"Old Magic" Campaign

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This is an idea I've been toying with for a while and, while I'm not ready to run any kind of campaign based on it, I figured it couldn't hurt to pick some peoples' brains. Wink

The idea is a Stone Age or similar campaign with some notable changes to the rules.

Firstly, there'd be no metal, so gear would have to be made from wood, stone, bone, obsidian, etc. There's nothing to say there couldn't still be fantastical materials like weird crystals etc, but no silver, cold iron and so forth. (Possibly dwarves could have some metalworking technology which could be acquired across a game).

Secondly, there'd be no "modern" spellcasting - so no Wizards or any other class with spellbooks, and Druids and Spirit Shamen would replace Druids. The aim is that people would use alternative magic systems like Totemists or Binders, or at least less-common casters like Spirit Shamen. Everyone would be illiterate, too, so there'd be no scrolls or spellbooks. This should balance out the lower gear a bit, though there's a worry that Druids will just rule the game.

In addition, players would have to choose appropriately themed classes, so unless they reflavoured stuff, Eastern classes (Monk, Ninja, Wu Jen etc) would be out, as would Swashbucklers and so forth. The Witch and Summoner (with the First World archetype) from Pathfinder would probably actually work quite well here (though again, they may overshadow melee).

The third major thought I had was to remove currency - it doesn't really make sense in this sort of setting. Since magical gear would be hard to get one's hands on, it wouldn't matter so much, but this would put an emphasis on crafting. People would have to barter to trade things, with food probably forming a kind of effective currency.

So, any suggestions? The equipment and class restrictions seem drastic, but certain characters would barely be affected, so maybe they actually aren't drastic enough? The main point is to create a very rustic, survivalist, pre-technology feel, but obviously certain balance issues arise as well. 
Firstly, there'd be no metal, so gear would have to be made from wood, stone, bone, obsidian, etc. There's nothing to say there couldn't still be fantastical materials like weird crystals etc, but no silver, cold iron and so forth. (Possibly dwarves could have some metalworking technology which could be acquired across a game).


Check out Dark Sun.  It very much revolves around this.

Secondly, there'd be no "modern" spellcasting - so no Wizards or any other class with spellbooks, and Druids and Spirit Shamen would replace Druids.


I see no reason to not have wizards still.  Check out the bottom right corner of page 211 in the PHB2.  Variant Ritual Books.  Just to grab a couple lines here: "Some ritual casters record their rituals in an unorthodox manner.  They inscribe rituals on cured hides, etch them into stone tablets, or paint them onto armor or weapons.  Remote cultures and isolated ritual casters have even more esoteric methods of storing and encoding their rituals, from patterns of knots tied in rope to tiny statuettes displaying required body motions..."  This could easily be applied to wizard spellbooks.  Besides, in 4e, the only thing that goes in a spellbook are the dailies, utilities, and rituals anyways.

The Witch and Summoner (with the First World archetype) from Pathfinder would probably actually work quite well here (though again, they may overshadow melee).


I would avoid mixing pathfinder and 4e.  They don't blend well together.  Something like exploding dice from pathfinder is equivalent to 4e vorpal.  The stats are not set up for multiples. 

The third major thought I had was to remove currency - it doesn't really make sense in this sort of setting.


There's still barter though.  Spearheads, arrowheads, and monster hides to name three.

So, any suggestions? The equipment and class restrictions seem drastic, but certain characters would barely be affected, so maybe they actually aren't drastic enough? The main point is to create a very rustic, survivalist, pre-technology feel, but obviously certain balance issues arise as well. 


It seems like you are punishing anything that wears medium armor or higher, and wizards.  The actual spell book restriction would apply to rituals.  Rituals are a huge part of 4e.  Some people don't like using them, but when a character dies/diseased/poisoned/other there is a need for them.
I think you are better off reflavoring things, without actually getting rid of any mechanics.
Right, I guess I should have said - I don't do 4e. I guess from a mechanics perspective, this should go in Previous Editions General?

However, your points about the way spells are stored are excellent. I had considered some sort of runes as a replacement for scrolls. Some of those ideas could work really well as alternative magic items, say.

Obviously, regardless of edition, this would hurt fighter-types who would be limited in their choice of armour and weapons. Removing currency could also have unforseen repurcussions. Crafting would have to be rehashed, magic items wouldn't be easily available, and classes like the rogue might miss out.

Dark Sun is a good idea though. I did read a bit about it a while back so I may check it out again. 
I thought about a similar campaign setting, although my version used tribal peoples being invaded by a new migration of more technologically (magically) advanced race (think colonisation of the new world by Europeans).

Thus characters would start out having to survive in a primative world, but once they had met/come into conflict with the more advanced race/s they could get better gear, new skills (or reroll characters from those races if it was appropriate).

In my world there had also been a powerful ancient technological (magical) race, so the characters had ruins to explore and the possibility of aquiring ancient gear/magic that was on par/better than the gear of the invading race.

The main appeal of this setting for me was limiting the initial character choices, which I thought was awesome, but in the end the game never happened because the players wanted to play classes that weren't available. But if you sell the world well enough (that is focus on what players CAN be and do, rather than what they CAN'T be or do) then I think it would be a facinating setting with a dark survival feel to it.

Edit: Also stress that times are changing, that this is the end of the world as we know it. New fangled metal crafting is giving Blah the warlord an advantage. The ancient and peaceful magical races (Elves, Eladrin, Gnomes) are abanding this darkening world for the mystical forests of the feywilds.

Are the characters a force that will keep the old ways? Or will they forge a bright new future? Or will the future they strive for, be crushed by the forces of darkness that have attained new and terrible powers? ...

My 2 cents. Good luck with your game
Sounds interesting.

I think I have the old (2nd Ed, I think) Maztica pdf, which is much more of a jungle theme but is interesting since they use obsidian, bone, stone etc instead of metal.

The idea of relics left over by an ancient civilisation is a good one because (whilst perhaps a little over-used) it does provide access for people to get more traditional gear (even if it's just metal weapons and so forth).

I think your point about not upsetting players is a good one, though. To my mind, disallowing all these things is more about adding a gritty difficulty to the game, which is appealing, rather than restricting options, which is not.

One issue I did have was crafting, though. I'm not sure whether crafting magic items should be allowed, since it would provide easy access to stuff which wouldn't otherwise be easily available to be bought or whatever.
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