The Residuum Must Flow (A Points of Light Setting)

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Check out the setting's wiki at http://residuum.pbwiki.com for updates!

(Crossposted from enworld / rpg.net)

The Residuum Must Flow (A points of light setting)

Concept
So I was thinking of the points of light concept, and I realized that one of the most influential novels of my childhood, Dune, was a perfect example of a points of light setting. As seemingly boundless as the Empire in this novel may be described, it centers around only a few planets: Caladan, Arrakis, Geidi Prime, Kaitain, and others which anyone familiar with the setting doesn’t need talking to about. Looking at Arrakis in particular, we see points of light with the sietches. Other aspects of the points of light setting work with Dune; military power is small, and very melee oriented (what with shielding), and cannot handle wilderness well, and there is an emphasis on the power of religious fervor, “magical” technology, and the intrigue that I feel is so vital to making players feel like movers and shakers at the table in ways that go beyond shaking dice, and moving minis.

So I decided that a fantasy setting borrowing from Dune’s schemes of thought would be interesting, but would require some explanation. Dune is about the balance of power, and vying for a precious resource, amongst other things, so I looked to one part of 4E that rubs a lot of people the wrong way, residuum, and thought about how I could embrace it.

In a vacuum, residuum is a transparently designed way for players to chunk hundreds of pounds of magical armor and swords into easily transported powder that, harsh winds not withstanding, is only a minor trouble to deal with. Personally, I find it takes some of the worst aspects of DnD- the monty haul fill-thine-encumbrance game focus, and combines it with some of the worst gamist, or perhaps simply modern consumer, notion of breaking a less useful object, potentially deeply-historied as it could be given some thought, into a brand new shiny more useful object that’s hot off the magical presses. It’s also a wonder substance that offers an alternative to questing for the Super Lotus of Darkbad Jungle as a spell component for a Nature spell- being a universal component for all rituals. Frankly, there’s a lot to take issue with when it comes to this silvery dust!

So I thought, “Why not make residuum an equivalent to the spice?” There’s a lot to take issue with with that substance too. And I did. Make it equivalent—not take issue with it.

The result of this, I hope, is an playable setting that, while not fully defined, is going to be the scaffolding for my future campaign, and also might just shed a little light on another way to approach points of light.

The product of this, being a short bit of speculative fiction (sci-fi and fantasy being such), this setting ultimately asks “What if?” questions…
“What if a culture found magic in lodestones deep beneath the earth?”
“What if this magic was so important to them, that they’d disperse their culture hundreds of miles, through wilderness and danger, in order to have it?”
“What if they came to depend upon this magical dust in order to hold their civilization together after this dispersal?”
“What would a civilization look like, and how would it function, if it hadn’t even filled in the maps of its own territory?”
“What if this magic dust was a possibly finite resource, and the harvesting of it could have a negative impact on someone or something (as with the spice and the worm)?”


Anyway, enough already. I hope you enjoy!


Residuum
Residuum is a magical dust that collects, or possibly is formed, in the vicinity of magical lodestones that form at the juncture of leylines that span the continent. Per the PHB, p. 225, “it’s a fine, silvery dust that some describe as concentrated magic, useful as a generic component for rituals.” A coin’s weight of residuum is worth 10,000 gold coins, while a pound of residuum is worth 500,000 gold coins.

In this setting, residuum is the most important resource that the civilized races have come to discover. Magical items are made using residuum, rituals are powered by residuum, eldritch machines (thanks Eberron) are fed residuum as a steam engine would be fed coal (purposeful anachronism: this setting has no steam engines). Noble families treat residuum as political power made physical, while the arcane colleges fuel their research with it, and the churches of the pantheon make divine power manifest before the masses with it. Residuum is bought with favors, earned with blood, and for a decigram, dreams can be bought.

The applications of residuum have altered the face of civilization; its discovery was a turning point that cannot be undone, for better or for worse. The magic of the silver dust has offered manna with one hand and a blade with the other. The construction of wonders rivaling those of fallen empires has begun, each noble house making monuments to its own glory, while at the same time scraping at the bones of the world itself, ignorant, or silent, about the consequences of its delving.

Power Centers
The Imperial Throne

The Imperial Family has the power to give residuum mining rights to the Noble Houses. It receives a portion of all mined residuum within the Empire, and uses the vast amount of money gained for many purposes. The Imperial Family is the greatest patron of the arts that history has known; and the capital of Solanthis, that once was a temple city to Pelor, now shines with a different light: the development of music, art, drama, and literature. At the same time, the Imperial Family has committed to extensive public works, and research in architectural and logistical sciences that have the promise to considerably alter the quality of life of the citizen. For miles the streets are cobbled stone, the water is pure, and the public gardens and forums are gifts for the public.

This said, the Imperial Family also has invested large sums of money in funding a military force that could rival any potential threat from foreign kingdoms, monstrous hordes, or a coup by the Noble Houses. Each Noble House also has a highly trained Informant of seemingly unshakable loyalty to the Throne, who monitors all residuum production within their holdings.

The Noble Houses
The Noble Houses of the Empire are tasked with mining residuum and showing loyalty to the Emperor by offering a portion of their income to the Imperial Family each season. The Noble Houses compete with each other, typically indirectly, through production quotas and pulling the strings of other institutions, such as the churches, arcane orders, and the Forging Guild of Meridia, with donations and trade agreements which are all fueled with residuum.

The Noble Houses must carefully balance their mining operations, their military forces, their relationships with the Imperial Throne and the various Guilds, and the development of their holdings. The political machinations of the Houses are the stuff of legend, and more recently, the stuff of popular plays and songs. While any House may have a grievance with any other House, and there are no Houses that do not have at least one grievance, blood feud, or reason to hate one or more other Houses, these grievances are openly dealt with only very rarely. Intrigue, assassination, and sabotage are the weapons of the Noble Houses; to openly wage war with another Imperial House may come with serious consequences, perhaps the most important of these being the favor owed to the Imperial Throne, and the need for exoneration in the eyes of the other Houses (or at least those that matter to the offending House).

The Skyfleets of Barony
Barony’s Skyfleets are central to the existence of the Empire in its current form. Although magical residuum can be retrieved through the disenchanting of a magical item (in a crude manner quite dissimilar (in practice) from burning a painting to grasp the essence of “creative drive”, but not dissimilar in the degree of contempt such an act would receive), the most effective method is mining it directly from lodestones, which incidentally are often hundreds of leagues apart. The Empire spread, initially seeking these lodestones, through the construction of heavily defended portals (see the Linked Portal ritual for details). Although these portals still exist, and are used in emergencies or for instantaneous transit, the most efficient form of transportation is the skyship.

The free city of Barony exerts leverage that nearly matches, and some say exceeds, the power of the Emperor himself. Airships, fueled by residuum, traverse the expansive and dangerous wilderness that otherwise nearly completely disconnects the cities of the Empire. While overland travel is possible, no Noble House is willing to transport residuum or other valuable resources through regions infested by beasts and brigands, and the Noble Houses have seen how inefficient the logistics of military movement by land is. That and having one’s highly trained vanguard, replete with shining armor and bright waving banners decimated by Fell Trolls is quite the setback in any sphere, political or otherwise.

In Barony’s existence, a balance is formed. Without the political leverage of the Imperial Throne, the Houses would not be able to produce sufficient residuum for all the factions, the Skyfleets of Barony included. Without the Skyfleets of Barony, the cities would be cut off and the Empire would quite literally crumble as the holdings of the Noble Houses would become independent Kingdoms. Without residuum, the Skyfleets would not function, and Barony would lose both its political leverage and suffer from the cultural, fiscal, and some say literal addiction to residuum that it has acquired.

The Churches of the Imperial Pantheon
The gods are real. Their exarchs proclaim their edicts, and the churches obey. The citizen presents offerings to the gods and to the church, and while the flesh of a bird may smolder upon the altar, the coins of noble and commoner alike make the same clinking sound which, when heard with a wider scope, would make a nearly deafening cacophony which still would insufficiently evidence how rich the churches truly are. The churches own land, pay no taxes to the Noble Houses, and hold an almost unassailable right to the divine sphere.

They are political and cultural juggernauts, but they have their chain: residuum. Although divine rituals can be performed using Sanctified Incense, few temples within civilized areas do, accepting gifts of residuum from the Noble Houses and any others who wish to donate the precious dust. In exchange for donations, the Church provides services for the Noble Houses, Barony, and the Imperial Throne, and promotes sermons that maintain order within both the community and between these groups.

Additionally, every Noble House has a Speaker of the Faith that acts in an advisor’s role, providing spiritual guidance, often in a very literal sense through the use of oracular rituals. Although this is considered by some to be a throwback to times prior to the discovery of the lodestones, few Noble Houses are willing to part with their Speakers, regardless of how often these Speakers may act in the interests of their churches above all else. That, or no Noble wishes to encounter an Angel of Vengeance.

The Arcane Colleges and Orders
While apprentices still search the wild for alchemical reagents, the Arcane Colleges and Orders have come to depend upon residuum for their experiments, which have become more advanced and convoluted as the Empire has grown wider reaching. Prior to the development of residuum mining in its most current incarnation, a wizard would have to consider various ethical, moral, and fiscal quandaries that, regardless of the solution, would slow magical study or halt it entirely. “Should I send a third apprentice to find rare earths that only collect upon the bases of ropers in the underdark?” “Is this experiment truly worth the death of a young red dragon, and how plausible is such an objective?” “Do I really wish to disenchant this flying carpet for a possibly fruitless endeavor?” Such questions are largely forgotten now, or answered with the alternative: paying a considerable sum to a Noble House in exchange for a considerable sum’s worth of residuum.

Although the Arcane Colleges may seem to spend the much of their wealth on research into new rituals, they also use residuum to create potions and magical items which go to the Imperial Family, the Noble Houses, and a number of external, supernatural threats that a mortal Empire, cannot effectively resist in any manner save appeasement through bribery. While the Colleges do outfit the nobility and their elite guard with impressive suits of magical armor that now can rival ancient finds found in the ruins of the fallen empires, more often secret deals are brokered with agents representing the powers of the Planes that have taken an interest in the lodestones of the Empire. Although most citizens are entirely ignorant of dealings with the drow, the githyanki, the neogi, and worse beings still, the Arcane Colleges act with the mandate of the Emperor, and keep him aware of threats that extend beyond the physical boundries of holdings of the Great Houses.

The Forging Guild of Meridia

Residuum is also given to Meridia’s Forging Guild, expert crafters who deal in the construction of eldritch machines and the warforged automatons. Different from the Arcane Colleges in their entirely pragmatic approach to the applications of residuum, and different from the Skyfleets of Barony in their willingness to release their proprietary technology into the hands of others, the Forging Guild empowers otherwise seemingly mundane objects with magical capabilities through the consumption of residuum. A single fleck of residuum will make a Meridian rushlight glow for a month, and an average automaton will awaken from its rejuvenation cycle by “feeding” on a single gold’s piece worth of residuum.

Truly, the warforged automaton is the greatest accomplishment of Meridia—an accomplishment that gives it military strength and political power equal to any individual Noble House. The Forging Guild consists primarily of the Orders Production, Education, Sale, and Recollection. The Order of Production manages the forges, and produces automatons of many types, though warforged are the most popular brand. The Order of Education provides the assurance to the buyer that warforged do not go rogue, and that their sentience is a commodity and not a liability. Although worth far more to purchase than any slave, warforged are effectively indentured servants or serfs (the Imperial Throne long ago issued an edict banning slavery of any sort that has less than four degrees of separation from the Throne… and no citizen can claim to have less than a single degree of separation from the Throne. “I am a citizen of the Throne.”) with no rights or room for social advancement. The Order of Education releases every automaton, warforged or otherwise, with absolute loyalty to Meridia, and whichever House or person it is purchased by. Of course, most local governments have substantial lists of laws centered around automatons. Some taverns forbid automatons from entering, and many sheriffs enforce very simplistic, but effective, safeguards for the public that lay the blame of any automaton’s actions solely upon its owner. That said, only the richest merchants use warforged, often as symbols of status, while the noble houses supplement their guard with warforged only in times of advanced production. The fate of the crafts of Meridia is often to sit silently, for months at a time, in torpor.

Social Groups
Villagers and Farmers

The rural peasant gains no benefit from the achievements made through the development of residuum mining and its myriad applications. Life is still slow, based upon the harvest cycles, and if the chicken is not the currency of trade, the cow or the copper piece is. The only clearly evident consequence of the initial drive to discover lodestones is that most villages are on the borderlands of a Noble House’s holding, and as such, even the a sparsely populated farming community will have some central gathering area with a stone or wooden wall and supplies.

Townsfolk and City Dwellers
In the cities and towns, noble and merchant residences often bear some evidence of the marvels of residuum. A landed noble who may have no direct blood connection one of the Noble Houses of the empire may still generate enough income to have automaton servants, a preferred magical trinket, or a set of magical armor and weapons. Although residuum may be the keystone of civilization, the lesser hailed “wood barons” or “iron lords” still fill a vital role in the Empire. While a ritual might repair an ancient oak door, that oak still came from a forest, and was fashioned by a craftsman. The holdings thrive on residuum, but still require raw materials and manufactured goods that towns and cities provide.

Holding Citizens
Located atop lodestones buried deep within the earth, holdings are densely populated, heavily fortified cities. These are the cities of the Noble Houses, and although their primary purpose may be the mining of residuum, the populace of these strongholds does not act with a singular purpose. Musicians and artisans ply their trade here, scholars can build their universities, and there is always the promise of coin—which also makes holdings capable of great, dark underbellies engorged with criminal organizations, dark cabals, forbidden magic, and pleasure for a price parlors.

The citizen of a holding typically associates himself with a Noble House first, and the Emperor second. Many residents share the political enmities of their House, often without reason, for the simple reason that often enemy Houses do questionable, or outright unacceptable, things to their leadership and populace. Despite these occasions, holding citizens also believe that they are the in the safest place they could be, and when comparing the five-fold curtain walls of Esty with the wooden palisades of Harwood-by-Water, it is a belief of merit.

The Citizens of Solanthis

Long ago, Solanthis was a theocracy that maintained a legend that Pelor himself had shone a radiant beam of light upon the hill where Solanthis was to be founded, and gave to a human of much merit, a crown with a single golden point upon it. The legend also stated that seven other points of light shone from Pelor that day, and it is believed that seven other kings were granted the Divine right to lead. Although the Empire has left behind its theocratic bent, it did maintain a portion of the legend as an excuse to seek out the lodestones. Also, there is a considerable degree of sun iconography inherent in even the new architecture of the capital.

The townsfolk look down upon the villagers, and the city folk look down upon the townsfolk, and the holding citizens look down upon the city folk. The Citizens of Solanthis are too busy advancing culture to look down. In many ways, the culture of Solanthis mirrors the merit-based assignment of Noble Houses to holdings. While the Noble Houses are selected from the most fiscally capable, and openly loyal lesser houses, so too are the Citizens of Solanthis selected from the most capable elements of the evenly populated, former Kingdom of Solanthis. A shining jewel surrounded by verdant fields and old towns, Solanthis is a city-state unto itself. The people who live there, varied as their experiences and motives may be, all see themselves as active participants in the development of Imperial Culture. Here, students of knowledge set out to bring truth to the holdings. Philosophers debate in open forums, even as gardeners plant new hedges and saplings in great public arboretums. Composers can, on occasion, be seen running down the streets flailing sheet music; and within the month, any of a number of Imperial Orchestras are boarding a Skyfleet airship for a concert tour of the Empire.

See Post #17 for Continuation (6/24)
I must comment on this idea. Simply Brilliant.

The core concept (being a Dune fan myself) had me hooked, and as long as your post was, I was forced to keep reading. You mirrored Dune just enough to be true to its theme, yet the D&D bent is there in full as well.

A friend of mine is a much larger fan of the Dune setting than I and I'm almost certain he's going to love this idea. Thank you for the time and effort you put forth in the post. This will be a great background for a game I'll start with my friends.

Kudos, my new friend.
Props! This is really quite fun. The whole imperialism/colonialism thread makes for some great campaigns. =)
Brilliant! I've been looking for ways to make a Dune-ish PoL setting from when I first heard of 4e, but since I didn't get my 4e books until this week, I didn't even think of using residuum as a spice analog! Thanks a lot for the outlines above; they'll come in really handy.
Hey Clark. Glad I found you over here. I've been working on a few ideas for the setting, should be able to post them soon. Should I post them here, or would you prefer I start another thread?
Looking forward to seeing what you've come up with- feel free to add to any posts you've seen across the boards.
Nice one! Yep, I'm a "Dune" fan as well, of the books obviously, and the 1984 film version which starred Kyle McC and Patrick Stewart. Nice idea using Residiuum as the "new" spice. Of course, Dune has such a rich story-telling tapestry that it could easily hold enough material for a great many level 1-30 campaigns.
(Crossposted from enworld / rpg.net)

The Residuum Must Flow (A points of light setting)

The Skyfleets of Barony
Barony’s Skyfleets are central to the existence of the Empire in its current form. Although magical residuum can be retrieved through the disenchanting of a magical item (in a crude manner quite dissimilar (in practice) from burning a painting to grasp the essence of “creative drive”, but not dissimilar in the degree of contempt such an act would receive), the most effective method is mining it directly from lodestones, which incidentally are often hundreds of leagues apart. The Empire spread, initially seeking these lodestones, through the construction of heavily defended portals (see the Linked Portal ritual for details). Although these portals still exist, and are used in emergencies or for instantaneous transit, the most efficient form of transportation is the skyship.

The free city of Barony exerts leverage that nearly matches, and some say exceeds, the power of the Emperor himself. Airships, fueled by residuum, traverse the expansive and dangerous wilderness that otherwise nearly completely disconnects the cities of the Empire. While overland travel is possible, no Noble House is willing to transport residuum or other valuable resources through regions infested by beasts and brigands, and the Noble Houses have seen how inefficient the logistics of military movement by land is. That and having one’s highly trained vanguard, replete with shining armor and bright waving banners decimated by Fell Trolls is quite the setback in any sphere, political or otherwise.

A couple of issues with this.

In Dune, only special guild navigators could get a ship from point A to point B. They had a total lock on the physical ability of moving ships thru hyperspace.

What is so special that others can't use or make the flying ships?

Why are gates inefficiant at moveing between places, or at least with regards to residium?

If the wilderness is so dangerous, how or why can city-states exist? Why aren't they over run?

I could understand it as a logistics issue, it's so far between sites that an army couldn't carry enough food & stuff to hack it's way thru the forest. It wouldn't be really all that dangerous though. An example might be that there is a city on the US east coast say Boston. The next nearest city is Chicago. With no roads, no farms, etc you can't move an army or even a caravan across that much rough terrain and still carry food and trade goods. It would require a very low population world with large distances between cities though to really make it work I think.
This is a wickedly awesome concept.

How is the residiuum extracted? Is it surface mined or extracted deep within the earth? Are any monsters associated with the lodestones?

What if each lodestone is guarded by a tarrasque, and the way to mine residiuum is to send one team to distract the beast while others try to extract as much dust as they can in the time window?

For bonus points-the tarrasque and the lodestone are symbiots, so killing the tarrasque ruins the lodestone.
A couple of issues with this.

In Dune, only special guild navigators could get a ship from point A to point B. They had a total lock on the physical ability of moving ships thru hyperspace.

What is so special that others can't use or make the flying ships?

Why are gates inefficiant at moveing between places, or at least with regards to residium?

If the wilderness is so dangerous, how or why can city-states exist? Why aren't they over run?

I could understand it as a logistics issue, it's so far between sites that an army couldn't carry enough food & stuff to hack it's way thru the forest. It wouldn't be really all that dangerous though. An example might be that there is a city on the US east coast say Boston. The next nearest city is Chicago. With no roads, no farms, etc you can't move an army or even a caravan across that much rough terrain and still carry food and trade goods. It would require a very low population world with large distances between cities though to really make it work I think.

Good questions- some of these can be answered with something of a cop-out (I haven't written answers) while others might shine clear with math... fantasy math that is.

0. In regards to questions that ultimately ask why I haven't exactly modeled Dune in how things work- such as Barony's fleets not moving like Guild ships or why there's more than one lodestone - I wasn't aiming at Dune'n'Dragons. I was applying some of the more malleable concepts of the setting that wouldn't pinch campaign design into specific patterns.

1. No one but Barony has developed the means of producing the eldritch machines that power skyfleets. There's certainly interest in acquiring one of these devices, but any of the great houses that did reveal their own ship, or fleet (if such were possible) would face Barony in the skies. This also explains one of the reasons why the ships don't teleport- they have to actually cross the sky and can be intercepted.

2. Why are skyships more efficient than portals? Well... for an adventuring party they aren't. Portals are more efficient in terms of saving time-- they appear instantly. They are more efficient in terms of safety for a party-- a party can't be tracked through a vanished portal. Portals are possibly more efficient in comparison to the cost of 5 skyship tickets... 50 gp to use a Linked Portal ritual at a preexisting teleportation circle is the bee's knees.

When we consider the logistics of the Empire however, Linked Portals are an extremely expensive and impractical method of practicing trade. A portal ritual takes ten minutes to cast, and is most likely going to persist for 18 seconds. 50 gold pieces for 18 seconds of transported men or trade goods. A skyship may cost thousands of gold pieces of residuum to move from point A to point B, and it may take a week or more to do it, but it will bring hundreds of tons of cargo, or entire regiments of men.

There are also far more dangers to associate with teleportation circles than there are with skyships. Teleportation circles are a locked door with a two part key (the ritual, and the symbols of the circle); you can only keep your foes from learning the second part... and presumably you cannot even keep the second part forever.

3. Regarding the mining of residuum, I envisioned it originally as magical energy flowing around these giant stones somewhere between the surface and the underdark, and as the energy passed these stones, they left a residue, the residuum there. I've purposefully avoided setting any individual monster as having a connection with lodestones- certainly would work... the tunneling is certainly ready made dungeon material.
When we consider the logistics of the Empire however, Linked Portals are an extremely expensive and impractical method of practicing trade. A portal ritual takes ten minutes to cast, and is most likely going to persist for 18 seconds. 50 gold pieces for 18 seconds of transported men or trade goods. A skyship may cost thousands of gold pieces of residuum to move from point A to point B, and it may take a week or more to do it, but it will bring hundreds of tons of cargo, or entire regiments of men.

Could also be that at this point the Barony-Imperial relationship is such that its is politically suicide to not use the ships. Its simply that the two are so far in bed with each other the the skyships can't be removed.

Further there could be a danger that if the portal closes while the residuum is still being feed something...unfortunate happens. Being that the duration can be 1-5 rounds the timeframe on the movement makes teleporting the residuum to risky.
Good questions- some of these can be answered with something of a cop-out (I haven't written answers) while others might shine clear with math... fantasy math that is.
(snip)
There are also far more dangers to associate with teleportation circles than there are with skyships. Teleportation circles are a locked door with a two part key (the ritual, and the symbols of the circle); you can only keep your foes from learning the second part... and presumably you cannot even keep the second part forever.

3. Regarding the mining of residuum, I envisioned it originally as magical energy flowing around these giant stones somewhere between the surface and the underdark, and as the energy passed these stones, they left a residue, the residuum there. I've purposefully avoided setting any individual monster as having a connection with lodestones- certainly would work... the tunneling is certainly ready made dungeon material.

I really need to read the new descriptions of spells and such. You are right, 4th ed portals pretty well stink for most commerce. Good for people, but not so good for goods.

Although teleporters on pg 69 of the DMG look interesting. Something tells me though that teleporters are a plot device, not something that can be made by PCs or compared for DMs wanting to build worlds that are internally consistent (aka simulationist).

Not sure if I understand why teleport circles are more dangerous. Care to expand on it?

I have to agree with you about the monsters. It feels hokey to me.
Could also be that at this point the Barony-Imperial relationship is such that its is politically suicide to not use the ships. Its simply that the two are so far in bed with each other the the skyships can't be removed.

Or that the Barony sends assassins to say hello to anyone who tries to replace them with teleportation:

"Greetings, Duke of House Cannith. I wished to speak with you about sensitive matters."

"Such as...?"

"A little sandsnake told me you have a tome detailing a certain ritual...."

"Certain ritual? I don't know what you--"

"It begins with "t" and ends with "-eleportation.""

"Ah. That ritual."

"So do you?"

"Can I trust you?"

"Of course."

"Well...yes, yes I--"

*stab stab stab stab stab*

"Y-you said I could...trust...you..."

"I'm a Barony agent. You can trust me--to kill all competitors. Have a good day!"

------------------

Regarding the tarrasques guarding the lodestones, for a further sandworm/spice parallel you could make it so that the tarrasques are the reason they have lodestones. Perhaps the lodestones are normally so deep in the earth that they're impossible to mine...except that when tarrasques make their lairs, they disturb the earth enough to send lodestones shooting up through magma fissures into tarrasque caves.
I really need to read the new descriptions of spells and such. You are right, 4th ed portals pretty well stink for most commerce. Good for people, but not so good for goods.

Although teleporters on pg 69 of the DMG look interesting. Something tells me though that teleporters are a plot device, not something that can be made by PCs or compared for DMs wanting to build worlds that are internally consistent (aka simulationist).

Not sure if I understand why teleport circles are more dangerous. Care to expand on it?

I have to agree with you about the monsters. It feels hokey to me.

Short answer
In the history of the Empire as I've got it sketched, planar portals ensured pre-skyship expeditions to new lodestones had some built in security in the event of being wiped out by any number of horrible, unexpected nasties. The Empire, as a consequence, has teleportation circles in each Holding, and at various points between them.

The danger is that Linked Portal and Planar Portal, can only be blocked by a very expensive, short term magic (Forbiddance) and that the holdings would bleed their residuum to keep their teleportation circles blocked. Some holdings do--as the githyanki, in the past, utilized popular teleportation circle usage by the aristocracy to well... pull information on teleportation circles from held aristocrats. Every person walking out of a teleportation circle has the potential to commit to memory the patterns of the circle- and those can fall into enemy hands. So... when the githyanki of my setting gathered enough information to open up multiple portals across the holds, they did, and bad things happened.

This is why most teleportation circles are no longer located within the curtain walls of the newer holdings, and why most nobles prefer to travel on the luxury decks of skyships.
So... when the githyanki of my setting gathered enough information to open up multiple portals across the holds, they did, and bad things happened.

Are the Githyanki going to be using skyskips as well in this setting?

This is why most teleportation circles are no longer located within the curtain walls of the newer holdings, and why most nobles prefer to travel on the luxury decks of skyships.

Skyships also have one extra luxury, ego stroking. Teleporting into a holding is all nice and fine but a fully crewed, massive, decked out ship that everyone can gaze in awe at as it approaches, nothing like wowing the people.
Are the Githyanki going to be using skyskips as well in this setting?



Skyships also have one extra luxury, ego stroking. Teleporting into a holding is all nice and fine but a fully crewed, massive, decked out ship that everyone can gaze in awe at as it approaches, nothing like wowing the people.

It might become very Spelljammer if Astral raiders start popping up in ships of their own... that said- it's plausible. I haven't given Githyanki any more material than the information I'll be posting in about a minute.
6/24 Update

Time Periods
Expansion

After the discovery of the first lodestone, the wizards of the Kingdom of Solanthis developed a means by which they could detect and follow the leylines of the world. Some research on the matter already existed—the great cities of the eladrin were believed to travel upon the leylines. One great scholar, Hemedices, had created charts of the appearance locations of these cities. The tome was considered, at the time of its writing, an interesting but generally useless book of facts and dates—the eladrin cities
did not appear with the regularity of the phases of the moons, but instead exactly when and where the eladrin wished them to appear. While Hemedices had intended to find a routine of appearance for each city separately, he did not attempt to combine his data sets upon a map. When the wizards of Solanthis did this, a very clear pattern emerged—a map of the leylines.

The last king, Gosus II, commissioned an expedition to the nearest possible lodestone. The journey would take them well beyond the natural borders of Solanthis, and through regions that humans had dared not venture since Pelor himself had granted the kings their Sun Crown. The legends of Pelor shining his radiant, protective light upon the great downs of Solanthis’ verdant domain had explained the fertile region, and why humans had long ago come together and claimed the land, forsaking many of the more harsh wild regions, but had resulted in a healthy degree of paranoia when it came to venturing into the dark forests and ancient ruins of the fallen empires. The hostile, and sometimes even outright spiteful monsters that paced in the shadows gave credence to this belief.

While previous expeditions into the wild had used large military forces, and long, heavily guarded supply trains, the wizards’ plan called for foraging, the guidance of amiable wilderness cultures, and the construction of permanent teleportation circles. The first expedition was able to make fast time through the uncharted forests and marshes of the wild, and established the first waystation three hundred miles from the border of Solanthis. This construction tested the expedition harshly, for while a wooden garrison was assembled in the span of days from the clearance of the local forest, the construction of the teleportation circle met setback after setback. All told, three months had passed before it was finished, and the numbers of the expedition had dropped considerably as foragers went missing, and sickness took its toll.

When it was completed, a portal allowed many members of the expedition to return home to Solanthis instantaneously. Replacements were brought to the waystation, and the expedition continued. Many had argued that the expedition had spent more time building than marching.

The first holding was constructed by Telsis, the first son of King Gosus II, upon a high hill on the far edge of the aptly named Trollmere that the first expedition crossed. Within five years, the second lodestone location was uncovered, and Solanthis’ production of residuum doubled.

The Foundation of the Empire
Gosus II was ailing by the time the first Holding was in complete operation. The noble houses of Solanthis were at that point actively competing for the rights to own land in proximity to the holding, their eyes looking to unclaimed lands in proximity to a vast undertaking—the construction of the holding’s castle town. Managing the noble houses would fall on the shoulders of Telsis, not Gosus II.

Upon word of his father’s failing condition, Telsis returned to Solanthis as quickly as the messenger had arrived via the holding’s teleportation circle. He had born an iron crown in his holding, and one advisor argued that the Sun Crown be remade to reflect that the Kingdom of Solanthis now consisted of two points—one of gold and another of iron. Telsis declined the Sun Crown entirely. He declared that he would grant one of the noble houses the right to continue his work at the holding in exchange for a large percentage of its residuum production. He also declared that no noble house would truly own a holding, but would reside there so long as they obeyed his edicts.

Thus, an empire was born. During Telsis’ reign, two more lodestones were discovered. Through a series of edicts, all of which are still viewed as the keystones of Imperial civilization, Telsis gave conditional power to the noble houses which both showed the greatest loyalty and, perhaps more importantly, showed the greatest competency when it came to managing their holdings. While the noble houses of the Kingdom of Solnanthis were constantly in turmoil, unable to expand beyond the safety of the downs and into the wild, now there was only peace—openly at least, as each house sought to curry favor with the Emperor.

The Eladrin Issue
When the wizards of Solanthis had studied Hemedices’ works intent upon the expansion of the empire across the leylines, they must have realized that doing so would mean that any future empire would be an entirely porous territory, especially to the eladrin. Their beautiful, high-spired cities of ivory followed the trade winds of the feywild, appearing momentarily in the material world, sometimes with no regard, or no knowledge, of the claims of other kingdoms. Although never openly hostile, the eladrin were an utterly foreign culture, and almost no success had been made with any efforts to establish diplomatic contact with any of their cities.

When Telsis’ son, Mardol II took the throne, it became clear that the eladrin would be needed for further discovery of the lodestones. The scope of Hemedices’ work, while commendably vast, and even more commendably profitable, had only revealed the location of four lodestones along the intersecting points of four leylines. The options were grim: either follow the leylines blindly for months through hostile terrain teeming with hostile peoples and beasts, or deal with the eladrin.

The wizards of the empire took to developing a ritual, the Loremaster’s Bargain, to contact the seasonal powers of the Feywild. In exchange for a series of pacts within one of the Arcane Colleges, the seasonal powers gave the humans a means of contacting one of the eladrin cities.

After much diplomatic dalliance, the eladrin city of Vesulathi agreed to help Emperor Mardol II find additional lodestones. Modern scholars are still uncovering the many subtle prices of this agreement.

Portal Troubles
By the end of the second century of Imperial expansion, the Skyfleet of Barony coursed across the forests and mountains of the land, looking for the telltale signs of lodestones—exotic locations, odd weather patterns or temperature changes, and the ribbons of light that appear with the waxing of Sehanine. Expeditions no longer risked land travel, and the alliance with Vesulathi lost much of its luster as the ever evasive eladrin were slower to commit to facts than the lookouts of the Skyfleet. It was during this time that the Skyfleet would earn more of its political leverage, as the plotting of the Githyanki came to threaten the entire Empire.

A race of militaristic builders who reside in the Astral Sea, the Githyanki watched with interest as the Empire developed in the middle world. Their agents, disloyal Imperial citizens, had been able to produce the names of several minor noble families in each Holding that made regular use of teleportation circles. After having procured hostages, the Githyanki made simple demands of the nobles—use the circles, and record exactly each location’s circles. The families complied, unaware that other families across the Empire were doing similar things. The hostages were retained until the Githyanki plot was put into motion.

Traditionally, teleportation circles are considered a poor manner of transporting military forces. Even an only moderately competent garrison can resist an invasion through a teleportation circle, given adequate preparation. The githyanki were no ordinary invading force however, and most forces, through continuous applications of the Planar Portal ritual were able to overwhelm and take control of the teleportation circles of the Holdings across the Empire simultaneously. By the time the Imperial forces had congregated at secret portals, most of the circles had already been the subject of Forbiddance rituals, and a grueling battle for the holds was waged, each hold left to their own devices. Although the githyanki were eventually fought off, with some conflicts lasting weeks as remaining githyanki took to hiding, the dangers of the portals became clear.

Today, most teleportation circles have been dismantled and relocated beyond the curtain walls of the holdings. Teleportation circles are given to the Church for the purposes of guardianship, with Angelic forms constantly in the rafters of most cathedrals that cap the portals deep within their sublevels. Also, the Arcane Colleges and Orders now deal with the Githyanki to maintain a steady peace. Although many would consider it simple protection money, the Githyanki have taken to sharing some information with the Arcane Colleges about the terrors of the Astral Sea that the Githyanki face using Imperial weapons and armor. Although the politics of the Astral Sea are utterly foreign to many in the Empire, the highest orders of wizards still discuss the dangers of giving the Githyanki the means they need to spread their conquests farther.

The Civilized Races
Humans

First, it is important to note that the humans of Solanthis are not the only humans of the continent. This was learned as the expeditions followed the leylines and came across other human cultures.

Second, it is important to note that the humans of the Empire are no longer simply the humans of Solanthis. Traders from unknown kingdoms arrive on the outskirts of holdings periodically, and those traders who venture through the wilderness return to their distant, unknown kingdoms with stories to tell of great cities of stone that rise above the dark forests of the world. When those travelers return, they often come with people who want to see these places, and very often those people are humans from other cultures.

Finally, it is important to note that the humans of Solanthis did not develop as an isolated race. When Pelor shone his light upon the clear downs, races traveled for hundreds of miles, following it across mountains, through forests, and even from the islands off the coast. Elves, Halflings, Humans, Dragonborn, and Tieflings came to the downs. Pelor bestowed his crown upon a human King, but many scholars argue that was based on the merit of the individual, not his race. Although the line of leaders has forever been human, the council chambers of the kings of Solanthis, and later the emperors, have hosted dwarves, elves, half elves, Halflings, dragonborn, tieflings, and eladrin. Twice, the same dwarf councilor stood regent to the throne in times of war, and the well-known Celval of Reedriver, a half-elf, was in line for the Sun Throne for three generations.

Dwarves
There are five known dwarven clans, and of them the Ironhelms alone have allied themselves with the Empire. Sat upon a throne of granite, dwarven kings act as ordinators, adjudicators, and executor sfor all of their clan. Dwarves of Solanthis often turn to the dwarven high court of the Ironhelm Hall to deal with their affairs, rather than trust in the courts of Solanthis, even if it means they must wait for months to present their arguments.
The Ironhelms control the Fourth Lodestone, which they had discovered long before the Empire had been established. Although not a holding, decades of trade and exchanges that mirror the relationship between the Imperial Family and the great houses effectively makes Ironhelm Hall an informal member of the Empire. The dwarven craftsmen of Ironhelm Hall enjoy the demand for their wares, and at the same time, the farmers of the Solanthis province sell their excess at premium rates to dwarven traders.

Elves
As the humans of Solanthis crossed the wild, they came to find the moon elves good friends. Although their tree-top cities are known for their beauty, the elves build upward because of the dangers of the forest floor first of all. The elves live upon the razor’s edge in the wild, settling where human nations could never take root, in the forests they call the Dark Above. Although elven cities are as far spread as human holdings, they maintain regular contact through Nature based rituals.

Unknown to the Empire, the elves have known of the leylines and lodestones since before Pelor cast his light upon the downs, and have fought the drow for control of the leylines since the schism of their race. To the drow, the leylines are the web of Lolth, stolen from the Underdark, and currently twisted into a natural force that fuels the life of the world above. To the elves, the leylines are rightfully where they belong, in the place between the Dark Above and the Dark Below, and so long as the moon is Sehanine’s, Lolth’s children will not come to control the leylines. Although the works of the elves do not center only upon their seemingly endless struggle with the drow, they do have sufficient reason to worry, that all elves are taught to survive the Dark Above so that they can one day venture into the Underdark.

Eladrin
While the elves seek to maintain the leylines through the natural forces of the world, the Eladrin have turned their attentions towards the politics of the Feywild. Engaging in constant dealings and strife with the cyclopses of the Feywild’s Underdark, the Eladrin’s battle strangely mirrors the elven struggle for control with the drow.

Dragonborn
Long ago, Arkhosia the Ashen Dragon turned upon the Dragonborn and destroyed their lands. A proud warrior culture, the Dragonborn traveled across the wild, and for generations they lived as nomads, moving from land to land, selling their blades and scales for enough supplies to move on. When they arrived at the Imperial Palace of Solanthis, the Emperor saw their value, and invited them to remain as permanent members of the Imperial military forces. As another generation passed, many gained citizenship in Solanthis, and some spread out to the Holdings. Today, the Imperial Throne still maintains an elite group of Dragonborn, who are referred to as the Ashenscale, a sort of twisted homage to the ancient dragon that destroyed its own kingdom out of a maddened rage.
3. Regarding the mining of residuum, I envisioned it originally as magical energy flowing around these giant stones somewhere between the surface and the underdark, and as the energy passed these stones, they left a residue, the residuum there. I've purposefully avoided setting any individual monster as having a connection with lodestones- certainly would work... the tunneling is certainly ready made dungeon material.

Just an Idea based on this and expanding on others perhaps their is not one monster or species that guards the lodestones but perhaps their is a side effect to prolonged exposure to such a magically conductive source, magical mutation or spawning, a weakening of barriers in reality. The residuum itself is a side effect the magic of the leylines when concentrated around the lodestone produces a build up which becomes physical (the residuum itself) but what would happen to those who are exposed continually to this much raw power. (Ideas could be taken from spell plagues, plane touched and many other sources) Beasts are gaining abilities or even mutation from being in the caverns surrounding the lodestones.

Tell me to shut up if this has been thought of before or its just nonsense
I love this.
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The residuum itself is a side effect the magic of the leylines when concentrated around the lodestone produces a build up which becomes physical (the residuum itself) but what would happen to those who are exposed continually to this much raw power. (Ideas could be taken from spell plagues, plane touched and many other sources) Beasts are gaining abilities or even mutation from being in the caverns surrounding the lodestones.

Could also further this to say that people staying to close to the lodestones without the proper protection become 'addicted' to the effects of the Lodestone further exposure causes the people to physically change. Its has lead to the saying 'Careful what you wear boyo, you could be wearing it a loooong time.' Also noticing the physical changes that the magic of the stone can do the Houses, Church and Arcane Colleges all are testing this effect to determine how it can/will be used.

Further an underground 'evil' (or not) Cult could spring up that wishes to explore the changes caused but the effects. They themselves have become mentally warped and seem to believe the future of the Empire is to have all beings of the Empire 'improved' by the effects. They seek to wash the Empire in the effect and change everyone, believing that once done everyone will see the truth and of course they will be promoted to their rightful places as the rulers of the 'New Empire.'
Could also further this to say that people staying to close to the lodestones without the proper protection become 'addicted' to the effects of the Lodestone further exposure causes the people to physically change. Its has lead to the saying 'Careful what you wear boyo, you could be wearing it a loooong time.' Also noticing the physical changes that the magic of the stone can do the Houses, Church and Arcane Colleges all are testing this effect to determine how it can/will be used.

Further an underground 'evil' (or not) Cult could spring up that wishes to explore the changes caused but the effects. They themselves have become mentally warped and seem to believe the future of the Empire is to have all beings of the Empire 'improved' by the effects. They seek to wash the Empire in the effect and change everyone, believing that once done everyone will see the truth and of course they will be promoted to their rightful places as the rulers of the 'New Empire.'

This addiction idea could also add to the perceived value of residuum, giving it more of a dune-ish feel and a darker side to the story (Those points of light are sometimes a magic missile headed your way)

The observance of the effects over time would become integrated into society some seek to become more powerful and so battle for control over a lodestone location, while another force (perhaps the Fey Eldarin) are looking to prevent the abuse of a natural resource perhaps guarding the larger unknown sites with powerfully protected outposts, destroying those that may come close to protect the real secrets of the lodestones.

(geez I think I could go on all day with this idea and with the open unknown there could be a cranial explosion here)
(Those points of light are sometimes a magic missile headed your way)

I am so tempted to sig this.
Perhaps make it illegal for all but a few to possess residuum as well.

I have had a lot of stuff lately with the kids, work, and what not, but I do plan on posting my version of this soon.
I am so tempted to sig this.

Feel free to use my quote it's feels pretty good for someone to say that.

I am wondering if there is some way for us to get all these details down into a rough document and start to work this into something a bit more full blown.

We have a basic premise and an outline of some of the races and the major hook for the setting, now we could do with a rough sketch of the major places of influence. Are all the lodestones beneath the ground or are there some rare outcroppings in desolate, hazardous regions. Is the world a well mixed climate or is the world a place of struggle and destruction caused by the effects of the lodestones?

This is just getting me all exicted and worked up with ideas :P
Feel free to use my quote it's feels pretty good for someone to say that.

I am wondering if there is some way for us to get all these details down into a rough document and start to work this into something a bit more full blown.

We have a basic premise and an outline of some of the races and the major hook for the setting, now we could do with a rough sketch of the major places of influence. Are all the lodestones beneath the ground or are there some rare outcroppings in desolate, hazardous regions. Is the world a well mixed climate or is the world a place of struggle and destruction caused by the effects of the lodestones?

This is just getting me all exicted and worked up with ideas :P

Right now I certainly would welcome development of:
the line of Solanthis' Kings and Emperors
the Great Houses and lesser houses,
something pertaining to Halflings and Tieflings,
details on the Wizard Colleges and Orders,
more powerful Kingdoms between the holdings,


The ultimate line that development has to balance is an overt effort to align with the patterns of Dune's setting and an overt effort to avoid the specific narrative devices of Dune's plot (a hero/messiah prophesy for example). That was the original philosophy of the design.
I totally agree you can avoid many Dune patterns and devices, however a good feel can still be maintained with politics in the great cities, colleges and houses to suit those interested in this, and great exploration adventure, or full blown wars.
Making Residuum a Spice Analogue, by converting it to a more used substance than consumed also the affects of change or mutation / power adds a level of danger for those that hunt for it at lodestone locations.

Forget Messiahs and Chosen Ones as that has been done to death and leaves nothing for the players to achieve on their own, gaining power, prestige and many epic paths in their careers.

As to Teiflings how about something like this:

Teiflings Once the rulers of the ancient empire and once controllers of the lodestones. They carry a verbal history only of these times and never speak of the reasons to their fall from power.

Through their ancestors constant close proximity to the lodestones they were physically changed, over the many years since their downfall some wish to just be a part of society and others feel the need to retake their rightful place as rulers of the land.

"Teifling stories could contain clues to locations of lost lodestones and the secrets behind them, if you can get them to share their knowledge but over the years this could be highly inaccurate"
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This leaves some room for fleshing out and an openess to choose where in society they may fit, they could also have some past history with the dragonborn again as two old empires would have.

It leaves some mystery to maybe finding ancient Teifling ruins, political intrigue.
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I've been tooling around with ideas on various details and personalization.

For the Arcane Colleges, I think it's important for each college to have a very different train of thought on how to research magic, and what magic should be used for. A different *focus*, really.

One college might be the one that developed the ties to the Eladrin - they were the college that develped the ritual that contacted them. To this day, the college is obsessed with ley lines and their uses. They might frequently make expeditions into the wild, in order to get closer to certain ley lines, or other types of magical areas.

One college might have a close tie-in with Barony or the forging guild. Studies would be pragmatic, ways to use magic to improve life or invent machines. Perhaps this college is actually located in Barony or in a Forging Guild stronghold, but it would also be a great way to tie in the "Artificer" class when we get it in a few months.

Yet another college might focus on general magic studies. Wizards would be popular, with this college in a vein very similar to stero-typical type arcane instututes.

I'd like to see another college focused on planar travel/mysteries/knowledge. The inner and outer planes haven't really been mapped or focused on much in either 4th or this setting in general, but this would be a good way of introducing them.

How many houses would there be? I imagine each house being 3-5 noble families, with their retainers and collective resources. Some houses might be entirely human, with other houses being human, half-elf, elf, maybe even dwarven families. Perhaps, 8 major houses, and a handful of lesser houses?

I've worked out two different kingdoms, both much lesser in power than Solanthis, but neither willing to work out anything more than a truce at the moment. One, in my eyes, might have a stronger connection to the demi-human races, and be a good way to introduce monsterous races as a possibility. The other I haven't worked on much. Either kingdom is entirely a monarchy, with a king/nobles/free man/serf mentality. Perhaps one kingdom is very much into slavery, and would prove to be a good adversary to Solanthis, even if it was out of reach of traditional military power? (even with airships, supply lines can only stretch so far for a massive army)

Supporting an edition you like does not make you an edition warrior. Demanding that everybody else support your edition makes you an edition warrior.

Why do I like 13th Age? Because I like D&D: http://magbonch.wordpress.com/2013/10/16/first-impressions-13th-age/

AzoriusGuildmage- "I think that you simply spent so long playing it, especially in your formative years with the hobby, that you've long since rationalized or houseruled away its oddities, and set it in your mind as the standard for what is and isn't reasonable in an rpg."

Prolonged exposure to "raw" residuum could produce mutations of a sort, and it would also result in a dependancy on the raw residuum itself. This would duplicate the idea of addiction to spice and would provide an explanation for the origins of tieflings. Of course, the idea that mutations could become so prominent and be passed on would not be common knowledge at all, perhaps a dark secret only a few in the modern empire even suspect. There's no reason for the modern tieflings to even know this either, they may very well believe the commonly accepted belief that they are descended from humans who made pacts with devils.

Lodestones as I'd envision them don't actually create the residuum, they simply collect it. The presence of intense magnetic fields in an area rich in mana causes a small portion of the excess mana to "crystalize" into raw residuum. The crystalization happens more often near the stone, giving rise to the belief that the stones are a source, but can happen fairly far afield of the stone. This gives rise to the need for "residuum harvesters", workers who use arcane collectors to gather the raw residuum for later processing.

The workers would primarily be prisoners, the truly desperate, and some warforged. The reason would be that the knowledge that residuum can cause disfigurements over a long enough time would be fairly common (just not the persistent and inherited mutations), so only those compelled by external forces or severe need would take such work.

The residuum fields also happen to attract tarrasques. Perhaps the interaction of mana and magnetic fields draws the fearsome monsters there, or maybe there's some relationship between them and the lodestones or the raw residuum crystals.
something pertaining to Halflings and Tieflings,

You could make a connection between halflings and Fremen; the Fremen had special ways of getting around in the desert to avoid attracting sandworms, so you could take the whole "halfling river gypsy" thing and give them sandboats instead. They could boat around between lodestone deposits and help transport them. The whole idea of a Dune Sea (hmm...Dune Sea...memo to self: Jawas) is reminiscent of Dark Sun, another desert-based Points of Light concept that was very popular.

I'll flesh that out a little more for you if I have some time later.
Another thought (I seem to have these when I cannot sleep)

Arcane College Warlock:

Warlocks have made pacts with entities long forgotten, they maintain their connections via the power of the ley lines, these schools were founded by the teiflings who learned the methods long ago and used thes powers to rule their empire.

Residuum and lodestones are paramount to warlocks as a key to their learnings they believe ultimate power can be achieved through them.

Warlocks will try to ensure a supply of residuum for their powers and rituals, making it a valuable resource for them.
Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.
I'd like to bump this, simply because I'd love to see more OP input. Ideas so far have been spectactular, but I'd like some clarification on the OP's part.

Eladrin Cities - how would you discribe these? Do they travel between the feywild and the main world at a whim? On a schedule? How do the city-dwellers live?

How many of the playable races in the MM are...playable? Are Orcs and Hobgoblins unplayable because of the conflicts with the empire?

Supporting an edition you like does not make you an edition warrior. Demanding that everybody else support your edition makes you an edition warrior.

Why do I like 13th Age? Because I like D&D: http://magbonch.wordpress.com/2013/10/16/first-impressions-13th-age/

AzoriusGuildmage- "I think that you simply spent so long playing it, especially in your formative years with the hobby, that you've long since rationalized or houseruled away its oddities, and set it in your mind as the standard for what is and isn't reasonable in an rpg."

I was going to hold this for a few more pages... but a bump means business. :D (and I'll try to answer those specific questions as soon as I'm free to do more than copy paste my documents).

The Church of the Imperial Pantheon
The gods exist and their will is made manifest upon the world by the courses laid forth by the machinations of their exarchs and the direct influence, or interference, of their divine agents, the angels. Although the existence of the gods is unquestionable, the interpretation of their wishes is often dependent upon the understanding and awareness of each culture that has been affected by the agents of any particular god. Generally speaking, it is fairly clear that the gods prefer to leave interpretation of their existence to the mortal races, for in their teeming masses, the many
thousand interpretations of their divine will more often than not grant them a claim more vast than any singular true word or text would. As such, gods have only in very rare, very momentous occasions, directly influenced the course of the world, the creation of Kingdom of Solanthis being the most recent example of such an occurrence.

Specifically within the realm of the continent, its holdings and multitudinous kingdoms, the ways in which a person or group refers to the gods does more to reflect their own beliefs or motives than the will of the gods themselves. Additionally, while angels appear to act as servants of the Church, these openly public personas are often little more than a plainly cast veneer of public humility used to shroud the often overt maneuverings of religious movements that span reaches that dwarf the claims of kings, the Houses, and even the Emperor himself.

There are few universal traditions amongst the many cultures of the continent, and first amongst them is that the names of the gods are pure and best left unsaid. Using the proper name of a god is never a good thing, even by ordained members of a god’s own faith. Ranging from a potentially fatal error, tempting divine forces, to outright heresy in the minds of many a radical order, few ever invoke the proper name of a god without considering the consequences. Instead, most rely upon indirect references in the form of honorifics and epithets which are at once roundabout, revealing, and considered just and proper ways of referring to the gods. At a most basic level, the different forms of address are present within the setting as a means of creating a degree of complexity that more often makes religion a fracturing issue, where even two worshippers of Kord may fail to see eye to eye, as one devotes himself to Kord as the Storm God, while the other worships Kord as the Strife God.

Based upon legends and seemingly ageless hearsay, each god reacts differently upon hearing its name. While the gods are not believed to be omnipotent, omnipresent, or omniscient, they have their agents in the world, and even if they cannot hear everything, it is said that the gods, even if they do little else, listen to the words of mortals—especially when given the chance. Superstition holds that Torog will burrow up from the Underdark and swallow those who invoke his name (PHB 23), while Kord presents challenges or storms to batter those who call to him. It is said that if you wish to speak to Lolth, you need only tell a spider, while snakes will come in the sleep of those who dare utter the name of Zehir. Death comes to all however, and does so without words, so it is appropriate that the proper name of the Raven Queen is, as by default, long forgotten. While she does have various descriptive epithets that can be applied to winter, she alone is the one divine force all mortals know by the same name for true. As many a wounded soldier has learned, lying alone upon the field, calling to the Raven Queen will not bring an end to the pain, even as it brings the crows.

Echoes of the Theocratic Monarchy
When the first Emperor refused the Sun Crown, Pelor’s church was there to scoop it up, both the literal artifact, and the role of theological leadership which the Kings of Solanthis had long carried. For four hundred years, generations of Kings from four distinct dynasties (all of which still bear a strong hand in politics, one now as an Imperial line, and the other three as bearers of strong Imperial holdings) held a divine mandate to protect the people of the downs of Solanthis. While Pelor bestowed the Sun Crown and the Sun Text upon the first King, neither came with a clear method of rule, but rather was a covenant between a protective god and the conditions by which the protected must act to earn such divine intervention.

In the earliest days before the first King was given power, the mortal races around the region known as Solanthis could only eke out lives of suffering and despair, often roaming in semi-nomadic state, building settlements which would eventually be discovered by gnolls and other monstrous races or come across by powerful beasts of prey. Uprooted, they moved through the wilderness, settling where they could. Pelor’s protection of Solanthis lasted long enough for the people to build strong walls, and his light was as a beacon to the multitude who, when gathered, were strong enough to repel even the great beasts of prey that roamed the wild.

The price for this protection was fairly indirect, and was transmitted to the public through a beneficent rule of the king, which has remained in place into the time of Imperial rule, despite calls by skeptics who suggest that public works are now primarily a political act. Given freedoms by their government, and enjoying the bounty of Pelor, who is also the god of harvests, the people found themselves free to begin exploring the many mysteries of the world which their parents and grandparents could not. Early philosophy began as a questioning of the intentions of Pelor and the apparent lack of involvement on the parts of the other gods which the diverse population of Solanthis worshipped. Although some extreme theorists sought to position Pelor as the highest god, or as a patron god, the first king extinguished the rising popularity of this line of thought through an edict that acknowledged the many gods as integral to the wellbeing of the people. This edict identified the gods which today are sometimes refered to as the Gods of the First Dynasty, because the epithets used by the first King, and his line, are different from those used by the other dynasties. The modern “Imperial Pantheon” is representative of the epithets or honorifics used by the fourth dynasty, the Imperial dynasty, in reference to the gods.

Although the use of a god’s title is generally considered to be indicative of a person’s circumstances at that moment, or possibly their faith, there is potential for an interpretation of allegiance, or favoritism towards, a particular dynasty (now a Great House) by the use of title that matches that dynasty’s pantheon. Overlap does exist however, which complicates matters.

As a final note, the individual races of Solanthis do not have names for the gods. There isn’t a special name bestowed upon Moradin by the dwarves anymore than there is a special name bestowed upon Moradin by the humans as a whole. As such, all people in Solanthis are open to consideration when they refer to a god, and none say, “Oh, that is simply the way [non-human race] refers to that god,” while thinking nothing more of it.

The Gods
What follows is a list of the gods proper names, followed by the monikers used by the Imperial Pantheon, followed then by the Third, Second, and First Dynasty. Players who have characters with origins beyond the borders of Solanthis are welcome to invent appropriate titles for the gods based upon their own culture’s perspective.

[LIST TO BE COMPLETED]

Evil and Chaotic Evil Gods
When the first king made his proclamation recognizing all of the gods, this included the evil gods and chaotic evil gods. Recognition, he emphasized, did not equate to adoption or tolerance of these gods. Instead, the first king acknowledged these forces that the people of Solanthis would know those gods who Pelor opposed, and their ways as well. Even today, the Church of the Imperial Pantheon goes to great lengths to educate the commoners about the evil gods and the dangers they bring to the world, mixing equal parts truth and fiction into a four hundred year old oratory artform which can curl the toes of even the most cosmopolitan, self-proclaimed enlightened skeptic.

Despite the first king’s warnings, and the regular sermons of the faithful, cults of the evil and chaotic evil gods exist in Solanthis, as they do in other parts of the world. Open worship of these gods is strictly forbidden, and there are many orders of the various faiths that will zealously strike and persecute cultists and cabalists.

Warlocks who adhere to an Infernal Pact are immune to this persecution only if they either evade it, or bear the brand of an Apostate, one of the few devils bound eternally deep below the arcane prison Murus Sorcerous. Although the brand indicates an association with a particular devil, it does not denote conspiracy with it, nor does it mean loyalty or a relationship of any kind. A common member of the Empire is as likely to charge a branded warlock with heresy as they are to charge a wizard.
I'd like to bump this, simply because I'd love to see more OP input. Ideas so far have been spectactular, but I'd like some clarification on the OP's part.

Eladrin Cities - how would you discribe these? Do they travel between the feywild and the main world at a whim? On a schedule? How do the city-dwellers live?

How many of the playable races in the MM are...playable? Are Orcs and Hobgoblins unplayable because of the conflicts with the empire?

I picture eladrin cities as something of a cross between the Black Castle of the movie Krull (in how they function) and a sort of high fantasy ivory towered elven architecture typically associated with magicky elves (in how they look).

They appear and disappear in a single day, to reappear one year later in another location. Each city is a nation unto itself. The eladrin have four castes based upon the four seasons of the year, and each season represents the four elements of mortal life (the metaphorical spring, summer, autumn, and winter of life)--elements which seem so distant to the eladrin that they embrace it as a sort of eternal novelty. While these castes are considered separate parts of eladrin culture, they are more like affiliations than unbreakable positions in society--it is only the longterm quality of the eladrin mindset which makes the castes largely unshakable.

So, while the eladrin themselves enjoy a mostly ageless existence, being young almost up until the end of their existences, their cities transition between the radical seasonal patterns of the feywild--some cities basking in fields of eternal blossoming while others are forever shrouded in the snow and mist of strange, unearthly winter valleys--only to return to the world in some sort of annual ritual of renewal, anchoring themselves briefly to the reality of the material world, lest they lose time itself in the beauty of an unchanging autumnal rain.

Another quality of their movement can be associated with their culture's purposeful detachment from the conflict between the drow and the moon elves. The moon elves believe that their symbiotic, if sometimes deadly, relationship with nature (and their use of Nature as a source of power [see Druid, Shaman, etc in future releases]) allows them to maintain a grasp on the leylines of the world. The drow believe that the leylines, if pulled into the Underdark (again) would bring forth the Spider's Moon (again).

The eladrin believe that Sehanine, the current moon and similarly named goddess, and the Spider's Moon and Lolth, are the same moon and the same goddess. The question, which they have elected to disengage from answering, is if Sehanine is so much the perfect trickster-illusionist goddess that she's got even her own worshippers fooled, or if Lolth is such a betrayer goddess of lies that she gives favor to the enemies of her own worshipers, or if Sehanine/Lolth is capable of being both simultaneously. The eladrin have distanced themselves from the natural world, of which the material leylines, the Underdark, and the moon of which the goddess/es are such an integral part.

Of course, the rub is that this can easily be attributed to an illusion on the part of Sehanine, a scheme of Lolth's, or both... given the fact that the Feywild has an Underdark of its own (replete with cyclopses and Fomorians), and that no matter how much the eladrin may think they are free of the world, they are still bound to the web of the leylines.

The second question, about which MM races are playable... The short answer is "none or few; if few, warforged, dopplegangers, or shifters."

Even the warforged are given such a tight leash that they'd have to be played by a player who is totally into the idea of being an automaton piece of property that depends upon living beings to keep it running with residuum. If a player is going for the whole Face Dancer aspect of Dune, a DM might want to consider making a group who is able to produce Dopplegangers... but that can of worms - along with cloning, are parts of the series which are considered to be a direct reaction to the upending which was brought by the messiah Muad'dib and his children... so unless you introduce the setting with the specific intentions of really throwing it for a loop, I'd leave Dopples out too.

However, I've been toying around with lycanthropes as a major power in the wilderness who have aligned themselves strongly with the moon elves. Moon... werewolves... seems to work. The were-tribes refer to themselves as the Senahin, and the Shifters are attached to the were-tribes as a sort of between group that could reasonably interact within an Imperial setting.
Muad'dib himself is one of the best potential plot devices/story pieces for a Dune-inspired setting. In this setting, I would use a character based on one aspect of Muad'dib to help drive the story. Instead of a chosen one/messiah figure, I would make him already part of the status quo power structure, and give him a role leading one of the big organizations, such as an arcane house. This Muad'dib figure is a ritual master specialized in divination rituals, and he guides his organization in a master plan determined through divination of the results of multiple possible actions and outcomes. Hence, he's more like Paul in the second book than the first, where he's fallen into the trap of divination such that he won't take a course of action that he can't divine the outcome of, and is leading society (or an important part of society) on a path of stagnation.
I kind of pictured the muad'dib figure in my campaign as hiding out in the desert.

In another note, I start my campaign with this setting on Sunday. I will probably start a separate thread to talk about that (or would that be a separate forum?)


Muad'dib himself is one of the best potential plot devices/story pieces for a Dune-inspired setting. In this setting, I would use a character based on one aspect of Muad'dib to help drive the story. Instead of a chosen one/messiah figure, I would make him already part of the status quo power structure, and give him a role leading one of the big organizations, such as an arcane house. This Muad'dib figure is a ritual master specialized in divination rituals, and he guides his organization in a master plan determined through divination of the results of multiple possible actions and outcomes. Hence, he's more like Paul in the second book than the first, where he's fallen into the trap of divination such that he won't take a course of action that he can't divine the outcome of, and is leading society (or an important part of society) on a path of stagnation.

Muad'dib himself is one of the best potential plot devices/story pieces for a Dune-inspired setting. In this setting, I would use a character based on one aspect of Muad'dib to help drive the story. Instead of a chosen one/messiah figure, I would make him already part of the status quo power structure, and give him a role leading one of the big organizations, such as an arcane house. This Muad'dib figure is a ritual master specialized in divination rituals, and he guides his organization in a master plan determined through divination of the results of multiple possible actions and outcomes. Hence, he's more like Paul in the second book than the first, where he's fallen into the trap of divination such that he won't take a course of action that he can't divine the outcome of, and is leading society (or an important part of society) on a path of stagnation.

I disagree with your first sentence, but by all means- whatever works for an individual's campaign. Personally I'd rather eat a sock than see a GMNPC, or someone at the table, pulling the sort of things that Muad'dib did on any level (or fill the role of "chosen one" as he did).

Putting a Prophet/Savior character into the setting has far too much potential for introducing a stifling metaplot. If there's one individual who Knows The Future, then the other political factions are really his puppets... this is good for a novel, and bad for a game IMO, especially since the players cannot take up the role of this all-knower within the limitations of 4E and thusly, are also at best relegated to being his puppets, no matter how they resist.

I'm avoiding the Bene Gesserits, making a blatant Atreides "doomed to fall" house, and any sort of Muad'dib. Putting them into the setting irrevocably alters campaign plots, and also sets up a sort of GMNPC that I'm not up to making a requirement of the setting.

That said, if the purpose of a campaign is to specifically play out a fantasy version of the novels, enjoy whatever works at your table!
I kind of pictured the muad'dib figure in my campaign as hiding out in the desert.

In another note, I start my campaign with this setting on Sunday. I will probably start a separate thread to talk about that (or would that be a separate forum?)

I don't see an Actual Play forum here... I know rpg.net / enworld have them.. I'd appreciate a reference/link to the setting anywhere you set up shop. Also, wow- beating me to using my own setting! My group is still pushing through Keep on the Shadowfell.
Each city is a nation unto itself. The eladrin have four castes based upon the four seasons of the year, and each season represents the four elements of mortal life (the metaphorical spring, summer, autumn, and winter of life)--elements which seem so distant to the eladrin that they embrace it as a sort of eternal novelty.

Don't know why but I thought of the Tau from Warhammer 40K when I read this.

Also, wow- beating me to using my own setting! My group is still pushing through Keep on the Shadowfell.

The ultimate ninja'd.
One word... amazing.

Enigmatic, open, and ready to be explored and expanded.

I am not as familiar with Dune as a should be, but I LOVE this concept. I am going to be running two campaigns. One I intend to develop my own world. But if you are fine with it, I would love to use Solanthis and help you expand!
One word... amazing.

Enigmatic, open, and ready to be explored and expanded.

I am not as familiar with Dune as a should be, but I LOVE this concept. I am going to be running two campaigns. One I intend to develop my own world. But if you are fine with it, I would love to use Solanthis and help you expand!

I'm happy to post stuff people may use, and I appreciate feedback/additions. Go for it, and thanks for the comments!