IF you can keep your head when all about you
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
Portions of "IF" by R. Kipling
Strong heart with triple armour bound,
Who, distant from the Seven Hills,
-Last two verses of "A British-Roman Song" by Rudyard Kipling
So I have a map…
The Empire is in trouble and only one man fully knows and appreciates the disaster that is coming. His hands however are tied and he can do nothing, well almost nothing. A nudge from the shadows here, and a gentle shove there, and long range plans are put into motion that will hopefully change the things that are fated to come.
It’s hard to believe but more than 20 years ago I came across a map of a fantasy computer game that I instantly fell in love with. I knew that it would make a great setting for a role playing campaign, or even a system. I was confident that sooner or later somebody would take that map flesh it out. I expected to have to pay 20, 30, 40 or even 50 dollars for the sourcebook/game system that would answer all my questions about that fascinating map. To the best of my knowledge, with the exception of information published in the sequel video games, nobody ever did. Well I’m tired of waiting, and I want to play in that world even if I have to borrow a lot of stuff from other games to do it.
The map is the setting for the computer game Warlords made by Steven Fawkner and published by SSG. There’s a pretty decent wikepedia entry about it, although it doesn’t have a copy of the map of Illuria. Sooner or later I will make a copy of the map available but it’s pretty easy to find an image using Google.
Now this is just an interest check, but I am hoping for enough positive interest that I’ve gone ahead and put both character build rules and some details for the campaign and the world that I’ve already worked out into this post.
It is my intention to run either one or two parties of 4 to 8 through a series or classic modules and adventures (or parts of classic modules and adventures) while weaving in fresh material about the threat to the Empire. What are some of adventures I have in mind? Keep on the Borderlands, Palace of the Silver Princess, Cleric’s Challenge, Fighter’s Challenge and Fighter’s Challenge 2, The Assassin’s Knot, Against the Giants, The Desert of Desolation series, just to name a few. I hoping to achieve a very sandbox feel without sacrificing the cohesion of linked adventures heading toward an ultimate goal. Now if I do run two parties, the actions of each party will affect the other. Only one group will answer the call to aid the Silver Princess for example. If one group accomplishes or fails at something, the other group may hear about it, and or experience recompressions
This will be my first time as GM of a PbP, so I’ve got a lot to learn. I also have only been playing Pathfinder for about six months, and I didn’t play 3.0 or 3.5 at all. On the other hand I started playing and game mastering back in 1981 or 1982. I’ve put a lot of time into role playing games and gaming over the years most of it as a game master, hopefully in 30 plus years I’ve learned something about running a game that’s exciting and entertaining.
Some Campaign Stuff:
For simplicity’s sake I’m going to use the deities and ethnicities of Golarion. If someone wants to use a different deity or ethnicity, well the world’s a big place provide me with a source or a write up and I’ll consider it. The Golarion items will at least make things a lot easier for folks using hero maker. I’m sure people will have questions both during character creation and after. I’ll do my best to answer them.
Selection Process, and Game Start:
Let me be honest, I’ve been on the end of not making the cut to play a game because 20 people apply to a six person game quite a few times myself. I can’t run an infinite number of games either. Submissions will be accepted until at least midnight Dec. 29th, might run longer. I’m willing to accept up to sixteen players to be split between 2 parties. I’m going to what to know what your character looks like, his or her personality and most importantly background, background, background. At some point I’ll open up the discussion thread and people can interact with each other, people can also trade ideas back and forth in this recruitment thread. I encourage shared backgrounds, even something as simple as people growing up in the same town. I would like to start gameplay the second Monday in Jan.
Some Campaign Background:
The Empire of Alesion is almost a thousand years old. At one point it stretched around the globe but that came to an end when it fought a devastating war with the far off Empire of Tien which exists over the Western Ocean. That war ended with a magical cataclysm so powerful that it hurt the nature of magic itself. Any spell caster with power beyond that of an apprentice died in the back blast. Every year since the disaster, the number of people born with the ability to learn spells of any kind, divine or arcane shrinks. The Empire desperate for arcane spell casters to maintain the infrastructure of the Empire started drafting anyone of ability into imperial service. It kept lowering the age of those it drafted as the number of spell casters dwindled. Now special “wizard finder” finders roam the Empire testing children as young as toddlers (“if they can stand they can serve”) for the potential to do magic. If found the youngsters are taken from their families and put into Imperial Service, to be trained as an engineer, or battle mage, or so it said. Gone are the days when a village of 200 might have a village priest who could cast minor healing magic, or a hedge wizard who could brew potions. Today a city 100 times that size would count itself blessed if it had a pair of spell casters of such meager talents.
If you happen to find a copy of the map, I’m so fond of; I’m changing its scale for my campaign purpose. The map now represents an area three times what it originally did. That map only represents about a third of the supercontinent the Empire is located on.
Now as the Empire closes in on its one thousand birth day. Unrest is in the air those that know where to look see disturbing things in the future.
Many areas despite being inside the borders of the Empire and technically owing allegiance to the Emperor are not under the direct control of the Imperial Government. These regions range in nature from wild uninhabited wilderness regions all the way up in size to an entire empire in one special case. On the supercontinent on which the bulk of the remaining Empire exists notable such regions include the elven Kingdom of the Silver Throne, the drawven Confederation of Kings, the Clans of the Horse Lords, The Selentine Empire, the City of The Storm King, and the vast wastes of the Scarcain desert.
Although it is common in the Empire to talk about “The 12” (the 12 Great Families, the 12 Great Gods, the 12 founding kingdoms of the Empire, etc.) as in most things the number is never actually 12.
Currently there are 10 families which everyone can agree on are “Great” and definitely belong to the Great 12. (Only the two most powerful are currently detailed, 3 more are reserved for the game master to flesh out, the other five are up for grabs for interesting submissions by potential players, also there is no limit on the number of minor noble families (and remember in an Empire this big a minor noble family might have territory the size of France or Spain under its control))
First, House Alenkine, Gregor the ninth ruler of the Empire of Alesian is the most powerful member of this House. Nearing 100 years old this human male has sat on the throne for nearly fifty years and has outlived his children, his grandchildren, and his great grandchildren. The Alenkine’s are deeply entrenched in the Imperial Bureaucracy. The family has many ways of generating wealth but shipping and trade ventures have been their traditional source of power. Gregor’s health is widely rumored to be in a state of decline and with no direct heir, the throne may slip out of the Alenkines control and into another family’s hands.
Second, House Rastar, House of the Hawk, the nickname of the First Emperor, is currently led by Marcus of Rastar. The First Emperor established not only the Empire but House Rastar. Since that time Rastar has provided more emperors than any other family, and has interests in anything that give them power – trade, industry, faming, mining, the civil service, and the military and according to some crime. The family’s main lands and powerbase lay in the far Eastern Provinces on the other half of the continent. Strangely the Duchy of Rastar is not under control of the Rastar family, and in fact never has been.
Special: Every player is welcome to submit two characters for consideration, and for campaign reasons as you’ll read below I strongly urge two submissions. Also aliases will not be required until acceptance.
Alignment: Any Good
Ability Scores: 25pt buy. No starting scores higher than 18 before racial mods.
Classes: No Gunslingers, No Summoners, No Alchemists, No Third Party… but I might make an exception for a Psionic using character trouble is I really don’t know much about the Psionic rules for Pathfinder since they’re not published by Paizo. So while a psionic using character might be accepted I advise submitting a second non psionic character as well.
Note 1: Wizards, Sorcerers, Witches, Clerics, Oracles, and Druids are all very rare I do not intend to select more than 1 full divine and 1 full arcane caster per party. An awesome back story might persuade me otherwise, but I suggest if you really want to play and you submit a full caster you also submit a second non full caster character.
Note 2: All spell casting classes play close attention to the notes under traits below
Note 3: Monks must be Tein (either from their homeland or descended from the Army that was left on the continent 200 years ago) or, from the desert nomad tribes of the far south. Ninjas and Samurai must be Tein (either from their homeland or from the Army that was left on the continent 200 years ago). These requirements can be fulfilled by taking the Adopted trait. This means a non-human, not from overseas, must take the Adopted trait to play a monk, ninja, or samurai. It also means that a human can fulfill the ethnicity requirement by taking Adopted as well.
Race: Any Paizo, no third party, but final party composition will have a max of two noncore races, like before with full spell casters an awesome backstory might convince me otherwise.
Note One: Orcs are generally considered loyal subjects of the Empire (think Klingons in ST: TNG) and will not count toward the non core max if someone wants to submit one.
Note Two: Because I am limiting the number of non core race members if you submit one and you really want to play I recommend submitting a second core race character.
Equipment: 300 gp at first level but no magic items. Traits can be taken for more gold.
HP: Max at first, second, and third level, average +1 after that
Traits: Three traits, one of which must be a campaign trait. A drawback can be taken to gain a forth trait.
Note one: Spell casters must take a trait that explains why they can cast spells. Even if they are a race that normally gets racial spells, or is considered to have an innate connection to magic.
Divine Casters must take Touched by Divinity, a campaign trait.
Arcane Casters except Sorcerers can take Touched by Divinity or a Bloodline trait, or a Magic trait that enhances spell casting abilities some way. Sorcerers should take the Bloodline trait that matches their bloodline. If one doesn’t exist they are free to pick from the other options. Below are the 4 Bloodline traits I am aware of and a few acceptable magic enhancing traits that I know of, this list is not exhaustive.
Wizards and Sorcerers being sought after for Imperial Service in particular must take a second trait to explain why they are not in Imperial Service or ‘disappeared’, below are a few examples. Optionally a very good back story explanation may be accepted.
Skills: Every class gets two extra skill points per level. Also a first level character can have up to three additional skill points beyond that if their back story makes it logical, 1pt each for a profession, a craft, and a hobby. A hobby skill should not be a class skill unless you spend a trait to make it so. These bonus skill points come from back story. A character who grew up by the sea can write “Every morning he would go swimming for exercise” and that’s fine. A character who has grew up in the desert can’t, if that character wants swimming as hobby I’m going to expect a much more detailed explanation.
Campaign Traits: The following are Campaign Traits
Noble Born – All from King Maker (All the Noble Traits from Kingmaker)
Touched by Divinity from Wraith of the Righteous
Exposed to Awfulness from Wraith of the Righteous
Family Ties from Rise of the Runelords
Scholar of the Ancients from Rise of the Runelords
Student of Faith from Rise of the Runelords
Conspiracy Hunter from Council of Thieves
All the Campaign Traits from Curse of the Crimson Throne
Note One: There are many nobles’ families in the Empire, too many to create a separate trait for each of them. Picking a particular trait will not tie your character to a particular family. Establishing noble ties should be done in your backstory.
Note Two: The Criminal that the Curse of the Crimson Throne campaign traits reference is named Aura Khar, a mysterious women, who the few that have met her face to face describe as “average looking but with a force of personality, that leaves you fascinated”, “cold hearted”, and “utterly ruthless”.
Feats: All characters receive Toughness as a free bonus feat at first level
Background Package: A Background Package is sort of an enhanced version of a campaign trait. It is meant as a reward for a well written or well thought out background story. I have currently only two Background Packages written up 1 martial with 3 variations, and 1 non martial. Take one or write your own and submit it for approval with your character. If approved future players may pick it. Note a back story that is well written enough can earn both the background bonus skill points and a background package!
Package One: Elite Imperial Veteran. You are a veteran of one of the elite units of the Imperial Armed Forces, no matter the reason you have left the experience has left you changed forever. Pick a unit and apply the benefits to your character.
Option 1: The 204th Imperial Legion (The Broken Spears). The only segregated non Honor unit left in service. It remains that way as a remembrance and point of pride. In the 175th year of the Empire this all half-orc and orc unit was garrisoned at the border of the great swamp known simply as The Mire near the cities of Deep Hallow, Needleton, and Pareth in the far north of the Empire, when an army of trolls and demons came pouring out of the swamp without prior warning threating all three cities. The 204th held their positions until almost completely wiped out, keeping the three solely human cities safe. When the relief forced arrived only two members of the legion still remain alive, a cook, and a wounded new recruit who was fighting with a broken spear.
Benefits: 1) Add the Endurance feat and 1 Team Work feat of your choice to your character for free.
2) Become specialized in Profession Solider; gain a skill point to put in it. Become specialized in your choice of Knowledge engineering, Knowledge planes, ride, or Profession Cook, gain a skill point to put into your into the skill you just chose.
Note: If not an Orc or a Half-Orc must have an extremely convincing back story to pick this option!
Option 2: The 57th Frontier Legion (The Emperor’s Hounds) While the Imperial Army attempts to equip each army legion uniformly, each Frontier Legion is a unique force equipped and trained for a specific task. The 57th is a unit of mounted Archers. While the unit has had many famous engagements in its long history, including the relief of the 204th Imperial Legion in 175 EY, they are perhaps most justly famous for the pursuit of Mad Emperor Cato the Sixth who in 586 EY struck a deal with Dark Powers to suck the entire planet into one of the lower hells.
Benefits: 1) Add the Mounted Combat and Mounted Archery Feats for free.
2) Become specialized in Profession Solider and Ride; gain skill point to put into each skill.
Option 3: The 3rdth Scout Detachment (Eyes and Ears). The scouts of the unit known as the Eyes and Ears specialize into getting into where they are not wanted and getting back again. They take great offensive at being called the Emperor’s personal assassins, and correct anyone who says that the underwear that has been hanging on their clubhouse wall under a powerful preservation spell since 678 EY belong to the seemingly immortal necromancer Lord Bane by pointing out the undergarments actually belonged to Bane’s mistress.
Benefit 1) Gain the Feat Stealthy and 1 feat of your choice from Skill Focus: Stealth, Skill Focus: Escape Artist, or Weapon Focus (your choice).
Benefit 2) Become specialized in Profession Solider and Stealth; gain a skill point to put into each.
Package Two: Honors Scholar. You have graduated with top honors from one of the branches of the Imperial University or one of the lesser universities across the Empire.
Benefit 1) Gain the Feats Scholar and Cosmopolitan
Benefit 2) Gain specialization in two of the skills, you selected with your Scholar and Cosmopolitan feats, and then gain a skill point in each of those skills.