What’s the Big Picture? What’s going on in this setting that makes it ripe for adventure. What’s changing, evolving, declining?
To the far north, on the northern reach of Lake Cyrn, a body of water almost better called a Sea, sits the Principality of Seldoorn. A once great dwarven nation, Steelhome, stood here, but it was abandoned long ago. A powerful southern human kingdom, Ytre, once lay claim to this place, calling it the Duchy of Seldoorn. A score or two years ago, a young Duke, thinking his position unassailable, declared his independence, and in a string of stinging defeats for the southerners, secured Seldoorn’s independence, and called the land his Principality of Seldoorn.
But the tides of fortune have shifted. The land, once inexplicably warm, has been cooling. Ice floes in the north have made sailing Lake Cyrn hazardous. Mines, once actually oozing iron from their pores, are losing their productivity. Rekfous, once a Duke, now self-styled Prime of Seldoorn, is aging, and losing control. Bad times are ahead for the complacent. But the opportunistic perhaps…
What’s the world’s culture? What are the cultural analogs? Analogs can be taken from historical earth, current events or fantasy works.
Seldoorn was a center of production, with great fisheries and mines. Rekfous won Seldoorn’s independence with a pragmatic approach, and promised each man his own share of the land’s wealth. But the wealth was too great, and the nobility too greedy. The people toil with hope of the long ago made promises, promises kept alive by the nobility as a beacon of hope. A few have even become rich, even fewer have been ennobled to keep the dream alive. The people are serious, working hard to achieve these riches awaiting them. But the depression is not lost on anyone. Southern luxuries have become rare, sons and fathers lost to sailing expeditions have become more common, and people are worried.
Like Rome, the military is professional, where there is one. All men can serve, but usually do so as a career. Knighthood is practically non-existent as a military practice. Nobles are either wealthy ne’er-do-wells who got fat on the spoils of past riches, or shrewd and ruthless bastards looking to make a move in the changing climate. Few, however, are military men.
The bravest souls tread the tundra, hunting rare and dangerous game, whose hides fetch amazing prices in trade in the south. These are the hardiest of folks, most independent minded, and most likely to solve problems, but cause trouble.
What’s the conflict in which the characters are involved? What are the sides? What’s wrong?
To be seen…
What physical place does this conflict take place in? What ecology, environment, place?
The Principality of Seldoorn is a shard of warm land in the frozen northern wastes. The land is geothermally active. Two volcanoes straddle the plains of Seldoorn, Crawcod Lake is warm even in the winter, and steam geysers are almost dime a dozen attractions dotting the land. But the place isn’t huge, perhaps three days hard ride on a horse end to end.
What’s the name of the most important place in this setting? Not the capital or any dumb shit like that, but THE PLACE where all the action goes down?
Dragon’s Maw. The deepest, richest, best mines. Everyone wants a piece of this action. Small mining enclaves dot the landscape. Smelters are a common sight, as pure veins of metal have become rarer, and refining ore has become necessary. Black marketeers know where to go for the best in sales, and the best in acquisitions as well.
Seldoorn. This city is built on a rapidly rising hillside, and is bisected by a deep ravine in which the Crimson River runs. The city is ancient, and much of it is in disuse, and much of it is in ruins. Areas close to the water are well kept, as the port is key, areas further up and further back have fallen into disrepair. The knowledgable historian would inform those who care that at least three human cities are buried beneath what stands on top today, and at least one dwarven one. Decay, in any place but the port, is palpable. Just don’t let the Roden see you.
What’s the name of a faraway place that folks talk about, dream about or mutter under their breath about?
The southern kingdom of Ytre.
Who are the antagonists? Who is opposing the goals of the characters?
To be seen. Rekfous is a good one.
What type of magic exists in this world? Pick one or two of the magic systems: Faith (and Blasphemous Hatred), Sorcery (and Abstraction), Natural Magic, Spirit Binding, Summoning, Enchanting.
Sorcery (no abstraction) and Enchantment, because I am sure someone will want magic weapons. Orcish, Dwarvern and Elven magic are also in.
If Sorcery is used, what’s it’s idiom? Does it require speech? Gestures?
Either. There are two schools of magic. The Gravians pull forth magical ether with crafted words. They are generally respected, and form scholarly communities. By no means are Gravians common, but in a city, they are not too hard to find. The Athanar rely on gesture. They are viewed as cultish, and seen with suspicion. Their art is not substantially different, but in the common consciousness their strange motions, and their silence in casting are seen as malevolent.
If Sorcery is used, what spells are available? Which spells are inappropriate to the game world?
If it’s in the book, it’s good.
If is Faith used, what is the Faith idiom? What are the religions? Is Faith universal or does it only affect believers?
Faith affects all (just to make things simple). Gods can be asked for boons large and small. Below are the big players. Their Faithful are rare, but not unheard of. Maybe one or two of each live in the Principality. A multitude of minor gods and deities are worshipped, but are not worthy of mention. None of them has ever had a Faithful walk in Seldoorn.
Ragmir: A deity believed to be an ancient dwarf risen to godhood, once the master of forges in Ragmir’s Forge. He is a master of metal craft, engineering, and mining. He is worshipped by many of those involved in those fields. He extols the virtues of hard work as a reward onto itself, though believers often look forward to making hard work turn into a reward of gold. Dwarves all disavow this deity as being a dwarf.
Arga: The androgynous god of independence and freedom is the state deity. Arga advises all to strive for personal and collective freedom from oppression. Arga extols virtues commonly seen as “good,” kindness, justice, but first and foremost independence. Those among the working class who worship Arga aspire to independence, or see themselves as independent, despite not being so. The majority of Arga’s worshippers are found among the nobility, who see themselves as having freed the masses from Ytreian oppression, or as protecting their citizens from some other oppression imagined or otherwise. Many in the military woship Arga.
Hof: The god of all things winter, and those who hunt in it. Hof is said to blow the cold northern winds, and it’s in his name hunters taken on their greatest quarries. Hof is often seen as massive polar bear. To best one of his ‘grandchildren,’ actual polar bears, is seen as the greatest accomplishment a hunter can achieve. Hof provides for those who prepare, and for those who are brave.
Penz: A mercantile god, popular in the moderate sized middle class of traders and merchants. Penz is worshipped to bring good deals, and great bargains. Penz is also asked for blessings by sailors for good winds in their trade missions, and for safe waters. This sometimes brings Penz into conflict with Hof, who is said to bring the icebergs, the stealthy shipslayers of Lake Cyrn.
What character stocks are in play in this world? Which are restricted and why?
All core stocks (human, elf, dwarf, orc) and roden (unless someone wants to get crazy). Trolls exist but let’s not play them.
The dwarves have all left Seldoorn long ago, but dwarven memories are long. This was once their land, and their ruins still dot the land. Dwarves have travelled from their new homes here, probably as adventurers, looking to recover something lost. Or perhaps scouting for a return to their ancestral home.
Elves are present in the Elthien Protectorate. A court of elves once lived with the dwarves aeons ago, but when the dwarves retreated, the elves, inexplicably, stayed. The small court of representatives from the elven nations formed their own Protectorate in Seldoorn, and have established relations with Ytre, and now Seldoorn, though both of these relations was a cool one. Who knows what the elves are doing here?
Orcs crawl in the depths of Ragmir’s Forge. No one here knows if they ejected the dwarves, or if they moved in later. The only thing that is for sure, is that there are more and more of them every year. A few ostracized orcs have tried to make a home among the humans… it does not usually go too well for the broken creatures.
Roden are the unspoken stain on Seldoorn’s crumbling image. Roden inhabit Seldoorn City’s sewers, crypts, catacombs, and forgotten ruins. They rarely come out, but everyone knows they are there. Missing children are usually blamed on them, often with just cause.
What cultural traits apply to the characters of this game world? Pick three character traits for each culture.
Seldoorners: Hopeful, Hardy, Logical
Ytreian: Always cold, Boastful, Confident
What’s your Resources cycle? 1 month, seasonal, 6 months, annual? What’s the game world’s currency? Who collects the taxes? What do people do for work? What’s the major economy? What’s the black market economy?
Resource cycle is 6 months (for the slow epic feel). Trade is generally conducted in Yrteian gold and silver, as most trade comes from there. Seldoorn mints its own coins, but trade has overwhelmed them with foreign coin.
Major economies are mining, refining, fishing crawcod, and exporting all said products south. Luxury economy includes hunting big game on the tundra for rare furs.
With the recent loss of trade has led to southern commodities like chocolates, fruits, and delicate textiles to become particularly hard to come by. Gunpowder is also a southern product, and has become rarer and rarer of late.
Material world: What weapons and armor are available? Are some weapons and armor restricted to certain cultures or character stocks? What property is available? Are resources and gear otherwise restricted?
Metal is abundant. Have at it with gear. Anyone is welcome to a sword up here, it is the ‘people’s nation’ after all. Just don’t swing it at the wrong people, or the guard will stab you repeatedly. Gunpowder is rare, and people with guns are flashy, dangerous, or usually both. Horses are essentially non-existent. You want a horse, pay double.