Tuesday, January 1, 2019

[LEGENDARIA] New Labyrinth Lord Campaign Setting in Development

This is the first in a series of posts dedicated to building a library of races, classes, spells, magic items, technological devices, and various charts and tables dedicated to building and exploring a new LABYRINTH LORD campaign setting – LEGENDARIA.
Or rather I should say, an old campaign setting, as LEGENDARIA has been brewing in my head now for years. LEGENDARIA is a world inspired by and steeped in the concepts and themes of a certain selection of 1980s cartoons. The primary inspirations for LEGENDARIA can be found among the following cartoons (those with multiple asterisks being the most influential):
Thundarr the Barbarian* (Ruby-Spears, 1980-81)
Blackstar*** (Filmation, 1981)
Dungeons & Dragons** (Marvel, 1983-85)
He-Man and the Masters of the Universe*** (Filmation, 1983-85)
Galtar and the Golden Lance* (Hanna-Barbera, 1985-86)
Thundercats** (Rankin-Bass, 1985-86)
Those of you familiar with these programs can see where I am going with this, I am sure. Note that everything outlined below is subject to change as things develop; I am not going to pigeonhole myself on the development of this campaign.
The basic concept of LEGENDARIA is that it is a backwater planet in the far-flung future when both magic and technology flourish, but in a time when most of the planet and the nearby systems are stuck in a neo-medieval age a thousand years after a major pyrrhic interstellar war. Unknown to all but a few, ancient secrets of magical and technological power are hidden amidst the ruins of LEGENDARIA, artifacts of such might that whomever possesses them has the power to conquer galaxies and form the next Intergalactic Empire!
HISTORY – Untold ages ago, humanity and terrestrial biota spread out from Earth and the Solar System – which are long-since lost, though figure great in ancient legends. Interstellar and intergalactic civilizations, human and otherwise, have swept back and forth across the galaxies for untold ages. A thousand years ago the LAST GALACTIC EMPIRE fell in a terrible war against the LORDS OF THE VOID – servants of the DEMONS OF THE OUTER DARK. The Lords of the Void succeeded in destroying the Galactic Empire, but were themselves essentially destroyed, though some survivors hid to lick their wounds and perhaps rise again…
Today LEGENDARIA is home to a patchwork of tiny city-state-sized kingdoms in between which are wide swaths of savage wilderness. Here and there can be found small villages and hamlets, petty lords and robber barons. These realms are ruled by Heroes and Villains who wield ancient technological artifacts of super-science in one hand, even as the other hand wields a primitive blade or shield.
The scale of the campaign is small – five miles per hex – and geography changes dramatically and quickly, though most regions are separated by bands of rugged and dusty broken lands. Here and there can be found an atomic wasteland. Most ruins are stone ruins from previous neo-medieval realms rather than the twisted metal and glass of advanced and futuristic states. The entire campaign should be able to take place on nine maps, three by three, not counting the odd trip to other planets or dimensions.
RACES – there are many, many more races on LEGENDARIA than even on your typical fantasy world:
TRUE HUMANS are a small but significant minority and are further divided into countless cultures and ethnicities.
DEMI-HUMANS include elves, dwarves, gnomes, halflings, and other trans-human races, such as near-men, cat-folk, changelings, amazons, wolf-folk, and so forth, all descended directly from humans, though perhaps with a bit of animal or even alien DNA.
MANIMALS are descended from animals uplifted by technology; examples include ape-kin, goat-kin, sheep-kin, cat-kin, wolf-kin, bear-kin, and so forth.
GOBLINOIDS are descended from humans, demi-humans, and manimals corrupted by magic; examples include kobolds, goblins, orcs, hobgoblins, gnolls, bugbears, and so forth.
MUTANTS are descended from humans, demi-humans, manimals, goblinoids, and animals randomly mutated by radiation. There are stable mutant races as well as mutants of unique sort.
Together, the Manimals, Goblinoids, and Mutants are considered “HUMANOIDS.” Some human groups label all humanoids (and even demi-humans) as “SUB-HUMANS” or “ABHUMANS,” fit only for slavery or extermination.
For example, in some places the distinction between cat-folk (demi-humans) and cat-kin (manimals) is meaningless; in others, it can mean the difference between freedom and slavery.
ROBODROIDS include sophont (intelligent, self-aware) robots, androids, synthetics, AI vehicles, and the like.
ALIENS are beings from the PRIME PLANE but descended from a planetary biota not originally native to Lost Earth.
DEMONS are beings from or descended from beings from other dimensions, whether from Chaotic, Lawful, or Neutral realms; even Lawful Demons are utterly alien and often inimical to the lifeforms of the Prime Plane. Demons include GENIES, ELEMENTALS, and other like creatures that are native to other dimensions.
Most settlements are of a singular race, with perhaps a sprinkling of other nearby allied races, but there are a handful of settlements in each region that are more cosmopolitan.
CLASSES – I am taking a new tack on classes:
20th level is the highest level attainable, with most of the greatest lords, heroes, and villains being between 12th and 15th level. The campaign is a bildungsroman; player characters do not begin play as the great heroes (or villains) of the campaign but can become such through hard work and luck.
Levels 1-3 are Veterans, 4-7 are Heroes/Villains, 8-11 are Super-Heroes/Villains, 12-15 are Legendary Heroes/Villains; and 16+ are Mythic Heroes/Villains. The vast majority of the populace are 0-level “Normal Men/Women,” and thus to them, even a 1st level player character is of “heroic” stature.
There are race classes, and all non-humans must take their racial class; and all non-human races have level limits in their racial class (generally 8th to 12th). However, player characters of non-human race (and select NPC heroes and villains) can multi-class their racial class with other classes, and they are not limited in level in their racial or non-racial class (all XP charts continue to 20th level).
Humans can also multi-class. There will be special rules for multi-classing.
There are the four core classes – Cleric, Fighter, Magic-user, and Thief. Each of these have sub-classes, in the classic OD&D tradition of the paladin class or the BECMI Companion rules (i.e., if certain requirements are met, the character can join one of the sub-classes). A player character can begin play at 1st level with a sub-class or can wait until 3rd level to join a sub-class.
Riffing off of the classic Hero at 4th level and Super-hero at 8th level, 1st level as well as every level divisible by four has something special associated with the sub-class. This follows more in the vein of developments that might have occurred had the Mentzer Companion rules further expanded on the development of sub-classes, rather than the class kits of 2E or the character-build philosophy explicit in the design of 3E and implicit in 5E.
CLERICS are much more strongly flavored, and gain spells and other abilities, based on the god(s) they worship. Crusaders of the Star Gods do not have the same spells and abilities as the Cultists of the Demons of the Outer Dark; the Priests of the Mother of Life differ greatly from the Druids of the Elemental Lords and are even more at variance from the Scientist-Priests of Technologica. The forces of Law and Chaos are much stronger on LEGENDARIA than on the typical campaign world; the reverence of life, even that of one’s enemies, so prevalent in the inspirational material, is richly rewarded, while the cheapening of life is appropriately punished.
FIGHTERS can focus on specializing in the skills of their trade and specific weapon as a Swordsman, Axeman, or otherwise; serve their gods or demons as a Paladin or Anti-Paladin; roam the wilderness protecting civilization as a Ranger; join the wilderness and run with the animals of the wild as a Beastsmaster; release the beast within and transform into a living tornado of death as a Berserker; study, repair, and build weapons and vehicles as an Armsman; join a monastery and learn the way of the Martial Artist; and so forth.
MAGIC-USERS can remain a generalist wielder of magic as a Magician, or specialize in different types of magic: focus on the magical essence of Law as a Wizard; surrender to the magical essence of Chaos as a Sorcerer; embrace the magical essence of Death as a Necromancer; study magic under the tutelage of Fairies as an Enchanter; learn magic at the foot of Dragons as a Dracologist; steep in the lore of the phantasmagorical as an Illusionist; evoke the natural magic inherent in crystals and gems as a Crystallomancer; merge magic and technology in all-new ways as a Technomancer; and so forth.
THIEVES specialize in a specific type of thievery or criminal activity, or in more mundane if highly utilitarian sub-classes: Acrobats use their abilities to entertain and perform astounding criminal acts; Assassins are slayers of men; Bandits are stand-up thieves of highway and trail; Hackers specialize in Modern and Futuristic thievery; Mechanics focus on the study, repair, and construction of Modern and Futuristic technology; Pirates are the raiders of the river and sea-lanes; Rogues are sneak-thieves and duelists; Swashbucklers are suave and urbane upper-class scoundrels; Thugs are strong-arm smash-and-grab muggers and raiders; and so forth.
PROFESSIONS can be learned which grant bonuses to Ability Checks when performing certain actions or enable certain highly-skilled actions that could not otherwise be performed; many of these are TECH-LEVEL based (see below).
ALIGNMENT figures very strongly in this campaign and uses the core LL three-part alignment scale: Law versus Chaos, which in practice is the same as saying Good versus Evil.
LAW is personified in the LORDS OF LIFE, also known as the STAR GODS (for the stars are gods, and their light enables life and keeps back the Outer Dark). The Lords of Life are opposed by the DEMONS OF THE OUTER DARK and the power of CHAOS. Each faction has scores of gods, demi-gods, and petty gods as patrons. Worship of these two pantheons is spread across the galaxies. There are also countless regional and local UN-ALIGNED GODS who are out for themselves. Clergy in this campaign are much more quid-pro-quo than the pseudo-Christian clerics of regular campaigns, and Chaotic clerics are more along the lines of cultists than clergy.
At the beginning of the campaign there are two major forces fighting for dominance in the region. The LORDS OF LEGEND of CASTLE BLACKHAWK in the KINGDOM OF GREYMOOR are allied with Law (based in the region to the south), while the BANEMASTERS of DEMONFANG CITADEL in the SHADOW PEAKS are aligned with Chaos (based in the region to the north). The player characters are dropped in the middle of this war, to follow whichever path their choices lead them – both sides are always recruiting!
TECHNOLOGY varies from settlement to settlement. The Tech-Levels in order of “advancement” are: Stone-Age Savagery, Neo-Medieval, Modern, Futuristic, and Super Science.
STONE-AGE SAVAGERY includes Neo-Savages who live in post-apocalyptic squalor – the classic shield made of a STOP sign with a mace made of a parking meter.
NEO-MEDIEVAL includes Renaissance, so is highly variable; some settlements have black-powder weapons, others do not. The vast majority of Legendarians live in medieval towns, villages, and hamlets, rarely seeing and never owning any sort of advanced technology. In fact, the primary common philosophy of the day is similar to the beliefs of the Luddites.
Most folk do not trust high technology, as it too readily fails; is expensive in time and resources to maintain when far simpler technology suffices; and causes all manners of dislocations in society. That said, Neo-Medieval folk are generally not ignorant; their knowledge of science and medicine is generally as good as Modern settlements, they simply reject most higher forms of technology.
MODERN covers Steam to Interplanetary; a handful of locales on the planet (and none in the starting campaign region) have access to this technology. Most of these are decadent tyrannies ruled by depraved despots.
FUTURISTIC covers Interstellar – think Star Wars/Star Trek. The Lords of Legend and the Banemasters have access to this level of technology, though only the leaders and greatest heroes and villains are able to command its regular use. Most of the minions of the Banemasters are robots (non-sophont “dumb-bots”). Ruins and relics of Futuristic sort are strewn across the wilderness amidst ancient and recent ruins.
SUPER SCIENCE is everything beyond Futuristic, including Intergalactic, Interdimensional, Time Travel, and etc., in which science and magic are all but indistinguishable even to a Futuristic scientist. The ruins and artifacts of Super-Science level civilizations can be found in the deeper, darker wilderness of LEGENDARIA, amidst savage squalor and monster-haunted lands.
In all cases, MAGIC is found working cheek-by-jowl with technology at all levels. The ability to cast spells is actually relatively rare; elves have their innate magic, but otherwise spell-casting is reserved for clerics and magic-users (fighter and thief sub-classes do not gain spell-casting abilities, though some gain spell-like abilities). That said, magic is common enough that most mid-level heroes and villains command the use of one or more magical weapons; all magical weapons are unique, and all have special abilities in addition to their combat bonuses (there is no such thing as a “generic sword +1”). Any noble worthy of their title has a court magician; most are allied with the clergy of one of the major pantheons or a local godling. Even petty villages and hamlets have local wise-women and hedge-mages peddling magical nostrums, talismans, and amulets of questionable efficacy.
MUTATIONS are adapted from the MUTANT FUTURE RPG, with rules changes and expansions. PSYCHIC POWERS are also present, gained both through mutation and otherwise.
LANGUAGES – Every human, demi-human, and manimal speaks Intergalaic, the intergalactic common language (simply known as Common) and can read and write it in the Intergalaic Alphabet if of a minimal level of intelligence. Humans, demi-humans, and manimals have it programmed into their DNA; this was done at some indeterminate past age when intergalactic peace and prosperity reigned. Goblinoids, mutants, aliens, demons, and monstrous races generally have their own languages, and pick up a bit of Intergalaic as they use it to deal with the other races. Robodroids speak whichever languages they are programmed to speak; as most are built by humans, demi-humans, or humanoids, most speak or at least understand Intergalaic.
There are countless other languages, used by all manners of races, and an interminable number of writing systems. The profession of translator is in demand anywhere trade and peaceful interaction occurs.
STRANGERS IN A STRANGE LAND – the player characters are NOT from this world; they are from elsewhere, and thus do not know anything about LEGENDARIA, save perhaps some legends. They have arrived via a crashed spaceship, through a dimensional gate, thrown across the cosmos by a mysterious explosion, or are otherwise cast away on LEGENDARIA with no ready way to get back home.
Perhaps finding a way home is part of what they make of the campaign? Maybe instead they seek to make this new world their home. Exploration of the world becomes a goal in and of itself, whether merely to find food and shelter or to build an empire. New races and classes are opened for play when they are encountered.
As the characters journey across LEGENDARIA and build their new home, they discover allies and enemies, ancient and strange magic, weird and fantastic technology, and a world of adventure. Perhaps they gain cybernetic enhancements or might magical weapons? Maybe they discover ancient magical weapons of power to wield in the name of Law or Chaos? Gain alien followers and win the service of a battle-beast? Build a castle and found a kingdom of magical and technological wonders? Become heroes worthy of legend – or become villains that inspire terrifying myths and tales for thousands of years…
In LEGENDARIA, all these things can happen, and more…