Casting Runes 5: More and Less than Human

This post continues the exploration and implementation of RuneQuest 6th Edition for the creation of a sword and sorcery campaign setting.

It is long past time to show a little more about character options for this setting, and to write a little bit about how it will be run. Let’s start with the last part first.

This campaign is intended to be run in three phases. I hope to conduct a small, short-term part of it online via Google Hangouts with a group of regular vloggers who will share their experiences. I hope to conduct part of it as a PBeM with a very small group of players for longer-term play, and I hope to run it in the more traditional  face to face context. Of the three phases, I expect phase two to have the longest legs, but it would be nice if a side effect of this project were to be a regular gaming group in my new city of residence.

Phase One: Hangouts

The first group of players to gain entry to the campaign world will be vloggers and they will have substantial opportunities to influence the setting through their character creation and portrayal. Although I have prepared a lot of the world and built cosmological, geological, and sociological frameworks already, they have been implemented with the expectation of being enhanced and expanded by the character creation process. This will be kept manageable and explorable by asking the group to prepare characters for a specific task. This task, a pilgrimage to the most holy of cities, should put cultural differences in stark relief and allow for many opportunities to get creative with regional, social, political, religious, and ‘racial’ interactions.

The scenario lead-in will plant seeds and bait hooks for players to involve their characters in a major thread of action within the game world, but this will not be a planned story arc. All planning stops when play starts.

Phase Two: PBeM

The second group of players to gain entry to the campaign world will be gamers known and unknown with an interest in building an immersive and open-ended play experience. Building on the cultural traits and hints established by the first group, they will be the first to experience campaign play in this setting and establish a legacy. The group will establish what sort of group they are interested in running, what its focus will be, and how they would like to start off. As this is intended from the beginning as long-term play, players will be required to build the characters from the ground up for that purpose.

The campaign lead-in will be constructed from player decisions in the character generation process. As before, there will be no arc or planned sequence of events past the conditions which set up that start point.

Phase Three: Live Game

This is the most nebulous phase at this point as it hinges on finding local players. Ostensibly, it would start with a one-shot and pre-generated characters if the players are unfamiliar with the rules or related rules sets. This would provide some backstory and foreshadowing of some threads already in motion in the campaign world. The rest would  unfold like phase two except that due to the nature of life here, play would be organized around a rotating player roster as people come and go with changing contracts and returns to the other side of the Earth.

Exposed: The People of the Firmament

There are five groups from which characters will spring in this campaign. These groups are not political, social, or religious divisions, but biological. Although this fantasy world has less diversity than our own in terms of nations and clashing cultures, the following sentient groups are as prone to separating into groups of “us” and “them” as any other community-minded set of beings. Players opting to build a character from one of these templates will also be deciding which nation of that species the character was born in, what sort of deity or deities it reveres, and its standing in that community. The game traits laid out below are just a general framework of what the union of father and mother could provide. The traits listed are for adults.


Humans, as diverse as in our own world, are scattered across the firmament and struggling to rise above the simple culture imposed on them by state religions. While distinct political regions are a major feature of human interactions between themselves and other sentient beings, the greater authority of the major pantheons defines and limits much of the culture. According to the priests, the gods intend for humanity to devote itself to honest labor and simple lives. As usual, humanity is bucking the system. Where once inventors and fledgling engineers and sorcerers were struck down for their hubris, now… the gods are silent – or at least unwilling to punish openly.

Humans, unlike the others, have spread throughout the firmament and have found that with a little thought and experimentation they can live anywhere. The hardships inherent in some of these climates have further goaded them to turn that ingenuity toward machines, both mundane and magical to ensure their survival. The silence of the gods on these innovations led to more, until now great gears grind ever onward toward a mechanized future, a mystical one, or both.

The priests warn of retribution, but as decades pass and none comes, inventors and wizards grow more and more bold.

Humans are built for play according to the standard rules of RuneQuest 6th Edition.

Near Humanity

The Plenthans

Life underground makes for a hardy, compact people. While typically not as tall as their surface-dwelling cousins, the Plenthans have found health and heartiness on the other side of generations-long struggle and deprivation.

Still abiding by the edicts laid upon them by a vengeful god, the Plenthans have split themselves into isolated city states deep underground and devote themselves to mining the darkness of the earth and transforming it into temples of great beauty and strength. As a people, they have come to mirror their stone work, often striking those seeing them for the first time with wonder at their purity and purpose.

Time has revealed to them the horrors which claw their way from beneath the firmament toward the sheltered cradle of the surface, and they have chosen to stand as the last line of defense against them. Their warriors gird themselves in steel and turn their bodies only to the arts of war. Likewise, the priests have come forward as holy warriors. In the Deeps, one either mines, or makes war.

Such a society turns itself inward over time, and the Plenthans are no different. Theirs is a life of purpose, and all things point toward a goal or they are discarded. The society is divided into two major camps; those born and raised in the older Deeps and those born and raised in Deeps being constructed as bulwarks against the press of chaos from beyond the lower darkness. These societies are further divided into social classes of the priesthood, the workforce, and the warriors. Those on the frontier are of course, much rougher around the edges and see themselves as being tougher and more genuine than those in the great complexes.

Plenthans are built for play using the following template:

Strength 2D8+8    Constitution 2D6+6    SIZ 2D4+6   DEX 3D6    INT 2D6+6    POW 3D6     CHA 3D6


  • Barbarian
  • Civilized

Homeland: each community is a separate state, each named for a founder and known as a Deep

  • Maroth Deep – the second largest community, founded by the second son of Granoth to keep the Plenthans strong and focused. To this day, Maroth deep is a center of strength for the Priests of Plenth and the home of their warrior order.
  • Granoth Deep – the largest and oldest community, founded under order of Plenth, the god of stoneworking as punishment for Granoth’s youthful betrayal. Centuries of development have allowed for the rise of a political class, and the weakening of resolve to avoid the use of arcane lore to serve Plenth. Accepted more readily into the warrior caste, sorcerers and mystics have begun to make names for themselves in the unending wars in the lower tunnels.
  • Pumoth Deep – the last of the great deeps, Pumoth Deep rarely communicates with Meroth and Granoth Deeps, and is the source of most of the expeditionary forces who seek new holdings to begin the painful process of turning tunnels and caves into Deeps for the future. If any of the Deeps lives the type of life that the priests talk about, it is Pumoth Deep.

Careers: generally limited to those directly of use to the ongoing life of the community in the eyes of its ruling warrior, priest, and artisan castes.

The Blessed

Neither the origins of the Blessed, nor the reasons for their elevation to their immortal state are discussed in polite company. As all Blessed are painfully polite, these things are quite simply never discussed – among themselves at any rate. One has little control over one’s neighbors. Rumors, both flattering and not, abound. What is known and directly observable are that their small communities live together in enclaves as directed by the gods and do not stray from them unless instructed to do so. Theirs is a strongly hierarchical culture, ultimately ruled by the gods themselves. In recent memory, the Blessed have not stirred themselves to leave their enclaves at all.

They hold themselves in reserve from other cultures, but welcome guests and make great use of permanent foreign residents to handle the mundane tasks of life from cleaning to defense.

Blessed are built for play using the following template:

Strength 3D6    Constitution 2D8+6      SIZ 2D6+6    DEX 2D6+6    INT 2D6+6    POW 3D8     CHA 3D8


  • Civilized         

Homeland: each enclave is a separate state, each named for a deity.

Careers: With unending life and a static population, the Blessed have taken to lives of artistic and academic pursuits, and fill the more mundane roles of society with those hired from other cultures.

Humanoid Species

The Fidrans

The Fidrans are seafaring nomads who many would like to believe are more into tale-telling than maintaining their profitable merchant ties around the coasts and up the major rivers of the lands of the firmament. United as a people, divided only along family lines, the Fidrans think of their undersea kingdom as a home for all. Raised in the visible protection of their deities, their capital is a beautiful phosphorescent pearl deep under the ocean, into which not a drop of seawater spills. The Fidrans maintain far-flung networks for trade and information throughout island chains and coastal bazaars, and many of them spend their entire lives travelling the waters of the world, rarely going home.

Slight, natural swimmers able to hold their breath for vast stretches of time but not truly undersea dwellers, the Fidrans are at home on both land and sea. Their fealty to their deities, however, requires them to flow like the waters and informs all that they do. The flow of money, the flow of goods, the flow of information, and the fluidity of relationships keep the majority of their people constantly in motion.

Among them, some feel the lure of knowledge more strongly than the lure of the sea lanes, and work to harvest the secrets which pass from Fidran to Fidran. With a strong oral tradition and a culture of reliance on memory, Fidran lore masters have good reason to believe they are among some of the most powerful keepers of arcane lore on the firmament. With such obvious bounty provided for them by their deities, the priests are well-known as being the most in tune with the blessings of their faith.

Fidrans are built for play using the following template:

Strength 3D6    Constitution 3D6     SIZ 2D4+6   DEX 2D6+6    INT 2D6+6    POW 2D8+6     CHA 3D6


  • Nomadic
  • Civilized

Homeland: The Fidrans are the largest group of sentient beings to have not splintered into smaller nation states or zones of control. Living mainly under the aegis of the gods of seafaring.

Careers: sailors, soldiers, priests, spies, merchants, con artists, artisans, and those who keep the lights of home burning bright

The Alira

The Alira are an odd mix of nomadic stay-at-homes whose enormous, but ever-shifting cloud cities drift on the air currents above all the lands and seas of the firmament. Allegiances between each city-state evolve and change whenever they should meet and merge in time of storm and war, and drift apart in times of calm and peace.

Their natural state is to be nearly insubstantial; wisps of air and song among the clouds. With intent they can achieve the solidity of the other sentient beings and use their wings to soar and fly, and fight.

To the Alira, all things can be raised to the level of art – and should be. All that they do is refined and explored into forms and patterns which are then ruthlessly broken and rebuilt until only the pure essence of the thing remains. Among some city states, this cultural predilection has taken their society back to its primitive roots of minimal tool use and a focus on physicality and survival. Among others, it has been less brutal, but no less effective in forging a fat-free society which is unafraid to challenge itself and any other.

Alira focus on the present moment intently.

The Alira are built for play by using the following template:

Strength 2D6+8    Constitution 2D4+6    SIZ 2D4+6    DEX 2D8+8    INT 2D6+6    POW 3D6     CHA 3D6


  • Primitive
  • Barbarian
  • Civilized

Homeland: The Alira have no permanent homes, and do not name their cloud cities, but each can unerringly find their way back to their family and social units  while the sun is in the sky. The concept of nation is almost foolish to them, but they do understand loyalty and defending that which is right. Above all, the Alira are a warrior race who do not conquer, they defend.

Careers: Life among the Alira focuses mainly on the life of a warrior or the life of the mind, but each adult among them can care for themselves in gathering food, and defending the family.

Stay tuned~

3 Responses to “Casting Runes 5: More and Less than Human”
  1. Loric says:

    What’s the latest on the RQ pbem?

    • Runeslinger says:

      The Hangouts stage has just gotten underway. I won’t be starting the PBeM stage until the Hangouts group has accomplished some things and established some solid traits for their respective cultures.

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  1. […] This post carries these cultural elements further into the realm of magical and religious organizations and politics […]

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