Dear Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition, I would like to apologize to you. For about 20 years now I have ridiculed you and, with a few notable exceptions, have refused to play you. My feelings have changed. I picked up a used copy of the Player’s Handbook, DM’s Guide and Monstrous Manual, mainly to say I had them.
Then I read them. Then I realized that I had been running and playing you wrong. Then I started collecting more books. Then I decided to start a Wednesday night game of you up with my 16-year old and her friend. Then I decided that, since the Parahuman playtest campaign was wrapping, I’d try to stick you into that time slot.
After discussing you with my players last night, I went to bed having only the vaguest idea of what I wanted to do with the campaign world. I knew that I wanted to use the deities from Legends & Lore and that was about it. This morning, I sat down at my computer to begin defining, in broad terms, the game world for the players. And the ideas just kept coming and coming. Dear 2nd edition, I have enclosed below the game world I created in the space of about an hour for your amusement.
Now, don’t worry, it’s not that I don’t like your younger brothers and sisters, Third Edition and Fourth Edition, nor do I now dislike your cousins Pathfinder and Fantasy Craft. In fact, we just wrapped a year-long Pathfinder game, and we are starting a Fourth Edition game for our weekly sessions. However, I feel that I never gave you the chance you really deserved. And, sure, I’m using a couple of house rules like max hp at 1st level, and a few options like the spell point system from Spells & Magic, but I’m looking forward to our new relationship.
So, without further ado I present to you Ma’rakan.
Ma’rkan is a world in turmoil. For the past year, seers have had terrible visions and even those on opposite ends of the world have spoken of the coming Four Trials. Ma’rakan, they say, is doomed.
There are four great continents on Ma’rakan, three of which are ruled over by humans. Each is named after one of the four cardinal directions.
THE NORTH CONTINENT
The North Continent is where our game will begin. The North Continent is the largest of the four great continents, as well as the coldest. From the mountainous Great Winter Waste to the north, the home of dwarves, high elves and the warlike humans of the Vaesyr to the rolling hills, plains and moors of central Glorwyn to the great Westwood where the wood elves rule to the hilly lands of Meditar on the southern and western edge of the continent, the North Continent considers itself the center of culture.
The humans of the North Continent tend to be hale and hearty, particularly the Vaesyr. Even female Vaesyr tend toward stocky builds, considered a sign of fertility in Vaesyr culture, and most have pale or blonde hair and pale-colored eyes. The rare Vaesyr born with red hair are considered good omens, and are called the Thortouched, after the popular god of the Vaesyr, Thor. Glorwynians tend towards slighter frames than the Vaesyr, and overall darker hair but, since the Glorwynians and Vaesyr come from similar stock, many Glorwynians have blonde or light hair, but darker complexions than the Vaesyr. Humans of Meditar generally have dark hair and olive skin tones, possibly due to mixing of Glorwynian and Sun Children explorers in ancient times.
There are many demihumans on the North Continent. The wood elves inhabit the forests, and the dwarves inhabit the mountains, concentrated mainly in the Great Winter Waste. In Glorwyn and Meditar, halflings often live alongside their human neighbors in an integrated socieity. Especially in Glorwyn and the lands of the Vaesyr, half-elves are quite common. High elves that live among the Vaesyr refer to themselves as Alfar, and speak of a great betrayal in ancient times that split their race into two. They claim that Odin cursed the so-called Spider Clan to live forever underground and, to mark them, turned their skin pitch black. These elves are known as the Sveltar. The Alfar and dwarves share an animosity with each other; during the schism that created the Sveltar, the dwarves sided with the Spider Clan, leading to a centuries old argument between the Alfar and the dwarven clans.
Like many other places where wood elves gather, worship of the Great Spirits is common among these sylvan creatures. Many halflings, likewise, worship the Great Spirits, and for the most part the Great Spirits get along with both the Vanyr (worshiped by dwarves and the Vaesyr) and the Tuath (worshiped by Glorwynian humans). The Meditar worship the Pantheon, and rarely interact with the other faiths of the land.
THE SOUTHERN CONTINENT
The Southern Continent is a harsh land of driving sands and burning suns. The sparse forests of the northern edge of the continent give way to a wall of mountains and, beyond that, the Great Desert. Here is the ancient birthplace of humanity and two warring nations battle to claim that birthright. The advanced civilization of the Sun Children claim that they were the wellspring from which humanity rose while the Travelers of the Winds argue that it was from their lands that the humans were born. The great River of Life cuts through this continent, the only reliable source of water here, and it is around the fertile banks of the River of Life that most permanent settlements have sprung up. There are few demihumans on the Southern Continent.
The few demihumans on the Southern Continent are limited mainly to the nomadic tribes of halflings that wander the deserts. Elves and dwarves are exotic curiosities at best and most half-elves are considered unclean (though the Travelers are more tolerant than their Sun Children cousins).
The Sun Children have dark skin, ranging from a deep mahogany to a dark ebony and often have thick curly hair. The Sun Children once wandered the deserts, similar to the Travelers of the Winds, in large tribes but established the great city of Amen-ah ages ago. It is here that the Immortal Ones, priest-kings that occasionally ascend to godhod among the Ra-Maat pantheon, rule over the Sun Children land. The Sun Children are great believers in the afterlife, and even the poor are often buried with small trinkets to help them pass on while the priest-kings are entombed in great above-ground pyramids filled with traps.
The other major group of humans on the Southern Continent are the Travelers of the Winds. The Travelers are made of up hundreds of distinct tribes that war among themselves but present a unified front when faced with outside threats. Wizards among the Travelers are highly respected and are known as Sha’ir. The Travelers are dark skinned, though much lighter than many of the Sun Children, and often have thick, wavy black hair and black or dark brown eyes.Many Traveler tribes are nomadic, and most have a tradition of helping any who are lost in the desert, even those of an enemy tribe. The Travelers worship the Dharmics, and believe that to live one’s life according to the rules of dharma and karma will bring one closer in the next life cycle to the gods.
THE WESTERN CONTINENT
While few demihumans live on the Southern Continent, the exact opposite is true of the Western Continent. This wild, untamed land is the unquestioned realm of the wood elves whose tribes clash with their ancient enemies, the orcs and goblinoids. Lush forests cover much of the Western Continent, giving way to rolling plains as one travels west, which in turn give way to the largest mountain range on Ma’rakan, called the Washali Kanami in elven. A great marsh covers much of the southern part of the Western Continent. Claiming that this is the birthplace of the elven race (though the alfheim of the Great Winter Waste would argue), all attempts by humans to set up a foothold in the Western Continent have been met with harsh resistance. It is rumored that the wood elves that live on the far western coasts of this continent practice a violent and bloody religion, where sacrifices are made to their gods.
Wood elves are in the majority on the Western Continent, living in tribal communities and holding on to ancient tribal agreements and disagreements with their other neighbors. Western wood elves do not refer to themselves as elves, but rather as the tribe from which they come. While almost all wood elves on the Western Continent worship all the Great Spirits, each tribe has a patron spirit after which it is named. Thus, the tribes are known by such names as the Moon Tribe, the Raven Tribe, the Snake Tribe and so on. Wood elves are in seemingly constant battle with the goblinoids that infest the Western Continent (though the Northern Continent has its fair share of orc and goblin warbands as well). Aside from halflings, which are also prolific on the Western Continent and live much as their wood elf neighbors do, there are few other demihumans and no humans here.
Though most wood elves worship the nature deities of the Great Spirits, the wood elves that live in the western part of the continent have turned to a different group of gods, known as the Hualatil. It is said by the followers of the Hualatil that the world will soon be going through a different Age, as the wheel of heavens turn, and the current age will be destroyed. Each age is destroyed by a number of disasters equal to the current Age and, with this being the Fourth Age, four disasters will spell doom.
THE EASTERN CONTINENT
The Eastern Continent is a land dotted with forests, and thick with rivers. A peculiar quality of the soil of the Eastern Continent has tinted the waters of this land a curious yellow color. Demons are said to wander the lands at night, and many fear strangers here. The Golden Empire rules most of the Eastern Continent, ruled over by the human August Lotus who, it is said, has mastered the secrets of immortality. The humans of the Golden Empire are even more advanced than the Sun Children, having mastered the arts of gunpowder and explosives. For reasons unknown, the August Lotus has outlawed arcane magic. One notable feature of the Golden Empire is a great wall, erected along the empire’s Western border, nearly bisecting the continent. The lands beyond the wall are thought by those of the Empire to be a blasted wasteland full of demons, known as Oni. This is false propaganda spread by the August Lotus’ administration; though there is some kernel of truth. A great horde, known as the Morguths, seek to conquer the entire continent, lead by the half-oni Mahi Shu.
Humans of the Golden Empire often have dark hair and eyes, with a golden hue to their skin and eyes that are swept back. Morguths look similar to the Golden, but are often of stockier build (add +1d10lb to weight). Wood elves inhabit many of the forests of the Eastern Continent, but are rare beyond the Wall. Walled halfling villages dot the landscape on the eastern side of the Wall, often built around areas where two rivers meet, giving them the nickname of River Brothers. There are no known dwarves in the Golden Empire.
The Wood Elves and Morguths tend towards worship of the Great Spirits, while the Golden almost all worship the functionaries of the Heavenly Bureaucracy. A few Golden and many halflings revere the Ama-Tsu-Kami.
THE FORBIDDEN ISLES
Between the four Great Continents are the Forbidden Isles. This large chain of islands is ruled over by a kingdom of humans, known as the Rice Kingdom, who strive to adhere to a strict code of honor. Fearing that they will be soiled by foreigners and outsiders, the Rice Kingdom is extremely xenophobic, and any non Forbidden that land on their shores are repelled with great force. However, the Rice Kingdom is aware that its position could stand to make it a lot of coin as a central trading house, and thus it opened one of its islands, named Kibasi Wasu-Dan, to foreigners as a trade city. It is said that beneath Kibasi Wasu-Dan is a city built on the ruins of an even more ancient city, a city of thieves and lawlessness, only whispered about in polite Rice Kingdom society, and called Haven.
Humans of the Forbidden Isles appear much like those of the Golden Empire, leading many to believe that the Forbidden once migrated from the Eastern Continent, though the Forbidden claim that is the other way around; those of the Golden Empire migrated from the Forbidden Isles. Elves and dwarves are extremely rare on the Forbidden Isles, though there is a sizable population of halflings, who call themselves the hsien.
The Forbidden, as the humans of the isles call themselves, tend to be shorter than many humans. Reduce height by -1d4″.
The Ama-Tsu-Kami are worshiped almost universally on the Forbidden Isles, though a few peasants still hold to the worship of the Great Spirits. Worship of the Heavenly Bureaucracy is strictly forbidden. Because Kibasi-Wasu-Dan is open to those of other lands, however, temples or shrines to practically every other religion on Ma’rakan can be found there.