Friday, July 31, 2015

Southland: Convicts, Military, and Government Officials

A Fantasy Core Setting
© Jerry Harris 2014
(This link will take you to the Fantasy Core Index.)

The Convicts

Many of the colonists in the Southland are transplanted convicts, who chose permanent exile from their nation in return for populating and developing the colony with at least some freedom.  This option was only available to those convicted of non-violent or non-capital offenses.  They were simply dumped here with nothing but a mandate to meet with their parole officer once a month for their first year. 

These individuals form the bulk of the menial labor pool in the colony.  Lacking a native population to impress, like in the Dark Continent, somebody has to do the dirty work.  It’s a hard scrabble existence, but a few, with hard work and some luck, can do alright for themselves, even become rich (though usually there’s some larceny involved in that).  Southland is a harsh environment with a sparse population, however.  Even the aristocratic gentry in country are forced to deal with the convicts in a somewhat egalitarian manner.  For their part, honest work is only means of survival for the convicts.  There are no second chances here.    

A few convicts have been brought here to serve hard time for violent capital crimes, though some are purely political prisoners here in exile.  These individuals were considered too dangerous to be incarcerated in any Commonwealth member nation and could not be executed for various reasons.  Those eligible for parole after serving their sentence could not be allowed back into the general population.  These individuals are used for much of the hard civic labor in the colony under heavy supervision.  In truth, given the sheer remoteness and desolation of the Southland, there’s few places to run to even if prisoners could escape (the Crossbones “nation” in Tasmania being one).

The option of military service is available for all convicts with the Frontier Service.  As the name implies, they are holding the frontier against the Humanoid hoards.  Most consider this a prolonged violent death sentence, but it is a path to eventual freedom, if you survive.

The Military and Appointed Government Officials
Someone has to guard and run the colony.  Even those sent to the Norther March meat-grinder to fight the barbarians in the Commonwealth homeland, still find that post preferable as its closer to home.  The soldiers and sailors in the Southland theater count the days until they are cycled back home.  The government officials posted here more often than not refer to themselves as “in exile,” which may in fact be true.  Some have hopes that if they do their job well, they’ll be recalled.  Most are resigned to spending the rest of their lives here, hopefully buried and not eaten.  Nobody in government with an option volunteers for the Southland.  

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Southland: The Commonwealth Colony

A Fantasy Core Setting
© Jerry Harris 2014
(This link will take you to the Fantasy Core Index.)


Colonial History
Prospectors, Settlers, and the Rest
The Founders and the Cartel
The Settlements
Colonial Defense

Colonial History
Emperor Leon may have decreed a new colony, but actually colonizing a hostile continent takes more than words.  The Southland is not adjacent to the Commonwealth homeland, in fact nearly a half a world away.  Finding a large, unclaimed property doesn’t happen everyday.  Speed is of the essence in such a situation.  Thankfully, the Commonwealth Navy and civilian shipping are up to the task.  The question is, who’s going there to stay? 

Let’s look at the hypothetical brochure that a prospective colonist might read about the Southland.  After a long, dangerous sea journey, the colonist could expect to find a completely undeveloped sliver of coastline, with little arable farmland or other apparent natural resources.  Oh, and there’s hordes of Humanoid monsters just over the mountains, who are going to want to kill and eat you and your family.  Talk about an easy sell. 

There were only two groups of people in the Commonwealth who could realistically move to such a place.  Here’s a hint; neither of them had any say in the matter: convicts and government employees (like the military and various officials).  The willing settlers would not appear until they were given a really good reason to do so.  Discoveries of gold, diamonds, and Philosopher’s Stone (an aid to magical spells, also called Uranium) would bring the prospectors.  With a bit of civilization, the families of settlers would arrive to make the Southland home.

The discoveries of large deposits of valuable resources turned the Southland from a point of pride for the Commonwealth, to a point of extreme strategic interest for the Commonwealth.  Other nations were interested but observational before, now they are fully engaged in trying to get their own cut of it.  The Southland has since become a major deployment of Commonwealth armed forces.  They are determined to a deterrent to any military incursion.    

So where’s all the magic and magical artifacts?  Explorers and scholars have found odd stores of various forms of documentation (some actually written during the Catastrophe), but all of it has been mundane.  The speculation is that the “good stuff” is somewhere hidden in the Outback.  Much of the Ancient civilization simply disintegrated, a byproduct of a devastating war and magical construction, likely weakened by the Catastrophe.  Remaining sites are often teeming with Humanoids and monsters that have resisted random, scattered interlopers pretty well.  Even getting to these is the well-known sites is difficult.  However, there’s no telling how many undiscovered sites there are. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Southland: Pre-Colonial History

A Fantasy Core Setting
© Jerry Harris 2014
(This link will take you to the Fantasy Core Index.)

This continent was never really “lost,” or unknown to the rest of the world.  “Terra Australis” (Southland) was well known to the Oriental Empire.  After the sudden destruction of the Ancients, the Empire’s explorations found it to be unsustainable to human life, filled with legions of dangerous, man-eating sub-human creatures.  They charted its coasts and left the interior blank, labeled with the word, “Unknown.” 

Zealous emissaries from the Prophecy Empire would arrive a century later and would be promptly exterminated to the last man.  The Prophecy spent its next century attempting to consume its neighbors.  The Southland could wait until after the conquest of them, but that moment never came.  The Hegemony nation which followed the Prophecy Empire, simply regarded the continent as a mystery, as did any other country that visited it.

Another century passed.  Brave Commonwealth nautical explorers, with their navy ruling the seas and equipped with second or third-hand Oriental maps, would “discover” the Southland.  By this time, the contamination from the Catastrophe had receded from the coasts, along with the Humanoid tribes.  Certainly explorers quickly found them in the interior, but that still left that prime beach front property wide open.  The Commonwealth Emperor decreed all the Southland as Commonwealth property by right of discovery and mandated the immediate establishment of a colony to legitimize the claim.  It was now just a question of who those colonists would be.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Southland: Ancient History

A Fantasy Core Setting
© Jerry Harris 2014
(This link will take you to the Fantasy Core Index.)

They were mighty.  The so-called Ancients (not what they called themselves, that word is eluding translation) had managed to tap the knowledge of extraterrestrial and extra dimensional beings and were given almost unimaginable powers.  The greatest workers of miracles became their leaders, the Wizard-Kings.  They re-made their culture into a glittering jewel of civilization and even their land into a nurturing paradise.  The Ancients had been given otherworldly knowledge and power, but were still very human.  

The Ancients sent out emissaries around the world for surveillance, subservience, and tribute.  Civilizations at the time were primitive by comparison, with little or no magic knowledge.  Their initial reconnaissance of the rest of the world had revealed it to be ripe for plunder and subjugation.  The all-powerful Wizard-Kings decided they would need a mighty army, fearless, relentless, and utterly loyal.  Thus they created the Humanoids and other monsters.

On the brink of their world invasion, the Ancient Civil War began.  Ultimately, it started from the madness caused from using dangerous high-level magic.  The trigger cause was the Wizard-Kings fighting amongst themselves over how to divide up the world before the invasion even began.  The Humanoid armies and monsters built for a war against the rest of the world, were turned on themselves.  Incredibly, their civilization rose and fell within one generation.  With their high-powered magic, cities were destroyed and much of the remaining population fled underground.

Eventually, the capital of Circumsphere was the last Ancient city left standing intact.  It had changed hands several times without any wide-spread destruction, but finally became the coveted object of all the remaining combatants.  A cabal of the most powerful Wizard-Kings held the city and enacted a final defensive spell to secure it.  It required a massive draining of human souls to activate.  The city’s remaining inhabitants were unwillingly sacrificed to create a giant magic shield over the city. 

The spell worked, but too well.  It kept expanding.  Everywhere it expanded, it kept absorbing souls.  It drained the besiegers first, but kept expanding.  The Circumsphere Wizard-Kings couldn’t stop it.  The vampiric absorbing shield made an inexorable march across the continent.  A few (such as the mythical Seven Sisters) were able to get ahead of it and escape the Southland.  A few survived in deep underground bunkers.  Everyone else perished.  The wave was only stopped by the ocean when it ran out of souls to absorb.  At that point, it collapsed and left behind a magical “fallout” all over the continent.  Ironically, the city itself disappeared.  Its whereabouts and fate, unknown.      

The “Catastrophe,” as it was called, left the Humanoids and the monsters untouched.  Worse, the magical fallout from the Catastrophe allowed the Humanoids to breed themselves, unchecked.  They would be the new masters of the Southland and would proceed to mindlessly war on one another, just as their predecessors had done.

There were survivors who escaped the continent.  These survivors would be scattered all over the world by various means.  Myths of their journey would follow wherever they went.  The Seven Sisters myth is most common re-telling of the story.  It is said that if their stories in the Southland could all be collected, one could retrace their route back to its origin, the lost capital of Circumsphere.  The act of collecting these stories from Ancient sources on the continent has been called the “Walkabout.”

At various points in this setting, parts of the myth will be included with certain locations.  Much like the Players’ Characters, you’ll be given the information in an out of order, fragmentary fashion.  It won’t make sense and there won’t be any way to logically reconstruct the Sisters’ journey.  Ultimately, that’s not the point of the “Walkabout” journey.  It is the act of gathering the stories and visiting the sites mentioned in them that will make the explorers worthy of finding the “lost city.”  

Monday, July 27, 2015

Southland: Terrain Features

A Fantasy Core Setting
© Jerry Harris 2014
(This link will take you to the Fantasy Core Index.)

It was once a paradise.  The Ancients thoroughly re-made the continent into an ideal living environment with their powerful magic.  It was this same powerful magic that decimated the landscape during their Civil War.  The interior was rendered almost sterile.  The only lakes are saltwater, and even those only appear if it rains hard enough. 

Eventually, signs of life have gradually reappeared.  Hard-scrabble prairie has surrounded much of the desert.  The equatorial regions in the north have become dense swamps.  The eastern coast, somewhat sheltered from the worst effects of the conflict by the Great Dividing Range, has recovered into pleasant, but limited, farm and grazing land.  Colonial settlements rely on underground, fresh water Artesian wells and a few above ground rivers. 

It’s an unpleasant environment for settlers.  The good land is too little.  The marginal land is hard to work and too near the monsters.  Unlike the Dark Continent, there are no native populations to impress into forced labor.  Even most of the native animals have been rendered hostile.  Livestock has to be brought over from the homeland and carefully protected against the native wildlife and Humanoid raiders.  It’s a lot of work to just stay alive in the Southland. 

It should be noted that areas still in the “Fallout,” are not harmful to human life.  (The fallout and non-fallout areas have not been defined on the map to allow more flexibility.  Also, the fallout areas are constantly contracting.  Generally, the coasts are uncontaminated.)  Fallout areas are, however, important to Humanoid life.  They can only replicate themselves in these magic saturated places.  Areas with the magical fallout can be determined by a light blue glow that appears around the sun, the moon, and the stars.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Southland: Design

A Fantasy Core Setting
© Jerry Harris 2014
(This link will take you to the Fantasy Core Index.)

It’s a big sandbox, somewhat literally, as a large portion of the continent is a desert.  Specifically, it’s a container that can provide a setting and rationale for a bunch of other adventure locations.  The sample adventure provides a base town, but no specific location for it on the main map.  Place it wherever you wish to start adventuring.  As the characters learn about other places in the Southland, they can branch out from there.  

This environment would be very suitable for any dungeons (large and small) and any other adventure locations you have that are unaffiliated with larger settings.  Basically, just about anything could fit could be justified with the rest of the setting.  The majority of this continent is a “free-fire” zone filled with large numbers of Humanoids and monsters.  For the most part, there is no negotiation with these creatures or any agonizing ethical concerns.  These beings only motivation is to kill.

This is written as a highly human-centric environment, but you can certainly go ahead and add the Demi-Human races (and perhaps more exotic ones).  I’d picture the Commonwealth as a thoroughly racially integrated society.  (The current Emperor, Leon Tallus, would be an Elf.)  There’s no Elf kingdom in the woods or Dwarf home in the mountains.  It’s all very cosmopolitan.  (Any Half-Orcs are not of the same species as those in the Southland.)  The Oriental Empire and the Hegemony, however, are human only.  Any other race in their territory is hidden or extremely isolated.  Of course, there are other nations in the world.  Maybe there are Elf kingdoms and such out there.  

Lastly, make sure to read the Secrets at the end of the setting posts for a few surprising (and game-able) revelations.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Southland: Overview

A Fantasy Core Setting
© Jerry Harris 2014
(This link will take you to the Fantasy Core Index.)

[Apparently, I've suddenly regained access to my blog.  Don't know how long this will last.]

Foreign Powers
     Oriental Empire
     The Hegemony
     The Crossbones, Pirate Stats
Humanoid Lands
Monster Lands
Sample Town and Adventure
Southland Secrets 1
Southland Secrets 2
Southland Notes

Imagine finding an entire unknown continent.  Imagine that you’ve found a continent that is a source of ancient tales of a magical empire.  It was rich and powerful, but fell suddenly in a catastrophe.  And now, whatever is in the interior of that mysterious land is yours, all yours.

Hi, friends.  JDH417 here, and I’d like to sell you a continent.  Get comfortable, this’ll take a while.  The map may look vaguely familiar.  Essentially, what we have here is Fantasy Australia, but with a couple of important differences.  Long ago, the inhabitants of the land were mighty wizards, the Ancients.  They destroyed themselves in a civil war and a handful of survivors took their magical knowledge and tales of their civilization around the world.  While their land was not technically “lost,” it has only been recently that humans have been able to resettle there. 
There are armies of sub-human creatures (Humanoids) created by the Ancients who populate the continent.  Unnatural creations, they live only to fight, and they have the ability to self-replicate themselves.  The Ancients carefully regulated this ability, but the Catastrophe that finished them off, saturated the Southland in magical energy.  This magical “fallout” has allowed the Humanoids to replicate, unchecked.  This effect has finally begun to fade along the coastal areas, driving the Humanoids inland into the Outback.  The human colony settlements are able to tenuously cling to the coasts.

While potential riches, magical knowledge, and artifacts abound, overwhelming forces of creatures inimical to mankind hold them.  The fallout is slowly diminishing, but for now, the Humanoids and a whole menagerie of other powerful creatures rule the interior.  The sea lanes about the continent are no safer.  Giant monsters from the Tasmanian Island prowl the waters.  Gillmen raiders are ever seeking new prey.  The most dangerous foe is, as always, man, in this case, the Crossbones.  Their base in Tasmania, protected by monsters, is home to a nation of pirates. 

The so-called Commonwealth is the current colonizing force.  They are a collection of allied nations under one ruler.  They were the ones who happened upon the Southland, just as the monsters began pulling back.  However, other nations are well aware of the continent and that it is now possible to settle there.  The numerous, but disorganized forces of the Commonwealth’s primary foe on the home continent, the Hegemony, make frequent raids and challenges to the colony.  The nearby Oriental Empire is, of course, threatened by this incursion so close to their sphere of influence.  Their strategy is one of subtly and disruption with plans of taking over colonial towns in such a way that they will be welcomed as liberators.    

The theme of this setting is Mystery.  Where is the good stuff and what’s going to be there when we find it?  For example, the legendary capital of the Ancients, Circumsphere, has not been found.  Well, it’s not a mystery if I sit here and blab it in the introduction.  The continent and its history are a mystery for the characters and the players to discover through exploration.

While the characters may decide to enter the Southland as adventurers, other options will be presented in this setting, though perhaps not explicitly.  Characters may want to later join or start off as members of some of the various Commonwealth organizations in the colony.  Being a former member of such organizations, could also make for an interesting character background.  They might even not start off as Commonwealth citizens, but rather Hegemony raiders, Crossbones pirates, or as agents of the Oriental Empire.  Far away events may also entirely change the situation that the characters originally entered into, regardless of their affiliation.