Ten Thousand Empires
Alrighty, let’s start getting some campaign information down so we can start this beast!
First, I want to say that while this is a home brew, I’m brewing it based on a few core ideas, not on some grand idea. I don’t know the names of all of the emperors of old. There’s nothing in stone that says who the ancient evil is, whose daughter he wronged 12,642 years ago, and what he plans to do to exact his revenge on the world. The local blacksmith’s name, however, is Fellows, the local Tiefling banker and gold changer’s name is Lucius Northright, and he’s a daughter named Rieta (quite a tom boy, much to her father’s chagrin). I believe it’s important to build local and work our way out.
That said, I do have a few big key beats we will (hopefully) be hitting, and a few driving things I’d like to change from the core universe. If we play for a while, we will see some interesting stuff.
Second, the world in general. I like the “points of light” concept a great deal, so we’ll be taking that and running with it. Centers of civilization; villages built of groups of farms, towns, cities, are spread amongst a vast and unforgiving countryside. The roads are Not Safe™. The countryside off the roads are Pretty Damn Scary™.
This world is ancient, well maybe Ancient is a better word. The title of Ten Thousand Empires was originally “Shadows of Ten Thousand Empires” but that sounded morose and too long. There is evidence of ancient civilizations turning to dust, which were built upon even more ancient civilizations. Evidence of powerful cultures exists everywhere. Villages, towns, and even mighty cities are built in the ruins of vanished and forgotten giants.
Third, I’d like to tackle one of the great anachronisms that very frequently gets into fantasy RPGs. Unless you tell somebody about it, there is no communication. There are no news papers, there are no history classes. Compared to the real threat of the wheat harvest not feeding your family this autumn, why do you care what ancient race built the structures your village is now living in? Who cares how long the empire who built the bridge or tower of Titus lasted, or when they disappeared, or why? They’re gone, we’re here, now go slaughter the chicken for tonight’s dinner, or stop those rampaging Kobolds from kidnapping poor Rieta.
In addition to communications and history, the scientific method is right out as well. I mean, really, anybody who thinks a feather falls as fast as a rock is a lunatic.
Also, remember that the PCs are essentially mass murders. The world is not a nice, safe, happy place. Don’t expect to be the only people who tend to think with knives before tongues.
Fourth, staying on geography and sociology, the area we’ll be starting in. My current thoughts center in an area I’m calling the Northlands because, well, I get to be uncreative sometimes. The area defined as the Northlands is composed mostly of rolling hills, bordered on the south by the Great Wastes which nobody has ever crossed on foot, the north by the towering Thornridge mountains (at least, that’s what you’ve been told they’re called), and Rollingwood to the west. The only city in this region is Titus, which sits on the Titus river. The Greatlands, on the other side of wastes, exists in tales with the rose glow of paradise.
The population of the towns and villages are a mix of human, Halfling, Tiefling, and Half-elves. Dwarves are known to live in the villages and towns, but most are centered in dwarf settlements closer to the Thornridge mountains. Scattered tribes of Dragonborn, Minotaur, and Goliaths live in the wild places; not as points of light but as savage barbarians within the darkness. Towns may trade with them, and rarely one or two families may reside there as well. Elves limit themselves to Rollingwood, coming out to trade with villages nearby, but almost exclusively with the riverside Halfling populations and very rarely with the greater Northlands population. An elf living in a Northlands settlement is a rare sight.
There is more (quite a bit more), but that’s what I consider you would know. If you want to play a Dragonborn or Dwarven character, chat with me.
Also, be ready for this to change over time, and as your locations change.
Fifth, differences with the core rules. I want to change a few things, only some of which are important right now and some will come later. I’m essentially eliminating planar travel as a concept. So no Feywild, Shadowfel, etc. They may come back in pieces, but for now consider them gone. Which means also that races which are based in these area, Eladrin, Gnome, Wilden, Githzerai, Shardmind, they’re all gone. If you really very badly want to use one, let me know.
I’m normalizing the ages, so everybody will live roughly as long as humans. 80 is considered very old. We can mess with maturation rates, adolescent ages, etc, as needed.
I’m pruning down the pantheon, too. For now there are three gods, the god of the sky, the god of the earth, and the goddess of the harvest, life and death. Names will come in the future.
All arcane power source characters must come from a college or university (it’s a size thing), all diving power source characters from a temple or cathedral, and all psionics from a sketes or monestary. We’ll chat about those as necessary. The location of these buildings defines whether a settlement is a village, town, or city. A village will have one of either a college, temple, or sketes. A town will have two or, rarely, three. A city will have one or more university, cathedral, or monestary.
For rules, anything in the core books that I haven’t mentioned should be considered good to go. By default, anything in world books is out, and anything in dragon magazine is also out. The exception to this would be playtest material that is due out in an upcoming core book.
For party makeup, I really only have a couple of rules. First, all of you must be living in the town of Greyhill, and we should discuss how long you’ve been there and how you may have arrived if not a local. Second, every character must have close ties to at least 2 other characters in the party. Close ties are not just “help her move” but “help her movie bodies.”
For each individual character, once you’ve got an idea, I’d like to have some simple background centered around them as a person. For example, family status and names (are they still alive?), quick history (“studied at the local college since age of 12, always got in trouble, pines after Rieta” is enough), and a couple of key words describing your personality. In the race descriptions, they list some key personality traits of the race, just pick three or four that work for you.