Wilderlands Background, Rules, etc.

Like in real life, the circumstance of your birth are out of your control, but what you make of yourself after that is up to you. Welcome to the Wilderlands, where life is cheap, travel is dangerous and a strong sword arm is worth more than a purse full of gold!
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Wilderlands Background, Rules, etc.

Post by patransom » Tue Jun 03, 2008 2:40 pm

Overview of the Wilderlands

Our game takes place in the Judge’s Guild Wilderlands of High Fantasy. Don’t worry if you’re not familiar with it. Average people in the setting don’t know very much about the world outside their local village or city, anyway. Wilderlands-specific custom rules will follow in further posts in this thread.

The Wilderlands setting details an area slightly smaller than the Mediterranean sea and surrounding lands. Unlike many current published settings where everything has been discovered and most of the world is known, the Wilderlands are largely unexplored and overland travel is dangerous. There are few “nations.” Instead, the lands are dominated by “city states,” principle among them being the City State of the Invincible Overlord and Viridistan, the City of Spices—also known as the City State of the World Emperor. The City State of the Invincible Overlord so dominates the Wilderlands, that many campaigns run in this setting are often called City State Campaigns.

Though the civilization of the Wilderlands centers mostly on the largest city states: Viridistan, the City State of the Invincible Overlord, Tarantis, Valon, Rallu and Tula, these locations are small in comparison to the vast forests, expansive plains, open seas, trackless deserts, imposing mountains and wild rivers. The light of civilization in the Wilderlands is a dim spark against the dark wilds. The Wilderlands is a setting in decline. Long ago empires covered the region. But great wars, with the gods themselves fighting alongside men, has reduced the splendor of those past civilizations, leaving them in ruins. The most recent such war was the War of the Pious and Philosophers, pitting the followers of magic against the followers of science. That war was some 6000 years ago (though that date is disputed). Cities that do exist today are generally built on the sites of ancient cities, some among the ruins themselves. Broken roads, crumbled walls, sunken buildings and half-ruined towers dot the landscape, a constant reminder of the faded past.

Life in the Wilderlands can be summed up for the average commoner as follows: Solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short. The average life expectancy is twenty years unless one lives in a walled city or town such as the City State, Viridistan, Thunderhold, Modron, Warwik or other large cities, in which it is only a little higher. Almost all Human families produce at least ten children, of whom two or three may live long enough to have children of their own. In the wilderness villages, wandering monsters and the raids of nomads, brigands and various humanoid species which are inherently evil are the bane of many. Rampant, unchecked disease is common to both walled city and wilderness village; so is infant mortality. The dangers of wandering monsters are lessened in a walled city or town, but the concentration of people in a small area leads to a high crime rate and poor sanitation; therefore, instead of being slain by a marauding dragon, a city dweller may have his throat slit for the contents of his purse. Few men manage to live past the ripe old age of thirty-five, and the fact that a man is fifty or sixty years old indicates great wisdom on his part (or an incredible run of luck).

Welcome to the Wilderlands, where life is cheap, travel is dangerous and a strong sword arm is worth more than a purse full of gold!

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Re: Wilderlands Background, Rules, etc.

Post by patransom » Tue Jun 03, 2008 2:46 pm

The World Map

Of importance on this map are the 18 different regions...
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Re: Wilderlands Background, Rules, etc.

Post by patransom » Tue Jun 03, 2008 2:52 pm

Character Creation

The major departure from standard rules in this game is in character creation. I call the concept “Veil of Ignorance,” which is a reference to an idea put forward by the philosopher John Rawls. In this case, it means, like in real life, the circumstances of your birth are completely out of your control. Your race, gender, place of birth, and social status – and, for the most part, your ability scores – will all be determined randomly. What you do after that, and what you make of yourself, is entirely up to you. Even the name your parents gave you is not something you control, although in that case, you’re free to call yourself something else or use a nickname.

Mechanically, character creation will work like this:
  1. Each player will send me 15 rolls of D100.
  2. From those rolls, I’ll determine the things that are out of your control (birth name, race, gender, ability scores, and circumstances of birth). I’ll send you back a TOS+ sheet with those basics already entered.
  3. You’ll be able to switch two ability scores, if you want, representing your efforts to better something about yourself… although at the expense of something else (e.g., swap the CON I gave you for the INT, representing neglecting your physical fitness in order to become smarter).
  4. From there, you’re free to chose alignment, deity, class(es), and level up your character as normal.
I’ll also give you a very brief sketch of your early life. It will be something like: “You were born the child of a streetwalker in the dirty marketplace of Damkina. Your mother died in childbirth, but you were fortunate enough to be cared for by a kindly old uncle, Bob Smith, a ropemaker by trade.” Or it could be: “You are the third daughter of King Xerxeles III, raised among the nobility, with all the benefits and privileges that entails.” From there, you can flesh out your character background as you see fit, explaining, for example, how your half-orc born among the nomadic tribes of Barbarian Altanis became an educated and capable wizard.

EDIT: A note to clarify #3 above, since I've been getting questions about it. You can switch one pair of ability scores. That is, you can swap STR for INT. You cannot swap STR for INT and then swap CON for CHA.

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Re: Wilderlands Background, Rules, etc.

Post by patransom » Tue Jun 03, 2008 2:53 pm

Region

Your character has a home region, which reflects where he/she was born. It corresponds to one of the 18 sections of the world map. Your character’s region is indicated in the background blurb I sent you. Region is important because it can change the DC of certain knowledge skill checks (e.g., it’s harder to identify a noble banner using Knowledge: Nobility if the banner is from an unfamiliar region). It also determines which language is "common" for your character and what bonus languages are available to choose from at character creation. Additional information on languages is in the pdf file attached to this post. Finally, there may be some region-specific feats available to your character. If there are, I’ve included them in your character file. Check the feats page at the bottom of the custom feats section.
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Re: Wilderlands Background, Rules, etc.

Post by patransom » Tue Jun 03, 2008 2:54 pm

Skills

There are some minor changes to skills in the Wilderlands. The custom skills are included in your character file for you to choose from (check the skills page, custom section), but some further explanations are below.

Speak Language: In the Wilderlands, there is no common tongue. Instead, the language most commonly spoken by the majority of people varies by region (see above). If your character is from a region far from the starting location, I strongly encourage you to spend a couple skill points to learn the regional language as a language. Otherwise, you may have difficulty communicating with the locals (and the rest of the party). In the Wilderlands, the majority of people don’t know how to read. However, PCs are exceptional and, therefore, we assume they know how to read.

Sail: The Sail skill works similar to the Ride skill, except that it allows a character to pilot a ship on the water. Because the ability to sail is rare, it is considered a “trained only” skill. This skill is different than the Profession: Sailor skill. Profession: Sailor allows you to earn money doing jobs on a ship or boat, whereas Sail actually allows you to pilot a boat. It’s like the difference between Profession: Stable-hand and Ride.

Knowledge Skills

In the Wilderlands, there are some new knowledge skills:
  • Knowledge: Art and Literature (synergy bonus to some perform and craft skills)
  • Knowledge: Crafts and Craftsmen (synergy bonus to most craft skills)
  • Knowledge: Fauna (i.e., animals) (synergy bonus to Handle Animal)
  • Knowledge: Flora (i.e., plants) (synergy bonus to Heal)
  • Knowledge: Military
  • Knowledge: Nautical (synergy bonus to Sail)
  • Knowledge: Physical Universe (relates to math, astronomy, physics, etc.)
Because of the above changes, the ability to use knowledge skills to identify monsters and their abilities is organized differently:
  • Dragons, Magical Beasts = Arcana
  • Aberrations, Oozes = Dungeoneering
  • Fey, Shapechangers = Nature
  • Undead = Religion
  • Outsiders, Elementals = Planes
  • Animals, Giants, Humanoids, Monstrous Humanoids, Vermin = Fauna
  • Plants = Flora

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Re: Wilderlands Background, Rules, etc.

Post by patransom » Tue Jun 03, 2008 2:57 pm

Feats

There are a few Wilderlands custom feats available to everyone. These are listed on the feats page in the custom feats section. Some of them are available at character creation only. These are indicated with “Character Creation” in the “Type of feat” column.

A few of them require a little customization (Domain Affinity, Foe Hatred, World Travel) to use properly. If you want to take one of these and aren’t comfortable with customizing feats in TOS+ yourself, I’ll help you.

There may also be some regional feats available to your character. If there are, they’ll be at the bottom of the list, with “Regional” in the “Type of feat” column.

In general, feats from the PHB, Complete series, Races series, and PHBII are okay. Other sources may be okay upon discussion.

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Re: Wilderlands Background, Rules, etc.

Post by patransom » Tue Jun 03, 2008 2:58 pm

Classes

There are two custom Wilderlands starting classes available. They are:
  • The Witch, which is available to everyone
  • The Amazon Warrior, which is available only to female characters, and then only if you happen to be fortunate enough to be an Amazon, or take the Amazon Blood feat at character creation
The other Wilderlands custom classes (Alchemist, Beggar, Sage) are really meant for NPCs. That’s why I never got around to making them for TOS+. If you’re really nuts, and interested in one of these classes, we can talk about it.

In general, classes from the PHB, Complete series, Races series, and PHBII are okay. Other sources may be okay upon discussion (I happen to think the Gladiator from the Dark Sun setting would fit nicely in the Wilderlands).

Psionics

In general, I don’t like psionics, but they are, historically, a significant part of the Wilderlands setting. Therefore, I’m restricting psionic classes to the following races: Amazons, Altanians, and Southern Elves. If you really, really want to play a psionic character and aren’t from one of those races, I will require you to take the Amazon Blood feat (or Altanian or Southern Elf Blood feat).

Arcane Magic

Arcane magic in the Wilderlands is mostly the same as in standard D&D, with one exception: the only place in the Wilderlands where a character can train as a specialist wizard is Tula, the City of Mages. If you aren’t from Tula, you can still be a specialist wizard, but your character background must reflect that you travelled to Tula and trained there. The Red Wizard prestige class is open only to those who have trained in Tula (and it’s called the Chromatic Wizard instead).

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Re: Wilderlands Background, Rules, etc.

Post by patransom » Tue Jun 03, 2008 3:35 pm

Alignment

Characters may be of any alignment, although I prefer that, if you decide to play an evil character, you aren't the sort of evil that plans to kill all your travelling companions and take their loot...

Far and away the most common alignment in the Wilderlands is True Neutral (40% of the population), followed by equal proportions of LG, CE, CG, and LE (12-16% each). The NG, NE, LN, and CN alignments are uncommon. In general, however, the great and powerful rulers of the major City States are evil, often Lawful Evil. Don't expect a lot of sympathy from the authorities or their minons...

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Re: Wilderlands Background, Rules, etc.

Post by patransom » Tue Jun 03, 2008 4:04 pm

Deities and Religion

From the just rule of Mitra to the coiling evil of Set; from the River Goddess Modron who walks the streets of her town to the evil sea god of Viridistan, Armadad Bog; from the strange and monotheistic Mycretians to the barbarian god Odin, deities and their followers play a key role in the Wilderlands. There are many deities in the Wilderlands—so many, in fact, that even a character with many, many ranks in Knowledge: Religion would be hard pressed to name them all. In the Wilderlands, the word “deity” covers a broad range of beings—true greater “gods” with the power of creation, lesser gods, demigods, animal spirits, forgotten gods, alien gods, god-priests and living gods that wander the world and are worshiped.

All deities, however, by definition, deal in divine magic. “Deity,” meaning a source of divine power, should be distinguished from a “god,” meaning a thing or object that is worshiped. Anything that is worshiped can be a god, regardless of whether there is any divine force behind it. Besides commonly acknowledged “gods,” many spirits live near or within objects, geological features, fauna, flora, artifacts, winds, and buildings. Rare is the natural feature that does not have a corresponding minor deity that is worshiped by the local populace. Some have even achieved some degree of importance, such as the Toad-god of the Mermist Swamp.

Most of the denizens of the Wilderlands are polytheistic, believing in many gods and spirits, with a few notable exceptions such as the Mycretians who follow the god Mycr (monotheistic) and the worshipers of the foreign gods of Pegana (a pantheon of multiple gods that allows for no other gods). Because of the sparse population of the Wilderlands there are few truly large and organized religions, except perhaps for Armadad Bog whose worship has spread due to the influence of Viridistan. Even Mitra, a lawful good god who is widely worshiped, does not have an overarching organization of his clergy over more than one region of the Wilderlands. Thus, worshipers of the various gods—once away from their temple hierarchies—have great leeway in enforcing the will of the deities.

Major deities, who any character, even one with limited knowledge of religion, would know of are listed below. I will work with each of you on choosing a deity for your character. Your choices are not limited to the major deities listed below, and should depend on where your character was born, what his or her interests are, and his or her personality and background.

Major Deities and Their Alignments
  • Armadad Bog, God of Viridians, Water God of Death: LE
  • Athena, Battle Goddess of Wisdom: LG
  • Harmakhis, God of Death: CE
  • Mitra, God of Justice, Fire, and Law: LG
  • Mycr, the Unknown One: LG
  • Nephtlys, Goddes of Wealth: LN
  • Odin, Battle God of Knowledge: NG
  • Set, God of Evil and the Night: LE
  • Thor, Battle God of Lighning and Storms: CG
  • Seker, God of Light: LG
  • Thoth, God of Knowledge and Learning: N
In addition to these major deities, gods from most traditional pantheons are present in the Wilderlands:
  • The Babylonian gods Anu, Anshar, Dahak, Drauga, Ishtar, Marduk, Nergal and Ramman are commonly worshiped, mostly in Tarantis or in the Ghinnor Successor States of Lenap and Tlan
  • The Celtic deities Dagda, Arawn, Brigit, Diancecht, Dunatis, Goibhnie, Lugh, Math, Morrigan, Nuada, Oghma and Silvanus are commonly worshiped by Tharbrians
  • The Chinese deities Shang-Ti (worshiped as Shang Ta in Viridistan), Chao Kung Ming, Chih Sung-Tzu, Huan Ti, Kuan Yin, No Cha and others are worshipped in the Wilderlands, mostly in or around Viridistan
  • The Egyptian deities of the Pharaonic Pantheon, including the gods Ra, Anhur, Anubis, Bast, Horus, Isis, Nephthys, Osiris, Ptah, Seker and Shu are worshiped in the Desert Lands and other regions of the Wilderlands
  • The Finnish mythos, including the gods Ahto, Ilmatar, Louhi, Mielikki, Surma, Tuoni and Ukko are worshiped, but they have few temples and are generally only worshiped individually
  • The Greek mythos are widespread in the Wilderlands, including the gods Zeus, Aphrodite, Appolo, Ares, Artemis, Athena (who is very prominent in the Wilderlands and is worshiped in several incarnations), Demeter, Hades, Hecate (also prominent in the Wilderlands), Haphaestus, Hera and Poseidon. These gods, while prominent throughout the Wilderlands, are more common in parts of Altanis and the many islands throughout the Wilderlands than in the largest city states
  • The Indian mythos, including the gods Indra (known as Kara), Agni, Kali, Karttikeya, Lakshmi, Ratri, Rudra, Surya, Tvashtri, Ushas, Varana, Vishnu and Yama, are uncommon and are normally worshipped only by members of the far-off Kingdom of Karak, where these gods are dominant
  • The Norse gods, such as Odin, Aegir, Balder, Bragi, Fenris Wolf, Frey, Freya, Frigga, Heimdall, Hel (who, like Hecate, is of greater importance in the Wilderlands than is normal in her pantheon), Loki, Magni, Sif, Surtur, Thor (very popular in the Wilderlands), Thrym, Tyr, Uller and Vidar, are very prevalent in the Wilderlands and are heavily worshiped by all races, but in particular by Skandiks and Tharbrians.
  • The gods of the Sumerian mythos, such as Enlil, Enki, Inanna, Ki, Nanna-Sin, Nin-Hursag and Utu, are worshiped primarily in the southern lands such as the Ament Tundra and Ghinor.

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Re: Wilderlands Background, Rules, etc.

Post by patransom » Wed Jun 04, 2008 12:06 am

Starting Scenario

Your characters are passengers aboard a galley traveling along the west coast of the Sea of Five Winds from the minor City State of Lenap to the ancient city of Tlan. Because the ship is fast, with both sails and oars, the journey should take only about three days and you are currently on the second day aboard ship. In filling out your character background, consider how your character came to Lenap from wherever they were born and why they might be traveling to Tlan. Also, the language spoken by the sailors on your ship and most people in the region is Ghinoran, so it would be helpful for your character to learn that language, if they don't know it already.

Tlan
The city state of Tlan, one of the Ghinor Successor States in ancient times, has fallen greatly during the past centuries but is still the most politically active entity upon the western shore of the Sea of Five Winds. Once one of the most distant cities of the Empire of Kelnore, Tlan rebelled from the empire as one of the Ghinnor Successor States. Its people maintained many of the traditions of Kelnore for centuries. Separated from the empire, Tlan’s culture degenerated and its population dwindled, nearly disappearing as a result of the many wars as well as pestilence and disease. Civilization, however, kept its foothold in Tlan. This ancient town was conquered 300 years ago by an army of the Child-King out of the far southwest. When a noble stole the heirloom and began a revolt against the Child-King 100 years ago, the Hall Warriors of Tlan also revolted. Warring factions greatly weakened the defenses 20 years ago. The Maid of Wonder with her armored horsemen sacked Tlan a few years later. The port is in ruins and dangerous to navigate as many sunken ships and harbor chains hang from mooring statues. However, Tlan remains an important port and source of many potions and cures based upon biological derivatives.
starting map.jpg
Starting Level, Equipment, Hit Points

Links below will take you to a thread for your character, which includes a Background Information document and the start of your character sheet with ability scores, race, and vital statistics. Please fill in the rest of the background section of the Background Information document and complete the character sheet with classes and equipment, etc. Remember that you can switch any two ability scores (see note below), but cannot change them other than that (and adding points for levels). Characters in this game will be 8th level. XP just enough that you have just reached 8th level. Go ahead and roll your own hit points (I trust you). Equip your character with 27,000 gp worth of equipment and magic items. Anything from the PHB, DMG, or Magic Item Compendium is okay.

Note for Retuning Players: I've made some minor tweaks to the rules above, mostly reducing the number of custom skills, since our last go-round at character creation. So if you see that your character sheet has fewer custom skills than your last one, this is why.

EDIT: A note about swapping ability scores, since I've been getting questions about it. You can switch one pair of ability scores. That is, you can swap STR for INT. You cannot swap STR for INT and then swap CON for CHA.
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