Monday, March 5, 2012

Isomular: A Planetary Romance Campaign Setting Using True20

I've had Isomular...or what I completed of it, in the can now for many years. I wrote the original back in 2003 or thereabouts for use with the Expanded Psionics Handbook with 3.5 D&D, and then quickly adapted it to True20. I've toyed with using Isomular as a GURPS, 4E, Traveller and BRP setting at different times, but ultimately because its a weird mix of space fantasy, psionics and high tech meets swords & sandals it was easier to keep it in a system that focused on genre blending, and so True20 remains my favorite iteration. Anyway, For March I present you with everything I wrote on this particular weird world....


The Land of the Whispering Kingdoms

A Planetary Romance Campaign Setting
Isomular is a campaign world firmly rooted in the Planetary Romance genre of science fiction and sword & sorcery. Tales of Barsoom from Edgar Rice Burroughs, the travails of Howard’s Almuric, The Krishna tales of Sprague de Camp and the adventures of Thongor by Lin Carter are all tales in this classic vein. The big thing to remember about planetary romances is that they readily abuse science, freely mix weird science gadgets and concepts with high fantasy swords & magic, and the heroes are usually the pretty ones in the midst of a barbaric land of hideous monsters, vile villains and nubile damsels in distress. Isomular is all about that!

The following adaptation should give you everything you need to run adventures in the Land of the Whispering kingdoms using the True20 rules. All standard rules apply with no modifications, except as noted. This is a genre-subversive setting, and oen can readily blend a mix of fantasy, SF and adventure together to make it work best.

The History of Isomular: The Native Viewpoint

If you ask a native of Isomular where his land and world is, he will tell you, “At the center of the universe.” How might he know this, you ask him? “Because the Architect deemed it so.” Isomular is a world of strong will and unyielding belief. Behind it all is the shadow of the being called the Architect, a man who is like a god, yet whose philosophy is so profound that it necessarily commands the people of the world to accept a near-magical belief in their own inner strength.

Isomular was colonized by the races of men long ago when the Architect, a being of immeasurable power, transported the chosen few of humankind to this world, that it might live and prosper. When the Architect brought his flock forth on the wings of the great Coral Ark, it fell in to the sea and the people waded ashore in the regions now known as Kalashtam and Zymvaj. Amongst the diaspora of man were the many races they had become, including the true humans, the Engineers, the half giants and the now supremely rare true giants. The Bael, Empathics, and Eldaran were known by different names then, but such are the names they are known by now.

These first men washed ashore to a land already occupied by the myrmidons, Isomulii, and other strange species, none even remotely human. Isomular, as it would come to be called, was inhabited by many unusual beings.

In those early days, men were struggling to survive, and there was a time that the Isomulii and other dominant races took pity on man and let him occupy their cities. In this time, the myrmidons were servants of the superior species, and humanity realized that the Isomulii had decided upon this destiny for the strange primates that joined them. Meanwhile, the remnants of the Coral Ark still rested like a great projection of white bone out in the sea, and the Architect brooded upon the fate of man. He at last determined that it would be necessary for his children to take ownership of Isomular.

This early era was a period of bloodshed and warfare, as humanity revolted against the Isomulii empire and, with the aid of the myrmidons and other thrall races, cast out the insectoid overlords. The Isomulii were unprepared and fell in a century of conflict, their surviving kin driven in to the jungles, deserts, and wastelands of the world. This happened two thousand years ago, according to the record halls of the Archivists.

With humanity in control of the great and ancient cities of Isomular, there was a short period of peace and prosperity during which the people sought the enigmatic dictates of the Architect to guide them, and looked to their new alliance with the myrmidons to keep the clockwork architecture of the ancient Isomulii engines running. For a time there was peace, but inevitably it would not last.

First, the Architect fell silent in the third century since man’s arrival. One day, the Disciples of the Architect returned from their villages on the atoll near the Reefs of the Architect, with word that he had fallen silent, and spoke no more. Unable to determine what had happened or why, humanity suddenly found itself without a voice of leadership. Initially, they looked to the disciples for guidance. The disciples were the first of the Eldaran, the enigmatic servants of inner light who were born to serve the Architect. Unfortunately, in this early era, men who grew unhappy with the will of the Eldaran turned on them, and humanity descended in to conflict and war.

A dark age fell upon the land, as the diaspora of men turned on one another. First the giants and many half giants marched north, to seek out their own kingdoms in the strange wilderland of Isomular. Then the Engineers, stout and short, descended in to the depths of the stony caverns which laced the world’s mountains. The Eldaran slipped in to obscurity, as they became a secretive order, to preserve what knowledge of the Architect they could during this barbaric time. The Bael as a people migrated southward, and the maenad thrived among men, relishing this time of high emotion. After another three centuries, the races of men had dispersed across the two continents. Humanity in the most populated central region founded the four great kingdoms that would come to be called Zymvaj, Kalashtam, Hadrushar and Eremach. The first great king to unite any of the lands came in the ninth century, an Empathic named Tonaras Zar. He founded the first Kalashtam Empire, and conquered his neighbors, bringing about a local unity that lasted more than a century.

Eventually, the kingdoms of humanity became stable and consistent forces, and the world moved out of the traditional Dark Age. The Order of the Archivists was founded, dedicated to historical research and the sometimes forgotten teachings of the Architect. The Eldaran, behind the scenes, began to teach the lost arts of inner strength, the will of psionics, to others outside of their secret culture. During this time, many monasteries were founded, each dedicated to a specific philosophy or doctrine of belief. By this time, the memory of the architect was steeped in mysticism and religion, and the faithful were developing complicated religious teachings based on what little the people remembered of the revered savior.

It was in the thirteenth century of man that the first of the Others arrived. Terrible portals to the beyond, the land that would be called the Astral, were ripped open to pour forth armies of the evil beings called shedahai. Driven by dark masters called the Annunaki, the shedahai were an army sent through strange dimensions to find and destroy the diaspora of man. Their dark masters were the huntsmen of a great evil, who had invested cosmic levels of power in seeing to the destruction of all humanity. A terrible war erupted, and for a time, the kingdoms of men were stricken with terrible losses against an unpredictable foe.

During this time, an Eldaran called Vedderik Non journeyed to the Reef of the Architect, to invade the ancient halls of the Coral Ark and seek out answers to this inexplicable enemy. His discoveries were shocking, and when he returned, he spoke as the new voice of the Architect, whom he had awakened. Vedderik Non became the first of the Voices, special servants of the Architect who were his direct vessels, avatars of the savior. Through Vedderik, the lost arts of planar travel and astral conduits were given to the monastic orders of the psions who had taken up arms, and the fight was taken to the shedahai’s planar homes. There, these psychic warriors discovered that the shedahai were true slaves of the Annunaki, and they fought with the shedahai at last to free them from the yoke of tyrrany. The shedahai who were grateful for this aid, and willing to make peace with humanity broke away from their hostile kin, who sued for peace only long enough to rally. The more peaceful group came to be called the kazavai, and they remained tentative allies of the men of Isomular.

It is now one thousand nine hundred years since men were saved by the Architect and transported to Isomular. Many mysteries of this land remain undiscovered, and many questions have yet to be answered. The fifteenth voice of the Architect has just taken up the mantle, a young human named Astenar Gadarik. The kingdom of Kalashtam is the seat of power and trade among the four great kingdoms and the many lesser ones.

Next: A Map of Isomular Plus The Secret History

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