Creating an RPG Campaign Bible: Origins – Part 7 Episode.067

Chris Perkins’ campaign bible he developed for his world really was a novel idea.  Each section brings life to the world and provided wonderful information for both players and GMs alike.  One of my personal favorite sections is about origins for both race and class.  This is a nice breakdown of the most likely location any particular race may be found.  It further discusses a bit about the actual classes and mentions anything unusual about them that goes beyond the normal rulebooks.  Just like in real life, occupations vary depending on where you are.  A physician in Manhanttan, New York, is going to work and behave differently than a physician out in the bush in Africa.  They have the same education and training, but they have to operate differently because of their different environments.  Having this knowledge for the players is wonderful as it provides more meaning to their decisions when they are choosing their characters.  Perhaps one race is revered among all races while another is not allowed into any city.  One class may be praised as a prestigious occupation such as Clerics more than anything else because of the world they live in much like how doctors are usually appreciated more than other jobs from the lives they save.

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This section is where you can customize your game even more than the world.  Generally you have already selected the rulebook you are going to use to play your campaign.  Nearly all RPG books will have a list of provided races and classes and various stats.  By providing this section of origins, you are taking those rules and making them your own.  You are scooping the normal out and sculpting the uniqueness back in.  Have fun with it, either go crazy or go subtle on your decision.  Try to have a consistency throughout.  If one race is over the top, have a good reason if the other races are fairly by the book typical.  If you make one or two races dramatically unique, you may wind up having an entire party of the same race.  It is also a good idea to make 1 race ordinary in case there is a player who wishes to keep things simple, especially if you have new players.

Here is my list of races and classes, where they are from generally, and how they are tied uniquely to the world.

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RACE ORIGINS

Due to the Chambers being built, nearly all races originate from within now.  That being said, not all races live safely underground and still survive on the surface of Zantra.  Here are some typical points of origin for the different races.  Many of these are based upon Pre-Touch years.

Dwarf, Hill: You grew up outside of the “True” Dwarven Kingdoms as the Mountain Dwarves call it.  Instead of chiseling your fortress out of rock, you built it out of stone.  You’re still an expert in engineering but from a different angle of construction.  Your home could be in the foothills of Valashra, the mountain range that separates much of Zatra from the frozen tundra of the Northern Lands.  Alternatively, you could reside in the warm, temperate marshes of Keldia where you honed your spear fishing skills through practicing the Illouvy, an ancient ability of holding ones breath for hours.

Dwarf, Mountain:  As a member of the “True” Dwarven Kingdom, your blood is linked directly to Doka, the First Dwarf.  You come from one of the three Dwarven Kingdoms:  Gungrak, Solitude, or Balakork.  Each offers a different philosophy and way of living.  Gungrak is built upon ancient lore and discovering forgotten knowledge.  Solitude is more devout and focused on religion and philosophy while Balakork breathes war and fearlessness into the souls of the dwarves who live within its borders.  If Balakork is chosen, you have the option to follow God or Vagnarock while the other two are forced to follow Vagnarock or face possible ridicule of your sacrilege.

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Elf, Sky: You come from the heavens and the clouds.  Your people are the only humanoid race to have discovered the art of flight and levitation.  Among your cities, the crown was K’leshima, a hovering city surrounding a mighty citadel that softly floated with the breeze.  You possess the secret and sacred knowledge of flight and how to achieve it for yourself or for most objects of adequate size.  Your race is the only one who has survived the Touch as your world is high above the tainted lands.  However, sustainability is critical in that all Sky Elf cities must be fully self-sufficient.  They are highly xenophobic and show extreme hostility to anything that ventures within sight of their lands, even mundane birds passing too close.  You either are able to bite your tongue towards other races, or you are among the extreme few who wish to find a cure to the Touch and free your people from their self-imprisonment.

Elf, Earth: You grew up in the largest race variant of the elves.  Your people covered the most of Zatra, reaching from corner to corner and adapting better than any race in the world.  Your keen wit and quick adaptability has led your people to prosperity no matter where you settle.  Although you are not truly nomadic, it is not uncommon for a clan or community to relocate for an improved life.  This can be because of a natural disaster or as simple as a message from cousins encouraging of greener pastures.  Earth elves tend to wed within their clan and not venture out.  This is especially true with other races as they tend to remain pure blooded.  Those who choose to produce half-breed offspring are automatically exiled from the community although it is without malice.

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Half-Elf:  You are almost one-of-a-kind in Zatra.  The sky elves have become xenophobic while the Earth elves practice pure-blood weddings.  You were created because someone willingly or forcefully left their people, usually the latter.  You are forbidden to enter any of the floating cities of the sky elves, and you must obtain sponsorship from either an earth elf or someone with good standing of them.  If you are caught in the former, you will be tried and put to death if convicted by dropping you to the surface below.  Many half-elves either fall into great debt with wizards seeking permanent disguises while others simply wear hoods and keep clean shaven.  You live a life as a second class citizen nearly everywhere, but you have the benefits of both elves and humans.

Half-Orc: You make up 1 of exactly 32 others of your kind.  Centuries ago when wars were fought among kingdoms and orcish tribes, your half-breed race variant was more common through spoils of war.  However, since the Touch, your kind has quickly begun vanishing into extinction.  Because of the imminent doom of your race, the world has openly accepted the remaining few as honorary citizens of all civilized communities.  You receive free room and board at any inn and 50% discounts on non-precious items.  When there were 100 of you left, a ceremony was held, and each of you commemorated the event by receiving tattoos that read “The Last Hundred” followed by a ranking number associated by age.  If you are a half-orc, you determine the number, which will reflect how people honor and treat you.  Those with lower numbers are the oldest of the half-orcs, usually in their elder years.

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Halfling:  You were born to live near the water.  You are an expert at handling small boats such as canoes and rafts, and you have advanced knowledge in navigation and the use of instruments to find your way across any body of water.  You are gifted in the Illouvy, the ability to hold your breath for hours.  This gives you the unique ability to fix ships and boats without the need to dock if the repair is exterior and under the water’s surface.  It is rare that you come from a region that is not beside some body of water.  Hollow Dens are found along them where you live partially underground though your resilience to fear allows you to venture to the surface frequently to garden surface-growing vegetables like lettuce.

Humans: You once were the dominant race in Zatra and aspired to greatness.  Although dwarves and elves constructed cities more elaborately ornate than you, humans were the innovators of the world.  The short life that you live puts a sense of urgency if your choices each day, pushing you to improve upon yourself and reach goals seemingly unobtainable.  You are welcomed among any race, even some orcish tribes.  Most commonly hailing from central, warmer regions of Zatra, a split of your kind migrated to the Northern Lands passed Valashra and is seldom seen.  The harsh, bitter winters there have become extremely dangerous since the change in weather and daylight hours shifted.  As a result, if you come from the Northern Lands, you wear long, full beards, thick manes of hair that reach down your back, and hair covered chests.  You also possess uncanny vision in near white out conditions.

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CLASS ORIGINS

Barbarians: A commonality among humans of the Northern Lands, Barbarians are found throughout Zatra.  These thick-skinned survivalists are among the few who have survived through the Touch by gauging their battles with the Touch carefully and moving when too many threaten their home.  Barbarians are almost all nomadic except one village in the deepest parts of Zatra’s jungles around the central regions.  These people live in harmony with nature and wildlife and are expert hunters and exotic animal trainers.  Magic is not shunned by their people, and every tribe has a witch doctor or shaman that aids them when necessary.

Clerics:  There is but one true god that looks over Zatra, but not everyone believes God is the only deity.  Every Cleric has been given a vision of the truth about deities, the existence of God and Koz, the Five Powers and what they mean, and that other gods reign over other worlds.  This knowledge is highly forbidden beyond clerical practices, and any pious individual who speaks the Truth to any non-Cleric will immediately be stripped of all powers and marked as a heretic.  Those exposed to the Truth and believe it are incapable of handling this awareness and die from an overwhelming pressure.  Despite this, clerics are all that exist for expanding the word of God.  Their powers, however, have diminished in the last 50 years as no prayers have been answered by God and no holy presence has been felt by followers.  Some have believed that the new presence, Koz, has somehow vanquished God, and this weighs heavier on Clerics to assure that God remains despite the loss of presence.

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Druids: The Druids are the more disciplined, even-tempered cousins of the barbarians.  Frequently they are former shamans and witch doctors who sought isolation from their people, setting out among the land to find a deeper connection with nature.  They do not follow God though they believe He exists.  Instead their philosophers of the world, spreading more questions than answers and finding peace among the outdoors.  Their knowledge in practical medicine through herbs and roots are often welcomed greatly among communities throughout.  They have a cumulative mission in life after the Touch formed to eradicate the disease.

Fighters: These disciplined warriors are almost all from either soldiers and militia or knights and cavaliers depending on their background.  The former comes from poorer families while the latter are almost entirely nobles unless one is lucky enough to become a squire during open combat events.  Fighters have a natural born desire to hunt, defend, and, if necessary, to kill.  Therefore they are challenged to keep busy if they reside in one of the Chambers or Hollow Dens.  They are explorers and will be the first to travel through newly discovered tunnels if a Chamber wall collapses or damaged.  These are also the first to volunteer to leave the Chamber and set out on the surface if requested by one of the three kings, but they must be fortunate enough to be living in one of the 3 Chambers that the king resides.

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Monks:  Monks are among the rarest classes in Zatra.  There are imitation monasteries, but only one true monastery produces Monks properly.  It is located deep in Valashra, the mountain range that runs along the northern portion.  All Monks are recruited by a messenger being sent out among the world to locate the chosen one.  Mentors know exactly who this is when they send out the messenger, who is then guided by the magic ki that is tethered to the mentor chosen to train the recruit upon their arrival.  Through their Third Eye, an ancient ability passed down by centuries, which allows them to look upon and follow naturally gifted beings that qualify to train at the monastery.  Due to the isolation and challenge to reach the monastery, along with the incredible special powers that help fight off the Touch, monks still roam the world.

As a true testament to their devotion of ki, all Monks are blinded when their training is complete.  They often will wear an eye patch over one eye, a blindfold, an ornate mask, or they will tattoo their face when they leave the monastery.  Their vision at that point comes entirely from the Third Eye.  With this ability, they see the world without diminishing light – that is they see no darkness and their vision is limited only by the strength of their eye sight, which weakens as they age.

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Paladins:  The path of the Paladin has become a confused and lonely road since God’s presence has vanished.  They are tested more than any religious figure in Zatra, forced to continue their practice and worshipping without any of God’s powers that separate them from Knights.  When the Touch first was discovered, before the world realized its potential threat, Paladins were the very first to respond.  They pledged their lives to saving those Touched and those threatened to be Touched.  There are not many Paladins left in the world as many have turned and lost their faith, many of whom have gone mad.  These ex-paladins now roam aimlessly and often fight with anger in their heart and bloodlust.  Those who remained true to God through this testament find their way in the world by journeying from community to community offering their service until they feel it is safe to venture on.  Because of the growing threat, some of them remain indefinitely as the area continues to be in constant danger from the Touch.

Rangers:  Few people are more respected than the Ranger in Zatra.  Their discipline of wilderness has protected the five kingdoms over the centuries as well as educated those communities or groups wishing to relocate to a safer region.  Rangers bring with them knowledge of survival and have spent the last 100 years passing that knowledge onto as many citizens as possible in anticipation of the Touch dominating the world.  It was the Order of the Rangers that helped organize tens of thousands of people who wished for sanctuary in the Chambers, guiding and protecting them to their destination.  They worked directly with the dwarves in establishing a self-sufficient environment in order for the people to be sealed safely within.  Currently there are no Rangers living in any of the Chambers or Hollow Dens as they are all Hunters of the Touch.  Fearless and savage at times, these lethal men and women search endlessly for those who have been Touched to vanquish them properly from the world and release them from their torment.

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Rogues: A Rogue’s business has changed greatly in recent years.  Since nearly all of the cities of Zatra have been abandoned, there is little for them to seek out there in terms of coin and jewels.  Some Rogues chose to retreat into the Chambers, hoping to acquire incredible wealth from the nobles, but money has lost all value inside as everyone works to produce necessary things in order to live.  They quickly become bored and join in the cause.  Those remaining outside the Chambers now have a new value in life, however.  While there may not be riches to be sought after, important tomes and artifacts that might lead to a cure of the Touch are hidden throughout the world, many of which are well guarded by members of Nub Sumat or monsters.  Sneaking past to acquire any item is a tremendous asset for adventuring parties as survivability in Zatra relies on the least amount of encounters with the Touch as possible.

Wizards:  Wizards are viewed as the blasphemers of the world as their powers are not of God’s Will.  They hold within their Order a mysterious method of channeling into beams of pure energy that flow throughout Zatra, intersecting at points known as Hubs where they are the most powerful.  The energy itself is the fuel for all life, set there by God over a thousand years ago to self-nurture the world as He observed.  By tapping into the flows, which are called Leeways, they are essentially stealing life from the world, which reduces the flow and damages life in some form.  This may result in something small such as butterflies migrating too far north and dying of the cold or something catastrophically powerful as the formation of a fissure.  In light of Koz, however, Wizards have gained some light in God’s Eye prior to His vanishing in that Wizards are strongly against Koz’s destructive methods and use their powers to counter in whatever means necessary.  It is believed that Wizards will be among those who are capable of eliminating the Touch and even discovering a means to sever his ties from this world.  Currently there is an enclave of Wizards who are maintaining a protective shield over an entire city far to the south that keeps the Touch from entering.

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As you can see, each class and race has its own uniqueness beyond what’s in the book.  They adhere to the world closer, giving them a feeling of belonging.  Not only does it make for a good read for the players to immerse themselves in your world better, it provides them plenty of information to help them answer “Why should they play X character?”  It should not be about the stats; it should be because the race or class has an exciting interest to the player so they wish to continue on into the high levels.

Until next time, lie about your dice roll as much as you can get away with.  Thanks for stopping by.

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