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Hollow World 3Eby Rodger Burns
What I've most recently decided to run with is an alternate Hollow World setting, run with 3E rules... and stuck inside an alternate version of our own Earth, circa early 20th century AD. (Hopefully none of my players are on this list. But then again, if they know enough about Mystara to be on this list, I'm probably not going to get enough mileage out of the Hollow World's surprises anyway. So might as well spill the beans early. ^_^)
Because of the fact that the outer world is 'modern', I get to ditch a few of the existing HW quirks - most notably the general difficulty in learning magic and the list of unknown spells. The PCs have gunpowder and modern firearms; that's their edge. They don't *need* to be the only ones in the world who can cast _Sleep_, or discover several levels in that nobody in the HW can teach them _Fireball_. So the HW cultures IMC are quite a bit more magically inclined all around. (A few of the cultures change drastically IMC - for instance, the Icevale Elves are now fire-worshippers, and have a good helping of priests and sorcerors dedicated to fire magic.) OTOH, the drawbacks in the low technology level of the HW cultures are going to be played up as a counterbalance.
(I'd go into detail on how gunpowder and firearms work IMC, but that's not Mystara.)
As for Cultural Weapons and Armour and Special Compensations, I'm handling those in terms of the Feat rules in 3E. Basically, the Cultural Weapons and Armour restrictions cause starting characters to *lose* proficiency feats normally granted to them by their class; in return, they receive cultural-specific feats. This is generally a one-to-one tradeoff - Fighters and Paladins, who lose more access to heavy weapons and armour, generally get more compensation feats than Sorcerors or Monks do.
An example, from the Antalians:
- Cultural weapons and armour remain unchanged from the HW Player's Guide. A starting Antalian character has no proficiency with the Scimitar - even if he'd normally be able to use Martial weapons - and must spend a feat slot on Weapon Proficiency later on to learn how to use one. Likewise, no Antalian character has proficiency with Heavy armour.
- Antalian wizards get no bonus feats in compensation for the cultural restrictions. They aren't exactly losing much, after all.
- Barbarians, bards, druids, monks, rangers, rogues, and sorcerors lose access to several types of weapons. They gain Skill Focus (Climb) as a bonus feat.
- Clerics, fighters, and paladins lose access both to several types of weapons and also to heavy armour. They gain Skill Focus (Climb) and Skill Focus (Jump) as bonus feats.
Because of how the Feat rules work, the in-game rules for cultural bias and the associated penalties go away, completely. A native of the HW who leaves home and goes adventuring effectively has no cultural bias, can learn to use whatever weapons and armour she wants, and never loses her cultural-specific bonus feats. But to learn to use outsider weapons and armour requires spending feats on Weapon Proficiency, instead of Expertise or metamagic. And staying within the bounds of your culture is encouraged, and worth an RP bonus.
I've also rounded out the rest of the HW map with cultures from all over, just so that I can provide a pat answer if the players ask a passing sea captain about the peoples of Jomphur, or decide to take a wild trip over to Aerical. About half of them have been snatched wholeheartedly from KW locations (and so won't be inflicted on the list), but a few are new. I can start posting descriptions/write-ups if people are interested.