View Full Version : [Campaign] Shades of Gray (PEACH)

Duke of URL
2006-12-28, 01:06 PM
Campaign Setting: Shades of Gray

This is intended as an "open-ended" campaign setting, specifically in that there is no "big bad evil guy" that is behind everything and that the characters must defeat in the end. Instead, it is a setting of a world in conflict.

While good and evil certainly exist in the world, the main conflict lines are drawn on law/chaos and racial boundaries. There are several competing factions, and competing goals and loyalties within each faction.

The world, Calandra, is still "young", and the various races have only in recent years started to expand enough to be troublesome to their neighbors.

The PCs, based on their choices of race, class, and alignment, will each generally start off as a practically nameless member of one of these factions. Through their actions and the influence that they earn, can eventually begin shaping the outcome of the various conflicts, perhaps even coming to rule an empire themselves if they can amass the power and have the desire.

The campaign setting title refers to the fact that there is no inherently "right" or "wrong" side or course of action. Each faction has its strengths and weaknesses, and each has people who are good and evil. How the characters choose to deal with the world is more a matter of personal preference, and less a statement on the merits of the possibilities.

Designer Notes

While the setting should be harsh, it shouldn't be overly dark by default. Forging a lasting peace between the factions is as legitimate an endgame goal as leading one of them, or another faction of the PCs' creation, to victory over the others.

The race and class restrictions exist to add an element of logic to the setting -- everything should have a Calandra-specific reason for being what it is. The DM, as always, has the final say on how flexible these rules are.

General descriptions are just that, general. There will always be variances in the specifics; e.g, not every single person living in the Empire of the Plains agrees with the Empire's expansionist policies, though most of the general public does.

Because of the difficulties involved in getting those of different factions to cooperate, this concept may work better as a PbP game or NWN/NWN2 module or persistent world, where individual players can react to different settings simultaneously, without necessarily being aware of what the other players are doing.

No Psionics are allowed because the whole Psionics concept sucks (personal opinion) in the D&D universe.


Calandra consists of a single continent that is somewhat wider east to west than it is is north to south. From the center of Calandra toward the southwest are a series of sweeping plains, broken only by the occasinal river, stream, or lake. To the northwest, the land is more broken and unpredictable... swamps reside not far from barren lands; a large volcano, known as Calandra's Flame is the prominent landmark. In the north are heavy forests and generally hilly country. Most of the eastern third north to south, though more so in the south, is a series of mountains, ending in sheer cliffs at the eastern sea edge.

If lands exist beyond the sea, they are unknown to those on Calandra.

While many conflicting tales are told of Calandra's creation, what is fairly well agreed on by all is that among the many different races that were born on the world, only a handful ever really grew to be powerful. In the North, the Elven race thrived in the wooded hills and valleys. To the East, clans of Dwarves established strongholds in the mountains, beating back the mountain trolls and giants who frequently raid the Dwarven settlements. To the South and West, Humans and Orcs fought each other, with the Humans eventually winning, scattering the Orc tribes in all directions (except the sea).

The victorious Humans soon fell into discord amongst themselves, however, creating two factions. One believed in creating a strong, ordered society based on knowledge and laws, and the other wanted to promote personal freedom, and an approach more in tune with nature. The latter faction broke away from the former, and moved inland toward the center of Calandra. The group that remained behind became the Empire of the Plains; the other named their civilization the Freelands. The split was never amicable, and before too long the sides were warring with each other; the Empire wanted to expand and reabsorb (and re-educate) the "barbarians" while the Freelanders wanted to preserve their lifestyle and foil the plans of the "tyrants" of the Empire.

The Empire of the Plains is a rigid, strict society. However, its citizens have a very high standard of living, and the society promotes knowledge and learning. The only known place for humans to learn Wizardry is in the Empire, because only there can the resources be found for proper study; devotion to knowledge leads to high distrust of innate magics, and so sorcerers are shunned and Bards mistrusted. They have less aptitude for nature, numbering few Rangers, and virtually no Druids. They are militarily very strong and disciplined, though morale can be an issue at times. Humans of the Empire tend to be very suspicious of outsiders, and almost reflexively hostile to Elves and Dwarves, though it is not unheard of to see Dwarven mercenaries in an Empire regiment. Their objective is "civilize" all of Calandra and expand the Empire's rule from coast to coast.

The Freelands is little more than a loose confederation of clans, hamlets, and small villages. They have no central leadership, however they will band together as necessary for common defense and goals. Those closest to the Southwest are somewhat more organized, keeping a watch and a check on the designs of the Empire. Being between the Empire, the Elves, and the Dwarves keeps the Freelanders on their toes. The Freelands are very much a frontier civilization, with the attendant problems of lower education, medicine, and standard of living. While each settlement varies in their outlook, the Freelands are generally open to all peaceful people, so seeing Elves and Dwarves living among them (though not both at the same time) is not uncommon, although Humans are clearly the dominant race. The Freelands' principal objective is autonomy for themselves and their confederates, and a chance to live and thrive as they see fit.

The Sylvian Alliance is the overall name given to the Elvish nations in the North. They have no clearly defined hierarchy of power, though it appears to outsiders that power is wielded smoothly by those deemed in charge. Much like the Freelanders, they exist as separate settlements, though generally larger, older, and with a higher standard of living. Like the Empire, they value learning and promote Wizardy over Sorcerery. The Elves deem themselves the most civilized race on Calandra, and presume that one day they will rule the entire world. Humans are inferior, but are acceptable as long as they know their place, but the Sylvian Alliance will readily march to destroy Dwarves at any time. The Empire is seen as a threat, and the Sylvian Alliance is always watching the Empire with a wary eye. The Freelanders are more tolerated, though they stand in the way of Elvish expansion.

The Mountain Clans are the eastern Dwarves. They have a very rigid hierarchical society deeply steeped in tradition and honor. There are nine clans, mostly living in the southeastern mountains, but ranging all the way to the north. Each clan is generally self-ruling, though the clan leaders choose a Dwarven king who can compel the clans to follow his commands. The Dwarves are militarily strong, organized into units of members of single clans, but are primarily defensive. Unless, of course, there's a good chance to launch an offensive against unwary Elves. The Dwarves consider the mountains and the approaching steppes as their lands, and have no desire for further expansion. They are reasonably friendly with the Empire, believing them to be honorable, and, more importantly, an enemy of the Elves, and fairly unfriendly with the Freelands, whom they see coming dangerously close to Dwarven-claimed lands.

The Orcs have no nations or standing alliances. Their wars with the humans have reduced them to scattered clans, who make their homes (and bases for raids) wherever they can carve out a relatively safe place for themselves.

Giants and Mountain Trolls still exist, though few in numbers, but still enough to cause the Mountain Clans trouble.

Dragons are rare and mysterious. No one knows where they live. They always approach from the sea, but that may be as much to hide their homes as an indication that they live beyond the shores of Calandra.

Other races and creatures exist, though generally in numbers too small to bother the four major factions.

General Rules

There are significant restrictions placed on races, classes, and alignments, and how they work together. The DM is the sole arbitrator on if or when the restrictions can be relaxed or removed.
Only certain races and classes are allowed at character creation. There are other base classes that may be taken at later levels only.
Players MUST get DM approval before multiclassing any character; any multiclassing (including prestige classes) must be justified by the character's background and/or actions, as well as the opportunity to find suitable training. In some cases, progressing in a particular class will also have requirements above and beyond standard rules.

The Campaign

Beginning characters belong to one of the factions, based on race and alignment. In the early stages of the campaign, they are given tasks befitting their faction. As the PCs grow in stature, they gain influence and/or notoriety among the factions based on their actions and reputations. Eventually, the PCs can control the fate of Calandra by which sides they choose to help, hinder, join, and/or fight.

Based on their influence levels, PCs may be greeted with open arms, or prohibited from even entering lands of a given faction. Losing access to the factions not only limits their further actions, it may in some cases prevent advancement in their chosen vocations.

In short, actions have consequences, and the more powerful the PCs become, the more true this is.

Given the extreme polarization of race relations and factions, creating a party of PCs will require a great amount of coordination between players to either all take the same race/faction, or come up with some plausible reason why members of opposing factions would be cooperating in any partiuclar venture.


The Empire and the Mountain Clans are very Lawful. Most citizens follow a Lawful alignment, though they can range from Good to Evil. Those more Chaotic than Lawful either keep quiet about their beliefs, or find themselves ostracized or exiled. PCs starting as Empire Humans or Mountain Clan Dwarves must have a starting lawful alignment.

The Sylvian Alliance and the Freelands are generally Chaotic. They see laws, traditions, and order as all of the negative traits of the "enemy" society (Dwarves for the Elves, and the Empire for the Freelanders). PCs starting as Sylvian Elves must have a starting Chaotic alignment. Freelanders of any race must have a starting non-Lawful alignment.


The only playable races are:
DwarvesNo subraces are allowed. No "half" races exist in the world at all.

Classes and Class Restrictions

Starting Classes:

Only SRD-defined base classes may be taken on character creation, with the following exceptions and caveats. Elf and Dwarf below refer to Sylvian Alliance Elves and Mountain Clan Dwarves. Elves and Dwarves of the Freelands follow Freelands Human rules.

Barbarian: May not be taken by an "Empire" Human or by an Elf. A Dwarf who starts with this class will be considered an outcast by the other Dwarves.

Bard: May be taken by anyone, however, Bards are not trusted in the Empire or by the Dwarves.

Cleric: Domain selection is based on faction and role (see Religion).

Druid: Human druids may not begin as LN; Empire humans may not begin with this class.

Fighter: No restrictions

Monk: Not allowed

Paladin: Not allowed

Ranger: No restrictions

Rogue: An "Empire" Human or Dwarf who takes this class must not take "thieving" skills, such as open lock and sleight of hand; they are considered "scouts". No restrictions for other races/factions.

Sorcerer: May not be taken by an "Empire" Human, an Elf, or a Dwarf.

Wizard: May not be taken by an "Freelands" Human or a Dwarf. Must specialize in a school. Spells learned at any level must be taken from the specialized school as long as any spells of that school at a spell level the Wizard can cast at remain unknown; once all available spells from the school are known, other spells may be taken as desired. Any spell (save from a prohibited school) may be learned from other sources as normal, the specialization rule applies only to spells learned upon "leveling up".

Special advancement rules:

All multiclassing requires DM approval and appropriate opportunity to learn the new class features
Barbarian: Any character who becomes a Barbarian will lose influence with the Empire and the Mountain Clans factions and gain influence with the Freelands faction

Bard: Any character who becomes a bard will lose influence with the Empire and the Mountain Clans factions

Cleric: Clerics who significantly deviate from their order's precepts will not be allowed to advance in the Cleric class (a quest for atonement and a return to the proper actions can lift this restriction); to multiclass into Cleric, the character must demonstrate appropriate behavior for the order they wish to join, and have access and influence sufficient to train in the order.

Druid: A non-dwarf who takes this class will gain influence with the Sylvian faction

Monk: A character who demonstrates proper behavior for the order they wish to join (like a Cleric, above) and has access and influence sufficient to train, may mutliclass into Monk. Unlike Clerics, there is no chance for atonement to progress as a Monk if falling from the order's precepts, which includes taking levels in anything other than Monk (unless it is a prestige class designed specifically for Monks)

Paladin: A character who demonstrates proper behavior for the order they wish to join (like a Cleric, above) and has access and influence sufficient to train, may mutliclass into Paladin. Unlike Clerics, there is no chance for atonement to progress as a Paladin if falling from the order's precepts, which includes taking levels in anything other than Paladin (unless it is a prestige class designed specifically for Paladins). Atonement, however, will allow a Paladin to use class abilities that would otherwise be lost, even though no further advancement is possible. Additional SRD Changes:
Alignment restriction is any Lawful; however alignment may never change once the character becomes a Paladin
Abilities and spells with a descriptor of "Good" become "Law" (e.g., Aura of Law)
Abilities with a descriptor of "Evil" become "Chaos" (e.g., Smite Chaos)
Lay On Hands may be used to either cure (LG or LN) or inflict (LN or LE) wounds; LN paladins must choose which ability they receive, and may never change their choice
Remove Disease (LG or LN) has an equivalent ability Inflict Disease (LN or LE); LN will paladins receive Remove Disease if they chose to use Lay On Hands to cure wounds, otherwise they receive Inflict Disease.
Similarly, any spell that normally would have a "negative" counterpart (e.g., Bless/Curse, Cure/Inflict Light Wounds) will use the "negative" version instead for LE paladins or LN paladins who chose to inflict damage with Lay On Hands.Sorcerer: Any character who becomes a sorcerer will lose influence with the Empire, the Sylvian, and the Mountain Clans factions and will gain influence with the Freelands faction

Wizard: In general, Humans must have access and influence with the Empire to advance as a Wizard; Elves must have access and influence with the Sylvian faction. (It may be possible to find other sources of arcane knowledge, however this should be very, very rare and extremely difficult to obtain.) Multiclassing to Wizard has the same requirements as a starting Wizard (must specialize, must learn spells from specialty school first).

Prestige Classes:

All PrCs are at the DM's discretion, require ample opportunity and access to a mentor, and should be very difficult to obtain. Unless otherwise noted or restricted below, all SRD prestige classes are allowed within the previously stated guidelines.

Any prestige class that grants additional equivalent levels for one or more base classes automatically assumes the same requirements as advancing in each those classes. For example, a Mystic Theurge who was a Wizard and a Cleric would have the same advancement requirements as both of those classes.

An "evil" prestige class (Assassin, Blackgaurd) will lose influence with all four factions, assuming the character displays the traits of such class, though depending on the circumstances, the influence impact may be minimized.
Dragon Disciple: Must find a dragon mentor and agree to act on the dragon's behalf. Failure to continue to please the dragon mentor (or if the mentor dies) will result in an inability to advance in this class without finding a new mentor of the same species. Note that dragons are very rare.

Non-SRD Classes:

Multiclassing to a non-SRD base class or prestige class is subject to the sole discretion of the DM. The DM should impose restrictions in line with the other class restrictions in the setting for consistency.
Example: Warlock (Complete Arcane) might be allowed, but only for evil characters, and would require making contact and a compact with a devil or demon -- the Warlock must continue to fulfill the terms of his or her compact in order to continue to advance as a Warlock.


There are no named deities in Calandra; "the gods" are deemed too complex for mortal understanding. Instead, all religious orders follow a set of precepts, and derive their power from their faith in those precepts. Clerics, Monks, and Paladins are all required to follow the "one-step" rule in that their alignments may not vary from the order's alignment by more than either one step on the Law/Chaos (Clerics only) or one step on Good/Evil axis (but not one step on both).

Clerics and Paladins automatically gain weapon proficiency in their order's favored weapon, even if they would otherwise not be proficient in that weapon.

Order of The Hospitalers

Alignment: NG
Faction: None
Favored Weapon: Quarterstaff
Cleric Domains: Good and Healing

The Hospitalers are welcome pretty much anywhere, though race relations still can come into play. Nevertheless, they steer clear of factional concerns, encouraging rather that all sides work together for peace and prosperity. It is the duty of any Hopitaler to provide healing for anyone in need; because of this they are most commonly found in the Freelands, where the need is the greatest. Resorting to violence is only acceptable in their own defense, or when it is obvious that innocents are being harmed. They have no central organization, but temples can be found in most heavily settled areas.

Order of Power

Alignment: NE
Faction: None
Favored Weapon: Scimitar
Cleric Domains: Evil and Strength

The petty wars of the factions are nothing compared to true power. Every being's real purpose is to amass whatever power they can attain and to use it for their own ends. Generally shunned, this order is nevertheless found all over Calandra, usually with discreetly located and adorned temples.

Order of The Just Society

Alignment: LG
Faction: Empire of the Plains
Favored Weapon: Warhammer
Cleric Domains: Good and Protection

Civilization must be defended and expanded. Spread the word, but do so peacefully. Perform acts of kindness and mercy whenever possible to show that the Law can still be tempered with compassion. The barbarian Humans and Elves should be taught to accept the inevitable march of progress rather than be conquered. This is the smallest of the Empire orders, but it is still prominent.

Order of Justice

Alignment: LN
Faction: Empire of the Plains
Favored Weapon: None
Cleric Domains: Knowledge and Law

The Law of the Empire is absolute. All are required to follow them, even if they are not part of the Empire or acknowledge The Law. Any who are found lacking are to be punished, regardless of consequences. The Order of Justice is the official religion of the Empire, and temples can be found anywhere the Empire has made a presence.

Order of Man's Empire

Alignment: LE
Faction: Empire of the Plains
Favored Weapon: Longsword
Cleric Domains: Destruction and Evil

The Empire must expand to cover all of Calandra, and all other races must be destroyed. Any means to this end are acceptable, as long as the ideals of the Empire are not compromised. If thousands upon thousands must die in bloody conflict, it is the price that must be paid for progress. Members of the Order should seek out power in order to gain the positions of influence to ensure that the march of expansion continues. The Empire officially frowns on the extreme position the Order takes, but nevertheless has members of the Order in prominent positions in the government and military.

Order of Good Will

Alignment: CG
Faction: Freelands
Favored Weapon: None
Cleric Domains: Good and Luck

The Freelands exist for the good of its people, and as an example for the humans of the Empire so that they can free themselves from oppression. Act with kindness to all, but impose no obligations. Let all see that with enough goodwill, the restraints of society become unnecessary.

Order of The Libertine

Alignment: CN
Faction: Freelands
Favored Weapon: None
Cleric Domains: Chaos and Travel

The tyranny of the Empire is the gravest threat to the Freelands, and to Calandra as a whole. The supposed pursuit of knowledge and order stifles intuition and freedom. Seek to eradicate any form of traditional structures wherever possible; let people govern themselves in the most direct ways. Let common sense replace tomes of law. Emphasize the individual above all else. Members of the clergy are urged to avoid staying in any location for long, lest they start to form ties that could turn into the first steps of an organized society.

Order of Anarchic Domination

Alignment: CE
Faction: Freelands
Favored Weapon: None
Cleric Domains: Death and Evil

The weak die. The strong propser. Enhance evolution by putting all of Calandra in the crucible. Foster conflict at every turn; oppose any form of order. Things that others would consider atrocities are the tools of your trade: assassinations, poison, disease, and the like. While shunned in all societies, a significant, but mostly underground, number of devotees can be found scattered throughout the Freelands and in unsettled areas.

Order of Mercy

Alignment: CG
Faction: Sylvian Alliance
Favored Weapon: None
Clerics: Yes, must take Healing and Protection

The lesser races toil under their primitive societies and learning. They should be taught the enlightenment of the Elves, so that they accept their place as vassals of the Sylvian Alliance, though not even the good nature of this Order will extend to the Dwarves. Spread medicine and knowledge (excepting high arcana reserved for the Elves alone) to non-Dwarf races who act with like fairness to their betters.

Order of The Forest

Alignment: CN
Faction: Sylvian Alliance
Favored Weapon: Longbow and Rapier
Cleric Domains: Animal and Plant

The forests of Calandra are the natural homes of the Elves, who live in harmony with the plants and creatures therein. The wooded areas should be expanded, and done so under Elvish guidance. The inferior races must be made to stand aside of this progress, either by treaty or by the sword. Failure to respect Calandra's forests is a sure way to make an enemy of this Order.

Order of The Elven Empire

Alignment: CE
Faction: Sylvian Alliance
Favored Weapon: Longsword
Cleric Domains: Evil and War

The Elves must eliminate the inferior races in order to make Calandra a pure place. The Dwarves, especially, must be wiped out completely. Humans and Orcs might make good slaves, but are otherwise worthless. Any means to achieve these ends is acceptable, and any blood spilt is acceptable, although every drop of Elvish blood shed shall eventually require repayment. With interest. While technically the smallest order among the Elves, and by a wide margin, the Order's sentiments are generally met sympathetically among the population.

Order of The Mountain's Strength

Alignment: LG
Faction: Mountain Clans
Favored Weapon: Warhammer
Cleric Domains: Strength and War

The best way to have a lasting peace is to be eternally prepared for war. Wars of aggression are frowned upon, however, excepting pre-emptive strikes on gathering threats. Always look to the defense of the Clan homelands, and be prepared to answer the King's summons when the need for battle arises

Order of Earth

Alignment: LN
Faction: Mountain Clans
Favored Weapon: Heavy Flail
Cleric Domains: Earth and Law

Defend the Dwarven homelands, protect the traditions of the clans, and serve the King. Keep harmony between the Clans. Respect and revere the Mountains.

Order of Dwarven Glory

Alignment: LE
Faction: Mountain Clans
Favored Weapon: Dwarven Waraxe
Cleric Domains: Destruction and Strength

The only good elf is a dead elf. And preferably, one that has suffered greatly in the process. Humans aren't much better, but at least they can be encouraged to help rid Calandra of the Elven menace. Unlike most other Dwarves, the Dwarven Glory seeks expanding Dwarven dominion and enjoys war for its own sake. The Order has a legend that the blood of the last living Elf will be used to forge the Waraxe that marks the office of the first King of all Calandra. It is not uncommon for Clerics of this order to use a necklace of Elf ears as a holy symbol.

Special: Joining the Order requires the ritualistic killing of an Elf that has been captured by the character. Prospective Clerics must sacrifice the Elf on an altar (Cleric characters starting the game in this Order are assumed to have done so, backstory should be provided to the DM); prospective Monks must kill the Elf in a hand-to-hand fight; prospective Paladins must have their Waraxe tempered with the Elf's blood (or at least symbolically dipped in the blood and placed in fire to burn it off, if the Paladin already has a non-mundane Waraxe).

Key NPCs


Duke of URL
2007-01-03, 12:45 PM
Background, special rules, and religions complete. Next step... major NPCs. (Any suggestions would be appreciated.)

2007-01-03, 01:43 PM
So every one hates every one... to harsh for my tatse and not enough races. You should add gnomes. and tone down the darkness man.

Duke of URL
2007-01-03, 02:44 PM
So every one hates every one... to harsh for my tatse

Well, speaking in broad generalities, yes. However, within each society there are folks who are more interested in peaceful coexistence than with conflict. Well, except maybe that whole Elf/Dwarf thing. :smallbiggrin:

Essentially, there are four empires (though the Freelands is so disorganized that they barely count as an empire), each with their own self-serving goals. That doesn't mean that the PCs can't change attitudes and opinions as they gain influence. Brokering a lasting peace may very well be one of the outcomes the PCs aim for (for "good" characters). It would probably be easier to get the Freelands and the Mountain Clans to go along with such an idea than it will be to get the Empire and the Sylvian Alliance to agree to it, though.

and not enough races. You should add gnomes. and tone down the darkness man.

I'd rather not add any playable races (the concept is to have the players start within one of the four empire), but I haven't exhaustively listed or limited the NPC races. I'll think about adding some "friendly" NPC races within the contexts of the defined empires.

It is meant to be harsh and open ended, but not dark... unless the players make it so. I was going for a "primitive" enough scenario to allow high-level PCs to reasonably be able to shape worldwide events.

2007-01-06, 11:05 AM
I like the influence system alot. As well as the fact that the main 'villain' changes based on how the pcs play the game. It would be hard tho for a dwarf,elf,plainsmen,and freelander to be together in a group.

Duke of URL
2007-01-09, 01:27 PM
Added designer notes... more still to come.

2007-01-10, 01:43 PM
I like this so far. The limitations and flavour are nice. I might have allowed Half Elves and Half Orcs, but I can see why you are not.