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How to make a campaign feel "scarred landsy"

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  • How to make a campaign feel "scarred landsy"

    I'm going to be running a game set in scarred lands before long. The problem is I've never really set a game in a specific setting before, and I'm not sure how to go about it.

    My experience with gming, well it's mostly been things that are made up on the spot and I've never had a specific setting in mind*, but getting the players guide and reading up on it made me want to run one.

    I'm worried about, for example, maintaining consistency of geography and such, never really had to do that. And things like players asking me a question about the setting, since some of them know the setting less than I do and I'm worried I'll screw up the tone of the setting if I make something up. And if I find out later it was wrong, I'll want to retcon it.

    *Except running pfs adventures, but those are completely prewritten. Also, this isn't relevant, but scarred lands is a better setting than Golarion.

    I guess what I'm asking for is, what do I need to be careful about or do differently in using this specific setting rather than a not really specified one?
    Last edited by Dragonchild; 01-24-2019, 12:25 AM.

  • #2
    Focus on the things that make the setting unique - the gods and the titans and how they directly interact with the world around you. That range of mountains isn't just some-place that grew up over time. It's that craggy and crappy because Gormoth was thrown into it kicking and screaming.

    Fangsfall has a weird look to it not because of it's architectural style but because of its architectural enamel (most of the buildings are made from "rock" quarried from Gaurak's tooth nearby). That helps establish a bit of the "feel." There's weird, screwed up weather because the Divine War's aftershocks are still felt. Pervasive titanspawn cults and other things that are the enemies of civilization still lurk around every corner and there's some paranoia about them. Yet, at the same time, there's hope for the future and that you can make things better.

    And you can always go off on weird tangents with things like the Carnival of Shadows (where you could get a good creepy vibe going) or the Slarecians (where you can get a Lovecraftian thing going).

    The tone can be adjusted in a number of ways.

    What tone would you LIKE to go for? Or what theme would you like to explore?

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    • #3
      Aside from mainly wanting to stay true to the general tone of the setting... I'm not sure. Of course, as I write this I'm wondering if this is all just anxiety...

      Things I've thought about though after reading through the forum. There was mention of firearms being valid to the tech level of certain areas, so since one guy in our group is a pretty big gun nut irl I thought about having emergent guns and having them give a certain amount of hope to the average commoners in those areas against at least the weakest of titanspawn.

      (Though that would probably end up in game play and story segregation land)

      Another thing I thought about exploring is all the questionable things even good deities do.

      Slarecians... are cool and are definitely a thing I wanted to include at some point as well...

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      • #4
        Take a breath. All is good.

        Since you mentioned firearms, I'm assuming you're doing Pathfinder. If not, then the references here are somewhat invalid:

        Now the Ghelspad PG has a sidebar mentioning the Gunslinger. They are virtually unknown in the present setting of Ghelspad, BUT there are rumors of some sort of fire-breathing metal-spewing weapons from the Dragon Lands. The Dragon Lands are far, far to the east and south, past the Blood Sea. They are where nearly all the dragons went after they retreated from the world and have a big psuedo-Japanese feel. (So some possible ideas, if you wanted to run that way, could be things like a sort-of samurai like gunslinger arriving in the strange land of Ghelspad and his firearms being a tech that could really threaten to upset the local balance of power; like a reverse Last Samurai with a mixture of Stranger in a Strange Land). Bringing guns to southeastern Ghelspad would be a massive power shift and have ramifications across the whole continent (especially since Queen Geleeda and King Virduk are... well... magnificently evil bastards who would use guns to their advantage).

        But, as always, it's your setting so have fun with it however you want! That's just spitballing one possible idea.

        On exploring the deities like that, check out the notes one author left for the Oracle! (Look at the sidebar "Divine Chicanery.") And if you want some older material that calls into question what even the good gods did, look at the book "Strange Tribes: Lost Tribes of the Scarred Lands," on the sidebar about the Seraphic Engine. (It... wasn't a good idea and wrecked most of a continent way, WAY worse than Ghelspad has it.)

        If you want to use Slarecians, check out Site 37 in the Mythic section of the book. The vibe going for there is very Lovecraftian/cosmic horror, like the Colour Out of Space or At the Mountains of Madness especially. If you have players who want to engage in it, then the book recommends checking out Dreamscarred Press's psionics as a potential way of handling it (in 3.5, it was handled through the Psionics Handbook). Occult Adventures from Paizo might be able to help as well.

        You can find Slarecian things all over the continent. Mostly buried. Almost always with a sense of, "DO NOT DIG THIS UP!" (And you can sometimes find Drendari's worshippers nearby, as she utterly despises the Slarecians.)

        Is that helpful?

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        • #5
          Very helpful, and yeah doing pathfinder.

          I really like the idea of calastia getting their hands on firearms. I think I'll run with that. Players guide entries on Rahoch, New Venir and Lageni have given me some ideas as well.
          Last edited by Dragonchild; 01-30-2019, 07:16 AM.

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          • #6
            Hi there

            Very interesting topic, and the first advice I would give you is to remind your players that at the end of the day, the game is set in your Scarred Lands, and that there might be some deviation from the books here and there. I believe it is particularly important if you feel that your players know more about the setting as you do (I got stuck in a theological debate once with a player who forgot that his character did not know as much as himself as a player, and it is an experience I don't really recommend...) I would either ignore or change some details if you find that they contradict what has already happened in your game.

            When I run a game in the Scarred Lands, I always try to sneak in some references to the gods or the titans or their war at least once per session. Perhaps the merchant that hires them has a statue or Hedrada on his desk, or maybe a character that is named after an important hero of the Divine War. If you need some inspiration for that, just read a few pages from the spells or magic items from either Relics & Rituals, that can give you quick ideas maybe Also, I try to drop the word titanspawn every now and again. Describing people accent can be quite good too to quickly identify a NPC (you know, the guy with a shelzari accent).


            My Slarecian Vault contributions

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            • #7
              The Pantheistic existence is very present with people offering prayers to the appropriate gods at the appropriate times.

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              • #8
                That's a very good point!

                Say a King who worships Chardun wants a strong baby boy... he's going to pray to Madriel.

                Say a Paladin knows he's going to have to lead an army against a tyrant... he's going to pray to Chardun as the Great General to give him the wisdom to win this battle, even as he prays to Corean for the valor and courage to defend his men and women.

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                • #9
                  The setting is called Scarred Lands for a reason - Titanswar left marks, light, deep, crippling and everything in between across the span of the world. It all happened 150 years ago, what is a long time ago (but far from ancient history) for some people or an yesterday all too close to confort for more long lived ones. Not even speaking of mighty magicians and such - for the average dwarf or elf 50-100 years is young adult at most.

                  The world was shattered and - still is being remade. Will the Titans remain broken, will the gods preserve their alliance through temperament differences, what nations will prosper, fall or be reborn in the coming years and decades?

                  Some places have become completely different things, others look like they might still be reeling of the war, groups of guerrillas, fugitives or both seeking their personal paths to victory, freedom, prosperity and everything.

                  Not everything is set in stone, explained and clear - who can give actual answers about the nature of the Blood Bayou & its natives, what is the "lesser titan" called Spiragos, does Nemorga have influence on the fate of dead gods & demigods of the Titanswar? What kind of ruins can find - and beings might or not hide on them - in a world where whole cities or countries where consumed by (super)natural cataclysms or conflict?

                  Also, as others have pointed, the gods and titans while mighty and mysterious in their motives and designs are far from distant and may affect the existence of mortals & immortals in many ways direct and indirect, no matter their personal, spiritual or moral preferences. Though most attuned to their touch, messages and commands for certain, those are not only for their priests, paladins, knights (or blackguards) by any stretch of imagination, who might receive dreams, omens or more direct sending through personal agents too.

                  But beside this, try to keep it simple, find a region that you think might be inspiring and entertaining to explore and hexcrawl the heck out of it, let them explore, tour the place so to speak, feel the awesomeness on their pacee, with little pressure to be saviour of this or that. Just keep linear plots & railroads away, make an adventure for them to interact with, not witness and all should go great.
                  Last edited by Baaldam; 04-26-2019, 04:19 PM.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Baaldam View Post
                    Not everything is set in stone, explained and clear - who can give actual answers about the nature of the Blood Bayou & its natives...
                    *looks at his own user name...* Uh... me? (I'm teasing, of course.)

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Psyclus View Post

                      *looks at his own user name...* Uh... me? (I'm teasing, of course.)

                      "Too broken to answer in a consistent or reliable manner - BACK TO SLUMBER, YOU!!!"


                      As an aside and back to the subject, i suggest you also take a good, hard look at Mythic & Occult Adventures as those books, while not made for the setting per se, have concepts, resources and tools that actually go quite well indeed with the setting's tone. I dare say some elements of the fluff (Slarecians and their "psychic magic") and mechanics (True Rituals, coff, coff) could be seen as precursors with somewhat rough implementation of concepts you'll find in those two books.

                      In a number of ways Scarn gels better with the spirit of the "Mythic" and "Occult" series than a number of the Pathfinder specific settings, imho, at least.
                      Last edited by Baaldam; 05-13-2019, 05:01 PM.

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                      • #12
                        There is a whole mythic section in the latest Scarred Lands Player's Guide too! It includes helpful advice for if you don't want the whole campaign focused on mythic, but think that a few adventures diving into it might be fun.

                        And check out... Site 35? I think that was it.

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