View Full Version : [Setting] "That Which Does Not Kill Us ..."

2007-09-21, 12:09 PM
I've been bandying about this idea for a setting for a long time. IT's a world I've been in the process of creating. What I'm presenting here is so far a rough draft, but I'd love to hear comments or suggestions. Hence, a rough draft.

I'm starting with a brief rundown of the setting, followed by the races I've thought out so far. I'll be working on a rundown of how the core classes fit in next. There's many more things that need work. Before I get to the meat, here's some things I'll need to flesh out more.

Magic: Arcane Magic is uniquely tied to other "worlds", either the World of Faerie or that of darker forces. At present, it's not fleshed out properly, though I acknowledge it exists. It seems to me this world could easily adapt a couple unusual magic forms, if kept to a minimum.

Religion: Both humans and orcs have pantheons of their own, but somewhat related. For the humans, I'm heavily leaning towards adapting the Norse pantheon to my world, as it fits well (see "Inspiration"). The orcs will have a far more primal pantheon (one idea in my head is perhaps the orc god of Feast, for example). Neither the elves nor the dwarves seem of character to worship a deity -- certainly not the elves at least.

Mechanics: This is becoming a low priority for me. Fleshing out what I have seems more important than quantifying things with numbers so far. Eventually I will have to address this. Suggestions, again, are welcome.

I hope this doesn't bore anyone. If you fall asleep while reading my stuff, please don't tell me! Now, on to the meat of things, yes?



2007-09-21, 12:11 PM
Inspiration: At present, what I have has been inspired by the works of Robert Howard (of ďConanĒ), Michael Moorcock (of the ďElric SagaĒ and other works related), and some Norse myth and history.

Setting: The present work is on the north continent of this world. Iíve ideas for the other continents, but I find it best to start somewhat small and work outwards. More details will reveal themselves as I create and as people explore the world.

The north continent is cold and uninviting for the most part. The southern shores host fishing villages and small port towns. The farther north one goes, the less civilized the lands get, until one reaches the glorious city of the Grey Elves from which they exert control. Even the elves do not long venture to the furthest northern reaches, where it is always winter.

The Grey Elves exert the most power near their city, and the human settlements nearest them fear and obey the whims of the elves. However, proximity to the city offers a modicum of protection. As one goes further out to either west or east from the city of the Elves, human settlements tend to be small, rural villages. The very outskirts in either of these directions, humans are under constant threat of invasion from orcs. It is a testament to the strength of these men that the orcs have not gained ground in decades.

South from the city, humans thrive. The orc tribes are too far west or east to cause trouble, and the elves are too far north to be bothered to try and exert control so far. The worst enemy southern humans face is weather. With growing seasons short, a bad or long winter can cause shortages for the year. Only the port towns seem to last bad winters, as trade with the southern continents remains brisk.

Mountain ranges dot the landscape and form a natural barrier to travel. At best, a wanderer will find un-neighborly dwarves who care little for interlopers in their dark domains. At worst, the traveler might fall victim to giants or other dangerous beasts that reside there.

Forests are thick with fragrant evergreens. It is perhaps easier to travel through the forests than it is through the mountains, but not by much. Forests are thick, underbrush is heavy, and it is easy for one to get lost in the forested hills. There, the lean and hungry wildlife may consider a weakened, lost human a mean worth the risk. Even for the experienced, the dangers of the forest are as real as any.

2007-09-21, 12:12 PM
Races: As of yet, Iíve ideas on Humans, Elves, Dwarves, Orcs, and the Half-Breeds. Iíve not yet found a place for either Gnomes or Halflings, and Iím not sure I want to force them into the setting. Perhaps they will appear on other continents.

Grey Elves

Ages ago, the elves arose from the border of Faerie to this world at the coaxing of divine entities. For centuries they explored, and discovered much of this world. Then, a great schism occurred amongst the elves, and war broke out between two factions. Another faction chose to take neither side and instead migrated to the cold, northern lands. The other elves called them the Grey Elves in their tongue, as they would neither choose black nor white.

The Grey Elves preferred scholarship, and using the great magics they had from their studies, they constructed a glorious capital that almost seemed to be made from ice itself. There, they continued to pursue the scholarship of magic. There they also spoke with otherworldly powers, some light, and some dark. There they delved deep into knowledges their kin would shun.

When the Grey Elves arrived, they found the continent peopled by the race of Men. Humans were physically strong, but they feared the power the Grey Elves had at their fingertips. Soon after constructing their capital, they were able to bring the many tribes and clans of humans under thumb.

Though the elves long ago abandoned their link to the world of Faerie, their minds and prejudices are still colored by their origins. Their customs and rules still echo those of the other world. To humans this mindset can be at times strange and unknowable, other times cruel and unfeeling.

(Generosity, for example, is a concept the elves seem to have no concept. This relates to an ancient elf custom: All gifts must be reciprocated. Value has no meaning as well. Thus, if an elf gives someone his gloves, that elf expects the other to one day offer him something. If the recipient has nothing to offer back, elf law states it is perfectly reasonable to take that possession of that person. Those who live close to elf lands are all too familiar with this rule, but find it hard to reconcile.)

Elves have hair that ranges from white, to blonde, with black appearing on occasion. Their eyes are blue or grey, sometimes black. To humans, they often seem cold and uninviting; their faces tend to appear as emotionless masks. The Grey Elf language, however, is incredibly expressive, with tenses and declinations changing based on how the speaker is feeling, and how he perceives those are speaking to him are feeling.

Elves have long considered themselves superior to the other races. Much of this is due to their apparent advancement and their vast knowledge of magic. Even though dwarves are knowledgeable in magic, the elves consider their understanding to be deeper and vaster than anything the dwarves know (dwarves would argue that elf-knowledge is impractical and self-indulgent).

Most elves are from their capital city, but a few have raised towers far away from home. Amongst humans, it is whispered that these elves must practice magics that even the Grey Elves shun, and thus are outcast from their own people. The humans may not be far off, as there does seem to be waters that even most Grey Elves fear to tread.

Though elves long dominated this continent, in recent decades their control seems only strong enough to exert power over nearby villages. They are a people in decline. Worse, the Grey Elves are beginning to hear rumors of humans who tap into the world of magic themselves. This is a new development that has many elves frightened of what is to come.

2007-09-21, 12:13 PM

Long before elves arrived on the continent, humans resided here. They were a simple people who either nomadic or resided in small villages. Strong, hardy, and hard-working, the humans feared the elves that appeared so frail, but could command great powers. Though elves met some resistance, the power they displayed and the fear the men felt soon overcame. Ever since then, men have essentially been ruled by the Grey Elves.

Humans themselves have many origin myths as to where they come from. The most popular has the chief of the gods desiring a race that would bolster the ranks of the divine in the battle against the giants. At first, their creation seemed soft and a failure, but the chief of the gods pointed to the harsh continent below and declared that this would be the home of his Men, which the harsh world would strengthen and harden them into mighty warriors that not even the giants could overcome.

Humans seem used to hardship on the north continent, which is certain. They fought the orcs even before elves arrived. They shouldered the indignities of Grey Elf rule. They survived year to year in a land which can sometimes be bountiful, and sometimes seem to turn its back on them.

They have no central leadership, other than village chiefs and town lairds. Issues that must be answered by a region are settled within a large gathering of humans who judge grievances and decide upon necessary actions. Chieftains and lairds are not allowed within these gatherings, and are expected to act upon the decisions made by those attending.

In the south, they serve justice, occasionally deciding on matters of defense. In the borderlands, they serve to muster troops to fight against the latest deprivations of the orcs. In the north, the humans rarely meet at all, as the Grey Elves decide all matters. (Also, the Grey Elf custom of ďComing and going where I willĒ makes the humans uncomfortable, as elves attend meetings they should not by human custom.)

For ages, humans shunned magic. Even today they are suspicious of Elf-Powers. For the first time, however, humans are beginning to learn the arts where once it was thought they could never learn such things. These new mages are meeting with mixed results. Some die by their own hands Ė meddling in what is too much for them Ė some are slain by their fellow men who distrust such workings, still others are taken captive, tortured, sometimes killed (or worse) by elves who are befuddled at how humans could come by such knowledge. A small handful survives. Human priests are uncertain whether magic is what the chief of the gods intended for men or not. Most lean towards ďnotĒ.

2007-09-21, 12:14 PM

No race has populated the North as long as the Dwarves. The dwarves saw the coming of Men. They saw the first surges of the orcs. They saw the arrival of the elves. They hid from all, but revealed themselves to men long ago. Even the elves did not know of their existence until many decades after arriving, and only heard of the dwarves from tales of men. Dwarves have long avoided contact with any other people, preferring their dark homes and their own kind.

Dwarves will say that the very mountains gave birth to them, that they sprung from the rocks to live and know the mountains. The first dwarves were supposedly ten in number, and they had many children. Their grandchildren sired the Hundred Clans. Any dwarf living today swears life and loyalty to one of these Hundred Clans.

Unlike men, dwarves have long known of magic and understood its ways. Their practice is different than the elves, for the dwarves apply their magic to the creation of great things. They guard their creations jealously, however, and few meet the light of day.

Some elves have tried to blame dwarves teaching men to practice magic. After all, it was the dwarves who taught men to temper iron and create weapons stronger than those of the orcs. Dwarves counter that they never give away their true secrets. Unlike elves, the dwarves never assumed men could never learn magic and thus guarded these secrets so men would not stumble upon them.

It has only been of recent that dwarves have been seen outside their underground homes at all. The dwarves certainly do not tell any why they have left. It remains a surprising sight to see a dwarf walking through other lands. Their stony silence as to their reasons does little to dispel the mystery.

2007-09-21, 12:15 PM

As long as humans remember, they have been at constant struggle with the orcs. Orcs have infested the northern continent as long as humans, and knowing their violent nature, it is perhaps fortunate for either they or the Grey Elves that the elves did not land on their shores rather than the humans.

According to human story, after the chief of the gods placed humans in these harsh lands, the goddess who would become the Orc Mother grew jealous of his creation. She watched the humans for a while and finally in a fit of rage, she snatched up a number and swallowed them whole. Then she stood over the continent and vomited them onto the lands east and west of the humans. What rose were the Orcs, changed by Orc Motherís innards and fueled by the same anger and jealousy she harbors.

Some orcs have a different story. According to the current, popular story, Orc Mother created this land and started to envision the people she would want there. But the Human Father was jealous of her creation, and he decided he would steal it from her. He made his own creations, which were weak and flawed. He placed them on Orc Motherís lands and told his creations it was now theirs. When Orc Mother learned of this she flew into a rage and fought Human Father. But he overcame her, ravished her, and in her pain she placed her creations bordering the humans. She let them know the land they stood on was theirs by right, but they would have to fight to earn it.

It is possible both stories are true in some ways. In either case, the sentiments of the latter story seem to be the way of life for the Orc. They possess by strength, and nothing more. What an orc owns, he owns because none can take it from him. If an orc has the ability to take something, then he believes he has a right and even an obligation to do so. Typically, an orc will give little as giving another something implies that the orc knows the other can take it anyways. This does not mean orcs never give anything away at all. They can be quite generous to those who can readily defeat any from several tribes.

Orcs thus often seem to be a race as often at war with itself as it is at war with the humans. To an outside observer, it seems the orcs are constantly struggling against each other for dominance, for wants, for needs, and for leadership. This conflict exists between individual orcs, between tribes, and between entire regions. It is fortunate for the humans that the orcs do, for the superior numbers of the orcs could wipe the humans out. Most border humans know now that if they can kill the leader of a large raiding party, the raid will disintegrate into internecine fights as the remaining orcs vie for dominance once more.

It is a strange sight, but sometimes a lone orc will be found in human lands. It is an odd sight, for the orc tribe is the strongest social unit orcs have. Why an orc may be alone there is beyond many humans, and orcs never pause to explain. The fate of these lone wolves is uncertain. Some men will kill them outright. Most will shun the brute. Grey Elves frequently seek them out so they can experiment on the outcasts. Dwarves being covetous of their own works and secrets will not even allow an orc near dwarf homes. Orcs frequently fall into trouble as they do not understand human concepts of ownership.

2007-09-21, 12:17 PM

When the Grey Elves first dominated, they took some humans as slaves to do the menial labor needed, freeing the elves for their studies. Many used the slaves rather freely, and elf society was initially surprised to find slaves giving birth to human-elf hybrids. This first number of half-elves suffered greatly, for the Grey Elves felt little affection for their offspring, and preferred to study the hybrids. Few of the first half-elves made it to maturity. Only a handful survived to old age.

Today, half-elves remain a rarity. Grey Elves agreed as a society long ago that such hybridization has too many unknowns and implications that are out of their control. Indeed, some elves posit that by introducing fae blood to humans, fae magic passes too. In truth, humans did not know sorcery before the arrival of the Grey Elves, and itís quite possible that elf-blood is what causes this to arise today.

The few half-elves that appear have difficulty. Humans regard half-elves as unlucky. There is a doom upon them, at least per human superstition. In other cases, half-elves become the target for pent-up hatred for the Grey Elves. Though most humans would fear to lay hands on a full blooded elf, they do not fear doing so to those of half-blood. The elves seem to care little about these half-breeds.

The truth is much worse, however. With all the taboos Grey Elves have about breeding with Men, the only reason a half-elf would be born is due to a deliberate desire for such an offspring. Whatever dark reason there might be is frequently unknown to the half-elf in question, as the elf sire is never around to explain. Sadly, the reason behind their deliberate conception frequently remains a mystery to the doomed child until itís far too late to do anything about it.

2007-09-21, 12:18 PM

Orc mating operates much like the rest of their philosophy. If an orc wants to mate with a female, he takes her. The female orc is expected to fight back. After all, no orc gets what he cannot take by strength. The female yields to who can defeat her. Orcs have no compunction over applying this to their human conquests. Thus at times either capture human slaves or victims of a raid find themselves with a half-human, half-orc hybrid.

Because of the frequent raids on the borders, half-orcs are far more common than half-elves. They are loved no more, and perhaps even less. A half-orc is an ugly reminder of the constant struggle humans must face against the orcs. They frequently bear the brutish traits of their brutish sire. Some human villages will kill any half-breed as soon as heís born. At best, the half-orc lives the life of a pariah in human lands.

Amongst the orcs, life is no better. Humans are considered weak amongst the orcs (despite the numerous setbacks humans have delivered them), and half-human is half-weak. A half-orc must struggle twice as much as any his full blood kin to prove heís as worthy or better. Their lives are harsh and unyielding, and often a half-orc is seen on the front lines of an orc raid, slaying human kin to prove his worth to his orc kin.


And that's all I have for now. I understand there are gaps. Hopefully this world sounds interesting and people will want to see more. If not, please tell me in advance when you start to gather your pitchforks and torches.

Thank you,


2007-09-21, 01:31 PM
Nice, well-thought-out backgrounds, CUD. But you're missing Goblins (or Gobbers, whichever). :smallbiggrin: The natural counter to Gobbos would be Gnomes. (SCREW HALFLINGS! :smallwink: ) Gnomes could be a go-between for the dwarves and men and elves, natural diplomats and entertainers, since half-elves are so shunned, I'm assuming they're going to lose their Diplomacy bonus, to be replaced with something else.

Gobbos could be basically second-class amongst orcs, with some few clans or tribes as vagabonds seeking a land to call their own, free of orcish oppression or human prejudice. Dwarves and gnomes could see them as vermin who infest the edges of their realms, or as pitiable wretches who need protection, depending on their moral compass.

Just some thoughts.

For some reason your description of the continent reminds me of the world of David Gemmell's books.

2007-09-21, 01:41 PM
Gobbos could be basically second-class amongst orcs, with some few clans or tribes as vagabonds seeking a land to call their own, free of orcish oppression or human prejudice. Dwarves and gnomes could see them as vermin who infest the edges of their realms, or as pitiable wretches who need protection, depending on their moral compass.

Too typical. Goblins have always been second-rate race, so it'd be fun if they were equal race in at least one setting.

2007-09-21, 02:01 PM
Too typical. Goblins have always been second-rate race, so it'd be fun if they were equal race in at least one setting.

I'd agree with you and I wouldn't complain, as I do love goblins (What do we need to do to get that society rolling like we discussed in the Goblin Love thread?). Maybe they're the primary folk of one of the other continents, but here they're controlled?

2007-09-21, 02:06 PM
I'd agree with you and I wouldn't complain, as I do love goblins (What do we need to do to get that society rolling like we discussed in the Goblin Love thread?). Maybe they're the primary folk of one of the other continents, but here they're controlled?

That's not bad idea, but why should they be controlled? They can be just a normal race like elves, humans or humans, just less common outside their native continent. Of course, that is up to author. Generally, I'd advise against adding goblins or any other race just for the sake of adding them- every race needs its purpose.

2007-09-21, 02:45 PM
That's partly why I've had trouble fitting Halflings and Gnomes in. I feel no antipathy for those races. I happen to love playing halflings. It's just I couldn't find a good spot for them as of yet, and I wasn't willing to shoehorn them into a world they didn't exactly belong. Same with Goblins.

The overall theme of this region is "Struggle", hence the misquote from Nietzsche: "That which does not kill me makes me stronger." All relations between the races are strained. Humans and Dwarves can be said to get along best, but even then the Dwarves are so secretive that there may be much they are holding back from the Humans.

If Gnomes, Halflings, or Goblins are to fit into this world, they will need to struggle as well, and show strength.

2007-09-21, 03:18 PM
Here's an attempt to integrate goblins into this world. Hopefully it works. At this point, I'm suspecting that dwarves and goblins, like the elves, are somehow related to the world of Faerie.


In a world of such danger and constant battle, no one would expect the race of goblins to survive, yet somehow they not only manage, but they thrive. In human territory they are frequently underfoot, drawing curses from those that nearly trip over them. They are a constant nuisance, engaging in petty theft and irritating animals for no apparent reason. Though humans try to avoid founding a village on an existing Goblin warren, the warrens are so well hidden that almost invariable one finds the little pests in any human village. They are cunning creatures, well-hidden and with enough self-control that humans donít kill them on sight.

They even reside in Orcish lands, but tend to stay hidden there. Many orcs find the little goblins to be a tasty meal. Though many would think that alone would cause goblins to leave orcish lands forever, they still remain. Goblins will steal what they need from under an orcís nose if they can get away with it, and they often do.

Few see in Goblin warrens. The tunnels in are so tight as to make the larger races claustrophobic. Goblins also seem unusually limber as well, and able to squeeze through areas that most would think impossible. Thereís often multiple escape holes, some emerging from places no other race would dare to tread willingly. A handful have seen within a Goblin warren, and the reports are often the same. Warrens are frequently expansive as the villages above them. Goblins even have equivalent weapons and supplies as their human neighbors (which is a large step up from the primitive materials owned by the Orcs).

Once itís known a goblin warren is nearby, they are generally left alone. Goblins can be particularly vicious when protecting their homes from meddlesome humans Ė or protecting themselves from hungry orcs. Though they never fight directly, a village or tribe has to be particularly stubborn to drive the goblins to nastier and nastier deeds.

A village that threatens goblins too much typically wakes up one morning to find all their pets slain. Dogs, cats, any other animal accepted as a pet, all are dead with quick, clean kills. If the village continues on this path, they will find another morning that all their livestock has been killed. Should this prove no deterrent, there will come a morning when the village finds all the small children slain. At this point, a stubborn village will try drastic measures to flush out the Goblins and slay them all. Often goblins will sacrifice themselves to give the appearance that the village has succeeded in ridding themselves of this menace. The next morning, nothing is left alive.

Having witnessed this on occasion, humans and orcs tend to let the goblins be. A stolen pie or a sprained ankle is a small price to pay for good neighbors. Some human villages have found ways to ingratiate themselves with goblins, and frequently find hidden rewards as a result. The gratitude of a goblin is as great as his vengeance, but they never offer either in person.

Dwarves never tolerate goblins in their homes, and will suffer any indignity or sacrifice to get rid of the nuisances. Goblins have long learned to avoid dwarves as a result. Typically, the dwarves jealously guard this secret as they would any other. Goblins fear elves for some reason. They are terribly obsequious when caught by an elf, and avoid the Grey Elf city and any independent wizard tower where an elf resides.

2007-09-21, 03:35 PM
I like it. It makes them out to be sort of fey-like and capricious, yet grounded in the world they now find themselves, and as often beneficial as neutral.
I like it lots! :smallbiggrin:
Can I play? :smallwink:

2007-09-21, 03:42 PM
Looks good. They remind me of all those folklore household spirits that are never seen, and either help or hinder people, which I'm sure was the intent.

2007-09-21, 04:15 PM
Correct. They have some elements of the Russian "Domovoi", or house spirits, as well as some other fae qualities. I appreciate the comments and observations. They help me mull over things and come up with new things. For example, some Cosmology.


There is what is real, and there is its reflection. The reflection appears as the real, but at the same time it is its opposite. Nor is the reflection complete, only a fragmented image of the real.

The real is the Divine and the Mundane. The Divine is the home of the gods and their adversaries. They are powerful, mighty, and their struggles echo into the Mundane, there is where we find the land of the mortals, where lives are brief before the spirit is taken to the Divine.

The reflection is the Profane and the Fae. The Profane is the reflection of the Divine. The Dark Powers reside here, envious of the divine. Their might is not as strong as the might of the divine. There reside the demon and devils, the shadows and the deathless. They are barred from the Divine, never able to rise above their place, though the residents of the Divine can enter and leave the Profane at will. Denied the Divine, those of the Profane seek to drag those of the Mundane to them so that those mortals too will be denied what the Dark Powers cannot reach.

The Fae is the reflection of the Mundane. Like a reflection, it is not entirely real, but a world of illusions. It is wondrous and terrible to mortal eyes. Yet even so, few are the mortals that enter Faerie and choose never to leave. However, perhaps three races within the Fae, perhaps more are descended from Faerie. Though the Fae seems to consider itself better than the Mundane, it seems the Mundane claims more than it loses.

2007-09-21, 07:40 PM
very good but why don't the gods just kill all the profane and what about evil gods?

2007-09-22, 12:36 AM
Great questions!

First off:

The Divine and the denizens there aren't necessarily "good" or "evil". Moreover, just as the Mundane world has several regions, nations and factions, so there are different regions with competing factions within the divine itself.

The humans would regard their gods as "good" as their gods aid them, just as orcs would consider their gods "good". In terms of a somewhat objective Alignment system, they lean more to the neutral side than anything. (Lean neutral? That sounds odd. Clunky.)

Because of the conflicts within the Divine itself, they really don't overly concern themselves with the Profane. Or rather, though the Profane is a problem, the Giants at the doorstep at the gods are a much greater problem than that. Should the Giants be defeated utterly, the gods may turn to the problem of the Profane, but for now, it is allowed to continue as it's literally the lesser of two evils.

Sound good?

2007-09-22, 11:14 AM
great and about majic remember Odins a god of majic
EDIT so the giants will have dvr? and what archfiends will there be?

2007-09-24, 03:04 PM
I'm still formulating things. Here's some more on cosmology...

Though the Mundane realms are less powerful than either the Fae or Profane realms, the Mundane has one advantage: Access to the Divine which is greater than all three combined. Thus, the Fae seek the Mundane to gain that which they haven't.

I can see the Profane including both the regions of Hell and the Abyss, both with differing attitudes. Hatred of the Mundane will urge the demons to seek to destroy it. Devils would take a different view: Since the war with the Giants keeps the gods from taking notice of the Profane, then survival depends on that war lasting as long as possible. Thus, devils seek to corrupt mortals and bring them to the Profane so that the armies of the gods are never enough to actually defeat the giants, just remain at a stalemate. It's a dangerous game, because if they take too many souls, the Gods may take notice at what hinders their efforts...