I wanted to take some time to discuss the realm of Lost Artanis, which, although it no longer exists in the time-frame of the campaign, will still cast a very long shadow upon it. Artanis is a kingdom that covered the whole of the colonized area and beyond, which fell some 500 years ago due to circumstances which remain unknown. Not a single Artanian is known to have survived, and their cities and villages have fallen into ruin. At first I wanted to give the Artanians some sort of distinctive feature (like blue skin) but then I realized that might be unconsciously derivative of the green-skinned Viridians of the Judges Guild Wilderlands setting, and I shelved the idea. If I come up with something better, I’ll certainly revisit it.
|Mountain ranges now have names, and ruins of Artanian
ruined cities and towns are now marked. Many are underwater.
As I mentioned before, I don’t want this to be a dungeon-centered campaign, and thus I will not give into the temptation of having extensive underground regions of cities, buried cities, etc. These ruins are all above ground, overgrown with vegetation, open to the sky and the elements. There will still be monsters, and treasures, and the like to be found in the ruins, but the experience of exploring them will (hopefully) be quite different than a standard dungeon-crawl.
As might have been obvious from some of the details I’ve given in the previous installments on the colonial governments, I also want to have the campaign have a large waterborne/underwater component. Thus did I mention communities of merfolk, sea elves, etc. that the land-based communities interacted with.
Because of that, many of the largest cities of Artanis are now underwater, thanks to some unspecified natural disaster that caused the coast to sink, taking the cities with it. These are now haunted undersea ruins, and exploring them will present new challenges, as well as giving an opportunity to really work in the undersea races. Some sort of ubiquitous water-breathing magic or substance might be in order I’m thinking a special wine, made from sea-grapes, that provides the ability to breathe underwater for a specified period of time; downside, if you drink too much to make an extended journey, you suffer from the effects of intoxication.
There are still ruins to be found in the interior, of course, and these will be as described above; large, spread-out ruins open to the sky, overgrown with greenery. Some structures might still have roofs after 500 years, but most will not. Orc tribes, wild elves, and goblinoid (goblins/ hobgoblins/ norkers/ bugbears) deserters from New Valais and Lippegen might take up residence, as will wild creatures and monsters.
The biggest mystery to be solved is why Artanis fell in the first place. A plague is the most likely explanation, but I think something more mystical will end up being the true cause. Perhaps the population was all transformed into animals whose descendants live in the cities, or left via magical gateways through time and/or space. If so, the stage could be set for their triumphant return at some point. Which, naturally, would be something of a sticky wicket for the colonists.
I also like the idea of Artanis being of a higher level of technology and magical knowledge than the colonists. I thought of making it some sort of steampunk or otherwise mechanical aesthetic, but it’s so easy to let that slide into cliche and silliness that I demurred. Rather, Artanian magic operates along different lines than standard (A)D&D magic, in that it relies entirely on blood sacrifices to operate. That’s similar to how magic works in the Dark Sun world (with its defilers and preservers), except that rather than destroying plant life and turning the countryside into a desert, Artanian Blood Magic destroys human/demihuman life and depopulates over the long run. That might also tie in to the fall of the realm.
Acquiring knowledge of this new form of magic is of the highest priority to the guilds and schools of wizards back in Hanar and their nascent offspring among the three colonies. It will be much more powerful, relatively speaking, but since it inherently requires the spilling of blood, it will be much more difficult. Imagine a magic-user having to spend hit points to cast spells. Now imagine if that magic-user could use the blood of others to do so. At low levels, animals might suffice, but at higher levels, only intelligent creatures will do. For those of good alignment, his companions could volunteer to do so, and he could of course give of himself. For those of evil alignment, the question is somewhat easier to answer, as long as living victims are at hand…