Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Oman'Hakat - The First World - Introduction

 In 2019 I devised a new campaign setting that was initially focused on the region of Osinre, a sort of analog for Egypt and north Africa during the late bronze age. I used it for a couple D&D 5E games, but the campaign rapidly evolved into the setting I used for my first Pathfinder 2E and I have stuck with using PF 2E for it ever since. Here at last I'm going to post details on this world I devised so it can rest along with the other campaign settings I have archived on the blog over the years.

OMAN’HAKAT – The First World

Part I An Introduction and Overview 


   Oman’Hakat is a setting which focuses on a world steeped in old-world, archaic traditions and mysticism. Although there is evidence of past civilizations, most of the memory of these older empires is lost to myth and folklore. Oman’Hakat is dominated by three major lands: The river kingdoms of Osinre, the island kingdoms of Caelde, and the northeastern Empire of Harkuum. South of Osinre is a wild and untamed wilderness split between the grassy wilderlands of Adantos and the vast southern jungle kingdoms of Omsetar. The people of all these lands collectively refer to the world at large as Oman’Hakat, derived from a common word shared between the lost empires of old to mean “The First World.”

The Ancients

Thuln and the Giants of Caelde

   Caelde is nestled on an island northwest of the Osinre mainland. The people of Caelde believe they descend from a fabled northern empire which sank beneath the waves during the last war of the dead gods, called Thuln. The people settled on the isle of Caelde and have dwelt here for over a thousand years now. Caelde is dotted with a mixture of ancient ruins believed to have been built by ancient giants, men who stood 8 feet tall and left behind wordless relics of an enigmatic past, and younger ruins of the wood elves of the Caelwood (who call themselves the Cael) which suggest a greater elven civilization at one time. The wood elves claim they arrived on the island two thousand years ago, and the ruins of the giants were old even then.

Kadt of Osnire

   In Osinre, the people of this land believe they are descended from the fallen empire of Kadt which was once nestled in the vast region now called the Kal’Osinre Desert. Kadt erected vast and impressive ancient monuments and left behind impressive cities of architectural design impossible by modern understanding, suggesting they were powerful sorcerers, but it is believed these humans, possibly the first men, were all slain in the Deluge created by the War of the Dead Gods. The ruins have been dormant for at least three thousand years, which is the time most scholars believe the War of the Dead Gods took place.

Lost Khesht, the Black Lands and the Edge of the World in Harkuum

   In Harkuum, a large inland empire stretching to the east where it meets the Bowl of the World Mountains, this ancient land shows dotted remnants of pre-deluge empires of old, all likely drowned by the Dead Gods in their lost war. In most of the civilized territories of the Empire these ruins are normally attributed to the lost empire of Khesht, a quasi-mythical era of history after which the Emperor himself aspires to reforge a modern empire.

   Along the edge of the Bowl of the World Mountains are immense statues erected to the Titans, believed to either be the victors in the War of the Dead Gods, or the monsters created to win that war, now returned to slumber. Amidst all of this lies an immense stretch of desert comprised of black sand called the Black Lands which reaches right up to the mountains of the world’s edge. Here lie the tribes of the minotaurs which protect the land and stand in remembrance of the Titans, both worshipping and fearing them. The lost ruins of this region are sometimes called the Belinrai, though that is a modern Harkuumish word which means “the lost” and likely not from the language of Khesht.

Western Kres-Ma-Tek

   While the ancients of Khesht seemed to expand across the entire continent in their ancient times, and may in fact have been several empires or kingdoms united as one culture, some time after their fall around three thousand years ago there was a second empire, though situated only along the coastlands of the western provinces called Kres-Ma-Tek. This empire lasted a little under fifteen hundred years before falling apart around 1,800 years ago. The reasons are unknown to most, but some believe they fell to predatory chaos cults, insinuating their way in to the weave of thought and corrupting the people of Kres-Ma-Tek from within. The ruins of this old empire are most prominent in Sardonte and Akeros but extend as far as the coast of Charasca to the south.

Maheruun and Mythic Kamura

   Somewhere to the far west, beyond the continent of Osinre and the island kingdoms of Caelde is a semi-legendary land called Maheruun. This land is believed to be a place where the last of the ancients of Khesht may have traveled to seek refuge, though whether they survived the ordeal is unknown. Stories in ancient tomes of the era speak of a time of exodus when entire kingdoms took up roots and traveled west to escape the wars that would destroy the old gods. For long ages this land has been defined as Maheruun, somewhere beyond the realm where there be monsters.

   Beyond even Maheruun is Kamura, a legendary land spoken of in only the most ancient of explorer’s tales about a place at the edge of the western world, a vast an uninhabitable coast at the end of the world where an island kingdom forever staves off the encroaching monsters which seep in from Khashar, the Outer Darkness.

Monday, February 5, 2024

Scrutinizing Systems for 2024 - or "What to Play While Waiting for D&D Totally-Not-6E" - Dragonbane, Traveller, Cypher System, Tales of the Valiant and More

 I guess Wizards of the Coast is A: not selling to Tencent (good), and B: not releasing their books in May, which seems like a good time to do it, but apparently they said they will still be working on them in May so now the holidays seem like a stretch too. This is good news, though! It means we should all be trying other things while cooling our jets on trad D&D experiences so we can be ready for whatever the new thing is going to be.

For me, it sort of boils down to a handful of games which have my attention, and not all of them are "unlike D&D" since Tales of the Valiant is in the mix, but hey, you know what is coming out in May? Tales of the Valiant, that's what! So yeah, going to be playing some of that for sure.

I have in my hands Dragonbane Core Rules and Bestiary, the expanded books that will nicely replace or compliment their initial Boxed Starter Set from last year. The Starter Set was a fine product on its own merits, but there is additional content in the new Core Rules for GMs to make it worth checking out, and the Bestiary is a no-brainer whether you stick to the Starter Set or get the Core Rules, it's full of good stuff that is all new content. Dragonbane manages to sit in a hard to achieve sweet spot for me. I like to call this zone the "point at which a game can work to power one or more of my campaign worlds without requiring me to simply ditch said worlds and revise them to match the game's setting and rules expectations." Secondarily, it also fits the category of "alternative fantasy systems which are unique or interesting enough to explore on their own merits, but close enough to D&D in terms of content and accessibility to be an easy sell to players." 

I could go on and on about Dragonbane like this, but it boils down to some simple facts: the game provides a robust system with enough content that you won't find yourself wishing something was in the game that isn't; it offers a setting but does not demand you use it; it provides enough content that you feel like it could substantively replace D&D for a protracted campaign without you feeling like you wish you had access to all the D&D stuff when running or playing. For me, Dragonbane accomplishes all of this, and in the smallest form factor in terms of content for a "robust fantasy RPG" that one could imagine and still fit it in to a single carry bag. 

A lot of other fantasy games out there fail at these requisites I set. Some of my demands are more specific to my tastes; for example I like the Dragonbane skill system (and I also like the D&D skill mechanics, especially once you get back to 3rd edition), but I dislike game systems that eschew skills entirely without good reason. I can forgive an OSR emulator like Swords & Wizardry Complete for this, as skills weren't a thing in the 0E era of D&D, but it means that the S&W experience will forever be limited to merely emulating that style of play, afterwhich there will be no further modifications to the game system. I was modding skill systems in to Tunnels & Trolls and AD&D back in 1982 after experiencing Runequest, so for my experience in a hobby that was at the time a venerable 8 years old I will forever see skills as OSR and necessary to a proper gaming experience. 

Anyway, aside from Dragonbane, which looks to hit the sweet spot in a unique way few other systems have come close to, we have Traveller, which is getting a renaissance of upgraded rulebook editions as well as more content of a general sort of use beyond running Imperium Campaigns. I have a real keen interest in more Traveller soon, tempered only by the fact that I know Mothership will finally be released soon as well, and Mothership is the very genre-specific Traveller counterpart.

Monte Cook's Cypher System is also about to finally release more books, too. Rust & Redemption is the one I am specifically keen on, their Cypher sourcebook for post-apocalyptic tales. I feel that Cypher System works best when you can have weird settings that cater to improvisation, and I expect their post-apoc genre book will prove to be well worth it. 

I should also mention Pathfinder 2E v2. They have more tomes on the way, including the ever important revision to their Bestiary series, and the Player Core 2 to complete the class range my group is used to dealing with. Although my group understands that the backwards compatibility is 99.5% they still seemed more interested in waiting for the rest of these core books to release so we haven't done anything with Pathfinder 2E yet. I personally am more interested in playing it at the game table; Pathfinder, along with D&D 5E and others, can easily devolve into "Find a battle map, populate with virtual tokens, watch encounter turn in to fight because the players have hammers and see nails all over the map" kind of experiences. I guess what I am trying to say is that VTTs work really well on average when you are focused on a map and minis, and are at times terrible when trying to just enjoy the game for its more exploratory and discovery/role play based elements.

I have other games, too. Vast Grimm still commands my attention and several new books released for it, making the world of Vast Grimm a more comprehensive and interesting place to explore. Mork Borg continues to fascinate me, and I think a live campaign should be in order; I am intrigued to experience t least one deliberate attempt to play the game for multiple sessions to see how it works for long hauls. Finally, I still have a shelf full of Free League Titles I need to explore in actual play, especially and in particular Alien RPG, Blade Runner RPG, Forbidden Lands and both CY_Borg and Pirate Borg. 

Don't even get me started on the brilliant 5E reimagining of D20 Modern in the form of Everyday Heroes! Ever since I snagged it last October I've been obsessing about what to do with it, and the array of weird cinematic properties they have congealed around the game to provide support is impressive. That I would even contemplate a campaign in the universe of Universal Soldier, Rambo or Escape from New York is a testament to how engaging and interesting the EH team has been with these sourcebooks. It does crack me up, though, that each sourcebook seems to start with a "I never even heard of or watched the movie this book is based on until I was hired to write it," followed by a thoughtful and engaging approach to taking a wildly dated action film from thirty years ago and turning it in to a must-play setting. 

As always, the problem is too many cool games and not nearly enough time!