Tolkien Not Spoken Here

I’ve just decided that in my new setting, the Haunted Realm, I’m not going to have either Orcs or Hobbits (or even “Halflings”). Probably no great surprise to my players, but I had mentioned Orcs as being one of the Invader races and I’ve thought the better of it.  The grunts of the invading army will now be Trolls, Kobolds, and possibly Red Caps (which were native to Faery but threw their lot in with the invaders).

It’s already been established that Elves are more like those of fairy tales, native to Faery and not to the Bright Kingdoms themselves, though they mingled freely with them before the Plague.  Dwarves, well Dwarves are Dwarves the world around…  No, really, I’ve tried running settings without Dwarves before and my players just took the race that was most similar to Dwarves and turned them into Dwarves, albeit ones with darker complexions and a propensity for living above-ground.

Is there are reason for this de-Tolkienization?  Not a strong one.  Unlike some of my prior settings, I’m not trying to make it feel really exotic or subvert the fantasy cliches.  In this case I want it to seem familiar, if somewhat spooky.  And Orcs just somehow don’t have quite the right vibe.  Or maybe it’s that the LEGO minifigs I have are of Trolls…

Welcome to The Haunted Realm…Hope You Survive the Experience!

Sunday we kicked off my new Savage Worlds Sandbox setting with a bang, or at least a whole passle of players: Wendy, Dan, Paul, Elyssa, Russell, Mac, Walter, and Mike M.  Russell and I spent a bunch of the afternoon making a variety of pregens for the people who didn’t already have characters (everybody but Wendy and Dan) to pick from.  After they grabbed a character that sounded appealing and assigned a name and gender, we got started.

The roster ended up being:

  • Loric, the Physician/Mage – male – Wendy
  • Thorvald, the Demonologist – male – Dan
  • Aerys, the Duelist – male – Paul
  • Qwirk, the Brute – male – Elyssa
  • Tyrok, the Dwarven Architect and Priest of Fess – male – Russell
  • Dorakyra, the Priestess of Kyr – female – Mac
  • Angelina, the Tomb Raider – female – Walter
  • Ranth, the Scout – female – Mike M

Because it was the first game, and there were so many players, including ones who only show up once in a great while, I gave them a mission to start out instead of going for the full-on sandbox.  That is, I gave Dorakyra and Tyrok a mission, and left it to them to recruit the others.

Dorakyra has been charged by the senior priestesses of her Goddess, Kyr, the Collector of the Dead, to travel to the village of Brightfalls, approximately one day’s journey to the north of Losian and find the church that records indicate should be there, clear it, and consecrate it to the Gods.  Tyrok was assigned to go with her and aid her.  The pair had been given 500 gold to get supplies and perhaps aid in recruiting (not a lot of money in the economy of the Haunted Realm, since as yet almost all necessities need to be imported from the New Kingdoms).

After some by-play where Dorakyra bet Tyrok that she could find three women to go with them before he could find three men (the stakes were she would let him braid dwarven ornaments in her queue vs. he would let her tattoo “My Heart Belongs to Kyr, But My Soul Belongs to Fess” in henna on his chest), they managed to recruit the rest of the part.  Tyrok weaseled out of the bet by getting the women he found (Ranth and Angelina) to stay out of sight until he managed to convince Dorakyra (who had only found men, in the form of Qwirk, Loric, and Thorvald) to call the bet a draw.  After the parameters of the task were described to them and remuneration discussed, they all agreed to go, though Tyrok once again had to fib…this time telling Loric, who was a bit cautious and reluctant to venture into the wilderness, that the church at Brightfalls was a famous repository of death records that would certainly aid him in his research into the Soul Plague.

The party decided that they would set out at mid-day, so they’d camp well away from Brightfalls and whatever was currently inhabiting it, and arrive the next day with plenty of sunlight left.  They began hiking to the north, passing the newly established farms and tiny villages around Losian, and gradually leaving civilization–or what passed for it–behind.

Shortly before dusk, they were set upon by a pack of skeletons that had been lurking behind some trees near the path that’s what’s left of the road to Brightfalls.  To keep things simple, and because it was most of the players’ first introduction to combat in Savage Worlds, there were only 4 Skeletons, and they were all Extras.  They made relativel short work of the skeletons, with only Angelina taking a hit hard enough to cause a Wound, which she spent managed to Soak.

After spending time interring the remains of the skeletons and performing the proper rights of Kyra over them, the party decided to camp there, rather than continue in the deepening gloom.  They set watches for the night, but aside from something large moving past the camp, the night passed uneventfully.

And there we broke for the night.

The Haunted Realm

This is the write-up of the introduction to my new Savage Worlds Sandbox setting, The Haunted Realm:

Up until ten generations ago, the Bright Kingdoms were a happy, prosperous land, where Human, Elf, and Dwarf lived in peace. Then catastrophe struck. Nobody yet knows exactly what occurred, but something vast and terrible happened. In a single moment every mirror and scrying stone across the realm shattered. One by one the Gods died, and the stars went out and the moon cracked. The clerics went mad, and in the days that followed most of them killed themselves. A plague began to ravage the landand as its victims expired their bodies would rise as Soulless Ones. Demons began infesting the empty shells, while the displaced souls wandered as pathetic ghosts.

Dark fog covered the center of the continent, and out of them strode the invading armies. Creatures out of legend–Orcs, Trolls, Ogres, Dragons, and things even more horrible–began conquering what remained of the Bright Kingdoms, rounding up the survivors and enslaving or eating them. The remaining survivors fled: the Elves into Faery, the Dwarves deep below the mountains, and the Humans to the overseas colonies in the New Kingdoms. The Bright Kingdoms were no more; the survivors now called the land Gastmor, the Haunted Realm.

Although much of the magic and knowledge of the Bright Kingdoms perished, the colonies of the New Kingdoms grew and prospered, and the people began following the Gods of the new realm. At first, they could not rest entirely easily after what happened in the West. The mages of the New Kingdoms would repeatedly try to scry for information about the old country, but catch no more than glimpses of a nightmare land where, without the Gods, nothing natural grew or thrived. Gradually, though, the fear of imminent invasion lessened, and Gastmor and the Bright Kingdoms were, if not forgotten, allowed to become the concern of mages and academics, as well as the handful of Elves and Dwarves that had been cut off from their homelands at the time of the catastrophe.

Then, fifty years ago, the magic that had been shrouding Gastmor began to recede. The mages and the Elves investigated and what they found puzzled them. Where the fog lifted, of the whatever had been commanding the legions of Orcs and other creatures, there was not a trace. Instead there was evidence of tremendous battles, with invading hordes turning on each other, and the resulting slaughter decimating their ranks and reducing them to scattered bands squabbling over the ruins. The Soul Plague had apparently burned itself out completely. The Elvish and Dwarven nations were still hidden behind mighty magical barriers, unreachable by the magics of the New Kingdoms.

Through their oracles, the New Gods indicated it was time to re-settle the Haunted Realm, destroy the remnants of the evil forces, restore the natural order and bring it once more under the sway of the Gods. The New Kingdoms came to an agreement to grant land to those who wished to settle across the sea in Gastmor, to fund the establishment of new temples, and to send their criminals and troublemakers into exile.

The characters will be settlers and explorers of the haunted wilderness. They may be adventurers seeking fame and fortune, religious devotees carrying out the will of the Gods, criminals sentenced to exile, settlers seeking land of their own, researchers probing into the history of the Bright Kingdoms or trying to fathom the catastrophe that destroyed them, and so on.

Play will take place intermittently, when we have too few (or too many) players to have a session of one of the regular campaigns, and at least some will take place online (either via VOIP like Skype, or play-by-post on the bulletin board) so that Doug and Paul can participate despite the new babies. I intend campaign time to flow fairly rapidly between adventures, so that the players will see progress in settling the setting, and if all goes well there will be successive generations of characters (similar to Ars Magica covenant play). Players will control four or five characters, so that they’ll always have one or two free for whatever combination of players are available that session even if a particular party ends a session in the middle of some activity. At least for the first few game years, adventures will begin and end in the only settled town (Losian) on the Eastern shore of the Haunted Realms.

The Adventurers

The Adventurers

Left to right they are:

  • Ranth the Scout
  • Angelina the Tomb Raider
  • Aerys the Duelist
  • Qwirk (behind), the Fighter
  • Dorakyra (in front), the Priestess of Kyr (Collector of the Dead)
  • Loric the Physician
  • Tyrok the Dwarven Architect and Priest of Fess (God of Fire and Smithing)
  • Torvald the Demonologist

Because of special guests from my other game-group, we had about four more PCs than usual last night.