My lady and I will be running Torchbearer for a group of 5 friends. We did 3 years of D&D till we got tired of having combat take 4 hours. We then tried Mouse Guard, but they didn’t really like the comics so they were not too keen on the setting. They like to kill things and get loot, so this game we hope is more up their alley. (We did warn them that fighting can lead easily to death)
Using Dagaz post as a bit of a primer, we asked our group what kind of world they wanted.
Here’s what they said.
- Variety of races (not just humans and shorter humans with some taller humans)
- Big cities, little towns
- Revenge! (against vampires, barbarians, werewolves, undead… they made a few tragic orphans)
- Loot and treasure
- Some Politics/intrigue (not directly, but have their actions actually matter in the world)
- Iron Kingdoms style countries and history (deep history, lots of factions etc)
- Explore mythologies
- Ancient civilizations/mythologies
Then they created up their characters.
Got a Paliden, a Thief, a Dwarf, an Elf, and for the guy who likes weird races, he wanted to be a Gnoll, so we made a hack for him. He’s a cleric too… that should be funny.
So then we came up with this description of the setting.
[i]"The world was in chaos. Destroyed and harvested by some unknown evil from elsewhere, beings with great powers and might. When they left the earth it was a pitiful, broken husk. However, they left behind something they did not intend to: magic. In their destructive wake they left a residue of the primordial force used to bend and create reality, and it was from this force the world was re-woven, and the first races were born. The longest recorded history is from the Elves, who have lived longer than any race on this world. The Elves were born from the forest, while the Dwarves were born from stone. The Elves, attuned to this force, shaped and learned to control it, devolving ways to use it to cast spells. The Dwarves were also attuned to this force, but focused on putting it into items of great power with metals and gems harvested from the earth where they came from. Magic had caused the world to be born again, and in time it was filled with all sorts of creatures both beautiful and monstrous.
Of all these creatures the most interesting was the race of men, whose drive and ambition led them to great deeds and build amazing societies. The Elves saw potential in Man, so they taught them the ways of magic. Some philosophers warned against this because Man by nature is easily corrupted, but the Elves in their naivete, ignored these warnings. This proved to be their first mistake.
Human beings with their new found power founded great nations, and were able to perform great acts. The mightiest among them even gained godhood status after death through their bravery and might. However in their lust for power, some also awoke demonic entities that they could not possibly control, and they freely gave their souls to these beings. Some men wished to be powerful after death and became Dread Lords, rotten husks of great might, with an intense desire for conquest. Some gave their bodies for strength and immortality, becoming Vampires, but were made to suffer with an unquenchable thirst for blood. Other, more primitive men accepted their own mortality but craved the power of the animals they hunted and worshiped. In making pacts with the demons they gave their bodies to the curse of the moon, becoming Werewolves.
This corruption wasn’t just spread to humans; even some ancient Elves were seduced by the lure of demonic power and corrupted themselves into madness. One Elvish civilization discovered the ability to remain powerful even after death and used this power to enslave millions to build their pyramids and tombs so they would stay protected. These creatures were called “Mummies” due to the way they were preserved.
As this corruption grew, so did these creatures’ empires. Vampires required a steady stock of fresh blood to stay alive, so they enslaved villages and made them fear each night. The Werewolves attacked everyone they deemed weak with savage assaults. The Dread Lords marched endlessly, consuming as much territory as they could, while the Mummies’ influences spread like a creeping sickness over their lands. Each faction vied for territory from each other, and the poor human lands in the center of them all were decimated repeatedly in the constant conflicts.
The Elves decided to atone for the mistake of giving Man magic by marching their armies against these corrupt creatures. The Dwarves would not fight though, content with their existence in the deep mountains and wanting to stay out of the wars. The Elves tasked the Dwarves with arming them. Some of the greatest weapons and armor ever seen in the entirety of history were forged in the Dwarven Halls. Armed with magical weapons and an internal understanding of the primordial forces, the Elves rallied armies for a full on assault. This was the Elves’ last mistake.
The Elves did not fare well in the wars. Their race was almost decimated by the hordes of monsters that they had helped unleash. They retreated into forested pockets of their magical realms to ponder over their losses. Soon all that remained of Elves were faint songs emanating from deep in the forest.
The wars continued. Rising and falling over thousands of years, each civilization’s victory took its toll on the land. The Mummy kingdom was stripped of most of its fertile soil, and became a vast desert inhabited with by only the heartiest monsters and bandits. Most of the great pyramids and temples were buried under the ever blowing sand. The Dread Lord lands were also sickened in a similar fashion to a point where nothing pure grows there anymore. Anywhere the dead walk, the earth itself becomes an abomination. In the frosted hills the Werewolf’s forest grew thick and vast with the influence of their magic, cutting off most of the light from the sun, and making incursions into it deadly or impossible. Twisted thorns guard its paths and trails. The Vampire nation walled itself off from these petty squabbles. Great citadels litter the land, keeping their immortal masters safe while their ghouls and slaves were left to fight on their behalf.
Now, after millenniums of fighting, the wars have ceased. Some suspect that the great empires have degraded into endless infighting, while most suspect they are simply massing their forces and power so they can continue their never ending wars.
Mankind has been given a chance to rebuild and expand. Humans took this chance to build up their cities and population, laying out farmlands, founding some large cities and various outposts. The Dwarves have also taken up outposts on the surface world outside their caves and mines, and are now more curious about the world above them. Halflings, a mostly ignored race in these times, have also been seen outside their shires, exploring and adventuring. The Elves still mainly stick to their forests, but some of the younger ones still heed to the calling of the road. The majority of the races remain timid due to the stories of ages past. They stand aware, but still scared of what lies beyond their borders. However, some in their boldness or out of desperation are taking advantage of this lull in hostilities to delve deep into the earth, and find relics and treasure. This is where you come in adventurers. The world is a dangerous place, filled with caves, monsters, and worst of all, other people. You are looked down upon by most of society and are left with no other choice but to make your fortune in the dungeons and tombs left by endless conquest. Enter into this world of eternal darkness and shine your light. This is “Torchbearer: Ashes of Nocturnus.”[/i]
Here’s a map we came up with as well. My lady did most of the work on it. We will tweak the map a bit. The main capitol is way too big on it, and we need to move the religious bastion a bit to the south, outside the walls.