I once had a well-developed game world called Thaedra and ran an active GURPS campaign there for several years. The original materials, both digital and hardcopy, are now lost. For several months now, I have been thinking about creating a new version of the world and starting a GURPS campaign again. I will have to create it again, but that is not a bad thing. There was a lot about original Thaedra that I could have done better. Working from memory and all that I have learned in 35 years of gaming, I will build a new Thaedra.
In order to walk the talk, I have created this document to track the process and record material as I develop it. Once I had created enough of the world for people to play in, I will see about starting a campaign.
Please note that what I publish here is what players know or can find out. There is another document which records everything I know. Players can of course discover this information. We call that process of discovery “adventure.”
Please also note that this is very much a work in progress and that this information will change a lot as I develop the world.
Like all self-respecting game worlds, Thaedra has a mysterious lost civilization, which was called Pa’al. There are multiple and conflicting stories about every aspect of Pa’al, but very little real information. There are scholars who have spent their lives studying the topic and these people can help cut through the clutter. They will also pay generously (by academic standards) for solid information or confirmed relics.
Deities and Religion
Thaedra has active and influential deities. While direct divine intervention is practically unheard of, the gods affect daily life in Thaedra through the actions of their clerics.
Indeed, clerical magic is powered by the gods. While lower level healing spells and such are available to anyone with magical aptitude and proper training, those who wish to practice clerical magic beyond a basic level must choose a deity. Access to the most powerful spells is available only to the most dutiful and faithful.
Thaedran geology is defined by the great basin in the center of the continent and by the Godwall Mountains that constitute the northern border of the continent. The habitable areas are largely around the edges, and the major cities arose there. The stuff in the middle is scary and dangerous.
Magic is a major force in Thaedra. As a story line point, the primary stabilizing entity in Thaedra is the Mages Guild, which is above local politics. Located in the city of Mithrannon, the Guild observes all that goes on in Thaedra and strives to keep any faction from gaining too much power.
Thaedra is a high-magic low-tech world. In GURPS terms, this is Tech Level 3 (medieval). Gunpowder is cutting edge, dangerous, unreliable and difficult to do. For people who prefer tinkering to thaumaturgy, the Mechanician specialty is available. Not an easy career path, but full of surprises for everyone.
NPC races in Thaedra are defined partly by classical Tolkien literature and partly by local conditions. Case in point: the Swamp Hobbits. These are nasty people, shaped by an environment dominated by Swamp Orcs. Their answer was to master the potential of the incredibly poisonous frogs of the region. “Toto, I don’t think we’re in the Shire anymore.” There are other anomalous races. Happy to you when you find one….
Who runs the place…
…. depends on where you are. Humans dominate most of known Thaedra, but Elves, Dwarves, Goblins, Dragons, Orcs, and others control specific regions.
Notable NPC Races
You seriously want to talk to a dragon? Okay. Dragons will talk to you if they decide that talking to you is more useful than just eating you. Remember that they eat horses as snacks.
If you are determined to speak to a dragon, travel north to the Godwall mountains and climb until you are certain that someone is watching you. Then sit down and speak in a clear voice to the air why you are trespassing on a dragon home. Suitable messages might read like “I come bearing news of a threat to all living beings, including the Wurmkind.” This should get the attention of whatever dragon first noticed your approach. Whether the dragon believes you is up to the Game Master. Be advised….
This is the largest and oldest of Human cities, and it has the widest reach and influence of any Human city
This is the home of the Mages Guild and the seat of their power. It was built on the most powerful mana fountain ever discovered in Thaedra and its alignment was deliberately slanted by its founders to be primarily Lawful Neutral. The Archmage leads the Council of Mages and strives to maintain independence and stability for everyone in Thaedra.
The name translates to “Fortress of the Dwarves.” The Dwarves are not fond of outsiders, and visitors should have really good reasons to knock on the door. If you don’t have official business, then look for Dwarves at ….
The universal ‘city,’ so-called because it isn’t really a city so much as a neutral place where the various races can meet to trade, learn from each other, etc. It has been around long enough to have its own police force and other trappings of government, but it clings to the original notion of impermanence.
Once a year (in late Spring) the Grand Bazaar is held. If you have anything to sell, or want to buy anything, or want to meet a representative of any race, this is the place and time to show up. Just be careful who you talk to about what….
The Elven Home
Elves don’t do cities. Their municipal organization defies Human comprehension. If you really need to deal directly with the Elves, travel north from Jhin until you are sure someone is watching you. Then make camp and wait for contact. And don’t light a fire if you value your life. Be polite when they appear without your noticing.
The Lady Marmara is the god of life and healing. She is portrayed as a fair, blond woman of delicate features who is enveloped in a bright aura.
Marmaran clerics are self-defense pacifists who specialize in healing and defensive magic. They are strictly limited in the use of hostile magic.
Adventurers tell stories of Marmaran healers who appeared unexpectedly and healed them of grievious injury from which they would have surely died. These “wandering healers” are uncommon, but it seems as though everyone has heard of them. It isn’t entirely clear why they wander as they do.
Marmarans are completely non-political and have no species predjudice. They will heal nearly anyone who asks, although they may withhold their service from those who threaten them without reason, or who follow conflicting deities. As a result, Marmarans are highly regarded by most Humans, Dwarves, Elves, and Goblins, who are quite protective of them. As a rule, anyone who harms a Marmaran will quickly find themselves in deep trouble with the local population.
Kolg of the Dark Touch is the opposite of Marmara. He is the patron of killers and torturers, and just about anyone who enjoys the suffering of others. The worship of Kolg is illegal in all civilized areas of Thaedra, but there are also small pockets of Kolgite worship hidden deep in most cities, and not all areas of Thaedra are civilized…
Gods of the Elves
Little is known about the Elven deities other than that they are devoted to nature. Elven clerics focus on druidic magic. They can be helpful and cooperative to adventuring groups within the usual limits of Elven tolerance for such activities.
Gods of the Dwarves
As with the Elves, little is known about Dwarven deities. A few enchanted weapons crafted by Dwarven smiths have been examined and the enchantments appear to be the work of masters of elemental magic. Stories of Dwarves in combat suggest significant battle magic. And it is widely accepted that the Dwarven home city could only have been constructed with help of high magic.
Gods of the Goblins
The Goblins almost certainly have deities, but Goblins just don’t talk about that.
Gods of the Orcs
Gods of the Trolls
So you want to play here.
Okay. This world runs on GURPS 4th Edition. To reduce the pain on both sides, it will run on the GURPS Lite rules and supporting material. This is all free to download from Steve Jackson Games, so nobody has to pay anything. I have already downloaded all the PDFs and will make them available here once I figure out how to do that.
The Lite version limits some options, but it’s a hell of a lot easier to understand as a player and run as a GM. The material components are some paper, a pencil, and three six-sided dice. Dice of other numbers can be useful, but are optional. All the necessary paperwork can be had as free PDFs, so you don’t have to buy anything to play. Well, you need dice, but you are a gamer, right?
The campaign assumes that player characters are human and come from human cities. Playing certain other races is allowed, but will probably require the Unusual Background advantage, which is not something covered under the Lite rules. If you really want to do that, ask me about it.
Playing a non-human
Okay. You talked me into it. You want to be something other than human. Other than Unusual Background, here are the restrictions and benefits of your choice…
Playing an Elf
You will be looked upon with suspicion by other Elves if you choose to leave the woodlands and associate with other races. That is often the price paid by those who realize that they must follow this path for the greater good of the Elves as a whole.
As an Elf, your deity is probably either Corellon Larethian or Rillifane Rallathil. These are AD&D deities that have been converted to GURPS rules. Rillifane is known as the “Leaflord” and is a passive druidic deity. Corellon is mighty in battle and is also the patron of all arts and crafts. As such, he is more the deity of those Elves who interact with the rest of Thaedra. Even as a follower of Corellon, you will still be suspect among other Elves for dealing with the lesser races.
Compared to humans, you have innate advantages when in a ‘natural’ setting. Your harmony with nature makes you more aware of such things as the reaction to your group’s presence by the local wildlife. You are the natural choice to be the group scout or hunter.
Conversely, you are ill at ease and uncertain while in cities. It’s just so unnatural…. You will be at disadvantage while in cities and will agitate constantly to get out of any city you feel stuck in.
Playing a Dwarf
This is a tough one. Any Dwarf who chooses to leave the home city and even goes beyond Bazaar will be regarded as an eccentric at best and an outcast at worst. Any Dwarf who leaves Khazad Khad for a life of adventure will find their status at home seriously compromised. This is not to say that such Dwarves do not have a significant impact on Dwarven history….
Your deity is most likely Moradin the Forgemaster. Yes, this is another recycled AD&D deity. GURPS does not offer a source book of such things, so I steal from the best…
Your knowledge of metalwork and stonework makes you the logical weaponsmith and builder for your group. You are also one tough and badass fighter. Do not be surprised to find yourself consistently on the front lines. It is where you do your best work.
You are not put off by being in a city, although you are likely to have a poor opinion of any stonework you see. You are not comfortable in open, natural settings, and will be at disadvantage while in plains, woodlands, etc. You honestly wonder how other people (especially Elves) can stand it.
Playing a Goblin
This is a real stretch. If you can convince me that you can play a green Ferengi with ADHD, you can probably play a Goblin. I will work out the details if this happens.
Playing an Orc.
Not an option.
Playing a Troll
Not an option.
Playing a Dragon
That’s my job.
While campaign styles range all over the place, I traditionally accept three broad types. I can run Thaedra in any of these, and I would like to know what players (and potential players) would prefer. Here are brief descriptions of each:
This is what you get when you follow the GURPS rules unmodified. This is also what most people expect and prefer, and this is the way Thaedra will run if no one votes otherwise.
This is loosely defined in the full GURPS rules. It’s pretty much what it sounds like – screw realism, this is a movie! “What? Thirty Orcs and two of us? Doesn’t sound sporting of us at all.”
This is not defined in the GURPS rules, but arises from my own experience. In particular, I derive this from Kerry Shetline’s description of a campaign run by a friend of his who was a seriously tightfisted GM. I was struck by how much Kerry enjoyed a campaign where you worked for every copper. It was the antithesis of the “Monty Haul” campaigns that diluted the game’s reputation by allowing raw n00bs to become rich and famous by squashing wimpy Kobolds. Not everyone enjoys this kind of campaign, but it is a valid choice and I will run Thaedra this way if a groups wants it.