Chinistria: The Doomed Lands
A story of fire, ash, and rebirth
This document is a living document, and while I'm adding the core material, I fully expect my players to help me extend it. This is my setting, but it's going to be our playground. Furthermore, this material is intended to support and aid, not limit and restrict. If elves are noted for not being barbarians, that doesn't mean you can't be an elven barbarian, just that your selection is that much more exceptional, unusual, and noticeable. Which is great! Player characters are exceptional individuals, unusual in the the societies they walk through, and noticeable as they shake the foundations of reality.
This campaign is intended to be about an oncoming threat, a global 'reset button' that destroys most areas, leaving a few especially well defended locations alone. As a result, your foes will also be your allies: the leaders of the First Enclaves know what's coming, and have actively suppressed that knowledge 'for the good of everyone'. Whether from greed, fear, or a genuine belief that panic will just guarantee the death of everyone, they've hidden a vital truth.
Doomsday is coming. What will you do about it?
History Of Chinistria
History began about 10,000 years ago. There remains some minor debate about the exact date. Different calendars have different starting days to the year, and as a result even different years, but they're all within a year or so of each other. As a result, a common calendar was agreed upon centuries ago, and the regional calendars are ignored by all but the most die-hard of priests.
By the common calendar, it's August of 9,999, and cultures around the world are gearing up for a great celebration of 'Ten Thousand Years of History'. Scholars of mathematics, history, and other minor disciplines complain that the celebration should occur in the year 10,001, but no one listens to them.
But however you count the years, they began a long, long time ago when various cultures began to spread out into a vast wasteland. Different religions place different stamps on it. The elves insist their pantheon strode across the world and life blossomed in their footsteps. The dwarves believe their pantheon built the world up, and life is just the last creation of the gods. The orcs and hobgoblins believe that the world is detritus from a great battle between the gods. The list goes on.
Whichever faith you subscribe to, they all agree that ten thousand years ago, history began. And in those ten thousand years, empires have grown, flourished, and fallen. The land is a complex patchwork of competing kingdoms, cities, and peoples, though the enduring core of the First Enclaves remain.
In the past few decades, problems have begun to plague the lands. The price of food stuffs is rising, slowly, and the supply of various goods is slowly dwindling. The First Enclaves have all been overtaken by various brands of racism, slowly pushing other races out to their peripheries.
Some farms are starting to fail, producing less with each passing year. Mines of long standing are closing down, the quality of the wood produced in the forests is dropping, and even fish seem less plentiful. The world grows old, some say.
Stranger yet at the rumors coming from distant corners of the land. There are scattered reports of once failing farms blossoming, which would seem like a good thing except that on some the new growth is getting out of control. The residents are then forced to flee from mobile, carnivorous plants. Elsewhere, some whisper that the mines shutting down aren't because the veins are failing, but because the veins of ore are vanishing -- along with the tunnels (and miners) that were inside them.
As if in balance, reports come of reports are coming of nuggets of precious metals washing up in streams in areas where no valuable minerals used to reside, though dangerous rock-creatures are said to guard them. Reports come of dragons carrying off not just isolated individuals, but entire herds of livestock -- and stranger yet, cooperating across the color lines to do so. Gold dragons that would normally be fighting red dragons are, according to rumor, seen flying in formation with them.
So far these rumors are few and far between, easily found but just as easily ignored by those who don't want to hear them. No one would really give them credence, except for one thing: druids from the great circles can be seen striding the land, agitated, investigating, researching, questioning -- and if asked questions, they refuse to answer, but look grim indeed.
As if to confirm the worst, calls are going out. Renowned scholars, fabled craftsmen, revered priests, and other individuals of note are being called in by the kings and priesthood of the First Enclaves. Clearly summoned for the 10,000 year celebration, but the exact details of how they are to participate is unclear.
The First Enclaves
Chinistria is a large continent, replete with multiple nations, empires, city-states, cultures, and the people who dwell within them. Trade, the life-blood of civilization, flows freely. While the nations of the world are too many to discuss in a document as brief as this, it is possible to note some of the more important places.
And of the possible important places, the greatest are the First Enclaves, the centers from which civilization spread.
The following quick reference is an at-a-glance overview of the First Enclaves, as a reference for building characters or deciding where the party might want to go.
The capital city of each First Enclave may be assumed to be level 16. Each first enclave has certain economic and cultural preferences, and there are benefits to working with those preferences, and penalties to opposing them. An activity that lies within a regions preferred items and professions may treat the enclave in question as four levels higher, while an opposed activity must treat it as two levels lower. As a result, a blacksmith might make a fine living in Dwarvenhame, with access to level 20 jobs, while a crafter of fine staves is going to be better received in Elvairia.
|Region||Race||Noted Items||Noted Professions||Distastes|
|Elvairia||Elves||Rare Fruits & Woods, Fine Alcohol, Magical Staves & Wands,||Wizards, Elemental Sorcerers, Druids||Barbarians, Swashbucklers|
|Dwarvenhame||Dwarves||Metal Goods, Stonework, Strong Alcohol||Fighters, Clerics, Champions, Rogues||???|
|Durghad||Orcs, Hobgoblins||???||Fighters, Barbarians, Rogues, Druids, Wizards, Alchemists||Lawyers, Sorcerers, Oracles, Witches|
|GOBLINS||Goblins||Alchemy, Technology, Recyling||Alchemist, Rogue, Investigator, Druid||???|
Elvairia is a large, temperate forest near the eastern end of Chinistria. Bordered on one side by the sinister, monster-infested Shinnar mountains, and the other by a large, often unruly river, it's borders are surprisingly well defended. Attackers who penetrate those borders must then contend with well-made elven steel, crafty elven magic, and the land itself.
Non-elves aren't exactly unwelcome, but generally it's mostly traders that brave the sneering condencension and haughty superiority of the elves. Shorter lived races rarely choose to settle down and start families in Elvairia. Even if the people made them feel welcome -- and they don't -- the land itself feels hostile to those that overstay their brief welcome.
The people of Elvairia don't live on the ground. They live inside the trees themselves, high up in the branches. The poor might have a snug house of branches and leaves woven together. The more affluent will often have chambers hollowed out into the trunk of a particularly large tree. A given area can support only a limited number of such habitats, and as a result the populace is more spread out than in other lands, without the population clusters produced by towns and cities. The one exception is Londthair, the capital city. It's not the mercantile center one expects from other races cities, however, being instead a complex of temples, government buildings, and the homes for the people who work there.
Elves have a relatively flat social structure. Without the social clustering caused by towns and cities, there's little need for individuals to rank themselves into various levels of aristocrat. What little rank is needed is usually represented in the priesthood, individuals who are 'called to service' by possession of a highly revered blessing. A small fraction of the elvish population -- larger in Elvairia than elsewhere -- possess the odd gift of changing their sex. Generally it starts out random and uncontrolled, but over time the elves in question learn to control it. As the gift first expresses itself in puberty, and control is generally gained with maturity, it's an open question if the control is actually a learned skill or simply the result of becoming an adult. Either way, that control is invariably greeted with pleasure by a teenager who has long since grown sick and tired of not being able to control their own body.
Their long lives make elves acutely aware of the world around them, as a single poor choice may mar a region for a lifetime. As a result, they are more aware of the natural world and it's flows than most races, and feel bound to the land in a way few others achieve. In Elvairia, an outgrowth of this is a strong tendency to form bonds with natural animals. Many a child grows up with a wolf for a pet, or a bear, or some variety of large feline. Those bonds can last well into adulthood, and many an elf forms generation bonds with their pets, helping to raise a child that one day bonds in place of it's parent.
As a result of this bonding with nature, elves tend towards classes and archetypes that touch on nature: druid, elemental sorcerer, beastmaster, and ranger. Their strong intellect, long lifespans, and deeply cultured society disincline them towards such crass, uncultured classes as barbarian, or overly showy swashbucklers.
Of particular note in elven society are the 'Elders', trees of such age that they have soaked up sufficient magic to become sentient. (Not to be confused with Treants, a race of people closely related to trees.) Their deep memories and incredible reserves of magic are believed to be the other half of the equation that binds the land of Elvairia to the elves that live there. Their existence is not exactly a secret, but Elves refuse to discuss them or acknowledge any questions about them. As a result, the exact nature of their abilities is unknown to outsiders, but scattered reports suggest that only a fool would take them lightly.
Economically, Elvairia is well known for exporting various rare woods & fruits, fine alcohol, and magical staffs & wands.
Far to the west lay the dwarven mountains, with cities carved into the stone, and ancient keeps carved into the mountains themselves. These ancient fastnesses are well protected, and other races often find them bleak. However warm and inviting the insides, the outsides are cold, grey, uncompromising stone. Dwarven construction gives no thought to bending to nature. If a road need to go through a hill, they will carve a straight path through the hill, steep cliffs to either side leaving the sky a narrow slice above. If the hill is a mountain and too large to carve open, they will simply carve a tunnel straight through the mountain.
The center of Dwarven life is the family, and by extension the tightly knit clan groups that stitch many families together. The greatest oddity for outsiders is the concept of marriage, which is never between one man and one woman. It is considered an invitation to bad luck to have less than 6 individuals in a marriage, and an outright ill-omen to have only a single male or female in the marriage. So much so that, on the rare occasions that death leaves only a single male or female member of the marriage, a member of the other sex will often either take a potion of sex change, or just have themselves legally declared to be a member of the short-changed sex. It is worth noting that, over their long lives, dwarven marriages tend to weave their members together on a nearly physical level. While combat, accident or disease may carry off individual members of a marriage, old age rarely carries off just one member. When the first member dies, the stress and grief of their passing almost invariably takes another within a month or two, and the compounding stress and grief will quickly rip through the entire family.
Dwarven marriages are arranged by the parents of the prospective spouses, planned over the course of years with great care and deliberation. Thanks to the dwarven reverence for families, the marriage is planned for the benefit of clan and the families involved, but also with a stern, loving eye towards the happiness and fulfillment of the members. Where one might expect the strict nature of dwarven family structure to cause stifling, loveless marriages, the care and love placed into arranging these marriages ensures that, at a bare minimum, the new spouses will be friends. If even one individual doesn't fit in, the marriage is changed until everyone fits in. The shame of a failed marriage will taint the parents of the spouses, and as such even the least loving parents take great care to ensure the prospective spouses get along. A dwarf may not love their spouses, but they are invariable at least friends -- and from friendship, long association, and shared labors love often grows.
The importance of family permeates right down to the linguistic level. The Dwarven language allows you to describe your exact relationship to another individual in a single word, where other languages might require a complicated phrase. Ongarshkenderkel would describe the complex relationship that another language might be forced to describe as a third-cousin-in-law: an individual whose biological father is married to a woman whose brother (of a different mother but same father) is married to a woman, who is a sister (of the same mother and father) to one of your non-biological fathers.
Dwarves whose parents cannot find them a marriage inside their own clan tend to fall into two categories. For some, simple bad luck strikes and there is no appropriate marriage opportunities inside the clan. This is considered a sign from the gods that their fate lies with another clan, and they are given jobs that allow them to travel from city to city, or simply settle in a city far from home. As they have been 'marked by the gods', they are given the rare gift of being allowed to negotiate their own marriages, and may either join a new marriage or an established marriage. After all, gods move in their own time, and if the gods wish for an additional member to be added to the marriage, no dwarf will ever say 'no' simply because the dwarves thought the marriage had been already finalized. That would be silly.
For some rare individuals, marriage simply does not fit well. They may be loners, or outcast in some way, and they are distinctly second-class citizens in dwarven society.
An unusual dwarven trait is that they always know who both parents of a child are. Where other races might clue in on weight gain, or a 'subtle glow', or perhaps a coarse recognition of the gap between monthly cycles, the first hint of a dwarven pregnancy is when two partners suddenly develop a nearly obsessive awareness of each other. This phenomenon, roughly translated as 'the pairing', generaly clues everyone else in before the two soon-to-be parents realize it themselves. It's considered the worst of ill manners to point it out to the new couple, and the greatest of blessings to be there when they do finally realize it. Other than this nearly instinctive biological recognition of parentage, dwarves make no distinctions past the purely lingual between the biological parents of a child and other spouses in the family. They are all, collectively, the child's parents, equally and joyfully.
Perhaps as an extension of the pairing instinct, an unusual quirk of dwarven biology is that males and females are nigh-infertile outside of marriages. The exact mechanism behind this is unknown (though scholars suspect that it's actually a function of time spent in each other's company), but the result is a reverence and for pregnancies that lie outside of wedlock. For two unmarried dwarves to bear a child is a cause for celebration, and is considered a case of the gods themselves declaring a family relationship. The couple involved may choose whether to disolve existing marital relationships and form a new family, or perhaps move an individual from one family to another.
The child will, however, know they are adopted, as they will have a family whose parents are all male, or all female. Even those whose tastes do not extend to the other gender are cared for in Dwarven society, and their marriages are just as carefully formed as any other.
Socially, each dwarven city is usually dominated by a single clan. Members of other clans aren't exactly unwelcome, but they tend to live at one remove from the ebb and flow of the rest of the city's life. As if in compensation, however, they do have a strong social position, as they are viewed as ambassadors from their home clans. A dwarf who misbehaves in another clan's territory is apt to be punished twice: once for breaking the local law, and again at home for making the clan look bad.
Each clan is ruled by a Thrane, and the kingdom as a whole by the Grand Thrane. Thranes are elected to office by vote of the families of the clan upon death of the previous Thrane, and Grand Thranes are elected by the Thranes upon the death of the prior Grand Thrane. While it is a signal honor, it is one not highly sought after, as a new Thrane or Grand Thrane is expected to set aside their existing marriage and form a new one. The old spouses are never cast aside, but the dissolution of a marriage of years is never pleasant. For a Thrane, the new spouses are chosen from nearby clans, to form inter-clan bonds. A Grand Thrane has an even greater obligation, as they must wed representatives of the seven strongest clans, and six weakest.
The spouses and children of marriages so disolved are highly sought after as spouses, and often represent the individuals sent to other clans to marry a new Thrane. Their sacrifices are honored and revered amongst the clans, and they tend to form what little aristocracy the dwarves recognize.
A Thrane's new marriage occurs on the same day as their coronoation, and that that is almost invariably within a bare few days of the death of the prior Thrane. The speed would seem unthinkable, except for the open secret that the election and marriage negotations of a new Thrane are done before death of the old Thrane. It is considered extremely uncouth in dwarven society to comment on the speed of an election, or the speed of the marriage negotiations after the election. Equally uncouth is commenting on the fact that the new Thrane almost invariably adds a new grandparent to their family, or suggesting that the new grandparent in any way looks even remotely like the old Thrane. Many a child has been reprimanded for such comments in exactly the same tone used to teach them not to stick their hands down the front of their pants in public. Outsiders who make such comments are pulled aside and educated in the 'facts' of dwarven life.
If the central fact of dwarven life is family, the supports for that family are duty and honor. As a result, dwarves have a strong tendency towards being champions or clerics, or at least fighters. The focus on skilled professions also encourages the existance of rogues and investigators. The flamboyance of swashbucklers and the disorderly conduct of barbarians makes it rarer for dwarves to choose those paths.
Orcs and Hobgoblins live together in the central nation of the continent, in a vast desert east of the dwarven mountains. This desert land is inhospitable, and the orcs and hobgoblins survive by a combination of intensive, intelligent farming around any source of water, and the importing of all the food they can pay for.
Durghad city, in the center of the nation of Durghad, is an impossibility given form. The massive oasis at the center of the desert is an artificial one, created by magic, at the cost of reducing the land for two weeks travel in any direction into a waterless, bone dry waste. Travellers must bring their own water, and are required to use specific way stations for their overnight rests. Expert goblin recyclers are paid well to ensure that those waystations leave no enduring trace on the desert, and the exact location of the stations is changed every couple of moons. This forms a formidable natural barrier to invading armies, as the featureless waste both actively attempts to kill intruders through lack of water, and passively attempts to guide them in circles as they become lost. Without expert guides to show you from way station to way station, travel would be impossible.
Orcs and Hobgoblins pay for the imports they require with the coin of their own bodies. The vicious nature of orcs and hobgoblins, paired with a cultural imprint focusing on duty and honor, makes them effective, displined fighting forces. No mercenary force can be as effective as a company of Durghad troops, and none can be more trustworthy.
Desert life leaves little time for secondary concerns. As a result, many orcs and Hobgoblins become barbarians, focusing their vicious nature to a razor edge of lethality. Druids, Wizards, and Alchemists alike are also common, as their combined efforts are neccessary to keep the central Oasis functioning by pulling all the water out of the desert surrounding it. The undisciplined magic of sorcerers and oracles are frowned upon by the citizens of Durghad, and the uncertain origin of their powers leaves witches untrusted.
Interplanar city. Hub of trade due to portals linking to every First Enclave. Due to limits on portals, generally only smaller, more valuable cargoes (including messages) go through city. Anchored to prime material plane to provide stability, as it exists in a chaotic, ever-shifting plane that would otherwise erode city from existence.
Outer islands. Renowned sailors.
Seaside cliffs. Inventors, recyclers. Other races rarely welcomed into the 'deep caverns'.
Deities & Religions
Noted here are a selection of deities and religions, focusing on the most important and powerful religions, those rooted in the First Enclaves. There are are many other religions and deities worshiped across the land, and this should not be considered an exhaustive treatise on the subject. Contact your DM if you have a concept you think might fit.
Acording to elvish beliefs, the first gods rose out of chaos as fluid, ever-changing creatures. Their existence defied probability, and arose because when anything is possible, nothing is impossible. Having risen from the sea of chaos, their nature tainted that chaos, creating self-organizing material that then exploded outward, much as ice, once it begins to form, rapidly overtakes the water around it. This newly formed world was rough, rugged, and devoid of life, and the gods quickly saw it's flaws. They walked the lands, their eternally unfixed natures flowing outward, and in their footsteps arose life.
- Edicts: Work with the natural order; Make changes with care, forethought, and subtlety;
- Anathema: Needless cruelty towards nature; Refusal to change with changing circumstances
- Follower Alignments: NG, N, CN
- Divine Ability: Intelligence or Wisdom
- Divine Font: Heal
- Divine Skill: Nature
- Favored Weapon: Longbow or Shortbow,
- Domains: Nature, Magic, Change, Knowledge
- Cleric Spells: Longstrider (1st), Speak with Animals (2nd), Animal Vision
Chief God of the Elven Pantheon, Enthroned Upon The First Tree, Lord of Storms and Fury
NOTE: Spell list planned to be revisited after secrets of magic; I want some air based spells in there as well!
- Edicts: Maintain order in the world around you; Judge carefully before taking actions that may have wide-spread consequences
- Anathema: Worry over or apologize for collateral damage when the benefits outweigh the harm; Prevent change without strong cause
- Follower Alignments: LG, LN, LE
- Divine Ability: Constitution or Charisma
- Divine Font: Heal or Harm
- Divine Skill: Intimidation
- Favored Weapon: Longspear
- Domains: Destruction, Air, Water, Lightning
- Cleric Spells: Hydraulic Push (1st), Crashing Wave (3rd), Hydraulic Torrent (4th)
- Follower Alignments:
- Divine Ability:
- Divine Font:
- Divine Skill:
- Favored Weapon:
- Cleric Spells:
- Elvish: Nature, Knowledge
- Dwarven: Duty, Family, Crafting
- Orc/Hobgoblin: Honor, Warfare, Strength
- Gnomes: Commerce & Trade, Honesty
- Halflings: Family, Home, Comforts
- Goblins: Continuity, Life and Rebirth, Experimentation
- Humans: ???
- Elvish: Eastern forests. Pantheon focused on nature, knowledge.
- Dwarven: Western Mountains: Focused on duty, family, crafting
- Orc / Hobgoblin: Central desert. Mercenary culture. Huge importer of foods. Focus on Honor, Warfare, Strength
- Gnomes: Interplanar city, commercial focus. Acts as inter-city trading hub for small, valuable cargoes like spices, gems, precious metals. Desperately needs 'prime material' for survival, as interplanar environs are unfixed, mutable, and link to prime materials allows them to create stability
- Halflings: Family, home, comforts. Outer islands.
- Goblins: Southern sea cliffs. Noted for being the recyclers of the world.
- Humans, Goblins: live interspersed amongst other nations.
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