Monday, 5 September 2016

All Things Under Heaven

(I've been posting play reports from my current campaign for a month now and have only just realised that I never actually introduced it properly. So, here is a little bit about All Things Under Heaven.)

All Things Under Heaven is a re-imagining of my previous Wild Seas Under Heaven setting, keeping much of the work I'd done but re-imagining the basis of the campaign. It is a 5th Edition D&D campaign in the sandbox and hexcrawl tradition, heavily inspired by the example of Ben Robbins' Grand Experiment and Stephen Lumpkin's West Marches.

It is inspired by the legendary history of China presented in the Bamboo Annals, classic works of Chinese literature like Journey to the West, the fantastic series of novels The Chronicles of Master Li and Number Ten Ox by Barry Hughart, wuxia films that include Hero, House of Flying Daggers, and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, anime films that include Princess Mononoke and Sword of the Stranger, and Adam Koebel's Court of Swords campaign for RollPlay.  
All Things Under Heaven runs weekly, and play reports should be up about that often. Significant hacking of 5E D&D has gone into it, both on the broader rules level and also in terms of unique Archetypes, Feats, etc. Much of that will probably make its way here over time.

The World

Tianxia is an enormous island, centremost of all the lands under Heaven, which was shaped by the Dragon-Emperors in a time long since forgotten from clay dragged up from the seabed. It is a rugged land of extremes, with high mountains and plateaus giving way to sweeping valleys and rolling grasslands. Rivers abound, with their original courses often said to have been cut into the land by the tail of the dragon-god Yu the Great.

The time of the Dragon-Emperors is long gone, with the Great Emperor of Jade having ruled over Tianxia for ten thousand years.  The serpent-aspected humanoids that once inhabited the continent have all gone extinct, interbred, or retreated to the wilderness. The central plains and rivers, heartland of the Empire, are now a land ruled and tamed by human beings.

But the margins and the wilderness are not so tame. Separated from the fertile basin of the heartland by the towering Yinmi Peaks and accessible only by the wide and fast-running Lièkǒu River, the north-western frontier of civilisation beckons. 

The Town

Iron Springs is a moderately-sized town at the north-western frontier of civilized Tianxia, looking out over a region that many call only The Wastes. The town is built on the broad banks of the Lièkǒu River, the only lifeline that it has back to the Imperial world of bureaucracy and well-tended order, and is supported by terrace-farms cut into the surrounding hill country. It is home to around a thousand souls, making it the largest inhabited center in the surrounding lands.

From Iron Springs a rich tapestry of terrain stretches out towards the sunset: vast and trackless forests, stinking marshes, windswept plains, rugged hills and towering mountains where the workshops of the old Zhang witch-alchemists may still stand. These Wastes are wild, untamed, dangerous, and haunted by beasts and spirits and yet stranger things.

Iron Springs’ extreme remoteness and the wild and untamed nature of The Wastes have contributed to its reputation as a place of last resort, somewhere that only the greedy, the foolish, or the desperate would try and make a life. Those who chafe at the yoke of Imperial authority find the distance from any real governance appealing, while scholars and seekers after the weird and macabre find it a valuable source of information and research subjects. 

The Wastes beyond Iron Springs are the stuff of many a legend, promising all those things that are best in life: wealth beyond measure, endless opportunity, danger to be faced, glory to be won, secrets and wonders to behold and uncover, and a means to transform your life. Tame the Wastes, the buzz in the Capitol goes, and a noble title will be yours along with deeds to whatever manage to win from the trackless wilderness. 

The Characters

Rule Zero: You are an adventurer because you feel a strong call in your bones to action. The boredom of a calm life doesn't appeal to you – you are driven to leave behind the safety of civilization and explore the wilds: to make your name, to make your fortune, to accomplish some passion or goal. Regardless of what drives you, you are driven. You choose where to go and what to do. There will be a handful of obvious choices, but you don't by any means need to take them. The adventure is in your hands... (From the Player Document)

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