The Player's Introduction
Welcome to The Continent!
The Continent makes up the western third of a much larger landmass. It is bordered in the east by vast plains, in the north by polar tundra, and by the sea in the south and west. This is your world.
The continent is almost exclusively human. Monstrous races are unknown or found only very rarely, in a savage state (not playable). There are three demihuman races, who have relatively small populations and little impact on history. Elves have a large population in the city of River Tower, Halflings in the city of Fogbrindle. Dwarves have a large population in the city of Faldoth. In each case, small pockets of population are also found in the surrounding areas. These regions presumably represent the core of an ancestral homeland for each race, but the subject is not well understood. Humans in The Continent are divided into three races, as follows.
Continentals are tall, black or dark brown, and well-built. The ancestors of the Continentals colonized The Continent almost a millennia ago, having arrived in a large fleet of ships after abandoning their previous homeland, the knowledge of which has now been lost. They are now the dominant race in The Empire That Was and virtually unknown elsewhere. Social status is tied to skin color: darkest is highest in the pecking order, though very dark skin is now rare and virtually confined to the city of Amandiem, the former imperial capital. A Continental with a skin tone lighter than coffee is a Lightskin (see below), though this is a hazy boundary, and only in very conservative areas such as Amandiem do people still try to draw such precise distinctions. Today, The Empire That Was is actually an oligarchy run by influential families. Continentals are obsessed with personal history and categorize themselves according to their kinship with ancient leading families called Lineages. Almost all Continentals are very healthy and muscular, whether they do any work or not; fitness is considered a mark of high-status and bodybuilding is a rich man’s hobby, like falconry. Continentals are highly militarized and all adults can fight, ride, and swim (as well as most children). Continentals are also completely antimagical. Each man, woman and child has magic immunity like a golem, and no Continental can ever become a spellcaster, nor will magic items work in their possession. The language represented as Common in the rules is a trade version of Continental. It can be used to communicate with Humans of all races, though strong accents exist. Amandiem (the imperial capital) and Faldoth are Continental cities.
Lightskins are shorter, uglier and paler in appearance, though the lines are blurry; relatively swarthy people may still consider themselves Lightskins. They form an underclass in Continental areas as well as holding land of their own in The North. These are normal Medieval-type people. They are sicklier and more rustic than Continentals, but more numerous. Lightskins are the descendants of Continentals who settled in frontier areas in centuries past, and remain a majority population on the fringes of The Empire That Was. Sages theorize that their pale skins are the result of some malicious effect of the land itself, which supposedly dilutes Continental blood over time. Lightskins have learned (or acquired, or absorbed) magic, and can become spellcasters, but not Druids. Dortin and Fogbrindle are Lightskinned cities of The Empire That Was, while Lannochton and Trin are Lightskinned cities of The North.
Natives vary in height and build, but they are copper-skinned (or lighter) with slightly slanted eyes. In rare cases, a Native can pass for a Lightskin. They are the original population of The Continent and they live anywhere that Continentals and Lightskins have not colonized. They include both nomadic and urban populations as well as eccentric offshoots. Natives have the most comprehensive appreciation for magic; it is in their blood and part of their heritage. Natives can become any type of spellcaster, and Druids and other eccentric classes are common. Tors, Tarsus and Celith are Native cities of the south.
The Continent is an environment with a brutal history, and today, PC’s will not be able to ignore racial politics. Continental cities are more snobbish, Lightskinned cities are more thuggish, and neither group likes the Natives, who generally dislike them in turn. Just like our own world, however, kindhearted people can be found anywhere. Players can create PC’s running the gamut from open-minded pacifists (like the merchants of Tarsus, the Black Spring activists or the Halflings of Dortin) all the way to militant racial fanatics like the Sarn Guard marines of Celith or staunch conservatives like the aristocrats of Amandiem or the Karel family of Dortin. Much like the old Planescape setting, ideology and identity are important parts of your character concept here.
The Continentals arrived nearly a thousand years ago in a large fleet. They founded Faldoth first, then spread inland to found Amandiem and settle the forested valley between them. This area remains the core of the Continental world. Tors and Tarsus were prominent Native cities at the time, and conflict arose immediately, leading to five major race wars over the next thousand years. Tarsus was eventually defeated and demilitarized, becoming a Free City where traders interacted without regard to racial mores. Devastation and atrocities were universal during periods of war, especially after large groups of nomadic Natives migrated from the east. Fogbrindle and Dortin were established by Lightskins to form a frontier against them, but many areas were overrun. During this period many Lightskins deserted from Continental armies and disappeared into The North, where they intermarried with the Native population and established the city of Lannochton. River Tower was already an ancient Elven city in The North at that time. The whole region was later conquered by Lightskins who built the multiracial city of Trin, the most northerly large city on The Continent. The Continental Empire has contracted severely in recent centuries, and most areas are effectively self-governing, with the region now commonly known as The Empire That Was.
The campaign is set in the city of Dortin, nominally the northernmost city of The Empire That Was, but actually a self-governing Lightskinned city for four centuries. Dortin retains the character of a frontier town, but is also filled with retired adventurers with old mansions and private armies, crumbling Imperial buildings and plenty of faded glory, plus fat city fathers, lean street urchins, smugglers, con men, thugs, drunks, and the boring ordinary people who provide their livings. It has been looted and burned to the ground so many times that the streets are paved with the rubble of old buildings and the underground is a labyrinth of old sewers, lost chambers, and disused tunnels.
The campaign occurs at a time when the devastation of the most recent racial wars has begun to fade, and peace is the rule rather than the exception. The whole continent is recovering from a population crash caused by war, famine, and plague. Major cities are much smaller than they used to be and surrounded by ruins of abandoned neighborhoods where bandits lurk and wild dogs hunt. Communication, trade and travel between cities has recently been reestablished, and the frontier life has become exciting again.
How the Rules Have Changed.
First and most important, The Continent is a very low magic campaign! Spellcasters are rare (though becoming more common) and still treated very skeptically, if not with actual hostility. Magic items are available, but often only from specific sources, prices are unpredictable, and they might attract unwanted attention.
Second, there is no divine magic on The Continent. There are no gods and no organized religions, though there are plenty of disorganized ones run by crazy people who may or may not have actual powers. ‘Clerical’ magic as players understand it is practiced only by Druids, and only Natives produce these Druids, whose source of power is unknown.
Third, therefore, there is very little magical healing. Only Elves produce Healers, and they are vanishingly rare. Heal your wounds with good old-fashioned bed rest, or buy Smelling Salts from an alchemist. If your hit points are below zero but you aren’t actually bleeding out, Smelling Salts can make you conscious again (exactly zero hit points). Or max out your Heal skill so you can keep your friends alive long enough to reach a bed. I also strongly recommend that players have several other character concepts as ‘backups’ just in case their PC can’t be saved. If you haven’t yet met the appropriate NPC’s, there is just no magical resurrection available no matter how much money you have.
Fourth, there are no other planes that you know of in this cosmology. Are there other universes out there? You better hope you never find out.
Fifth, magic is risky. Spellcasting among Lightskins has been confined to the occasional freak individual for centuries, but now there is an increasing population of them. What are the long-term effects of using magic? What happens to the minds of such people? More importantly, who or what can sense magic and how will they react to the fact that there is a lot more of it around? No one knows. Sages who study these things are very rare, and the average person either doesn’t care or tries not to think about it at all. Great power has great risks.
Sixth, I have introduced a new feat named Called Shot. By voluntarily accepting a –3 penalty to your attack, you can forgo dealing hit point damage and instead cause a specific (non-crippling) injury to your target. Use this option if you want to carve a scar into someone, knock the wind out of them for a round or two, or punch them in the throat so they can’t speak. You can also accept a –6 penalty to your attack to cause an injury that actually does cripple someone. Use this option to punch someone in the throat so hard they begin to suffocate from a crushed windpipe, to break limbs, sever arteries, and so forth. Finally, by accepting a –9 penalty on your attack, you can kill your target with one specific blow. Use this option to decapitate your target, crush their skull with a club, or run them through the heart.
Seventh, I use critical failures in combat. Be warned. If you roll a 1 on an attack, you might regret it.
Eighth, I do not use alignment. Your character may espouse and practice any moral and ethical beliefs whatever, and there is no game mechanic, no magic item, race, class, feat or spell, upon which that choice has any effect whatsoever.
Some Things to Keep in Mind.
First, Dortin is a frontier city, but it’s not completely lawless. There are constables, The Watch, who tend to show up for any fight involving more than a little bloodshed. Granted, they might just arrive after the fight is over and arrest the losers, but they’re there. Don’t forget it.
Second, edged weapons, including crossbows but not ‘hunting’ bows, are outlawed in the city, and this is strictly enforced. Fight with your fists, fight with bludgeoning weapons, and if you have anything deadlier, hide it until you need it. Openly wearing armor or shields is also outlawed unless you are a member of the official, rarely used militia called The Levy of Dortin. If you wear armor, hide that too.
Third, be aware that leaving a trail of bodies is the kind of thing that gets you noticed. If you are the kind of PC who takes pride in the body count, then learn how to cover your tracks or make friends in high places who can do it for you.
Fourth, and just like in any other city, the cops aren’t the only people who can get you in trouble. Pay attention to gangsters, retired adventurers, and other suspiciously rich people.
Fifth, people in Dortin are suspicious of the supernatural. There isn’t much magic around, so don’t flash yours if you don’t know who’s watching. Getting a reputation as a spell-slinger might get you lynched if things go bad.
Sixth, make sure your character has the ability to survive day to day as well as adventure. You’ll need a place to live and a way to make money, at least occasionally.
Seventh, bear in mind that the racial tension in the city will make certain character choices more demanding than others. For first-time players in this setting, I strongly recommend a Lightskinned human or a halfling.
Now you are ready to make a character!
In the Current Campaign, your character will begin at 2nd level. Follow the instructions below, with the following exceptions. Wizard and Druid may not be among your starting levels. You may use the PHB, DMG, MM, Arms and Equipment, Spell Compendium, and Unearthed Arcana for material, plus the series of “Complete” handbooks. Some exotic material from Unearthed Arcana may be disallowed or allowed only with DM permission. I do not use the Leadership feat. Your starting GP and starting HP should both be the maximum.
The DM reserves the right to use material from any published source. Use of such outside material does not imply that players can earn access to it.
Rolling for Stats.
Generate statistics by rolling 4d6, rerolling 1’s as many times as necessary, then discarding the lowest die. Generate a set of six stats in this way, and either use them or discard them and roll six new ones. You must use the second set of rolls if you discard the first.
Races and Subraces.
Nonhuman PC’s must be a Dwarf, Elf or Halfling. Despite the presence of Elves and humans in close proximity in a few regions, there are no Half-Elves on The Continent. Each race functions exactly as described in the book, with a few changes. All Dwarves recieve the Craft Magic Arms and Armor feat for free at 5th level, and need not be spellcasters to use it. Halflings recieve the Craft Wondrous Item feat for free at 3rd level and need not be spellcasters to use it. Elves receive any one other item creation feat for free at the appropriate level, and need not be spellcasters to use it. Most importantly, however, nonhumans are inherently magical and can take full advantage of magical healing if any is available.
Human PC’s may be Lightskins, Continentals, or Natives. Lightskinned Humans receive no special benefits. Lightskins can use magical healing once per day per type of application, if any is available (i.e., one potion of Cure Light Wounds, one of Cure Moderate Wounds, one bag of Pemmican, and so forth). Continentals have both a Level Adjustment and special conditions listed on their page. Continentals can never use magical healing.
Native characters are inherently magical and can take full advantage of magical healing if any is available. In addition they are entitled to certain benefits based on their ethnicity. Native ethnicities correspond to the five Native languages and their benefits are as follows. All bonuses are inherent and nonmagical.
Floodplain Natives receive +1 to all die rolls that involve the character’s business interests, including attack and damage rolls in combat where the fight is directly related to those interests.
Central Valley Natives receive +1 to all die rolls involving combat, military training or military readiness.
Lannoch Natives receive +1 to all die rolls involving stealth and concealment, including attack and damage rolls in combat when the fight involves the character laying a trap or setting an ambush.
Eastron Natives receive +1 to all die rolls involving horses or archery, including attack and damage rolls in mounted combat.
Polar Natives receive +1 to all die rolls in which the character is attempting to overcome a physical hardship or survive some condition that requires endurance, including all saving throws in combat.
Barbarians are, obviously, uncommon in Dortin. Lightskinned barbarians must be from the mixed-race villages of The Peninsula, where they occur as high-spirited individuals rather than members of a tribe. The other large source of true barbarians on The Continent are the Lannoch and Polar Natives. There are no demihuman barbarians.
Bards are rare but not unknown in Dortin, occurring as rare magic-using individuals among the teeming lower classes. Casimar is an example of a halfling bard. Elves and Natives also produce bards, though Dwarves do not.
Clerics are unknown on The Continent.
Druids are found only among Natives.
Fighters are encountered everywhere, among all races and ethnicities.
Monks are found among all races, but they are still rare. Eveline is a Lightskinned human monk. Native monks can have any background; their orders are more like fraternal societies than religious organizations. Membership in an order of monks crosses all boundaries of Native ethnicity. Lightskinned human monks are the product of a single monastery in the hills outside Fogbrindle, where a very few Dwarves and Halflings also become monks. Elven monks are trained only in River Tower.
Rangers are uncommon in Dortin. The exception is the Leigh family, whose contribution to The Levy of Dortin consists primarily of rangers. Rangers are much more numerous outside the city; many Peshawbe are rangers, as are many Natives from further afield and some of the Elven and Halfling traders who journey regularly between Dortin and elsewhere. Very few Dwarves become rangers.
Rogues come in all shapes and sizes in Dortin!
Paladins are unknown on the Continent.
Sorcerers and Wizards are still rare among humans in Dortin but they can now occur among any race or ethnicity. Demihumans have long produced these individuals, though spellcasters are most common among Elves. Players should remember there are serious drawbacks associated with playing a magic-user in this campaign. These classes should be chosen only by experienced players.
Since almost everyone on The Continent speaks Common (called ‘Imperial Common’) regardless of their race or nationality, and there are no speaking monsters of any importance or extraplanar creatures with which to communicate, languages are much less important in this environment than elsewhere. Speaking someone else’s native tongue is useful primarily for things like improving one’s Diplomacy checks or maintaining a disguise, or for flavor. The languages spoken on The Continent are these.
Imperial Common is derived from the ancestral tongue of the Continentals, though the language heard today is quite different from that spoken in the First Fleet. Modern Imperial Common employs numerous loan words from Native and demihuman tongues, chiefly Dwarven and Floodplain Native in the south, or Elven in the north. The language is diverse, however, and though all dialects are mutually intelligible, speakers from different races or areas would find each other’s accents horrible.
Native languages are divided into several groups which are sufficiently different to be unintelligible to each other.
Floodplain is spoken by the inhabitants of Tarsus and the surrounding coastline as well as southeastern interior areas. The language formerly had a much larger distribution, over most of the southern coastline including numerous large cities now ruined and abandoned near The South Sister range. Speakers of Floodplain Native were decimated in the first few centuries of Continental expansion, but with the modern commercial success enjoyed by the Free City of Tarsus they can be found anywhere on The Continent.
Central Valley is the language spoken by the inhabitants of Tors, Celith, and most Native areas of the south, including mountain tribes. As the first language of the ubiquitous Sarn Guard expeditionaries, Central Valley Native can be heard today in almost any place where the races rub shoulders.
Lannoch is thought to have been the language of the original Native population of The North before it was squeezed between Eastron invasion and northward migrations of Lightskins associated with the founding of The Northern Kingdom. Today Lannoch Native is spoken primarily in the mountains and forests of Lannoch itself. Though no longer much threatened by their neighbors, these Native groups long since learned to live a furtive existence in their valleys and woods and rarely venture into the world for trade, war, or adventure, making Lannoch one of the rarest Native languages today.
Polar Native is spoken north of The Northern Kingdom. The existence of a Native civilization in these frozen plains has only recently been discovered by southerners, though speakers of Polar Native, known in the south as Dagorlings, have already distinguished themselves as mercenaries and their language may now be heard in several cities.
Eastron Native is the most widespread of the Native tongues, being the first language of the nomads of Tuvoth and their kin on the plains of The Eastron. Speakers of Eastron Native ranged far and wide during the wars of previous centuries, conquering the Dortin Peninsula, threatening Fogbrindle and Faldoth, and replacing Lannoch speakers across much of The North prior to the founding of The Northern Kingdom. These Natives take easily to the adventuring life and can be found today in many areas.
In addition, there are four special languages that can be taken by PC’s at double cost.
Battle Language is a system of hand signals, trail markings, coded animal calls, and similar tricks that allow two speakers to communicate silently with line of sight or leave simple messages that can be discovered and interpreted later. There are two forms. Karel Battle Language is used by Lightskinned militaries while Sarn Guard Battle Language is used by Native forces. Characters wishing to know the enemy’s signs as well as their own can take both.
Druidic is a language available only to Native characters, who need not be Druids. This ‘language’ is actually knowledge of a number of gestures and vocalizations that enable the ‘speaker’ to communicate with normal animals, and receive responses that vary in quality according to the creature’s intelligence.
Arcane is a ‘language’ available only to spellcasters or psionics of any race or species. It enables two or more speakers to converse telepathically as long as they are all within sight of each other.
Bonus Starting Freebies.
Because of the scarcity of magical healing and the dangerous nature of the city, all characters will begin with one free rank of Heal (regardless of whether this is a class skill) and one of each of the following items at no cost: Smelling Salts, healing salve, healing kit.