Year Zero World Building creates campaign settings using Free League’s RPGs. Dragonbane is an old-school RPG in a fantasy world of fallen kingdoms and ancient magic.
The system is a d20 roll under slimmed down from a previous d100 system. I want to create a world using this system with an old-school fantasy feel using a modern system. The boxed set has everything needed to create this setting and the PDF is available now.
The world of Dragonbane is not one of vast continents and decades of history. Instead, the boxed set zeroes in on one adventuring area called the Misty Vale. It spans roughly 150 kilometers in both length and width. Legend has it that it was once home to an ancient dragon empire and is now overrun by orcs and mist. The orcs have been moving away from the valley and humans and allied kin have begun exploring and building new settlements.
One such settlement is Outskirt, a village that the player characters can call home and from which they can launch adventures out into the valley. Setting up a new world like the one in Dragonbane to explore involves two steps: character creation and creating the first adventure.
Character creation is straightforward and detailed, but I do want to add to the process. First, six ability scores are randomly rolled using the standard 4d6 method dropping the lowest. I plan to have each player roll one score and have everyone place that score in any ability. Followed by the next player rolling until six scores are generated and placed. After all six attributes are assigned, two can be swapped.
There are six kin, including the standard dwarf, elf, halfling, and human. In addition to those four, there are also mallards (duck folk) and wolfkin (wolf folk). Dwarves have a grudge ability that works on anyone who has harmed them no matter how long ago. The rules encourage the player to write down the names of anyone who has injured them so they don’t forget to apply the unforgiving ability. This type of flavorful rule that blends what the player does with what the character does really appeals to me and adds to world building.
Other kin are also infused with roleplaying flavor that is enhanced with rule support. Mallards have a temper and wolfkin have hunting instincts to track down prey. Understanding each kin will be easy enough.
There are also 10 professions PCs pick from Artisan, Bard, Fighter, Hunter, Knight, Mage, Mariner, Merchant, Scholar, and Thief. Each profession is well described and is supported with a skill list and heroic ability to choose from. This combo creates a clear picture of who each character is.
Character creation is straightforward, with little to no work needed by the GM. I add a bit of the outside world for context. Where the PCs came from is not as important as their future adventures, but some background is helpful. The larger nearby world consists of principalities and city-states built on the ruin of empire. Nobles heavily tax commoners and raise gaudy palaces and overblown castles. The PCs face lives of endless drudgery and heavy taxes unless they run off to adventure.
After all that, the PCs will be ready. They just need an adventure to go on. And the adventures book delivers.
The adventure book contains 11 adventures and a village called Outskirt to base adventuring out of. The PCs start out in a pass into the Misty Vale heading toward Outskirt. The PCs stumble on a dying man, a mystery, and an ambush to kick things off with a bang. I don’t see any reason to alter this beginning.
After arriving at Outskirt, the PCs can learn of up to 10 adventure locations and start to piece together a larger mystery that involves gathering four pieces of a statue that unlocks adventure 11 and the wrap-up of the campaign.
PCs increase in skills after most adventures, but heroic abilities are acquired more slowly. This means that PCs don’t gain huge power-ups after each adventure. Because of this design, these ten adventures can be explored in any order which really puts the campaign progression in the PCs’ hands.
Leanara is an NPC the PCs can meet. She wants to hire the PCs and can give them information on any of the adventure sites. Even if the PCs don’t meet or work with Leanara, there are plenty of other sources of rumors in the village of Outskirt.
The easiest adventure site to kick things off is Riddermound which is basically a dungeon crawl. I like the dwarven location of Bothild’s Lode as well. Perhaps Leanara or rumor places one of the statue pieces in one of those locations. Or maybe no one knows for sure, but the pieces have to be in one of the hidden places in the valley and these are two places to begin the search.
Once the PCs are on their way, they can return to Outskirt for rest, resupply, and new rumors. Journey rules are included with random events, and random encounters can happen in the village as well. Neither the GM nor the players will know what exactly may happen next, which provides plenty of twists and turns to experience and overcome.
The campaign also wraps around neatly, ending up back in Outskirt. If the PCs gather all four pieces to reassemble the statues, they can open the temple ruin in Outskirt to get what they need to finish the final adventure. This final adventure yields additional heroic abilities in addition to the normal skill increase possibilities.
While the box set has not shipped yet, it will add quite a bit to an ongoing campaign. Maps, dice, cards, battle maps, and standees will enhance any game. Treasure can be generated by drawing from the treasure card deck, and battles can be fought using the standees and battle mat. And improvised weapons deck offers a variety of attacks like wine bottles and throwing dirt in the eyes. Each of the 10 adventure sites has a card with a description included. Initiative is handled via a ten-card deck and extra dice are always a bonus. There is even a solo adventure.
Another winner from Free League, but with a different feel called mirth and mayhem (some humor but also great danger) and a unique rule system. I can’t wait for the box set to show up at my door.
Picture credit: Pixabay
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