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Exiles Campaignby John Calvin
Exiles Campaign Setting
This campaign setting is based off of both the Mystara world and the Spelljammer setting. It is a place where magic and technology meet. It is a place of ancient wonders and long hidden secrets. And it is populated by all of those who have been cast out by the immortals.
The basic premise for this setting is that throughout the ages various cultures have arisen and grown in power. Several of these cultures grew powerful enough that they could challenge the immortals themselves, and each in its turn was punished for their ambition. These nations of upstarts were all defeated, but not completely destroyed. Instead they managed to escape from their home sphere (and their planet of origin, Mystara) out across the rainbow seas. Now they have grown strong again and the immortals should be fearful. If only they could find their way home, they would be able to claim that which is rightfully theirs.
The power level of the Exiles Campaign can range from that of first level characters all the way to immortal level. That means that there are immortal level encounters to be had throughout the Known Spheres.
A campaign in this setting could unfold in several different ways:
1) Characters could be natives of Mystara who have just found passage out of their own crystal sphere. They would be thrust into the turmoil of the spheres surrounding them and would soon learn that their origins could cause them to be hunted down ruthlessly.
2) Characters could be natives of any of the Exiled Nations. They would soon hear rumours of a ship travelling through their space that claimed to hail from the mythical home world. The characters would have to track down this ship and take its secrets before their enemies had a chance to do the same.
3) Characters could be immortals set with the task of combating the Exiled cultures. This could either be played out as a series of war games with armies of the Faithful pitted against the Exiles, or as immortal level encounters. In the latter case the players will match up against Blackmoorian Hierarchy lords and the Outer Beings.
[Notes: These are rough notes, and as yet many of the details are not finalised. Since I've never actually ran an Exiles Campaign, I've never needs to do this. The words "god" and "immortal" are used interchangeably (rest assured I am talking about Mystaran immortals when you see either word). The terms "Known Space" and "Known Spheres" describe the same thing (this campaign setting) and can also be used interchangeably. The Known Space of this setting is not the same as the Known Space of the classic Spelljammer setting.]
This is a listing of the major cultural groups that can be found in the Known Spheres, and to a lesser extent the Shattered Spheres. It is not a comprehensive list by any means, and all of the names and titles are subject to change.
The carnifex are an ancient saurian race (very similar in appearance to a velociraptor) that lived on Mystara over 15,000 years ago. There their culture saw its height as the race gained mastery over the entire world and developed magic and technology to rival the immortals themselves. And rival the immortals they did. Many of the carnifex turned from their worship of the immortals to the worship of the Outer Beings, vast and disturbing entities.
With the help of their new servants, the Outer Beings wished to overthrow their immortal brethren and win control of the multiverse. The immortals proved too strong for the Outer Beings however, and both they and the carnifex who served them were sealed into a prison plane.
A small population of carnifex managed to avoid this fate. They were not Outer Being worshipers and so were not pursued by the immortals. The immortals however had no more love for the carnifex and drove them off of Mystara and out of the crystal sphere.
Over the millennium the carnifex have regained much of their former glory (and some have even resumed the practice of Outer Being worship). They now control a major portion of the Known Spheres.
The Carnifex Clans are the most prolific group of Carnifex roaming the spheres.
There are countless clans, each controlling anywhere from two to thousands of ships. Many of the clans are semi-nomadic. For the most part they roam across the spheres in search of game or battle and make camp at semi-permanent way stations and compounds along the way. A few of the clans are more sedentary and have built up larger settled communities on several planets and planetoids.
Any single clan is rarely organised enough to control more than one such of these communities.
Degenerate OB Worshippers
These Carnifex practice the "New Ways." They worship entities known as the Outer Beings. This is the same worship that their Mystaran bound brethren were punished by the immortals for. Now these corrupted creatures slink through dark places in the spheres.
Several dragons have taken it upon themselves to rule over the Carnifex and have carved out kingdoms for themselves, both minor and major. The dragons maintain a more orderly society than exists in the free clans, but even so there are numerous disturbances. Many of the dragons fight amongst themselves for ultimate supremacy over their Carnifex subjects. In order to better maintain control several dragons have taken to breeding with their subjects in order to create half-dragon/half-carnifex offspring. These creatures become trusted advisers and generals.
Some Carnifex spurn the rulership of their dragon overlords and have set out on their own paths. Ironically, many of them claim to have some dragon blood in their ancestry and they are often just as cruel and power hungry as the dragons that they shun.
Blackmoor was a small feudal nation on Mystara over 4000 years ago. In a short period of time that small nation rose up to be the dominant power on the planet, and they did so because of a freak accident. A starship crash landed on Mystara and soon the Blackmoorians were recovering technology from it. They used this "new magic" to conquer their neighbours and eventually venture into MystaraSpace. Unfortunately for them, magic and technology don't mesh well together. Some claim that it was an accident. Some claim that it was hubris, and still others claim that it was an attack on Blackmoor by its rivals. The only claim that can be for certain, was that it was bound to happen sooner or later. 4000 years ago a catastrophe occurred when Blackmoorian technomancy caused the Great Rain of Fire and nearly destroyed all life on the planet.
The Mystaran Blackmoorians were doomed. Only those that were off world survived. The immortals however were horrified. Whatever the cause of the Great Rain of Fire, the immortals were determined to never let such an occurrence happen again. They sought after the Blackmoorian remnants, determined to destroy them and their hated technology. The Blackmoorians did not wish to die, and they were powerful enough to defend themselves. The immortals however had the upper hand, and like the carnifex before them, the Blackmoorians were driven from the sphere.
Hierarchy / Immortal Slayers
The Hierarchy Lords are the very same individuals who fought off the immortals millennia ago. Each managed to slay one or more of the immortals and assume some of their powers. Now the Hierarchy Lords are themselves like unto gods, and they rule their minions with an iron fist. Their only desire is to return to their home sphere and exact revenge upon those that rule it.
Hierarchy members are organised into a pyramid type structure with Radiant Lords (those who have built and powered their own NoS) at the top, and those of lesser powers (who are reliant on somebody else's NoS) trickling down to the bottom.
Each Hierarchy Lord is semi-nomadic. They spend most of their time travelling throughout the spheres searching for immortals to slay. During their travels they may demand services and resources from local populations, and may use force to acquire them. Occasionally they will conquer native populations but their nomadic nature means that they never stay long enough to exert their control.
The Hierarchy Lords meet infrequently in order to discuss tactics, and organise larger assaults against their immortal enemies.
Technological / Imperial
This technologically advanced culture is composed mainly of humans, Emerondians, and dwarves. They have used their vast abilities to build a small empire that spans across several spheres (although they don't dominate any of the spheres completely).
The Empire is very structured and is essentially the force holding human (and demi-human) society together in the Known Spheres. They are constantly at war with their Carnifex and Sheen neighbours. These Blackmoorians especially despise sheens and other artificially constructed life forms (they fear that their ancestors created the first sheens by accident - which is correct) and seek to eradicate them at every opportunity.
Free Cities (mix of all BK cultures)
These territories are located at the fringe of Imperial Blackmoorian space.
Although they conduct trade with both the Imperium and the Hierarchy, they rule themselves independently. Many of the free cities are friendly with the various sentient constructs as well (although not with sheen life) and this is the one place where they can be found in abundance.
Most of those who live in the Free Cities live a more sedentary lifestyle. Spelljamming is known to them, but they rarely journey far from their homes.
Progeny of the Frog
This group is composed of those Emerondians that are directly descended from Saint Stephen's Cult of the Frog (Saint Stephen was one of the aliens who survived when their ship crash landed on Mystara). Although they have several small bases throughout Blackmoorian space, they rarely take open control of planetary systems and prefer to work behind the scenes. Their goal is to transform Blackmoorian society into something more to their liking.
The result of Blackmoorian technology run amok, the sheens are a semi-sentient race of constructs that have over run vast portions of known space. They are a scourge to everything that lives, for their appetites (for raw materials and resources) know no bounds and empathy is not within their programming.
Sheens are the only major race that came into existence outside of Mystaraspace, although they were created by the exiled Blackmoorians. [Note: The idea for Sheens was "borrowed" from Dragon magazine. More information on Sheens can be found in issues 258 and 260 (IIRC).]
Several small groups of sheen cysts are controlled and led by ancient (and quite sentient) Blackmoorian constructs. These creations fled the Blackmoorian Imperium during the machine wars and went to live among their non-biological brethren. The centuries since then have fostered a deep seated hatred for all things Blackmoorian (and to a lesser extent, all things living).
The Empire hunts these groups most vigorously, and the constructs return the favour whenever they can. They also battle with the pure sheen cysts over resources and sometimes are able to supplant the machine mind with their own rulership.
Pure sheen cysts are the scourge of the known spheres. Nearly every sentient creature is their sworn enemy, for they ravage any environment they enter in order to gather raw materials for their own replication. Indeed replication seems to be their only goal.
The one factor that keeps these cysts in check is their inability to produce spelljamming equipment (namely helms). Their only way of travelling throughout the spheres it to acquire spelljamming helms from others (by force...they know no other way). The Empire will often try to eradicate any sheen cyst that they come upon before it has the chance to acquire a helm and spread.
The Nithian culture arose on Mystara nearly 1,500 years after the Great Rain of Fire and was the last major culture to be exiled from MystaraSpace. They built unparalleled monuments around their world and eventually built great pyramid ships that would take them to others. Although technologically primitive (compared to the Blackmoorians before them), the Nithians developed magic that none on Mystara had ever seen before (and none have seen since).
Unfortunately the age of Nithia was not to last.
Dark immortals desired the downfall of the culture and worked hard to bring it about. Many of the pharaohs turned from their immortal patrons to worship other things (some even say that they began to worship the Outer Beings). They began to rain destructive magic upon the face of the planet that would have rivalled the catastrophe caused by Blackmoorian technology, had not the immortals opposed them. Nithia was destroyed and all memory of it was erased from mortal minds.
A few off world colonies escaped this fate however. Those that did not starve due to lack of infrastructure and support, managed to expand and thrive.
Eb-Or (Entropy worshipers)
After the gates closed down and contact was lost with the mother world, these colonies turned toward the worship of dark immortals in order to sustain themselves. Most of the population lives in abject terror while the rulers practice dark rituals that will grant them everlasting life...as the living dead.
This offshoot of the Nithian culture has shunned worship of the immortals and instead focus their energies on arcane learning. Many of their leaders are powerful wizards who spend their time creating magical servitor races. Just as their ancestors created the gnolls on Mystara, these wizards vie to create the best servitor race that they can. In fact, the number of servitor races that one has created is seen as a sort of status symbol.
These people have forgotten all about their spelljamming past and have focused instead on planar travel. They have succeeded in re-opening several gates to other lost Nithian colonies.
These Nithian descendants control a dying sphere. Its once hot sun is growing dimmer and dimmer and all of the planets in the system grow cold. In order to survive the Nithians are using their pyramids to build a habitat nearer to the sun. In time they hope to encircle the entire sun with a sphere of their own... one made from the stones of their own pyramid ships. Each of the planets is filled with slaves who work desperately in the quarries mining stone to build more ships. Eventually nothing will be left of the frozen planets.
There are several minor cultures that inhabit known space along with the Exiled Nations. These are either natives to the area, or else they were brought to the area by one of the Exiled. Rarely do they control more than a single planet, and most often they survive by keeping themselves hidden from their neighbours.
It is unknown whether or not the spider people are natives of this space or of Mystara space, but small pockets of them exist throughout the Known Spheres. Other spidery creatures can also be found in or near these communities. Phase spiders often serve as allies or servants, as do ettercaps. Dokufu (OA) can be found in some communities as leaders.
Communities of those who still worship the immortals are interspersed throughout Known Space. Most of them are strongholds set up by their immortal patrons to do battle against the Blackmoorians.
The Faithful can be members of any race and creed. Most of them hail directly from the plane of their patron immortal, and their only purpose in being in known space is to fight against the Blackmoorians.
Elves are a rare species in most of Known Space, although there is evidence that the elves journeyed through this area in the distant past (some 7000 years ago). Most of the elves in Known Space now are either Nithian slaves, or followers of The Faithful. The Blackmoorians despise elves (blaming them for causing the Great Rain of Fire), and the carnifex see most mammal life as a source of food, so elven populations don't last long in either territories.
Lizard-kin (lizardmen, troglodytes, yuan-ti, and many more)
Lizard-kin cultures are numerous throughout Known Space due to the fact that their species have been in the area for over 14,000 years (brought here by their carnifex masters). Most still serve as servitor races to the carnifex and the dragons, but a few scattered colonies have managed to gain their independence.
Goblin-kin are rare in Known Space, having never ventured out into the void on their own. The majority of them were brought as slaves by the Nithians, and so they are most numerous on the few Nithian home worlds. Several populations have managed to win their freedom, and some are also known to offer their services as mercenaries to any who can afford them (and can afford to trust them).
Although they do not have a culture of their own, aberrations are common among communities of Outer Being worshippers.
Here is a very rough timeline for the Exiles campaign. One of my main concerns about the Exiles campaign setting was that the Carnifex would be well established by the time that either of the other exiled cultures finally made it into Known Space. The time between Carnifex exile and Blackmoorian exile is roughly 11000 years. You could (and probably should) figure that after 11000 years of occupying territory it might be pretty hard to dislodge the Carnifex.
There were several solutions I came up with for doing this, but I'm really not sure how reasonable they sound.
The first was that Carnifex society has always been plagued with the cancer of Outer Being worship. This provides a source of constant conflict within Carnifex cultures and may help to keep Carnifex interests turned inward instead of outward.
Secondly the Blackmoorians introduced the sheens as the ultimate fighting machines. Unfortunately for the Blackmoorians, the sheens couldn't be controlled, but significant Carnifex resources would still have to be spent on removing them from territories that they had invaded.
Thirdly I took a page from Mystaran history and had the Nithians bring with them a strange wasting disease that decimates saurian life.
14000 BC - The Carnifex are driven from Mystaraspace and begin to explore and colonise the Inner Spheres.
13000 BC - Remnants of Outer Being worship begin to slowly work their way back into Carnifex civilisation.
12000 BC - Carnifex civilisation thrives across all of the Inner Spheres, although it is not monolithic. Various carnifex empires rise and begin to compete with one another. They also begin to explore and colonise Core and Elemental Spheres.
11000 BC - The first Outer Being purge begins. Carnifex society is torn in half and civil wars rage across their space. Followers of the Outer Beings make their bid for power, but are eventually put down.
10000 BC - Carnifex interests begin to invade the Core and Elemental worlds in earnest. They make war with any native species that they encounter.
7500 BC - The Carnifex are now well established throughout the Inner, Core, and Elemental Spheres. They spend most of their time waging war upon one another.
7000 BC - The second Outer Being Purge begins. Once again the Outer Being cultists try to seize power. After centuries of bloody conflict they are driven to the dark corners of space.
6500 BC - Elven ships first make their way into Known Space. First contact with the Carnifex does not end well and the two cultures are plunged into conflict. Unfortunately for the elves their presence in the area is not strong, and there are no reinforcements forthcoming. [This may have been due to the fact that the Mystaran Cluster is relatively isolated from the crystal spheres that the elves hailed from.]
6000 BC - Some elves stumble upon Mystaraspace and land on Grunland. They are the ancestors of all elves on Mystara.
5900 BC - Elves in Known Space (outside of Mystaraspace) are crushed. They are relegated to slave species status within Carnifex space. Their numbers will dwindle to near extinction over the next few centuries.
4000 BC - On Mystara, the culture of Blackmoor rises.
3000 BC - The Great Rain of Fire occurs on Mystara devastating the planet and destroying most of Blackmoor. The immortals drive the rest of the Blackmoorians out of the sphere with the intent of destroying them utterly.
The Blackmoorians fight back turning some of the Inner Spheres into what are today called the Shattered Spheres. Several immortals are subsumed into Blackmoorian Furnaces creating the first Hierarchy lords. The immortals do not press the attack and the Eternal War is born.
2999 BC - Blackmoorian refugees begin to explore their surroundings and find a multiverse populated with hostile saurian creatures.
2950 BC - Remnants of Blackmoor find refuge in the sparsely populated Fringe Spheres and some of them begin to put down roots. Others maintain a nomadic lifestyle.
2100 BC - For the third time in 12000 years carnifex society is infected by Outer Being worship. This time the cultists manage to take control of several nations, and the Carnifex culture as a whole is weakened. Those territories seized by the cultists transform into dark and foreboding places.
2000 BC - Blackmoorian elements in Fringe space have become strong once again.
They begin to push their way into more desirable space, dislocating the Carnifex already established there. In order to help them combat these fearsome foes the Blackmoorians begin to develop sheens, which are self-replicating constructs designed for war.
1950 BC - Permanent outposts are built by the immortals on several of the Inner and Shattered Spheres, and the first waves of the Faithful are sent to occupy them.
1500 BC - The nation of Nithia is born and begins its rise to power.
Blackmoorian incursions into Carnifex space have begun to isolate their colonies in the Inner Spheres.
1000 BC - Sheens and sentient Blackmoorian constructs rebel from their masters and the Sheen War starts. Blackmoorians begin to purge their territories of all artificial life.
900 BC - The first Nithian colonies are established in some of the nearby Inner Spheres. The local inhabitants (mostly Carnifex) do not view them on friendly terms and hostilities begin. Due to their relative isolation (thanks in part to the Blackmoorians) these Carnifex holdings are in a weakened state and are hard pressed to keep the new invaders out.
[It is possible that at this point the Nithians started developing biological weapons to combat the Carnifex. These weapons could be tied into the eventual disappearance of the Malpheggi lizardman culture on Mystara as well.]
500 BC - The Nithians have turned from the worship of the immortals and are expunged from Mystaran history. A handful of Nithian colony worlds in the Inner Spheres are spared.
450 BC - Nithian colonies, newly cut off from their home world (and each other) begin to struggle for survival. Surprisingly resistance from Carnifex neighbours has died down considerably, and the Carnifex threat has all but disappeared.
300 BC - Carnifex civilisation has ceased in nearly all of the Inner Spheres. The Nithians now have enough space to stabilise their positions. Even with the Carnifex threat gone, this is not an easy task, and many of the colonies die out due to other factors. The few that manage to survive will require centuries before attaining their former glory.
500 AC - Most sheens have been driven from Blackmoorian and Carnifex held spheres and are relegated to inhabiting the Shattered Spheres.
1000 AC - The current era. The Carnifex continue to hold most of the Core Spheres as well as all of the Elemental Spheres. Blackmoorian culture thrives in Fringe Space and has managed to expand into former Carnifex Core territories as well. Nithian culture is once again on the rise and the immortals are gaining more influence throughout Known Space.
The exiles campaign uses the classic Spelljammer cosmology in which crystal spheres (each encompassing a separate star system) float in a medium of flammable, rainbow coloured gasses, called the Phlogiston (also sometimes referred to as the rainbow seas). The Known Spheres are grouped into several broad categories, each of which will be described below.
This crystal sphere gets its own grouping because it is unique among all of its peers. Although most crystal spheres bob gently up and down in the rainbow sea, MystaraSpace's crystal sphere behaves more violently. It travels up and down in a great arc, sometimes coming into contact with the Phlogiston, and sometimes leaving contact with it. It is only during these periods of contact that ships can enter and leave the crystal sphere freely. Each of the above mentioned Exiled cultures happened to leave the sphere at a time when it was in the rainbow sea, but none have ever been able to find it again because of its highly variable location.
There are also several phlogiston vortexes near the Mystara crystal shell that can confuse and confound space travellers. These areas are intense storms where the phlow just roils with activity. Ships entering the storms can be thrown of course, damaged, and sometimes even destroyed.
The Inner Spheres
This grouping of crystal spheres also has a highly variable location in the Phlogiston. Each of the spheres bobs with a noticeable movement in the rainbow sea, though few of them actually leave it. These spheres are the closest to MystaraSpace (when it is in contact with the Phlogiston).
The Nithian culture is dominant in these spheres, but theirs tends to be a very fractured existence. Most nations only control a portion of the world that they inhabit, and none are world spanning. These spheres also hold the highest concentrations of aranea, elves, free living lizard-kin, and goblin-kin.
There is also evidence throughout these spheres of more ancient cultures. The oldest structures here are believed to have belonged to the carnifex forefathers who journeyed out from Mystara during the first exile. Younger structures (nearly 7000 years old now) are believed to have been built by the elves on their migration through this area [note: The elves were not exiled from Mystara. It appears that they were travelling in the other direction - toward Mystara, and not away from it].
Carnifex and Blackmoorian incursions into this area are rare, although they do happen. A handful of The Faithful's strongholds can also be found in these spheres, many of them containing portals directly to their patron's home planes.
These spheres all have one thing in common: they are all battered, blackened, and nearly destroyed by the ravages of war. Not any normal war, but a war against the gods themselves. It is in these spheres that the Blackmoorians made a stand against their immortal pursuers. Very few creatures live here now, but the systems still see much activity.
Sheens dominate these spheres, constantly searching for spelljamming helms that they can hijack. Some aranea manage to eek out a living here, as well as small communities of escaped slaves (elves, lizard-kin, goblin-kin), or stranded ship crews.
Blackmoorian incursions into the area are frequent, as this is one of the major battlegrounds against The Faithful. The carnifex also come here, although slightly less frequently, searching for treasure and ancient artifacts. Both the carnifex and the Blackmoorians attack sheens on sight. They clash with each other as often as not.
The Elemental Spheres are composed of planets (many of them irregularly shaped) that are strongly aligned with each of the four elemental types. Rarely is there a planet with a balance of the four elements, and when there is, it is strongly contested. Trade is very important to the communities that live in these spheres because rarely does one community have all of the resources necessary for survival.
The carnifex dominate these spheres, with the dragon emperors maintaining control on the core worlds. Carnifex clans roam on the outskirts of space, basically leading the life of pirates. Some communities of freed slaves (mostly lizard-kin) exist here and there, but their freedom is tenuous and can end as soon as the next carnifex overlord rediscovers them.
Sheen incursions are frequent here. The constructs have learned that these inhospitable spheres are packed with the resources and raw materials that they so desperately need. Blackmoorians often send well armed forays here as well, and there are several permanent strongholds that they have been able to maintain despite carnifex aggression.
These spheres see little trade for the simple fact that they have little of value in them. A few planets will support life (barely) and these are inhabited by the misfits (some would say scum) of Known Space. The Blackmoorian Free Cities are all located in these spheres, as are several colonies of freed slaves. Construct controlled sheen enclaves also have strongholds here, as do the Progeny of the Frog. Several Dragon Spawned carnifex have also carved out small domains for themselves.
There is little reason to journey into these spheres, unless you have illicit business, or you just want to be left to your own devices. None of the major powers in Known Space bother with establishing permanent bases in the area because they would just be too expensive to maintain. Occasionally either the carnifex or the Blackmoorians will conquer some small community for strategic purposes, but after their tactical objectives are achieved they simply leave the area.
The worlds of the Core Spheres are the most inhabited in all of Known Space. Roughly 70% of the worlds are controlled by the carnifex clans and dragon emperors, while 20% are controlled by the Blackmoorian Imperia. The rest of the worlds are either free states or native populations. Many of the planets here are lush, green worlds, although many of the Blackmoorian ones are still recovering from the scars of war. At one time all worlds were controlled by the carnifex, but the Blackmoorians managed to wrest control of some of them. Blackmoor and the carnifex clash often in these spheres as they try to maintain or expand their territories.