The following text is the pitch I wrote for my new Towerlands fantasy setting.
Towerlands is a fantasy setting that I’ve been working on steadily for about two years but it’s really a collection of ideas I’ve been exploring for decades. Those of you who have played in my games before will probably recognize elements I’ve used before. This is a brief introduction to my labor of love and an invitation to join me in it. The process of designing a game world becomes futile after a point without player characters causing trouble in it.
A Broken World
Everyone knows that there was a world-crashing, magical apocalypse about 60 years ago, in 1241. It killed off so many people, but decades later people have started to put their world back together again.
The Planefall trapped the spirits of the dead here and cut you off from your gods. It brought new kinds of magic to the world. Everything seemed to absorb magical energy and many things were transformed by it.
The stormdragons came and ravaged the cities. All of the cities fell and became their nests. Today towns curb their own growth to avoid the attention of the dragons.
Most of the Towerlands are wilderness and ruins. The kingdom of Junnia wasn’t highly populated before the Planefall. After, it’s dotted with lots of tiny hamlets and the occasional town.
You are spiritbound. Your deeds attract the attention of the world’s wandering spirits and sometimes they bind with you. This brings you magical power beyond anything imagined before the Planefall.
In game terms, you bind a new spirit whenever you level up. Additional hit points are earned because you literally have more soul than typical people. You are encouraged to invent cool spirits of ancestors, dead heroes, or mythical creatures to bind with. Sometimes, binding a spirit changes your personality, and you’re encouraged to play that up, too.
Most people in the world—even tough soldiers and wise mages—are not spiritbound. They may have some strong skills learned over decades, but they don’t have large piles of hit points and the special abilities that you have.
What will you accomplish with your powers?
A Broken Monarchy
Before the Planefall, the Monarchy of Junnia was strong. Sitting in a round circle of protective mountains, the land is difficult to invade. Its central plain is great for farming (when not flooded by its many rivers). Its northern mountains are renowned for rich iron and silver ore.
Junnia had strong alliances with several surrounding kingdoms, and it had the blessing of the Holy Light of the Torchbearer when its seat was in the elven city of Ivereion in the west and continued its ties when it moved to Avraman in the east.
Junnia was not without its problems. King Andrez had bankrupted the country in the Crusades against the goblins. His nobles had forced him to issue the Golden Drake, a charter granting powers and immunities to the noble class. He settled dwarves in the southern Transelvian forests, pissing off the locals there and ensuring the continuing enmity of that land’s Voivode. He settled nomadic halfling tribes in the central plain, further alienating his own subjects. The king even began a siege of the northern city of Venn, but that was interrupted by the Planefall.
Perhaps the Planefall came at the right time, as it also caused the Goblin Horde to withdraw back to the Far East, just as it was about to knock on Junnia’s gates.
After the Planefall, Junnia struggled to rebuild. Its castles and cities had been crushed. The region saw mass immigration of all kinds of people from the north and west. Local lords rose up and ruled as they liked. A couple generations of monarchs have attempted to pull Junnia back together and have failed.
Margrid of Junnia (daughter of King Istvan and Queen Elzpeth the Halfling) was coronated in 1272. Her daughter Elzpeth II took the throne when her mother died in 1290. Now she’s dead. The monarchy lies in ruins, divided up amongst barons and oligarchs. The throne is in dispute.
The Shambles of Today
It’s 1302. Queen Elzpeth II just died, probably poisoned by her enemies. The Baron Palatines now control most of northern Junnia. Some were loyal to the Queen and some were not. Oligarchs rule the rest of the monarchy. Voivode Laviself Kaan rules Elvania (southern Junnia) as a tyrant. The halflings are in revolt.
At least three people claim the throne. The current Holy Light of the Torchbearer, Claraluxia, is backing the 12-year-old Karelhy Robern. The barons and oligarchs are supporting Venselelf III, the husband of the recently deceased queen. Sofia, granddaughter of Queen Margrid, is currently mounting power in Ravia to the north and may make a claim to the throne, as well.
The Towerlands are named for the dozens of mysterious towers that stand hundreds of feet tall. These appeared during the Planefall and their purpose remains unknown.
Sages and wizards have studied the aftermath of the Planefall and have determined that borders collapsed between our world (Aleyra) and the world of Greendim (whence the elves and goblins invaded two millennia ago). The resultant flood of magic from Greendim is to blame for the changes here in Aleyra.
Furthermore, there seems to be cracking between Aleyra and the parallel world of Earth, evidenced by occasional travelers from that world ending up here. The Earth scholar Adorjan Varga, trapped here in 1298, claims that Junnia is quite like the countries of Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia, though Earth has no magic.
We’ll be using the Pathfinder (1st Edition) rules, starting with 1st level characters. More information is available in the Towerlands Player’s Guide.
Play will focus on politics and adventure. Your characters will help shape the future of the Towerlands through deals and, of course, might and magic.