Brave, New World
Chapter 2: World Background and Your Feedback Requestedby Charles Dunwoody
Brave, New World
Chapter 2: World Background and Your Feedback Requestedby Charles Dunwoody
Brave, New World
Chapter 2: World Background and Your Feedback Requested
By Charles Dunwoody
This column was going to include an e-mail discussion I had with Ace about our world building. However, reader feedback indicated a desire to help with building the world, so I'm going to save the discussion column for later. This column will get the readers at rpg.net up to speed with the world builders on my e-mail list.
Before We Build We Need to Define the World Hook FurtherOur starting hook is: Here there are dragons: a world of draconic influence.
This hook is a good start, but it is vague. The first thing I did, based on impressions I received from several e-mails, was define the hook further: A world where dragons rule kingdoms and the influence of the dragon kings are felt across the land.
We discussed this newly defined hook. The discussion generated two new ideas for us to consider as we built the world.
First, my brother Tim Dunwoody suggested using the idea of having secrets built into the world, as a long ago Dungeoncraft column in Dragon Magazine suggested.
Second, the discussion brought us back the hook again.
The Hook RefinedDuring the discussion, Ken Tompkins suggested that our hook still wasn't strong enough. It lacked heart. So I gathered all the ideas being bandied around and refined the hook again.
I revised the hook once more after getting feedback on it from the world builders and here is where we are right now.
The hook refined: Dragonsuns is a world of perpetual twilight where dragon kings vie for control of the world while a dangerous evil hides in the shadows plotting the destruction of man.
World BackgroundFinally, I took all the e-mails and the new hook and combined them all into a world background. The wording is still in rough form, since it is a combination of several different e-mail writing styles and is subject to change. If anyone sees a contradiction in the history, please let me know and I'll revise the history.
There once was a continent of human, elven, and dwarven kingdoms ruled by swords and magic. One empire grew in power and brought peace to the land. The study of magic grew and epic power was claimed by man. Wondrous magic including flying cities, golems, and spells that altered reality itself. However, monsters were subjugated and this included dragons.
The dragons did not want to be slaves. They discovered an ancient secret, a dark cult worshipping an ancient goddess of darkness and evil, who was imprisoned and hungering for release. Her followers included not just humans but also horrible aberrations, determined to spread her taint across the lands.
The evil cult told the dragons that they could dim the sun, crippling the humans. In return, the cult would give the dragons the ability to make dragonsuns, miniature stars that would keep the world alive. Creation of dragonsuns requires sacrifice.
Secret:What the cult didn't tell the dragons was that each sacrifice would bring power to the dark goddess. Wicked beings sacrificed to power dragonsuns become aberrations themselves, appearing in the area where the sun would fall from the sky. In addition, when the sun god fell, the dark goddess would be freed.
The evil goddess became imprisoned in this way. She became obsessed with one of the continent's ancient emperors and she tried to trick him into loving her. He refused as his god (the sun god) had warned him of her trickery.
She was enraged and proceeded to war against the king. The sun god joined in the final battle with the king. The goddess struck a fatal blow to the sun god and in his dying moments he shared his power with the king making him into a new sun god and together they sealed her away as he died.
The dark goddess now has a new weapon; a priest of the sun god who has been seduced by promises of her power. This priest revealed many secrets, enabling the aberrations and the dragons to strike against the temples and priests of the sun god. As more and more followers of the god died, he became weaker and weaker.
The followers of the dark goddess struck the sun with a powerful and evil artifact while the moon was new. The sun god was crippled and cast down. He fell to the continent, dragging much of the fire and light of the sun with him, and destroyed the empire of men. This blow carried the victory for the dragons and aberrations.
The vast majority of his people seeing the sun god crashing into the ground believed that their god had perished and through that belief the sun god found himself at only a fraction of his former power and without a form to hold it. In his weakened state, he couldn't stop the dragons from wresting the power and knowledge for powering their dragonsuns from him. The dark goddess was able to seal away the sun god's essence in the very prison that once held her, although a he managed to hide a small part of his divine essence in a hidden sanctum. The end result was the sun dimming in the world and daylight being at best a dusky twilight.
As the fire and light of the sun dimmed, the aberrations swarmed out of hiding to claim the area where the sun god fell, now a twisted and dark mass of twisting vines, jungle growth, and foul swamps. A few dragons, mad with power, sided with the dark goddess.
The Blight came into being when the sun god fell to earth (and surrounds the point of his impact). The Blight is a strange and particularly dense jungle. The energy released when the god fell and formed his sanctum kick-started plant and animal growth/evolution in this region.
Continued exposure to this energy has made this a land of strange plants and animals. This change also created one of the few places where green plants still exist, without the need of a dragonsun.
Why haven't humans moved into this veritable utopia? Because all of that power hasn't gone unnoticed. The dark goddess has tapped into this energy, and uses it to create aberrations from lives sacrificed to power the dragonsuns. Only the very heart of the forest (near the impact crater), and some of the outer fringes remain uncorrupted.
The border of the Blight runs along the kingdom of the black dragons. Some doubt exists as to whether the black dragons are the last defense against the dark goddess, or the first wave of her attack, even among the other evil dragons. Rumor has it that some black dragons are going so far as to experiment with aberrations.
Secret:a group of humans have gathered together to kill these black dragons. Whether they will confine dragon killing to just the rogue black dragon or go after all dragons remains to be seen.
Secret:What are the black dragons really up to? We haven't decided yet!
Most dragons, however, saw what they had wrought, and vowed to take back their world. With powerful magic and sacrifice, the dragons used the stolen power of the sun god and learned to lift dragonsuns into the sky. Dragonsuns are tiny stars that bring back some warmth and light. A dragon could die to help power a dragonsun, but large numbers of humanoids worked as well. The dragons hunted many humanoids almost to extinction in order to power the dragonsuns.
Secret:The dragons have begun to believe in their own gods. As the number of faithful grows, their gods become more powerful. If a dragon of the sun rose to power, the dark goddess could fall to that god's power. However, humans would never come back into power.
Capitals are flying cities and magnificent, but in varying states of decay (because no one really understands them). This decay might be hardly noticeable in the more powerful cities (those ruled by red or gold dragons, for example), but very noticeable in the cities of the minor dragons, and humans.
Central to each city is a massive, dragon-scale step-pyramid/altar. Each capital has one dragonsun floating directly over each pyramid (many, many miles over, of course). Each sun is tinted slightly to resemble the dragon controlling it, and a thin ray of light connects each sun to its associated altar. Care of the dragonsun depends on the ruling dragons.
Evil dragons sacrifice humans and other "lesser races" every few years to their gods. The steps of their temples are permanently stained red with blood.
Good dragons sacrifice themselves voluntarily every few decades or centuries (depending on the power of the dragon). This is likely the last act of a retiring ruler.
Secret:A dragon's alignment does not necessarily match color. This change modifies the core rules. Ace Calhoon suggested not overusing this idea:
This is something to be *really* careful with. In my opinion, dragons with non-standard alignments should be the exception, rather than the rule (but they should exist). Here's why:
Symbolism is very important to fantasy settings, like D&D. The bad guys wear dark or decrepit equipment, while the good guys use things that are bright and shiny. The line between hero and villain is well defined, good and evil are more often absolutes than gray areas, etc. Why?
Because fantasy mimics Lord of the Rings, which mimics mythology. And mythology ultimately isn't talking about people, or things, it's talking about concepts by using people and things as metaphors (this is one of the things that makes myth powerful).
Take a character that looks like a hero (fair complexion/shining armor, or noble-looking/shiny metallic dragons) and turn them into a villain once or twice, and you create memorable characters by using contrast. But when it becomes a rule, rather than the exception to the rule, you start to sever the ties to mythology that most people associate with this genre (and this game).
Secret:The humanoids that get sacrificed to power the dragonsuns are in turn changed into aberrations.
Secret:Man can steal the secret of making dragonsuns. But the ancient goddess told the dragons that only they could make them and they could only be powered by humanoids. That way she can grow her army of aberrations.
Man now lives in a cold and shadowy world, fighting the aberrations and their dark goddess. Dragons, with half-dragons and dragonkin filling their armies, have become the new rulers, power held because only they know the secret of creating the dragonsuns that keep the world alive. Should men trust them and fight under their banners? Or should man step forward, bring back his sun god, and attempt to reclaim his world on his own?
Secret:If the sun god was brought back then heroes could try and seal the dark goddess away again.
Bringing back the sun god could involve: A. He comes back and then uses the last bit of his life to make those who raised him gods in his place. A real end game for Epic characters? Or
B. One of those bringing him back must sacrifice themselves (sort of like the dragonsuns). Depending on what the DM feels maybe the Sun god could bring the person back to life as some sort of avatar of himself.
That means no coming back from this one, but still give them a good afterlife. I mean it's a sacrifice. On the bright side any statues built of the sun god from that point on will look like their character =).
Two ConclusionsRefining the hook and making a basic world description was a big breakthrough. Great ideas began to flow. The group really likes the new hook. We came to two conclusions about world building that to me were new and powerful.
First, for this column we'd provide the details of the secrets of the world. However, we'd leave those details open to change by other DMs who might want to create their own mysteries. Our version doesn't have to be your version.
And second, suggested rules would help us build this world without forcing others DMs to accept changes to the core rules that they may not like. Our hope is that at least some of our suggestions might be tried, but that the world would run with the core rules as well. Again, our version doesn't have to be your version.
Next StepsNow, I'd like us to go to the next two steps.
First, I'd like the world builders and any willing readers to start designing the kingdoms of the world. The map I plan to use is Eberron with the kingdom names removed for discussion and for home campaign use only (no commercial use!). Said map is property of Wizards of the Coast. The Eberron map is located here:
A free poster map of this world was also in a recent issue of Dungeon.
We can use the map as a basis for kingdom building. I'd like to start discussing what the kingdoms in the world of Dragonsuns might look like.
Where on the map do you think the kingdom would go?
One final thing to consider. If you've got an idea you're working and on and think non-core rules would work well, put them in as an option.
For example, if I create a kingdom of paladins and dragons working together, I might want to put in the option of having PC dragons.
Second, I'd love to hear ideas from the readers of this column. Paul Mitchener made several suggestions that I'm planning on adding to our world description:
Two dragon nations, who are rivals but generally cooperate. Both contain under 100 dragons for ecological reasons that are easy enough to work out.
One of the two kingdoms is a complete Athenian-style democracy (easily possibly with such low numbers).
The other was stratified into castes based upon color.
Rule Option:Two dragons of different colors can interbreed (although this breeding is illegal in the caste-based society). Virtually any colored dragon could result from such a pairing; very few dragons are `pure'.
Next ColumnComing in Chapter 3, strong ideas begin building the world.
May you always roll a 20 when you need it most,