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May 13, 2009

who the fuck is scraeming
"LOG OFF" at my house.
show yourself, coward.
i will never log off

FMguru posted:

Erin Darkflame Montgomery is pretty much the exact sort of name I'd have given my pretend girlfriend when I was 14.

And I always thought the purpose of the factions was to give the setting a little variety and intellectual space than the Great Wheel of alignments, that it was possible to approach the planes with an attitude that didn't slot neatly into a 3x3 grid.

Darkflame Montgomery is especially notorious, since she's one of the Factols that got actual stats in the box set. It's like David Cook was just screaming at the reader, "This is my perfect Mary-Sue! Look at all her neat abilities! Oh, she's so sensual, but mysterious! And filled with the energy of youth! She's all statted out! You could, I don't know, use her as a DMPC in every campaign so that she can shine through in all of your Planescape Adventures!":neckbeard:


Oct 13, 2008


Selachian posted:

That's a funny-looking P in the title. When I first glanced at the image, I thought it said Gor.

So did I. I kind of wondered if it might include a Houseplant of Gor.

Dec 10, 2007


FMguru posted:

And I always thought the purpose of the factions was to give the setting a little variety and intellectual space than the Great Wheel of alignments, that it was possible to approach the planes with an attitude that didn't slot neatly into a 3x3 grid.

That's indeed the purpose of the Factions, from a design standpoint. They're specifically written to get the players to think beyond the alignment grid. The Harmonium in particular are there to advertise that "Lawful Good =/= your buddies." In fact, I sometimes suspect that the setting would benefit from the removal of the alignment matrix altogether (it would require major redesigns, but the end result would get rid of many of the inconsistencies I noted in earlier posts).

SirPhoebos fucked around with this message at 18:09 on Dec 30, 2013

Sep 10, 2003

peed on;

deadly_pudding posted:

Darkflame Montgomery is especially notorious, since she's one of the Factols that got actual stats in the box set. It's like David Cook was just screaming at the reader, "This is my perfect Mary-Sue! Look at all her neat abilities! Oh, she's so sensual, but mysterious! And filled with the energy of youth! She's all statted out! You could, I don't know, use her as a DMPC in every campaign so that she can shine through in all of your Planescape Adventures!":neckbeard:

Boobplate, bare midriff, leggings, and big 80s-hair! And she's sensual and open-minded! My 14 year old self = :swoon: :allears: :swoon: :allears:

Oct 14, 2011

Yay for armour that actually guides your sword towards the vulnerable bits... *facepalms*

Nov 8, 2011

Eh, that's the least of your worries when the armor also exposes flesh both above and below the chest. A boobplate is at least just mechanically unsound, but armor that doesn't even provide proper coverage for the torso is plain useless and stupid.

Aug 21, 2000

Not keen on keening.

Grimey Drawer

The blurbs on some of the Factols definitely read like very short summaries of actual with-dice adventuring careers to me-- there seemed to be some vague assumption that the reader knew what the book was talking about.

The Factol's Manifesto eventually gets around to making the factions more interesting, or at least more detailed. I won't go into detail, but I did like how they made the Sensates more than just a bunch of hedonists and gave (an older?) Montgomery an audacious, weirdly threatening long-term plan for the faction.

Oct 14, 2011

Except that the armoured bits actually guide your blade to the unarmoured bits - making it worse than useless...

Dec 24, 2007

Here. Here's a tumblr called "Women Fighters in Reasonable Armor" that you can agree vigorously with.

Here's a guy taking the boobplate argument down with words and pictures, you can vigorously agree with him too:

David J Prokopetz
Oct 21, 2008

FMguru posted:

Erin Darkflame Montgomery is pretty much the exact sort of name I'd have given my pretend girlfriend when I was 14.

deadly_pudding posted:

Darkflame Montgomery is especially notorious, since she's one of the Factols that got actual stats in the box set. It's like David Cook was just screaming at the reader, "This is my perfect Mary-Sue! Look at all her neat abilities! Oh, she's so sensual, but mysterious! And filled with the energy of youth! She's all statted out! You could, I don't know, use her as a DMPC in every campaign so that she can shine through in all of your Planescape Adventures!":neckbeard:

To be fair, some of the major NPCs read like a fourteen-year-old girl's GMPC, too. Alisohn Nilesia, mentioned upthread, is a pretty good example: she's basically goth princess Batman, she's exactly the age that your typical tweenager thinks of as grown up, but not, you know, ancient, and she's got an awesome older boyfriend who looks and talks exactly like Sean Connery. (Come on, look at Rowan Darkwood's IC stuff in the Factol's Manifesto and tell me you don't see it.)

David J Prokopetz fucked around with this message at 20:52 on Dec 30, 2013

Nov 8, 2009

deadly_pudding posted:

Darkflame Montgomery is especially notorious, since she's one of the Factols that got actual stats in the box set. It's like David Cook was just screaming at the reader, "This is my perfect Mary-Sue! Look at all her neat abilities! Oh, she's so sensual, but mysterious! And filled with the energy of youth! She's all statted out! You could, I don't know, use her as a DMPC in every campaign so that she can shine through in all of your Planescape Adventures!":neckbeard:

Knowing most players, statting up a character you want them to love dramatically increases the odds of the players killing said character. They wouldn't have stats if you weren't supposed to fight them, right?

Dec 5, 2007

I had a video of that when I was about 6.

I remember it being shit.

Grimey Drawer

The only reason to give anything stats is if you intend to be rolling dice for it. That either means the players are trying to kill it, or it's fighting along side them and they'll wind up attacking it anyway because it's a GMPC and it deserves it.

Mar 18, 2007

Good, bad. I'm the one with the power of Shu, Heru, Amon, Zehuti, Aton, and Mehen.

College Slice

Cythereal posted:

Knowing most players, statting up a character you want them to love dramatically increases the odds of the players killing said character. They wouldn't have stats if you weren't supposed to fight them, right?

That's certainly the lesson one of my players took from the Deities & Demigods book back in the day.

Dec 10, 2007


Update 11.1 - So what is it you berks do again?

Looking back through my previous updates, it seems that I didn’t explain what the Factions do in Sigil to make them worth keeping around. whoops! So here’s the short of it.

The Athar are believed by some to be sinister agents of The Lady. They claim to just act as a necessary check against the lies and abuses of false gods. Whatever the case, there’s no denying that it’s drat hard for a preacher to gain any ground in Sigil when there’s a parade of athiests ready to jump down his or her throat.

Aside from operating The Foundry and producing many of the day-to-day goods used by Cagers, the Believers of the Source are natural facilitators and peacemakers between the Factions. After all, if everyone has the potential for divinity, then it would be a shame to waste such potential on petty squabbles.

The Bleak Cabal operate the Gatehouse as Sigil’s sanitarium. What they provide in terms of counseling or treatment may be very suspect, but in the Planescape Setting the Bleakers are the only group that goes out of its way to help those that can’t help themselves.

The Doomguard run the Armoury. This might not seem to be in the city’s best interest, but...well truth be told it isn’t. On the other hand, it means that the real hardware needed to take over Sigil is kept out of the hands of the Harmonium, and that’s something all Cagers can be satisfied with (except the Hardheads).

Because they like dead bodies so much, the Dustmen are in charge of disposing the deceased of Sigil. They also act as the city Coroner if anyone is interested. Because space is at a premium, the Dustmen just dump them onto other Planes. A strong analogy for the disregard urban dwellers have for their rural counterparts, but with more zombies.

Since no one likes the Fated anyway, they get probably the most thankless job in the city - tax collection. They do a good job of it, and if they ever get out of hand one can always appeal to the courts. Their other responsibilities include recording property deeds, births, and deaths. Assuming that someone bothers to report it.

Speaking of the courts, those are run by the Fraternity of Order. Aside from judges and prosecutors, the best defense lawyers are also Guvners. Since they love finding loopholes in the rules, this arrangement doesn’t produce any faction bias. And besides, it’s not like they make the rules.

The Free League takes care of trade in the city. Like everything with them, it’s an unofficial role. But it’s one they do quite well. The markets are kept open and competitive through word-of-mouth influence. Any merchant that steps out of line or seeks to get an unfair edge will soon find the Sigil markets a whole lot less friendly

Because they like telling people what to do, The Harmonium have taken up the role of policing the city. Of course, the law of Sigil often differs from what the Hardheads think it should be. Luckily the Guvners are there to sort out any confusion. As stated before, the Hardhead also lack the means to enforce their will in any case, thanks to the Doomguard.

Rounding out the legal system is the Mercykillers, who operate the prison. While they would prefer to catch and try criminals, the rest of the city prefers that they didn’t. They are okay with them carrying out punishments, since once a sod is found guilty what happens afterwards is only just.

The Revolutionary League has no official role, or even an unofficial one. They do, however, act as a refuge for those who can’t fit into normal Sigil life (whatever that is). Feel free to draw comparisons between the Anarchists niche and the type of losers that play roleplaying games to begin with :ironicat:

As stated in last update, The Sign of One runs the Hall of Speakers, where the laws and treaties that govern Sigil are made. They don’t actually make the laws, but they preside over council sessions and make sure that if the government does becomes a quagmire, it’s at least a quagmire everyone can get in on.

The Society of Sensation provides venues of entertainment for all the myriad of inhabitants of Sigil. This is quite a tall order, but the Sensates are uniquely equipped to serve it thanks to their desire to experience everything. Thanks to them, the powerful, alien entities that walk Sigil’s streets are much less likely to start lighting everyone on fire just to relieve the drudgery.

The Transcendent Order may be regarded as oddballs, but their near-universal acceptance lets them serve as advisors to the different Factions and blocs. Their tendency is to rein in the extreme tendencies of everyone else, and while they usually are not listened to, Ciphers are not the type of cutters to care (though it does raise the question of why they get hired).

Finally, the The Xaositecs are another faction that has no official role. Aside from providing succor for the downtrodden, they also act as a sort of demolition service for the city. If the chaosmen are able to bring down a building, then it’s probably safe to say that no one’s going to miss it. And they in turn don’t mind when something new gets built, since change is the nature of chaos.

As a bonus, here's the first paragraph describing everyone's favorite Sensate:

David Cook posted:

Statuesque, smart, and sensual, Erin Darkflame Montgomery is no cutter’s helpless doxy. She’s a complete person, and being a woman (maybe a hindrance in some places) hasn’t made her any less capable of dealing with the seductions, intrigues, intellectualism, and dangers of Sigil. Though she’s no more than average height, the combination of inner fire, lively green eyes, and short auburn hair make her more than unforgettable. Yet for one so striking, she shows little of the vanity folks associate with good looks.

SirPhoebos fucked around with this message at 06:15 on Dec 31, 2013

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

Rather than head straight into Nyambe when I don't actually have any of the sourcebooks past the first on-hand, I decided I'd finish the little d20 system trifecta I've unintentionally had going. A d20 Modern review, a D&D review, and now, a Pathfinder review. Is it going to be the Pathfinder Bestiary 2 review I mentioned I wanted to try out before?

No, we're going to be doing something third party. Something that is good third party, at that. Something involving adventure, excitement, heavy environmental rules, and this guy!

How can you possibly dislike a campaign setting that has that guy in it?

The name of this Pathfinder campaign setting is Cerulean Seas, and with this post we'll be getting our feet wet with this brief introductory dip.

The Cerulean Seas Campaign Setting was released by Alluria Publishing in 2010, which is fairly early in Pathfinder's life as far as a whole campaign setting release goes. This is explained by the fact that, by the authors' own admission, the earliest drafts of Cerulean Seas happened in 2000, all the way back with Dungeons and Dragons 3.0. That's a lot of dedication to one idea, and it certainly shows.

The premise of Cerulean Seas is a simple but effective one. There was a bygone age when great expanses of land called continents existed, and they were ruled by strange creatures known as land elves, humans, dwarves, and gnomes. These beings, the "drylanders", had a great age of peace where a magnificent city in the clouds kept evil at bay with its heavenly forces. One dark day, however, the Cloud City fell from the sky, and the drylanders turned against the gods. They sealed the ancient portals that had unknowingly been the balance between the elements, and with those portals sealed the land was engulfed by the ocean in a cataclysmic flood. This just so happened to stop the bloody wars that had been happening unseen beneath the waves and forced the sea-dwellers to adopt new homes as their traditional waters became deeper and deeper beneath the surface.

The world after the Great Flood is one ruled by the beast-tailed merfolk, the animalistic anthropomorphs, and the magical feykith. The eponymous region, the Cerulean Seas, were a great bay before Cloud City crashed into it and the Great Flood turned it from a bay to a shallow region of the vast world-ocean. While this is assumed to be the primary area of play, further sourcebooks will also detail the frozen reaches of far-off Isinblare and the deepest trenches of the abyssal plain. That's for the future, however. Next update, we'll start reading the Cerulean Seas Campaign Setting with its first two chapters: a chunky collection of ocean-related rules, followed by the races that rule the Cerulean Seas.

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Oh thank you thank you thank you, Fossilized Rappy! This is one of my favorite Pathfinder books out there.

Goons, you're in for a treat.

Also, full image of the cover:

Libertad! fucked around with this message at 03:43 on Dec 31, 2013

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Foreward by Monte Cook posted:

This book details a place where the game’s designers, editors, creative directors, and business managers all played characters. Prowling the city’s streets you would find characters run by
the Editors-in-Chief of Dragon® and Dungeon® Magazine, the Wizards of the Coast Brand
Manager in charge of Roleplaying Games, Wizards’ RPG Design Manager and his counterpart in the
Development department, and longtime game designers and editors such as Bruce Cordell, Sean
Reynolds, Michele Carter, Andy Collins, and Sue Cook.

In other words, for years, Ptolus has been where the game’s professionals come to play. Some of the
events in this setting have passed into gaming legend, like the total party kill suffered by the Company
of the Black Lantern or Serai Lorenci’s betrayal of his entire party—or how his brother Sercian was
kidnapped and replaced by a dark elf for months of game time. Now it’s time for you to create your
own legendary stories here.

I love Ptolus. I understand Ptolus. More than any other place I’ve ever set a campaign, these city
streets seem real to me. In compiling this book, I’ve had plenty of detailed computer files and player
handouts from my home game to refer to, but I also found many cryptic notes scribbled on various
pieces of paper or alongside a map. These tidbits came to me as the city percolated in my head—the
place lived and breathed even when I had no players around my game table. I could just as easily
envision a meeting of the Council of Coin and hear their debates as I could see what the player characters
were up to in their adventures.

Far more than any notes, though, Ptolus existed in my head. I could give you a district-by-district
tour of the city, pointing out landmarks, shops, and even people on the street (by name) without ever
referring to a map or notes. In a way, Ptolus is as real to me as any city in which I’ve actually lived.
Though it can be a hard place, it’s a city I know—like a friend you like to spend time with even
though he has his faults.

I love Ptolus. I hope that you and all the people around your game table will grow to love it too.
Moreover, I hope that my own personal affection for the city comes through as you read this book.
The material in these chapters is tested and true, played by real gamers with a love of the game. As I
ran my campaigns set in Ptolus (as of this writing, there have been three, plus the predecessor Praemal
Campaign), I encountered the same issues that all DMs come upon. Hopefully my experiences with
them will make game play easier for you.

What is Ptolus? Imagine a cosmopolitan fantasy city where humans, elves, and dwarves rub
elbows with orcs, ratmen, and stranger creatures. A city built upon the ruins of two previous settlements,
creating a mazelike undercity full of dangerous (but lucrative) chambers just waiting to be
discovered. A frontier port ruled by a power-mad theocracy amid the decay of a collapsing Empire.
A place where crime families war openly and noble houses battle discreetly—with equally deadly
results. A city where magic is familiar, adventurers are welcome, and thousands of residents dwell
beneath the shadow of a Spire crowned with a citadel of evil so strong that the very earth thrust it
away from itself untold ages ago.

Welcome to Ptolus.

Monte Cook

Ptolus is a campaign setting first released in 2006, but its origins are far older. Turn the clock back to the late 90s, when Wizards of the Coast was but a card company. Flush with success from their Magic: the Gathering franchise, Wizards bought the rights to Dungeons & Dragons from TSR, by then a dying beast whose poor business decisions nearly bankrupted the company. Monte Cook, who worked on Planescape in the past, set out with a bunch of other employees to work on a new 3rd Edition of the world's most popular table-top role-playing game.

To iron out the kinks, play-testing sessions were performed in a setting of Monte's own design. It was a sprawling metropolis situated over a vast complex of dungeons which had swallowed up countless would-be adventurers over the years. Over time it grew into a full-fledged world of its own. Ptolus, the City by the Spire.

This product is primarily a city setting for 3rd Edition Dungeons & Dragons. What's unique about it is that due to its origins it fits D20 like a glove. Remember all those 3rd Party conversions to the D20 system, and of shorehorned mechanics from earlier Edition settings being warped and twisted to fit the current rules? Well the reverse is true in Ptolus, for it is the "D20 Fantasy in microcosm," as Monte Cook puts it. It is a world where there are shops catering to adventurers and are more than eager to buy their loot, a world where law enforcement employs See Invisibility and Zone of Truth to deter crime, a world where even if less than one in a hundred people are spellcasters, the average citizen sees the works of magic on a regular basis in some shape or form.

And it works. Many of 3rd Edition's problems are still present, but the book itself takes a lot of the tropes into account. I feel that it hasn't succeeded completely in this case, but I'll talk more about it as we go along.

For this review, there is a lot of bonus content beyond just the book. Whether you bought this book in the original print run or on Drive-Thru RPG, the core book comes with a bonus adventure, the Night of Dissolution; two other complete sourcebooks, the Banewarrens (an adventure) and Chaositech (evil Lovecraftian technology); Monte Cook's very own campaign journals; Issue #1 of a comic tie-in to the setting; and printable versions of player handouts. Now I'm definitely going to be reviewing Night of Dissolution and the comic, but I feel that Banewarrens and Chaositech are distant enough in that they might best be served as their own reviews even if they tie in to the setting itself.

Chapter 1: A Player's Guide to Ptolus

This is available as a free 32-page guide online, and 5 copies were sold with the main book in the original print run. It is basically a short introduction to the setting, meant to be shown to players with just enough history and explanation to give them a feel for Ptolus.

So, what is Ptolus? Well, it's a teaming metropolis in the world of Praemal at the edge of the very old and venerable empire of Tarsis. Three emperors have legitimate claim to the throne, and many feel that the best is behind them and feel uncertain about their future. But in Ptolus these effects feel distant at best. It is a trade haven for all sorts of folk of varying races, cultures, and magical practices and religious beliefs. When the first "delvers" returned from the catacombs below the city with gold and magical treasures, a renewed interest in the city came as hundreds of adventurers pour past its walls each month. Most never strike it rich, much less survive the treacherous underground realms, but the dream of wealth and glory still persists. Many theorize that these dark reaches date back to the olden days when the Skull-King Ghul ruled over the land, his fell armies living among the warrens and winding tunnels beneath the earth. In the shadow of an unnaturally tall spire arose a whole form of politics, economics, and social structure was born. For some reason great creatures of good and evil have been drawn to the area, and the influx of adventurers prompted renewed devotion to science, magic, and religion.

Ptolus is a port city of 75,000 people, ruled by Commissar Igor Urnst, a decorated war hero and representative of the Empire of Tarsis. It has a sizable human presence, but all manner of races comprise a non-neglible portion of citizens. Council members, who represent influential industries and demographics, play a role in the city's policies as well. His influence does not extend into "the Dungeon," which is a catch-all name for the many reaches below the city, and the City Watch. The city watch itself is mostly composed of armed men and women, with a few elite members (several dozen) trained in magic and advanced fighting techniques. The Sisters of Silence are an unofficial keeper of the peace, an order of mute female monks who apprehend criminals and have male eunuchs speak on their behalf.

The city is into eleven official districts:

The Docks, center of sailors and seabound trade.

The Guildsman District, home to the artisans, builders, and many workhouses of the city.

Midtown, a commercial and residential hub home to many taverns and inns, and also houses the famous Delver's Square, a neighborhood built above an underground entrance which caters to the needs of adventurers.

The Necropolis, a massive walled cemetery home to undead and heavily guarded by watchmen on the outskirts.

The Noble's Quarter, home to Ptolus' greatest noble families and the wealthiest (and most well-guarded) section of town; it is closest to the spire and residents who "don't look the part" aren't allowed beyond the district's gates unless they have official business.

The North Market, home to many great eateries and various small shops.

Oldtown, originally built around the fortress of Dalengard which fought against the evil forces of Ghul and other malevolent forces. It is now the center of the city's government, and it is here citizens go to obtain licenses, conduct trials, and other bureaucratic business.

Rivergate, a middle-class neighborhood whose residential cul-de-sacs called "burroughs" each sport their own cultural and architectural influences.

The South Market, home to the headquarters of Ptolus' largest merchant companies and a residential district for business owners.

Ptolus is a city unique for its religious freedom, and the Temple District is the center of religious life in the city. Areas of worship, ranging from grand cathedrals to small roadside shrines, abound here, honoring hundreds of different gods and goddesses.

The Warrens is a crime-ridden slum home to the poorest of the poor of Ptolus. The city watch does not venture inside except in droves and only to apprehend serious criminals. The various crime families and gangs dominate daily life here as the neighborhood's unofficial rulers.

The Undercity Market is not a district of Ptolus per se, but it is a bustling place to go for most adventuring gear. Accessed via a set of stairs in Delver's Square, a bunch of adventurers converted a section of the Dungeon close to the surface into a marketplace and headquarters. People post hiring notices for adventurers and treasure for sale on public boards, while many businesses make a steady living selling maps, reference material, survival gear, and similar goods.

We also have a bunch of other material in this chapter, but I feel that it can safely be referenced later.

In regards to the world beyond Ptolus, two moons orbit the world. Most people known that Praemal is round, and that it orbits the sun. The existence of the Ethereal Plane (called the Etheral Sea) is also common knowledge, as well as names of the elemental planes, but only in so far as they are "adjacent" realms to their own world. Nobody knows much about the upper planes (referred to by various names such as the Celestial Realms, the Heavens, etc), other than that they're inhabited by angels and other exemplars of Good. Same for the lower planes, or just simply "the Hells." Of interesting note is that nobody in recorded history has managed to travel beyond the Ethereal Planes, only going by the knowledge given to them by celestials, fiends, and summoned monsters.

The Empire of Tarsis encompasses much of the known world. It is technically shared by two Emperors, a temporal one (the Emperor) and a spiritual one (the Holy Emperor). Originally the spot was held by one, but a brother who ascended to the throne abdicated responsibilities to the high priest of the Church of Lothian (the state religion of the Empire and most popular deity in Ptolus). Over time the two offices developed into their own branches of government. The Holy Emperor has his own army, his own treasury, and can sign and pass laws (although they're required to be pertaining to spiritual matters).

Tarsis was founded by an alliance of folk, from humans to dwarves, fighting against the Skull-Lord Ghul and his forces of monsters, demons, and other evil things. When the Prustan forces from the city of Tarsis ventured west to help defeat him, they stayed in the area, hoping to rebuild order. The folk of the west welcomed their arrival, and along with the dwarves, brought advanced science with them. Firearms, clockwork machines, and even steam-powered engines and printing presses! Roads, waterways, postal services, and well-ordered public planning help increase the standard of living in these realms, leading to Tarsis' ascension as a dominant political power. For a time, life was good, but over the years the Empire became increasingly draconian. Certain people who by unfortunate circumstance were declared noncitizens and formed a large disenfranchised class. The Church of Lothian cracked down on other religions, and ultimately arcane magic was outlawed as a "demonic influence" in the Edict of Deviltry. Church and state over time became one, and Tarsis continued expanding.

However, it is now a shadow of its former glory. In the last two hundred years education worsened and knowledge of building the complex scientific devices became increasingly forgotten. The Edict of Deviltry was overturned, and the weakening of the government's power resulted in political divisions. Other religions practiced fairly openly when the Church became not powerful enough to stop them.

Next part is a general overview of the races of Ptolus:

We have the standard Player's Handbook races, but of note are some additional options. We have the proud Litorians, lion-people. The Aram, or nomadic centaurs. The Assarai, or Lizardfolk, who live poor yet content existence as homeless wanderers. The Harrow Elves, elves tortured and warped in the dungeons of Ghul and forced to carry curses through their bloodlines. And the aloof Cherubim Elves, winged elves from the mountains to the west. There are other races present, from orcs to tieflings, who are more or less allowed to be in Ptolus' walls. Except for drow, as it is against the law to be a dark elf within the city's walls (punishment is death).

We get a section labelled PC Backgrounds for long-time residents of Ptolus. Basically they are short descriptions to help tie your character to the city. They grant mechanical bonuses and are available based upon your resident district. They mostly grant bonuses to skills, but a few grant special contacts among your neighborhood and/or occupation. Here's a list of them below:

Alchemist's Appentice is a typo, as Alchemy is a Craft skill, not a Knowledge one.

Also, fun Ptolus facts!

We also get brief description on how each of the character classes fit into Ptolus, and mentions of prominent organizations in the city pertaining to related fields. Overall the city is home to most classes, although Druids are not very common, and most Barbarians in the Empire are human invaders from the east. Many among the monk class are treated as religious figures in various religions, and as such can be found attending to spiritual matters in temples, too.

Magic is very common, but it remains out of reach of the common man, and magic item shops overall are a small group. Sellers of potions and minor items can be found in the Undercity Market, while Myraeth's Oddities is a well-guarded and warded shop which buys and sells magical items. Those seeking powerful, custom-made permanent items are advised to contact the Dreaming Apothecary, a shadowy group of mages who do business in the client's very dreams. But beginning low-level PCs don't know how to contact them; they don't sell to just anyone.

As expected, Ptolus operates on a generally higher technology level, and primitive firearms can be purchased by PCs with a license. However, advanced technology is becoming increasingly rare in the world as the knowledge to create and maintain them shrinks year by year. Spyglasses, pocketwatches, printing presses, hot air balloons, spectacles, and powder bombs are the most often seen pieces of technology in Ptolus.

Thoughts so far: This provides a short, if useful guide for players beginning a campaign set in Ptolus. Its flaws are that it doesn't show much of the beauty and uniqueness of the setting, which is further into the chapters. However, in this section and throughout this book are helpful side-bars which function as a kind of index, telling you what page which relevant information is on. If a major NPC is mentioned in an adventure or city district chapter, you'll get the page number for him and his stat block on the side. Same for organizations, historical events, locations, and similar things. It makes the book and PDF very user-friendly to navigate.

Next time, Part 2: the World! Where we get additional details on the setting and its history!

Libertad! fucked around with this message at 03:19 on Jan 3, 2014

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

Part 1: "Let me tell you about oceanic topography..."
Welcome to the first actual meaty post of the Cerulean Seas Campaign Setting. And what a place to start, as the first two chapters are quite prominent ones.

Environmental Basics
This is pretty much "everything you ever wanted to know about the ocean in a d20 context". The first few are mostly just refreshers on oceanography 101, like tides, the topography of trenches and mountains beneath the waves, and just how much standard vision/low-light vision/darkvision can see in the ocean's light zones. But then we get to the first big one: buoyancy. This is basically item encumbrance, but underwater. Every creature and playable race has a racial buoyancy modifier, which you compare to the total buoyancy of the equipment being carried to determine positive, negative, or neutral buoyancy. A character whose equipment gives them a negative Buoyancy score has to fight to avoid sinking, while a character that is getting positive buoyancy has to fight to avoid heading towards the surface. This speed starts at 10 feet on its first round and increases by 10 feet each subsequent round, to a maximum speed of sinking or floating at 60 feet per round. What does this all mean to your character? It means that, unless you can achieve the desired median of neutral buoyancy, you have to sacrifice some of your swim speed to cancel it out if you don't wish to sink or float. On the other hand, you could also use buoyancy to your advantage, intentionally going with the flow to sink or float faster, in which case you don't sacrifice any of your swim speed.

The second major new mechanic is drag. Like buoyancy, it doesn't really apply much to your character alone so much as your character's surroundings. In this case, it's a negative speed penalty to moving any non-equipped inanimate object or an immobilized creature. Drag is based on Strength score compared to size: for instance, a character with a Strength score of 28 is only going to suffer -15 feet of drag on a Medium-size object, but suddenly has to contend with a whopping -75 feet of drag on a size Large object, which will pretty much stop them in their tracks unless they have one hell of a swim speed. With inanimate objects, of course, there is a way to sometimes beat the system's near-inability to move Large or larger objects...

Cerulean Seas Campaign Setting posted:

Note that it is nearly impossible to move a large sheet of metal through the water by pushing it face first, but turning it sideways it is quite easy (that is why you take the area of the smallest side).

If you think the worst thing the new ocean mechanics can throw at you is reduced swim speed, though, you’d be wrong – dead wrong, given that the next mechanic is water pressure. Every creature has a depth tolerance number that indicates just how far down it can go before it starts to suffer adverse effects. Going 100 to 199 feet beyond your depth tolerance requires a simple DC 10 Fortitude save to avoid 1d6 nonlethal damage per round. That damage increases by 1d6 and has a 5 higher Fortitude save DC (to a maximum DC of 30) for each further 100 foot increment, however, and stops being nonlethal damage once you hit the 300 to 399 feet step. A foolish character who eventually goes “oh poo poo, I’m in too deep” and shoots up to avoid the pressure is not going to fare much better, as that infamous condition known as aeroembolism (“the bends”) has rules here as well. Heading upward more than 100 feet per minute results in 1d4 Constitution damage per each increment of 100 feet beyond that limit.

After all that doom and gloom, the first chapter of the book decides to slow down a bit and shift gears. A brief note on water currents (basically buoyancy but with horizontal movement) is followed by a section on aquatic terrain. If you’re used to D&D or Pathfinder, you’ll find the formula of listing terrain features and any game rules associated with them pretty much the same as with land terrains. The terrains that are given information are beaches, coral reefs, icebergs, kelp forests, open water, and sargassum. While it’s obvious what hazards something like the thick mats of sargassum weed can provide to characters, even the humble coral reef has non-creature dangers such as the burning disease of the fire coral.

Speaking of diseases, the last (but not least) segment of the environmental basics deals with aquatic hazards. Fire coral might be the least of your worries when the other diseases you can contract are so pleasantly named as ick, white spot, red tide, sea rot, and tapeworms. The book doesn’t actually give descriptions of any of these, just statistics, but I can assure you that all of those except for sea rot (unless I just missed a reference to it in my research) are real. Ick and white spot (AKA freshwater ick) technically affect fish, but since most of the playable races in Cerulean Seas are part fish anyway I don’t see a problem with their inclusion. In any case, the poisons provided are just as unpleasantly real, being extracted from box jellyfish, cone snails, lionfish, blue-ringed octopus, pufferfish and sea snakes. The rest of the hazards provided are a bit of a mish-mash of minor notes – predators can sense blood in the water and are likely to investigate a situation of combat, immersion in freshwater requires a Fortitude save to avoid fatigue since the races of Cerulean Seas are saltwater-adapted, hypoxic zones are devoid of oxygenated water and require a character to hold their breath, methane bubbles reduce buoyancy and are flammable, murky water inhibits vision, and whirlpools damage you when you are trapped in them.

Aquatic Combat
Far shorter than the environmental basics but nonetheless important is the other section of the first chapter, dealing with underwater combat. The biggest deal is that adjacent squares are everywhere – you’re in a 3D space, after all, so there are adjacent squares above and below. The book illustrates how notable this is by comparing the 8 adjacent squares a land-based Medium-size character deals with by the 26 adjacent squares the same character would deal with when underwater. There's also the danger of a character becoming disoriented by some event in the 3D space, which causes a -4 penalty to melee attack rolls, removes the character's ability to make ranged attacks, disables them from being able to sacrifice their swim speed to combat the effects of buoyancy or water currents, and provides a +4 bonus to Armor Class against ranged attacks but a - 4 penalty to AC against melee attacks.

As for weapons themselves, melee is the easiest way to go, as there aren’t any usual penalties with them given that the races of Cerulean Seas are accustomed to using them underwater. The other two big changes relate to splash weapons and thrown weapons. Splash weapons work the same as they usually would, but need to be specifically aimed to hit a solid surface, otherwise they sort of just end up floating impotently in the middle of the water at the end of their arc. And thrown weapons? Well, they aren’t really relevant. They are instead replaced by plunge weapons, which are designed to be hurled downward if they have negative buoyancy or upward if they have positive buoyancy. Same principle as a thrown weapon, just with the added situational nature of buoyancy.

Undersea Races-Anthromorphs
Chapter 2, Undersea Races, unsurprisingly deals with the playable races of Cerulean Seas. These races are divided into three subtypes – the anthropomorphs, the feykith, and the merfolk. While all have the Humanoid creature type, each displays specific traits across all representatives of the subtypes. First are the anthromorphs, who are anthropomorphic animals. Shocking, I know. All anthromorphs share a few qualities – they have a +2 to Perception checks to notice animate creatures or objects, have both land and swim speeds, and can either be underwater for 1 hour per 2 points of Constitution before suffocating if they have lungs or the same amount of time on land before suffocating if they have gills. As with the other two subtypes of playable race in Cerulean Seas, the core campaign guide here provides four examples.

Karkanak: While they may look absolutely terrifying, seeing as they’re huge hulking crab-people with claws of doom and terror maws, karkanaks are actually pretty chill folks. They're almost always True Neutral, tend to be atheists or animists, and like a simple existence of eating, drinking, mating, and crafting fine wares they sell for more simple needs. They’re fine with you as long as you’re fine with them. Karkanaks that become adventurers tend to do so for one of two reasons – to combat a threat to the karkanak people, or to impress lots of mates. Stat-wise, they are pretty tanky, having a +2 bonus to Strength and Constitution at the cost of -2 Dexterity, a +2 natural armor bonus to defense, and and claws that deal either 1d6 damage each for females or 1d8 for one and 1d4 for the other on the males due to having one larger dominant claw. All Craft skills are always class skills for karkanak, and they can use their Wisdom modifier instead of their Intelligence modifier for said skills. Oh, and they’re slow. Really slow. 20 feet swim speed, 10 feet land speed. While they are beach-combers by nature, they have gills rather than lungs, which means they have the “1 hour on land per 2 points of Constitution before suffocating” trait rather than the opposite on.

Mogogol: Mogogol are interesting in that they were actually released as part of Alluria Publishing’s “Remarkable Races” line for Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition before the time of the Cerulean Seas Campaign Setting. It seems that these spunky frog-people were a neutral party in the edition wars, however, and show up here as well. Cerulean Seas gives the mogogol a more Pathfinder-centric backstory by stating that they are the evolutionary descendants of a seafaring tribe of boggards (Pathfinder’s serial numbers filed off version of the Forgotten Realms’ bullywugs) that were “cursed” with altruism and kindness. They eventually interbred with grippli (a 1st Edition Dungeons and Dragons frog-people that became Open Game Content through the Tome of Horrors) and marsh giants that called for the aid of the mogogol ships during the Great Flood, and centuries later they are how they are presented here. Mogogols are obsessive about a single subject that they imprint on at an early age, and often have a childishly simplistic view of the world. This tends to annoy other anthromorphs and confuse merfolk but endears them to the feykith. Mogogols also have a rather strange naming scheme – they name themselves after their race and a tagline about them, with individuals having names like Mogogol With The Big Eyes or Mogogol Who Loves Shrimp Too Much or whatever. Those that are considered particularly affluent get a prefix to their name as well, like Kingly Mogogol That Fights Krakens or something.

Stat-wise, mogogols are sort of a weird jumble. Their ability score modifiers are +2 Charisma and Constitution but -2 to Intelligence, have a 10 foot long ranged grapple with their tongue, and they can be either size Small or size Medium due to that marsh giant blood mixed in with everything else sometimes manifesting strongly. Small mogogols have a swim speed of 20 feet, land speed of 10 feet, and get a +4 bonus to Climb checks, while Medium mogogols just have a swim speed of 30 feet and land speed of 20 feet – both sizes get the benefit of being able to move unhindered in marsh terrain or mud, however. Their alignment must be some manner of Good, and cannot be changed as it is literally genetic for them due to whatever magic was cast on the original mogogol tribe. And, of course, there’s the matter of that whole obsession. The mogogol’s obsession lets them have a +2 bonus to one Knowledge skill or Profession skill. What does all of this add up to? I’m not really sure, but playing one would definitely be an interesting experience.

Piscean: The pisceans are fish people who were violent, evil, and greedy in the distant past, but turned over a new leaf during the end of the blood wars with the sahuagin during the Great Flood and became obsessed with neutrality and balance out of a fear that they might slip back into their dark ways. They have to struggle with innate racism and anger problems that make it hard to be as stoic or heroic as their culture demands, and often show their loyalty to a new life by hunting down and destroying worshipers of Clagguth, the dark god they worshiped long ago. The fact that Clagguth's symbol is a cephalopod means they like to hack off octopus arms and wear them as trophies. Piscean characters have a +2 bonus to Dexterity and Wisdom but a -2 penalty to Charisma, a swim speed of 30 feet and land speed of 20 feet, have gills, get a +2 bonus to Handle Animal checks with any natural fish, have a +2 bonus to saving throws against mind-affecting spells and effects, have darkvision, and have a +1 bonus to attack rolls against non-piscean humanoids.

Sebek-ka: The last of the anthromorphs are the sebek-ka, anthropomorphic saltwater crocodiles that are basically the culture of pharaonic Egypt but with crocodile people. To be fair, though, it’s because it is literally all they know, having been bred in the time of the drylanders by fantasy Egyptians specifically to act as avatars of the god Sebek and being immersed in that culture so long that even the centuries after the Great Flood couldn’t wash it away. Sebek-ka tend to be lawful alignment, and it is the pharaoh’s decree that any sebek-ka who doesn’t openly worship Sebek is to be exiled, so other races tend to be a bit apprehensive and tender-footed around the cranky strict guys who have lots of pointy teeth. Sebek-ka characters have a +2 to Strength and Wisdom but -2 to Intelligence, a swim speed of 30 feet and land speed of 20 feet, a 1d8 damage bite attack, a +1 bonus to attack rolls against Tiny or smaller creatures, and can reroll a failed Will save and take the second result due to their "reptilian mind".

Undersea Races-Feykith
Next up after the anthromorphs are the feykith. While they are humanoids rather than true fey due to the mortal plane diluting their ancient fey blood for some reason, feykith are still innately magical. All feykith get a +2 bonus to caster level checks made to overcome spell resistance, a +2 bonus to saving throws against Enchantment type spells and effects, a +2 bonus to Perception skill checks, and a +2 bonus to Fortitude saves versus cold weather, severe cold, or exposure to cold. Lots of +2s for these guys. They also have both land speed and swim speed, and can breathe both air and water equally.

Sea Elf: While land elves were wiped out by the Great Flood, we still have the sea elves around to be dickish to everyone. Thankfully, Cerulean Seas takes the opposite approach of a certain AD&D elf sourcebook and actually calls the sea elves out on their dickishness. While their pride and power can make beautiful coral cities for them to live in and aid other races, it can just as often end up spawning some horrid abomination against nature or lead to paternalistic imperialism. Of course, it happens to be that a fair amount of sea elves aren't dicks – some prefer to be wandering adventurers instead of haughty city-sulkers, there are plenty that care about other species in a non-imperialistic manner, and some are even smitten enough with other races to give up their centuries-long lives and transform into the form of their love. Sea elf characters get a +2 bonus to Dexterity and Intelligence but -2 to Constitution, have a swim speed of 30 feet and land speed of 20 feet, have a +2 bonus to Spellcraft checks made to identify a magic item's properties, and are automatically proficient with any form of trident, longbow, or short bow, as well as treating any weapon with "elven' in its name as a martial rather than exotic weapon.

Naiad: Properly referred to as “viridian naiads”, the naiads are strange beings that spend 70 years as non-sapient kelp pods before actually undergoing metamorphosis into their proper adult feykith form, at which time they are effectively ageless and eternally in the same size and shape. They have a very black and white view of the world, with their allies being “good guys” and enemies being “bad guys”, and don’t really understand the idea of lies and betrayal. This childish attitude often makes them best buds with the mogogol, but it also lets species such as the pisceans take advantage of them and have them work for little more than a pat on the back at the end of the day. Naiad characters have a +2 to Constitution and Wisdom but a -2 to Intelligence, have a swim speed of 30 feet and land speed of 20 feet, always consider Knowledge (Nature) as a class skill and key it to Wisdom rather than Intelligence, receive a +2 bonus to saves against paralysis, poison, polymorphing, and stun effects, can be targeted by spells that normally affect only plant creatures, and are so water dependent that they do the whole "1 hour on land per 2 points of Constitution before suffocation starts) spiel even though they technically have both lungs and gills.

Nixie: Nixies, or “deepwater nixies” as they are sometimes referred to in longform, are little folk that love exploration, magic, and music. Their phosphorescent cities are built around thermal vents deep in the twilight zone of the ocean and have especially tight-knit groups given the eccentricity of nixie love. Not only are nixies polyamorous, but they actively refuse to tell nixie children which mate of their mother is the biological father, forcing family relationships that stretch across entire communities. It probably doesn’t matter much either way, though, given that nixies head off adventuring to sate their wanderlust as soon as they hit adulthood and don’t settle down with a family until they are around 200 years old. Nixie characters are the only size Small race in the Cerulean Seas Campaign Setting book other than the mogogol and cindarian, have a +2 bonus to Charisma and Dexterity but a -2 penalty to Strength, have a swim speed of 30 feet and land speed of 20 feet, get a +2 bonus to Handle Animal checks and consider said skill to always be a class skill, add a +1 bonus to the saving throw DC of any Enchantment they cast, automatically get charm person once per day as a spell-like ability if they start play with a Charisma of 11 or higher, and can double their swim speed if they turn their move action into a full round action.

Behold, convenient censor-style art.
Selkie: The selkies are a territorial, tribal people that can take on the form of a seal or a sea elf. Lead by a Kahuna (the setting's equivalent of a Druid) matriarch, they are a boisterous people who love feasts, alcohol, rough sports, and competitive fighting. They are not fond of lawful races, especially the nommo, and tend to gravitate toward other feykith. Selkie characters have a +2 to Charisma and Dexterity but -2 to Wisdom, have a swim speed of 30 feet and land speed of 20 feet, can innately sense the general compass direction of their homeland, and can transform into their seal form and back again. Since they are meant to be played as an "out of the box" race, turning into a seal isn’t a full blown deal like polymorph – instead, the only things that change about the selkie’s stats are that their speeds change to 5 feet land speed and 60 feet swim speed, they have a +5 bonus to Disguise checks to pretend they’re a generic non-magical seal, and they can’t do anything that would need hands instead of flippers.

Undersea Races-Merfolk
The third and last of the three subtypes of humanoid playable in Cerulean Seas are the merfolk, which follow the classic merfolk trend of having some manner of humanoid form from the waist up and a sea creature’s from the waist down. The traits that all merfolk have are gills instead of lungs, the ability to have a piddly 5 foot land speed if they make the effort to crawl onto land, and always get a bonus feat at their first character level.

Cindarian: While they may have the spin lower half of a lionfish, the cindarians are basically the stereotype-Switzerland of the Cerulean Seas. They’re neutral with pretty much everybody and vice versa, and love to learn about the ideas and rituals of other cultures. Their own civilization is based around an obsession with coral reefs – they live in or around coral reefs, tend to the health of coral reefs, and get uncomfortable when they're away from coral reefs. Younger cindarians are enthusiastic enough about seeing new sights and learning new things that they become adventurers, but by the time they’re of old age they have an innate inset of agoraphobia outside of their beloved coral sanctums. Cindarian chraracters are size Small, have a +2 to Constitution and Charisma but -2 to Strength, have a swim speed of 30 feet, are forced to take the feat Coral Link as their merfolk bonus feat, have a +2 bonus to saving throws against poison and fire coral disease, and have venomous spines that deal a point of piercing damage and a point of Dexterity damage to any creature that makes an unarmed or natural attack against them.

Kai-lio: The kai-lios are the centaurs of the sea, having the mystical hippocampus as their sea creature lower body. Unsurprisingly, they’re pretty fond of worshiping Poseidon, since they cover all of his major domains besides earthquakes. The fact that kai-lios are introverted and isolationist makes them mysterious to pretty much everyone other than the cindarians. Most of the time, they prefer to spend their days crafting art, poetry, and spending time with their families, but there are obviously cases of adventuring kai-lios – usually outcasts, those who have had a religious or philosophical experience that drove them to wander, or individuals defending their homeland from some manner of foe – since they wouldn’t be a noteworthy playable race otherwise. I would love to say that kai-lios are the only Large playable race in Cerulean Seas, but no, they’re somehow Medium-size like most races even though they have a big ol’ sea horse for a lower half. I’m fairly sure this is some sort of mistake, as the text even says that they are 9 feet long as far as their horsey half goes and human-sized in their humanoid half, so they are clearly going to be size Large. Either way, what kai-lio characters do have are a +2 to Strength and Wisdom but -2 to Charisma, swim speed of 50 feet, the ability to carry 50% more buoyany load than a standard humanoid, and an inability to ride mounts that are smaller than size Huge.

Nommo: The oldest of the merfolk, the catfish-like nommo have been around since before even the millennia of the drylanders. They're condescending assholes that use the royal we, think the other merfolk's version of the merfolk goddess Keilona is a half-truth compared to their version of her, treat other races as children to be coddled, justify any action they do as being innately benevolent due to their superior nature, and have a gender segregated society where females are part of the noble class and males almost always part of the servant class. Unsurprisingly, the only race that actively tolerates them are the cindarians, though most will tolerate them for their knowledge or adventuring expertise. Nommo characters have a +2 to Strength and Intelligence but -2 to Charisma, 40 feet swim speed, have an air tolerance that is in rounds rather than hours like most gilled beings in the title do, can wield a one-handed melee weapon as if it were a light weapon due to their oversized hands, and are acclimated to extreme depths and thus suffer water pressure damage if they head above depths of 300 feet.

Seafolk: Literally humans with fish tails. The two major seafolk nations are the artsy, learned, and peaceful Carallel and the politically savvy, warmongering, and imperialistic Barashi. In spite of their vast differences, the Carallel and Barashi manage to be bipartisan when it comes to the well-being of the seafolk. Seafolk characters get +2 to one chosen ability score, have a swim speed of 40 feet, and gain one additional skill rank each round. See? Literally just watery humans.

Seafolk Crossbreeds: Like the humans they are so similar to, seafolk are prone to sexing up anything that is vaguely compatible. Enter the crossbreeds! Each crossbreed uses the seafolk stats plus one trait taken from the other parent race, and the given examples are as follows.
  • Cindarfolk: Cindarfolk are seafolk/cindarian hybrids, and basically look like cindarians that are Medium instead of Small. They get the poison spine ability of the cindarians.
  • Bogfolk: For some baffling reason, a boggard and a seafolk mated, and the result is a boggard with the fish half of a mudskipper. They get the 1d4 damage claws of the boggard.
  • Kai-lua: The most baffling seafolk crossbreed of all, somehow a kai lio and seafolk breeding creates a seafolk with a seahorse tail. As in the fish, not the hippocampus. And this tail is prehensile, acting like an extra hand, which is the ability it gets instead of a kai lio ability. :iiam:
  • Mroe: These seafolk/nommo hybrids have silurid catfish tails like the nommo do, as well as the nommo's oversized hands and the ability associated with it.
  • Sharkfolk: These are a hybrid between seafolk and the shargs, a monstrous race that we thus won't be seeing until the bestiary chapter later on. Their sharg heritage gives them a shark lower half and sharp teeth, giving a 1d4 damage bite attack.
  • Oceanid: A mix of sea elf and seafolk, basically looking like a sea elf with the fishy tail instead of a human with the fishy tail. Their benefit for existing is getting the sea elves' racial weapons proficiencies. Yaaaay.
  • Dark Oceanid: A mix of sea elf and deep drow, another monstrous race that we won't see until chapter 9. They are basically oceanids but with drow instead of sea elf as far as looks go, but their actual racial trait is a +4 bonus to saves against poison thanks to their deep drow parent.
  • Pincoy: Seal from the waist down, sea elf from the waist up. That means seafolk/selkie hybrid, if you couldn't guess. They get the selkie's magnetic "home is this way" sense.
  • Crucian: By some fluke of nature, a karkanak and seafolk got together, and as you can see from the image above the crossbreeds entry, it is certainly something to behold. They get one 1d6 claw attack, +1 natural armor bonus to AC, and the innate Craft ability of the karkanak.
  • Mergogol: Merfolk + mogogol. Get it? :haw: They have frog legs, which lets them move on land, which sort of defeats the purpose of a merfolk but whatever. They also get the marsh stride, obsession skill bonus, and inborn Good alignment of the mogogol parent.
  • Oanne: The most terrifying of the seafolk crossbreeds, these seafolk/piscean mixes literally look like human-sized carp that happen to have arms and legs sticking out from them. Imagine that ambling toward you. In addition to obviously getting the land-walking ability of the piscean parent, they also inherit their darkvision, bonus to Handle Animal with fish, and their bonus to saves against mind-affecting effects.


Next time: base classes, prestige classes, skills, and feats. Hurray!

Al Baron
Nov 12, 2007
They were all out of Marquess.

I know that this thread has gone on about L5R before, but has anyone gone over Legend of the Burning Sands?

I was reading up on how Romance of the Nine Empires (basically a fictional card game brought to life as a KS strech goal) came to be and man did AEG pick a more generic setting to plaster over a reimplementation of the card game.

Al Baron fucked around with this message at 06:36 on Jan 3, 2014

Dec 23, 2012

Considering how :spergin: Cerulean Seas is about buoyancy and water pressure and three-dimensional combat, you'd be forgiven to think they might've written a word or three about water temperature too.

Ha ha ha no that'd mean they'd have to draw merfolk with clothes and fat sea elves.

Jan 29, 2012

Really Madcats

Fossilized Rappy posted:

Oanne: The most terrifying of the seafolk crossbreeds, these seafolk/piscean mixes literally look like human-sized carp that happen to have arms and legs sticking out from them. Imagine that ambling toward you. In addition to obviously getting the land-walking ability of the piscean parent, they also inherit their darkvision, bonus to Handle Animal with fish, and their bonus to saves against mind-affecting effects.

(from Slayers)

I'd play one. Or one of the crab-people hybrids.

^^^ Good point about the water temperature. We can't have fat sea-elves!

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!

Siivola posted:

Considering how :spergin: Cerulean Seas is about buoyancy and water pressure and three-dimensional combat, you'd be forgiven to think they might've written a word or three about water temperature too.

Ha ha ha no that'd mean they'd have to draw merfolk with clothes and fat sea elves.

Yeah, when I did some roughs for an undersea setting, I realized the facts of light, warmth, and pressure meant that most "undersea" races would have to be a nearshore, and the idea of races having cities in the actual sea proper would require either magic or altered fantasy physics.

Nov 8, 2009

So... what's the point of Cerulean Seas when Stormwrack is already a thing and doesn't bother with nonsense like bouyancy and has more interesting, less voluptuous, and more sensibly dressed races?

Mr. Maltose
Feb 16, 2011

The Guffless Girlverine

Cythereal posted:

So... what's the point of Cerulean Seas when Stormwrack is already a thing and doesn't bother with nonsense like bouyancy and has more interesting, less voluptuous, and more sensibly dressed races?

Cythereal posted:

less voluptuous, and more sensibly dressed races

Often the answer lies within the question itself.

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!

Darfellans are rad- wait you said sensibly dressed. Oh well!

Aug 11, 2009

The archmage of unexpected stinks.

Alien Rope Burn posted:

Darfellans are rad- wait you said sensibly dressed. Oh well!

That's pretty sensible! If you've got disruptive coloration, why cover it up?

Sep 27, 2012

That's right, kids, take lots of drugs, leave the universe behind, and pilot Enlightenment Voltron out into the cosmos to meet Alien Jesus.

theironjef posted:

That's pretty sensible! If you've got disruptive coloration, why cover it up?

The great thing about being sapient tool users is you can design a garment that mimics your disruptive coloration and keeps you from freezing to death.

Pictured: :science:

Aug 21, 2000

Not keen on keening.

Grimey Drawer

Alien Rope Burn posted:

Yeah, when I did some roughs for an undersea setting, I realized the facts of light, warmth, and pressure meant that most "undersea" races would have to be a nearshore, and the idea of races having cities in the actual sea proper would require either magic or altered fantasy physics.

I remember reading through the undersea Creature Crucible for late-model BECMI and being fascinated by the adaptations they made for that kind of environment. There were brief rules for 3D combat (in short: don't get swarmed) and very strong suggestions for keeping hot water bottles full of blood for making trails away from the site of battles, so that predators don't catch your scent... though in retrospect I'm not sure how well that one works. There were quasi-spergy things about water-dwellers not being able to hear clearly on land, and swapping fire spells for identical lightning effects too.

But the neatest thing was that almost the entire setting was placed in a large, shallow saltwater sea, with the note that water gets dark and cold fast beyond a certain point. Sure you might have sonar or infravision, but the shelf that the Sunlit Sea sits on tumbles off precipitously, and it's the biggest, scariest monsters that lurk and plot in the borderline Lovecraftian depths below...

Poland Spring
Sep 11, 2005

Couldn't you just have the cities have a level of buoyancy themselves that kept them at liveable depths?

Edit: Then you could have some really neat things like migratory cities, that traveled slowly through the ocean along the currents.

Jun 5, 2011

I mean, if you're a successful actress and you go out of the house in a skirt and without underwear, knowing that paparazzi are just waiting for opportunities like this and that it has happened many times before, then there's really nobody you can blame for it but yourself.

Or you could just accept that magic fish elves can live wherever they want to, because magic.

Aug 21, 2000

Not keen on keening.

Grimey Drawer

Oh poo poo, I just realized what Numenera reminds me of. Not the Dying Earth, not even Thundarr... but Shannara. A pretty much by-the-numbers high fantasy setting built on the ruins of some unnamed ultra-tech culture or another.

Humbug Scoolbus
Apr 25, 2008

The scarlet letter was her passport into regions where other women dared not tread. Shame, Despair, Solitude! These had been her teachers, stern and wild ones, and they had made her strong, but taught her much amiss.

Clapping Larry

Give Shannara some credit. It was the first(maybe?) by the numbers high fantasy Tolkien ripoff set on a dead ultra-tech culture.

Poland Spring
Sep 11, 2005

Humbug Scoolbus posted:

Give Shannara some credit. It was the first(maybe?) by the numbers high fantasy Tolkien ripoff set on a dead ultra-tech culture.

ahahahaha I read this series as a kid but I guess I never got far enough to figure that out, awesome
Edit: I must've stopped reading before they explicitly spell it out

Aug 11, 2009

The archmage of unexpected stinks.

GimpInBlack posted:

The great thing about being sapient tool users is you can design a garment that mimics your disruptive coloration and keeps you from freezing to death.

Pictured: :science:

Pictured what? All I see is a beach.

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Chapter Two: The World

The world of Praemal is round, slightly smaller than our own Earth. Traditionally three moons hung in the sky, Lunas, Rogue, and Vallis. But ten thousand years ago Vallis disappeared, changing the way magic worked in this world forever. In the sidebar Monte Cook had its disappearance signal the change from 2nd to 3rd Edition in his own Praemal campaign. Which, judging by the game mechanics, should mean that primary spellcasters will be entering a new golden age of unsurpassed power. Cook also hints that if the moon should ever return, then great changes will surely happen again. And what would you know, the supplemental adventure that comes with this book is all about this!


Here we have a brief description of the known nations of Praemal. Ptolus is technically in the nation of Palastan, but it's maintained independence from its monarchy.

Cherubar is a mountainous country to the west of Ptolus, populated by winged Cherubim elves and a few human settlements, both battling against savage hordes of giants who continually enroach upon their territory. It is rumored that the ancestry of air elementals flows in these peoples' veins.

The Cold Desert is an inhospitable and barren region to the southwest of Ptolus, home to orcs, hobgoblins, and other evil humanoids.

The Eastern Hordes are a unified confederation of tribes to the east of the Gray Mountains who invaded the Empire in recent years. Led by King Oulgas, they ovewhelmed the fractured imperial forces and conquered the capital city of Tarsis itself. But the barbarian leader had nothing but contempt and spite for the people of the west, and in four years he led his forces back over the mountains. When asked why he went to war in the first place, he answered "because I could."

Kem used to be a nation of great arcane might, but vast amounts of powerful sorcery in civil wars laid waste to the region, tainting its soil and destroying entire cities. Only the toughest animal and plant life can survive in this inhospitable region, and the remnants of civilization build upon the ruins of tors (rocky hills).

Nall is an icy northern nation believed to be the birthplace of humanity. Its folk are a hardy lot, living in nomadic tribes usually ruled by female spellcasters. Long, harsh winters result in very isolated settlements which can go years without meeting each other.

Palastan is a fertile land with beautiful hills and great green forests. In the last year the Imperial Governor was killed during the rioting and upheaval in the capital city of Trolene. The original King and Queen of the country, along with their monarchist allies, seized the seat of power and took control of the nation "until Tarsis appoints a new governor." The Empire, meanwhile, has its own concerns to attend to and cannot quell this usurpation of power anytime soon. The city of Ptolus is technically within Palastan's borders, but it has maintained independence from the new monarchy. Also, a powerful circle of rangers and druids known as the Viridian Lords hold powerful sway in this land, operating independently from the government and communities often turn to them for guidance. They also help drive off monster and bandit attacks in the rural regions.

The Plains of Panish are seemingly endless miles of flat grassland east of Tarsis, home to many primitive tribes of humans, centaurs, and litorians.

The Prustan Peninsula is home to the Prustan people and the Grailwarden dwarves. The Prustans took over the lands around Tarsis about a thousand years ago, eventually leading to the rise of the Empire. They are an industrious people with an extensive societal infrastructure, and they and the dwarves have been allies as long as either could remember. Due to their prominence, Prustan humans are found in lands throughout the Empire.

The realm of Ren Tehoth was in decline long before even the Empire of Tarsis rose. Its dwindling nobility and shrinking population gave rise to many ruins. Frightened by Tarsis' increasing power and desire to avoid war, they accepted foreign rule with little bloodshed. Today the land is home to many prominent elven cities, who have much in common with their western brethren except that they're less comfortable around humans.

Rhoth is a rural nation of plains to the west of Ptolus, home to small towns and villages frequented by halfling caravans. They are a hearty, if xenophobic, folk, and thirty years ago they had a terrible war with the gnoll tribes in the area; the events are still well-remembered to this day.

Sea Kingdoms and Dohrinthas are a federation on the southern end of the continent of once-warring pirate states. It is a very rich region, blessed with heavy trade by land and sea, and little warfare has despoiled its economy. When massing barbarians threatened Tarsis in 706 IA (Imperial Age), Empress Addares XXXIV moved the capital from Tarsis to Dohrinthas. This resulted in splitting the empire, as the aging councilor Segaci Fellisti held the throne in Tarsis before it got sacked a few years later.

Tarsis is the capital city of the Empire which rules over little more than half the world. It is still recovering from the barbarian invasion of a decade ago; toppled walls are being rebuilt, and refugees are slowly returning. The Grand Cathedral serves as the headquarters of the Church of Lothian, despite the fact that the Emperor of the Church remains in the city of Ptolus. At its height, the Empire encompassed the entire Prustan Peninsula, the lands surrounding the southern sea including Uraq, and the northern lands of Cherubar to the Grey Mountains. Now its grip is shrinking, and some feel that the empire has fallen. But just as many folk proud of their Empire, and pay just as much fealty to the two Emperors.

Uraq and the distant South held sway over most of the known world before the rise of Tarsis. They controlled the Southern Sea as the dominant seafaring power, but those days are long past. They fell five centuries ago in bloody wars to Tarsis, but over time the Empire has proven tolerable rulers. The arid climate has never held much appeal to the Prust, and the hot desert sands were a constant hindrance to maintenance of their guns and machines. There are more lands farther to the south, including the realms of Panogolan Bunneir, lands of savanna and jungle ignored by the Empire. Beyond is the empire of Kellisan at the World's End Sea. Most folk of the Empire think of all lands south of Uraq as simply "the distant South" and know no details of such places.

Interesting Sidebar Notes: In the world at large there are no "dungeons" to explore. An adventurer is not a respectable or valid occupation, and in the Empire the worship of Lothian is predominant in overwhelming numbers. To others, Ptolusites have a rather casual attitude to danger, evil, and general weirdness.

Also, evil is not just an alignment and a real palpable thing, it has physical long-term effects on the land itself. Heavy use of black magic (evil spells, powers which destroy souls, create undead, draw upon negative energy, summon fiends, et cetera) cannot be used without contributed to a lingering taint which can spread across the land. Several areas in Ptolus stand as proof to this: the Dark Reliquary, Ghul's ancient fortress, and Jabel Shammar (the fortress perched on the top of the Spire) are so steeped in evil that the places themselves have become malign. In Jabel Shammar's case it was so bad that the earth itself pushed the place away from it, culminating in the 2,000+ foot tall spire the city of Ptolus is built around.


Now we get the languages of Praemal.

Abyssal is spoken by all lower planes fiends (there is no Infernal). Thousands of years ago the Dread One Eslathagos Malkith adopted the language and taught it to his creations, explaining why its common among aberrations and many other beings.

Charad was spoken by the Charad Titans who visited the Whitewind Sea 6 millenia ago. It is own only to a handful of elven scholars.

Common, also known as Imperial, is a newer version of the Prustan language which came about with the expansion of the Empire of Tarsis. Currently it serves as a useful trade tongue and is the national language of the Empire.

Draconic is one of the oldest languages, up there with Elder Elvish and Dwarvish. Many magical writings are Draconic.

Dwarvish remained virtually unchanged for thousands of years, and most words are short. The language makes heavy use of compound word constructions to create new words as needed.

Elvish is a newer version of Elder Elvish. It is a lyrical, beautfiul language with a huge and very precise vocabulary. It also grants speakers a +1 bonus to Diplomacy checks when they converse with others in the language, as politefulness and tact are heavily built into it. You can still insult someone, it just requires more thought and effort.

Dark Elvish also derives from Elder Elvish, with many words for darkness, betrayal, and similar concepts, but none for charity or mercy.

Elder Elvish is a dead language with virtually nobody speaks anymore. Its letters double as numbers, which makes it very easy to craft codes and double meanings with it.

Gnomish also derives from Elder Elvish. So does Halfling, which also borrows a lot of words and phrases from the human language of Westron.

Litorian is a gruff language spoken by the race of the same name, and is unrelated to any other language in the world.

Old Prustan is a human language which sounds hard gruff. Today only a few scholars speak it. Old Prustan is based upon real-world German, and thus many human names in Ptolus sound a lot like German, Austrian, and Prussian ones.

Orcish is a mixture of Abyssal and Westron. Originally the orcs spoke Abyssal, taught to them by the Dread One. After his destruction they fled west and picked up many human tongues in their new homes.

Palastani is a rather simple language which is coming back into vogue after the nation's monarchy returned.

Nallish is spoken by the people of Nall and the barbarian tribes of the east.

Undercommon derives from Elder Elvish mixed with some Abyssal and Draconic. Originally the dark elves spoke it, but it spread across the underground realms along with their prominence in those lands.

Uraqi is a human tongue which originated in Kellistan far to the south. It has no clear visible relations to the other human tongues.

Westron is believed to be the oldest human language, but few know its true source. Some believe that it was a "Common" tongue of pre-Imperial days, while others believe that it was taught to humans by the Creator himself.

Special Materials

In addition to the common components of darkwood, mithral, and similar materials for 3rd Edition equipment, Ptolus is home to a few unique ones detailed below.

Aethel is one of the most valuable materials. It is a clear mineral first discovered by the Elder Elves capable of absorbing magical energy and light. Depending upon the size of the crystal, aethel can absorb 1 to 10 spell levels akin to a rod of absorption, and spellcasters can use the stored energy to cast their own prepared spells without losing them In order to do so, however, the crystal must be treated in a 24 hour process using 1,000 gp worth of special ingredients per spell level to be absorbed. If left in sunlight aethel will absorb the sunlight and fill the spell storage to full capacity, effectively wasting the material. Additionally, aethel's stored spell energy can be used as a replacement for spell knowledge for magic item creation. A very powerful material, to be sure.

Black Adamantine can only be found in a few mines in the Cold Desert, and all the available material has been mined and turned into weapons and armor. It functions as normal adamantine except that it has Spell Resistance 25 against spell which would destroy or affect it, and those in the know can use a Wish or Miracle spell to make it impervious to all known forms of physical and magical damage.

Firestone is a mineral which can only be created through magic, and it's commonly used to fuel advanced technological devices. One pound of firestone can burn for 24 hours.

Heliothil is a pale violet stone first discovered by the dwarves. It has "negative weight," meaning that if unattended it will float up and disappear into the sky. 1 pound of the material equals 5 pounds of negative weight, meaning that an equal amount of negative weight applied to an object's weight can suspend said object in the air. Dwarves used it to construct flying chariots, floating citadels, and in modern times the Inverted Pyramid (powerful mages' guild of Ptolus) uses it in the construction of their invisible fortress. There used to be a massive floating mountain with Heliothil, but overmining by the dwarves caused it to crash into the earth.

Ithildin and Ithilnaur are two metals elven craftsmen are famous for. Ithildin is a decorative silver which glows at night and is dull and nearly invisible during the day. Ithilnaur is a strong, thin material with the same properties, and both give out a glow equal to candlelight. Ithildin functions as silver but costs twice as much, Ithilnaur functions as mithril but costs twice as much (wow, that's a lot of gold pieces just for a little light!).

In the ancient days before air, earth, and water did not come into their final states, sunlight shone into the deep pockets of air that eventually became trapped underground. It manifested into Liquid Light as manifestation of good done in the world, eventually seeping up to the world above. It is a thick, milky liquid, and 1 pint of the stuff can give off light as bright as a daylight spell. It can also be used as a spell component for spells with the Good or Light descriptor and increase its effective Caster Level by 2. It inflicts damage to evil-aligned outsiders and undead, and heals an equivalent amount to goo-aligned outsiders and blessed children (unborn souls).

Liquid Shadow is a vile substance which forms in the darkest underground pits. It is a manifestation of evil done in the world, and it has much the same effects as Liquid Light except reversed (radiates natural darkness, enhances darkness and evil spells, etc).

Marlite is a blue-tinted iron which can be processed so that it's as hard as steel. However, it is valuable because it is effectively "magic dead" and can never be affected by any kind of spell or supernatural ability. On that note, it cannot be magically enchanted, either. Marlite armor provides no protection against magic for the wearer, but the armor is still immune. It costs ten times as much as a normal piece of armor or weapon.

Moonsilver, or ithilirid to the elves, is always found on liquid form and congeals among the grass and trees of certain forests on nights of the full moon. It is always liquid, not unlike mercury, and a surface coated with it gains a hardness equivalent to iron. A person can harmlessly cover themself in the stuff and gain an armor bonus (+2 to +8 depending upon how much is available) with none of the drawbacks of worn armor. However, it fades away four hours after it adheres to a surface.

Vallis is the name of the precious moon which once orbited Praemal. At times meteorites from this celestial body would fall to earth, its stones raw magical power which could be used to power spells, magic items, and rituals in ways impossible in the current era. The Vallis moon is now gone, and thus future sources of its rock (most of which has been used up already). Still, some remains in the form of Vallis dust, and spellcasters have learned to carefully extract as much power with as little dust as possible.

A speck of Vallis dust can power a number of spell levels depending upon its potency, allowing a spellcaster to "cast" the spells without using them up in the process. Most range from 1 to 6 levels in capacity. A 0 level spell counts as half a level. So a 5 capacity Vallis dust can power two 2nd-level and one 1st-level spell, or 1 5th-level spell. Like aethal, it must be prepared in a 24 hour ritual with 100 gp worth of materials per spell capacity. Unprepared Vallis can only ever power 1 spell level. Used up Vallis dust disappears entirely.

If one were to find a large concentration of Vallis dust, or in stone form, it would be dangerous to use as it literally leaks magical power (Fortitude save every round or take 1 Constitution damage). Vallis dust levels can also be used as a replacement for a spell of equivalent level when crafting magical items, much like Aethel.

Thoughts so far: There is a lot of interesting ideas, but the setting outside the city feels kind of bland. This is deliberate, as the center of the campaign's focus is in the City by the Spire, where all the interesting stuff occurs. As for the languages only Elvish really stood out to me, which a concrete mechanical bonus, which I think could have been extended to some other languages as well (Midgard Campaign Setting for Pathfinder does a stellar job at this in a cool way, I'll just say).

As for the materials, aethel and Vallis dust would be incredibly overpowered to give to mages were it not for their incredibly expensive costs (potential spell level square x 1,000 gp, plus 1,000 or 100 per potential level for aethel and Vallis respectively). Heliothil I can see being used in all sorts of cool ways by enterprising PCs, and its backstory is pretty cool. I do like the idea of making evil magic have a visible impact on the land, even if it doesn't have actual game statistics. It reminds me of Defilers from Dark Sun, who power their spells by drawing upon surrounding life and are responsible for turning the world into a barren wasteland.

Next time, Chapter 3: the Races of Ptolus!

Libertad! fucked around with this message at 01:34 on Jan 5, 2014

Dec 24, 2007

Libertad! posted:

Marlite is a blue-tinted iron which can be processed so that it's as hard as steel. However, it is valuable because it is effectively "magic dead" and can never be affected by any kind of spell or supernatural ability. On that note, it cannot be magically enchanted, either. Marlite armor provides no protection against magic for the wearer, but the armor is still immune. It costs ten times as much as a normal piece of armor or weapon.

Depending on the exact wording of the mechanical effects of this material I could see a really antagonistic GM doing some "neutron bomb" effects with magic, in which the player characters are magically killed but their equipment remains intact.

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

Siivola posted:

Considering how :spergin: Cerulean Seas is about buoyancy and water pressure and three-dimensional combat, you'd be forgiven to think they might've written a word or three about water temperature too.

Ha ha ha no that'd mean they'd have to draw merfolk with clothes and fat sea elves.
There are words about water temperature...just not in the Cerulean Seas Campaign Guide. A bit weird if you ask me, but they sort of assume you are going to stay in the tropical shallows for your first campaign. There are notes on temperature in two of the four sourcebooks for Cerulean Seas, though, so the topic won't be totally left out in the cold.

I will agree that the sea elves are terrifyingly thin, though. They look like they innately take the Vampire template.

Cythereal posted:

So... what's the point of Cerulean Seas when Stormwrack is already a thing and doesn't bother with nonsense like bouyancy and has more interesting, less voluptuous, and more sensibly dressed races?
I'd say there's no real monopoly on sourcebooks on a topic. I can name five sourcebooks about the ocean for D&D and Pathfinder that I personally own, Stormwrack included, and they all have their own little interesting quirks and decisions. The more, the merrier, variety is the spice of life, you get to pick and choose, etc. etc.

There's also the fact that Stormwrack isn't Open Game Content or originally meant for Pathfinder, which I imagine influenced the authors' choice to actually put it out there as well.

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

To my knowledge, I think that Stormwrack was devoted mostly to above-sea ship exploration.

As for Cerulean Seas, it has a clever and detailed way of keeping track of 3-dimensional combat, also suitable for aerial fighting. It translates a lot of concepts into an undersea setting in a cool way, including equipment, spells, and the like. It also has stats for a lot of common sea creatures (starfish, barracudas, jellyfish, et cetera), several of which can be taken as familiars!

It blends the real-world variety of sea terrain with fantasy elements, and does a great job of describing much of it, from kelp forests to coral reefs to coastlines and marshes. For example, hypoxic zones are where most of the oxygen in an area of water is missing, usually due to consumption by algal blooms. As even fish cannot breathe in it, and there is an absence of life, many undead creatures make their lairs in such places.

If you like Pathfinder and adventures set near and on the sea, you can really benefit from this book.

Dec 10, 2007


I was going through the index to see what I missed during my absence. Just got done with Wick Way of the Scorpion, and was wondering which old read-throughs had the same level of :psyduck: and/or :smuggo: (aside from House of the Blooded)


Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Chapter 3: Races

Here's where we get to the meatier parts of this book. I talked about sidebars before, but I just want to show you what they look like:

Over to the left is an overview of typical information: page references to important people/places/things, minor notes on setting material, and the occasional picture. In this one, we have the two racial symbols for the dwarves.

Major Races

Dwarves are a humanoid race comprised of three clans: the Stonelost (formerly Stonemight), Grailwarden, and Earthsingers.

The Stonelost dwarves are a displaced people forced out of their ancestral home of Dwarvenhearth, which is conveniently located and sealed up beneath the city of Ptolus. They're accomplished artisans, engineers, and merchants. They left Dwarvenhearth of their own volition, feeling that they're too disgraced and unworthy to reclaim it; for this reason they don't really talk about it much among other races. They use the standard PHB stats for dwarves.

Grailwarden dwarves settled the Prustan peninsula long ago and found an artifact known as the White Grail while tunneling into the region's mountains. They felt that it was their destiny to guard this relic, and thus the origin of their name. They are known for their knack with advanced technology such as lenses, gears, and gunpowder, and are strong allies of the Prustan humans. They're also more open-minded to magic, but they prefer the more studious and methodical kinds. Grailwarden dwarves replace the bonuses against orcs, goblins, and giants with +2 bonus on various Craft and Knowledge checks related to technology (Alchemy, machines, architecture and engineering, etc).

Left to right: Cherubim elf, Shoal elf, Harrow elf.

Elves revere the moon and are one of the oldest races of Praemal. In ancient times gnomes and halflings were considered kinds of elves, but not anymore. The elves proper are split into Shoal Elves, Dark Elves, Harrow Elves, Cherubim Elves, and the extinct two Elder Elven subraces: the Solarr and Lunas Elves (which cannot be chosen by PCs). An interesting note in Ptolus is that elves sleep normally like humans, and their culture places a great emphasis on dreams.

Shoal elves are the most populous elven subrace, just as much home on sea as on land. The majority live in Palastan, Ren Tehoth, and the Sea Kingdoms. They used to have great cities in the past, such as Dreta Phantas, but most of them have been magically stolen away by the dark elves and they now live among the other races. Shoal elves used to be arrogant and racist like elves of so many other settings, but over time these attitudes have faded away.

Shoal elves are like standard PHB elves, except their favored class is sorcerer, +2 on Profession (Sailor), and need a good 8 hours of sleep. Overall I really like how Cook departed from the traditional Tolkien elf with Shoals in favor of something more original.

Cherubim elves are a rare elven subrace native to the Cherubar Mountains to the west. They really don't like interacting with the other races, instead keeping to isolated villages out of reach of non-winged people. They are very timid and avoid conflict, feeling skittish around even other elves. Also, a lot of non-Cherubar mistake them for angels, which causes real angels to detest Cherubim elves in general. Racist angels? I'd never have imagined that.

Game-stat wise, Cherubim elves have +4 Dexterity but -4 Constitution, have a +2 bonus only to Spot checks and not Listen and Search, have a Fly speed of 40 feet and a Level Adjustment of +2. Overall flight is a very powerful option, but the way level adjustment works means that you're not going to be a spellcaster, and your hit points are going to be very low, limiting you to dex-based skirmisher and ranged builds.

Harrow Elves are Shoal Elves whose ancestors were long ago captured by the forces of Ghul and held them in the dungeons beneath Goth Gulgamel (a fortress of evil halfway up the Spire). Vile, torturous experiments tainted them with the touch of evil, and Ghul released them into the world as a warning to others what he'd do to people who resisted his rule. Today harrow elves lost much of the evil taint, but some of this still manifests as supernatural powers. Physically deformities and a reputation for "being evil" results in near-constant discrimination and bigotry towards harrow elves, even though there is no natural inclination anymore towards being of evil alignment. Naturally this makes a lot of them bitter and resentful towards others.

Stat-wise Harrow elves have +2 Dexterity but -2 Constitution and Charisma, +2 on Craft (alchemy), Intimidate, and Use Magic Device checks, and can cast 4 0-level spells as spell-like abilities once per day (detect magic, ghost sound, mage hand, prestidigitation) and one 1st or 2nd level spell of the player or DM's choice. Their favored class is Monk, and they have a +1 Level Adjustment. A rather underpowered race undeserving of the Level Adjustment, in my view.

Gnomes are the rarest of the major races, and are alternatively known as loresong faen. They dwell throughout the lands of Palastan, Rhoth, and the Sea Kingdoms.

Halflings frequently live among humans, but just as many wander the plains to the south in nomadic caravans. They call themselves saelas faen, or "quicklings," but they don't find it derogatory anymore when other races call them halflings.

Half-elves and half-orcs are overall uncommon and most live in Ptolus. Half-elves are always half-Shoal, as Cherubim elves would never breed with humans and harrow elves always breed true. Most half-orcs are of the Ornu-nom tribe of Palastan and Roth.

Humans are said to be the youngest of the races by dwarven and elven scholars, but they are the most prevalent race on Praemal, and their various cultures are the most prominent in the world. Not much else to be said about them.

Minor Races

Now we have the Minor Races, who aren't "minor" so much as them not being a typical choice as a PC option in most D&D games. Technically Cherubim and Harrow elves fall under this category, but I chose to put them with the other elves to be consistent.

Centaurs, also known as the Aram, live in great numbers in Palastan and thus in and around Ptolus. They get along with the humans due to their open nature and help in fighting Ghul's forces in the past. They travel and live in herds and hate doing things which would require them to be stationary for long periods of time. In Ptolus most of them live in the Midtown neighborhood of Narread and often perform physical labor and messenger work. One of the founders of the Delver's Guild, Turias, was a centaur adventurer.

Game-stat wise Centaurs use the game stats from the Monster Manual and thus are effectively Level 6 before they get their first class level. This really, really hurts their option as a playable race, and the boosts to physical stats do not make up for this. Their forms are also ill-suited to vertical climbing and dungeon-delving, and given that the latter factors heavily into Ptolus, they're not a good choice for players.

Litorians proud lion-people who live in grassland tribes isolated from other races. It is the rare, individual litorian who comes to Ptolus or other such communities. Litorians live by a personal code of honor which varies by individual, but most relate to being true to oneself and are almost never compromised. The book is contradictory, in that it says that each of them creates their own set of morals and ethics on an individual basis, yet most hold the welfare of family and community as paramount, and view being a liar and/or coward as a fate as bad as death. They also place a great value on paying off one's debts, from it being financial to returning favors done by others. Those who save the life of a litorian will find themselves a staunch ally. They really don't hold any of the other races as enemies, and get along rather well with centaurs, halflings, and the Ornu-Nom orcs (but not the Toruk-Rul or Sorn-Ulth, who hate everyone else). They also recognize the existence of deities, but do not see the point in worshiping any entity.

Game-stat wise, Litorians gain a +2 bonus to the three physical ability scores, have low-light vision and scent, are Medium size, and have a +2 bonus on Intimidate, Listen, Search, Spot, and Survival checks, and Ranger as a favored class. And a +1 Level Adjustment, which again doesn't feel worth it. Sort of close, in that they have a net +6 and scent, but I don't think that it merits a whole level.

Lizardfolk, or Assarai as they call themselves, once dominated the west but whose numbers dwindled as other, more mammalian races incorrectly assumed that they were evil. Today, assarai live meager existences and want only the simple things in life. They don't live in permanent homes and can stand all but very cold climates, accept odd jobs to buy food and clothes, and simply dig through garbage left by others for things they might need. This gives them the stereotype as lazy parasites and shifty folk, but the reality is that they can work just as hard as the other races for just enough to get by and rarely steal. They face the most discrimination of the races of Ptolus (save for dark elves), and the city watch often forcefully drives them off of the streets and docks where they often sleep even though what they're doing technically isn't illegal. Due to their homeless status and physical endurance, many slavers target lizardfolk; as a result, anti-slavery sentiment is one of the few things assarai feel strongly about, and many adventurers among their kind got their start busting up slavery rings.

Game-stat-wise assarai use their Monster Manual character entry. They don't get much except for a bite and 2 claw attack, +5 natural armor (which is pretty sweet), +2 to Strength and Constitution but -2 Intelligence, the ability to hold their breath for long periods, and 2 racial hit dice and +1 level adjustment, making them 3rd level characters before their first class.

In my Ptolus game one of my PCs was a lizardfolk monk. The racial bonuses did not make up for the weakness of the class and race, and over time the player got tired of getting a hard time from Ptolusites who saw him more as a pest. He then switched over to another PC option, a human this time. It was a shame, though, as the character concept was interesting, and I should have as a DM tossed out some positives.

What I'm saying is, despite making strides to accommodate some of the monstrous races, Cook doesn't do enough mechanically to make them a viable long-term option (except maybe for the litorian). If you want to play a monster PC in 3rd Edition, use Oslecamo's variant rules instead.

NPC Races

These are prominent races of the campaign setting which are not meant for PC use without special DM permission, meant to be more suited for existing NPCs.

Aasimars are more common in Ptolus than elsewhere due to the angelic Malkuth. Aasimars are typically viewed with awe and respect, and virtually all of them are good-aligned and reinforce their reputation with selfless, heroic deeds. Most aasimar in Ptolus live among the Malkuth in or near the Pale Tower.

Dark elves are said to originate from corrupted stock of Shoal elves by the evil goddess Gorgoth-lol, a Vested of the Galchutt (we'll be talking more about them in Chapter 4). They were taken underground to build up their forces, and they continually plot to destroy all other elves and the people above ground. They are almost all evil-aligned, and it's inherent to their being due to Gorgoth-lol's manipulations. They can overcome it, theoretically, but they almost never do. They love betrayal, poison, sadism, being scantily clad, and all that other drow stuff.

There is one race they hate even more than the elves and any other creature: the zaug, a race of disease-ridden evil outsiders with a penchant for Chaositech (evil Lovecraftian technology), and drow have even allied with other underdark races against these creatures.

Minotaurs are usually dumb and primitive, but a few among their number are unusually intelligent and magically-inclined, and seek to live away from their own kind. These "civilized" minotaurs often flock to cosmopolitan centers such as Ptolus, but even then they're barely tolerated and distrusted. Minotaurs are carnivores.

Interestingly, a player in Monte Cook's game wanted to play as a monster, a Minotaur wizard, to be exact. Cook rolled with it and made an alternate racial traits to make the idea possible. Canabulum, said minotaur, grew to become a major PC in the campaign, and the exploits of his adventuring party are available in one of the campaign journals.

Unfortunately, Cook has not presented his alternate options in this book for those who wish to follow in Canabulum's footsteps.

Orc myth contends that their race was birthed by a demon god, but some ancient texts claim that they were made by a cabal of evil wizards. The orcs who lived in the area around Ptolus were magically altered and bred by Ghul. Today two of these altered tribes remain: the Toruk-Rul (Closing Fist), large, bestial orcs who ferociously embody everything you think of when you hear the word "orc." The Sorn-Ulth (Bleeding Breath) are shorter than their other kin, but have a knack for stealth and evil magic. Both of these tribes live along the coast of the Whitewind Sea.

The Ornu-Nom (Howling Axe) never suffered Ghul's manipulations, and dwell in the wilderness throughout Palastan and Rhoath. Despite being no more evil than humans as a whole, the negative reputation spawned by Ghul caused many humans to war with them, and they have very poor relations with the two nations and Ptolus as a result. A prominent tribe of Ornu-Nom orcs live in the area just outside the city itself.

Tieflings in Ptolus are primarily the result of the Fallen, a faction of demons living in the Dark Reliquary of the Necropolis. Many of their number work alongside their fiendish relatives, and among the fiend-worshiping Forsaken. Other tieflings abandoned these ties to make an independent living, usually as criminals, assassins, and evil clerics. Almost all of them are evil, and most are chaotic. The nobles of House Vladaam, one of the aristocratic families of Ptolus, is primarily composed of tieflings.

Thoughts so far: All but the litorians are derivations of existing races of Dungeons & Dragons, but Cook applies a creative spin on enough of them to make them stand out amid their counterparts of other campaign settings. I like his rework of the "base" elf, and while I don't particularly enjoy the implementation I do like his idea to accommodate some of the monstrous races as PCs and into Ptolusite society proper. I also like how he veered away from the typical "evil orc," making the stock trope the result of two prominent clans giving the rest a bad name. His information on gnomes, halflings, and humans is really bare, and elves in general get a disproportionate amount of screen time, but that's really my only other complaint.

Next time, Chapter 4! The cosmology and religions of Praemal!

Libertad! fucked around with this message at 01:35 on Jan 5, 2014

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