As promised in the previous entry, here’s an overview of the setting with which I ended.
First, here’s a very ugly map, done in MS Paint and before Inkarnate was a thing about which I had knowledge.
Second, here’s a basic overview of the setting I provided my players, including the big nations / interactions as well as letting them know about the different races for character building purposes.
- Nations of the World
From his secure capital at Rhenabad, the Druskan emperor Tavus II claims nearly all the lands surrounding the inland sea, having consolidated most of its large continent. Druskan armies are well-equipped, harnessing the discipline of humanity, the keen senses of elven auxiliaries, and the metallurgy of the nearby duergar to unite disparate races into the strongest fighting force the world had seen. The empire’s military policies have proven remarkably inclusive compared with the rest of the world, and migrant refugees pledge themselves to serve Druska in exchange for a share of its plunder and its military protection.Yet all is not well with the empire. Half a decade ago, Regent Lord Marcian ruled the empire for his son until he could govern alone. Unfortunately, the ill-fated Corvus died before reaching the age of majority, and the rightful rule of the empire fell to Marcian’s nephew Tavus, whose ambition for the throne was well-known. Tavus, previously occupied with subjugating the Barbaric Coast, immediately returned to Rhenabad and drove out Marcian and his followers. Suspecting the new emperor of foul play, Marcian refused to concede power so easily: his loyal legions followed him to his home city of Eldanar and hailed him as the new Emperor Marcian. The region of Elenas was soon secured by the False Emperor’s forces, and he made common cause with the people of Khemta, who likewise saw an opportunity to claim their independence from the rule of Tavus II. He married the self-appointed Khemtan Empress Adara and moved his court to Klepana, where he and Adara plan their war against Tavus II.
Though some are sympathetic to his cause, many feel it is only a matter of time until the False Emperor is deposed and Druskan hegemony restored. Without outside help, few believe Marcian or Adara can maintain their independence. The magical races of Airei keep to themselves, while many believe the Bishop Aemilius, left to continue the campaign in the Barbaric Coast, will soon declare himself emperor as well. Time will tell if the proud nation of Elon will involve itself on one side or the other, and Tavus II still guards his borders against the whispers of other threats lurking in the wilds of the world.
- Races of the World
Humanity is the dominant race of Khemta, Elon, and Druska, though the other common races are represented. Druskan imperial policy has resulted in a number of cities dominated by different groups: Auricbad houses the largest collection of dwarves outside their ancestral homeland in the Duergar Holds, and Khorabad boasts a large population of orcs recruited from the Far Lands, who once comprised their own imperial legion. Elves populate many of the coastal cities in Druska and comprise a large minority of the people of Elon and Elenas. Halflings hail mostly from the isle of Airei, while barbarians of different kinds hold Hibernas in defiance of the Druskan legions.More monstrous races also live among the regions of the world. Beastfolk live in the Druskan fringes and maintain large nomadic tribes outside the empire’s borders. Centaurs roam the inland hills of Elenas, and their mortal enemies the minotaur control much of the island of Krata. Any with a modicum of caution fear the “Great Ones” of the Duergar Holds, and rumors abound of the artificial “Steamforged,” living constructs who assist the duergar in battle. The reptilian sobekhi hold numerous settlements throughout the Barbaric Coasts, and other dragonkin live outside the empire. Rumors tell of the devil-worshipping tieflings of Hibernas, whose savagery is matched only by the Zheong-yu orcs of the Far Lands. Still more exotic creatures may live beyond the boundaries of Druska and its knowledge.
If you think about it, you can probably see the seams of where I “borrowed” some different elements and am already addressing minor issues I have with the basic D&D elements. I’ll eventually discuss most of these decisions as the series continues, but let’s note a few things about how these paragraphs achieve my goals.
First, I have all of the PHB races either directly mentioned or (in the case of half-orcs) potentially explained. Second, I have some new things, especially in the “monstrous races” paragraph: what are “beastfolk?” What are the sobekhi? “Steamforged”? Are these meant to be playable (mostly yes, for what it’s worth)? Third, this gives me the major nations and factions at play both in the map and setting description. It also asks the players some implicit questions: how do they feel about the civil war? Will they want to travel in such a dangerous time? Finally, I have an idea of what will happen in the world in the upcoming time period. The civil war will fight to some sort of resolution, even if I don’t know the end result right now. There’s a strong chance areas near Elenas might fall to invaders, or perhaps Druska reclaims its wayward states. Might other areas of the empire declare independence if it is weak? Will Elon be interested in attacking? All of these things give the impression of a dynamic world, and I can choose to answer these questions in so many different ways. Importantly, I can make the players’ choices matter depending on what side they take in the war (or even if they take no side at all).
I may eventually do a spin-off on naming, but it’s not particularly important to discuss at this stage, and you can find plenty of name generators online to help you.
Next: I reveal my thievery in greater detail.