Friday, March 27, 2015

Welcome to the Known World

A few days ago, I posted about the possibility of a superhero/fantasy fiction mashup. Here is the brainstorm I did on it following that blog entry. Please hit me with all of your feedback, suggestions, and especially any works of fiction (aside from Skullkickers) that would make for good thematic source material:

Technical stuff:


  1. PCs start at 3rd level.
  2. Optional feat system is in use, but players may choose a magic item instead of a feat.
  3. May house rule the game to allow players to stack inspiration (maybe one inspiration per level)
  4. May steal the stunt die mechanic from DCC to allow for more crazy, super-hero like stunts.


World stuff:


  1. The world is simply called “The Known World.” Names are extremely straight-forward and uninspired...stuff like “Blackrock Village” and “Silver City.”
  2. There is a demi-plane called “the Underworld” that runs parallel to the Known World. While the Known World is predominantly good, the Underworld is predominantly evil. Monsters frequently spew out of the Underworld via Dungeons that serve as bridges between worlds.
    1. The Underworld is a subterranean realm, with no known sky above. Brave travelers of the Underworld have found various different kinds of habitats within the Underworld, ranging from simple caves to vast underground cities, to forests of fungi and underwater castles.
  3. While humans are the dominant race in the Known World, dark elves or drow are the dominant race in the Underworld.
  4. Though humans are the most numerous, other fantasy races do exist and have their own realms.
  5. Gods in this world follow the regular D&D pantheon as outlined in the Dungeon Masters Guide. These gods almost never directly interact with either the Known World or the Underworld.
  6. The Known World is full of history and has been around for thousands of years. Each realm has its own reserve of legends and kings and wars and whatever. This stuff is not fleshed out and rarely will matter to contemporary folk.
  7. Magic is fairly common throughout the Known World. It is entirely reasonable for a shopkeep to sell healing potions, towns to have magic-powered lamps that light themselves when the sun goes down, and magic portals can exist between the major cities.


Dungeon stuff:


  1. Dungeons are never built; they are summoned forth by the chaotic magics between the two worlds. Attempts to mine them or radically alter their architecture work initially, but eventually the Dungeon “heals” and restores to its former design. Many folk try to take advantage of this and keep Dungeons around as a neverending source of gems and/or minerals. These folk seldom live for very long.
  2. All dungeons have a fetter, a source of evil that anchors a Dungeon to the Known World. The primary objective for many heroes and adventurers when they enter Dungeons is to find the fetter and destroy it. Doing so instantly teleports any Known World denizens back to their realm and the dungeon blows up.
    1. Typically, a Dungeon’s fetter is an object of some kind. It can be a giant statue to an evil god, or a mere piece of jewelry sitting in a treasure chest. Uncommonly, fetters can be living beings...dragons are typically fetters for vast, dangerous Dungeons. Living fetters are known to Known Worlders as bosses. Giant fetters unable to be moved or carried by one person are sometimes known as anchors.
    2. Fetters, bosses, and even anchors can leave their Dungeons; however, they are always compelled to return to their Dungeon, in time. Those wearing or carrying fetters will find themselves drawn to the Dungeon and wanting to live in it. Bosses consider a Dungeon to be their home. Anchors that are somehow removed from a Dungeon will often be the target of orc warbands who try and capture it and return it to its Dungeon.
    3. Fetters are always magical; the bigger and more deadly the dungeon, the more powerful the magic of the fetter. Many foolhardy folk try and keep a fetter rather than destroy it for this reason. These folk seldom live for very long.
    4. Exceptionally powerful heroes sometimes “clear” a Dungeon and use it as their base of operations. They bury, capture, or otherwise contain the fetter. This is a very dangerous practice, as evil creatures are constantly drawn to the dungeon, but very powerful heroes, combined with a strong, defensible location, have held dungeon bases of operation for many years.
  1. Evil creatures are instinctively drawn to Dungeons, and long to live in them. Some monsters are in fact spawned into existence by Dungeons; these monsters are seldom sentient, however. A driving influence behind most goblinoid warbands are to find a Dungeon to use as a base of operations.

Meta stuff:
  1. The tone of the setting is mostly over-the-top action and comic-book style melodrama. However, there is a realm in the south end of the Known World, known as the Shadowlands, that carries a darker, gothic tone.
  2. Though The Known World is a medieval campaign setting, the themes and motifs of the setting more accurately reflect current, contemporary American culture. Think A Knight's Tale.


Hero stuff:

  1. There is a distinction between heroes and adventurers in the Known World. A hero has some kind of greater magical influence; as a result, they are more powerful and capable of things most normal people couldn’t hope to achieve. Adventurers, however, are normal people who have chosen to take up the life of a hero. The relationship between heroes and adventurers is similar to that between superheroes and cops in comic books.
  2. A magic-using hero and an adventurer who uses magic are not the same thing. The latter simply recites ancient incantations; the former has magic inside of him or her, at the very core of that hero’s being. Generally, a magic-using adventurer can never become as powerful in spellcasting as a magic-using hero.
    This is not a map of The Known World. I found this on an internet search for "The Known World" and just decided to use it. 

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