A Monster for Every Season: Summer 2
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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Barbarian in the Playground

    Join Date
    Jan 2016
    United States

    Default Lets Build a Setting: Back to the Classics

    D&D fantasy is a mature genre and so has a lot of cliches and overused concepts that plague it. But in my opinion there is still value in the original concepts when boiled down to their essential elements. In my own experience, to read of or hear about a cliche is very different from actually playing through one, and doing so can be surprisingly fun and evocative. So lets build a setting post by post trying to use the most "classic" elements possible while also trying to put a creative spin on the idea, or make it fit D&D better.

    You can post about whatever you want, an idea for a campaign within the setting, a country, a civilization, a race, a continent, world, a planet or even plane. I think classic fantasy extends even to the things we might consider cheesy, like aliens in flying saucers, fairy kingdoms, time travel, and gods of light and darkness battling at the beginning or at the end of the world.

    I'll begin with a D&Dified take on Sauron, which I'm not sure I've ever really seen:

    The Necromancer is a lich who rules from his Dark Tower in the North and once led an army of monsters to conquer the world, but he was stopped by an Alliance of races (all the races in the player's handbook) and was ultimately by a Paladin Hero who wielded one of the five Holy Avengers. However, unknown to all, his Phylactery remained and would regenerate the Necromancer in time if it was not stolen from the Frozen Tower in the wake of his defeat by a mysterious Mad Wizard. The Necromancer dares not to regenerate himself while his Phylactery's location is unknown to him for fear of a trap, and so he waits, communing with his lieutenants by portents and visions and sending his nine death knights to scour the land for the Mad Wizard to secure his Phylactery so he can return to this world and begin anew his war to dominate all life. The identity and intentions of the Mad Wizard is a mystery to all, but the forces of good must find him and destroy the phylactery he stole in order to end the Necromancer's evil once and for all.
    Last edited by Trask; 2021-08-07 at 04:57 PM.
    What I'm Playing: D&D 5e
    What I've Played: D&D 3.5, Pathfinder, D&D 5e, B/X D&D, CoC, Delta Green

  2. - Top - End - #2
    Ogre in the Playground

    Join Date
    Nov 2011

    Default Re: Lets Build a Setting: Back to the Classics

    In the icy northern forests live a hardy and independent folk. They range farther afield in winter months hunting and trading, but return to their homes in the warm months in the hope of getting one good harvest before the winter cold.

    Due to their proximity to the Necromancer the woodsfolk have a familiarity with undead. They have folklore and superstions that warn them and guide them when detecting and dealing with various types of undead.

  3. - Top - End - #3
    Bugbear in the Playground
    Join Date
    May 2013

    Default Re: Lets Build a Setting: Back to the Classics

    That "Sauron" sounds an awful lot more like a riff on the Lich King of Warcraft. Probably intentional, mind. Here's a bit leaning on Old Lore for how the Always Evil races worked:

    Among the Necromancer's Death Knights, there once was one known to myth as the Carrion-Wolf. Often attributed as the first were-beast, the truth of this abhorrent creature is a far darker matter, being closer kin to Worgs and Ghouls than any more typical creature. Rather than having ever been a true mortal, the Carrion-Wolf was created from a rabid beast in a fell ritual seeking to create living servants with the same unflinching cruel loyalty as the Undead, by bloating the Animus that Undeath tears from the soul into a fell intelligence driven by carefully chosen instincts.

    Its descendants include the Ghoul Fever itself, the twisted strain of the very same blight that afflicted it before its transformation, as well as exceptionally gnarled bloodlines of Worgs born of its carnal desires, but also many other fundamentally cruel and foul creatures derived from the same unholy curses inflicted upon it.


    The thing of it is that in Old Lore, Goblinoids and Orcs and such literally did not have souls like humans, but rather a fundamentally different and intrinsically Evil animatic force relating to the Gods that made them, if a reason was ever given in the first place. It also covers the Death effect resurrection difficulty by having the "motor functions" of the soul be what's taken to operate Undead, so you have to use much more complicated, rare, and powerful magic to fix this spiritual harm to actually manage to get the soul to stick.

    And, of course, the fact you are ripping the soul apart makes "standard" Necromancy guaranteed Evil and intelligence complicated, but you also can have a Ghost of someone who's body was used to make another sort of Undead because the chunk of the soul taken has little to do with conscious thought. Just a bit that packs a few different answers to questions that keep coming up in Alignment debates.

    The Always Evil monsters are not remotely the same kind of intelligence as actual people, they're magically engineered war-beasts with raw cognition magically grafted on to allow them to more efficiently execute their drives with zero new ability to determine those themselves. Those that used to be people simply retain speech through neurological changes that ought to remove it, suffering the same dramatic failures of self-control and altered drives said damage should come with; Ghouls in this case are literally rabies victims who become intelligent Undead instead of falling into outright insentience and death. The cannibalistic aggression of rabies? Still there, still completely shuts down normal morality.

    It's basically adding clockcycles to a paperclip maximizer, you can't get a useful general artificial intelligence that way no matter how hard you try, because it just isn't the right programming.
    Last edited by Morphic tide; 2021-08-10 at 02:08 PM.

  4. - Top - End - #4
    Bugbear in the Playground

    Join Date
    Sep 2016
    United States

    Default Re: Lets Build a Setting: Back to the Classics

    I suppose we're meant to build on what's been posted? Ok, I'll give you your Elves. This represents my attempt to blend Tolkien-esque Elves who are tragic, benevolent allies of men against the forces of evil, with older, fairy-tale Elves who are mercurial jerks of uncertain morality.

    In the Fair Folk, the realms of men find but uncertain allies against the Necromancer. Though certainly they have no love for the Necromancer's dark designs, neither do they feel kinship with the folk of the towns, or with the knights in their keeps. Their Law is old and wild, its rules labyrinthine and its penalties severe; and men have, oft and oft unknowingly, built up a great many score of transgressions 'gainst the Fair Folk; and they in turn remember the reprisals for these transgressions: their crops withered by the Fair Queen's frosts for bridging a stream, their villages raided by the Fair King's riders for planting oaks alongside birches. The country people are wise where knights and burghers are foolish, and have learned, if not the Law itself, how to avoid breakig it, and how to propitiate the Fair Folk where it has been broken.

    But it is not these ancient feuds alone which keep the Fair Folk occupied. Their realms are ruled by the Dance, a cycle as old as the earth, in which the King and Queen make love and war with one another in shifting seasons. Few elves give themselves wholesale to the King or to the Queen, but all feel the stirring of the Dance in their hearts, the desire to be swept up and submerged in it. They know, by painful example, that to follow the Dance leads to sorrow and death. The life of an Elf is measured not in definite span of years, but in how long his individuality can assert itself against the rhythm of the Dance, before he joins it to his doom. It is for this reason, to forestall the grip that the Dance tightens over their souls, that many Elves voyage to mortal realms, and interest themselves in the affairs of men; but it is only ever a delay before the Dance calls them home and claims them in its sweep.
    Last edited by Catullus64; 2021-08-12 at 08:49 AM.
    The desire to appear clever often impedes actually being so.

    What makes the vanity of others offensive is the fact that it wounds our own.

    Quarrels don't last long if the fault is only on one side.

    Nothing is given so generously as advice.

    We hardly ever find anyone of good sense, except those who agree with us.

    -Francois, Duc de La Rochefoucauld

  5. - Top - End - #5
    Ogre in the Playground

    Join Date
    Nov 2011

    Default Re: Lets Build a Setting: Back to the Classics

    What Are Halflings?

    Some say they are the children of elves. They don't explain how there are old halflings.

    Some say a human mated with a fairy. Um... Was it good for her?

    The truth is that nobody knows.

    The Truth

    Elder titans created what was to become halflings before even the gods were born. At the time these beings were more like ogres than anything currently alive, but the first gods discovered that they could gain power from the devotion of these beings, and they scrambled to gather as many as they could and they reshaped them to their ideal.

    A war was fought by the proto-ogres against the gods, but the gods won, even though some of the elder titans fought on the side of their creations. This war reshaped the world and the gods divided it among themselves.

    A sad ending for the first gods came as new deities were birthed, ascended from mortals, or came to be in other ways. The new breed, having grown up with worship, were better attuned to it and much more dependent upon it for their sustenance. They displaced the elder gods, some few of which survive in a much weakened state, deprived of worship.

    Thus, two generations of gods formed halflings, humans, ogres, giants, and the modern beings called titans, though they are fully mortal. The original proto-ogres are long gone.


    On occasion a traveler will tell of a hidden valley or mountaintop or deep jungle where a city of tall, beautiful humanlike folk live in peace with abundant food and a lifestyle devoted to art and leisure.

    But returning to the place, one finds only a valley, mountain, or jungle.

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