Without really meaning to, I started coming up with a campaign setting for D&D4e. It makes me wish that I could buy something close to it in book for, because I’m not sure I’m qualified to write up everything it calls for. Still, I was thinking about running a D&D mini-campaign, and this is looking to be an interesting enough setting to make me want to do it.
The setting is a mixture of D&D, Final Fantasy, assorted anime, Neil Gaiman, China Mieville, etc. I want a world that’s over the top, baroque, and sometimes surreal. So, there’s this massive Empire of Man that, through ambition and soulfire technology (tentative name), which uses captured spirits as batteries/fuel, spanned the whole of its homeworld and is now spreading through the ether to colonize other worlds. This takes place in Nine Towers (also a tentative name), a colony that has very rich soulfire resources, but also faces threats from powerful natives and dangerous monsters. The Empire is spread thin right now, so it can’t actually provide Nine Towers with the military support it really needs, even as it demands more and more soulfire shipments.
The capital of Nine Towers is a city that was formed by a Dreamshaper, one of an exceedingly rare breed that can transpose elements of reality and the Dreamtime. Thus the city is a great surreal sprawl stretching into the sky, beautiful and twisted, but with very real nightmares lurking in its far corners.
This setting is meant to have some of the issues that D&D normally glosses over, including racism (non-humans are not given imperial citizenship unless they earn it through exceptional service), sexism (though more like 1950s than medieval), and modernity (soulfire technology has propelled the Empire beyond its agricultural economy abnormally fast).
Imperials refer to the main race of the natives as “Wild Folk.” This is a new race I’m working on, based on the Varna from Arianrhod, the weird tribes you meet in Gradia, and so forth. Basically, they look human but they’re a little smaller and quicker, and they have some kind of animal features (tails, ears, horns, etc.) depending on which tribe they come from. The twist is that they’re at least as vital and ambitions as the humans, but the Empire founded Nine Towers before their civilization really took shape. The Wild Folk have an animistic religion, and a considerable command over spirits, though how they express it varies greatly. Hence, Wild Folk can include druids, witch doctors, shamans, barbarians, summoners, etc. (And to do the setting properly I think I need a new Summoner class…)
Some other things that I think are neat:
- The two main religions of the Empire are the newer monotheistic faith of the One God, and the polytheistic faith of the old gods. The clergy of the One God dislike letting the old ways persist, but soulfire technology depends on the summoning rites of the old ways.
- Magic is a scientific practice; the Empire employs many sorcerer-scientists. Divine powers are actually magical rites encoded within scripture.
- I want to do something with different varieties of humans (races in the proper sense of the word) rather than leaving it totally generic, but I’m not sure what.
- Most D&D races are not present. Eladrin, Tieflings, and Genasi are “re-skilled” as “Spirit-Touched” humans, people warped by soulfire exposure or other factors. I may throw in some of the other optional races from the Monster Manual (Shadar-Kai, Dopplegangers, and possibly Drow) as other varieties of Spirit-Touched.
- I want to put together another, less common native race, to give the setting some kind of big bruisers.
- Nine Towers has great need for adventurers, whether in the bowels of the city or out on the frontier.
So, the list of things I would need to do it properly includes:
- Information on the Empire and Nine Towers.
- A Summoner class, and appropriate rituals.
- A Wild Folk race writeup, with some racial feats. If I were to go for the full effect, probably one or more paragon paths too.
- Rules where appropriate for soulfire stuff, including magic items, rituals, etc.
- Guidelines for monsters in Nine Towers, probably including some write-ups of new ones.
- Other stuff that I’m no doubt forgetting.