View Full Version : [4E] Riven: Mini-setting under construction. Bringing biology to D&D[PEACH]

2010-08-01, 08:32 PM
D a r k e s t E x p a n s e

The Continent of Ashkarla has long been veiled in mystery. Many intrepid explorers have been eaten by hostile wildlife or flesh-eating bacteria within hours of landing on shore. It was only within the last 50 years that the varied peoples of the “civilized” world were able to establish a foothold on it's jagged shores. Merchant concerns, scholarly expeditions, and colonists flowed steadily into the apty-named port Toehold, and it soon became apparent precisely why Ashkarla was so hideously dangerous.

Initially, it was thought to be a land lost to time, populated by creatures extinct in the rest of the world. Except that the various species cataloged belonged to a wide range of epochs, and there were other, stranger creatures. It was the now-famous Scale Itch that clued the great Druid-Scholar Bexton into the truth. Scale-itch is a disease carried by a other-wise unremarkable species of coastal iguana, which manifests as a mild annoyance to the lizards. To any other reptilian or avian creature, it causes scales and/or feathers to fall out in blood-soaked clumps, followed by fatal hemorrhage of all soft tissues. Because of this, the Iguanas are almost completely unmolested by susceptible creatures. Combined with the unfortunate discovery of Gliding Squibbons, a general picture began to emerge.

Ages ago, before the rise of men or elves, a strange Event wracked the continent, opening numerous one-way rifts to the past and future, dropping random flora and fauna into one point in time and space. Thrust into a hostile environment among creatures they had never encountered before, adapted for foreign climates and non-existent ecosystems. We can only imagine how many creatures went extinct, both immediately and over the intervening millennia, as a chaotic re-shuffling of the status quo weeded out the over-specialized, the insufficiently-adapted, and the just plain unlucky. The process continues to this day, and the land's current denizens are already much changed compared to those who first arrived.

For many, Ashkarla is a treasure-trove waiting to be plundered. Rare magical ingredients, minerals of incomparable purity, animals and plants with infinite uses. It's riches are matched only by it;s danger, however, as a plethora of creatures, sentient and bestial, predatory and herbivorous, large and small, stand in the way. This land has been Riven by strife for millions of years, and it's denizens are very good at out-surviving their competitors.

Welcome to the Jungle
Riven takes place on the lost continent of Ashkarla, a land who's inhabitants are a cross-section of creatures and plants from the past and future, thrown together in one place and time ages ago by the Event. The fittest and luckiest survived, creating a unique ecology only now beginning to be explored and exploited by foreign civilization.
The native races have an even greater stake in the future of Ashkarla. Little is known about the greater continent beyond the lowland jungles, and many of the settlers care little for anything beyond immediate profit. Scholarly expeditions into the interior are being mounted, seeking to learn about the strange environments and creatures therein. A delicate stalemate is about to be broken, and forewarned is forearmed.

Dramatis Persona
The denizens of Ashkarla are bewilderingly diverse. Here is a short sample of the sorts of flora and fauna that can be seen side by-side on veldt and under wave (often locked in hot pursuit)

Anomacularis (creatures based on such are feared aquatic predators)
Diplocus (4-armed crescent-headed sentient amphibian creatures with toxic flesh and a massive ego)
Dromeads (also called raptors, these swift and clever feathered saurians are widespread and of varying temperament)
Squibbons (treacherous and cruel, these stealthy land-squid can glide short distances and appear deceptively cute)
Gorgonopsids (mammal-like reptiles of varying size who scavenge kills across the continent)
Rhemmoraz-kin (various creatures based on the rhemorraz genus, all bearing the distinct heat-generation trait)
Ambulatory Flora (many varieties of mobile plant exist, some flight-capable, such as the verdant vulture shrub)
Qual-Kora (roughly translated as “Seedlings of the Old Mother,” also known as treemen, are enigmatic plantfolk dedicated to protecting the delicate stalemate of the continent)
Thri-Kreen (short-lived mantisfolk inhabiting the central desert, they display a variety of mental powers)

Within Ashkarla can also be found all sorts of dinosaurs, ice-age mammals, dire animals, and exotic future creatures like fully aquatic penguins and semi-energy jellyfish-moths.

Ashkarla is a hideously dangerous land, with a great many wealthy and powerful concerns vying for it's resources. The port of Toehold and vassal settlements have many of the problems and appeals of any large city, though they display something of a siege mentality towards the dark jungle beyond the walls. While not technically a free port (Toehold is formally a colony of a great human nation across the sea), it's mother land's control is hardly felt. Travelers from the entire world pass through it's harbor, ships loaded with criminals, fortune-seekers, and scholars of all types.

Riven heroes are likely to be mercenaries or driven by professional goals. A thirst for exploration and riches, knowledge and gold, rather than a general desire to help the downtrodden. Or maybe they're a criminal escaping to a new life (perhaps by choice, perhaps not). Port Toehold allows conventional urban adventuring in a nautical location, but much of the real action is out in the jungle. Which is where the native inhabitants come in. The Diplocus are famously xenophobic, but the Raptor packs and Qual-Kora Conclave all have decent diplomatic relations with the settlers, willing to take on employment as guides and guards. Even the natives do not know the extent of their own home, and many are just as eager as the settlers to learn more about it. The “treemen” in particular have a definite agenda In making nice with the newcomers, while the free-wheeling and gregarious raptors are always eager for new experiences.


Ashkarla is home to many sentient species, each with their own cultures and magical traditions. Foreigners from distant lands could be of any race, but Riven also allows players to choose from native species for their characters

Qual-Kora are enigmatic ascetics from the deep forest, sapient plants that pay fealty to a mysterious entity that isnt quite a god. Possessed of great patience and a slow, inexorable determination, they control and entire ecology of similar plant-creatures, and act to further unknown goals.

Diplocus are proud 4-armed amphibians with toxic flesh and a unsavory reputation, who dwell in mangrove-stockades deep in the swamps. Most of the race are xenophobic, fascist marauders, but outcasts and free-thinkers sometimes wind up in the company of other races, who soon come to value their martial prowess and determination to leave no wrong un-righted.

Raptors are carefree feathered saurians that live in packs across Ashkala. Fearsome and savage, their bestial ways hide quick, flexible intellects. Disdaining manufactured weapons, they prefer to hunt with their formidable teeth and claws...or smite their prey with eldrich fire. Whichever.

2010-08-01, 08:38 PM
I've started on the standard formal race write-ups for the new playable creatures, as well as some monster stat-blocks. These guys are roughly hobgoblin-equivalents, the ordered evil douchebags that have comprehensible plans and structured settlements.


Reacting with lethal force to any perceived slight, toxic of flesh and of mind.

Average Height: 4'11”-5'8”
Average Weight: 170-230

Ability Scores: +2 Constitution, +2 Charisma or Strength
Size: Medium
Speed: 5 squares, Swim 7 squares
Vision: Low-light

Languages: Ushi, Common
Skill Bonuses: +2 Endurance, +2 History
Many-armed: You possess 4 arms, allowing you to wield additional weapons and implements.
Amphibious: You may breathe fresh water indefinitely, though would still suffer from salt-water exposure.
Vitriolic Spite: you gain +1 on attack rolls vs creatures suffering ongoing poison damage.
Toxic Flesh: You have Resist Poison 5, and creatures that damage you with a bite attack take 5 ongoing poison damage. You may also use the Envenom racial encounter power
Envenom Diplocus Racial Power
You anoint your attack with your own life's blood
Minor Action Personal
Effect: You take 5 damage, and your attacks inflict 5 Ongoing poison damage (save ends) until the end of your next turn.
Level 11: You take 10 damage and Inflict 10 ongoing poison damage (save ends).
Level 21: You take 15 damage and inflict 15 ongoing poison damage (save ends).

Diplocus are an insular people that values personal honor and racial pride. Master weapon-smiths dwelling within their submerged mangrove-stockades, most are xenophobic and confrontational towards the outside world, defending their swampy homes with single-minded zeal. Extolling the virtues of their ancestors, they seek to replicate the great deeds of such racial paragons. Possessing a strong, if skewed, sense of justice, Diplocus make loyal friends and stalwart allies, provided one can gain their trust.

Play a Diplocus if you want...
your enemies to suffer greatly for crossing you
to wield impressive weapons in a style others are incapable of imitating
to be a member of a race that favors the Fighter, Battlemind, and Warlock classes

Physical Qualities

Diplocus resemble human-sized salamanders with very wide, crescent-shaped heads and 4 three-fingered hands, and that's pretty much what they are. Their hide tends toward a sort of russet brown/orange, with a a lighter color on the undersides of their bodies, and a light mottling on their backs and forearms. This mottling can be of any color, with yellows and reds most common. Their tails are heavy and powerful, and usually drag the ground when not swimming, where they move via a dorsal flexing, more like a whale than a fish, their wide head acting as a hydrofoil.

Diplocus hatch from large gelatinous eggs and go through a 10-year larval stage before reaching adulthood, during which they fend for themselves in the swamp, forming their own distinct, fairly violent microculture, before being accepted into a local tribe. They can live up to 80 years, but quickly become physically decrepit after reaching 40.

Playing a Diplocus: Spite forms a great part of Diplocus psychology. Theirs is a culture of respect and politeness, which of course means that it's a labyrinthine tangle of enmities, feuds, and backstabbing. A Diplocus who feels somehow wronged will stop at nothing to take vengeance on their enemy. Those of a fair-minded disposition will also take great effort pay restitution for those they accidentally wrong, but most of the race views themselves as the only beings who have the right to demand satisfaction for perceived sleights. This creates a great deal of moral dissonance between Diplocus and other races, and their diplomatic relations have always been abysmal.

Diplocus society is a violent meritocracy in which males and females hold equal status. Duels to the death are common, and those who die in failure and dishonor are not mourned. There are no families, only various orders and clans tied together by oaths of fealty and mutual protection. Their heavily fortified fortresses lie deep within the swamp, formed of anchent mangrove roots woven and shaped into tunnels, often partially submerged. Within, Diplocus bicker and train and maneuver for position, farming fish and algae, and sending out hunting parties into the swamp. They honor the spirits and memories of their ancestors as advisors and examples to strive for, honoring particular paragons as high saints of various virtues. Their Thaumaturges call up and bind these spirits to advise and empower the tribe, and Mirelords are rare individuals who can commune with their greatest ancestors, gaining power over their lesser kin and their swampy homes.

Despite their manifold flaws, Diplocus possess a singular force of personality, a solid faith in their beliefs, and the will to act on them. some diplocus take their society's values of honesty, fairness, debt and service, and loyalty to heart, and realize that their more-ruthless compatriots possess these traits only in relation to each other, if at all. Such individuals usually fail to rise fairly high in the pecking order, but often have wide networks of friends and debtors. Individuals such as these sometimes travel far afield, searching for personal honor outside of a society they see as decadent and hypocritical, willing to tolerate the company of treacherous lesser creatures when bereft of more worthy allies.

Diplocus Characteristics: Arrogant, prideful, honest, loyal, spiteful, caustic, determined, resilient, idealistic

Names (Diplocus do not differentiate between genders save during spawning season): Vooshi, Meskep, Obiro, Moshad, Delek, Halar, Vraggle, Orish, Yeber, Noro, Peshiru

Diplocus Adventurers
Three Sample Diplocus adventurers are described below.

Delek is a brash but loyal Warlord who believes strongly in protecting those who depend on him. In his youth, he led a gang of Larva to great renown among the various juvenile tribes, defending his childhood friends against the depredations of the Squibbons. Upon reaching maturity, he found the adult fortress-dwellers singularly dismissive of his fame and abilities. Delek left the stockade to settle a matter of personal honor; a particular squibbon band took many of HIS people, and he is determined to track down and kill their 7-limbed leader before it dies of old age. Given that this happened 7 years ago, time is running out.

Moshi sees dead people. And hears them. And learns from them. A Warlock that gains her powers from the spirits of her ancestors, Moshi wound up on the wrong side in a inter-clan war, and was forced to flee the stockade or be culled with her allies. Poorly-adapted to the greater world, she is only beginning to accept her new state of affairs, but finds her marsh-fire as deadly as ever. Now, the Spirits tell her that something stirs within the continent, and she seeks to stymie this great power before it can threaten her people, dispensing fiery justice along the way.

Halar refuses point-blank to accept the authority of anyone other than himself. Utterly convinced of his superiority and prowess, he was refused entry into mainstream diplocus society, forced to live in the margins as a hunter and border guard. Halar is secretly a Mirelord, but lacks the patience to work his way to the top even with his impressive abilities, instead setting out to settled lands, seeking to prove his obvious prowess to the foreign interlopers, collect a band of other outcasts, and form the first open Fortress. His twin greatswords are rightly feared, even more so when he enters an unstoppable toxic blood-rage.

2010-08-01, 08:42 PM
These are an old idea of mine that fit well into the setting. They're sort of a lizardfolk/elf hybrid in campaign role, a little like 40K's Kroot.


Keen of mind and armed with deadly claws, raptors range across the veldt and jungle, hunting the most dangerous creatures they can find.

Average Height: 5'6”-6'10”
Average Weight: 190-280

Ability Scores: +2 Intelligence, +2 Strength or Dexterity
Size: Medium
Speed: 8 squares
Vision: Low-light

Languages: Raptor, Common
Skill Bonuses: +2 Athletics, +2 Perception
Pack Hunter: A raptor deals +1 damage to a target adjacent to one or more of their allies.
Scent: Raptors my use perception to detect smells with the same acuity as vision or hearing.
Bestial: Raptors are of the Beast type, rather than humanoid. They do not gain weapon proficiencies from class levels (though they may still take weapon proficiency feats)
Tooth and Nail: Raptors have the following natural weapons; 2 Claws (+3 Prof, 1d8, one-handed), Bite (+2 prof, 2d4, two-handed, Brutal 1), and 2 talons (+3 prof, 1d6, off-hand, high crit). They may use these weapons as appropriate implements, or have them enchanted via ritual.
Feral Leap: You have the Feral Leap racial encounter power.
Feral Leap Raptor Racial Power
With a snarl, you leap at your opponent, ready to rip and tear his guts. He is huge, that means he has huge guts. Rip and Tear.
Minor Action Personal
Effect: You jump a number of squares equal to ½ your speed, moving over intervening obstacles and creatures. You must still land in an unoccupied square. This movement still provokes attacks of opportunity. This movement counts as charging, granting a +1 bonus on your attack rolls this turn. You gain a +2 bonus to damage rolls this turn (this bonus increases to +4 at 11th level and +6 at 21st level)

Raptors range across Ashkarla in small packs, living nomadic lives bereft of civilization's comforts. Ascribing to strange philosophies and primal magical traditions, they display a variety of outlooks ranging from boisterous cheer to sociopathic savagery.

Play a Raptor if you want...
to be a savage hunter who is much smarter than he looks
to lay into your prey with tooth, claw, and spell, always ready for the next big hunt
to be a member of a race that favors the Ranger, Wizard, and Barbarian classes

Physical Qualities

Raptors are physically similar to unintelligent dromeosaurids apart from their opposable foreclaws, slightly longer legs, and larger braincases. Possessed of compact torsos, muscular arms, s-curved knecks, and long toothy maws, they strike a bestial figure compared to other races. Their eyes lack whites, like those of hawks and falcons, coming in various shades of amber, as well as reds, oranges, and greens. A coat of grey or russet psudofeathers cover their bodies, which become a colorful crest of true feathers on the raptor's head. These crests come in many varieties, and are a primary mark of identity. Raptors have several ethnicities, such the larger and stronger russet variety of the highlands and open forests, or the smaller nimble white-and-grey creatures of the dense jungle and hot desert. All varieties bear formidable natural weapons in their powerful jaws and taloned foreclaws, as well as the iconic killing claw of their rear limbs, held above the ground to maintain it's sharpness, and used to slash open the vulnerable throats or bellies of their prey.

Playing a raptor: Two things hold primacy in the minds of raptors: the Pack, and the Hunt.

All raptors hunt for their food. Animal husbandry is boring and labor-intensive, offering no challenge and, as they see it, scant reward. Security is hardly a worthwhile trade for excitement in their opinion, and this reveals much about their psychology. To them, the future simply isnt something worth worrying about, and this translates into a lack of certain forms of foresight. Raptors are very good at short-term and extremely long-term planning, but the middle distances tend to trip them up, which come to think of it, is likely why they dont keep herd animals. They'd be very bad at it. They can also display a feral blood-lust shocking to more civilized races. Raptors are, at heart, big-game hunters.

Raptor society is based on the Pack, a close-knit group of 2-8 individuals that live and hunt together. These individuals are usually either mated pairs of blood relations, led by the mated pair generally agreed to be the most leaderly. All tribes of more than 4 members also has at least one shaman, a role that can be filled by any capable spellcaster. Shamans are never pack leaders, a cultural taboo who's origin is unknown, but probably very nasty. Packs range over a vast, ever-shifiting territory, following migrating prey animals.

Shamans form a distinct subculture within raptor society. All shamans ascribe to a philosophy of the search for truth by objective, repeatable methods, regardless of personal prejudice. The records of Shamans date back thousands of years, detailing the gradual changes of the creatures areound them, which first clued the Shamans into the principles of natural selection. Shamans undergo a lengthy apprenticeship under a more experienced mentor before joining another pack, becoming responsible for educating, advising, and assisting their allies. Shamans exchange information and observations constantly, contributing to a shared wealth of knowledge.

Raptor Characteristics: Earnest, Easygoing, Savage, wrathful, curious, practical, pragmatic,

2010-08-01, 08:49 PM
I'm also working on a treefolk race that looks something like this:
But can't think of a good racial power for them.


Possessed of infinite patience and serving an enigmatic agenda, these plant-folk seek balance in all things

Average Height: 6'4”-6'10”
Average Weight: 110-150

Ability Scores: +2 Wisdom, +2 Dexterity or Constitution
Size: Medium
Speed: 6 squares
Vision: Normal

Languages: Sylvan, Common
Skill Bonuses: +2 Nature, +2 Diplomacy
Wooden Body: You have a +1 bonus to your armor class (increases to 2 at 11th level and +3 at 21st level), but suffer Weakness to Fire 5
Taproot: You gain an additional healing surge.

They're sentient plant-creatures from the future, and control/serve an entire ecology of similar mobile plants, including a widespread fungus/plant network spread thinly throughout much of the continent. It's faintly sentient, with power on par with a super-high-level druid, and has a definite will and agenda that the Qual-Kora serve. It's a little like the Eywa network from avatar, only I'd hope it's less lame.

Another example of mobile plants in this ecology would be the vulture-tree. It's seedling is a mobile flying creature with complex chemical receptors that glides around seeking a rotting carcass. once it senses one, it lands and puts down roots, forming into a sessile adult that's pretty much a mundane tree.

2010-08-01, 10:52 PM
This and a few monster concepts and statblocks, plus some general ideas on metaplot, is what I have come up with for Riven. I'm hoping to eventually do something with it, but I'd like to see general critique and gauge interest, make sure this isnt something only a total biology-nerd like myself would be into.