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Altered Savage Coastby Joe Not Charles
I thought I'd describe my new 4e campaign, which is set in an altered version of the Savage Coast.
First a bit of background on the changes: I came up with this idea a month or so ago, based on fragmentary recollections of Champions of the Princess Ark. I was trying to think of a suitably fiendish adversary for a high-level 4e party, and I immediately thought of Herath: a politically and magically powerful nation secretly ruled by alien spiders. So many levels of badness there! Initially the players could confront Herathian wizards, then as they get more powerful and famous they could confront the Herathian political machine, then they could confront the spiders themselves, and finally travel to the alien spider homeworld and confront Aracne Prime! The only other nation I vaguely remembered from the area was Eusdria, a land ruled by druids, and the more I thought about it the more I liked pitting the mysterious wizards against the players' homeland's mysterious druids.
Well, when I finally got around to reading up on Herath and its surroundings, I found out my recollections were a little off: Eusdria is not ruled by druids, that's Robrenn (and in fact it's not even ruled by a shadowy cabal of druids, it has a warrior king); there are a bunch of other countries between Robrenn and Herath; and the Herathians don't worship Aracne Prime, and (as befits Mystara) there are a lot more shades of grey in their motives and personality than, "secretly alien spiders."
So after some thought, I decided I liked the plot and atmosphere I'd been coming up with, so I should just change everything about the Savage Coast that didn't fit that vision. So here's a brief summary of the changes for this campaign:
- Renardy and Bellayne: cut. I don't like the feel of them (too cutesy) and stating up Lupins and Rakasta for 4e isn't something I want to get into right now.
- Robrenn and Eusdria: positions swapped with Renardy and Bellayne, so they can butt up against Herath and provide the initial conflict. Now Robrenn is just to the east of Herath, Eusdria is to the east of that, and then there's a vast area of no-man's land where they used to be. This lets the Savage Baronies be more isolated from the action. Traders still come through but now they're explicitly from faraway lands come to the ends of the earth to trade with the Herathians.
- The Red Curse: cut. It doesn't fit the theme of the game I'm running, and it's such a pervasive effect that it would tend to dominate the game if I left it in, I think
I also added the new 4e races, Eladrin, Dragonborn and Tieflings, since I didn't want to start my first 4e game with a bunch of new people by explaining how half the races weren't available with no explanation of why not. In the spirit of inclusiveness I added Warforged as well. However I came up with some very interesting twists on the Tieflings and Warforged for this setting, which I'll cover in a late post.
Mechanically, I barely did any conversion at all. We just play with the 4e rules, and anything that's hard to model I'll slur over because they're all NPC's anyway. For instance, I have no stats for druids, but that's ok because I've set them up as high-level NPC's who are purposely vague about their powers. I will need to make up some Mystara-only monsters (such as Tortles and Aranea, and probably Manscorpions) as 4e monsters, but I haven't done it yet.
I'll follow up this post with the player handout that describes the modified version of Robrenn and the Savage Coast. Notes that aren't in my player handout will go in italics.
Terrors of the Deep Woods
Robrenn and Herath are in many ways similar - both are heavily forested, inhabited by peasants at the mercy of the elements, and ruled by secretive cabals with mysterious powers and secret knowledge. But Robrenn is ruled by the Grand Council of Druids, whose powers are nurturing and whose mysteries serve nature, and Herath is ruled by wizards whose creations terrorise the forests and whose twisted and misguided experiments may threaten everyone!
You begin in the town of Morvenn, last stop on the great east-west Trade Road between Herath to the west and the far-off Savage Baronies to the east. You could be natives - farmers, foresters or perhaps apprentices - or travellers. The one rule is that you've been in town long enough to have met and befriended the other characters - perhaps you're a mercenary waiting for the next caravan to pass through, a trader who decided to stop travelling and set up shop at the crossroads, or maybe you just met the boy or girl of your dreams here and decided to settle down.
Since Robrenn has moved next to Herath, I'm using Thorf's map mainly as a source of names. The central area is the same, but the east and west edges I'm fudging as I fill them in. I wanted the players to be from a town on the border with Herath, to the west of the Cernumna-Morrigamna-Atrebax road. Morvenn is a corruption of Morrigamna, which I thought was too much of a mouthful for the starting town.
Robrenn is a vast tract of fields and forests inhabited by a proud and devout warrior people, descended from barbarians who settled this land ages ago. In ancient times there were three pillars of society - the warrior-kings who led their people in battle and in peace, the bards who chronicled their deeds and taught the people their history, and the druids who sanctified the kings and safeguarded the mysteries of the gods. A hundred years ago, however, the line of kings died out and the druids refused to choose another.
Robrenn's greatest king was Edwix I, the Night Harrow, who defeated first an undead uprising and later a great horde of hobgoblins from the Yazak Steppes. In his twilight years he slew the great dragon Greudnax, but perished in the battle. Alas, his son Edwix II, the last king, was a weak ruler who brought the country to the brink of civil war. The Druids decreed that as none of the candidates for kingship could replace the Night Harrow, they would take the land in stewardship themselves. Since then the Great Council of Druids has ruled directly from their sacred grove in the Hallowed Forest of Carnuilh, ostensibly until a suitable King appears. The King's Hall is still maintained in the capital city of Eyf, but now it is merely a place of assembly and feasting, and nobody expects the King's Seat to ever be filled.
I liked the feel of a land ruled by Druidic councils, so I decided to move the published history of Robrenn into the past and evolve the political structure slightly. I didn't just move the entire timeline into the future because I want to use the Gazetteer versions of Glantri and Alphatia later, as magical visitors to Herath.
The people of Robrenn are mainly farmers and foresters, though there are also many crafters. Warriors and priests are highly esteemed. Magic is considered the province of the druids: wizards and warlocks are tolerated but looked on with deep suspicion. One exception is among the elven clans, whose magic is held to be at one with nature.
The traditional four races of Robrenn are Humans, Elves, Dwarves and Hin (halflings). Dwarves and Hin integrated into human society long ago and now live among them as equals. While the elves live apart in their own clans, they are considered an integral part of society and other races often visit them in friendship. There are also two newcomer races found in Robrenn: the Dragonborn, refugees from the jungles of the Orc's Head Peninsula, and the Diaboli, a strange race which appeared from nowhere in neighbouring Herath. The last major sentient race of Robrenn, though they aren't always recognised as such, are the Warforged, creations of the Herathian wizards given as gifts to defend the borders during the last great goblin invasion and now kept as servants by the town holders.
The people of Robrenn are tall and blonde or red-haired, with blue or green eyes. Dark hair and eyes are uncommon and considered exotic. Most people wear their hair long and loose or tied back; wearing it in a braid proclaims you are a warrior. Clothing is usually made of cotton, leather or buckskin in forest colours, with occasional splashes of yellow, red or orange. Often at least one item worn has sharp, geometric patterns. Nonhuman races in Robrenn follow the same styles and fashions, even the elves.
In the original player handout I next gave a description of the starting town, for character background. I'm going to delay that until after I talk about the mechanical aspects this time, since I think people here will be more interested in the high-level overview first.
Most of this description is my extrapolation of what's given in VotPA and the SavageCoast campaign book. All we're given in those sources is that demihumans live among humans in Robrenn rather than in separate communities. I ran with that and tried to give more details of how each race would fit in.
Diaboli: I added the Diaboli, first because I wanted something to take the role of Tieflings, and secondly because I've always been fascinated by the idea of a group which finds our world to be nightmarish. What would their psychology be like, and what exactly do they find frightening here? How do they NOT find the Dimension of Nightmares scary? This write-up gave me a chance to explore some ideas. One of my players is going to be playing a Diabolus, and I'm really interested to find out how he portrays it.
The Diaboli have a vast empire in another world. A dozen years ago Herathian wizards crafted a great spell of summoning which pulled a group of Diaboli into another universe against their will. Initially they thought they had summoned demons, but soon realised that despite their appearance they were a mortal race, so they imprisoned them for study. The spell was so successful that they summoned more and more, until eventually they had a stable population of several hundred, who proceeded to escape and flee eastward.
Diaboli appear strange and demonic to human eyes - they have baleful red skin covered with spiky growths, horns and fangs. Despite this they are good-natured and friendly. Diabolus psychology is in many ways the opposite of human: they find smooth shapes and softness to be disturbing, and stillness to be profoundly frightening, while spikes and angular shapes are considered beautiful. They find the inhabitants of this world as strange and terrifying as we find them. They enjoy nature when it lacks symmetry, but they prefer the aesthetics of dead and dying forests to healthy ones. They especially enjoy the noise and chaos of storms. They have an affinity for blood and pain that this world's inhabitants find especially disturbing: wounding yourself to offer your blood to another is seen as a sign of love and friendship. Diaboli consider this world's inhabitants to be cold and callous for refusing to engage in blood sacrifice. However they are peace-loving and dislike taking blood from others without permission. Their society is anarchistic and they find hierarchy oppressive, but they are coming to accept that authority may be necessary to the functioning of less peace-loving societies.
Diaboli are explorers at heart and have great curiosity about the world around them. The main group in this world lives in a hidden encampment in the forest of Robrenn, but small bands of explorers often visit other societies for a time, wanting to learn about the strange new world they find themselves in. The precise cabal of wizards who summoned them was discredited and publicly executed once the Diaboli presence was made known, so they are not afraid of Herath, though they are wary. Some are trying to find a way to return to their homeworld, but others have accepted that this is now their home and are even enjoying having a new world to explore.
Diaboli use the statistics of Tieflings, but their background and psychology are very different.
Dragonborn: I like tying the Dragonborn to Pyre since it gives a connection to the Dark Jungle and establishes Pyre as a villain right from the outset, so when the players visit there later it will feel much more significant. Unfortunately, establishing the Dragonborn as a new race limited to this area makes it harder to use them in other parts of Mystara later.
About 50 years ago, Pyre, Overlord of the Dark Jungle, grew tired of being served only by verminous orcs. He decided to make new followers in his own image which he would place in dominion over the orcs. Thus were created the Dragonborn. Most of the race was cruel and vicious as their master, but a small group rebelled against this way of life. The were led by a priest named Breghah, who claimed to have received visions from a god he called "The Great One" which showed him a better way. For many years they practised their new faith in secret, but 30 years ago they were discovered and forced to flee northward. The renegades travelled northward through the Tortle Tribelands, not wishing to encroach on the territory of the gentle creatures, and settled in the south of Robrenn. A small community remains there although most have continued to Eusdria, where their honourable creed and warrior nature has won them much respect. Most Dragonborn worship The Great One, a great golden dragon, but they keep their faith to themselves to avoid offending their devout neighbours. Some in Eusdria have converted to the native faiths, but those that remain in Robrenn have little use for the Druids, spiritually (though they acknowledge their authority over the territory). I'm making The Great One a little more like Bahamut in this incarnation, to make the Dragonborn background feel a little more like the 4e portrayal. I thought about using the Star Dragon instead, but I thought that name felt a little too artificial. Also the Great One already has a presence in the SavageCoast pantheons.
Dragonborn players may be interested in the additional feats and background in Dragon #365 (http://wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/drfe/20080709).
Dwarf: Quite common in Robrenn, where they live in human towns alongside the other inhabitants, doing human jobs and worshipping human gods. Dwarven oral history tells that they originated far to the east in what they call "the Rockhome", a land of mountains where the dwarves worked as miners, craftsmen and warriors; the lack of mountains here has led the local dwarves to drop "miner" from their repertoire. Some dwarves see the mining of "Rockhome" as a golden age, and occasionally a group of youngsters will set out to return there and never be heard from again.
Cut from the player description are some notes I had on Dwarven traders visiting from the Savage Baronies: "Dwarves from the Savage Baronies are a second wave of colonisation from distant Rockhome. They tend to be highly conservative and appalled to find how much the locals have integrated into human society. They also worship Kagyar, giving weight to the Eusdrian dwarves claims that they brought this god with them." I think this gives an interesting cultural conflict.
Eladrin: Eladrin are not a separate race. About 1 in 100 elves is born with a deeper connection to the fey, and special aptitude for magical powers. Such elves are called "eladrin", meaning "gifted". Elves can tell at a glance if someone is eladrin or not, but other races have to guess. (In this setting "eladrin" is an adjective. You are not an elf OR an eladrin; you are an elf, and either eladrin or not.) Eladrin are often given to the druids for special training and guidance in using their powers, but some elves (either through arrogance or extra love for their children) choose to raise an eladrin on their own and accept the risk that the child's rapport with the fey will lead to strange and uncontrollable occurrences. (Granted, this is rare.)
This is the easiest way to treat the Elf / Eladrin split in Mystara. In this case it also feeds into the main conflict: since some elves have more magical connection than others, Herathians are kidnapping elves indiscriminately (or sometimes based on good guesses) and experimenting on them to find out what makes their magic powers tick. More on this under Elf.
Elf: Elves in Robrenn live apart from humans, in their own communities deep in the forest. However, they visit and trade regularly, and their clanholds are considered equivalent to human towns. They have their own priests and druids who are full members of the Council. Human villages requesting a druid to sit in judgement are as likely to be visited by an Elven druid as a human. Elves are widely respected for their love of nature and many devout humans see their ways as something to aspire to - many members of other races will live with them for a time to learn their ways.
This comes from the Dragon magazine's Dungeoncraft series, which gives advice on creating a campaign world. I liked their sample setting's hook of Elven refugees, which requires that the elves live separately from humans. But at the same time, elves are a natural fit for the higher levels of Druidic government. So I decided that in this setting the elves live apart, but are welcoming.
Half-Elf: Half-Elves live as full members of human or elven communities, without prejudice.
Halfling: Halfling is a somewhat derogatory human name - they call themselves "the Hin". Hin live integrated into human communities much as Dwarves do; however, there is occasional racial tension stemming from the presence of "wild hin" barbarians on the edges of civilisation. There are many Hin among the pirates that raid the coasts from the Dark Jungle to the south, and bands of Hin bandits living on the edges of the Yazak Steppes are a steady threat.
This is straight out of the Five Shires, including the hin pirates, which I've always liked. What made me think of using Hin bandits here was looking through the new Monster Manual for 1st-level threats, trying to avoid the default "Kobolds and Skeletons", and noticing Halfling Thief. The first adventure's adversaries will be halfling slavers with huge black hounds (using the stats for Guard Drake - similar role, different flavour), who are kidnapping elves and secretly selling them to the Herathians.
Human: Come on, you know this one.
Warforged: Unlike Diaboli and Dragonborn, I didn't have any real reason to add Warforged to the setting. I was originally planning a super-inclusive list of possible classes, since the Monster Manual includes player race versions of many humanoid monsters, including goblinoids from the Yazak Steppes, minotaurs from Nimmur, and Cayma (using the statistics for Kobolds, which works out nicely since Kobolds are tiny lizardmen in the new versions, and Cayma worship the Shining One so there's already a Mystaran connection between the two. I still plan to use Cayma later in the campaign so I'm leaving Kobolds out of the other goblinoids. Cayma/Kobold worshippers of the Shining One can easily use the basic Kobold dragon-worshipping stats, with name changes and the Radiant keyword to all powers). However, I decided this was dumping way too much info on the players, so I cut most of it back. I could have cut Warforged as they don't really fit the setting, especially as the druids supposedly dislike the "never-lived". However, as with the Diaboli, I really like the alternate psychology I came up with and I wanted to see what my players did with it. I rationalise that they're too useful to get rid of, and having a Robrenn debt to Herath helps explain why there's not open conflict between the two countries, given that my version of Herath is more obviously dark than the canonical one.
Warforged were created many years ago by the wizards of Herath to act as soldiers during a particularly bloody goblin invasion. They were so effective that the wizards gave them out as gifts to the surrounding towns in Robrenn, where they've become invaluable guards and labourers. This amazing generosity is one of the main reasons the wizards are seen as good neighbours despite their secrecy. Warforged are considered property of the town council and are often treated as having no feelings or wits, despite the evidence to the contrary. They are metal constructs, often resembling suits of armour, animated by an elemental spirit plucked from the Elemental Chaos. This spirit can vaguely remember its life in the Elemental Chaos - soaring through the air, adrift in a vast sea, or tumbling through fiery vortices, nearly mindless but above all, free. With the binding came intelligence and thought, but also submission - its will is now partially guided be the tenets of the spell which brought it here: defend those under your protection, oppose invasion, and obey your master (in this case, the town council that "owns" it). As time passes since the initial creation, these spells are growing weaker and more and more individual personality is showing up in the warforged. Although these tenets are still a guide to behaviour, they now manifest as a general attitude of loyalty; many warforged feel no compulsion to obey every order, but merely enjoy being dependable and carrying out the wishes of others (especially when they are treated as valued assistants rather than taken for granted). Some spirits long for a return to the freedom of the Elemental Chaos and can't wait to break their chains, while others look back on their mindlessness with horror and are grateful to the wizards for giving them a purpose in life. Some rebel and fight against the compulsion to help and protect while others consider it an integral part of their personality.
Warforged characters are described in Dragon #364 (http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/drfe/20080606b)
Oops, now I remember why I described the city first - a lot of these classes explain how they fit into the setting with references to specific NPC's. Well, I'll fill in any info that I don't think is obvious.
Most characters are considered to be "natives" of Morvenn. If you want to play a Diabolus or Dragonborn, or someone who has come in on the Trade Road, you will be a visitor who's been living in the city for long enough to be well known to the other characters.
Cleric: Most Clerics will be initiates trained by Ommeve (high priestess of Robrenn), who is qualified to ordain priests of following any of the gods. Elven clerics may live in Morvenn, but more commonly will be visiting from their tribe, where they were trained by their own leaders. Diaboli have abandoned their native "gods" (actually beings of a form unexplainable to natives of this reality) because they cannot sense them in this realm - those who continue trying to contact them are Star Pact Warlocks. Some have chosen to take up the new faiths they've found here, and could be trained either by Ommeve or by the elves. Dragonborn clerics almost all worship the Great One, and are probably visitors to Morvenn moving through from the Tortle Tribelands.
See below for the list of Channel Divinity feats in this setting.
Fighter: Fighters could be members of the Town Guard, trained by Curadhanix, or mercenaries who came here escorting merchants and have decided to stay, or they could be self-taught. Again, Elves, Diaboli and Dragonborn were usually trained among their own people.
Paladin: Robrenn has no formal concept of a "Paladin", though devout and sacred warriors are common in their sagas. (King Edwix the Night Harrow almost certainly counts as one.) Eusdria, on the other hand, is famous for its knightly orders. Paladins could be visitors from Eusdria, or they could be considered clerics (trained as above) who have taken a more martial attitude or warriors who are especially devout. Dragonborn Paladins could be visitors from either Eusdria or the Tortle Tribelands.
Paladin is an interesting case, since it's a well-defined role that fits well into Mystara, but not in this particular society. I figured sacred warriors should be common here, though. One of the things I like about 4e is that it's pretty easy - and encouraged! - to change flavour while keeping the mechanical effects, "informal Paladin" is a viable character class.
See below for the list of Channel Divinity feats in this setting.
Ranger: Rangers could be skilled hunters, or scouts for the town guard with formal training from Curadhanix. Elven rangers, of course, are common among the elven tribes. Diaboli and Dragonborn have few rangers among them, so they are probably visitors who arrived many years ago and joined the Guard (or who came to learn from the local elven tribe).
Rogue: Rogues could simply be local ne'er-do-wells, or their stealth skills could be considered scouting training gained with the Town Guard. They may once have been members of bandit or pirate bands trying to go straight (or settled in the town as spies) - this is especially appropriate for Hin.
Warlock: Fey Pact Warlocks are fairly common among the Elves. Members of other races could have learned from them. Other pacts are not common here - followers could have overcome local superstition to visit Adahnel and be taught by her. The Dragonborn have no warlocks among them, so a Dragonborn Warlock must have visited Adahnel or an Elven clan. The Diaboli have their own warlocks of all pacts - the Star Pact warlocks contact beings similar to their old world gods, Infernal Pact warlocks contact beings they see as superficially similar to themselves, and Fey Pact warlocks contact the supernatural powers of this new world.
Warlock is the hardest class to fit into this setting. I've established lots of places that would have warlocks - Fey Pact is obvious for the Elves, Diaboli would definitely have Warlocks, and they'd be common in Herath - but none of them are mainstream in Robrenn society. I don't want to limit warlocks only to elves and diaboli, so I needed some source of human warlocks in Robrenn. I added an NPC warlock character, Adahnel, solely to provide a mentor for any PC who wants to play one.
Star Pact Warlocks may be interested in the additional powers in Dragon #366 (http://wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/drfe/20080822a).
Warlord: Warlords could be sergeants of the Town Guard, trained in command and leadership as well as fighting, or simply warriors with a talent for inspiration (a common archetype in the stories). This class could also be used to represent a bard, with inspirational songs and chants taking the place of shouts and commands.
Bards are pretty big in this setting, and I worry a bit that I undersold them in this write-up.
Wizard: Wizards could be apprentices of Girvyn, the town elder, or they could have directly visited the Elves and been taught by them (as he did). Kallio the mysterious stranger also occasionally takes on apprentices. Diaboli have their own magical powers brought from their native realms, so they could either be trained by their own people, or they could be students of the Elves who wish to learn the local ways of magic. Dragonborn have no wizards of their own so they must be taught by one of the native teachers.
I had to add an NPC wizard teacher as well, since wizards aren't that big in Robrenn so I wanted the appearance of one to always be special. If there's anyone around who could train a PC wizard, they would be important enough to be one of the town's notable people. Anything less would devalue Herath's great wizard population.
Wizard characters may be interested in the additional Illusionist spells in Dragon #364 (http://wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/drfe/20080616), and the additional Rituals in Dragon #366 (http://wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/drfe/200808011a).
Gods of Robrenn
This is straight from the SavageCoast campaign book. I cut Belsamas, the Kagyar alias, because I thought the list of gods was already a little long, and I wanted to emphasise that Dwarves are part of the society here so there isn't necessarily a "Dwarven god". Also I thought that having a God specifically of stone and metalworking didn't make much sense for a druidic nature-working society. The God of Arts and Crafts aspect can be covered nicely by a combination of Leug and Belnos. It also lets the Robrenn dwarves be a little more distinct from Eusdrian dwarves, who also live integrated into human society but who still worship Kagyar, and gives more of a point of conflict with visiting Savage Baronies dwarves.
The gods of Robrenn are mainly nature deities, but as man is part of nature, many are patrons of various aspects of civilisation as well. They are served by priests (clerics); the title of "Druid" is reserved for those who have been initiated in the deeper mysteries. All priests revere all the gods but are dedicated to the service of one in particular; most druids continue to serve the god they are consecrated to, but some leave this service to dedicate themselves fully to the mysteries. This Priest/Druid split is for two reasons - I wanted the Druids to be remote and mysterious, while PC clerics are still common. And 4e doesn't have Druid stats published yet anyway.
Every town has at least one priest. Larger cities have permanent druids in residence, while smaller ones are visited several times a year to collect taxes and hear appeals. By law, a druid must sit in judgement of all cases of murder, treason and apostasy (defined as despoiling nature or trafficking with the undead).
Breig, Mother of Forests, head of the pantheon, and patron of most druids and elves. Only female priestesses and druids may follow Breig, making Robrenn nearly a matriarchy.
Arduinna, goddess of hunting, archery and willpower. Also allows only female priests and druids.
Belnos, god of the moon, money and commerce. Patron of healers, traders, thieves and travellers. Popular among the hin.
Cernuinn, god of woodland beings and herd animals; fond of eating, drinking, poetry and song. Patron of bards. Often depicted as a man with the head or antlers of a deer.
Leug, god of civilised nonhumans, wisdom and the arts. Followed by many dwarves, and some elves and hin.
Taranos, god of skies, storms and lightning. Not very influential, as Breig is goddess of all nature.
Tuatis, god of warriors, honour and bravery. One of the few who has no particular connection to nature, but popular nonetheless.
Nyt, goddess of death and reincarnation. Not commonly worshipped, but acknowledged as part of the circle of life and death. It is rumoured that some outlawed sects call the undead "Nyt's Children", but most of her priests consider this highly offensive.
The dragonborn worship their own god, who they call only The Great One. Diaboli don't speak of their beliefs with outsiders.
Channel Divinity Feats
The 4E PHB has exactly one Channel Divinity feat per god. This gives a challenge: remapping the feats to the setting's gods, or dumping them entirely and creating all-new feats for the local gods. The easy way to deal with it is just allow any Cleric to take any feat, and have them make up appropriate flavour to match it to the god they worship. However, I wanted to give each god a set of feats in order to make them less generic and give the players some mechanical way to set them apart.
Since I have a different number of gods than the PHB, and their roles don't correspond exactly anyway, I couldn't map the feats one to one. But after a little thought, I realised that after I cut Belsamas, I could assign the feats to the gods in a way that makes lots of sense both for the setting and mechanically! This is mostly by chance, but I'm still really proud of how this worked out.
Channel Divinity feats are associated with a specific god or goddess, so the list of feats available are different in Robrenn. If you want to play a cleric or paladin from Eusdria or elsewhere, let me know and I'll give you a list of available gods. All the native gods of Robrenn except for Nyt grant the feat Night Harrow (Pelor's Radiance) in memory of King Edwix. Most gods have two other feats which they grant. However, you can only take one Channel Divinity feat per level.
I had a hell of a time figuring out which god would get Pelor's Radiance. I originally assigned it to Breig, since she was the chief nature deity and should be opposed to undead. It wasn't until I was trying to decide on a new name for it that I realised "Night Harrow" was actually an exact mechanical description of it - it harrows the creatures of darkness. Once I named it after the ancient hero, it made sense not to assign it to only one god but give it a central place. This was the key that let the numbers work out for the rest of the assignments.
I wasn't sure how much stock to put in the fact that, in the PHB, each god only has one feat so a cleric can only take one over the course of their career. Channel Divinity feats are more powerful than many other feats since they give a whole new power. I decided one per level was a reasonable compromise - giving players a choice of 3 but only allowing them 1 for their whole career seemed too strict, since there was no in-game rationale.
Breig: Sustain the Sacred Circle (Harmony of Erathis), Regrow the Ancient Grove (Melora's Tide) When assigning feats, I considered the mechanical description of the feat and the character of the original god. Breig gets one feat for bringing people together, corresponding to her role as head of the pantheon and thus the civilisation, and one emphasising her role as a nature goddess.
Arduinna: The Hunter Shadows the Prey (Corellon's Grace); The Hunter Lies in Wait (Ioun's Poise) Both of these were chosen for their mechanical effects: Arduinna is not much like either Corellon or Ioun, but a +5 Will bonus has to go to the goddess of Willpower, and Corellon's Grace seemed the best model for a hunting power.
Belnos: Journeyer's Respite (Avandra's Rescue); Moonlight Tricks the Eye (Sehanine's Reversal) Belnos is a pretty much exact analogue to Avandra, and his role as moon and trickster god matches him fairly well to Sehanine as well.
Cernuinn: Luck of Heroes and Drunkards (Tymora's Favour, from Dragon #365, http://wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/drback/20080718); Many Voices Raised in Song (Harmony of Erathis) I had a hard time deciding which feats to assign to Cernuinn, until I decided to look only at mechanics and not the gods they were associated with. I also wanted to use the Tymora's Favour feat from Dragon, since I liked the effect and I wanted to be inclusive of all published material, but it took me a while to realise it could fit here - I kept trying to associate it with the warrior gods and make the flavour a reward to warriors who meet their enemy head on. In the end, I ended up assigning everything but Tymora's Favour, and with Cernuinn needing two feats I realised a headlong rush could as easily stem from drunkenness as bravery. In the end I'm really happy with the way Cernuinn's two feats model two of his spheres of influence.
Leug: Grace of the Elves (Corellon's Grace), Resolve of the Dwarves (Moradin's Resolve) I'm not too happy with these, for several reasons: I wanted Leug to be the god of demihumans in general, not "elves and dwarves" in specific; 4e itself is trying to get away from having Corellon the god of elves and elves only and Moradin the god of dwarves and dwarves only; and this completely ignored Leug's role as god of wisdom and the arts. However, Moradin's Resolve really is a very dwarven-flavoured feat, and I ended up with Leug only having one feat and Corellon's grace used only once, so it was too obvious a fit to ignore.
Taranos: Ride the Surging Tide (Melora's Tide), Endure the Storm's Fury (Ioun's Poise) Associating Odin, god of wisdom, with Ioun works everywhere but here, where he's solely a storm god and a minor one at that. I kept it assigned to him so that when the players visit Eusdria, the local much more important version of Odin can have the same feats but flavoured to represent wisdom instead.
Tuatis: Let Thy Strike Be True (Kord's Favour), Let Thy Shield Be Strong (Armour of Bahamut) I originally gave Tuatis both of these AND Tymora's Favour, but letting a character load up on martial feats like that seemed like they would stack up way too much.
Nyt: Night's Gift (Raven Queen's Blessing) It's fitting that Nyt, a not widely worshipped goddess, is the only one with just one feat. This was about the only feat there was never any question about.
These feats work out very neatly. Apart from Pelor's Radiance and Raven Queen's Blessing, which have solid reasons to be very common and very rare respectively, each god gets exactly two feats. And each feat is given to exactly one god, with the exception of Arduinna and Breig. These two gods have feats which are also covered elsewhere, but they allow only female clerics. So doubling up these 4 feats with other gods allows male clerics to have access to them as well. This wasn't my intention, and I was quite bothered by the fact that some feats were available more than others until I noticed that it was exactly the female-only gods that shared feats. That made it feel much less arbitrary.
The Great One: Blessing of Dragonscale (Armour of Bahamut) I actually originally gave Tuatis Kord's Favour and Tymora's Luck, and put Armour of Bahamut here. But that meant that only Dragonborn could take that feat, so I added it to Tuatis, which made Tuatis overpowered. Trying to fix that situation was the main reason I wasn't satisfied with my feat distribution and kept shuffling feats around until I hit upon the arrangement above.
Just finished the second game of this campaign. It's moving pretty slowly since it's on-line - they've only gotten halfway through the first adventure I had planned so far (which I was expecting to last about two sessions; looks like it's gonna take three).
Here's the last bit of the player handout that I didn't get around to posting yet; I'll follow it up with a session summary:
The town of Morvenn, like most towns too small to have their own druid, is ruled by a council of elders. It lies near the border with Herath and is a crossroads for trade between the wizards to the west and the rest of the Savage Coast to the east. There is even a road leading north to the edge of the Yazak Steppes, whose primitive goblin tribes occasionally come to trade in peace. The River Ensleg flows out of Herath to the northwest, past the city walls, and south towards the sea.
The town has about 2000 inhabitants, but because of the frequency of traders coming through (many carrying rare or magic items) there is a high chance that most things will become available with a few months' wait. Due to the town's isolation, however, prices are high - the most valuable items are already bespoke by Herathian wizards. There are many inns and taverns and the town has many more artisans than others of its size in Robrenn.
Morvenn is surrounded by a wooden palisade and patrolled at regular intervals by volunteer guards. Major attacks are rare but there are many dangerous creatures in the forest, so the city has a large temple and sacred grove offering healing to travellers. (Since most travellers are foreign merchants, there is a hefty fee.) Most farmers live outside the palisade; there are also a few families of loggers who live in a small camp a mile or so downstream.
The buildings are small and made of wood; stone is used only for fireplaces and roads. The east-west Trade Road is paved for several miles out of town, while the North Road is a dirt track. It is fairly wide as it passes through the lands of the Adamar, an elven tribe living to the north, until it reaches the fortress of Atrebax. After this it narrows to a mere trail.
Supposedly Robrenn isn't supposed to use nonliving materials for much at all, but I didn't feel like dealing with that so I slurred over it - tools are made of metal just like everywhere else. I've kept it in the architecture, though.
Important public figures in Morvenn include:
The Council of Elders: Although the elders are theoretically equal, Ommeve has the most influence by virtue of her position as priestess of Breig. In her youth she travelled to Carnuilh to be educated into the Mysteries but dropped out and returned before becoming a full Druid; she's never spoken of why, buy she still has a reputation for having wisdom beyond that of most mere priests. Aiden Eaglebrow, half-elf bard and ex-adventurer, brings a cosmopolitan perspective, though Ommeve accuses him of being more interested in telling his personal stories than making decisions or teaching history. Girvyn is a wizard taught by the elves and respected for his wisdom, though he is often so busy with his rare books that he has to be dragged to council meetings.
Girvyn is provided mainly to answer the question, "Who trains PC Wizards if not Herathians?"
The Priestesses: Ommeve is chief priest of the village. Sile, her daughter, is her apprentice and tends the altars of Belnos and Tuatis. The young warriors of the town much prefer to receive her blessings over her mother's.
The Guard: The town guard is mostly volunteers, charged equally with keeping the peace among visitors and defending the borders from threats from the woods. Curadhanix is master-at-arms and chief ranger. Cauldron, the town's warforged (one of several if there are any PC warforged), stands eternally by the eastern gate and is often mistaken for a statue, but he is said to love discussing philosophy with those few who stop to talk.
Merchants and Craftsmen: Tiobix, the town smith, makes horseshoes and weapons. He dislikes out-of-towners and charges a premium to strangers. Barach Longoak and family are dwarves who run the Crossroads Inn and General Store, the largest in town and are a prime source of gossip and news from other lands.
The Strangers: Kallio, a wizard from Herath, lives in a tower a day's journey to the northwest; he has never explained why he chooses to make his home here rather than across the border with his fellows. He is mistrusted but has occasionally appeared in town to warn of threats or provide unexpected assistance. One example: many years ago an Eladrin child named Adahnel was born to the Adamar elves. From an early age the child was said to stare off into the distance at things that were not present, and speak to "friends" who nobody else could see. When she was 10 years old mysterious fires began to break out throughout the elven town and Adahnel was seen crying and pleading with beings not present to "stop". As the elven council met to discuss what to do, their meeting lodge erupted into flame. Suddenly Kallio appeared in the midst of the town, extinguished the fires with a word, and took Adahnel away with him. When he returned her returned several weeks later she was quiet and withdrawn, but never spoke of her mysterious "friends" again. Several years later she left the elven village to live on her own in a solitary shack halfway to Morvenn. She is now shunned by all and considered a witch by many; those who pass by her cottage after dark on the way to visit the Adamar sometimes report that they see fires dancing about the walls. Adahnel is now an old woman; Kallio hasn't aged at all.
Likewise, Adahnel is provided to give someone to train non-Tiefling warlocks who don't want to be Tieflings. The story of Kallio and Adahnel also brings in two of the themes of the early campaign - Herathians are strange but sometimes helpful, and Eladrin can be just as mysterious and unstable.
I've been meaning to post updates on this campaign, but I haven't had time.
I would just like to relate that one of my players, a Diabolus Wizard specialising in fire spells, just multiclassed into Infernal Pact Warlock.
He didn't have any specific ideas on what entity he wanted to make a pact with, so I'd just like to share what I came up with:
Ok, so here's what happened...
As you meditated on the floor of Longshanks' treasure room, you felt a presence brush against your mind, as you had several times before. For a moment you were torn between curiosity, and the danger of opening your mind to it - and as you hesitated, you suddenly felt a moment of intense pain, and then the presence expanded into your brain and you felt your mind bathed in soothing, crackling flame.
A huge voice echoed into your skull.
"I HAVE FELT YOUR MIND SEARCHING. I HAVE ANSWERED YOUR CALL. YOU ARE FROM BEYOND, AS I AM."
You don't mean to vocalise or even form words in your mind, but the voice responds to your first stray thought: who are you?
"ONCE I WAS A KING. NOW I AM A GOD. I AM THE PURIFYING FIRE, LORD OF THE ROARING FLAME, RULER OF THE KINGDOMS OF THE STARS. I AM ALPHAKS!"
"YES... I SENSE THE FIRE IN YOU. YOU BURN AS MY FOLLOWERS ONCE DID, BEFORE THEY WERE BETRAYED AND SCATTERED THROUGHOUT THE COSMOS. YOU MISS YOUR HOME - I SENSE THAT AS WELL. SO DO THEY. WE ARE MUCH ALIKE. YOUR HOME... I SEE IT IN YOUR MIND. IT IS FASCINATING - SO MUCH PURE FIRE, UNSULLIED BY THE WEAKER ELEMENTS! I WILL HELP YOU TO RETURN, AND YOU WILL SHOW THIS PLACE TO ME. WE WILL FIND THE WAY... TOGETHER.
YOU WILL BE MY NEW DISCIPLE. YOU WILL FIND MY SCATTERED PEOPLE AND BRING THEM TOGETHER! I WILL GIVE YOU THE POWER TO LEAD THEM, TO CRUSH THEIR ENEMIES AND YOUR OWN! YOU KNOW ALREADY THE POWER OF THE FLAME. I CAN GIVE YOU EVEN MORE. YOU NEED NOT ANSWER. YOU MIND AND SOUL ARE OPEN TO ME. IN YOUR HEART YOU HAVE ALREADY ACCEPTED."
Then the presence is suddenly gone, but you feel the flames within you burning even hotter than before.