Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Isles of the Saharan Sea: Sanmari, Isle of the Leviathans...

Good Afternoon, All:

Only two more ports to detail, and the basic ports of my Isles of the Saharan Sea will be done (until mapping needs to be done, of course.) My next port of call in the Isles of the Saharan Sea setting is Sanmari.

Location Name: Isle of the Leviathans, or the Orchid Port

Ambiance: With its unusually rich soil, Sanmari is teaming with exotic flora and fauna, particularly carnivorous orchids of unusual and vibrant shades. In addition, a leviathan breeding ground is located a few miles out from the port, providing an excellent opportunity to watch the great beasts, although they can be a hazard to sailing vessels during certain times of the year.

History: Eight generations ago, pirates began to use Sanmari as a launching point for their attacks against the coastal cities of the Serpentfolk along the mainland of Mediterrenea. Its location, abundant life and high presence of leviathans gave the site a distinctive advantage as a port of call for smaller, faster vessels making strikes against the larger Atlantican armadas. Three generations ago, the native population of the island left in a mass exodus, for reasons that were never understood by people of Sanmari.

Encounters: Creatures of the wild, particularly small primates and colorful birds of prey, are frequently encountered throughout the Orchid Port, and carnivorous plants of various sizes await those who travel into the jungles surrounding the port. Leviathan-hunters also frequent the port, particularly during mating season.

Treasures: Great natural resources, in the form of provisions and clean water, are abundant on the Isle of the Leviathans. Agbaya, a yellow cherry-sized fruit with healing properties, only grows natively in Sanmarian soil, and can be found in abundance within the jungles of the island's interior.

Hooks and Hotspots: Render's Row is the largest cemetery in the Isles for pirates, renders and corsairs. It is frequently blessed as holy ground, and the bodies of the fallen that are interred within the grounds have never suffered from the acts of foul necromancers or grave robbers. Deep in the jungle, the lost temple of a forgotten god holds the key to a prophecy whose time quickly approaches.


Monday, May 28, 2012

Isles of the Saharan Sea: Provada, the Isle of Magi...

Good Afternoon, All:

With the end in sight, my next stop on my exploration of the major ports of the Isles of the Saharan Sea setting is Provada.

Location Name: The Fist of Towers, or the Isle of Magi

Ambiance: Arcane spellcasters will always find a home within the walls of Provada. Indeed, a good number of major and minor arcane traditions have chapterhouses and guild halls on the island. Spellcasters of all kinds are held in high regard, particularly mages knowledgable in sea magic. Much of the coastline is marked with tall towers belonging to these mystic orders.

History: Seven generations ago, Provada was settled by a shipwrecked crew under the guidance of their Sea Magus. Five generations ago, the Grand Magus of Provada initiated the Games Arcane, a tournament for mages and ritualists held every half generation, which is used to determine the greatest magus of the Isles, the Magus Arcane. Winners present and past receive great accolades and the right to live on Provada tax-free.

Encounters: Spellcasters of unusual traditions abound on the streets of the Isle of Magi, as well as their defenders and protectors. Constructs and magically summoned creatures are also prevalent.

Treasures: The knowledge and lore of over a hundred magical traditions can be found among the libraries on Provada. Many potions, charms and scrolls are available in the alchemist shops here, unlike other ports in the Saharan Sea.

Hooks and Hotspots: The Mage Fields, the site of the Games Arcane, are carefully tended by servitors of the Grand Magus of Provada. The Bloodwind Stones mark a sacred circle where rituals have long been performed to the patron of magic.


Friday, May 25, 2012

Isles of the Saharan Sea: Ortugos, Port of Shadows...

Good Afternoon, All:

The next stop on my exploration of the major ports of the Isles of the Saharan Sea setting is Ortugos.

Location Name: Isle of the Dragon Turtle, or Port of Shadows

Ambiance: A pirate stronghold that grew into a port, Ortugos has all the unruly chaos of a city run by thieves. Even buccaneers and renders keep an eye on their personal possessions and walk warily past shadowed alleyways. Buildings in Ortugos generally appear ramshackle, and rise up several floors above the streets below. Banners and awnings block out the harsh sun overhead, giving the streets a very shadowy appearance.

History: Founded five generations ago by a renegade Serpentfolk pirate, Speaker For Dragon Turtles, Ortugos has been a particular thorn in the side of the Atlantican armadas. When Speaker For Dragon Turtles passed, the reins of power were seized by the Rogues' Guild of Ortugos, where they still reside to this day. One generation ago, many pirates reported that a dragon turtle entered the bay during a monsoon and apparently settled into the mud of the floor of the harbor. Sadly, no one has proved the existence of the dragon turtle, making the sightings an unexplained mystery.

Encounters: Dragon turtle monster cults are prevalent in Ortugos, as well as pirates, renders, corsairs and privateers of all origins. The dragon eels that dwell in the harbor are vicious, bloodthirsty beasts whose meat is eaten in the finer inns and taverns of the Port of Shadows.

Treasures: The plunder of a thousand ships is said to lie within the walls of Ortugos. The Guildmaster of the Rogues' Guild, Grandmaster Sylvas the Mariner, is rumored to possess a wondrous cloak which is said to grant its wearer mystical power over shadows.

Hooks and Hotspots: The Dark Oubliette (nicknamed the Pit of Shades by the locals) is perhaps the most feared underground prison in the Isles, as its many tunnels and chambers permeate the depths of the island. Prisoners cast into the Pit of Shades rarely return. A great statue of a dragon turtle is the largest work of art on the island. Indeed, any other effort to erect a larger statue often leads to sabotage and wanton destruction at the hands of monster cultists.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Isles of the Saharan Sea: Libertad, the Unshackled Isle...

Good Afternoon, All:

The next stop on my exploration of the major ports of the Isles of the Saharan Sea setting is Libertad. This takes us past the halfway point for detailing the ports of the setting. As I may have mentioned, I'm using the sandbox building methods suggested in An Echo Resounding. I've already creating a Hall of Infamy, and I am halfway through detailing the towns and cities (which I'm making ports in this setting.) After that, I'll probably cover some basics on the Resources, Ruins and Lairs, and then I should be good to go. While I have a map with everything marked, I'm hesitant about posting it, simply because I want to keep some of the mystery in case the players in that future campaign decide to read up on the background of the setting here on the blog. I figure the inspirational material I'm writing for background work is probably okay. While my players are very good about not using Player Knowledge in-game, I still like keeping some things a mystery for them, to increase their enjoyment of the game.

And now, we move on the port of Libertad.

Location Name: Libertad the Free, or The Unshackled Isle

Ambiance: Founded by former slaves, Libertad is a free port where slavery has been abolished. Many of the populace of Libertad are escaped slaves or descendants of such, and are generally resistant to any overt or oppressive authority. Indeed, the city operates under a communal city rule. The Order of the Unshackled Brethren, also known as the Order of Libertad, wage an ongoing crusade against slavers, capturing their ships, sparing prisoners and freeing slaves. Zegoths and Kelshani are generally shunned, unless they bear obvious markings of former enslavement.

History: Founded four generations ago by escaped slaves, Libertad has always struggled against the large Serpentfolk armadas. In the aftermath of the Wrath of Serpentis and the resulting disappearance of the Serpentfolk, Libertad has begun to swell with many escaped slaves seeking freedom and emancipation.

Encounters: Exiles, convicts and freedom-loving anarchists are commonly encountered on Libertad. In addition, the natives of the islands still maintain trade with the more civilized port, and often wander the streets of the port with their trained animals and bundled goods.

Treasures: There are few magical weapons in the Isles of the Saharan Seas, as the Serpentfolk made it a policy to seek out and take all magical weapons during their tenure as overlords. One of the few arcane weapons known to exist in the Isles, Freedomstrike, a magical scimitar of legendary power, serves as a symbol of the office of the Lord-Governor of Libertad.

Hooks and Hotspots: Freedom Hall, the base for the Order of the Unshackled Brethren, is a large stronghold built by the original settlers of Libertad, and often depicted in regional artwork as the representation of emancipation and the desire for freedom. Lepers and other diseased refugees have been quarantined to a small camp a few hours walk beyond the walls of the port. Known colloquially as Plague Town, this "tent city" has effectively become a small leper colony as more people come in and are quarantined than local priests and midwives can adequately handle.


Friday, May 18, 2012

Isles of the Saharan Sea: Kimojan, Isle of Tributes...

Good Afternoon, All:

The next stop on my exploration of the major ports of the Isles of the Saharan Sea setting is Kimojan.

Location Name: Bay of Shields, or the Isle of Tributes

Ambiance: Kimojan is a warrior's island, through and through. Generations of infighting warlords have left the island covered with small strongholds, even within the township of Kimojan proper. Mercenaries and thugs are a common sight in the narrow, crowded streets.

History: For more than six generations, warlords have fought one another for control over this island. Within the last generation, the island was finally united under one leader, the Great Warlord Shotokan. Under his merciless hand, the Raiders of Kimojan command tribute from the natives and residents of many islands within a few days' travel, earning the nickname of the Isle of Tributes.

Encounters: Mercenaries and common thugs are frequently encountered in Kimojan. An order of unarmed martial artists, the Disciples of the Reef, maintain a monastery not far from the port, and are easily recognizable for their distinctive dress and bald heads.

Treasures: Despite the claims that the gathered treasures of many islands line the steps of the Great Warlord's stronghold, Shotokan keeps the coins in a treasury vault, and displays the gaudier pieces in his Hall of Tributes for others to admire. Many sailors from Kimojan whisper rumors that the Great Warlord Shotokan tithes a significant portion of his tributes to the masters of the Disciplines of the Reef; this wealth is said to be kept in a vault in the lowest cellars of the monastery, far from prying eyes.

Hooks and Hotspots: The Hall of Tributes is a popular attraction for visiting dignitaries and a common target for wishful thieves, who very rarely succeed in making it through the Great Warlord's defenses. Those seeking to master the secrets of unarmed combat visit the monastery in hopes of being accepted as a Disciple.


Thursday, May 17, 2012

Isles of the Saharan Sea: Jetan, the Temple Port...

Good Afternoon, All:

I'm continuing my exploration of the major ports of the Isles of the Saharan Sea setting, because having this information will help me bring the setting to life once the campaign starts. Today, I'm writing up some basic details for the port of Jetan.


Location Name: The Temple Port, or the Isle of Shrines

Ambiance: A theocratic council governs this small port, and religious observances are abundant. It may seem that every other day is a holy day in Jetan, as there are many parades, feasts and celebrations. Pilgrims and beggars are a common sight, particularly in the overly adorned Temple District.

History: Around eight human generations ago, a band of religious outcasts found their way to the Isle of Shrines and began to worship in peace. As others came, the islanders recalled their persecution and so opened their arms to other religions and practitioners. About four human generations ago, the Holy Council of Jetan welcomed representatives of multiple religions among their ranks, and the island truely became a sanctuary for all faiths.

Encounters: Religous dignitaries and divine heroes frequently visit the Isle of Shrines. Oracles and those who seek their insight and blessings are also more common on Jetan than elsewhere.

Treasures: Many religous artifacts and sacred relics are locked away in the treasure vaults and reliquaries of the numerous temples and shrines of the Temple Port.

Hooks and Hotspots: Commoners of Jetan are afraid to enter the abandoned temple to Serpentis, fearful of attracting the Wrath of Serpentis; indeed, those few who have entered have not returned. Sermon Market has almost as many merchant stalls as it does proselytizers, and it is said that anything of historical or religious significance can be revealed if one should speak to the right people.


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Isles of the Saharan Sea: Devil's Cove...

Good Afternoon, All:

Now that work has let up a little bit, I can continue my exploration of the major ports of the Isles of the Saharan Sea setting. Today, I'm writing up some basic details for Devil's Cove, or Kelshandan.

Location Name: Devil's Cove, or Isle of Games
Ambiance: The slave trade thrives on this Kelshani island. The extreme social distinctions between the masters and their slaves divides the residents and flavors almost all social interactions. The Demon Court, an arena where warrior-slaves fight for their masters and for treasure, is the most recognizable feature of the island, and easily distinguishes this port from others at a distance. Other vices, particularly those of a hedonistic nature, thrive in Devil's Cove.
History: Around seven human generations ago, the Kelshani emerged from their underground empire and began to establish a presence on the surface of the World Within. About two human generations ago, the Kelshani established their autonomy from the Serpentfolk through a regular tribute of slaves every season.
Encounters: Important political prisoners are often sold into slavery in the markets of Kelshandan, so diplomats and representatives of many different island kingdoms maintain a presence here. Wild creatures are also imported to fight in the gladiatorial games.
Treasures: Much of the monetary treasure garnered by the Slaver Houses of Devil's Cove are transported to the Kelshani cities of the Underworld. However, political prisoners and well-trained pleasure slaves remain on the surface, and there are always people willing to pay for their rescue.
Hooks and Hotspots: A number of gambling houses provide diversion between gladiatorial combats, which are held for two watches with a twenty watch rest in between. (A watch is roughly four hours in length, and is the basic unit of time in this world where the sun never sets.) Great wealth can be earned in the Demon Court in one can survive the games, but few volunteer to participate of their own volition.


Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Isles of the Saharan Sea: Port Denjados...

Good Afternoon, All:

Now that I have my roster of regional villains, or my Hall of Infamy, in place, I want to get back to outlining the major ports of the Isles of the Saharan Sea setting I'm creating for my next major campaign. These ports are: Aljis, Denjados, Devil's Cove (Kelshandan), Jetan, Kimojan, Libertad, Ortugos, Provada, Sanmari and Tarth. Today, I'm writing up some basic details for Denjados.

Location Name: Great Denjados, or The Shipwright's Bay
Ambiance: Home to the greatest shipwrights of the region, Denjados is noteworthy for the great number of docks and shipyards about the bay. The primary city-state of the diminutive Denjani people, most of the buildings outside the port districts are small enough to be uncomfortable for humans and larger races. This gradual reduction in size creates the illusion of a very expansive city on the bay. The city itself honors craftsmen and artisans. Great Denjados is ostensibly controlled under the military rule of the great Zegoth Warlord Tal-Kash. However, the native Denjani owe most of their loyalty to their guild, who are loosely organized under an unofficial Council of Guilds in the wake of the Serpentfolks' disappearance.
History: Around seven human generations ago, the Serpentfolk started to use Denjados as a launching point for their efforts to control the raiders and pirates of the region. The sporadic crusades of the Serpentfolk and their privateers since then has colored the attitudes of many pirates to the port itself.
Encounters: Zegoth patrols and well-sponsored privateers are frequently encountered in the port of Denjados. Occasionally, dinosaurs and other reptilian beasts venture out of the nearby marshes and into the outskirts of the city.
Treasures: Among the treasures of Denjados, adventurers will find the superior sailing vessels of the Denjani shipwrights, as well as the well-crafted goods and objects of art created by the masterful artisans of the Shipwright's Bay.
Hooks and Hotspots: Much of the low-lying land around the city of Denjados is comprised of swampland known as the White Hag Glades by the populace. The Shrine of the Sapphire Scales, a temple devoted to an unworshiped snake goddess, serves as the primary stronghold of Warlord Tal-Kash. The catacombs and underground tombs of the temple remain untouched, the result of generations of fear.


Monday, May 07, 2012

Isles of the Saharan Sea: Hall of Infamy, Part 2...

Good Afternoon, All:

After I'd posted my initial entry for my Hall of Infamy, I started to work on the second half for today's post. Today's goal is to define four "mid-level" regional villains for the setting. I'll post the basic capsules of information for your consideration:
Lord Barabos, Admiral of the Unliving Armada
When warriors die a particularly gruesome death, some have been known to return to this world as an unliving revenant driven to complete their unfinished personal business. In the case of the pirate known as Lord Barabos, this task is more prolonged than most. Unknown to the public at large, Barabos is the eldest son of an island sovereign, exiled by a corrupt uncle who enjoyed the power of his regency during Lord Barabos's age of minority. Driven by vengeance, Lord Barabos means to take back his homeland with an invincible armada of undead, march into the palace and take his rightful place as sovereign, now that his father has past. Until then, Lord Barabos continues to gather an unliving armada of animated corpses and unliving sailors under his tattered banner.

Render-Lord Kytun Jandor, Tarthani Pirate Commodore
The Render-Lord Kytun Jandor is perhaps the most successful, or at least the most well-known, Tarthani pirate in the region. While Kytun Jandor is a rather greedy and vain pirate commander, bards frequently sing stories that hint at an honorable heart beating within his chest that yearns for redemption. Truth be told, though, Kytun Jandor understands the value of appearances. He often releases lyricists and singers he has captured if they swear to sing of Kytun's redeeming qualities. He will occasionally disguise himself and follow such prisoners into port upon release, to insure that their songs are flattering to him.

Sorcerers of the Sanguine Sea
While several benevalent orders of sea-mages exist on the Isles of the Saharan Sea, few compare to the martial prowess and nautical blood magic practiced by the Sorcerers of the Sanguine Sea. These vile spellcasters jealously guard their knowledge of sea magic, and have even launched raids and strikes against neighboring islands to slay other magical practitioners demonstrating knowledge of nautical magic (and steal their libraries, as well.)

Vax Zagros, Lord of the Kelshani Slaver House Obfaril
Even among the devil-men known as Kelshani, Vax Zagros is considered a bloodthirsty and sadistic slaver. Lord of House Obfaril, Vax Zagros loves to raid islands for potential slaves, with a particular fondness for both pleasure slaves and gladiators for the Arena of Souls in Devil's Cove. It is rumored that he keeps the most violent prisoners for his own personal hunting, a practice he occasionally opens to other nobles with similar tastes and coin to spare.

You may be able to catch a few of the inspirations for some of these lesser villains. For example, Lord Barabos is inspired by a combination of the first Pirates of the Carribean movie and the classic story of an exiled prince returning home to claim his birthright. Kytun Jandor is actually based on the concept of a villain with a car salesman attitude toward marketing and self-promotion. The Sorcerers of the Sanguine Sea were loosely inspired by the Crusades and the concept of a magical jihad, as well as a desire to find a place for the sword-mage concept within the context of the setting. The idea for Vax Zagros came from the events of a previous campaign, which in turn were inspired by The Most Dangerous Game. In all cases, of course, each character took on its own life as I started writing down details. I'm sure that they will continue to grow and evolve as I integrate them further into the Isles of the Saharan Sea setting.

With this selection of villains, I wanted to insure that I had a wide variety of experiences to offer up to the players. For example, if the players decide to pursue a more courtly or political game, the machinations of Master Peleon Nightshade and his rogue ninjas should be a lot of fun. Before I'm really done with these guys, I'll assign them two goals, one being short term and one being long term, and detail some of their resources, so that I know what they have to work with once the game begins. Oh, and I'll come up with some Sandbox Encounter write-ups for each faction, to make it easier to pull them out and present encounters on short notice. Chances are, you'll be seeing some of that work here as time moves forward.


Sunday, May 06, 2012

Isles of the Saharan Sea: Hall of Infamy, Part 1...

Good Evening:

I've really enjoyed reading through Sine Nomine Publishing's An Echo Resounding: Lordship and War in Untamed Lands by Kevin Crawford. Like Red Tide before it, there's a ton of great sandbox advice. One of my favorite concepts, simply due to its sheer simplicity, is the concept of the Hall of Infamy. Briefly, the "Hall of Infamy" is a simple process of creating a short, manageable list of major villains that will help shape regional events over the course of a campaign. These villains aren't instruments of railroading; instead, these could be considered background material that becomes powerful NPCs who could be enemies, rivals, or more rarely contacts or even allies. These are the forces behind the more powerful changes that take place in the setting over time.

To build a Hall of Infamy, you will identify seven bad guys. You start at the top with the Supreme Bad Guy of the setting, then you choose two "Name" level Bad Guys. Finally, you choose four Significant "mid-level" villains. These constitute your regional Hall of Infamy. All other lairs and villains are likely local affairs, so you don't have to worry about why the PCs haven't heard about them from their early years of adventuring. (And if seven regional villains aren't enough for you, you can always repeat the exercise again and you'll have fourteen to work with.)

For the Isles of the Saharan Sea, I thought I'd create a "Hall of Infamy," just to explore the concept and see how it works out for me. First, I started with the Supreme Bad Guy:
Mavarasha, Light Upon the Throne Triumphant
The Vanaran known as Mavarasha, Light Upon the Throne Triumphant, is a devoted priest of Thanatos, the Flame Lord. Conquest is a sacred responsibility to Thanatos, and the Light Upon the Throne Triumphant is no stranger to war and battle. He has conquered many of the Smoking Isles, and has set his sights on the islands closer to the mainland of Mediterranea. Mavarasha wears the Flamegold Warmask into battle, whether on land or see, as a sign of his devotion to the Flame Lord.

As you can see, I chose to follow a mystical path for the Supreme Bad Guy, and a priest of a war god seemed like a nice change of pace from a necromancer or a diabolist. Continuing on, I decided to create two "name" level Bad Guys, one based on a powerful warrior and the other on a powerful rogue.
Peleon Nightshade, Expatriated Grandmaster of the Brotherhood of the Black Rose
Master Peleon was once the Grandmaster of the Brotherhood of the Black Rose, a specially trained group of spies and mercenaries specialized in espionage, sabotage, infiltration and assassination (aka ninjas). He is a master of the unorthodox warfare and unarmed combat techniques employed by the Black Rose (i.e. ninja master). When internal strife led to the eviction of Master Peleon and his loyal followers from the Brotherhood, the former Grandmaster set up shop elsewhere and is now using his band's talents to infiltrate and manipulate foreign courts, seizing political control without direct confrontation. Because of the techniques used, attacks by Master Peleon's Black Rose Rogues are often blamed on the Black Rose proper. This is causing considerable friction between the Brotherhood and some of their clients, much to Master Peleon's personal delight.
Warlord Tal-kash, Zegoth General
When the serpentfolk mysteriously disappeared without warning or reason, many servitors of the "master race" panicked. One of the more competent and knowledgeable tacticians among the gorilla-men, Warlord Tal-kash quickly seized the opportunity to gain control of the zegoth warriors under his command. With an army and an armada under his command, Warlord Tal-kash has established a small empire from which he sends his demands for tribute from nearby islands. When someone stands up to the zegoth general, he raids and harangues his foes until he has conquered them and thus brought new subject lands under his control.

Tomorrow, I'll complete my "Hall of Infamy" with four significant "mid-level" regional villains. These should include a society of evil sword-mages, a Tarthani pirate Commodore, and two other interesting foes.


Thursday, May 03, 2012

Isles of the Saharan Sea: Port Aljis...

Good Afternoon, All:

Today, I begin an exploration of some of the more famous ports of the Isles of the Saharan Sea setting. I present to you the port of Aljis:
Location Name: Aljis the White, or The Isle of the Sons
Ambiance: The buildings of Aljis appear glistening white as seen rising up from the sea. As a trading hub, the streets of Aljis are crowded with merchants, pirates and other, less reputable sorts. Five gates breach the walls to give access when the port is not under attack.
History: Around ten human generations ago, the people of Aljis withstood a concentrated assault from a Zegoth armada with minimal losses. About three human generations ago, the city of Aljis divided in a civil dispute between the surviving sons of the fallen Aljisian king. Even though the youngest of them won through assassination and trickery and united the city once again, sailors took to calling it the Isle of the Sons.
Encounters: The people of Aljis are loose with their word, and are only interested in immediate gain. Frequent backstabbing and shady deals in back alleys are the norm. Those with a guilty conscience should be wary of the high presence of assassins and bounty hunters.
Treasures: A rich trading port, Aljis houses many mundane treasures captured from many of the surrounding islands. The Aljisian King is particularly proud of his collection of crowns and coronets belonging to neighboring sovereigns who have literally lost their head from pirates and the Zegoth armadas.
Hooks and Hotspots: It is rumored that the Brotherhood of the Black Rose, a particularly successful band of assassins, operates out of Aljis. Wishes made at the fountains of the Verdant Gardens of the palace are said to come true, but only if no one sees it being made.

What do you think?

With Regards,

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Isles of the Saharan Sea: Common Creatures...

Good Afternoon, All:

In looking at the World Within, and specifically the inhabitants of the Isles of the Saharan Sea, a number of general thoughts come to mind in regards to potential wilderness encounters.

Prehistoric Creatures
The concept of the World Within is inspired by Edgar Rice Burroughs' Pellucidar series. To pay homage to that, I want to make sure I include creatures from those novels. Because of its timeless nature, and vast surface, myriad creatures from all the ages of the Earth’s prehistory swarm throughout the primeval land of Pellucidar, as well as a few fanciful ones.

Ant Bear (Giant anteater-like ursoid)
Cotylosaur (Captorhinida)
Dire Wolf
Giant Ants
Giant Cave Bear
Giant Cave Hyena
Giant Cave Lion
Giant Octopus
Megatherium (Giant Ground Sloth)
Phororhacos (Axe beak)
Saber-toothed Tiger (Smilodon)
Woolly Mammoth
Woolly Rhinoceros (Coelodonta)

No fantasy campaign setting seems complete without a list of unusual humanoids to potentially interact with, and the Isles of the Saharan Sea is no different. I've already listed a few previously, and there are some others that I can include from the inspirational material, plus one or two more for good character race choices. I don't want too many, but I think the following should make for a good start.

Denjani (Gnome-like scholar race)
Kelshani (Devil-men or tiefling-esque)
Minotaur (Bovine-men)
Tarthani (Four-armed men)
Vanaran (Monkey-men)
Zegoth (Gorilla-men)

Exotic Creatures
In a world where dinosaurs and prehistoric creatures still exist side by side, there is little need for many of the common supernatural or magical creatures found in the usual campaign settings. There are a few notes to remember:
  1. Aberrations: For a very Pulp-oriented feel, I could include those aberrations that bear a strong Cthulhu feel. Since I used them somewhat as a focus in my last campaign, I may skip that, but one or two are sure to make an appearance, just because.

  2. Dragons: Dragons in the World Within are not intelligent creatures. Instead, they are feral hoarders with a magpie-like attraction to shiny things. I haven't decided if they have breath weapons. If so, I'm inclined to make them acid breathers.

  3. Elementals: Elementals will likely appear only in conjunction with the work of conjurers, or trapped within some of the many dungeons scattered throughout the Isles of the Saharan Sea.

  4. Fey: Fey were a big part of my last campaign, so I will likely not include them in this one.

  5. Giants: Giants will likely be isolated creatures inhabited the mountains of remote islands.

  6. Intelligent Reptiles: One of the premises behind the setting concept is that all intelligent reptiles have vanished suddenly and without reason (well, it's because of the actions of the players in the current campaign, but within the setting, no one will know.) That's why there are no kobolds, serpentfolk, lizardfolk, intelligent dragons, etc. This is a hard and fast rule. No exceptions!

  7. Magical Beasts: Beasts of myth and legend aren't as likely to appear in the World Within. Those that do should be few and far between. I want a more pulpy flavor here, not a recycled pseudo-European fantasy feel to the setting.

  8. Oozes: A well-placed ooze goes a long way toward setting a creepy tone in an ancient ruin. They're definitely in.

  9. Outsiders: Like elementals, outsiders will likely only in conjunction with the work of conjurers and diabolists, or trapped in a dungeon or abandoned tower.

  10. Plants: Plant creatures make for awesome encounters in a jungle setting, and so I feel confident I'll be using them a lot.

  11. Undead: Undead, particularly zombies and other corporeal unliving creatures, have a strong Pulp feel, and so will have a place in the setting.

  12. Vermin: Like plants, giant vermin are also common to pulpy jungle stories. In particular, I'm sure I'll use giant scorpions and giant dragonflies frequently.

These are my thoughts, but I'm open to other suggestions. What do you think of these elements?

With Regards,

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

The Next Campaign Idea: Isles of the Saharan Sea...

Good Afternoon, All:

Now that my current campaign has entered into its "end game" phase, some of the players have already begun voicing their thoughts on what they'd like to see in the next campaign. One has very specific ideas regarding exploring the World Within as pirates on the oceans of that hollow world, particularly in light of the power vacuum they intend to create should they complete their final mission and transform the world. Another wants to play a four-armed character, reminiscent of the Green Martians of the John Carter movie and novels. The others seem agreeable to both concepts.

I've asked for additional feedback and thoughts, but even these two requests have started to fuel my imagination. I picture a pulpy island campaign setting, similar in geography to my old Nine Kingdoms of Arn setting, except with more jungles, megafauna and maritime adventuring opportunities. I can picture mass battles between armadas on the open sea or maneuvering around islands. Gorilla-men, former servitors of the serpentfolk, are trying to maintain the position they've established under their vanished leaders, while other races are starting to rise up in the chaos to take their place among the victors. The four-armed Tarthani would make excellent maritime marines, while the nimble Vanarans make for excellent topmen onboard ship. The aquatic Ooloi would make an appearance as the default underwater race, and potentially Kelshani slavers would be a frequent occurrence. Dinosaurs and prehistoric mega-sized mammals would be common non-supernatural encounters in the jungles of the Isles of the Saharan Sea. The setting would be a huge sandbox of islands and maritime phenomena, and there'd be a lot of abandoned serpentfolk sites to raid. The fact that the sun never sets in the World Within would make for an interesting element, and I'm sure that there are plenty of new and flavorful tropical encounters I could introduce after adventure for many years in a primarily temperate region.

Needless to say, I'm excited about the idea, so long as the interest holds up with the group. Right now, though, we're going to focus on the "end game", which could take several more months. But in the back of my head, the Isles of the Saharan Sea concept has now taken root...

More Later,