So, every once and awhile, I’m doing some cleanup on my computer and find some nice notes I wrote sometime long ago. The fun thing is that unlike finding the paintings you drew when you were a child, which always cause you to think “what the hell was wrong with me when I thought the damn thing was pretty?”, those notes are usually quite cool, ranging from concepts I’ve had for hunter organizations to whole writeups for CofD things.
This gem is of the later.
Mirrors is one of my favorite books. It is the CofD’s Unearthed Arcana, something which allows you to hack the setting and remake it in your own image. I mean, the way I see it, D&D’s greatest strength is that the mechanics are not directly tied to a certain setting. That not only allows the game designers to come up with new ideas for new settings, which are left on a superficial level while allowing the DM and players to personally explore those worlds, but also allows the DM the perfect freedom at creating new worlds, and examining how those general mechanics (meaning, magic, classes and races) work in each new setting. And then, of course, you have whole books which explore and offer new mechanics and hacks for you to use.
Now, I must say that the strong focus the CofD (and other White Wolf/Onyx Path) games has on a specific setting has benefits of their own. Also, with the example settings thing which is going with 2e, the CofD took an important step toward encouraging ST creativity and world building by showing that the supernatural society around the world is far from a unified and homogeneous entity, and that each specific setting could have its own quirks and unique features. However, the concept of Shards was the most extreme- and, IMO, the most successful- attempt at allowing a ST freedom at world building. For a change, we were introduced with an wholly new worlds, which allowed us to explore the themes and concepts introduced in the different gamelines through different lens and genres. We had a post apocalyptic world, space opera, cyberpunk, biblical world.. and fantasy.
We are going to talk about the fantasy.
Now, Woundgate is a great setting. It gives us a dark fantasy world, with all kind of strange, non human races and a new template in the form of the Dark Heroes. However, while Woundgate went far, I’ve kinda felt that it didn’t went far enough. Sure, they had to wrap up three different shards in a single chapter, so the wordcount wasn’t on their favor, but it always kinda felt to me that they could have went a bit further, a bit deeper, show a different world with a much more D&D style fantasy- some sort of a mirror to D&D’s Ravenloft, where instead of going from an high fantasy setting into a Gothic horror one, we move from the horror to a perfect, pulpy fantasy. Or, at the very least, an Exalted style world, of different countries and nations which wage war against each other, powered by supernatural powers and have their magics exist on the open, as a perfectly normal part of the world.
That’s what I decided to do.
I have tried to make a fantasy setting for the CofD a number of time- but each time I’ve got a bit bored. As such, I was happy to find those notes, as I really do like what I wrote in there, and I hope you’ll feel the same. As there are few other notes for other kinds of projects, I’m going to use the next following weeks in order to present what I’ve found and allow you to decide what you would like to see more- like, for now, you have my First Temple Dark Era, Conjurer, and now, this new fantasy Shard.
I’m happy to present to you- Ruins of Lauresthenia
Welcome to the land of Antharia.
Once, it was ruled by Lauresthenia- a great empire, full of wonder and terror. Under the reign of its emperors, the people of Antharia has prospered, enjoying a golden age. Holding magical powers never seen before or since, the wizard- lords navigated the empire, experimenting on the very foundations of the world to craft servants and soldiers, infrastructures and relics and even universes inside of universes, enslaving the powers of the land to their will. Nothing could have stood before the vast empire, and it looked like that golden age would carry on forever and ever.
But there are some rules of nature which can not be defied, not matter how strong and powerful one may be- that which rise, must fall, for example.
And the empire, indeed fell, taking all of Antharia with it. No one knows why Lauresthenia collapsed- only that one day, fire engulfed the imperial palace, leaving no survivors of the royal line. Soon after, the magics and sorceries which held the wonders of the empire failed, and the terrors which it enslaved were free to roam- doing with the people of the Antharia as they please. The dark ages came upon the land, and the wonders of Lauresthenia were left to rot and rust.
But what that fall may rise again. That’s a law of nature, too.
For hundreds of years the chaos ruled Antharia- but slowly, and surely, the people of the land has risen from the dark ages. Nations were founded by brave and powerful people, who managed to utilize Lauresthenian technology to ward of the darkness. Some has succeeded for no more than a few years. Others left a legacy to be proud of. Eventually, Antharia has managed to move out of its dark ages, reaching some sort of status quo- the darkness was still there, but it was held in bay. The people of Antharia has accepted it- and some, have even learned to embrace it.
Tonight, Antharia is a far from being a unified land- its proud nations stand alone, each on its own. Interaction between the many kingdoms and theocracies, such as war or trade, do happen- but the people of the land are suspicious of each other, preferring to close their doors and windows and pretend they have gained even a glimpse of the fallen empire glory. After all, Lauresthenia is a far memory, and when the shadows are deep enough and the they squeeze their eyes before the mirror, they could imagine that their reflection is, perhaps, the one of the empire’s old majesty.
But the ruins of Lauresthenia lurk still, buried and forgotten, waiting to remind the world what how wonderful the empire really was.
And how terrifying, of course.
The Nations of Antharia
Among the many nations of Antharia, ten are the most prominent ones, and are known by all through the continent-
The League of Flouriey– a union of merchant city states rising from the ashes of the Carmatellian Blood Empire, it is ruled by pale nobles who trade with blood and threatened by shadowy beings of forgotten origin.
The Inthalu Wolf Tribes– considered to be savages by most of Antharia’s civilization, the tribes follow animistic faith and serves the gods of the hunt and the moon, lead by shapeshifting heroes and divided by the death of a god.
The Dual Monarchy of Atnsetra– a mageocracy divided between the rule of the Council of Ten Ministries and the Five Points Society, when each side demands control over the five Sorcerer Watchtowers of the land.
The Desolation of Graikhus– made out of scattered villages and small cities, the land itself dies under the experiments of the land’s Flame Alchemists and their roaming creations.
The Kingdom of Diwyn– a realm found in the depths of the Aluvirian Forest, its people are protected from the dread fey gods of the forest with nothing more than contracts and oaths forged ages ago.
The Republic of Marthe– a young democracy no more than a dozen of years old, it is ruled by strong adventurer guilds devoted to dive into the wilderness and challenge the darkness on their own terms.
The Necropolis of Orphis– ruled by necromancers and mediums and populated by both the living and the dead, the nation is found under the constant threat of sinking to the Great Bellow.
The Tyranny of Mekhtath– controlled by a puppet king and manipulated by dozens of cults of artifice and death, the theocracy enforce its harsh laws for the fear of the Roaming Stars Rebellion and other heresies.
The Theocracy of Namedra– the most technologically advanced civilization in Antharia, the whole nation is practically controlled by a powerful Lauresthenian relic which produce its own agents to serve it.. unless they betray their own mission.
The Forbidden Land of Ankarda– a collection of clans found in the Primordial Lands, they worship the monsters of legend as they lead them to attack other nations, teaching them the truth about their so called “civilization”.
Example Lauresthenian Ruin: the Weeping Idol
Taking the form of a winged, androgynous humanoid, the Idol looks as if it is made out of white marble. A closer inspection, however, shows that the material is not stone, metal or any other known form of matter. In fact, it looks almost organic- which could explain the tormented look on the statue’s face.. and why it constantly cries.
Whatever its source may be, it is undoubtedly a useful relic- by drinking the Idol’s tears, one could replenish their Willpower pool (or, in the case of supernatural beings, their supernatural energy pool). However, the same magic which silence the Idol’s screams carries to its tears- enforcing upon anyone who drink them the Mute Condition. The Condition is resolved after two hours per Willpower point (or equivalent) regained through the tears, and the Idol’s benefit could not be used again for the next 24 hours or as long as the Condition is in effect, whatever the longer.
And that’s it! Please, feel free to say if you want to see more of Lauresthenia’s ruin, and if so, what exactly you would want to see!