I find myself without time to run a D&D campaign. I was the original GM for my gaming group, but two players have become interested in GMing and have created their own campaigns. We play about once every fortnight, and they are taking turns running their games. I think three campaigns going on at once would be too much for us, so I’ve brought my sandbox 5th Edition campaign to a close. I welcome this development, as it means I at long last get to play RPG’s instead of run them!
However, I ran that campaign for two years. I and most of the players became quite attached to that campaign’s world and characters. Therefore when one of them ends his campaign, I have every intention of starting mine back up again.
In the meantime, I thought I’d share the work I’d done developing the setting. Hopefully it can inspire other GM’s. I’d love to get some feedback on it – whether that be criticisms of bad ideas, requests for more detail or clarifications about certain elements, or new ideas to include.
This first post will just be the basic stuff: a broad overview of the setting and the world’s cosmology.
THE WORLD OF MANADUS
Manadus is a world of magic and of danger. The magic, some say, is waning. The danger, some say, is waxing.
For over a thousand years the nations of humanity spread across the wasteland, taming it and building a great empire. Then, the empire fell. Now the surface of Manadus is divided into dozens of petty confederacies and city-states, and the horrors of the wasteland creep back into civilization.
The cosmic war.
Long ago, Manadus was a paradise ruled benevolently by the goddess Hetama’at, Mother of All. Then, the goddess left us. In Her place remained Her two sons: Rakhmet, the Archon of Light; and Keth, the Archon of Darkness. For some time they ruled together, but Keth in his avarice betrayed Rakhmet. Thus began the Brothers’ War, a conflict between Light and Darkness which lasted for a thousand and thousand years. Great weapons were crafted and spells woven to fight this war. The land was poisoned and the oceans were boiled. So many people and animals died that their blood rose to the sky, formed clouds, and fell as toxic rain.
Rakhmet and Keth saw that if they continued their fighting, the world they both loved would be destroyed. Therefore they agreed to a truce, the Treaty of the Silver Flame, and both left the world. However, the brother gods could not let go of their grudges. The Brothers’ War continues, but in a new form. Now the mortal servants of the Archons fight in their stead. The history of Manadus since the Treaty has in large part been defined by the conflicts of those who serve Rakhmet and those who serve Keth.
The rotting world.
The time of the Brothers’ War is now known as the Age of Blood. As a result of the massive destruction that occurred during that time, most of Manadus is an inhospitable wasteland. Vast tracts of terrain are salted, or burned to glass, or steeped in poison, or littered with the restless corpses of angels. Mutant monsters, twisted by foul magic, are more common than natural animals. A stormcloud is as likely to rain blood as it is water. Civilization clings to the strands of arable land around the world’s great rivers. Beyond these safe havens, Manadus is actively hostile to normal life.
The shattered empire.
Despite the difficulty, human beings have managed to build a civilization upon the surface of Manadus. From their capital city of Aviok, a tribe of humans conquered most of the world and built the grand Silver Empire, which brought peace to Manadus for a thousand years – the Age of Silver. However, the Silver Empire collapsed two centuries ago. In its place stand dozens of lesser nations and the domains of many petty warlords. Now, in this Age of Darkness, many of the people long for the reunification of the Empire. This is especially the case in regions threatened by a new evil to arrive on Manadus…
The dragon king.
What were the eastern provinces of the Silver Empire on the continent of Nomes are now Lung Kwo, the Dragon Empire. At its heart lies the lair of T’ang Lung, the Father of all Dragons, and from him springs the new race of dragonkind. In Lung Kwo, dragons rule as brutal feudal lords. Since the rise of T’ang Lung two-hundred years ago, the Dragon Empire has been slowly expanding.
The dragons are powerful, but not organized. When a new dragon reaches adulthood, it flies beyond the current limits of Lung Kwo and attempts to take control of a portion of land. Those who succeed are known as scale-lords. On other worlds, dragons hoard treasure. On Manadus, dragons hoard people. All those who live in a scale-lord’s domain are its slaves.
Dragons reproduce slowly and are prone to infighting. This alone has postponed the domain of Lung Kwo from spreading across all of Manadus, as there are few heroes capable of standing against the dragons.
THE GREAT MACHINE
To people from other worlds – the Changlings of Kaddath, the Fae of the Green World, the Thri-Kreen of Thri’in – Manadus is obviously not an ordinary planet. The natives, however, do not question why their countries are divided by great metal walls or why millions of titanic gears grind beneath their feet. For them, that is how things have always been.
Manadus is a great machine, but its purpose is unknown.
In shape, it resembles a gigantic dreidel about three-quarters the size of Earth. The “surface” of Manadus is the top side of the dreidel. The surface is covered in soil and water, but the metal beneath is exposed in places.
The Silver Spire (“Qat Varr” in the tongue of Aviok) is the dreidel’s handle, jutting out from its center thousands of miles into space. It is made of cai’euch qat, “divine silver.” This is a shiny metal which cannot be worked or damaged by any means available to mortals. It is said that the Archons built the Qat Varr at the dawn of civilization.
The Spire goes down as well as up, stabbing into the depths of the Grue Ket – the Lower Darkness.
The Grue Ket fills the body of the dreidel, and is Manadus’s equivalent of the Underdark. But, it is even stranger than the Underdarks of other worlds. Most of it is a labyrinth of tunnels and piping. Some chambers are lit by electric lighting, but most are cloaked in blackness. The mechanical creatures which roam the halls are seemingly unfazed by the shifting paths, jets of steam, and other obstacles which complicate travel through the Grue Ket.
Two moons orbit Manadus: the Green World and the Black Moon. The Green World is a verdant wonderland stepped in magic, and is home to the fae. The Black Moon is visible only in that it blocks out the light of the stars behind it. It is said to be the home of Keth. Shadow creatures crawl on the surface, and devils dance in its depths.
Manadus, the Green World, and the Black Moon all orbit a pair of suns. The larger, yellow sun is mythically conflated with Rakhmet. The smaller, brown sun is mythically conflated with either Hetama’at or with Rakhmet’s formerly-mortal wife Nepthys.
THE PROVINCIAL CALENDAR
“To His Most Revered Majesty, King Ordishalk of the Silver Empire, Renewer of Promises, Flame of the Silver Spire, Master of Aviok and the Nomes, Son of Rakhmet:
It is with great pride that this simple scholar presenteth this device. May it be of use to those historians who haveth the honour of recording the innumerable triumphs of thy eternal reign.”
~Letter sent along with the stone slab which is the earliest known calendar in Manadus.
The Provincial Calendar is dated from the coronation of Ordishalk, the first king of the Silver Empire, 1,261 years ago. Every year after that day is marked with the latter ‘i’ (Imperial) and every year before that is marked with the letters ‘pi’ (pre-Imperial.) Thus one-hundred years before Ordishalk’s coronation would be the year 100pi, and one-thousand years after the coronation would be 1000i. The current year is 1261i.
The Provincial Calendar is a solar calendar consisting of twelve thirty-day months, which are divided into three ten-day weeks. The new year begins on the spring equinox, the first day of the month of Melting.
The names of the months are as follows:
At the end of each year are an extra three days that are not considered a part of any year or month. In most human cultures, this is said to be the anniversary of the Treaty of Silver Flame, and is an occasion for celebration.