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Brave, New World

Star Trek Inspired D&D

by Charles Dunwoody
Sep 14,2005

 

Brave New World

Star Trek Inspired D&D

By Charles Dunwoody

I started this column a year ago designing a new D&D world with the input of both some gamers I know and any readers who wanted to post. At the time, I was running an Eberron game and couldn't actually run that campaign.

I enjoyed running Eberron, but I have always wanted to design my own D&D 3.5 world. A world big enough for the players to choose their destinies and big enough for me to try out several ideas I've had in the back of my mind for a while.

My column will now discuss both building this campaign, called Darkness Falls, and world, called Terra, and testing it out with my players. I won't run my first adventure until September, so the time is perfect; both my column and my personal campaign are moving at the same speed.

What I'm hoping to get from readers who post are kingdoms or creatures to add to the world, adventure ideas, pieces I might have missed in the creation process, and anything else that comes to mind. I've included the handout I prepared to introduce my players to Darkness Falls at the end of this column.

Where To Start?

Before I wrote anything down, I knew I wanted to put Star Trek into D&D.

I don't mean adding phasers and starships into D&D. I mean adding the political backdrop of great powers jockeying for position against a backdrop of war, in particular the series Deep Space Nine. And, of course, the desire for exploration of the unknown and interaction with new races.

Loosely, the elves relationship to the drow is like the Vulcans to the Romulans. The Player Handbook races, bound together into a Great Kingdom, are like the Federation. The raptorans, religious and with the favored class of cleric, are like the Bajorans. Orcs as Klingons, hobgoblins as Cardassians, and a few other surprises will creep in as well. The races taking the place of the Dominion have to remain a mystery for now, in case any of my players are reading this column.

The Star Trek inspiration will be invisible during the game. Darkness Falls, the D&D campaign, is only inspired by Star Trek. No actual crossover will happen.

How to Get Where I Want to Go

Since I'm designing a world using D&D 3.5, I next considered the game system itself. I'd like the player characters to have the chance to reach epic (21+) levels. Just for fun, I based a cap of 36th level on the old D&D Cyclopedia. High enough to get through an epic level prestige class, but low enough to actually be reached.

To get that far though, with the same character, will require monumental effort. Both the adventures that that character can enjoy and as well as the people and places that that character will interact with must be generated and maintained at a high level of interest. In short, as DM, I need compelling NPCs and a powerful setting to place them in and a variety of plot points the PCs can pick up on and follow.

I picked out an epic level monster that would be my uber-villain. I can't reveal which creature yet, on the off chance any of my players read this column, but it fits my need. The creature is a genius, powerful, epic in power, and capable of hatching a plot that if fulfilled would destroy worlds.

Back to the Beginning

The next question I asked was, how do I get 1st level characters set on a road that will take them to an ultimate confrontation with a villain of CR 36+? How in the world that I'm building will I connect 1st level to 36th?

Following an idea Monte Cook discussed in Dungeoncraft, I came up with a list of several lackeys that the big villain will use. Each lackey will be setting in motion plots that will further the ultimate goal of the big baddie. Many of the lackeys don't even know about the villain and all are being manipulated in small or big ways.

I have a rough idea of the base of operations for these bad guys. When I get to drawing a map and putting in lairs, I'll be able to place many of these locations.

Bad guys aren't what I want to start with when the PCs first meet epic level creatures, however. I'm planning on putting in an elder treant and a band of leshay near the location of the PCs' first adventure.

These epic level creatures of the wilds are all that stand between a powerful, epic level undead threat and the rest of the world. This threat is beginning to grow as the campaign begins, and the PCs feel the effect when lesser undead began attacking their kingdom.

After fighting a few bands of undead, the PCs may begin to investigate where all these monsters are coming from. Careful questioning and use of pertinent skills will steer them in the direction of the leshay. Having low level PCs talk to epic level NPCs will accomplish two things.

First, the meeting should spur the players towards a desire for epic levels. Being in the presence of someone more accomplished then they are should motivate and inspire them to achieve the same high levels and abilities.

Second, the PCs may be able to help these leshay someday. Planting a 21+ level adventure seed back at 4th or 5th level will make the world seem more real. Things happen, bad and good, whatever the PCs do. If they work for good, however, the balance will shift towards more good than bad.

I really like this idea. I don't want to introduce epic level monsters at lower levels and get the PCs killed. They will know where the these monsters are if they befriend the leshay. If the PCs ignore the warnings the leshay give them of terrifying undead and press on then I can always bring the characters back as undead foes for the next group of characters the players create.

Rule Implementation

I'm going to shift gears a little and discuss rules for a moment. I love the rule structure of D&D 3.5. I like the customizable, stackable nature of the rules. I love it when a 20 is rolled.

In my last world design here at rpg.net I suggested limiting the number of classes in a world or reducing the number of races. This kind of reasoning was left over in my brain from 2nd edition world building.

What I've learned in the last year has really changed my mind about control of the rules and limiting options to the players as a way to create world flavor. I have completely changed my mind on the matter.

I think less control, by creating few rule restrictions, and more encouragement of certain types of characters, through world building, is the best way to go. Just as I don't want to try to lead the players by the nose through an adventure, I also don't want to railroad them into narrow restrictions and character choices unless I absolutely have to.

I've included my house rules and basic roleplaying information at the end of this column. Even with the rarity of certain classes, twenty common classes will remain. Won't that dilute the flavor of the world?

I don't think so. Each class has a niche it fills and suggests many roleplaying options. I'm curious to see what classes individual players are drawn to as well as what the group looks like as a whole once character creation ends.

And by making the Asian and psionic classes more rare, I've reserved a place in the campaign where they are common and the other classes rare. Another location that is different from what the PCs are used to, but still D&D in flavor and tone. This location will come into play in a few months.

What's Next?

Next column, I'm going to talk about how I made the decisions on the gods, touch on the planes, and discuss upcoming adventures. I'm looking for any feedback from readers on ways to improve the world, vital info that you feel is missing from my basic handout for the players, and any other ideas you think would help build the campaign of Darkness Falls.

I would also enjoy hearing any discussion regarding how to bring Star Trek like ideas into Darkness Falls. How the raptorans are like the Bajorans, how the hobgoblins are like Cardassians etc. Keep in mind, that the beginning set up for Darkness Falls would compare to Deep Space Nine a year before season one, when the Cardassians still controlled Terok Nor and Bajor, but were preparing to leave.

The rest of this column is the handout I'm giving to players, divided into a roleplaying and rules section. I pulled the Shining Crusade and Saltmarsh from the Dungeonmaster's Guide II and the ability score generation method from Iron Heroes. Teamwork benefits are found in the DMG II and Heroes of Battle.

Campaign Handout for the Players

Darkness Falls Part I: Roleplaying

What is Darkness Falls?

Darkness Falls is a Dungeons and Dragons version 3.5 (D&D) campaign setting of my creation. Everything in your Player's Handbook 3.5 (PHB) is somewhere in the campaign setting of Darkness Falls.

Now you know what is familiar. So what makes the campaign of Darkness Falls different?

1. Epic level (21+) scope.
Just outside the town of Twilight, where your beginning characters start, are epic level creatures holding back an epic level threat. Epic level NPCs live in the metropolises of the world.

2. Epic level villains.
Somewhere in the campaign setting of Darkness Falls is the epic villain of epic level villains. I know who and what he is but you and your characters don't, at least not yet. Do you have to track him down and stop him? Of course not. But keep in mind that this epic level villain has the means to destroy the world and perhaps all of creation. If your PCs can't or won't stop him do you really think the NPCs can?

3. Width and breadth of D&D.
Darkness Falls is not defined by what your PC can't do. Instead, it is defined by what he can do, who he can meet, what he learns, and what secrets he can uncover. The more you read and offer ideas, the bigger and better the setting gets and by proxy the better your character gets.

The limits of D&D are created and defined by each player. You can play with just the PHB or you can add a book here and a rule there (working with the DM) to create just the character, team, and setting you want to help you tell our combined story.

4. Start small, grow large.
You can't digest fifteen rulebooks and tens of pages of campaign notes before creating a 1st level character. The rule and roleplaying information to get you started is deliberately short. All you need is the PHB, a willingness to participate in something bigger than any one PC, and your imagination. We are in no rush to get to high levels but by the same token we have no desire to stay at 1st level. The more involved you as a player become, the more powerful and real your character and his world can become.

The World of Darkness Falls

The material world that the campaign of Darkness Falls starts in is called Terra. Terra is Earth-like with all the trappings and background set forth in the PHB.

To begin, you need to understand a little bit of the background that concerns the realms on the continent of Kreados. One thousand years ago, an epic empire called Amperia stretched from sea to sea on the continent. Epic level spells created new realities and even reshaped parts of the world as the empire saw fit.

Something went wrong. Some sages say an artifact, made with the power of the gods and itself more powerful even than epic magic, led to ruin. Other scholars claim an ancient and terrible epic war lead to cataclysm.

Whatever the cause, the result was the utter destruction of Amperia, the death of millions of her subjects, and the altering of the surface of Terra itself.

One thousand years later, kingdoms have risen from the ashes on the east coast of the continent. Building, trading, exploring, and warring with each other, these kingdoms struggled to rebuild. A race was on to stabilize and grow powerful enough to cross the western mountains and explore the lands beyond.

That day has arrived. The Great Kingdom competes with kingdoms of other races including the drow, goblins, and orcs to reach the lands beyond the mountains first and claim the heritage of the Empire of Amperia.

The Great Kingdom

All the races in the PHB have banded together into one larger kingdom called the Great Kingdom (GK). A guild called the Shining Crusade (see below) was instrumental in bringing together the five kingdoms that currently make up the GK.

These races work together for defense, trade, and exploration. The GK allows worship of any good or neutral god and clerics of faiths that do not work with or create undead. Fiend summoning and bargaining with evil dragons are high crimes.

The GK just fought a protracted war with the Orcish Empire. They came to an armistice through the tireless sword arms and voices of the Shining Crusade. Most orcs are no longer evil and have embarked on a new path to governing themselves.

Meanwhile, however, the Goblinish Empire gained much ground while the GK was occupied fighting orcs. Military actions included seizing the tiny realm belonging to the race known as the raptorans. The GK, entrenched, could not protect the raptorans, a failure that haunts the great realm to this day.

That was twenty years ago. Today, your PC will be drawn into adventure. Will he build a keep? Free the raptorans? Travel the planes? It is up to you.

Your adventure begins in the town of Twilight in the Mere Lake region.

The Shining Crusade

Quite simply, the Shining Crusade (SC) seeks to convert all evil creatures away from evil and destroy without negotiation all evil dragons, outsiders, and undead. With creatures of good alignment drawn from every conceivable race and background, the SC follows no single god or government. It exists to convert and destroy evil.

However, the ideals and power of the SC were eventually converted and incorporated into the five realms known as the Great Kingdom. The SC takes no part in governing the kingdom, instead acting as a police force, army, spy network, diplomatic corps, and group of explorers all rolled into one. As long as the GK allows no evil leader to come to power, does not allow the worship of evil gods, and continues to destroy absolute evil while trying to convert other types of evil, then the SC will continue to protect the realms of the GK.

Mere Lake

Four towns surround Mere Lake. Saltmarsh is a human town, bustling with trade and commerce. Darkness Falls is a raptoran town, occupied by goblin troops and a place of great sorrow. Dusk is a free town, heavily influenced by the goblins, and run by a mysterious master of great and deadly power.

Twilight is also a free town. Fixed between the Goblinish Empire and the kingdom of the illumians, Twilight has remained independent by offering goods that everyone wants while conducting trade on ground nobody wants. It is a sordid, dangerous town built on a quagmire. Your adventures begin here.

Town of Twilight

Even if you don't play a dwarf, elf, gnome, halfling, or human, you character will begin adventuring on the border of the illumian realm and the Goblinish Empire.

A mysterious inheritance to an ancient manor sends your characters to the town of Twilight, a dangerous free city inhabited by hobgoblin and human pirates and thieves and illumian free thinkers. From here, your destiny awaits.

Darkness Falls Part II: Rules

Books

Books referenced by these rules and during the game are listed below. If you wish to reference a book not on this list, please check with the DM first.

Complete handbooks (CHB) -Complete Adventurer
-Complete Arcane
-Complete Divine
-Complete Warrior
Dungeonmaster's Guide (DMG)
Epic Level Handbook updated to 3.5 (EHB)
Expanded Psionics Handbook (XPH)
Miniatures Handbook (MHB)
Monster Manual (MM)
Player's Handbook (PHB)
Races handbooks (RHB)
Races of Destiny
Races of Stone
Races of the Wild
Stronghold Builder's Guidebook (SBG)
Unearthed Arcana (UA)

Chapter 1: Ability Scores

Using the same system as presented in Iron Heroes.

Chapter 2: Races

For more detailed information on culture and kingdoms, see the Roleplaying section. Racial substitution levels are allowed (RHB).

-Raptorans
In addition to the PHB races, the raptorans from Races of the Wild play a big part in the world. See the Roleplaying section.

-Other Races
Many other races with a +0 LA are found on Terra. Work with the DM to fit a different race into the world.

Chapter 3: Classes

Classes are found in the PHB, the CHB, and the MHB. Asian classes (including the monk) and psionic classes are very rare on Terra. Work with the DM if you want to play one of these classes. Otherwise, the other twenty classes are all found on Terra.

Substitution levels from the RHB can be taken.

-Bonus Skill Points
All classes receive an extra 2 skill points per level (x4 at character creation).

-Hit Points
Hit points are maximum at odd levels and half-maximum at even levels.

-Turn Undead
Turn Undead becomes Destroy Undead from Complete Divine. Destroy undead still channels positive energy and counts in all ways as turn undead (to qualify for feats, prestige classes, etc).

Skills and Feats

The expanded skill descriptions and additional standard feats found in the books referenced above (except UA) are used.

Spells

Any caster can reference spells in the PHB. Spells in other books are initially available only to classes found in those books; other classes may research and work with NPCs to find those spells.

Teamwork Benefits

Your team of adventurers can earn several benefits by training together with certain feats and skills. I'll explain more during character creation.

Multiclass Characters

Fractional saves and magic rating from UA are used.

Prestige Classes

A prestige class must be found and learned in the game world before levels are taken. Please work with the DM before working toward qualifying.

Epic Levels

The epic level rules in the DMG and the EHB are used.

Gods

God Information

-portfolio
god name by race

-portfolio
alignment
3-4 domains
weapon

A list of sixteen gods, one for each domain in the PHB except for the alignment domains, follow in the handout described as in the format above. Each race worships some or all of these gods and has a racial name for each.

May Solarus Guide You When Darkness Falls (farewell greeting used by followers of the sun god, called in the common tongue Solarus), Charlie

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