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  • Help me fill in a few blanks in my new campaign setting

    So I'll finally get to GM Ex3 again, yay me!

    I'll start out with only one player, but two others will probably join in a few weeks. Since we're in a completely blank space of Creation, I thought I'd use the "solo time" to flesh out the setting, establish the big players and see what still needs some work.

    The basics: The campaign is set in the middle of Northern Nowhere, somewhere off to the west of the road which leads all the way up to Ascension, so there's a whole lot of snow, mountains and more snow there. The basic hook was "A bit more civilized than the Icewalkers, less advanced than the Haslanti, a people descended from 'Frost Giants'", so what we have is more or less a people of big, "landlocked vikings" if you will, where six foot is considered small and people with the Giant quality are considered especially "pure" heirs of their mythical forefathers, where most people live in small villages in more or less fertile valleys between snowy peaks and mountain ranges, with only two small cities, one of which is all the way over to the east on the road connecting Ascension to the rest of the world, pretty much the only part of their culture which has any regular contact with outsiders.

    Their religion I imagined mostly built around wandering priests with a heavy focus on stories and prophecy, basically every religious story ends with "And one day, when <obscure condition>, he/she/it will return and <thing> will happen!", so they're big on "A man makes his own destiny!" on the one hand, yet on the other hand constantly on the lookout for which of their hundreds of prophecies might fit a given set of circumstances. One idea I had was that centuries ago, their culture may have been influenced by a Sidereal or other powerful force in a way similar to the Bene Gesserit do in Dune, setting up a certain "canon" of prophecies to be used if needed later, but not sure about that yet.

    My one character so far is actually not from there, a girl who was brought here over a decade ago by her "father" (not her biological father), who fled here from somewhere south and settled down in a little settlement to become a blacksmith (living in such a region, the people are rather pragmatic, they won't turn away an outsider if he can help the community) and she's now his apprentice, hoping to take over his spot one day which is kind of difficult since it's a male dominated culture, so there's setup for early conflict while she's still a mortal right there.

    I can go into more detail if needed, but what I need most help with is actually "grounding" the setting a bit more in Creation. What exactly could those "Frost Giants" be the people descended from? I so far considered them to be quasi-mythical, most people never get to see one, some holy men claim to maybe have met one in a snowstorm on a high mountain, stuff like that. Not sure if they're spirits, something out of the Wyld or something altogether different. I've already hinted that there are tribes of Wyld barbarians to the north which sometimes raid into their territory, but I haven't decided yet on if and how Undead or Fair Folk will play a role here.

    One big thing I'm still undecided on and would like some input is the past of my so far only PC, who is she and why did the blacksmith bring her here of all places? She's a mortal, but will sooner or later turn Solar, I'd like for her past to be a hook to be revealed later and still be relevant after her exaltation. The player intentionally left that part of her background blank.

    So if you've got any ideas what you would like to happen in a setting like this, feel free to throw it all against the wall and I'll see what sticks. As always, thanks in advance!

  • #2
    Well Adversaries of the Righteous gave us the Asmani in Zicnal's write up. They're about 50ft tall and generally live in the Wyld, they also have a variety of other traits for example Zicnal has three faces and a pair of arms for each face, whereas another is noted to have 12 arms, the lower body of a massive red worm, but only one face. Zicnal is noted to live near the edge watching over the city of Marakanda which is populated by several thousand mutated mortals.

    Might be a source of some things for you.

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    • #3
      Thanks I don't have most of the Adversaries write-ups yet, will definitely have a look at this!

      Comment


      • #4
        Frost Giants would definitely be things out of the Wyld. A lesser possibility is a local god or "extended family" of local gods who take on the shape when dealing with mortals as a kind of "standard template of divinity" thing. But the real truth is that the whole thing is one great big lie. There are no "frost giants", not really. A First Age Twilight (because let's be real here, First Age Twilight's are uniformly terrible people) started kidnapping and experimenting on the "lesser folk", trying to graft divine essence, alchemical infusions, or supernatural (cough DBs) genetics, or just straight up Monster Bits into them in an attempt to produce a hardier, Superior Man. A First Age Lunar Mate was definitely into this plan from the inception. After the Usurpation, Someone spun a tale of "Oh yeah, the heroes of tribes around here have always interbred with the legendary Frost Giants, that's why you guys are like this" and it became truth by repetition.

        Bam, you get large, hardy Ice-Folk who practically boast about how great their weirdo genetic lineage is.


        ..."But I've bought a big bat, I'm all ready you see. Now my troubles are going to have troubles with me"

        Message me for Japanese translations.

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        • #5
          I like that a LOT, actually. Especially considering that my first PC will of course become a Twilight, so there's a lot of possibilities here.

          So maybe there IS a local deity that basically latched on the the existing myth and occasionally shows up in the form of such a giant hoping to get some worship out of it.

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          • #6
            I should be humble, but sometimes you just know when you made gold.


            ..."But I've bought a big bat, I'm all ready you see. Now my troubles are going to have troubles with me"

            Message me for Japanese translations.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Sorcerous Overlord View Post
              Frost Giants would definitely be things out of the Wyld. A lesser possibility is a local god or "extended family" of local gods who take on the shape when dealing with mortals as a kind of "standard template of divinity" thing. But the real truth is that the whole thing is one great big lie. There are no "frost giants", not really. A First Age Twilight (because let's be real here, First Age Twilight's are uniformly terrible people) started kidnapping and experimenting on the "lesser folk", trying to graft divine essence, alchemical infusions, or supernatural (cough DBs) genetics, or just straight up Monster Bits into them in an attempt to produce a hardier, Superior Man. A First Age Lunar Mate was definitely into this plan from the inception. After the Usurpation, Someone spun a tale of "Oh yeah, the heroes of tribes around here have always interbred with the legendary Frost Giants, that's why you guys are like this" and it became truth by repetition.

              Bam, you get large, hardy Ice-Folk who practically boast about how great their weirdo genetic lineage is.
              That's pretty rad, not gonna lie. I'm always down for a good conspiracy/cover-up!


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              • #8
                Following up on the idea, I guess that the "pureblooded" folks may well have some other special powers stemming from those ancient experiments, just thinking about what those might be. I'm not that experienced with the possibilities of Ex3 in this regard, mortals with an essence pool aren't really a thing anymore are they? Would've been an easy way to make them stand out otherwise, if they were created from a First Ages Twilight's experiments to create a new breed of "pseudo-Exalted" super soldiers.

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                • #9
                  Yeah, E3 has pretty much done away with the idea of "enlightened mortals" who have mote pools. But don't despair, there's still plenty of cool powers you can give them! There are numerous appropriate merits, especially supernatural ones (pp. 158-167 of the core book) that can be used to make an appropriate "racial template". Also don't forget that there are numerous other merits in the Antagonists section, applied to individual creatures. If you want to use those for characters, you'll have to figure out a dot rating for them, but that's doable. Among the merits, consider Thaumaturgist in particular - that gives access, potentially, to a whole bunch of little magic tricks that can be useful.

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                  • #10
                    Technically, 3e only got rid of “generic Enlightenment” that gives you a standard mote pool. You can totally have something weird happen to a person or people that grants them weird powers that might include a mote pool, but you shouldn’t just go “Bam, now you’re enlightened! Have ten motes!”

                    Also, I’m gonna say that the Frost Giants could be just ...Frost Giants. Huge people that like living out in the ice and snow. Not spirits, not wyld mutants, not Fae, not anything but what they are. That is a thing you can do.

                    Running with the “They’re secretly the product of First Age magical tampering” idea is cool, granted. So, you might wanna subtly indicate that there’s more to the story there. Some people don’t really like sudden unexpected reveals like that. If nothing else, you can have your Twilight PC have a flashback to creating a giant during the First Age and maybe have that point her to a hidden workshop somewhere.

                    As for why the heck you might bring a child out to the ass end of nowhere, my first thought was that he was running from something. Maybe she’s secretly a princess or has a cursed bloodline or whatever. Or maybe he owes the Guild some money. Maybe he kidnapped her.

                    I suppose it’s possible he was simply out of work or he just really liked the country, but those don’t quite generate the same degree of conflict. I’ll grant that the girl has probably wondered about this and has likely daydreamed about being a hidden princess or whatever, and finding out that “No, your dad just really liked the country up here and you’re entirely normal,” provides a nice anti-climax and a bit of humor, but it might feel like a let down.


                    ....

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Sorcerous Overlord View Post
                      (because let's be real here, First Age Twilight's are uniformly terrible people)
                      I dunno, wasn't the Solar queen of First Age Whitewall a pretty chill Twilight? I remember there being something in 2nd ed about her being such a good and reasonable ruler that the Sidereals couldn't find any Dragonblooded malcontents to subvert, so they had to murder her personally. And one of the reasons Marama's Fell is so large is that there were a lot of Solar loyalists in that region who got purged.

                      As for what the Frost Giants are ...

                      A pre-human race that may or may not be extinct? Spirits? Both ...? Perhaps the giant figures glimpsed in snowstorms aren't the giants themselves, but the lost race's forgotten gods, reaching out to their people's descendants, unable to manifest except in the right conditions because of an ancient oath or ban, or simply their own nature?

                      The product of a First Age Twilight's sinister tampering? Doesn't mean the results had to be sinister, especially with hundreds of years without supervision in which to forge their own destinies. Maybe they're immortal, but there are very few left and they can't produce "pure-blooded" offspring because not all of the alterations made to them were heritable, so their kids just inherit a few weird traits like increased size but not the sorcerously imbued might of a a full giant.

                      Does the tampering have to be sinister? Maybe they were created for a noble purpose, such as safeguarding far-flung Northern settlements from the depredations of the Fair Folk, and the reason they're so rare is that most of them perished defending humanity from Balor's Crusade?

                      Of course they could very well be of the Wyld themselves. A tribe of raksha? Why don't they prey on the nearby humans? Maybe they have an isolated Wyld zone where they're quite happy to be isolationist and not bother the local humans or involve themselves in the spiteful politics of wider fae society.

                      Hmm, any of these options make it likely that godblooded "throwbacks" will occasionally pop up with weird powers. That could be a fun idea to mine for NPC fodder or plot hooks. Maybe the cultural obsession with prophecy comes from a rare-but-still-a-few-in-every-generation gift for prognostication. Are these powers inherited from the giants, whatever they might be?

                      Hmm, if you hadn't said your one confirmed PC wasn't of local descent, I would have been tempted to say you should offer the Giant merit as a freebie to all PCs, because 4pts is an awfully big investment just to 'fit in' with the locals. And if 6 feet is considered small, I think it is necessary to fit in with the locals. Maybe discount it? Because unless your players decide it fits with their character concept enough to justify the expense, you might end up with this really cool, interesting local culture, and a group of PCs who are incidentally all not from here because they couldn't justify the 4pts.

                      Okay, haha, I just had a cool thought. You have a whole lot of "promised heroes" who will return under "X specific condition" right? What if they're in cryostasis somewhere and each awakens when the artifact keeping them on ice detects X specific condition, which has been interpreted as a prophecy because of a generational game of Telephone? If you don't mind a bit of magitech, maybe the giants aren't flesh and bone - they're warstriders. The great stature of the locals is due to some other factor. Maybe the Twilight's meddling didn't go any further than the people's current form - larger and hardier than normal humans - and the myth of the ancient "frost giant" heroes got conflated with the people's orgins?

                      Your PC ... hmm. If she's a hidden princess, what is she being hidden from? If the father is a fugitive who just wanted a place to hide, why bring a child not his own? A promise? Sentiment? She's valuable somehow? Stolen princess would fit. Maybe he intends to raise her as his own, get her on side, and return to his homeland with the rightful heir in the palm of his hand? The father could be a Gold Faction Sidereal who managed to predict her exaltation and intervened to get her as far away from the Wyld Hunt as possible? Maybe he's not a Sidereal, but he is someone with a vested interest in predicting the rise of a Solar and sheltering her, and the local talent for prophecy is exactly how he found her? He could be her Lunar mate (remembering that the Lunar-Solar bond can manifest any number of ways, including father-daughter or mentor-student). He could be a circle-mate trying to get the crew back together. Maybe before her last death she was his mentor?

                      You've constructed a fun wall to throw ideas at, I must say.


                      "Measure of Hope is right about everything." - Wise Old Guru

                      Currently running an Exalted 2.5 Abyssals game in a homebrew modern shard because I value neither my time or my sanity, and I'm loving almost every minute of it.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Measure of Hope View Post
                        Hmm, if you hadn't said your one confirmed PC wasn't of local descent, I would have been tempted to say you should offer the Giant merit as a freebie to all PCs, because 4pts is an awfully big investment just to 'fit in' with the locals. And if 6 feet is considered small, I think it is necessary to fit in with the locals. Maybe discount it? Because unless your players decide it fits with their character concept enough to justify the expense, you might end up with this really cool, interesting local culture, and a group of PCs who are incidentally all not from here because they couldn't justify the 4pts.
                        The one PC I already have is basically "child-sized" by local standards and that's fine with her, since "fighting for acceptance in a foreign culture" is kind of the hook she's going for anyway.

                        For other players, the Giant merit isn't strictly needed, it's more common there than in the rest of the world but the average person there will be somewhere between 6'6'' and 7' so still somewhat below "Giant" status, those "pureblooded" are closer to 8 foot and will most likely have some other goodies too like the Exalted Healing merit.

                        Okay, haha, I just had a cool thought. You have a whole lot of "promised heroes" who will return under "X specific condition" right? What if they're in cryostasis somewhere and each awakens when the artifact keeping them on ice detects X specific condition, which has been interpreted as a prophecy because of a generational game of Telephone? If you don't mind a bit of magitech, maybe the giants aren't flesh and bone - they're warstriders. The great stature of the locals is due to some other factor. Maybe the Twilight's meddling didn't go any further than the people's current form - larger and hardier than normal humans - and the myth of the ancient "frost giant" heroes got conflated with the people's orgins?
                        I'd like to be careful with the magitech because it kind of defeats the purpose of starting the game far away from the more civilized and advanced part of the world and explicitly create a culture less advanced than the Haslanti only to then start handing out the magitech goodies like candy.

                        I think I'll stick with the "The people living there are the descendants of a First Age Twilight experiment to create a race of supersoldiers" and the Frost Giants are a small group of spirits who latched on to their belief to create worship, this sounds like a great setup for a group of young Solars to take their first steps into a bigger world.

                        Your PC ... hmm. If she's a hidden princess, what is she being hidden from? If the father is a fugitive who just wanted a place to hide, why bring a child not his own? A promise? Sentiment? She's valuable somehow? Stolen princess would fit. Maybe he intends to raise her as his own, get her on side, and return to his homeland with the rightful heir in the palm of his hand? The father could be a Gold Faction Sidereal who managed to predict her exaltation and intervened to get her as far away from the Wyld Hunt as possible? Maybe he's not a Sidereal, but he is someone with a vested interest in predicting the rise of a Solar and sheltering her, and the local talent for prophecy is exactly how he found her? He could be her Lunar mate (remembering that the Lunar-Solar bond can manifest any number of ways, including father-daughter or mentor-student). He could be a circle-mate trying to get the crew back together. Maybe before her last death she was his mentor?

                        You've constructed a fun wall to throw ideas at, I must say.
                        Thanks!

                        For your other ideas: We've already discussed that the PC knows the blacksmith isn't her father, but he always refused to tell her were they came from. So yeah, of course the "hidden princess" is an idea I've already had, but I'm not yet sure how to go about that. I'd like to avoid making him a Sidereal because we had a very active Sidereal mentor like that back in the day in a 1e campaign and I don't want to just repeat that. Actually, I'd prefer it to keep him mortal since I'd like for the characters to really determine their own paths for a while at least.

                        So most likely, he was a member of a Royal household, maybe an elite bodyguard or something like that (having started out as a humble blacksmiths but served his way up through the ranks) who fled with the last child as the palace was being sacked, I just need to think of an interesting background for that. It has to be interesting enough it stays relevant after her Exaltation, being the Queen of a small irrelevant kingdom far away doesn't have quite the same punch for a Solar Exalted who could probably conquer the kingdom just as easily without any claim. So maybe the Wyld Hunt was after her or her family for some reason, and maybe some Sidereal or Lunar did help spirit her away, but why exactly? The way I understand it, you can't really predict Solar Exaltations decades in advance, can you? Still have to think more about that.

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                        • #13
                          Maybe they weren't there for her. Maybe they were there for her parents, one or both of whom was a Solar/Lunar? Then, like you said, she was smuggled out by a loyal retainer while the Hunt sacked the palace and killed her parents. That provides a personal reason to fear the Wyld Hunt once she finds out, an exalted legacy to explore and reclaim later, and leaves other Celestial exalts out of the picture for now.

                          The reason the far away kingdom is relevant and interesting for a Solar PC is the same thing that drew her exalted parent(s) there in the first place. Heritage, resources, lost knowledge, a powerful manse, First Age or otherwise remarkable infrastructure, an established college of sorcerers or master artificers. Any one of those is relevant to an ongoing campaign.


                          "Measure of Hope is right about everything." - Wise Old Guru

                          Currently running an Exalted 2.5 Abyssals game in a homebrew modern shard because I value neither my time or my sanity, and I'm loving almost every minute of it.

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                          • #14
                            Hmmm.... Instead of tying the character back to a legacy of Anathema, what about tying her back to somewhere that was just oppressed by the Realm? Like... The Realm took over the satrapy where she was in the ruling line, they killed all the existing rulers (they think), and then installed their own puppet queen who would play nice with the satrap.

                            While that is sad, yes, it’s not particularly relevant...until the Realm starts encroaching on the region in which the game is taking place. Then, you could have the same people who killed the ruling house of her old kingdom be the ones leading the Realm army (House Cathak seems like a good choice for antagonists here actually) and the story about what happened to the other kingdom becomes a cautionary tale about what happens if they just let the Realm do whatever they want with this nation.

                            Granted, the locals would need to have something the Realm might want, but food and powerful slaves/conscripts seem like decent motivators, even if they don’t have, say, a jade vein or other weird materials in the nearby mountains.


                            ....

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                            • #15
                              Kidnapped PCs secret backstory ideas:

                              1. She's an identical twin, and there's a prophecy that royal twins are an omen of doom, so she was spirited away. Her parents are alive and her kingdom hasn't been ransacked or anything, it's fine. Randomly looking exactly like her twin sister can enable Prince and the Pauper stories or good old fashioned Man in the Iron Mask shennanigans. Having actual living family that cares about her but has to keep her secret (and having enemies of her family who suspect or figure out the truth trying to out her) can keep the whole thing slightly more relevant to the plot than if she's never been to this place and her family is all dead.

                              2. Dad found her in a cryotube in a First Age ruin. He didn't actually bring her from the South, he came alone and sheltered in a cave in a blizzard and found an ancient lab. In busting open an ancient orichalcum chest seeking treasure, he found an infant, and when she started crying he couldn't abandon her. First Age baby! Bonus points if she ends up back at the First Age ruin someday. What was she made for? Is she a key to a lock, or a backup body clone for a mad First Age Twilight (cue Sidereal and Lunar elders recognizing her face and flipping their shit), or just a child somebody was trying to save from the Usurpation?


                              So I'm making God-Kicking Boot, an Exalted webcomic, now. Updates on Sundays. Full-color, mediocre but slowly improving art. It's a thing.

                              The absence of a monument can, in its own way, be something of a monument also.
                              -Roger Zelazny

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