Monday, 30 September 2013

The Races of Fold

Well, a world needs lifeforms to populate it, right?

And having just one kind of being would be boring, right?

It's a staple of the fantasy genre to have different kinds of sentient being living in a world. Most famously and most obviously, we have Tolkein's Middle Earth; populated by the proud and noble elves, the burly dwarves, the bucolic and cheery hobbits or halflings and the vile and warlike orcs. China MiƩville's interesting and offbeat Perdido Street Station had the stoic and reclusive Catacae, the matriarchal Khepri, the froglike Vodyanoi, bird-headed Garuda and the impish and puerile Wyrmen. These two series are both fantasy, but both are so very different. Tolkein's masterpiece is seen by some as very much a product of its time; a "boys' own fantasy" if you will, and deals very much in blacks and whites, the questing heroes and cruel villains, while the other seeks to cast off that coat and make a grimy, urban sprawl of a tale, with seedy underbellies and moral ambiguity.

Dungeons and Dragons was originally not unlike Lord of the Rings. Men, elves, hobbits (referred to specifically as halflings to avoid legal problems) and dwarves fighting orcs, trolls, ogres, dragons and evil wizards. In recent years this can still be the case, as players take their elven ranger, dwarf fighter, gnome illusionist and human druid to fight an evil vampire lord and his cabal of minions in some forgotten tomb, or go traipsing through a cavern to fight evil beholders. Some players and Dungeon Masters (DMs) try to go against this grain and emulate political strife and intrigue, or encourage urban-based investigative games, with their half-orc sorcerer trying to fight his brutish heritage or a halfling trying to prove that not all of the wee folk are tricky thieves. Again, I'm going to reference Eberron; this setting caters for both schools of playing. The continent of Khorvaire (the main landmass of the setting) is highly urbanised in places, and there's plenty of room for industry, politics and investigation (there's even a class that makes you not unlike a private investigator), but there's also this wonderful sense of a world still to be explored, as other continents still hold artefacts from the ancient past, during times when Eberron was overrun by nightmares and demons, and even a mystery continent that is ever-changing and holds relics of the ancient giant empire. Many of the standard D&D races in Eberron have been altered slightly to fit. The elves are largely the same, but also there are a secluded nation of elves who worship their dead ancestors, many of whom still walk and hold council over their people, or another who raid sections of Khorvaire, as the shamanistic orcs try to hold them off. Gnomes are ace shipwright, halflings live a tribal life on grasslands that are rife with dinosaurs and hags and ogres maintain a savage, impoverished society where humans are subjugated.

So, over these last few years, the ideas of Eberron and Bas Lag (China MiƩville's setting), I've re-fluffed the races to suit the feel of the setting of Fold. So, with that in mind, what is the feel of Fold? There's a big emphasis on industrialisation and urbanisation, as well as a lot of influence drawn from mythology and folklore.

Humans: Well, what's to say? Humans are humans. They get everywhere, breed quickly and are impossible to get rid of!
Dwarves: They fit very easily into the setting. Industrious workers with a knack for stone and metal? Perfect.
Elves: Haughty and proud tree-huggers? Noble aristocrats? Savage hunters? Elves were tricky.
Gnomes: Sociable and magically-inclined? This seemed perfect, but I've had some trouble getting these guys right.
Halflings: Small and agile, halflings seem very fitted, but their fluff also has a lot tying them into a nomadic life, so these guys took a little working.
Orcs: I've gotten rid of 'mundane' half-breeds, so there are no half-orcs or half-elves. The orcs have become a prominent and populous race, though mostly through raiding and stealing the technology of other races for their own.
Goblins: Originally savage nuisances, I wondered how I could make them believable as a culture in such a setting. I'm pretty pleased with the results.
Warforged: An Eberron race; artificial lifeforms in constructed bodies, crafted for war. They fit the Eberron setting, what with its 'magitek' and recent 'world war'. But they also suited the flavour of my setting, and I've been working on making them similar to Eberron, but with a twist.

Each race will get a spotlight soon.

Monday, 23 September 2013

Cities of Fold: Tallowport

My Fold setting started simply; a single city, used in a number of games, where it evolved, adapted and grew. Initially it was a simple port town; a little scummy and dangerous. It then became a larger trading hub and port town, until it became how it is now; a large industrial metropolitan seaport and market hub, as well as a religious mecca for scores of the faithful. Other settings have cities like this. Forgotten Realms has Neverwinter and Waterdeep, Eberron has places like Stormreach, Sharn and Aundair and the likes. Now, I will admit, Eberron has been a big influence on some aspects of my setting; but I've done my best to avoid aping it completely. I like, particularly, Eberron's pulp fiction atmosphere, and the idea of the 'City of Adventure', which is something I've tried to make with Tallowport. There's criminal gangs, secret cults in the sewers and catacombs, an entire industrial district beneath the streets, full of construct workers and dark corners, and dark secrets above the pavements.

Tallowport, in the setting, started as a small fishing port, which became more and more prosperous, able to support a sizable market, which of course drew more and more attention, and people flocked to it to utilise the trade and travel opportunities of the port. Of course, the melting pot of diverse cultures that resulted was volatile, and this 'neutral' place was soon fraught with violence. Cue the entrance of The Church of St. Cuthbert; a religion that had splintered off from the Order of Illumination, a religion that had skyrocketed in popularity amongst many humans and nonhumans alike (More on religions later). The Church of St. Cuthbert, while sometimes draconian, managed to arbitrate a peaceful solution and arranged for fair and equal trade for all visitors and residents, and even moved to allow religious equality. The Church, of course, became the major power; the clergy working alongside the city guard, adjudicating in legal matters, even setting up the town's ruling figure; the Prince Bishop. The vast majority of established religions are allowed to practice openly and have a street level temple, though a number of the darker or more secretive faiths chose to operate in hiding, despite the amnesty provided. This move caused an even greater influx of people, causing the town to grow even further. Then, the industrial revolution started, and the forges, smithies and workshops began to grow, and foundries, factories and plants popped into existence; even expanding the city over 'unusable' terrain such as boggy deltas and the likes; even spreading the town beneath the earth; tapping into previously unknown geothermal power sources. Industry flourished; bringing even more people, causing even more growth, especially as the dwarves started showing up, bringing their expertise and skill.

Tallowport thrived, and Tallowport became 'that city'. The city where almost anything is possible, and a story is happening around every corner. Bloodthirsty pirates, slaver rings, political corruption, monsters in the sewers and who knows what else?

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

What is Fold?

Hi guys, name's Jesterface, and this here blog will be, hopefully, a journal of my D&D campaign setting as I slowly add to it and build it up. The world has been named 'Fold', which is Hungarian for 'Earth'. A bit weak when you think about it, but I was struggling to come up with a name that 'felt' right, and didn't seem arbitrarily fantasy-world. Fold began simply, as an excuse for me to run a steampunk D&D game, and eventually expanded to be more 'early industrial revolution'. Think something not unlike Iron Kingdoms (the setting for the Warmachine and Hordes game by Privateer Press) and the Albion of Fable 2 (and a splash of Fable 3). This was part of my efforts to lose the 'Victoriana' that so often comes attached to steampunk, and something that had lost its luster to me, and I didn't want to abandon that high fantasy/medieval flavour that D&D typically has. Obviously, there's a heavily European influence on the setting, as it's hard to not include what is essentially 'my history' as part of this world, as much as I'd like to use other cultures more predominantly. Well, I hope this is a little interesting to folks. There'll be more to come, and with any luck, there may even be doodles to go with it. ~J