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Author Topic: help with a campaign setting- low fantasy renaissance  (Read 291 times)

Cigalazade

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help with a campaign setting- low fantasy renaissance
« on: July 25, 2020, 11:34:14 pm »
I'm trying to work on a campaign setting based on the Mediterranean world of the sixteenth century, tailored for 3.5 DnD/Pathfinder 1e (this is mostly because it's the system I'm most familiar with). The setting is geographically Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East with some fantasy elements. I have some basics outlined: classes, nationalities (for human characters), and religious confessions.

My goal would be to give players a pretty big canvas to have different adventures: they could be corsairs or privateers on the North African coast, a Venetian trading company, or court members of the Sultan. They could also be mercenaries fighting for one (or both) sides of the religious wars of the era. Another angle that players could explore is that while there was much sectarian and religious conflict in this period, there were also business and personal relationships that cut across faiths and empires. I'm hoping that the historical setting ends up being a tool, but not a cage for players- I don't want to restrict people to reenacting exact history if they don't want to.

Right now I'm not sure how to incorporate some of the fantasy elements. My intent is to have magic be real, and also seen as dangerous in line with the general attitudes of the era. Fantasy races might exist, but the increasing scientific developments of this period drives those races to exist on the fringes of society

Classes: Landsknecht [soldier/fighter], Spy, Corsair [privateer], Cleric [priest/imam/preacher depending on confession], Merchant

The Merchant class is more of a diplomat than just "a guy who sells stuff"- they can function similar to a bard and would be able to give a party information they've picked up in the their travels. Spy is similar but has more offensive capability. The other classes, Corsair, Landsknecht, and Cleric function to traditional RPG classes. Corsair is similar to a rogue and Landsknecht is a fighter type class. I plan to add magic user classes when I think through how to implement them in a way that would fit.

Confessions: Roman Catholic, Sunni Muslim [both a Hanafi Legalist variety and Sufi mystic], Shiite Muslim, Reformed/Calvinist, Lutheran

I haven't fully fleshed out how Confession would work in game terms. For example, a Roman Catholic priest character might have a higher intelligence from theological training, but a Reformed Landskenecht character could gain skill/combat bonuses from hearing an inspiring sermon. A Sunni Muslim character (regardless of class) could have standing as an Islamic legal scholar/judge and be able to negotiate disputes in certain situations.

Nationalities: Spanish, Ottoman [upper class, Turkish speaking but mixed ancestry], Anatolian Turkish, Persian, Balkan, Magyar, English, French, Austrian, German, Venetian

The nationalities would have different bonuses or skill preferences, but there would be multiple possible backgrounds within a nationality. So for the Spanish as an example, your character could come from a Castilian military family or be a mystic-oriented Catholic priest. Venetians could be better as a Spy or Merchant but aren't restricted to those classes.

I'd be grateful for any feedback, I'd just like to be able to translate the historical aspects into a workable campaign setting people might enjoy.

Chivalric

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help with a campaign setting- low fantasy renaissance
« Reply #1 on: July 27, 2020, 12:56:43 am »
I think you've already got most of it figured out.  And it sounds like it should work fine.  3.x/PF1 is fairly consistent on how bonuses based on different things are awarded so as long as you stick to similar numbers in terms of bonuses to stuff that already exists.  Poking around a linked SRD like https://www.d20srd.org/index.htm and you'll probably be able to find something analogues to what you are looking for.

There are still plenty of wild places and ruins and whatnot where you can stick anything fantastical that strikes your fancy while maintaining the broadly historical approach.

How real do you want magic to be?  Some faith healing and curses and the kind of stuff where maybe you could argue it was all a cooincidence?  Or do you want a guy being able to conjure acid and shoot it at someone?  Making daylight on command?  You could simply remove all overt magic that is just too much for you.  There are so many spells that have been published for 3.5/PF1 that removing any that are too visible, too convincing and so on will still leave tons of options for players.  Just let them know if you've changed the default D&D expectations.

Could be that all PCs are humans in this setting.  And that even the various D&D races might be just varieties of humans.  You might have to knock back some abilities like true dark vision, but I think it would work to let someone pick a half orc to help represent them being a particularly barbaric fellow who is used to the darkness of the wilderness.  Or keep the non-humans as non humans and just assume they all find a place in the different societies as you want.

I think it's a good move to stick with rules you know.  And 3.5/PF1 is a proven approach.  I like super light systems based on 1974 D&D, but I've played and ran 3.5 and first edition of Pathfinder and I think it's a solid way to go.
« Last Edit: July 27, 2020, 01:09:41 am by Chivalric »

Cigalazade

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help with a campaign setting- low fantasy renaissance
« Reply #2 on: July 27, 2020, 05:17:04 pm »
Thanks for the help! I'm trying to strike a balance between strict historical and being too fantasy oriented, but I think that will become clearer as I work through it.

Spinachcat

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« Reply #3 on: July 27, 2020, 07:56:45 pm »
Here's some questions:

1) Why would PCs of different nations / religions join together in the "real world" setting?
2) Sorcery wasn't viewed kindly by Christians or Muslims. What's the role of magic in your world?
3) Are clerics of Catholicism, Christianity and Islam casting the same spells?
4) How historically literate are your players?
5) And do they want real world religions in their gaming?
 
Depending on your group, you might be better served by a faux-Renaissance setting. Worth a discussion with them before doing a load of work in campaign creation.

Might be worth checking out RPGPundit's "medieval authentic" RPG LION & DRAGON
https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/226022/Lion--Dragon

Cigalazade

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help with a campaign setting- low fantasy renaissance
« Reply #4 on: July 27, 2020, 08:39:47 pm »
Quote from: Spinachcat;1142033
Here's some questions:

1) Why would PCs of different nations / religions join together in the "real world" setting?
2) Sorcery wasn't viewed kindly by Christians or Muslims. What's the role of magic in your world?
3) Are clerics of Catholicism, Christianity and Islam casting the same spells?
4) How historically literate are your players?
5) And do they want real world religions in their gaming?
 
Depending on your group, you might be better served by a faux-Renaissance setting. Worth a discussion with them before doing a load of work in campaign creation.

Might be worth checking out RPGPundit's "medieval authentic" RPG LION & DRAGON
https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/226022/Lion--Dragon

There are a lot of reasons why different faiths/nationalities to work together. Armies were typically multinational in Europe being made up of mercenaries, so you could have soldiers who were personally Lutheran fighting under a Catholic state (such as France) if it meant working against a bigger enemy to them, like the Habsburgs. The Ottomans contracted a lot of Europeans for weapons production or spywork. Corsairs or merchant crews could be pretty mixed as well.

Arcane magic will exist but be considered evil, but the standard divine magic spell lists would be considered prayers by the clerics. Depending on the confessional choice I might emphasize certain divine spells/prayers.

I don't have a regular gaming group at the moment, so this is more of a personal project. If the historical basis gets too restrictive the more I work on it I will probably transition to fantasy world that is still what I'm going for, an authentically themed renaissance world.

Chivalric

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help with a campaign setting- low fantasy renaissance
« Reply #5 on: July 27, 2020, 10:36:08 pm »
I think the original 3.x PHB might be a good example for a development path.  The PHB had only so many race/class combinations, so many feats, etc.,.  If you came up with a similar amount of real world people groups and era appropriate classes, replaced feats as needed, edited your spell lists, wrote some needed setting notes, I bet you could get a playable document done pretty quickly.  I know I played for years with just what was in the first three books for 3rd edition.

Cigalazade

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« Reply #6 on: August 02, 2020, 09:13:51 pm »
Thankful that I was able to pull together an online group to playtest these concepts! I adjusted it to fifth edition D&D just to make extra sure I could get a group. They are pretty excited to start, so I'm eager to see how the setting works in practice. They've already given me some solid ideas about how to implement magic.

Ghostmaker

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« Reply #7 on: August 03, 2020, 10:22:24 am »
Quote from: Cigalazade;1142039
There are a lot of reasons why different faiths/nationalities to work together. Armies were typically multinational in Europe being made up of mercenaries, so you could have soldiers who were personally Lutheran fighting under a Catholic state (such as France) if it meant working against a bigger enemy to them, like the Habsburgs. The Ottomans contracted a lot of Europeans for weapons production or spywork. Corsairs or merchant crews could be pretty mixed as well.

Arcane magic will exist but be considered evil, but the standard divine magic spell lists would be considered prayers by the clerics. Depending on the confessional choice I might emphasize certain divine spells/prayers.

I don't have a regular gaming group at the moment, so this is more of a personal project. If the historical basis gets too restrictive the more I work on it I will probably transition to fantasy world that is still what I'm going for, an authentically themed renaissance world.

I'm raising my eyebrows at the prospect of 'interfaith' parties. Keep in mind that the Thirty Years War was a religious conflict between Catholics and Protestants, and they STILL didn't like Muslims or Jews a lot of the time.

You might consider adding the alchemist class to add some arcane power to the game via 'SCIENCE!'.

Cigalazade

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« Reply #8 on: August 03, 2020, 11:03:52 am »
Quote from: Ghostmaker;1142959
I'm raising my eyebrows at the prospect of 'interfaith' parties. Keep in mind that the Thirty Years War was a religious conflict between Catholics and Protestants, and they STILL didn't like Muslims or Jews a lot of the time.

You might consider adding the alchemist class to add some arcane power to the game via 'SCIENCE!'.


There was actually a lot more exchange, business, and personal relationships than people today assume. The Peace of Augsburg in 1555 effectively ended the religious strife in the Holy Roman Empire even though it was dissatisfying to the Catholic Habsburgs and the Church. The Thirty Years War was also much less about religion than the popular narrative presents, it was a great power conflict more than anything else (Cdl. Richlieu in France rather infamously allied the French with the Protestant coalition forces, for example). Mercenary armies could be Catholic but they often swapped or went where the work was, so to speak. And against the Ottomans, Calvinist Hungarians had little religious issue allying themselves with Imperialist forces against a common enemy. You also had Protestants who believed they had common ground with Muslim Turks, since they both relied largely on Bible and Koran, respectively, rather than the Catholics who made use of the Bible plus church tradition. There were even cases of families that had a Muslim branch and a Christian branch because one member of the family would "turn Turk" as it was called, and both sides could leverage the intelligence or resources the other had if they were willing. Many of the trading ports of the time were fairly cosmopolitan, although obviously a smaller town or city would be pretty homogeneous religiously and ethnically. My point is, the period is a lot more complex and colorful than people give it credit for and that's what I want to bring out. If people would rather play a single confession or nationality in their party that's fine too.

Cigalazade

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« Reply #9 on: August 03, 2020, 11:15:01 am »
I was trying to think of a way to represent the primitive medicine of the time and make combat a bit higher stakes, I'm working on a system where the player characters see a surgeon, but the surgeon can potentially fail and hurt them:

Heal 20% or less: DC 5. Failure result (roll of 3 or less): Character takes -1 HP damage, no saves
Heal 21-30%: DC 8. Failure result (roll of 4 or less): -3 HP, no saves
Heal 31-60%: DC 12. Failure result (roll of 6 or less): -5 HP, no saves
Heal 61-80% DC 15. Failure result (roll of 9 or less): -8 HP, no saves
Heal 81-100% DC 18. Failure result (roll of 15 or less): Character death.

The numbers I'll probably have to adjust but I'm thinking of implementing this into the full version of the setting. It wouldn't be impossible to heal but finding a competent surgeon would be very, very difficult outside of a major urban center and even they are subject to making a mistake.