Friday, July 31, 2015

Taint in Monvesia

A major element that separates Monvesia from other fantasy settings is Taint--the transformation of some individuals and communities into monstrous reflections of themselves.  Since taint is responsible for the goblinoid and similar races, I first touched on it in "Other Non-Humans of Monvesia."  I didn't really explore the nature of the ailment, however.
Taint is adopted, in part, from Legend of the Five Rings.  However, unlike in that setting, Taint in Monvesia is not a result of personal choice or action--it is the result of public belief and perception.  Monvesian Taint is further inspired by the Taint from the Thaumcraft mod for Minecraft; as well as the Blight from Dragon Age.
Taint is a "psychosomatic" disorder--that is, it is a mental condition that alters the physical body.   From a metaphysical, cosmologial perspective, it originates in the Plane of Thought [Astral Plane](the transitive aspect of the Aerosphere).  Here, the subconscious minds of all living creatures connect; and a collective unconscious "shadow" exists--an iridescent, black and purple storm-cloud dominating the horizon.  If it can be reached, many wizards believe that this cloud can be used as a portal to the Far Realm.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Measurement, Distance, & Cartography

While born from my development of Monvesia, this post really isn't really setting or even rule-set specific.
Should measurements and distances in a game be measured in terms that can be digested by players of a game, or by characters in a story?  While it would be nice to accomplish both, I personally favor the latter.  When determining your mapping scale, you should consider how characters in the setting describe the same measurements and distances.  "5 feet" is an arbitrar unit of measurement, and characters are not likely to have a tapemeasure handy when mapping a dungeon; a pace, howeve,r is roughly the same size--and is a likely measurement for on-the-go adventurers.

Here are the terms I prefer to use in-game, with a few extra for flavor thrown in.

Small-Scale Measurement

finger is the average width of one finger.
This is the common diameter of the average coin in Monvesia--of any denomination; approx. 18 – 21mm [dime/nickel/penny].
palm is the average distance across the palm, equal to four fingers.  Palms commonly used as a multiple of fingers

A hand is the average distance across the palm and thumb (a little more than five fingers [5 1/3]).  Hands are used independently of fingers and palms; they are typically used to measure heights of living creatures:
  • Goliaths stand between 21 and 24 hands (roughly 4 or 5 cubits).
  • Humans stand between 15 and 20 hands (or 3 to 4 cubits).
  • Elves stand between 14 and 19 hands (roughly 3 to 4 cubits).
  • Rakasta stand between 14 and 16 hands (about 3 cubits).
  • Dawrves stand between 12 and 15 hands (under 3 cubits).
  • Gnomes stand between 9 and 11 hands (about 2 cubits). 
  • Halflings stand between 7 and 9 hands (under 2 cubits).

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Character Optimization in Monvesia

"Optimization" seems to be a good word for areas related to either the creation or customization of characters--and house rules related to each.

Ability Scores

The Player's Handbook presents three methods of generating ability scores:  4d6, standard array, and point-buy.  These methods have become fairly standard in fantasy roleplaying.  Of the three, my preference is for point-buy--which allows for both individuality and balance.  I disagree with the Player's Handbook in regards to the highest ability one can purchase, however.  

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Backgrounds in Monvesia

After race and class, the other major aspect of character creation to explore is Background.  Here is a brief overview of how the backgrounds of the Player's Handbook might fit in the world of Monvesia--including some variant options.  The variant options are inspired by the character concepts of some of the players who first experienced the world.


Acolytes are commonly connected to the Philosophical Orders--while often clerics, paladins, or eldritch knights; they could also be laypersons who studies the orders ways early in life.  Rakasta shamans often have proteges; while dwarves of any caste are welcome to study with the Keeperate before choosing a profession.
James, a human cleric of St. Ignatius, replaced the incognito noble (see below) "Cain" after his death.  He was a devout servant of the Trickster's burning flame, having always lived a religious life.


The roads of the Divine Senarian Empire are filled with criminals and ne'er-do-wells looking for quick coin at the expense of others.  Others seek out this secretive life to hide their true selves.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Monvesian Culture: Dwarven Coinage

Humans are not the only race to influence the greater culture of Monvesia.   The concept of money, for instance, is a dwarven creation.  However, money isn't the only form of commerce in Monvesia.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Psionicists of Monvesia

It is time to venture into the realm of psionics in 5th edition and in Monvesia.  Under the Pathfinder rules, the full psionics system (updated in Psionics Unleashed and Ultimate Psionics) was assumed, though none of my players pursued any of those options--even when knowledge of the temperaments was included in the Knowledge (psionics) skill.  In 5th edition, a more subtle approach can be used.

In Monvesia, there are both mystics and wild talents (members of other classes who have developed psionic ability).

Wild Talents

When I saw the Great Old One patron for the 5th edition warlock, I saw how psionics could be incorporated seamlessly into the existing rules.  While the mystic has been evolving well into a primary manifester, psionics can still be an option for characters that pursue other classes.  Such "manifesters" (to borrow the 3.x term) are called wild talents.  In a world where psionics are rare, wild talents are more common than mystics.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Monvesian Culture: Human Calendar & Relgion

Humans have spread across Monvesia to become the dominant race of the continent.  I do not make this declaration out of hubris over human superiority, but out of acceptance that humans are greedy, relentless, and selfish.  Humankind spread across the land because that is what they do.  Here are some cultural elements of Monvesia that relate to the influence of humanity's religious tradition on the known world.

Senarian Calendar

The calendar is divided into six seasons of 60 days each, each of which is preceded by an extracalery festival related to one of the philosophical temperaments—for a total of 366 days. While each philosophical priesthood counts its own high holy day as the beginning of the liturgucal year, it is the Feast of Spiritual Thought that is most commonly used as the secular new year.

For followers of the philosophical temperaments, regardless of denomination (see below), the seasons hold spiritual significance, as each is associated with a particular element and temperament.  The seasons, including the feast day which precedes them, are treated as a Zodiac of sorts:  The season you are born in has an influence on your personal and interpersonal development.

Each season is further sub-divided into 10, 6-day weeks.  Days are named as variations of:  Windday, Sunday, Flameday, Stoneday, Starday, Riverday).  Dates are noted as the Xth [y]day of [Season].  For example:  Sixth Windday of Summer (the 31st day of the Season).

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Languages of Monvesia

Gothic alphabet
Common Script [Gothic alphabet]

Standard Languages

The following are the equivalents of the "Standard Languages" outlined in the Player's Handbook.
  • Common Languages - There are six (6!) common [ie. human] languages, one for each human culture; all Common languages share the same script.
      • Human characters, (but not including half-human and planetouched) should select two common languages at first level--one representing their culture of origin, and one other.
      • Other characters should select one common language, generally representing the nearest human population; for half-humans and planetouched, this represents their culture of origin.
      • All player characters in a single party should share at least one language (though this does not have to be a common language).
    • Cuorrian ("Central Common") - spoken by Romance/Latinate people of the central river region, many elves, some halflings, some goliaths [aka. “Herzlander”]
    • Galtish ("Western Common") - spoken by Celtic people of the northwest region, some gnomes, some rakasta [aka. “Galtannian” or “Galtlander”]
    • Honderreicher ("Northern Common") - spoken by Germanic people of the northern region, some dwarves, some halflings, some rakasta, some gnomes [aka. “Ondrian”]
    • Notopolitan ("Southern Common") - spoken by Hellenic people of the southern region, some goliaths [aka. “Notopian”]
    • Veldi ("Desert Common") -  spoken by Persian people of the western region, some rakasta [aka. “Baldian”]
    • Voztokny ("Eastern Common") - spoken by Slavonic people east of the river region, some dwarves , some goliaths, [aka. “Tsarish” or “Tsarian” or “Tzarlander”]

Monday, July 13, 2015

Mages of Monvesia

Mastery of the arcane arts can be achieved by strengthening one's connection to the Spheres of Power.  This can be apporached through formal study, through otherworldy pacts, or through acceptance of one's innate, temperamental connection.  Even some artisan s have learned to manipulate the arcane.
RETCON NOTE:  Are you looking for Artificers?  They have been moved to Savants of Monvesia.


Sorcerers of Monvesia are possessed of an inborn connection to one of the Spheres.  While all adherents of the elemental philosophies believe that every being has such a connection, it is the sorcerers who have accepted it and gained power from it.   A sorcerer's elemental connection may be tied to his or her race (or culture, if human), personal philosophy/temperament, season of birth, etc.--but it does not define every aspect of the character.

Among rakasta, sorcerers are seen as spirit mediums who have allowed themselves to become the vessels of lesser spirits.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Dragons of Monvesia

The game is called Dungeons and Dragons, after all, so I suppose I should touch on the nature of dragon-kind in the world.  The dragons of Monvesia follow a variation of the model presented in B/X, BECMI, and RC:  There are only 6 dragons, and they are not differentiated between metallic and chromatic--they are simply dragons.  There is only one species of [true] dragon, composed of six variations.
A dragon of one color may be hatched to a dragon of any other color. To randomly determine a dragon's color, roll 1d12 and consult the following: 1 - 5, mother's color; 6 - 8, father's color; 9, other color A; 10, other color B; 11, other color C; 12, other color D.
The philosophical temperaments of human religion are associated with colors according to the traditional nomenclature of draconic coloration.  Rakasta, who do not see color in the same way that other races do, use an alternate naming scheme based on other precious materials.
Any dragon may be of any temperament, regardless of apparent color.
Innate Spellcasters: All Monvesian dragons have a chance of being innate spellcasters (as described on p. 86 of the Monster Manual).  

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Experts of Monvesia

Skilled vagabonds wander Monvesia for many reasons, any of which make them a good fit for an adventuring party.  Loremasters, gutternipes, troubadours, and confidence artists all make ta place for themselves in the world--either out of necessity, or else merely of desire.


The bard is a product of dwarven culture.  It is one of two recognized arcane professions in dwarven society (see Artificer in "Savants of Monvesia").  The eldest bardic college is the College of Valor, which emerged in the warrior caste.  The dwarves' deeds in battle needed to be passed down, so that no warrior could forget the bravery of history.  The College of Valor has remained close to dwarven and gnomish culture, spreading among humans and halflings of the Honderreich, Galtain, and Voztok.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Priests of Monvesia

In Monvesia, the two priestly classes cover all the spiritual traditions.  While each tradition is rooted with a particular race, you do not need to be a member of that race to follow that tradition--you simply must train in that race's tradition.  There may be some restrictions if you follow another race's traditions, however.
As a "new" race, halflings do not have an independent religion of their own.  Honderreicher halflings typically follow rakasta shamanism; while in Cuorria, they follow the orders of human orthodoxy.


Dwarves and humans have the most recognizable clerical traditions.  Goliath tradition makes use of this class as well--though not in a way that really resembles western-style clerics.

Orders of the Temperamental Philosophies (Humans & some Halflings)

Available Domains:  By temperament -
  • Altruism (Hierophant, Hierarch):  Light, Life, Protection (Unearthed Arcana)
  • Materialism (Lithophant, Litharch):  Forge (Xanathar's Guide), Order (Unearthed Arcana), War
  • Vitalism (Pyrophant, Pyrarch):  Trickery, Travel (Wayfarers Guild)
  • Dynamism (Hydrophant, Hydrarch):  Nature, Revelry (Wayfarers Guild), Tempest
  • Idealism (Aerophant, Aerarch):  Knowledge, Arcana (Sword Coast)
  • Nihilism (Necrophant, Necrarch):  Death, Grave (Xanathar's Guide)

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Warriors of Monvesia

Now that I have explored all the races of Monvesia, it is time to move on to the classes.  All of the classes of the Player's Handbook have a place in this world.  Warriors are a staple in any party, and there is a variety to choose from.
RETCON NOTE:  Are you looking for Barbarians or Monks?  They have been moved to Savants of Monvesia.
Additional fighting style options for Fighters, Paladins, and Rangers can be found in Unearthed Arcana.


The majority of fighters are Champions and Battle Masters.  These can commonly be found as heroic soldiers and officers, but these martial archetypes are by no means bound to military service.

Brutes (Unearthed Arcana) are commonly found as street thugs and gladiators, and not among the military orders of Monvesia--though they may be conscripted into formal service.

Bannerets (Sword Coast) are mercenary and noble officers who are assisted by Battle Masters in leading troops of Champions.  While Champions and Battle Masters may exist outside the strict hierarchy of military service, the Banneret does not.

Cavaliers (Xanathar's Guide) often stand alongside Battle Masters and Bannerets as officers of a noble or mercenary forces. Some may also serve as knights errant, wandering the countryside and offering their services as their conscience (or purse) may dictate. 

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Alignments of Monvesia: Temperaments

The June installment of Unearthed Arcana granted "official permission" to abandon the traditional alignments of D&D. Of course, I'd been playing with alternate alignments for Monvesia since I started the campaign--partly because the alignments of 4th edition (the game my group started with) didn't line up with the alignments I was used to.

Originally, I had identified 6 Monvesian alignments, each associated with a color of [Basic D&D] dragon (see "Dragons of Monvesia"). I started to use these colors to describe NPCs in the world.
  • Good (White Knight, White Wizard, White Witch)
  • Lawful (Gold Knight, Gold Wizard, Gold Witch)
  • Neutral - Balanced (Green Knight, Green Wizard, Green Witch)
  • Neutral - Apathetic (Blue Knight, Blue Wizard, Blue Witch)
  • Chaotic (Red Knight, Red Wizard, Red Witch)
  • Evil (Black Knight, Black Wizard, Black Witch)
As the dominant religion of the world (Universal and Metropolitan Orders, see "Priests of Monvesia") and the planar structure (see "Planes of Monvesia") became solidified, these alignments became associated with philosophies.  As more aspects of setting became associated with each philosophy, they evolved into temperaments (complete with humours).

Each temperament has direct correspondences and indirect associations.  Correspondences are direct correlations  (if it is Altruist, then it is the equivalent of good).  Associations apply to stereotypes and expectations, and are not requirements (not every Evoker is a Vitalist).

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Humans of Monvesia, Part 2: Uncommon Humans


Language Analog:  By human region (see "Humans of Monvesia, Part One")
Inspiration:  Accident.
I never intended half-orcs to be an option.  However, in my earlier campaign, one character (whose player was frequently absent) started to fall victim to the Taint (as a way of keeping the character around and part of the story without a player).  A new player to the group decided that his character was going to research a cure for the Taint. He couldn't pass up examining a half-transformed specimen ... and affecting a cure at this stage seemed plausible.  So, I gave the frequently missing player the option of changing his character's race to half-orc.

Tainted Counterparts:  Orc
Non-Tainted Counterparts:  Humans
Temperamental Association:  By human region (see "Humans of Monvesia, Part One"); half-orcs are not particular to any one human culture.

Names:  By human region (see "Humans of Monvesia, Part One")

Like goliaths, humans originate in the land of Desolation, on the other side of the known world.  There, humans and goliaths were subject to the original Taint--a psychosomatic disorder which stripped the mind of will and humanity, and transformed the body to match.  Over time, humans (and goliaths) proved to be resilient to this taint.  While the transformation couldn't be reversed, it could at least be halted.  Thus were the first half-orcs and ogrillons born.

Humans of Monvesia, Part 1: Ethnicities & Nations

Tainted Counterparts:  Orcs, Bugbears
Temperamental Association:  By ethnicity (see below).
All humans use the "Variant Human Traits" on p. 31 of the Player's Handbook.
NOTE:  Humans should select two (2!) Common languages at first level, while other races only select one.  (see "Languages of Monvesia")

Humans, like goliaths, emigrated to Monvesia.

Though the last race to come to Monvesia, humans have quickly becomes the dominant culture of the regions--much like a bacteria, some would say.  Humans came to Monvesia by crossing the Sea of Sand.  They settled first in the fertile lines just east of the desert (Veldistan), and later spread into the mouth of the great river (Notopoli).  With access to the river, they soon traveled northward, into elven (Cuorria), rakasta (Honderreich), and gnomish (Galtain) territory.  Finally, a few intrepid expeditions crossed the Granitsan Mountains to settle he eastern coast (Voztok).
I have not yet had cause to fully explore the particulars of Veldistan or Notopoli.  They are included here for completeness sake.  I will likely edit this post further when those details emerge.  I will not force them, though--I believe that a campaign word should grow organically.  When I have a character interested in originating in one of these territories--or else a party has cause to adventure there, I will leave the specifics un-delineated.

Planes of Monvesia: The Six Spheres

The planar cosmology of Monvesia is not as complex as traditional D&D campaign settings.  Aside from the [Prime] Material Plane, there are only six other planes, called the Spheres.  The material plane is formed at the nexus of these six spheres--the only point in the universe where opposing spheres touch.


Spheres as Transitive Planes

Where all six Spheres touch, the material plane exists. Each of the Spheres is ever-present in the mortal world, and the regions nearest it act as transitive planes.  The transitive aspects of the Spheres are:
  • Aerosphere – air, Plane of Thought [Astral Plane]
  • Heiropshere – light (aka. “empyreal fire”), Ethereal Plane
  • Hydrosphere – water (and wood), Plane of Yore [Feywild]
  • Lithosphere – earth (and metal), Mirror Plane (see below)
  • Necrosphere – void, Plane of Shadows [Shadowfell]
  • Pyrosphere – fire (aka. “infernal fire”), Modal Plane (see below)

Friday, July 3, 2015

Other Non-Humans of Monvesia

Goblinoids: The Tainted Races

Goblinoids in Monvesia are the result of a temperamental disorder known as Taint.  Each tainted race has an untainted counterpart.  Two races, humans and goliaths, are subject to two strains of taint--one from their original homeland (Desolation), and one newer strain in Monvesia.

  • Desolation-Strain Taint
    • Ogres are tainted goliaths
      • Ogrillons are goliaths who have either proven to be partially resistant to this strain of taint, or else who have been partially cured of it.
    • Orcs are tainted humans
      • Half-orcs (see "Humans of Monvesia") are humans who have either proven to be partially resistant to this strain of taint, or else who have been partially cured of it.
    • Troglodytes are tainted lizardfolk
    • Vanara are tainted [or "awakened"] monkeys
  • Monvesia-Strain Taint
    • Bugbears are tainted humans (?)
    • Gnolls are tainted rakasta
    • Goblins are tainted gnomes
    • Hobgoblins are tainted dwarves
    • Kobolds are tainted halflings
      • From an historic standpoint, it might be more accurate to say that halflings are untainted kobolds.
    • Trolls are tainted goliaths (?)
Both strains are taint are present in Monvesia.  Monvesia strain is an evolution of Desolation strain.  Desolation-strain taint only effects those races originally native to Desolation: goliaths and humans.

Goliaths of Monvesia

Image depicting Mesoamerican warriors carrying their packs of supplies on their backs. Image by Jody Livingston.

Language Analog: Pseudo-Semitic ("Nephite")
Inspiration:  Ogre folklore, Qunari from the Dragon Age franchise, half-giants from Dark Sun, Book of Mormon stories (particularly the Jaredites, the early Lehites, and the followers of Hagoth)
In the B/X rendition of this setting, I called this race [civilized] ogres.  I created a class for them that was an inverse of halflings.  When we ported over to Pathfinder, the half-giant adaptation from Dreamscarred Press' Psionics Unleashed was a natural fit.  When 5th edition was released, 4th edition titles went on sale, and I was able to pick up the setting books for Eberron and Dark Sun--which, alongside Mystara, are my preferred pre-fab settings.  In 4th edition Dark Sun, they had retconned half-giants as goliaths--the choice seemed wise, as that edition was already getting race happy.  When the player's companion was released for 5th edition Elementel Evil,  I saw that the goliath was adapted to the new ruleset.  Goliath was an obvious choice for this race in Monvesia--which had yet to be encountered by the players.

Tainted Counterparts: Ogres, Trolls
Temperamental Association: Nihilist

Male Names:  Abinadi, Amaleki, Ammon, Corianton, Coriantumr, Hagon, Himni, Korihor, Lamoni, Lehonti, Liahor, Limni, Limhi, Mahonri, Morianton, Nehor, Omner, Riplaki, Seantum, Shemnon, Shiblon, Teancum, Zeniff, Zoram

Female Names:  Abish, Amalekish, Ammoth, Coriantoth, Deseret, Hagoth, Himnish, Kish, Korihona, Lamonish, Liahona, Limnish, Limhish, Mahonrish, Merkabah, Moriantoth, Nehona, Nimrah, Riplakish, Sariah, Shemnoth, Shibloth, Zarahemla, Zerahemna

Goliaths, like humans, emigrated to Monvesia.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Halflings of Monvesia

File:Hiravias-portrait.jpg File:Hearth-orlan-female-portraits.jpg File:Hearth-orlan-male-portrait.jpg

Language Analog: Basque
Inspiration:  Kender from Dragonlance (vaguely); Hearth Orlan from Pillars of Eternity (accidentally)
While looking for artwork that best represented my vision for halflings in Monvesia, I stumbled upon the orlan of Pillars of Earth.  Damnit ... someone thought of it first ...

Tainted Counterpart: Kobolds [which are furry, and dog-like--not dragonkin]
Temperamental Association: Altruism

Names:  See Basque Names.

Until a century ago, Halflings were little more than folklore.  The first halfling sightings were in the years following the Orc Wars, in the Honderreich.  Since they were easily dismissed as gnomes, or goblins, or [*shudder*] kobolds, most people never considered halflings real.  

Rakasta of Monvesia

Language Analog:  Turkish
Inspiration:  Rakasta of Mystara ("Isle of Dread," "Rage of the Rakasta"), Genghis Khan
NOTE:  Rakasta refers to a very particular race in a very particular world.  While the race I am presenting here is similar to those of that world, I am not trying to explicitly emulate that race.  I use the name here because it conveys the idea of "proud warrior race" better than catfolk could.  The "official" catfolk, as noted below, are called Tabaxi.

Tainted Counterpart:  Gnolls
Temperamental Association:  Vitalist

Names:  See Turkish Names; swap out sounds as detailed here.

With Dwarves and Elves, Rakasta are one of the original races of Monvesia.  Their territory is common called the Pridelands.  It once extended through parts of the Honderreich and Galtain, and included all of Veldistan.