A Simple Venture
Notes on Character Creation
Note: Certain alterations have been made to the setting to fit within the D&D model. I will simply describe things as they are…which is all the characters would know and be concerned about.
The Isle of Harn
Harn is a large island (perhaps twice the size of the British Isles) located off the coast of the world of Kelestia’s main continent, Lythia. It is very rough (mostly hills, with mountains ranging to nearly 10,000 feet), largely wooded, and relatively thinly settled with vast areas of wilderness. The civilized portions of the island are largely rural; there are only a handful of settlements that are called cities, only two of which boast populations of over 10,000 people. The total human and demi-human population, including migratory tribes, is certainly under a million souls. Harn enjoys a very favorable climate, with cool summers and mild winters.
The inhabitants of the human nations of Harn enjoy a lifestyle which bears much in common with 11th-12th century Britain. Society is strongly feudal, with customs and technology much like that period. There are few nods to modern sensibilities, and tradition and superstition are powerful forces in everyday life. Political power is decentralized, and a ruler’s commands are only as absolute as the loyalty of his vassals. Plotting and intrigues are like meat and drink to the nobility and the merchant class; even the common man will have an eye for the main chance, though it is often far harder to keep your gains than to take them in the first place. Of course honorable (or even altruistic) individuals do exist, but they are far rarer than many would have you believe.
There are seven human and two demi-human nations; for more information see Nations of Harn
The Races of Harn
Harn is dominated by humans…both civilized and tribal. The elves and dwarves each have their own homelands which are guarded jealously (and perhaps just this side of xenophobically), while halflings exist only in scattered tiny communities within other populations. Half-elves are exceptionally rare. The other races from the Player’s Handbook simply do not exist (including half-orcs, as Harnic orcs…known as Gargun…are not interfertile with humans). Subraces of the non-human races are considered to be more a matter of genetics and predisposition than truly different types, and as such any physical differences will be far more subtle than those listed in the book.
I strongly encourage people to play human characters, but do not require it. This is largely because relations between the races tend to be distrustful at best, and prejudice runs rampant. Characters of non-human origin will tend to get a great deal of attention…much of it unwanted and undesirable. As such, choosing one of those races is far more than merely a choice of stat bonuses and abilities…it’s also a commitment to some challenging roleplay.
Lest the humans feel left out, however, a moderate to high level of distrust applies to “foreigners” as well. It is certainly possible for characters to be of non-Kaldorian origin, but they too will find the going somewhat more difficult (even if it’s easier than for the non-humans).
Harn is considered a fairly low-fantasy world; while there are magic and miracles to be found, their practitioners tend to be somewhat more subtle about it. True magic items are quite uncommon; you will not find a branch of Ollivander’s on Harn. Nor will all “magic items” be of the stock adventurers’-gear variety from the rulebooks…many of them are more practical items created by mages for the comfort and convenience (or entertainment) of said mages.
That said, magic does have a definite presence, there are actual centers specializing in the training of would-be mages, and a wizard can walk down the street without having insults or curses hurled at him (usually, and if he hasn’t done things to frighten the populace like hurling fireballs within the city limits). The magical community does tend to police itself to a degree, and mages who have a bent for bringing unwanted attention upon their brethren (by, say, using their powers to try to exert control over common folk) can find themselves in a great deal of trouble.
The priesthood is a highly accepted part of Harnic life, though certain priesthoods are rather more accepted in some locales than in others. In fact, the various churches also wield a considerable degree of secular power because of their mutual support of the local nobility…or in some cases, antagonism. However, just as with the general populace, the degree of piety within a given order can vary considerably, and scheming to obtain position within a given church is hardly a rarity. The different gods of Harn will be outlined in Gods of Harn; not all of them are suitable for PC play.
As noted elsewhere, I prefer players who are into cooperative play…that means that I don’t tend to put up with characters (or players) whose “what’s-in-it-for-me” attitude disrupts the game. While I do require that all characters be of Good alignment, I don’t expect them to be shining beacons of purity. Nonetheless, neutral and evil alignments are considered the province of the GM.
The same applies to the Sorcerer and Warlock character classes, because of the actual origin of their power. Any such person, if their abilities were discovered, would be persecuted ruthlessly and with extreme prejudice by the magical community (and quite likely by some churches as well). While a game of avoiding detection might be interesting on its own merits, it simply isn’t compatible with what I want to run.
For more information on how the process will differ from that stated in the core rulebooks, see Creating a Character.