If you are reading this, you’ve been invited into Zeek’s next campaign, “Caelorum” aka Sky Pirates.
Before getting into the nitty gritty, let’s throw out some house rules!
1. The system will be the New Dungeons and Dragons, sometimes called 5th Edition. It should be pretty easy to pick up, it’s a standard d20 system. The system is deadly in combat – so, like a true pirate, if you want to survive, you should only attempt fights you will win! Dungeons and worlds will be pre-populated with all manner of dangerous traps and monsters – you may explore your way into very high level content and die. Be smart! It’s a pretty rough system, especially at level 1. The nature of this world will make it deadlier still. You’ll want a balanced party, and your first character may die early on. They might not! We are keeping track of experience points, and if you need a new character, they start at half the XP of your last, and gain XP at 1.5% the rate of other character until they catch up. Same thing for missed sessions.
2. Unlike other campaigns, I’ll be putting a lot of work into this one haha. It’s going to be an Open World, Exploration based campaign. There will be plot hooks, ancient ruins, guilds of pirate and law alike. It will just be there. You will push and pull, and explore the world as you please. Murder too many folk, you get a bounty. Save enough people and gain followers. You’ll probably want to find, make, or buy maps – a single dungeon might be a location you return to often for salvage.
3. No electronic devices. Gather them up and put em away. Use them on breaks. Walk away from the table. Sneak peaks on the potty. Obviously important life shit is more important then D&D yadda yadda use them then, but we’re setting time aside to play, they slow down the game considerably, and I don’t want them at the table.
4. Speaking of what works best for the party, I will be stealing a democracy rule from the Deli, called “Bologna Democracy”. Much like waiting for your favorite luncheon meet, you will draw a number from the ticker. In the event of decisions or conflicts, whoever has the lowest ticket rips theirs up, and gets their way. They then pull a new one. Any time you wish to make a decision on behalf of the party, you will do this. You may horde a low number for a critical time, or work to ensure everyone in the party gets an equal say. Whoever holds the lowest ticket is considered captain, at least until a time they need to make a decision, and don’t pass it down the chain. Want the Magic Item? Rip up your ticket. Is there a dispute? Lowest number wins. You can keep your ticket number a secret.
5. Resources! This game will track resources! Money, Food and Water, Orichalcum, Followers – the theme of the game is surviving the brutal demands of the world, and hopefully becoming rich. To get to this path, you will barter, bribe, scavenge, take on jobs, and keep track of your stuff. Your stuff may get stolen if it’s not protected. Your followers could revolt or die if not taken care of. Your island home could sink into the Mist. How big an empire you want will be up to your crew. You’ll want someone trustworthy in charge of finances. I’ll actually be providing Experience Points and Treasure! (whaaat)
6. Your character will have a list of Bonds, Ideals, and Flaws. You may write as many as you wish. They don’t describe your character, or force you into what you should do. Rather, they are what your character aspires to be.
Bonds can be your ties to other players, NPCs, Guilds, or your Belief system. Swearing to protect the party Mage can be a great source of inspiration in combat.
Ideals represent what your character aspires to. Your code of conduct, or honor. This does not mean you have to follow them. These can help or hinder you, depending on what the best case scenario is for a situation.
Flaws represent issues your character doesn’t like about themselves, but can’t quite control. Fears, mental quirks, physical weaknesses. You can play off these to gain Inspiration, or spend Inspiration to temporarily get over yourself and overcome.
We will use them for the Inspiration mechanic. What’s inspiration? Simple. When you have Inspiration, you may have advantage on any die roll you want, or even give another ally inspiration, instead. Once you spend it, it’s gone. It doesn’t stack, you either have it or you do not. How do you get it? At any time, you may take disadvantage on a roll. Maybe your Ideal that you’ll never hurt a child gets in your way, and you hesitate before attacking a gnome. Or your fear of falling prevents you from making that jump well. Either way, you Actively decide when you are fucking up, so that you can Actively decide when you have inspiration. It’s on you, and one less thing I keep track of J
With that said, onto the game!
_ (Kay-Lore-OOm) : The broken world._
One hundred and twelve feet of breathable air, sandwiched between the inky nothing of the stars and the life ending Mists.
The skies are populated by a loosely collected gathering of floating islands. These Islands, according to legend, ascended to the air long ago. They were piloted by our ancestors, and the stories say they were even able to fly from place to place. When they were capable of doing so, each was a kingdom of it’s own, trading with other islands dock to dock, able to constantly relocate away from the seasonal storms and flee the largest dragons. The dreams of children are sparked by tales of ancient weapons of light wielded to keep the terrifying creatures at bay.
Over dozens of generations, our homes have forgotten how to fly. The threat of falling into the Mists faces each of us daily. The ancient altars require a sacrifice to even stay afloat, one that only the Angels can provide – Orichalcum. (O- EE-Kal-SÙm) Strong holding this precious resource, the Angels rose to power as their enemies sank into the Mist. Orichalcum comes at a high cost – both in material wealth and loyalty to the winged ones, worshipping the God they serve. Those islands that abide by the Angel’s terms are allowed autonomy, so throughout Caelorum are dozens of miniature kingdoms with their own governments, rules, and customs.
Those who fall out of love with the system and rebel find themselves with a great deal of freedom, at a great cost. Orichalcum is just as essential to a rebel’s survival, and it must be sought after through barter, gambled for with great costs, or stolen. Those that would take to the skies to liberate Orichalcum for themselves are known as Pirates, and they come in many forms.
The islands, it is said, are gifts from God. At a glance, they appear to be ancient metal structures that were reclaimed by nature over millennia. They groan as they float along, caked with dust and dirt, are choked by plants of all kind, and weighed down by buildings and settlements.
All that dirt seems to be a blessing of some of the creatures that live within. Rust monsters eat away at the old metals, their leavings are eaten and processed by Ankhegs, which in turn turns to fertile soil. It would be a blessing if the damned things weren’t so aggressive or need a bit of meat to fill out their diet.
Metals are “mined” from their depths when needed, and reforged by blacksmiths into tools we understand how to use. As long as you stay away from load bearing pillars, or the Altar, the method appears to be somewhat safe.As for the Altars… Only the Clerics have some idea about how they work. Orichalcum must be “sacrificed” to the altar, in a complicated ritual that involved words, adjusting levers, and pressing their hands on the right sacred glyphs. God lives in every altar, and helps teach new clerics how to give the proper sacrifice. Those that take the holy path may commune with God here, but it requires perfect knowledge of the prayers to hear God’s voice.
Orichalcum only lasts so long – at the altar, a good cleric can estimate how much time is left by how brightly it glows. The brighter it is, the closer it is to being consumed. The Altar will eject the spent Orichalcum right before it gets critically hot and bright, where it falls down into the mists before exploding violently. The island then has a period of roughly a week to get a new piece of Orichalcum before it, too, sinks into the mist.
Mountain Peaks that pierce the mists are very rare – and extremely valuable. Bloody wars rage for generations over the right to hold such coveted land. In many cases, dealing with the angels is an easier way to survive.
The Mist, and the Surface below
The mist, hundreds of feet of thick, greenish clouds that extend all the way to the surface. The rolling storms and acidic rain that torrent the landscape below are the least of it’s dangers. Exposure to the mist causes an affliction known as Grayscale – the slow and painful petrifaction of your body over weeks. In short bursts it is manageable to tread into, and it’s common knowledge that if you don’t breathe, it takes much longer to hurt you. The Mist does not affect all creatures equally. Reptiles, such as the thundering behemoths, lowly kobold, and the mighty dragons are completely unaffected by it’s properties. The surface belongs to them now. Many forms of plant are unaffected as well – though they tend to store the Mist in their cells, making them unfit to eat or burn.
The surface still has it’s uses. Diving crews in controlled suits, or wielding protective Magicks, find many lost treasures in the ruins of sunken islands, crashed ships, and even in the great broken cities of The Humans. Not much is known about the humans besides that which we find in the ruins. It is said that they were to blame for the Mist in the first place, and as punishment God did not allow them to follow into the skies.
Heavy and thick as the Mists are, they only penetrate about a mile underground. Deep below, in the darkness, the scheming and plotting of abominations, monsters, and Drow continue.
Even above the Mists, and knowing it’s deadly properties, they have their uses. The thick atmosphere makes many gliding style ships viable, and air bladder ships more buoyant. Wizards have learned to draw upon the innate power of the Mist, channeling it into the raw force known as Magic. Light exposure over centuries has sparked an accelerated evolutionary event, with new species adapting, and being discovered constantly.
Metal, at the moment, can only be mined and reforged from the islands. Each time this is done, you risk the structural integrity of your home. Scavengers find this to be the most profitable thing to bring from the depths – and the most dangerous. The majority of it is found in dragon hordes, or stripped from sunken ships. It doesn’t hold on to the mist’s poisons, though, so from the moment it is reclaimed it is usable.
Trees that have the space to grow tall enough for use in ship and house building are worth their weight in gold. Only the foolish take lumber from below. Burning it leaks Mist, and though it is not visibly apparent, ghost ships made with such lumber have been found drifting the skies, piloted by unmoving statues, and the angry spirits tethered to them.
Water can be hauled from the surface, if you have several mages or clerics dedicated to purifying it for use. Most islands have great storage tanks for the water, some hold it above ground in ponds. IT is far more effective to regulate and ration the water cycles, but since rain happens below the clouds even a perfect system must be refilled at great expense.
With water at a premium, food production is difficult. The easiest food comes from hunting the beasts that fly the skies. Because of this, food is the main source of barter and trade with close neighbors.
Creating new things is the ultimate show of status and wealth. Most folk prefer to repair everything they own, and pass them down family lines, until they can no longer function their original purpose. Once that happens, creative recycling may turn a leaky boot into a flower pot, a sword sharpened thousands of times into a small carving knife with a large handle.
Religions: God, Tiamat, and the Seekers
Though every island has their own superstitions, spirits, and laws these three major dogmas rule the land:
God and the Righteous
Domains: Life, Light, Tempest
God exists. God talks personally to its disciples. God’s Angels deliver life in the form of itself –Orichalcum- and only those trained by its voice can activate it on the altar. Following God is the key to safety for yourself, and those you love, in Caelorum. God did not create the world, God saved it. When the Mists came, it was God that delivered us to the sky, God who keeps us safe and alive.
The Angels that work under God are it’s public face. Unwavering, heavily armored, helmets gleaming with carved faces. Bright wings, weapons of Light and Fire. Angels distribute Orichalcum, enforce rules, and collect tribute for God. They take in and train clerics, hunt dragons, and dispense justice. They are the epitome of law, order, and loyalty. Many folks find them to be real jerks.
A follower of God is expected to be devote, to listen to it’s voice and direction, and do everything necessary to maintain the fragile balance of life above. Past this, there are many interpretations. Even Pirate Clerics can speak to God, who does not reference the Angels, or seem upset with their actions. Some followers are zealots that hunt down those that do not follow the ways of the angels. Others quietly do all they can to keep the islands afloat. A follower of God knows all of the rituals and prayers to keep an island maintained, and can repair things when they break.
The Cult of Tiamat
Domains: Trickery, War, Death
Tiamat, the Dragon Queen. She embodies, and magnifies all that define dragon kind. Power, Greed, and Vanity. The Dragons have flourished in the Mists, with little competition, but they still consider the air their home, and the peoples their slaves.
Followers of Tiamat crave power, beauty, fame, and conquest. At it’s best, a follower of Tiamat seeks to better herself to the highest standings, in a Me first kind of way. At it’s worst, a follower of Tiamat seeks to overthrow God, and bring ruination to Caelorum – sink the islands from the sky.
Cultists have been known to do the unimaginable – train dragons, speak to the Kobold and lizardfolk, and even survive short periods of time in the Mists.
Dragons rise up from the mists, hunt down ships, and devour Orichalcum wherever they can find it. Winged Kobolds follow before or after a dragon in vast swarms like bats in the sky, picking off bits of meat from a fallen foe, or laying down their lives to give assistance. Their shrill calls can be heard for hours before they arrive – an intimidation tactic that allows them to scavenge freely after their foes have fled.
Covenant of the Seekers
_ Domains: Nature, Travel, Knowledge_
Those that follow the way of the Seekers are not a close knit group. They have no official dogma, no rituals or ceremony that bind them. There are no leaders or organization of any sort. To be a seeker, one must only strive to discover the truths that may one day save the world. Paths of enlightenment and science may blend with druidic orders that cleanse Mist from the land. Archeologists use diving suits to tread the ruins below in search of answers.
Though personal glory and discovery is awarded in the Covenant, a sense of brotherhood is held by most true followers. Several guilds form an alliance under this banner, and they welcome both Rebels and Righteous into their folds, seeing God as a potential answer. Though the Dragons are studied, their tendency to destroy everything in their path excludes their followers welcome.
Your Ship, Your Guild
A sail’s Color and Crest is an important indicator. It shows your allegiance from a distance, helping friends and foes alike know whether you’re safe to fire at. Though some fly false flags, this is considered extremely unlucky, and very taboo. Flying a false flag – and getting found out – marks you as an enemy to neigh everyone, and should only be considered an option very rarely, only under dire circumstances. (or when you are sure to leave no trace of it happening. Your color and crest are your honor.
The major flag colors, and what they represent:
White Sail pirates are considered folk heroes to rebels. They focus on plundering Angel warehouses and tax ships, and are known to distribute extra Orichalcum freely to those in need. While they are still hunted as rebels, flying a white sail means you put honor and safety of others ahead of your own.
Red Sail pirates are more profit minded. They’ll raid Angels, for their own advancement, and some will raid loyalist islands as well. They won’t attack rebels as a matter of honor, and will sell extra Orichalcum to them for a price under what the Angels are offering. If you’re in trouble, a white sail is best but hard to find. A red will be there for you, as you are for them.
Black Sail pirates have no loyalties. They attack the easiest targets, including poor rebel islands, and other Pirates. They’ll strip an island of it’s minerals and enslave the population, leaving a husk left doomed to sink into the mists. Black sails may be motivated by greed, but some are Zealous followers of God – seeing the liberation of God from the rebels as a noble goal, even if it means damning their own souls to get it done. Others hire monstrous crews of Orc or Goblinoids.
Amongst the three sails of pirates there are many loosely associated guilds that manage the fleets and offer direction, protection, and supplies. Being in a guild means following the guild’s codes of conduct. All members must pay a percentage of their take back to the guild. Guilds will gather investors, who will front the cost of supplies for a percentage of the profits. Pirate ships are risky, but lucrative investments, and anyone with at least a copper to their names can play the game.
Bounty Hunters assemble under a Blue Flag – bounties can be a great source of wealth for those who do not wish to fall afoul of the Angels. They tend to have specific assignments, and won’t attack a rebel at random. These assignments are given by local merchants and governments, but never the Angels. Bounties are good alive or dead a majority of the time, so unlike pirates they are willing to send a valuable ship to the mist, if necessary. Bounty hunters have a guild, but only for the acquisition of contracts. The guild takes it’s finder’s fee from the selling of contracts, and does not have rules or restrictions. Each contract may have it’s own, however.
Angel Ships fly under* silver or gold* flag, and range from massive floating fortresses to small chaser vessels. The reason behind which ship should fly which color is unknown. These ships are well armed and armored, and only the most foolish attack them head on. When you see a glimmering flag, running or hiding is your best route. A pirate spotted by an angel will be chased down, but not so far as to delay their scheduled arrival.
Merchant ships fly an Orange Flag, and depending on their merchandise will be escorted by guardians – either hiring a Red sale if they are on the side of Rebels, or a Grey flag marking them as local soldiers. * Attacking a merchant ship, and getting found out, is a great way to ensure a merchant never visits your island.* Their guilds hold deep grudges – a necessary thing to promote survival and trade between the peoples.
Lastly, seeker ships fly the Green Flag. With many different loyalties, these ships are generally left alone to further their noble cause – unless they are seen hauling great treasures from below.
(information about individual guilds and crap to follow)
If you choose to join a Guild, they will help finance your first ship, set up repayment, and assign quests. After the ship is repaid, you will continue to have the might of your Guild at your back, for a percentage of your profits.
Ships have different layouts and classifications. In combat, different jobs will need to be done while manning the ship (which may be relegated to NPC hirelings).
Size and Capacity – How large your ship is! Determines how many hit die your ship has, how many passengers and crew it can comfortably carry, and size and of cargo storage. Key Crew Member – the Lookout barks directions to other crewmates and gives bonuses depending on what they see during combat. Best for whoever has the best Wisdom score.
Armor and Hull – determines Hit Die type and any damage resistances your ship has. Key Crew Member – The Strongarm helps prevent the ship from being boarded, and is equidistant from any crew member who may need additional support. Best for whoever has the best Strength score.
Flight Mechanism – how is your ship propelled? Each type of flight mechanism has strengths and weaknesses, and will determine the cost of maintenance, speed, and routes you must take. It can also determine how high or low you can sail, and how much total weight you can carry. Key Crew Member – the Captain steers the ship, determines the targets for the weapon and handles defensive maneuvers. Best for whoever has the highest Intelligence score.
Weapons – from boarding harpoons and ropes to alchemical charges or magically powered cannons, what weapon you have can determine how you can damage beasts or boats with your ship. Each weapon has specific loading and aiming times. Key Crew Member – the Cannoneer arms, aims, and fires weapons. Depending on which type, a crew member with the best dexterity or magical skills handles weapons well.
Anyone not on position may need to tend to crewmates wounds, fight off boarders, assist in reloading weapons, or lob spells and arrows at targets from afar.
Diving Bells and Environment suits tie to your ship, and allow exploration of the mists and surface below. Different types allow different distances you can travel from your ship, and how long your air supply will last.
Your Island: You all are from the same island. During character creation you will determine the role you play on the island, as well as generate 3 NPCs tied to your character: An Ally, a Rival, and an Enemy. They can be from your island, or a part of your past. We will work together to build the island’s layout, its general government and history on Character Building day!