhere since.
Player Characters in this world are usually not adventurers traveling the lands in search of quick and dangerous ways to gain great riches, but are instead members of small tribal clans, who are counted among the warriors and shamans who defend their people against the countless threats of a wild and dangerous world, where many small civilizations vanish without leaving anything behind for later generations. But the people of the Ancient Lands are not only trying to survive, they are also constantly struggling to improve their lives and society, by creating greater accomplishments than their ancestors and the people who inhabited their homeland before them. And to do that, the bravest and most capable people of a clan have to go outside the relatively safety of their villages, and explore the vast wilderness around them, where ancient ruins still hold many secrets and treasures left behind by the spirits that build them in long forgotten times.

The Rules of the World
Here I come to my ideas how I think this concept can be best realized within the rules of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.

Maximum Level 10th
I was contemplating making the Ancient Lands an E6 setting, but decited against it for various reasons. Instead, the Ancient Lands are a setting in which you won't find almost any NPCs of 11th level or higher, with only very few exceptions for certain "unique" and semi-immortal beings.
In my personal experience, and matching what I heard from many other people, 10th level is already a point of character advancement that is reached by very few groups even in relatively long running campaigns. Generally, I envision the setting as a world in which combat is not always desirable and avoiding it when possibly is given a certain priority. If any individual group likes to run a game in which combat is more frequent, using the slow XP progression is one option. If the PCs should reach 10th level but the adventures are far from over yet, turning it into an E10 game is no problem at all.

Character Races
While the Ancient Lands are a setting for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game system, I do not envision it as a Dungeons & Dragons world. That means that among other things, that the creatures inhabiting the world, do not exactly match those of the CRB and the Bestiaries. This affects the existing selection of humanoid races as well.
Wood Elves: Wood elves are the race with the strongest position when it comes to learning and advanced military, and also one of the most numerous. However, the Ancient Lands is not an elf-centric setting. The wood elves are not a unified people, nor are they inherently good or superior to anyone else. Their cultural advantage is based almost entirely on being the first who rose from savagery. When it comes to individuals, personal learning and experience make the much greater difference. There also is no real difference between nature and civilization in the society and culture of the Ancient Lands, wood elf is merely a term to emphazise that these elves are tribal people living in relatively simple conditions, just like everyone else.
Dark Elves: Less numerous than the wood elves, but still one of the major races, the dark elves are one of the two major races that inhabit the southern part of the Ancient Lands. Spending the mid-day in their underground homes, they emerge at sunset to work, trade, and hunt in the jungles late into the night. They are not more inherently evil than any other races, but tend much more to isolation than most wood elven clans and are not nearly as welcoming of visitors and strangers.
Lizardfolk: Lizardfolk are more numerous than either wood elves and dark elves, but rarely travel out of the jungles of the Southern Ancient Lands the the subtropical islands near the coast. While the majority of them still lives in ways that many of the other races regard as savage, lizardfolk civilization is just as old as that of the elves and there are some centers of culture, that rank among the most advanced places known in the entire world.
Gnomes: The gnomes of the Ancient Lands combine traits and elements of the dwarf, gnome, and halfling races. In an attempt to make the dwarves less drunken scottish viking miners, and the halflings less english cleptomanics, it seemed like the sensible thing to merge the elements that work for the Ancient Lands in a single race. Gnomes are kind of in the middle between them, so that's what they are called. Gnomes are not very numerous and not a major military power in the greater state of things, but their knowledge of mining and metalworking by far surpases that of the other races. Their control over the supply and trade of steel makes them a much more important player in the Ancient Lands than many would think.
Humans: Humans are not native to the Ancient Lands. Instead, they are descendants of barbaric people who lived on the wide plains far to the east of the Ancient Lands, but where hired as mercenaries by elves who needed additional guards to protect the few caravans that brought goods from unknown lands beyond the plains and are still fantastically valuable and expensive. Many of the plains clans eventually made their whole living by working for elves, and considerable numbers eventually moved their whole families to the Ancient Lands, where they either became vassals to some local chiefs, or established themselves as minor rulers. The humans of the Ancient Lands lack major cities and only a few of their chiefs rank as equals among the mover and shakers of the region. But it is still possible to run an Ancient Lands campaign with a party consisting only of humans and taking place in human dominated lands, if being vassals to an elven people is not to the players liking. It isn't to many of the humans either, so this isn't something that would keep anyone from enjoying the rest of the setting. It is still perfectly according to the design intent of the setting.
Kaas: The kaas are a new and custom race that losely corresponds to the archetype of the "noble orc". There kaas are humanoids who stand somewhat taller than humans with slightly bestial features. They are covered in light brown fur, have thick dark manes, and faces that have some faint resamblance to wolves or lions. The kaas are at home in the northern parts of the Ancient Lands and are known both for their strength and their exceptional ability to climb on rocks. Culturally and technologically, the kaas are quite comparable to the humans, but they are a native people of the Ancient Lands and have been around longer than anyone can remember. They have a very complex tradition of shamanism, but generally do not tollerate mages among them.

As mentioned before, an important aspect is, that this world is not an elf-centric one. Elves do play a central role and as a race have considerable advances, but the intend is not to portray them as superior in any way. If individual elves are portrayed as racists pricks, then these individuals are meant to be racist pricks. People of questionable character who are controlled by their prejudices. Predjudice and elitism are themes that the setting does incorporate, but as aspects of a world that is harsh and unfair, and in which people don't neccessarily share our perceptions of right and wrong.
Settings in which elves are portrayed as just plain better are rather annoying and you don't have to be an elf-hater to be seriously turned off by that. In the Ancient Lands, any such notions are meant as delusions by the characters, and any hatred directed at them is entirely within the goals of their design. ;)

Character Classes
The Ancient Lands portray a society in which many of the institutions taken for granted in a medieval or early modern society have yet to come into existance. This manifests in the number of classes that are most commonly appearing in the Ancient Lands.
Barbarian: The barbarian is basically a no-brainer here. Barbarians exist among all the races and even include elven warriors who throw themselves into battle with an unnatural passion.
Fighter: The fighter is the class of the "common warrior", if such a thing exists in the Ancient Lands. Fighters make up the bulk of NPC warriors the PCs will encounter.
Ranger: While the fighter is a tribal warrior who protects the village and goes into battle at the side of his chief, the rangers is more of a frontiersman and scout. Many of them are still counted among the warriors of their clan, but are usually much more concerned with patrolling the borders than taking part in the politics and rivalries of the other warriors. For an Ancient Lands campaign, rangers should be of the Skirmisher archetype, or any other ranger archetype that replaces spellcasting.
Rogue: The rogue class basically applies to all the people who can handle knives and bows well, but are not usually considered warriors. In an Ancient Lands campaign, the Minor Magic and Major Magic rogue tallents are not appropriate and should not be available.
Adept: The adept is a new class (name might still change) that represents all kinds of spellcasters who are not shamans. These can be witches, warlocks, sorcerers, or whatever they may call themselves. The Adept class very closely matches the Wizard class, but uses the Class Skill list of the Witch and is converted to the primary magic system of the Ancient Lands Campaign Setting.
Shaman: A shaman is a spellcaster who serves as an intermediary between the mortal people and the beings of the spiritworld. The spirits tend to take forms that are invisible to normal people an interpreting their will and demands requires insight into a very alien way of thinking and percieving the world. Shamans train their whole life to learn to communicate with the spirits and maintain harmony between the villagers and the spiritworld. The shaman clase closely resembles the oracle class but has been adapted to the magic system of the Ancient Lands Campaign Setting. They do not gain additional known spells from their mysteries, but also do not have the oracle curse feature.
Oracles and Sorcerers: If any group prefers the regular spellcasting mechanics of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, the oracle and sorcerer class make the best substitutes for shamans and adepts respectively.

Allegiance
Allegiance is a kind of "alignment" system that has been introduced many years ago by the d20 modern game, but has gained suprisingly little attention anywhere. (The Conan d20 Game is the only other game I know about that uses it.) In a world like the Ancient Lands, objective notions of Good and Evil have no real use and things are almost always much more complicated. It is also a world, in which people have priorities and notions of morality that can be quite different from what we are used to. Allegiance is a method that repaces alignment and serves as a very useful tool to help players assuming the point of view of a person that lives in a very different world than themselves.
Basically, a character has up to three Allegiances, which are a strong devoted loyalty to a person or group, or commitment to a certain ideology. The main idea is for players to write down what things are of the greatest priority to their character. When faced with difficult descisions in which there are no obvious right or wrong options, the allegiances of the character can be a very powerful tool to remind a player that they might be playing a character with rather different views than themselves. Save a child or save the king might seem like an easy choice to us, but if the character has loyalty to his king as one of his allegiances, and believe that all members of the clan have to make sacrifices to protect the king, his choice might be different.
In addition, characters who know that they share an allegiance, treat each other as allies or at least like-minded individuals, and making Bluff, Diplomacy, and Intimidate rolls against such NPCs gains a +2 or +4 bonus to the roll. On the other hand, characters might now that they follow allegiances that oppose each other, and they get a -2 or -4 penalty to these rolls, because they never really trust each other.

Background
Background is a new aspect of a character and basically represents the station of his birth. In the Ancient Lands, not everyone is born equal and it makes quite a difference what class of people you belong to. A lowborn commoner might face harsh punishment if offending a highborn nobleman, while the nobleman can insult any commoner as much as he wants to with no real repercussions. However, a member of the lowborn class will find much more acceptance and openness from other lowborn, than any highborn would ever see. Every rank brings with it certain benefits and drawbacks, and it is up to the players to chose which of the six options they chose. In the Ancient Lands, this is not just a purely sociological concept, but people tend to be very much aware of the social rank of any person. (And it requires a Disguise check to pretend that you belong to another group than your own.)
Highborn: Even in societies with no real notion of nobility or aristocracy, there are still certain families who hold almost all of the power and wealth in their clan. These people are shown great respect by members of the other ranks, but it also means that they can not easily mingle and particularly people of the lower ranks will outright refuse to treat a highborn like any other people, as this calls for trouble from other highborn. In situations where characters from lower ranks gain great prestige and power, they almost automatically advance to the highborn rank, even if they are not born into it. Personal accomplishment is ranked much higher than birth, and those who have the ability to take power deserve to be treated that way.
Clansmen: The clansmen are often identical with the "old families" and long established bloodlines of the clan. These are people with full right within the clan, which includes serving as a warrior, owing property, or voting on important descisions. Clansmen is assumed as the default rank for most Player Characters, unless the player explicitly decides to pick something else.
Freemen: A freeman is a person who is not a member of the clan, but still a respected member of the community. Freemen families are considered guests of the chief in his domain and can be forced to leave at any time, if the chief choses so. They also have no right to vote on public descisions. Freemen are very common in independent towns and cities, but in smaller villages they often live as servants on farms owed by clansmen families.
Lowborn: The lowborn class consists of all kinds of people who are permited to live in the community of a clan, but have basically no wealth or power. Many of them are slaves or poor freemen, but some are actually impoverished clansmen as well, who are forced into servitude to others. Lowborn lack any previleges or special rights, but they are often treated as almost invisible and usually know a lot more of what's going on around them and in their masters home than anyone else expects.
Hermits: Hermits are individuals who have renounced their ties to their clans or lords to devote their lives entirely to the persuits of a higher calling. Many of them are shamans or adepts and treated with very high respect by both highborn and lowborn. They are perhaps the only people who can mingle with others regardless of their social rank and a well known hermit will be a welcome guest in the home of a chief even if he just cared for a sick beggar. However, hermits are expected to act according to their calling and those who abuse the reverance they recieve might eventually find a hard time recieving hospitality and shelter.
Outcasts: Only under the most severe conditions do the clans ever condemn any of their own people to exile. It is a sentence for the most despicable people who could barely escape execution, but quite often their chances to survive another year all by themselves are pretty slim. Anyone who has no clan or at least the personal protection of a chief who vows for him, is considered as entirely untrsustworthy and not welcome in any decent community. Even if they have not been punished with exile, they must have been raised by people who were, and no such person could ever raise a child to be honorable and trustworthy. Small communities of outcasts can be found in many places, and most are very bleak places to live. More often than not they are ruled by brutal thugs who intimidate those weaker than themselves and even those who try their best at a honest live are often forced to steal to survive. However, most outcasts share a certain bond or common understanding of their desparate situations. Even if they are hiding in secret among other people and disguise their true identity, they are still able to recognize one another and form vast unofficial networks of contacts. Outcasts hiding among freemen and lowborn are very common in larger towns, where clan allegiance is not as important, and they are usually in control of large parts of the underworld. Other outcasts tend to have very few problems finding these people and making contact with them, even if most of the townsfolk have no idea they even exist.

Honor
Honor is a system from the recently released Ultimate Campaign. For the Ancient Lands, additional Honor Codes need to be drawn up, but I think it's a system that should work quite well.

Magic
As mentioned before, the Ancient Lands Campaign Setting does not use the standard "vancian" spell slot system. Instead, magic in the Ancient Lands is based on a concept of manipulating natural energies in the environment and creatures to bend them to your will, much like you can control your own body or thoughts. The adept and the shaman spellcasting classes use a spell point mechanic similar to the power points from Psionics Unleashed. There are about 60 spells (of which a 10th level spellcaster can know 21 or more), that can be increased in power by spending more than the minimum amount of spell points, by the Augmentation mechanic. With augmentation, a spell basically becomes a more powerful version of itself, for example allowing the charm spell to not only affect creatures of the humanoid type, but also of the magical beast type or even outsider type. As the number of spell points that can be used to power a spell is limited to the same number as the Caster Level of the spellcaster, new options and variants are automatically added to your known spells as you increase in level.
Spells range from 1st to 4th level, but more powerful effects are possible by using Incantations, magical rituals that take a long time and expensive resources, which can be of 5th level and higher, though not requiring a specific caster level.

Taint
In the cosmology of the Ancient Lands setting, there is only the material world and the spirit world. However, outside this "natural world", there is an infinite Void of space and time that blends elements of both the Astral Plane and the Far Realm. It is the home of demons (who have more in common with quori than tanar'ri), who can not enter the natural world themselves, but take possession of mortal creatures, turning them into hell hounds and similar beasts.
The Void is a realm entirely alien to the natural world and any energies comming from the void cause the normal reality to slowly start to fall and corrupt. This corruption is known as Taint and can affect both the environment and creatures. With the exception of ghosts, pretty much all undead creatures are the result of corpses being corrupted by the taint, or living creaturs being killed by it. And creatures affected by taint also cause everything they come into contact with to be tainted as well, though the effect somewhat decreases with every transmission, or the whole world would already by corrupted. However, magical energies from the Void give a spellcaster great power and many are tempted to learn to use them, even with the terrifying consequences it can have for them and anyone around them.

Blood Magic
Blood magic is an ancient and almost forgotten form of magic, in which the energies that power are spell are not drawn from the environment in small quantities, but directly from the blood of the blood mage or another living creature. Blood magic is not inherently evil, and despite what many people believe, does not cause the spread of Taint (rather the opposite of it). But it is a very gruesome and violent form of magic, especially when used to harm a creature, so most traditions have abandoned it centuries ago. However, some blood mages still exist, especially among the priests of small isolated cults that worship ancient beings from the earliest days of the world.

Deities
The Ancient Lands does not have any deities as they commonly appear. Instead, religion is almost entirely based around keeping the local spirits happy by doing what the shaman says is the spirits will.
There are some beings that could be called gods, but they are actually more like extremely powerful spirits, being the spirit of the Sun, the Moon, the Earth, and the Oceans, as well as some others, like the universal spirit of the Hunt or the Spirit of Healing. These are not personal gods that one could talk with and who could hear the please of any worshippers, but rather ideas or concept worshipped by deeply philosophically inclinded monastic cults. Villages might offer gifts and prayers on the day of the solstice or a night of a full moon, but these are still offered to local spirits, with the Sun and the Moon being higher powers who watch over and bless these interactions.


Overall, I think it looks like an interesting, well-thought-out setting with some heavy influence from the Conan d20 setting by Mongoose. Unfortunately, this means I don't have very much to add or comment on.

Honor - I'm curious why you're choosing to use this system over the Codes of Honor system from the Conan d20 books. Honor, as written by Paizo, is just a reskin with some expanded mechanics (some good, some crappy) of the Conan d20 & other source Reputation systems.

Blood Magic - I couldn't find the mechanics for it.


I think this would be a good reason to use stone, obsidian, and bone weapons. Maybe even bronze weapons, to show the slow mastery over The Riddle of Steel.


Odraude wrote:
I think this would be a good reason to use stone, obsidian, and bone weapons. Maybe even bronze weapons, to show the slow mastery over The Riddle of Steel.

Yeah, old school weapons (stone, obsidian, bone) would seem to be appropriate.


Hmm. Interesting, and "doting" for further reading. :)


I just happen to have finished a first version for "PC reference guide", which is a collection of all the character options to create basic, well rounded characters. Most of them is basically identical to the versions found in the CRB, it's just listed, as the name says, for reference.

With weapons and armor I've been looking at the alternative materials, but mostly I am not quite happy with them. Bronze, as stated, is rediculously fragile, while in reality good bronze is even more reliable and durable than cheap steel. I rather tend to treat bronze just like regular items and have all weapons and armor made from steel automatically be masterwork items (bronze items may be either masterwork or common).
Bone and obsidian are certainly meterials that should be used. I think they works best for the more primitive cultures, as well as for all kinds of magic items, to give them a more "primal feel". Stone might be a bit too "low-tech".

Blood Magic is mostly a type of flavor than an alternative magic system. It consists of a feat that works like body fuel (take penalty to Str, Dex, and Con to regain magic power) and a short list of spells that can only be learned by characters who have this feat.

One of the reasons I've chose to use Honor is that it is already in Pathfinder (and should be in the PRD in the near future), and when you write for publication it's always good to keep the amount of new rules to what you really need to. It also combines adherance to a honor code with fame and reputation and you can actively use it for direct benefits if you really need an edge (and does so much less complicated than Fame).

Liberty's Edge

It sounds like Yora's going for more of a Bronze Age or Iron Age setting, though it could make sense to have different regions or cultures using different technology. Considering the theme of Barbarism, the setting reminds me of the Bronze Age Collapse that marked the beginning of the Iron Age.

Drawing inspiration from that era, you might have a few remnants of collapsed empires defended by troops arrayed in gleaming bronze, while the surrounding "barbarian" warlords would be armed with iron, and isolated tribes in inaccessible regions might still be using weaponry of stone.


I am thinking more of a society in which the technologies and institutions of the bronze age have just become widespread and the standard some 100 to 200 years ago. Bronze technology is basically available to everyone and now that agriculture has reached a stage where populations can be relatively easily and reliably fed, people are starting to turn to more ambitious goals. Like building palaces and creating kingdoms. Most elves and some lizardfolk already have a head start of a few centuries in this, but everyone now wants to join this level of advanced civilization and benefit from trade between distant lands and peoples.
Steel does exist, but the only people who can produce it in large quantities are gnomes. Everyone else has to buy it from them, if they can afford it, or use bronze.


When you get to the "mundane" wild life, holla at me... lol


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I do have a quite sizable Bestiary of custom critters. Quite a bunch of pseudo-prehistoric beasts and giant reptiles.

Others include:

Naga: More like serpentfolk than spellcasting snakes.
Serpent Warrior: A less powerful variant of Degenerate Serpentfolk.
Shie: Tall elf-like spirits that are almost immortal and with supernatural powers.
Oni: Kuwa Oni with the Giagantic template, to get the Ogre Mage down to CR 5.
Spriggan: Advanced 6 HD Kodama, refluffed to tall plant people made of vines and branches.
Mountain Giant: Intelligent and less fat hill giant.
Hill Giant: Smaller giant with focus on shamanism.
Thorn Beast: Large plant spirit that combines the shape of a giant wolf and bull.
Nightshade: Plant-spirit focused on Stealth, poison, and archery.
Grimlocks: The real, eye-less deal. ^^

Demons in the Material World
Dread Warrior/Dread Beast: Corpse possessed by a minor demon.
Iron Demon: Old suit of armor possessed by a minor demon.
Ice Demon: Floating shart of ice, possessed by a demon.
Shadow Demon: As in the Bestiary 1.
Fire Demon: Elemental-like hunk of lava, possessed by a demon.
Rock Demon: Elemental-like, humanoid pile of rock, possessed by a demom.

Demons in the Void
Rage Demon: Demon of destruction.
Hunger Demon: Demon of tracking and hunting.
Greed Demon: Demon of Stealth and assassination.
Desire Demon: Demon of trickery and illusions.
Sloth Demon: Demon of corruption and lies.
Tyranny Demon: Demon of mind-control and enslavement.
Pride Demon: Demon of transmutation.

Still have to finish writing many of these up, but with the spells and feats nailed down, it should progress quite well now.


Since the reception was quite positive and people showed some real interest in my work, I want to provide this "short" update of what's currently in development and see how this goes.

Major Cities of the Ancient Lands

City of the Kaas Tribes: In the far northwest of the Ancient Lands lies the only major city inhabited by kaas. Located in the open sub-arctic plains and marshes, the settlement is situated among and on top of a group of hills, which make it a natural site for settlement. No single clan has full control over the city, which serves as a central market for the many clans and family groups that inhabit the plains, forests, and hills of this cold land.
The city itself consists of mostly of relatively small wooden houses as one can find in many villages and small towns, but his home to about 6,000 people at any time. Four of the major local clans have small keeps sitting atop the larger hills, which are surrounded by wooden pallisades.
(Think of something like a huge Mongol tent camp, but permanent.)

Northern Elven City: Several hundred miles to the east of the kaas city, located in the hills between the tall mountains to the north and the vast marshes to the south, lies a large fortress inhabited by one of the local elven clans. While far smaller and less powerful than the greater realms in the south, the ruler of the city is called a queen, as she is by far the single most powerful leader in all of the Northlands. The city sits protected by three taller peaks on every side and has an open view on the marshes below to the southeast. A paved road leads up a narrow valley to the fortress walls, which is very well defended and makes it incredibly difficult to assault the city by force. The city is home to about 6,500 elves.

Elven Trade City: In the very east of the Northlands lies the northernmost port city of the inner sea. It is located several dozen miles from the sea and sits on the shore of one of the countless large lakes of the region, which are connected by river both to each other and to the sea. No clan rules over the city and it is instead gverened by a council of rich and powerful merchants. The city itself consists of winding narrow streets flaned by tall and narrow houses that are often three stories or even more in height. It's a major center of trade for the region, but with the relatively sparse population of the surrounding area, it's still barely more than a large town. Only about half of the 5,500 inhabitants are elves, with gnomes, humans, and kaas making up the rest.
(This city could also be anywhere in the eastern Baltic Sea region, like Finnland, Latvia, or Poland.)

Sorcerer City: Several hundred miles south of the Trade City lies one of the richest and most powerful realms of the Ancient Lands. The Sorcerer City is located at the base of a tall cliff and home to about 15,000 people, most of them elves. A large flat platform above halfway up the cliffside is home to an additional 3,000 people, who make up the cities aristocracy. In addition to being one of the major centers of trade, the city is also well known for its sorcerers, who not only practice their magical studies in the open, but also wield significant power and influence in the cities politics.
Except for trading ships, the city is not particularly welcomming of strangers, and visitors are mostly confined to the harbor.

Elven Forest City: The next major city from the Sorcerer City lies about 200 miles to the west and to the south, inside the large forest that dominates most of the northern Ancient Lands. With a population of 9,500 people, it is still one of the larger cities of the Ancient Lands, but the houses are spread out over a relatively large area with lots of old and massive trees found throughout the whole settlement. While several clans share the government of the city, the main power lies with the druids, a group of powerful shamans who have no ties to any individual clans. The druids are very strong opponents of warlocks and anyone persuing sorcery, which puts them at permanent odds with the sorcerer city. The last war between the two powers has been well over a century ago, but their agents are still deeply engaged in the hidden conflict.

Gnome Forest City: Less than a weeks travel from the city of the elven druids, one of the Ancient Lands gnomes major settlements is located inside a massive cave that is open to the surface on the south side. The roof of the cave is supported by numerous large natural pillars, some several dozens or even over a hundred meters in diameter. Inside the cave, stone houses are build into the cave walls and cover the cave floor, with several large mansions and small castles among them.
The city is home to about 8,000 gnomes and a few other inhabitants, who are ruled by a queen, who is also the head shaman of the tribe.

Gnome Mountain City: Somewhere in the northern parts of the Ancient Lands (not quite yet sure where to put it) lies the largest known settlement of gnomes anywhere in the world. It is located underground inside a mountain and consists of about a dozen large caverns of various sizes, which have the homes and workshops carved into the cave walls. Below the city lies a huge network of mines, and the city is by far the greatest producer of iron and steel anywhere in the Ancient Lands. The gnomes sell both weapons and armor, as well as unfinished steel ingots to places all over the Ancient Lands, but their prices are steep and the amount of steel that is exported in any given period of time is closely regulated by the cities king and the ruling council.
At about 15,000 people, it is one of the largest cities in the Ancient Lands.

Crystal City: (Yes, this one is back.) Not far from where the great river, that devides the Ancient Lands in a northern and southern half, reaches the sea, a large city is located inside a series of caves that are open to the waters. The caves have been formed from massive sinkholes in the cliffs and most of them are open to the sky to let in air and light.
The city is located near the great river, which is the primary trade route between the Ancient Lands and the Western Realms, as well as on the coast of the inner sea, which sees most travel from the northern ports to the southern ports. As such, it's the most bussiest port with one of the most diverse populations. The 20,000 inhabitants of the city are highly mixed, consisting of 40% humans, 25% wood elves, 20% gnomes, 5% dark elves, and considerable minorities of lizardfolk, kaas, and even some nezumi and undines.
While the city is governed by a council, the real power resides in one of the cities deepest caverns. A large formation of rare crystals, that are virtually uncorruptable by taint, is the home to seven demons that have voluntarily trapped themselves inside the crystal to contain their corrupting effect on the material world and its creatures. Though alien in mind, these demons are not looking for destruction, but have instead come to develop an appreciation of the natural world and desire to preotect it from other demons who show no such constraint. The demons use their power and their knowledge to help train a large number of demon hunters, who seek out all demons who spread Taint in the material world, and anyone who assists them.

Human Hill City: The city is located on an ancient site that has been home to numerous settlements in the past, but the current inhabitants moved into the site just a century ago. Located in the center of a large formation of rocky hills, the city is a natural fortress that is easy to defend and soon became a popular resting point for caravans bringing goods from the Western Realms over the land route instead of using the river and sea. Eventually, the site and the old ruins that covered it, where claimed by a human chief who never had pledged himself and his clan to any specific elven lord, to create his own domain in what had long been considered a worthless wasteland. But with caravans passing through the area on regular basis, the natural fortress has become a location of great strategic importance. While the position of chief has always been changing hands on a pretty regular basis, leadership is firmly in the hand of a single clan, who has managed to keep any other human clans or eleven lords from taking it from them.

Dark Elven Port The southernmost of the major ports on the inner sea is located in the southern half of the Ancient Lands and inhabited primarily by dark elves. At 12,000 people, it's one of the largest cities of the Ancient Lands. Unlike most dark elves, who pride themselves greatly on their independence and self-reliance and generally avoid trade with outsiders, the ruling clans of the port city have been very open to adopt new ways to create weapons and armor and to efficiently govern a large city based primarily on trade.

Jungle City: More than two weeks of travel through the jungle, southwest of the Dark Elven Port, lies the ancient temple city of the dark elves, which has been one of the main cultural and religious centers of most dark elven tribes and clans for countless generations. Most of the cities larger buildings are ancient ruins that had been abandoned by their original inhabitants thousands of years ago, but everything that can be said for certain is that they were not build by naga. The city itself is more of a collection of relatively mundane villages build inside massive courtyards or ruined palaces and impresses mostly through sheer size than by any cultural achivements. Most of the cities 7,500 dark elves belong to a single tribe, which is ruled by a queen known to be a both ancient and very poweful shaman.

Sun Lizard City:Some distance east of the jungles inhabited primarily by dark elves, lies a large region that is the ancestral home of the lizardfolk. Near the center of the city lies an ancient naga city that is now ruled by a powerful lizardfolk king and a council of high priests of the Sun. The city was the site of one of the first rebellions against the naga by their lizardfolk slaves, and the victory was attributed primarily to the magical powers of the shamans who led the rebellion. To this very day, the lizardfolk consider the Sun to be the supreme ruler of their kingdom, whith the king being merely a regent appointed by the high priests. While the kingdom rules only over a fraction of the lizardfolk inhabiting the southern Ancient Lands, the Sun King is ususally considered to be the single most powerful ruler anywhere in the Ancient Lands and at 24,000 inhabitants, the city even dwarfs the Crystal City and the Sorcerer City in the northern Ancient Lands.

Naga City: While the power of the naga has greatly diminished since the end of the Age of Spirits 4,000 years ago, they still have significant control over large parts of the eastern sections of the great jungles in the Southern Ancient Lands. Not much is know about most of their remaining strongholds, as few are welcomming to any visitors. One of the cities is a notable excetption and frequently engages in trade with the humanoid tribes and kingdoms of the Ancient Lands. Few captains have ever sailed to this remote port and even though the naga pay very well, most traders prefer to stay in less dangerous waters. Outnumbered by their lizardfolk slaves more than ten to one, the city still boasts a large population of about 9,000 individuals.

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I am quite happy with this arangement in general, but there is of course still need for much more detail. Any thoughts, ideas, or suggestions are very much wellcome as they might give me some inspirations on how to expand on them.


All good, but i was looking for a tent city. maybe there is one on the trade routes out on the planes where the humans came from.
While there are no proper mages, this would be a good place to suggest the Savage Mage. If he or she fails to cast a spell, by failing spellcraft, they get a burst of wild or random magic. Instead of my favorite pennies from heaven, they would get a rain of copper ore, with much the same modifiers.


Tent settlements will likely prop up in quite considerable numbers. Especially along the main trade route comming through the plains. But those would be relatively small and often temporary, rather different from the big walled castle-cities.

During my break for studying for exams, I've been going over the basic framework I've been sketching out so far, and after well over two years of working on it, I am now for the first time really happy about the basic geographical layout, the major cities, and main power groups. I've come up with ideas lots of times, but it usually took only a day or two until I noticed that all kinds of things about them were not really in line with the original vision and turning into something far more generic. But with some weeks passed, I still feel that I really have it nailed down now.
This is no longer a concept for a world or a model for a campaign, but I think now it really has become the real deal as an actual campaign setting that has all the basics defined. Yay, me! ^^

Now it comes to filling in all the details, like actually writing up the settlements and countries, and creating characters with backgrounds and the relationship between them and their realms. Getting everything polished out and into something that could be called a first release will probably still take at least another year, but I feel this is really a major milestone.
Designing countries, cities, and people is one thing, but writing them up for presentation in a forum is another batch of not neccessarily that minor work. So if I am going to update this thread with the new developments, what kinds of things would you be interested in to see? Anything that would be of interest specifically, or any preferences which things should be spelled out first as a neccessary basis to provide the context for other things?

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