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Thursday, September 2, 2010


It is said, that somewhere far to the South lays the Sea of Tears, also sometimes knon as the Great Dark Sea. The coast of that sea is known as Demonlands. It is said, that a long time ago, the South, at least, was ruled by a great kingdom, which ruled by witch craft and demon worship. In that kingdom were cities that floated in the sky and great ships, which sailed among the clouds. And there were mountains, in the depths of which toiling demons were chained, which spewed fire and smoke, and which kept that great ancient kingdom afloat. Something went wrong, and the great cities crashed on the ground, and the demons broke loose and to this day haunt that land, driving the inhabitants insane.

To the North in Leonia, an acient realm ruled by the mother church with its bishops and its papacy and the divine right of its kings and nobles. It is said that all of the known land is Leonia, and that the church is fighting the glorious battle to rid the land of the demons. It has strived to ban all sorcery on the penalty of death, and has instituted entire orders to fight witch craft, but the wizards were needed to help Leonia survive among the other kingdoms, which practiced magic, especially the driven Kraitland knights to the East, and the barbarian hordes from the West, which were said to be doing both, following the maddened vision of theit insane shamans and following the edicts of the Prophet Mohammed.  Life is comfortable, and relatively safe for its peasants, who are bound to their land by serfdom, not so for its nobles, who have to contend with the encoachments of the clergy and rival aristicratic families fighting for ascendancy to the Leonian throne. Leonian politics are deadly. A simple peasant drinking at a tavern might utter the wrong words about the prists, the King or the nobles, will be taken away from his home in the middle of thenight, never to be seen again, so common folk are wise, and never speak of such things. Life goes on from day to day the same way that it always did.

To the East of Leonia is Kraitland. It is known for its mad knights, who have unparallelled skill with combat and who have traveled the world to improve their fencing prowess so as to prevail in various combats and jousting tournaments back home. Krait is also the name of a brightly colored snake with a poisonous bite that will bring its victims an agonizing death in a matter of minutes. Some say that the tade mariners and merchants plying the spice routes had the misfortune of first encountering this snake have named it in the honor of the infamous warriors, the name also matches, because of the bright colored jester-like outfits, which Kraitland nobility wears at their Court, which macth the snake's bright gaudy colors. It is said by Leonian Bishops, that Kraitlanders practice witchcraft and devil worship. Kraitlanders themselves laugh and shrug, saying that the world's deadliest snakes were created by God to prey on and to feed on other poisonous snakes.

Midlands is the territory in the middle of it all. Several times Leonian bishops have called forth Crusades to exorcise the demons from the South and to fight the South's insane inhabitants. Crusades were swallowed without a trace. Those that came back either were incoherent in their madness, or have never actually ventured into the Demonlands, instead remaining on Leonia's Southern frontier. These individuals have proved more effective at halting the northward spread of the chaos associated with the Demonlands (known as Twilight) then the crusades. Eventually the Leonia's Terras Australus, as the Southern frontier became known, started to attract a certain kind of a settler. Secret magicians, philosophers and dissident clergymen wandered South to be awa from the strict ideological control of the Leonia proper. Serfs tired of their overlords sometimes fled and moved southwards, adventurers and impoverished noblement also ventured South in hopes of finding plunder and means of substinence derived from swordsmanship. The spread of Twilight northwards was enough for Leonian kings and vassals to look the other way and let the free spirits serve as cannon fodder in the battle agaisnt the unknown. Eventually the region became unruly and rebellious. Serfs became homesteaders and refused to recognize the authority from the North, as did all sorts of outcasts, warlocks and adveturers. Representatives of the Church and the King were widely mistreated and agents of the inquisition murdered as the local lords looked the other way. Practitioners of witch craft gained influence with the local powers. Eventually a rebellion occured at the outbreak of the border skirmishes between Leonia and their neighbors to the East, Kraitlanders,a dn their neighbors to the West, the Barbarians, Leonia was on the verge of having enemies penetrate deep into its interior, has offered Midlands independece and freedom to expand Southward into its former territories in exchanghe for aid agaisnt its traditional enemies. Midlands quickly emerged as a successful fronties kingdom, with a ruling confederation of Barons instead of a king or traditonal nobles. Unlike in the North, anybody can become a Baron, who could wrest control of a sizable portion of the Demonland and provide for the safety of a village or town to allow for enterpise that can be taxed and make the Baron wealthy enough to sit in the Council. This happened about three generations agom and today the Kingdom of Midlands has slowed its Southward exploration to a snail's pace. Part of it is te politics, in which the Landlords of the Southern Marches, the very frontier with the Demonlads aere highly reluctant to let other's establish landholdings South of them, thereby takign the frontier torch away from them. Within the assembly of barons is the Council of Defence, whoch consists of the Baron's of the Frontier holdings banded together into a semi-secret alliance, where they make the key decitions for Midlands. It is a powerful and prestigious club, or
klicka, and nobody wants to be forced out of it, because some upstart has taken the torch and established froentier holdingfs further south. That seems to be a part of the explanation, and the other part may be that the Demonland has started transforming the settlers themselves into its aberrations, known as Children of Twilight.  At any rate, our heroes have found themseves in the part of the Midlands Marches, knows as the Blacklands Barony. More on the Heores' microgeography later. 


  1. Interesting evolution for a history.

  2. Can you be more specific? Actually, it's the same old European history adjusted for the alien and the supernatural that exists in Midlands.

  3. I really like the Great Kingdom idea, I love primitive worlds built on the bones of a more advanced culture. Destructive Archeology is one of my favorite things to do in a game! Having the magic to contain and control demons? THAT IS SOME SCARY STUFF!

    Leonia is also a logical over-reaction and it forces the mages into the realm of the occult. It is always nice to allow Lawful Good alignments to be villainous; not many DMs understand that, they take their moral baggage with them when playing the game. It is refreshing to see somebody do it right!

    Krait also appears to be fun to adventure in, but it is a bit too brief . . . is it a land ran by one King and ran by a powerful and all embracing government like Russia? Is it evil? Is it an unstable state ran by Warlords? It is interesting, and I see why you say that your players need to figure it out.

    Then we come to the Midlands, this sounds like a great place to adventure in, with lots of possibilities and opportunities for growth which can go either way. It is a wonderful example of a framework that doesn’t restrict you in any way, and can handle lots of stuff going on.

    This is well thought out, and full of exciting possibilities! Most homebrew worlds I find to be too narrow in scope and vision, (my own included) but you have a solid plan that still makes room for lots of growth. I tip my hat to you, fine sir!

  4. Thank you for reading, Rip. I was fortunate to hit on the right balance with the framing. Forget about drawing maps and trying to define your world with boundaries. Write a paragraph dedicating a sentence to each major part of your world. Then write a paragraph about the part of the world your players are adventuring in. Repeat again on the level of the city/region/county, where your players are adventuring. Do the same at the country level, etc. Another trick is to make lists of names of people places items etc. Another exercise to flesh out the setting is to make a spreadsheet. On the left list all of the factions that you are trying to compare against each other. On top define the columns with points of comparison - say, number of men at arms, locations they control, what magic items they have, how they get their wealth, how they react to the players. Then write away for each faction on each point of comparison.

    Leonia, land of the Lion, is a repressive land. It is called such, because the Lion is the emblem of the Vatican. It is a different kind of a place. Difficult to cross into. They use paper currency. Excessive possession of treasure is illegal. It must be banked.

    I like your idea of the Destructive Archeology. Magic, like other highly profitable and skilled profession is under the strict control of the Wizards Guild. Teaching magic outside the guild is strictly forbidden, punishable by lobotomy, as is the fate of the illegal self-taught wizards, who become too powerful. Guild fees are very expensive, more so as the players advance in level. Most players so far start as illegal wizards, learning magic by hook and by crook, and I have a detailed game mechanic for the acquisition of the spells. 95% of the Guild Mages do not adventure, but earn their living via peaceful application of the spells - stone to mud for digging excavation, Tenser's floating disk for heavy lifting, floating eye for exploration into difficult to reach places etc.

    If Leonia is based on Holy Roman Empire and the city states that later became Italy. Kraitland is the Teutonic Territory, that later would became Germany. Their military is not large enough to dominate the rest od their larger neigbors, like larger and more backward Leonia, but they rely on the deadliness of their knoghts, who are the deadliest warriors, who turn to dark arts to improve their lethality and survivability, and could likely double as spies, thieves, wizards, and assassins. Kraitland is protected from Leonia by rugged mountains and was the subject of a failed crusade or two.

    There are three great taboos in Midlands, the one that get the person lynched on the spot. Nor that there is any other evil, but these are universally despused: Assassins Guilds, Slave Trade and Necromancy. Assassins Guilds can impersonate the person's Soul (Alignment), these doppelgangers are the ultimate traitors, and to kill someone for money for no personal reason is an offense against God. All assassins and their apprentices must hang! Slave trade sells good people for human sacrifice, enabling the evil magic. All Slavers must be put to the sword, their victims freed, their ships and caravans put to the torch! Necrimancers perform vivisection (surgical) experiments on living people, whom they usually kidnap or buy as slaves. They are insane sadists, who aren't even aware of the pain they ae inflicting. Necromancy is outlawed by the Wizards' Guild, and all captured Necromancers must be turned over to the Leonian Paladins and their Inquisition for the complete and thorough investigation to find other practitioners of this dark arts. After the investigation and the trial, it is customary to cut off their hands and their tngues, so that they may not utter and curses, and then to burn them at the stake, so that they may not come back from the dead.

    1. NO MAP!?! I can't get past that comment. No map? None, whatsoever?

      I suppose that you don't need one, but I LOVE maps, I do. I can see the world better with one, but this actually explains a lot about your game, and clarifies many of the statements that you have made in the past. This is just such a foreign concept to me, and I can see how it would work, and work well, but I can't give up my maps! I couldn't do it :)

      How you treat mages is interesting, and I love it! That kind of system has always intrigued me, and I did run a short-term campaign in Inquisition controlled France, but the players didn't play wizards, so never got to explore that aspect of the world.

      Then we come to assassins . . . I personally hate assassins, and don't use them at my table. Not as a PC class, nor as an NPC class, any class can commit assassinations, that is an action, not a class.

      Your world sounds amazing! Kind of reminds me of reading Greenwood's articles in Dragon back before the Realms were an actual setting. Keep working!

    2. Oh no, Rip, you misunderstood! Of course I use maps - Dungeon maps, town maps, area maps, however, the biggest scale map is of the County where adventurers are based, with distances and travel times between the most common locales calculated. I run a tactically realistic game.

      What I was talking about, was World Building. In that process, I start drawing maps later in the process, the areas that the players will cover during the course of the adventure. I start mapping later in the world-building, but I still do it.

      I agree with you, assassination is one of those things that needs to be role-played. In my game other character classes can become assassins, and if they join the assassins guild, they have the option of doubling into the assassin class. My Magic Users can spend their time learning fighter skills, hence swords and cross-bows for wizards, but they can't cast spells in heavier armor. If a wizard has the strength and stamina of a powerful fighter, he or she can cast spells on chain mail with an open faced helmets and gloves off.

  5. The nine point D&D system for Alignment, is both, a bad theory and accurate. You can find the nine alignments in the real world, but this comes from various very different walks of life, as a result of very different influences, and hence, the two axis Chaos vs Law and Good vs Evil are bogus, but people do exhibit the traits associated with the nine alignments. Read the post here:


    BTW, USSR and Kremlin of old, were very similar to Vatican on the eve of the protestant reformation. Post Soviet Russia is a one big corrupt Mexico, but on a grander scale. Both countries bear the strikingly similar systems of Governors, and the organization of its military into regional military district. District Military commanders have remarkably similar statuses and powers.

    1. Now that alignments have been removed from the system, I see it as the lose of a great tool which the Dungeon Master had at his disposal. There is a lot of lazy role-playing going on today, and players are getting away with murder. Alignment isn't a big deal in my world, until it is. I track it, and if a player makes bad decisions that does not reflect the alignment on his sheet, I'll force the change and he'll suffer the consequences, thankfully my players are all really good at what they do & I've never had to do that.

    2. I don't really force the players to act out their alignment. Alignment is there as a template for to guide the NPC's behavior. I don't punish the NPC's acting out of alignment. What id does, id that it lowers the player's charisma among his or her followers. CHA is not a static score. When a Lawful and a Chaotic characters meet, each will react to the other as if their charisma was a few points lower. A player charcater betraying his or her alignment, will lose CHA in the followers eyes. There are many nuances and objectives, but evil generally sees goodness as weakness and foolishness, Good sees evil as meanness, corruption, and moral reprehension, Law and neutrality see chaos as unpredictability and or weakness, Good sees Neutrality as moral weakness and selfishness. Neutrality sees others as emotionally off balance. When a player acts out of alignment, the reaction among the friends and followers will be largely negative. That's not just D&D, that social research, particularly in small groups and hierarchical organizations.