Friday, October 9, 2009

Nefarratus - The Dark Isles

Lying some 750 miles off the Indarran coast is the fair sized archipelago known since ancient times as the Dark Isles. These islands, rugged and mist-shrouded, have been ruled by the Kingdom of Nefarratus for well over a thousand years, but contain ruins far older than the cities of men...

The Nefarratans are skilled sailors and their ships dominate the sea-lanes of the world, trading everywhere from the well-known east (brokering deals in the rich cities of the Most Holy Kingdom of Indarra, the ramshackle, cutthroat ports of the disunited Principalities of the Hedorans, and the fortified clanholds of the Kalevon Islanders) to the barely explored west (using their settlements on the Peacock Islands and Starfall to both bicker and haggle with the Principality of a Thousand Icy Blossoms and the Lands of the Turquoise Throne, respectively). Due to the central location of the Dark Isles, as well as the skill of their merchants, explorers, and sailors, the king's city of Nevarrath ('the Sinking City') has become the world's busiest port.

Before the rise of men (thought to have come from the Kalevon Islands to the northeast, due to certain commonalities of culture and countenance), the Dark Isles were dominated by cruel and aggressive giants - some of which still live in the hidden and lonesome parts of the isles, more have retreated under the waves, from whence they occasionally arise to ravage the works of men - before the giants, none can say with surety, but mysterious artifacts and strange tablets covered in peculiar glyphs have been taken from the oft bizarre ruins found throughout the isles.

With an intro out of the way, some notes...

Of Men & Magic:

The races available for player characters are humans (as always... I seem to recall at least one game that doesn't have this option, but at present I can't recall it), weirdlings, and the accursed ones.

Humans - Fairly simple, unless a rather unfortunate series of events has taken place, you should be familiar with humans. If not, good luck sorting it all out. Humans are the default and most common race of the setting, as such it is not necessary to allow the next two races unless the referee wishes to do so.
Weirdlings - Human bloodlines altered, exalted, or tainted (depending on one's point of view) by either strange magics, lonely extra-dimensional travelers, or divine whim. Weirdlings pass for human in looks, but have small quirks and abilities beyond the common folk. These traits should be worked out between the player and the referee, but should not be excessively powerful. Weirdlings advance slower than humans in all professions, requiring 10% more earned experience points to advance a level.
Accursed Ones - Once human, but grown monstrously strange, oft-times through the same mechanics that produce weirdlings. Mostly confined to small villages, usually with bizarre rituals, the accursed ones can rarely, if ever, pass for human and most do not try. Generally viewed as monsters by the bulk of humanity, some accursed ones are excepted, usually as menials and the lackeys of mad scholars. Accursed ones usually possess great physical strength, but have limited intelligence and monstrous appearances (or appetites... though those are not recommended as player characters). Exact specifics should be worked out between the player and the referee, but any bonus should be balanced by a corresponding penalty.

The typical fighting classes are all represented in the setting and working in others of unique design should prove little challenge, the same holds true for the thieving and clerical classes. The magic-using classes, however, are wholly absent from the setting, replaced by the scholar.

The scholar uses the same progression charts as the magic-user, including number and type of hit dice, attack progression, and spells. The difference being that while a magic-user presumably understands the theories and philosophies behind what they do, the scholar does not - having cobbled their magical knowledge together from bits and pieces left behind in the ruins of a long dead race of, probably inhuman, ancients. Scholars are, however, scientific in their outlook, not mystical. They are aware that there is an underlying set of principles to the magics they can command and attempt to discover them. In mechanical terms, this makes little difference, as scholars function in the game exactly like magic-users, but the role-playing aspect of this should not be overlooked. Scholars are also well-versed in the natural sciences and often share their knowledge with favoured students and colleagues (whilst keeping rivals in the dark and stealing their research... and sometimes research subjects...).

More later...

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