Yes, I know, February is long gone [in February there was a challenge on German RPG-blogs to post homebrew games/settings – red.]. But you probably know yourselves that things as complex as a homebrew settings can simply take a bit longer – and after all it’s not like this wouldn’t fit with the theme of d6ideas even outside of some blogger challenge.
So here it is. Nydele.
Why should you set your next game in Nydele? What makes it better than other settings?
Truth be told, not much. Personally, I fell in love with the religions, and even though it isn’t quite the standard fantasy fare, there are bound to be a dozen and more games and settings for each of you, which do an equally good job.
Not the best sales pitch, I know. [Indeed – red.]
At the end of the day, Nydele simply is a small fantasy setting, I am quite fond of and which I thought somebody else might show interest in as well.
For its inhabitants, the sickle-shaped continent Nydele represents the entirety of the known world. They may well be right. The southern regions are cool to cold and can be likened to Scandinavia, while the northern areas are rather Mediterranean. Civilization is concentrated wholly in the outer reaches of the sickle. The inner zone, including the inland sea, is highly magical and extremely dangerous. Night and day, countless strange creatures and terrible monsters prowl amongst the last ruins of old cities there.
Even though the influence of the wilderness, as it is known, is dampened by the surrounding monoliths, it can be felt the land over. In the vicinity of the wilderness, magic users and humanoids other than humans and dwarves are not uncommon, but in the outer reaches they are seen as creatures of myth and legend. The smallest spell is draining for a wizard here and conceiving children borders on a miracle for the other races.
While humans and dwarves mostly live apart from each other, the other races – with the exception of the water-bound mermaids and gids – including giants, gnomes and elves mingle amongst them. No wonder then that while racism is still rampant at the end of the day country and religion are seen as more important than race.
Secret History (Spoiler Warning!)
The history of Nydele spans a mere 1500 years. It’s been as long that the nameless creator made the continent. His magic created everything in existence, as well as the laws that would allow these things to continue to exist. The magic of mortals is able to bend these laws of existence for a short while, for it is nothing but a shadow of the creator’s magic.
Nobody remembers the creator. While he gave each of his creatures knowledge and even a cultural inheritance of sorts, he did not impart them with any knowledge of his existence or identity. All the myriad beliefs and mythologies dreamt up by Nydele’s inhabitants are thus nothing but fantasies and false prophecies.
Unrecognized, the creator himself continued to wander Nydele, going wherever he wanted, whenever it pleased him. The mortals, though, were cunning, and many centuries ago, a small group of humans and dwarves managed to trick the creator. They trapped him in a prison of his own creation. From there, his endless tortures fueled the power and immortality of his captors. Nydele recoiled from the shock of separation. The cataclysmic event made creation itself scream in outrage and the inner part of the continent sank. Around the unconscious creator, his wild magic erupted and changed the world. His magic twisted it. Nature gave birth to monsters and new humanoid races beyond humans and dwarves raised their heads. Not everything born that day was evil, but all of it was dangerous.
The conspirators, neither willing nor brave enough to reawaken and free the creator, managed to wrest control of powers that should have been the creator’s alone to wield.
Using monoliths of power, they pushed back the magical outbreak and they made the prison rise on an island from the depth. Ageless with power and grown in number, the cult reigns the ignorant from the shadows. Even though no one knows of them and even though they are less powerful than the creator, they still are the true masters of this world.
Nydele is home to different beings without number. Especially in the magical wilderness there are more creatures – intelligent ones included – than a human could count in a lifetime. Most of these are unique monsters though, often dangerous and uncivilized.
Time and time again groups of such creatures leave the magical zone and in some cases may even come to settle down in the surrounding towns of the civilized lands. Individual races never last long, though, often being unable to procreate outside the zone.
Halfelves and similar bastards are not unheard of, but they can only be conceived in the direct vicinity of the zone. Far from the wilderness, mixed breeds are naturally impossible.
Looking only at those intelligent races, which remain after the above are sorted out, things get a lot clearer.
Humans and dwarves are the only two races to be found in all civilized lands and often form the backbone of local culture. Many cities are populated by both humans and dwarves, though even then the two races tend to segregate into their own districts instead of living together in mixed quarters. Due to their ability to see well even under bad illumination and their general disdain of heat, most dwarves are active from the early evening until the morning and sleep during the rest of the day. This serves to create one more social divide between them and the humans, who are most active during daylight hours.
Dwarves are considered to be talented craftsmen and are attributed with a straight forward direct demeanor.
Because their longer lifespan of around 130 years does not show, the only physically evident difference between dwarves and humans is their smaller size of 1,3 m average.
The elves are one of the other races. Their habitable zone stretched nearly to the farthest coastal regions – only in the most distant areas from the magical center of the continent do they have problems conceiving offspring. If elves settle in the cities, which does not happen often in the first place, they tend towards the outskirts. There are a few elven settlements, but most elves live in small groups as part of the many mixed rural communities. Elves appear to be truly happy only in direct contact with nature and city-dwelling elves have a reputation for being cynical and angry.
Elves possess excellent hearing and an extraordinary sense of smell, a combination that has given them a reputation as great huntsmen. This stereotype is so pervasive that especially townspeople are greatly surprised when they meet an elf who isn’t a hunter or woodsman of some kind.
They live even longer than dwarves with known cases of elves reaching nearly 200 years. They are lithely built compared to humans, and this difference gets more pronounced with age. Older elves thus are quite quick but also more than a little frail. Apart from this, only their slightly pointed ears makes them visibly distinct from humans.
Next on the list are giants. These cannot conceive in quite as large an area, but their unsteady nature still means they can be found almost everywhere. Many giants still live in the magical wilderness itself and can hold their own there. In the civilized lands, they live with their core families in the cities or sometimes in human or dwarven villages. They do not get along well with other giants, who do not belong to their immediate family, and so it is unusual to find more than half a dozen (most of them adolescents) in any one place. In the cities, they perform heavy manual labor, for which they seem predestined. Other people tread lightly around them because giants’ tempers are legendary. In reaction, there have sometimes been lynchings of giants. Skjennig is the big exception to all of this, with giants congregating here from all over the land. Giants are the majority here and humans and dwarves enjoy only limited civil rights. Why the giants tolerate one another here is unknown.
Usually, an adolescent giant of 15 years will be sent out into the world by his parents, who will tolerate him only for short visits from then on. Until they find a suitable partner to settle down with (which seldom happens before they turn 30), they wander the length and width of the continent. Many giants turn to waylaying travelers during this time of their life or raid villages in small bands, but just as many earn their pay as unskilled laborers.
As their name implies, giants stand out against humans due to their much larger size. Depending on family, they range from 3 to 5 meters in height. The bigger they get, the less intelligent they tend to be, though. While a 3 meters tall giant is only marginally slower witted than the average human, a 5 meter giant may have trouble to form coherent sentences.
Much rarer than giants are gnomes. Those are usually only found near the continent’s core. They prefer to live underground, where they gather in large clans. Within civilized lands, their tunnel systems are often directly connected to dwarven villages or the dwarven districts of cities, for gnomes often adopt dwarven culture. Gnomes are impulsive beings and due to rash actions have earned a reputation of untrustworthiness among humans. When they do not adopt the ways of their dwarven neighbors, gnomes establish a rough pecking order among themselves.
Gnomes are able to perceive heat and react poorly to bright light, and so are seldom seen above ground during the day. When they do not mine for metal or quarry rock in the underground, they often work as assistants and helpers or other badly paying jobs. A large number of gnomes turn to thievery either out of predilection or sheer desperation. In general, gnomes show little interest in magic, but within most clans there can be found a magically highly talented individual or two, who keep to themselves and are surrounded by veritable libraries of magical lore – most of the books being stolen for them by other members of their clan.
Gnomes are roughly the same size as dwarves (around 1,4 m), though they tend to a more wiry built and are quick rather than tough. They are visibly different from humans. Their posture is naturally crooked and their pupils starkly reflect the surrounding light. Their entire body is covered with a short bristly fur of brown and yellow.
The rarest races are generally mermaids and gids, although their reach extends quite far into the continent. Mermaids and gids can only survive in aquatic habitats, though. Even though there are many known colonies in the sea, they seem to prefer freshwater wherever they can. Due to the mermaids’ nature and the gids’ character most of these colonies are largely self sufficient, but many mermaids still trade fish and shells and some gids work as mercenaries or bodyguards for other races.
Mermaids are highly talented in magic, but are generally considered too fickle as to depend on their services. The gids on the other hand lack magical talent altogether but possess amazing regenerative abilities. Both are very temperamental, with gids prone to violent outbreaks if angered, while mermaids may just as well simply turn their backs and swim away as they may grab the source of their irritation by the leg and pull them under to drown.
Gids and mermaids both live to be around 30 years. Physically they are very different from one another. Gids have slimy skin like a frog and long strong limbs. Mermaids sport their namesake’s fish tail but otherwise resemble pale human women. Gids live only on the coast and have to keep themselves wet in regular intervals, while mermaids can only crawl along on dry land.
All mermaids are female and all gids are male. As most scholars – though only part of the general populace – know, the two apparently different races are actually the respective sexes of a single race. Gids and mermaids loathe each other, but during spring, instinct drives mermaids to spawn at the beaches where the gids then wade into the water to fertilize the eggs and guard them until the early summer, when the young mermaids and gids emerge.