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Building an Indie-MMO (2/2)

More Information about how to build an Indie MMO can be found at our friends website: Indie MMO

4. Don’t twist and turn the asset (beyond its original use)
Im now with uMMORPG for almost a year and met a lot of new and interesting people on the forums, as well as the official uMMORPG discord server. Every now and then I come across somebody who wants to use the asset in a way it was not intended by the original author. For example by adding dynamic,  destructible terrain, custom playerworlds, realtime action combat system, level- and classless systems and so on. Basically, all of these changes are possible if you have the proper skills, time and resources at hand. But those changes are also major modifications that make the asset do something it was not designed for. This is also referred to as a total conversion and is a daunting task, especially if you are lacking high grade coding skills.

I strongly disadvise such an undertaking unless you are 100% dedicated, willing and competent enough to do so. Your plan might start well, but after a while you will run into serious issues as well as the impossibility of receiving official updates, the usage of AddOns and a whole lot of maintenance and compatability problems. Just imagine the amount of content you can create using the time spent on a total conversion in a different way.

If you want to actually finish a game using uMMORPG, stick to what you get and expand the core asset via AddOns (your own, free ones and maybe a few commercial ones). But keep the core aspects like movement, targeting, combat, the world itself, class and level system – as they are. If you plan to re-design any one of these sensitive areas – you might be better writing your own asset from scratch instead.


Warcraft 3 Digimon Total Conversion

5. Don’t get AddOn greedy (use a few selected ones instead)
Another lesson I learned in almost one year of uMMORPG projects, tests and writing AddOns: Some people out there are not satisfied with the number of features the core asset ships with. Of course I agree with that fact, but I also understand that the author is not able to provide each and every feature the community wants to see. Vis (the author of uMMORPG) is in fact adding features to the asset in regular intervals, and a sprawling scene of AddOn developers emerged as well, trying to fill the gaps and expand uMMORPG wherever possible.

This particular situation: “We don’t have every feature we want yet, but we might get that in the near/mid/far future” has lead to a form of AddOn greed that took toll on several developers out there. AddOn greed on the one hand makes you scavenge the web for all kinds of AddOns to put into your project. Trying to get as close as possible to the “next WoW killer” in terms of feature quantity. On the other hand, it causes a stalemate to project development because you go into a “I can’t continue to develop my project unless feature X becomes available” endless loop. By playing the famous MMOs out there (look – so shiny!), some Dev’s become even more AddOn greedy and completely cancel out their own development cycle. Waiting for better days instead of advancing the development of their projects.

My advice: Don’t get AddOn greedy, as you will never ever gonna catch them all. And there will always be new stuff on the market. There won’t be that “golden 1.0 version” you are waiting for. Limit yourself to a few selected AddOns and maybe one unique feature. AddOn greed will put your project into eternal stalemate. Development is the exact opposite of standstill. It means you have to take the destiny of your project in your own hands in a pro-active way.

Comic by http://themeatly.com

6. Don’t think of “development” as a simple asset flip (understand what dev means)
Another thing I’ve encountered several times over the course of the last months is that many people think that game development using Unity 3d is just a simple asset flip. But exactly the opposite is the case – the more assets and technology you have at your hands, the more complex development becomes as all parts must work together in harmony. Just think of every asset as an instrument in an orchestra, your job as a developer is to conduct them to work together in terms of rhythm, harmony, length, volume and pitch.

Amost every day, I encounter people who saw just another asset on the store and want to combine that said asset with uMMORPG. Multiply this by the number of subsystems found inside the uMMORPG asset like inventory, combat, ingame shops, npc dialogues, networking, character progression, enemies and so on and you get a massive list of assets that seem to fit your needs at first.

But you should be aware, that all of those assets are standalone and where not designed to be used as part of the uMMORPG asset or a networking environment. This means, all assets require professional coding to integrate them into your uMMORPG version. Now each and every asset was written by an individual, with individual goals and a individual coding style.

If you go that route, your job as a developer will be far more than just a simple “asset flip”. You have to understand (that means “learn”) each asset as well as the uMMORPG assets code in order to bring the loose ends together. As 99% of those assets are not plug-and-play-able in the unique “MMO client/server networking environment that uMMORPG is” – you will need a solid skill set and a couple of hours per asset to make that work with uMMORPG.

In theory, it sounds so cool to simply dump the “Third Person Controller” into your uMMORPG3d project and have immediate access to all of its features with 0 coding involved. In practice it’s more like opening the gates of hell (alongside a 75$ waste)…

 

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Building an Indie-MMO (1/2)

More Information about how to build an Indie MMO can be found at our friends website: Indie MMO

Introduction
Time for some myth busting – in this new blog series I would like to share some personal thoughts on the process of creating an Indie MMO using Unity and the uMMORPG asset. It’s all about realistic game design and how to manage such a project – things you should do and things that you should better not touch (not even with a stick). Please note that the following pages represent my personal thoughts and are in no way representative for all opinions out there. Also note that I write exclusively about creating indie games using Unity and the famous uMMORPG asset (but I am not the author of uMMORPG).

Summary: The purpose for this blog series is to give advice to game designers who are set for one single thing: To create and finish a game using Unity within a reasonable amount of time, using a reasonable amount of resources and still generate a reasonable amount of joy/revenue.

Thanks for reading and enjoy!

SamuTale Unity based Indie MMO (Unity Client + Custom Backend)

1. Do Not…switch to MySQL (if you are not a programmer)
uMMORPG was built with simplicity in mind and therefore uses SQLite as it’s database system. SQLite is a subset of MySQL with reduced complexity and stripped down features. It also has several advantages as it does not require you to setup a database server and can therefore be run locally and on a dedicated server without further configuration. The uMMORPG core scripts and all of our AddOns where built around SQLite, if you want to switch to mySQL now, that means replacing each and every database script in your project. Now imagine you add a new AddOn (that will most probably also be based on top of SQLite): You have to replace that script syntax with a proper mySQL syntax as well. This goes on and on for every AddOn you add and everytime the core uMMORPG version is updated.

Of course you can still do that, especially if you know how to program both in C# and mySQL. But if you can’t – I highly recommend you get a programmer on board of your team or pay a freelancer. Otherwise just keep your hands off. SQLite is not bad at all. The only problem are networked databases and multiple databases. But do you really need that? Do you have one server up and running – and how about three? Do you? Do your game and your community allow for such a complex setup already? Furthermore imagine all the content and features you can get done in the amount of time that is required to switch uMMORPG over mySQL.

Finally, there are several Indie MMOs out there that rely on SQLite for years – and they are still alive and kicking! Just do a quick google search or check out Wurm Online for example.

Wurm Online (SQLite)

2. Do Not…aim for MMO (aim for MO instead)
Unity (and especially UNET) was in fact not built for massive multiplayer games. There is not a single MMO out there that utilizes Unity as it’s server backend. Of course there are several Unity MMOs on the market (not just Indies – check out Crowfall for example) but they all use a highly sophisticated and very powerful server backend written either inhouse from scratch in C++ or C# or using professional 3rd party software. What Unity is used for in terms of MMOs is the client. And just the client (Summoners War is another example). There might be exceptions, but thats what I observed in the past years.

Im not saying that a MMO is not possible, just ditch that “massive”. In my eyes, any Indie game will always have to struggle for players and you will have a hard time attracting thousands of online players to your game. If you do your job right, you will be able to have hundreds of players online. Thats not MMO, thats MO – and thats absolutely perfect both in terms of revenue and technical limitations.

Just imagine how much marketing power is required in order to attract 10.000 players – and how many servers and people who manage those servers must be paid (or be very dedicated to your project). It’s a nice dream but nothing realistic. Instead you should aim for a small but tightly knit community and good content. Content that offers your players areas to explore, quests to complete, monsters to fight and items to acquire. And all that represented in a appealing and polished way, with a special care to the details. You won’t be able to populate a world with content, that is capable of satisfying 10.000 players – but if you work hard, you will be able to create a world with enough content to keep 1k players around.

Project Gorgon (Indie MMO)

3. Do Not…alter the core beyond recognition (use AddOns instead)
I tell you the story of my very first uMMORPG project: After getting used to Vis coding style and a bit of knowledge about the asset, my first thought was: This is lacking so many features – I have to add as many of them as I can! Said and done, new features where tacked on and stuffed into the core asset. A few days later, Vis released the first update on the store that contained only minor changes. I was able to update by hand and did setup a GIT repo for the future. Several tiny updates followed that where all easily manageable, but the process got slower and more tedious each time. This made me skip one update or another, leaving a gap in my personal series of uMMORPG version numbers.

After a while I wanted to start a side-project based on the same uMMORPG asset and realized that I cannot move my features from one project to another. Then – all of a sudden – Vis released a new AddOn that allowed parties. This rendered my own party code obsolete and I had a hard time A. removing the old code and B. updating to Vis new code. A period of smaller changes followed that I spent stuffing even more features into my Frankenstein core, updating turned more and more into a chore. I was so happy when everything worked that I skipped a few of Vis official versions. You should know, that when you do – catching up to the newest available version becomes even more difficult. My little frankenstein engine was only missing a proper pet script now, the code was all spaghetti like but it worked. And then Vis released the Pets update. And I jumped around, screaming and pulling my hair out!

My advice: It’s OK if you want to modify the uMMORPG core system, we all want to add our own features and make the asset unique. But do by using the AddOn system. Because that is was the AddOn system was made for. That system also allows you to sell your AddOns, but thats not it’s primary use. The AddOn system enables you to add more or less extensive modifications to the uMMORPG core system (using partial classes and hooks) while the core scripts remain intact. This means you can update your uMMORPG asset, you can import/export AddOns, you can move them to other projects and share them with your team members. The AddOn system will make your life easier and your project much more manageable. Think about it!

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The world of Gods & Minions

“In the dawn of the sixth age, the sky itself descended – for the world as they knew it, was coming to an end. The Mortals strived for eternity long ago and built a kingdom of high magic, technological advancement and cultural treasures. Of course, as Mortals do, they squandered it, fought over it, and, finally, lost it.

The Gods imposed a final test of dignity upon their children in order to prove them worthy. Now, while the Mortals struggle to succeed in their test, their once great empires are falling apart. Anarchy reigns over the known world and new leaders are vying for power as the false prophets proclaim the end of known civilization. The end times are now, and this is where our story begins…”

Welcome to the world of Gods & Minions

(Please note that the Gods & Minions project is defunct. The game is neither available online nor offline. All artworks and text are copyrighted).

Gods & Minions – dark fantasy wargame & RPG background world

Welcome to Gods & Minions, a fast paced wargame set in a world of dark fantasy. In this dynamic game, players simulate small skirmishes or even epic battles between the various factions of a world called Ascendallion. The game takes place after the Fall – a historic event that dispossesed the world into a age of hostility and turmoil.

In Gods & Minions each player will command one of the many factions that take part in the conflict. Before choosing an army, you should read the history of the world and the background information provided for the various races. After you have done this, select the faction that suits your passion as well as your style of play most. Each nation features unique units and special abilities that allow you to vary the composition of the army further.

After selecting your faction its time to construct your army that you will lead into battle. Although there are very powerful individuals in Gods & Minions, a battle is never won due to the strength of one hero or beast. Instead its important to choose all army components wisely, so the the arrangement of warriors is as efficient as possible. The clever use of the right combination of infantry, cavalry, monsters and war-machines sparks synergy effects that lead you to victory. Whatever design you select, you will populate your forces with beautifully painted cards that describe their strengths and weaknesses.

The cards will mirror your style of warfare and represent troops on the battlefield. Each card shows a painting of the creature or war-machine it represents, as well as a detailled description of the troop type together with its name and vital statistics. You will also need a bit of table space that represents the battlefield where the game takes place. The battlefield is divided into different zones and your cards can move freely across them, unless the terrain or other circumstances hinder them. The zones allow your units to charge at your enemies, attack them with melee or missile weapons or retreat to more secure zones to recover. Finally, you win the game by controlling game zones or fulfilling special objectives.

As mentioned above, every Gods & Minions player maintains a deck of cards to represent the heroes, minions and gods of his army. Each card represents a squad or individual creature whose statistics and abilities are defined by numbers and rules text. During his turn, the active player brings new cards into play and activates groups of cards (units) that are already on the table. When a unit is activated, all cards in that unit will get to make a number of actions. With these actions, the cards may charge, shoot their ranged weapons, continue to fight in melee combat, cast magic spells or perform many other actions. In this manner, Gods & Minions gives the player complete control over what every unit in his army does. By the skillful use of your armies strengths, you attempt to outmaneuver and outfight your opponent. In the end, only one player is victorious!

“And, as if we had foreseen the coming cataclysm, we dug deeper into the bowels of the earth and sealed ourselves away. Knowing that our civilization was safe far below the surface, we awaited the end. Centuries passed. And whilst we fed our children with cave fungus and drank water from the subterranean sea, strange horrors from the abyss below assaulted us and our numbers dwindled. Thus, we opened the great gates of Torgmar-Banor and emerged once more to the surface. What we set foot on was a world very different from that of our ancestors. The once green valleys and rolling hills of yesterday are now twisted into deserts of sulfurous ash and polychromatic salt.”

– From the diary of Grak, Son of Orak


Quality games require quality artwork. We are here to provide you with affordable, royalty free fantasy artworks for your board-game, card-game, computer-game or mobile-game. Browse and buy over 1.500 professional artworks available at our art shop: Fantasy Stockart.

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Faylon – the Wild Elves

“I am Tedur. Currently, I am in the middle of my third year as apprentice scribe and personal guard for Jarendor, the grand inseromancer of the Rilynn branch. Jarendor is now at rest after the palace raising; and the Vanaidon’s, from Do-Sha wood and the forests of Kennyth and Veyrafin, who assisted in the amazing miracle, have been returned to their provinces. Oh, how it was a sight to see! To watch as Jarendor drew saplings up from the moist ground on the edge of the forest was almost to dream. The young trees growing and changing, reaching for the blue sky above, and slowly but surely forming the walls of the palace. Hours passed as Jarendor worked the wood, directing its growth as the saplings became first young trees and then solid, adult trees with trunks as thick as your waist. He paused for a moment, his hands glowing in the dusk light, and then motioned to the inseromancers who would join with him to reinforce his work. They chanted and swayed back and forth, running their hands over the pulsing wood as it flowed together and the palace took shape. As the Council of the Groves strengthened the palace itself, many of the younger Vanaidon’s ran about the perimeter creating windows, airways, and secret passageways. They did not stop until the sun had set beyond the great desert.

Then Jarendor lowered his hands, his face clearly showing his exhaustion, and the others followed suit. Some remained standing while others sank slowly to their knees. Finally, our new palace was complete. I now have a moment to myself for the first time this season – at least until my master recovers.

Jarendor teaches the younger students who struggle to grasp the arcane intricacies of his magic and I listen. I am a guard of sorts, I protect him from those who would wish to do him harm, but I also take notes of his lectures and I now have enough scribblings to fill three entire journals to overflowing. Although my lineage denies me the right to use the magic, I hope the journals will someday help to teach one who can. To protect an inseromancer is a rare privilege, and I trained with the Keepers of the Forest for many years to ensure that I am at my physical peak. I would gladly give my life to save him, but it will not come to that. No enemy has the strength or ability to get past me, of that I am sure; and none have tried while I have been at his side.

Today, I went to the Elders to speak to Lord Cyred about the shadow elf menace we face. They are the dark and evil side to our heritage of which we should all be wary. They are unnatural; living below the ground in their foul, dank labyrinths and committing such atrocities that I cannot bear to repeat them. Lately, during training sessions, I have been drawn to the Freani: skilled hunters who take the fight to the shadow elves. It would be wrong to leave my calling, and the elders would not permit it even if I were to make that choice, but I am torn. Can I continue to serve Jarendor when the call of the Freani is so strong within me?”

Faylon – the Wild Elves
The wild elves are one of the oldest cultures on ascendallion, living long and peaceful lives within the comforting grasp of the deep woods, protecting and savouring the beauty and tranquility created for them by the gods. The trees are their shelter and the forest itself is their provider. It is in the branches of the majestic oak and ironwood, high above the forest floor, where they build their tree forts and towns, taking care not to injure the living wood but instead allowing the druids to manipulate nature with their magic. They burn peat and coal for warmth and cooking, but never burn their wood. The infrequent trading with Humans, Gnomes and even Dwarves is usually to provide rare fuels from outside their realm. Left to themselves, they re a peaceful race but if they re interfered with or their way of life threatened, they turn quite savage. War parties from other races are not tolerated within their homeland boundaries and they can either leave or fertilise the greenery with their bodies. Wild elves have a great respect for life, but they do subscribe to the theory that some life forms in general – and orcs in particular – should move on to a possibly improved incarnation. To kill an animal for any reason less than food holds the same penalty as if one had commited murder.

The Faylon after the Fall
Since the fall, darkness creeps slowly upon the firstborn of all elven races – throwing the faylon into sincere depression. The wild elves – once living in harmony and peace – have acted as intermediaries between the races and factions of ascendallion. But this key-role fades since the great disaster and the pilgrimages to distant forests and places of power stopped all of a sudden. Trapped within the twilight of the naifir, faylon society slowly shifts to the right – exhibiting more and more arch-conservative characteristics. It seems only like a matter of time until the harmony between wild elves and nature will fracture, birthing a horror even greater than their evil cousins – the shadow elves.

Faylon Society
Wild Elf society is divided into two distinct branches: The forest elves, who refer to themselves as “Keepers of the Forest” and the natives, who are also known as “The Children of Oussea”. Both branches coexist in peace and work together whenever circumstances necessitate strength of unity. Some see the natives as savages, the sad remains of an elven culture that is extinct in other parts of the world since thousand years. The forest elves on the other hand, symbolize a higher evolutionary level, being both – more sophisticated and civilised than their savage bethren. The wild elf leaders, who are called the “Council of the Groves” consists of savages and forest elves alike. All wild elf tribes are obliged to the council and live in unity without tribal rivalities. This harmonic balance of power is maintained by the council of groves and reffered to as the “Eyllis-eplith”.

Faylon Military
Although it is true that wild elves understand technology, they tend not to use all the options available to them as it would inevitably change their lifestyles. They refuse to use gunpowder, for example, and prefer to use machines of destruction that don’t invovle fire. They are well respected for their skills with linen fabrics and it is rumoured that the cloak of invisibility worn by the Freani scouts is not magic but rather a stunning combination of their knowledge of camouflage and the unique properities of one of their mysterious fabrics. The Freani are the elite scouts of the wild elf kingdom. Their purpose is to seek out and kill shadow elves and other enemies foolish enough to bring evil into their forest. Skilled in all manners of hand-to-hand combat and silent forms of attack, they are trained to blend into their surroundings allowing them to approach an enemy encampment undetected.

Warriors are the backbone of the military and are responsible for training new recruits. All warriors are supplied with double-sided cloaks with one side displaying the colouring and emblem of their regiment and the other side doing double-duty as a camouflage cloak and ground cover. One of the warrior’s primary duties is to protect the Aijin – the archers. Chosen while still in infancy and given intensive training, their skills of archery are impressive by the time they are mature enough to enter the ranks. It is rumoured that you only know that wild elf archers are around when you look down to see a shaft protruding from your chest. Elvish archers are always cloaked and hooded and they paint vivid stripes across their eyes.

First formed as a way to oppose the Hadab wind riders, the wild elf giant eagle riders are both a inspiring military force and an impressive sight to behold. It is true that the wild elves bring no war-machines to battle, as they detest machines that are able to burn and raze trees, even more if those are built out of wood.

War Strategy
Wild Elf tactics have remained the same for countless generations – they pick a field of battle with plenty of woodland to occupy and then herd their opponents into range of their archers with cavalry and eagle riders. This is not to say that wild elves can’t fight in the open as they can and do, but it would not be their first choice. Wild Elf archers can outshoot most enemies but they sometimes need to be protected by swordsmen or the like as they move towards a tough adversary. Wood Elf Scouts are ideal for skirmishing and pinning down an enemy and can bei either mounted or on foot. Their giant eagle riders are the pride of the wild elven court. The wild elves lack war-machines, artillery and heavy troops in general – as they utterly dislike using the wood of their forests as material or fuel.

Important Places
The “Naifir” is the largest cohesive patch of woodland in the wild elf homeland. It is said that dryads and treants – who walk the world since the dawn of time – fostered the first wild elves from saplings deep within Naifir’s green heart. But since the fall and advancement of the Formorian and other races (Dune warriors in the first place), the great desert sweeps relentless towards the outskirts of Naifir. Row after row of aeon old trees wither and die, as the earth beyond their roots is sanding-up slowly. The children of Oussea, supported by their forest elf brothers – realize the importance to protect their homeland and deploy inseromancers to stop the sanding. Its a desperate fight to recultivate the land, and its muttered that the fading belief in the goddess of nature itself is the true reason of Naifir diminishing.

Allies & Enemies
Wild Elves are friends and allies with certain Sun Elf families, Wolven tribes and Barbarians. They tolerate humans (Eszmerian as well as Lyeness), Dwarves and Atlantean but will almost never fully trust them. They are enemies with orcs (any tribe), goblins, shadow elves, the Formorian and all other truly evil races.

Wizardry & Religion
There are two distinct types of wild elf magic users: “Druid Mages” (also “Naru”), who have spell casting abilities and the “Inseromancer” (also “Vanaidon”), whose talents lie with the manipulation of wood. Both types of magic users are descendants of the native wild elves, as the higher developed forest elves lost the ability to use magic centuries ago. The Druid Mage’s responsibility is to nurture and train the “Beastkin”, those special warriors who are in fact a crossbred between wild elves and animals. Being able to tap into animalic powers, the beastkin are blessed with incredible strength and ferocity.

While a druid mage might enter the battle, to turn the tide, a inseromancer would never willingly enter a skirmish as his talents are more of a passive variety. Talents wich are all around you when you enter a wood elf kingdom for a inseromancer is responsible to rise tree villages, forts and pathways high above the ground. He is a valueable member of wood elf society, but would not be of much use on the battlefield.

Faylon Artefacts: The True Elven Bow
The true elven bow is a precious and rare weapon available only to the most skilled Freani and Aijin. Theese weapons are grown from magical bow-seeds that require one year of growing and another year of craftmanship. Elvish bows are alive and they do not require repair when damaged – but healing. The bow manifests magical energies its wielder can tap into, to increase shooting range and damage. In the hands of any race other than elves, the bow starts to brittle and dies.


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Nightlings – the Goblins

“Hear me clearly. Power isn’t having magic, weapons or gold. It is not in the having, it is in the being able to twist all of these things to your advantage and use. What does it matter if you have enemies if your enemies can be bribed with one another’s money to kill each other? We are free to walk the earth to take anything we need and we protect our families and kin by having powerful and useful contacts.

We are proud of our position in this world. We are the providers of battle and they couldn’t wage their never-ending wars if we did not get them what they needed, from horses, to swords, to supplies. We provide but we are not interested in getting involved. War and carnage are not for us, we have families, we love life. We have culture and history so why do the other peoples of the world consider us to be horrible and evil parasites, to be paid off and ignored. That is a question, for which we have no answer.

We see ourselves as the middlemen, the negotiators willing to provide our clients with the strength they need for each battle. And if we should end up being the providers for both sides in a skirmish, so be it. If they both paid us, they both deserved the best service and that is what we are good at.”

Nightlings – The Goblins of the Undermountain
Nightlings are a sub-tribe of Goblins, known as mischievous meddlers, whispering troublemakers, and absolute mercenaries. They often find themselves in battles but never battles of their own making (they don’t have the time…). Cross their yellowy-green hands with a few silver coins and the job is as good as done. Nightlings are very cunning, though and if they find themselves in real trouble, they will call upon their curel and vile allies – Shadow Elves (or worse…) – to lend a hand… or cut off an ear or two.

The Nightlings after the Fall
The Nightlings actually benefit from the great catastrophe that devastated the world of Ascendallion. Being forced to inhabit the caves of the undermountain after several defeats against the Dwarves, the Nightlings now think it’s their time to strike back. Their Bonerollers actually interpret the meteor as a sign of the gods and spur their bethren on to battle. Since the Fall, the Goblins levy massive armies and streams of green skinned lunatics pour from the Undermountain.

Nightling Society
Nighlings travel in marauding bands of between 50 and 100 members, hunting and raiding by night and sleeping in caves or hollows by day. They’ll often attack merchant camp sites and steal what they can – not necessarily killing their victims as they would hate to eliminate the chance of robbing them again! More ferocious than their Goblin cousins, they have pasty yellow or grey skin. They wear hooded robes and often carry short stabbing spears, blow guns, and other close range weaponry. This sub-tribe is despised by most Goblins as they will work for anyone – wether they agree with the reasons for the conflict or not. Despised or not, the Goblins will still use them if they have a particularly nasty job to take care of!

Nightling Military
The advancement of technology and war skills has led the goblins down several paths of experimentation, including the recent development and introduction of the shield wall. This is seen to be a very succesfull tactic but is also a great test of patience and organisation for the leaders. The average goblin has an eager, easily excitable persona wich doesn’t sit well with the concepts of the shield wall – and the leaders must control them at all times.

Partly armored and skilled with various weapons and in particular the bow, the mounted infantry are very fast and manoeuverable and ride giant wolves and on occasion other beasts. These skirmish riders receive special training wich allows them to ride and use their bows at the same time. They enter battle in a unique manner, ignoring standard lines of attack and instead making fast attacks and even faster exits to pick of the slower enemy infantry. Riding about the enemy flanks and rear, they avoid their archer regiments and have been known to complete an encounter without the loss of a single rider.

Long standing troops that have gained fame from heroic acts in the service of the warlord are dubbed heroes with all the privileges this title endows. They are the acknowledged best all-around fighters of their particular regiment, and must undertake a testing ritual before they receive their public promotion to this prestigious rank.

The guard is the front rank of the goblin defense, entrusted with the protection of the homestead and other special areas. Proficient with both sword and dagger, the missile weapon of choice for guard members is the hand held sling. It only takes a small rock or crystal in the hand of a master to make it deadly. Trained in all manners of hand-to-hand combat, they are often called upon to join the ranks of travelling war patrols and may also act as personal bodyguard for the explorers, when the goblin warlord sends out a new party.

Shamanism & Magic
A long established part of the goblin life are the bone rollers, Visionaries and mystics who throw animal bones on velvet cloths and then divine the results. These “fortune-tellers” are often called upon before battles and other important events to foretell the outcome. There is a call now to abandon the old ways but there will always be those goblins who prefer that which worked for their ancestors. Goblin Magic Users, known as Shamans, are well respected in their society although they are reclusive and antagonistic towards almost everyone. Military leaders who are veering away from the use of Bonerollers in their campaigns have no qualms about using the services of a good Shaman.


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What is a tabletop RPG?

As you may already know, role playing is akin to playacting. The referee, or gamesmaster, serves as a sort of actor/director, while the players portray the main characters. Everyone combines their imaginative talents to conceive a spontaneous story which is never short of action, intrigue and adventure.

The easiest way to understand a role playing game is to think of it as a work of fiction such as a novel (or a play, or a movie, etc.). In a novel the author determines the setting of the novel along with the actions of all of the characters and thus the plot; however, in a role playing game, the author (called the Gamesmaster) only determines the setting and some of the basic elements of the plot. The actions of the characters (and thus the plot) are determined during the game by the game “players” and the Gamesmaster. Each of the “players” controls the actions of his “player character”, while the Gamesmaster controls the actions of all other characters (called non-player-characters). Thus each player assumes the role of (i.e. role plays) his character and the Gamesmaster role plays the non-player characters. In other words, a fantasy role playing game is a “living” novel where interaction between the actors (characters) creates a constantly evolving plot.

The Gamesmaster also makes sure all of the characters perform only those actions which are possible within the framework of the setting that he has developed (his “fantasy world”). This is where the “fantasy” part and the “game” part come into the definition of a fantasy role playing game. A Gamesmaster creates a setting which is not limited by the realities of our world, and thus the setting falls into the genre of fiction known as “fantasy”. However, the Gamesmaster uses a set of “rules” which define and control the physical realities of his fantasy world. The use of these rules makes the process of creating the role playing “novel” into a game.

The Setting
Thus, a fantasy role playing game is set in a fantasy world whose reality is not defined by our world, but instead is defined by a set of game rules. The creation of the plot of a role playing game is an on-going process which both the Gamesmaster and players may affect, but which neither controls. The plot is determined by the interactions between various characters and the game’s setting.

since fantasy role playing is after all a game, it should be interesting, exciting and challenging. Thus one of the main objectives of a role playing game is for each player to take on the persona of his (or her) player character, reacting to situations as the character would. This is the biggest difference between role playing games and other games such as chess or bridge. A player’s character is not just a piece or a card; in a good role playing game, a player places himself in his character’s position. The Gamesmaster uses detailed descriptions, drawings and maps to help the players visualize the physical settings and other characters. In addition, each player character should speak and react to the other players as his character would. All of this creates an air of involvement, excitement, and realism (in a fantasy setting of course).

The Gamesmaster
The Gamesmaster has been described as the limited “author” of the game; actually, he functions as more than this. The Gamesmaster not only describes everything which occurs in the game as if it were really happening to the player characters, but he also acts as a referee or judge for situations in which the actions attempted by characters must be resolved. The Gamesmaster has to do a lot of preperation before the game is actually played. He must develop the setting and scenarios for play, much material concerning the setting and the scenario is known only to the Gamesmaster. In addition, the Gamesmaster plays the roles of all of the characters and creatures who are not player characters, but nonetheless move and act within the game setting.

The Players
The players each develop and create a character using the rules of the game and the help of the Gamesmaster (for the character’s background and history). Each player character has certain numerical ratings for his attributes, capabilities and skills. These ratings depend upon how the player develops his character using the rules of the game. Ratings determine how much of a chance the character has of accomplishing certain actions. Many of the actions that characters attempt during play have a chance of success and a chance of failure. Therefore, even though actions are initiated by the Gamesmasters and the players during the game, the success or failure of these actions is determined by the rules, the characters’ ratings, and the random factor of a roll of the dice.

Finally, a fantasy role playing game deals with adventure, magic, action, danger, combat, treasure, heroes, villains, life and death. In short, in a role playing game, the players leave the real world behind for a while and enter a world where the fantastic is real and reality is limited only by the imagination of the Gamesmaster and the players themselves.


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Khor – the Dwarves

So, we’re talking about Nightlings, eh? If we must, we must. I don’t mind killing them, it’s the burning of the carcasses wich disturbs me. I know that it’s necessary to prevent disease and all that but you can never get the stink out of your clothes. It’s good practice, killing nightlings, it keeps you fit and sharp. It’s better than digging coal anyway. I could have gone into the forge work like my brother, I suppose, but working with Gnomes would have driven me around the bend! They’re always blabbering on about this great idea or this wondrous invention and no matter what you do, they could have always done it better! When the coal is delivered, though, you don’t hear a peep from them and they’re off like a shot! You’ll never see a gnome lift a shovel or heft a sack but you might find one spending weeks designing an elaborate coal-lifting engine. No, the army is the place for me.

I have served in the army my entire life and my experiences, wielding the axe in the name of my lord, are what made me what I am. Before I was old enough to lift a weapon or pull the string of a crossbow, I would help my fathers regiment by feeding the Nalrim beasts, polishing the weapons, cleaning the boots. For years i watched and listened as i worked, learning all the while. my friends would come for me, asking me to go climbing or play a game with the gnome children but I wouldn’t leave a job until it was finished. I had a purpose in life even at that young age. I knew what I wanted and I knew this was the way to get it. So, if I went climbing with the others it was because the skill of climbing would come in useful later. I spent my time preparing myself for when the wasteful time of childhood would be over and I could join the clan warriors. If I was to be chosen to guard the gates, then that was as it should be, but I dreamt of the clan warriors and the battlefield.

Today I stood at the foot of Jargal peak and traded with Bipple Barefoot, my halfling friend, for items we need for the upcoming campagin. he is strong and preserving and will never disappoint on our promised trades. He answered my call on the beckoning horn most promptly and along with the special consignment, he delivered the toy he had promised for my son. He is a good friend.”

Khor – the Dwarves of Torgmar-Banor

Dwarves are a short, stalwart race whose warriors are renowed for their skills with the axe. It is a social custom for their men to have impressive beards and they will often plait their hair to keep it out of the way during battle. Rumours persist among most other races that dwarves live in dark and dingy tunnels hewn roughly from the rock but they actually live deep within the mountains in thousands of brilliantly carved out tunnels and underground cities, with streets, halls, libraries, workshops, homes etc. Travellers and adventurers are very unwelcome in their underground abodes but they are tolerated if they have a contribution to make. Dwarves make friends very seldom but when they do, they are fiercely loyal and protective. They have a great respect and admiration for the achievements of their ancestors, and as such, their laws and beliefs tend to be ancient and solid. Their system of law deals with crime in a swift but efficient manner: If you are caught stealing, the courts will confiscate all your possessions; if you commit treason, you will be branded and banished. The death penalty is used only by the military courts to punish desertion, cowardice in the face of danger, etc. their justification for this? A dwarf’s best friend is another dwarf and if your actions endanger the lives of other dwarves, i.e. your comrades in arms, then you do not deserve to live. End of story.

Khor Society
Dwarves are natural fighters and their society, structured around honour and glory is quick to reward excellence. When a particularly sterling warrior is brought to a clanlord’s attention, he will be promoted to a position of responsibility such as kings bodyguard or henchman before being returned to the ranks as a hero. They are then expected to make a name for themselves by continued acts of bravery and heroism above and beyond the call of duty. To fight alongside a hero is what dreams are made of in many a dwarf home throughout the land. Champions are the acknowledged best all-around fighters of their particular regiment and are promoted to this class as an honour of service to their lords. They are then responsible for maintaining the honour of their regiment and for motivating and inspiring the troops to the best of their abilities.

Khor Military
The responsibility of the guard is to protect the gates to the underground cities, the first line of defence against the outside world. usually armed with spears, short swords and shields, they are also used in battles to support the centre point of defensive ranks. the uniforms of the guard vary widely depending upon wich clan they are from and for wich gate they are responsible. for example, the guardians of the great eastern gate (also called the gate of rising sun in some records) are clad in tunics of silver and gold and carry shields emblazoned with a symbol of the sun. the great western gate is protected by guardians who wear deep red and golden tunics and carry shields decorated with a stylised symbol of a setting sun.

War Strategy
Dwarves have had to fight for so long, and for so many reaons, that it is now second nature to most of their kind. The recent lull in the never-ending orc wars has led to decline in the number of veteran dwarves in the standing army. But their absence has been covered up by the introduction of new pike troops, an idea stolen from the Eszmerian human empire. Dwarven love for missile weapons is apparent in their abundant use of crossbows and the like. Artillery has improved immeasureably in recent times with the new “magic” of gunpowder and artillery pieces have been spotted not only in the gnomish workshops but also in various border forts.

Important Places
The stronghold of Torgmar-Banor, located in the heart of the world mountains, is considered to be the strongest of all dwarven fortresses. Composed of incredibly steep cliff faces and more inhospitable areas than you can count on the fingers of many hands, the area has served as a superb fortress for many centuries. The fact that they had no need to continually defend their holdings in the past – as is the case with most other dwarves tribes – has allowed the dwarves and gnomes of Torgmar-Banor to concentrate on pleasureable and practical inventions. A prime example of this creative powerhouse is their underground rail system, wich predates the aboveground rail system found within the empire by at least a decade, and wich boasts hundreds of miles of track. Working on an ingenious system of conveyor belts and cogs that propel the carriages along level runs and up slopes, gravity (and a skilled driver/brakeman) guides it down slopes where it picks up speed to send it on its way. This system is used for practically all long travel within the fortress.

The royal dwarven familiy maintains a clan hall within the strong walls of Torgmar-Banor. Although it is not a castle, as would be expected, the palace was constructed within a large, crystalline chamber within the mountain and it is a glorious sight. In common with most civilised races, dwarves wear different types of uniforms and armour, etc. to identify their allegiance to certain cities or strongholds. These outfits and their corresponding markings are often quite distinctive. the military leaders of their people, the lords are answerable only to the king (the absolute ruler of the many dwarven clans) and are highly respected. With a council of advisors and scholars at their side, they rule jointly over the dwarven armies. It is not unusual for a clanlord to rule for several centuries, stopping only when he is physically unable to lead the army into battle. Following this retirement, he is automatically entitled to join the council of advisors.

Allies & Enemies
Dwarves have a strong relationship with halflings, obtaining food, etc. for protection and gold. although dwarves have “officially” ended their wars with the orcs, they hate them still and dislike the Formorian and all goblins (including nightlings). They will ally with certain sun elf families and the human empires of eszme and lyeness.

Wizardry & Religion
As the dwarves follow no religion (at least not officially) but instead believe firmly in the tenets of existentialism, their teachings focus on existence, change, freedom and self cognisance rather than the worship of an unseen being (it is true that dwarves often worship their ancestors but this should not be confused with a religion, as such). their philosophers also function as teachers in dwarven society.


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Eszmeria – the Humans

“As high councillor and advisor to the king, i sometimes think that I, Ospin Miere, am the only honest person within this state of office. I have no hidden agenda, no devious plans to assert control. No, I am here to ensure that others with such ideas and leanings are kept well away from the King. Others, wether they are listening just a little too closely to the church or basing their decisions on which trade route will most benefit them, do not have the best interests of Eszmeria in mind. I do and I shall do everything within my power to make sure that Eszmeria remains the greatest kingdom in the world. You would like an example? Then I would remind you of the disastrous alliance with the Hadab that lesser councillor ABC and his cronies tried to foist upon king Bardolf! That alliance would have cost us dearly and I had to argue non-stop through seven sessions, without a single rest or draft of water to soothe my throat, to crush the proposal and bury it. That shows my dedication. And was I justified? The prosperity we currently enjoy is answer enough for that question.

This season, as the snow settles the ground, the Pagan are striking us again, torching our towns and settlements in the north. They claim that it is revenge for the attacks we made last summer but they were not attacks. We travelled to their lands to trade and preach; they are the ones who attacked us! Our forces were just defending themselves. Look closely at the robes I am wearing – the material for this garment was traded to us by the Barbarians before they took umbrage at our presence. We would have paid with silver but they gave us no choice but to pay with cold steel. We gained some pretty cloth and they lost their lives. Hardly a fair exchange from their point of view.

Eszmeria is a great land and our warriors are forging a new world, moving our borders even further in all directions. While the kings guard and the holy templars do not always see eye-to-eye, they have the same purpose on mind. There will come a time when this entire land is ours, from sea to sea, and we must make others ready for this.”

Eszmeria – the Church State

The inhabitants of Eszmeria are almost exclusively human. The sprawling, landlocked kingdom of Eszmeria is an enigma to many. To some, it is clearly ruled by King Reynard Bardolf and Queen Beatrix; to others, the Church (led by the Arch Bishop Francis Whyte) is the controlling power. They are both right, to an extend, but the subject is not open to debate – at least not in public. The relationship between Bardolf and Whyte is unique – Whyte accepts Bardolf as the ruler and bows to his decisions but Bardolf, as a god-fearing man, is highly influenced by Whyte and lets him know that. The Queen, on the other hand, accepts Bardolf as the ruler and distrusts, some might say dislikes, Whyte and the power he has over the king. She has built up quite a clandestine following devoted to her and opposed to the church and its heavy-handed ways. it is a strange, and immently volatile situation.

King Bardolf’s appetite for conquest (along with the well oiled propaganda machine within his court of trusted advisors) ensures that the armed forces loyal to the crown are forever growing. It is considered a position of honour to serve in the military, to be a part of things in this grand continuing quest for glory. The King and queen live in seperate cities within the kingdom and each controls an army on its own. While each army is, of course, loyal to Eszmeria, they are devoted to their leader first, be it king or queen. The church on the other hand, sees this as an excellent watering-down of power as the church army answers to Whyte alone – with no divided loyalities to worry about.

The Church, headed by the Arch Bishop Francis Whyte, maintains a military force for its own defense. Their religion, which features the worship of one all-powerful god and the concept of heaven for those who lead pious, caring lives and hell for those who don’t, is very important to Eszmerians. All aspects of daily life are infused with religious temperament to some degree. Non-believers, be they Eszmerians or Outlanders, are dealt with by the Church-controlled Yruton, a particularly savage brand of holy inquisition. If it becomes common knowledge that one does not truly believe (and no one will protect you if this is indeed the case), he is urged to go and explain his-self. These regular sessions held before a high priest in the  black chamber are not a pleasant experience. The only redemption for non-believers is to be tortured to death for the sake of their immortal soul.

Eszmerians holy Templars, the heavily armored elite knights who crusade against the dark triad and others they see as evil, are answerable to the Church rather than the king or any member of the royal family. They are a particularly vicious opponent as they have no fear of death, believing that they are fighting for the one true cause, and that if they die in battle they will go to heaven as heroes.

Important Places

There are six major city-fortresses within Eszmeria, each important in its own right, and each controlled by a member of the royal family. The well-protected city of Vaitev houses not only the palace of king bardolf but also the magnificent cathedral that represents the supreme headquarters of the church. Radiating out from a grand central square, this city more than any other in the kingdom is indicative of Eszmerian tastes and styles. From the grandeur of the palace to the intricacies of the architecture found in the buildings and houses, this city is a veritable showcase. Aclashane also has its poorer areas of course, where the style of architecture is limited to the amount of plaster one can spread over straw, but this aspect of the city is hidden and not so brightly lit, you might say.

The central castle, home to queen beatrix, is situated in the centre of Miza. Although outsiders think its strange that the king and queen do not share a single palace, the royal family feels that it is better to not “keep all their eggs in one basket”, as it were. Recognised as an Eszmerian centre of learning, the queen supports many universities and colleges within the sanctity of Miza’s fortified walls.

Aclashane is perhaps the most neglected of the Eszmerian cities and is beginning to suffer. Home to the templar training grounds until they where moved to Misthaven together with all church representatives. Aclashane is a city in the far north and controlled by the youngest of the royal heirs. Prince Krafwood. he is resentful of this posting, considering it a punishment of sorts being forced to rule a city which has lost its main industry – taking care of the templars and their needs. The marketplace catered primarily to the tempalrs, along with their household staff and retainers, the pubs and brewhouses served the market traders (and retainers), the blacksmiths served the templars, and so on. Aclashane has definitely seen better days and Krafwood’s ruling abilities are not instilling a great deal of confidence in the townsfolk. The king and his advisors are considering a replacement, without telling the queen of their plans.

The strongest of all Eszmerian cities, due in part ot the fact that it is now the home of the famed templar training grounds, is Misthaven. Situated close to the Scar, it protects the Garnuk pass through which the dark triads tries to invade. Within the fortress walls, Whyte has established a central seminary to lead initiates through his own particular style of preaching and below the grand courtyard, the Vonah sect maintains a black chamber where inquisitors are trained.

Off to the northeast, and the nearest to Hogor and Khor territories, is the city of Ericaport, a craftsmans paradise. Although still well defended, with a large number of soliders stationed there, it is here where the Eszmerian culture is defined for others. Bleridge is the northernmost city in the Eszmerian kingdom and closest to the holdings of the Goriath. Although quite small, Bleridge is well defended.

Partly due to Bardolf’s efforts to expand his borders, and partly due to the horror stories about the Inquisition which filter out, Eszmeria has many enemies – Goriath and Pagan to the north. Hogor and Khor to the northeast, Hadab to the south, and the many evils that represents the dark triad to the east.


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Hadab – the Desert Empire

“Why am I wetting my blade? I am preparing it for tonight and one slip of the wrist and I’ll be dead. It’s as simple as that. This poison, which I – Abbad Sadi – personally developed for the Jy’fa from the sap juices of the Khayegha plant, is so deadly that if my stained blade were to even scratch my skin, I would not have the chance to utter a word before I dropped to the ground. I dip the blade in the juice and allow the sun to dry the droplets upon the steel. Then, when it enters the body of my enemy it is not merely the steel which kills! I once killed four of my enemies by dropping my scabbard into their meal pot! The powder which had gathered there from the knife blade was ufficient to dispatch them all! I always chew my special herbs when I do this for to face this task without their soothing qualities would be impossible and I would quake with fear.

Don’t misunderstand me, though. I’m not afraid to die but I shall die in battle as my father did and his father before him. When my time comes I shall take my seat with them alongside Abu Sa’ha Beelaa al-Qud, the God of the Jy’fa. To die in a foolish accident would be unthinkable and would bring shame upon my family and my guild.

This past week I spent time with our falcon handlers of Mahma Siry, watching in silent amazement as they practised with the newly-acquired northern breed of bird. Faster and more vicious than the southern Falcons, they are trained to attack the faces of mannequins outfitted to resemble Sun Elves and Dwarves mostly, ripping and gouging at the eyes before swiftly flying off and circling for another attack. I would not like to taste their wrath. We rule the skies now with our falcons and Dune Riders. No one else can touch us.

We are a proud, god-fearing race, rich beyond imagination in both gold and culture. Our lives are simple, though, and our homes humble and welcoming. Lustre and ostentatiousness we save for our temples and places of worship; strength and simplicity we save for our city walls. And it is strength we need for the walls as, sadly, it is getting increasingly difficult to trust our former allies. it is as though promises of peace and signed documents mean nothing to them. Especially for the dwarves, they are not just short of stature – they are short of honor!

A storm is brewing, a war approaches which will involve us all and should I die, my place by the Gods is assured. Can my enemies say the same?”

Hadab – the Desert Empire

The Hadab are very different from most other humans who inhabit the world of Ascendallion, with quite unique codes of honor and valor. Females have little or no standing in their society and it is the rare woman who is allowed to excel at anything. Hadab are deeply religious, worshipping many different gods, and praying several times a day. Punishment oftten fits the crime as thieves have their hands cut off, seditious rebels have their tongues cut out, etc.

The Hadab are at home in the desert and their way of life, and costume, reflects this. Although they wear armor when the battle calls for it, their standard outfit is usually composed of light colored fabrics, often with brightly-colored sashes and adornments. They also wear veils across the lower half of their face, primarily to shield themselves from the harshness of the desert sun but also to identify the guild to which they belong. Their textile artisans have also developed an incredibly sheer silk which can be used to veil the entire face, without obstructing vision or breathing. This veil, which is most commonly worn by their fighters during sandstorms, gives them the upper hand over their enemies when the forces of nature join the battle.

Their once stable realm is now fragmented, consisting of the westernmost part of the Djasim Peninsula, Estrean island, and the provinces to the south of Tulmarun. They are aware that their lands bordering the southern seas are quite desirable and their fortress cities of Yar’Hala and Matab (on the Eszmerian border) and An’pha and Yagrah (on the Sun Elf border) are fully manned and well-defended.

Surrounding the island of Estrean, their Corsairs are poised and ready. Estrean, the first in a string of islands extending westwards from the Djasim peninusla, was the former home of Grand Palace of the Caliph, Sovereign of all Hadab. After the Fall, the Dark Triad encroached the island as well as the Eszmerian and Lauron who took the chance to expand their territories by wrenching it from the weakened Hadab. For centuries, the Caliph’s palace was located on the Estrean island, the former capital city of the Hadab kingdom. The proximity of the invaders, though, made it an unsafe place for the emperor and his familiy and Zumal was chosen as their new home.

But Hadab pride is unbreakable and so they moved their political and cultural center onto the main land and rebuild the Caliphs palace in Thaamira-Huda near the Zumal Oasis. This opulent, glittering royal residence is visible from miles away as the sunlight reflects from the millions of multicolored mirrored tiles which decorate it’s walls and towers.

Hadab are skilled warriors in many areas and are justifiably proud of their horsemaen – the Abu Qaar Ajinkis and Riya’ma Sparhis, their assassins – the Jy’fa, and their sky troops – the Abu Neesa Dune Riders.

The Alith Ibn Elite Lancers are covered head-to-toe in chainmail and carry a light spear, while the Abu Ni’mee are more heaviliy armored and are easily recognisable on the battlefield in their black and white uniforms and blood-red shields. Jy’fa, their fanatically dedicated assassins, are superbly skilled, ambidextrous killers. When they are on a covert mission, they are almost always clad in black but in open battle, they are very distinctive, almost blatant. Their white flowing uniforms, adorned with red or gold sashes, are designed to show their arrogance and contempt for their opponents. It boosts the morale of the surrounding troops and causes fear in the approaching enemy, or so they say.

And finally, riding their flying carpets into battle from their protected mountain fortresses, Dune Riders will often take attacking forces by surprise by coming up behind them… making no noise whatsoever.

Sorcerers are revered in Hadab culture and will often have wealth and power only slightly below that of the Grand Caliph. They are the ones who have given the power of flight to the Dune Riders so the army respects them and pays them well for their services. Their manner of magicry if connected in almost every way to the elements, with the spells they cast and the creatures they summon being of the earth, air, fire or water variety. They will often combine elements in their spells and it is in this way that they create their blinding sandstorms, for example. There are followers of black magic as well, with evil intent behind every spell, but they are publicly reviled. In private, the Caliph has frequently called upon their services to take care of a particularly difficult situation regarding the Formorians. But these encounters are never conducted with a middleman so no one else knows… at least, that is what the Caliph thinks.

Yet another side effect of the Formorians and their magical tampering throughout the southeast, Giant Scorpions are now a common sight throughout Voran. While they cannot be trained or easily handled, they can be captured and used against Hadab enemies. The Sun Elves and Eszmerian who regularly invade Voran through the Djasim peninsula prefer to simply destroy the scorpions and their nests instead.

The Hadab are almost always in conflict with either the Lauron or the Eszmerian (or both…), but their greatest enemy are the Formorians as well as their foul creations in form of the Mongrelfolk and Ratkin. Other than the Slavers whose fleet the Corsairs share, they feel no need for allies but are cordial with most races.


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Formoria – the Serpent Kingdom

The desolate, forbidding land of sand and sun-baked cliffs stretched out as far as the eye could see behind the Formorian standing on the hillcrest, her staff adornments fluttering in the dry wind. Vultures and other carrion-birds floated above in the hot currents, black silhouettes against the azure sky. Throwing her arms wide, the Formorian Priestess stood proudly between the massive sandstone lions which served as sphinx-like guardians to the valley of the inner sanctum, and began her speech to the assembled crowd of young formorians their mentors.

“Look around you. Is this valley not grand? Can there be any doubt that we are meant to rule the world? As Salisehk, Priestress of the seventh circle, it is my honoured task to adapt the land we conquer, eleminating the cold and rain, bringing forth the sun to bake the land. It has taken me several decades to transform the valley of the inner sanctum but it is now a place of peace and solitude, of blowing winds and shimmering obsidian shards, of blinding sun and shellack cactii which reach for the sky. It is a place worthy to receive the tombs of our royal family”. She stopped to pause and kneel at the mention of the royal family and the audience followed suit. It was quiet for such a large gathering but the youngers and lessers were aware of the proper procedure when in the presence of a Priestress and they made no sound. Salisehk stood and continued her speech.

“You were brought here today to show what we can achieve and to prepare you for your own challenges once you reach maturity. You are adepts of the first circle and soon you will cross the threshold and enter the next phase of your being. As you shed your skin, so shall you shed the last vestiges of your former life. The tangible magic will come and you will enter the cult, ready to face any challenge! And there is no challenge greater than that of ridding our land of invaders! For many years we have been clearing our homeland of the soft-skinned Hadab. They proved a worthy challenge, more so than any other foe we have faced in the years and we will miss them when they are finally expunged from our land. It is only a matter of time before the palace cities in the west will fall to our overwhelming forces and we cleanse the land. You must now go with the blade masters of J’Ram-Lei, supporting them as they join our forces in the Djasim dessert. Go! It shall be glorious and our legend keepers will tell the tales of this conquest for our children.

Formoria – the Serpent Kingdom

The Formorians are a large snake-like race, generally considered by the majority of the world to be manical killers and slavers who play with magic and who have no interest in anything beyond what they can take from it. This is not that far from the truth. Their magical abilities are still rough and untested and their belief that they are the only true rulers of the world has lead to some very harsh treatment of the Sun Elves and Dune People who formerly shared their land. During a secret alliance in the past, details of which are still unclear, Shadow Elf Sorcerers came to the Formorian homeland and offered to teach their ways of magic to the Formorians. They set no price for this service; rather they seemed satisfied in the knowledge that with these new talents, the Formorians could inflict suffering on the Humans and Elves, who shared their lands. After the Shadow Elf mentors left, Formorian Priests began to experiment and found that, with practice, some of their new spells could alter weather patterns and strip moisture from the lands. So, armed with these new powers, the fledling Priests pushed back the flora which bordered the deserts and the Estrean Wilderness was born. This new land of sand, rock and heat, was in a word, perfect.

One thing they didn’t expect, though, as the spells wreaked their havoc with the land, was that the magical force would mutate certain things rather than eradicate them. In the central area of the Nabor Thaan Wilderness, in the region formerly known as the Eterra Oasis, a new creature appeared. Transformed by the spells which washed over them, the rats which had flourished in the area not only grow in size but also in intelligence. Realising what must have happened, the Formorians took advantage of this new slave labour which they called Ratkin and added them to their armies or set them to work in the new cities which were springing up in the desert. The Formorians chose to ignore the Dune People’s cities which now lay empty in the sun-baked land, preffering instead to pillage and destroy them instead, using pilfered stone and brick to build glorious new Formorian cities.

While some Ratkin seemed to enjoy their new roles, fitting in well, others proved rebellious and deserted or escaped the Formorian work camps. Tasked with creating more, the Priests found they could not recreate the effects of the earlier spells. They started from a different direction, working with larger animals and their human slaves, and the Mongrelfolk (Beastmen) was born. Again, it was not a complete success as many of the new beings were more intelligent than hoped and fought against their captors. As with the Ratkin, though, some Mongrelfolk enjoyed their new roles and remained with the Formorians.

Formorian magic is wielded by priests of progressive strengths, starting at lower levels with the first circle who are able to control and use minor invocations. As their power and training regime intensifies, they move up to the second circle and so on – until finally joining the most powerful magic users of the seventh circle. It is these priests who experimented with the enviroment changing spells with varying degrees of success. The creation of the Estrean Wilderness could be considered a success; the creation of Ratkin and Mongrelfolk perhaps not.

As ferocious carnivores and serious slavers, the Formorian find it difficult to ally with anyone who is warm-blooded and treat most human races as slaves…or cattle. Each birthing season their brood females will yield hundreds of births to each tribe. The sheer number of successful births provides a justification for their incessant need to spread out over the land – they need the space.

There are three distinct racial castes of Formorian: Greater Formorians, Formorians and Lesser Formorians (the last caste is often also reffered to as Xeal). The three types vary in size, number of arms, heads and even legs or tails. Most Formorians are snake-like, they move using their tail – but some of them also feature legs like a lizard or dragon.
The individual size determines their social standing, with the Greater Formorians ruling and dominating all others. There are strict codes of conduct to be followed by the three distinctly different castes and to break the code is to risk banishment.

Indigenous to the Estrean Wilderness are several snake-like reptiles as well. One of them is the Snapper, a waist-high reptile seemingly composed of theeth, claws and little else. The snappers are used by the Formorians in close combat and are fully capable of inflicting large amounts of damage on the other side before they are stopped. The snapper handler also functions as a breeder, maintaing a large herd at all times, so that losses on the battlefield can be made up rather swiftly. However, without the strict control exerted by a handler, the snappers will run rampant around the battlefield attacking everyone … including other Formorians … so the handler needs to be protected all times.

Although the Estrean Wilderness is ruled by the grand Formorians and their Royal Family, its size and geographic position makes it impossible to control well and the armies of the Formorians are constantly under attack. Furthermore, the once so great Formorian Empire is nowadays divided into several smaller provinces, each ruled by a landlord. This patchwork turns ruling their own land into a challenging task, that requires lots of attention of the royal family. The continent of Voran, where the Formorian empire is located is an open and lawless place with a subculture of bounty hunters and lawkeepers who maintain their own form of justice.

The Formorian Royal Family is an enigma. Not only are the greater Formorians and the family treated as Gods by their subjects, they themselves firmly believe that they are gods. They valley of the inner sanctum in the eastern reaches of the Estrean Wilderness is the repository of many royal tombs. Guarded by ancient reptilian beasts, who kept in place by immensly powerful spells. No other race has ever entered this area. Rumor has it that the royal family also guards a dark secret about the origin on the Formorians and their place in the balance of power of the world.

“The Day of Convergence approached and the Formorian Priestess carved one more notch into the retribution staff. Soon, the stones will sing once again, she thought as she brushed away the ebon whittlings and replaced the staff in the ceremonial holder above the mantel. Soon…”


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