Connection to other DND Universes
Home shares most of its deities/immortals with the DND Setting of Mystara, which itself is an evolution of one of the two original DND Settings Blackmoor (the other being Greyhawk). The multiverse is defined using the 4th edition cosmology with primal chaos “below”, Prime Material “middle”, and Astral Sea “above” as well as the 3rd and 4th edition versions of the dawn war. All other campaign settings are assumed to exist somewhere within the prime, and spelljammers can be used to visit those worlds. Home is mostly separate, however, and planar travelers rarely go farther than the feywild and shadowfell, nor often leave Home’s crystal sphere.
How the DM Thought Up the Setting and Earlier Campaigns
Just to be clear, throughout this I am “the DM”. It just sounds better to be all third person rather than I this and I that.
The name was inspired by Elf Quest, where their world is known as “Abode” and Ursula LeGuinn’s book “The Word for World is Forest”. In American English “Earth” and “Terra” mean “dirt” or “the stuff under your feet”. Many fantasy settings, like the Forgotten Realms, had used fancy made up fantasy names that just sounded pathetic. Abeir-Toril, for example makes me want to dry heave. So the DM went in the opposite direction and used Elf Quest’s practicality. Hence, Home.
Two major themes were intended with the setting: First older means worse not better. Most campaign settings are “atlantean” which is to say they assume an ancient super advanced civilization that is more powerful and longer lasting than any current civilization. On Home, the oldest civilization is the current one, and it’s not that old. Previous to the current civilization there were just stone age hunter gatherers who had pretty decent primal magics, but no advanced learning or particularly great power. Second, the “Royal We” extends to all forms of life. This means that the land and the people are linked and share traits and fate. This was inspired by the Arthurian legend of the holy grail and as Arthur got sick all the land suffered from famine and the people got sick, when he got better the land healed and the people got healthy. This is the origin of the Monster Lords, and the difference in each kingdom.
Monster Lords were first thought of as a fusion of Melkor/Morgoth from JRR Tolkien and especially the essay Melkor’s Ring where Tolkien explained that Eru gave power to the Vala and Maia, but in rebelling the evil ones stopped receiving from him even though he did continue to offer it to them. As they spent power they weakened and eventually faded because the power left them into creation or into their actions and they couldn’t get it back without acknowledging Eru. In the Lord of the Rings this is why Sauron’s Ring was so important to him, as he spent his power instead of being lost the ring caught it. While he wore the ring he could use the power over and over, so the fact that he got weaker and weaker without the ring didn’t matter. Until he lost it and was so weak without it. Tolkien then wondered how did Melkor and the Balrog’s function without a ring? His answer was that Melkor bound himself to creation when he altered the Ainulindale, the song of creation. He became a stand-in for Eru to his servants, they took power from him and he used the world itself the way Sauron used his ring. In Home, this is the relationship of the Monster Lords to the world. They are bound to specific territories and the binding makes the land reflect the Monster Lord. The kingdom of consumption is a desert because the lord is a fire spirit that is always hungry and no amount of food or drink can satiate him, he is constantly starving. So the people are starving and greedy and the land is starving and greedy. Adding water or irrigation doesn’t help. Only changing the Monster Lord can change the world because the two are linked.
The second major influence on Monsters was the book “The Dread Companion” by Andre Norton. That book had a concept of “the draw” when mist rolled over the world instead of day and night. In the draw there were frightening creatures that you had to ward against so they didn’t kill you. They were outside the normal world and not vulnerable to most things. This worked with the original rules set used, RoleMaster, especially well with their stress and shock criticals causing people who were near the Monsters to feel pain and abnormality.
The final influence was the anime Slayers and their metaphysics for the Mazoku, which were a great parallel to the Monsters. Also their relationship to the deities (dragons) and the lord of nightmares was very similar to what the DM had already written so the DM tweaked it to be a little more similar.
The most recent version just uses flavor and description. They are no longer immune to mortal effects ala Slayers, nor cause round-by-round damage as in the Rolemaster version. But they do have dangerous auras and are described as having the world bend around them because it refuses to touch them. They are visible, not by light so closing your eyes doesn’t hide them from you. Even light will not touch them so they are surrounded by a halo of darkness where light won’t go, and even if you are unconscious or blind or have your eyes closed you can “see” them.
The royal family are a mashup of Arthur, Roland, King Mathonwy and Prince Gwydion from the Chronicles of Prydain by LLoyd Alexander (based on legends of the Sons of Don/Dawn), Rama from Hinduism, and the way the Egyptian Pharaohs thought themselves divine. They used various rule sets through the different campaigns, but the upshot is they are in actual fact part divine (demigods). Instead of physical or magical power, this manifests as them being nearly immune to corruption and temptation and fear. They are good, they are trustworthy, they are kind. They are truly ideal rulers, the very philosopher kings of Plato or perfect Kshatriyas from the Hindu epics. In 3rd and 4th edition DND used rules for Kalashtar, Aasimar and similar “good” races, but socially and in-character they are thought of as fully human. For their origin, the DM pulled from the Epic of Gilgamesh, where a prostitute sleeps with Enkidu to weaken him so Gilgamesh can defeat him. A variation of this became the origin of the Royal Family.
The different kingdoms were mostly thought up by taking a collection of over a dozen favorite movie, RPG, videogame, and novel monsters and then making them fit with the basic dnd concept of immortals, which meant picking a sphere and element, then changing their history and nature to fit. So, Dischord the Monster Lord of Lyric began as Monster X aka King Ghidorah from Godzilla. He was altered to be sonic in nature rather than lightning based, of the element akasha and sphere of entropy. So he is the destruction of an earthquake or the resonant harmonics that destroys bridges and buildings when soldiers march. Like Akasha he has no solid form, and can only be detected by his movement within or through other objects. The Lady of the Web is every scary Native American or African spider spirit and weaver of fate. She picked up divination (weaving fate means knowing the future) and anti-divination (preventing others from knowing the future and hurting them if they try to learn). Because of Dischord’s nature Lyric was designed around rising and falling settlements and territories. The land is based around earthquakes and instability. So it is an archipelago (land that starts and stops and starts again), where every island is a giant swamp out of which huge trees grow and the cities are on the top of the trees which sway underneath. This came from a painting by a Danish artist of a multi-layer city above and below a wheat field. The people of Lyric are passionate but disorganized, based on exaggerated stereotypes of Italians. Artists have massive fame followed by crushing scandal and are totally forgotten. Powerful warlords rise, grow hugely wealthy, then die or lose everything. Beautiful cities and monuments are built only to have the city fall into ruin and be swallowed by the swamp and lost. Rise and Fall. The ancient Greek Wheel of Fortune. Webithcorr (Web in the Corner), the Lady’s kingdom is tightly controlled and secretive. It is also a swamp, but instead of land starting and stopping or earthquakes and unstable ground, it is a foggy swamp with trails and paths that constantly change. You can’t ever travel through it twice using the same road and maps are worthless. Almost all the animals are colonial or hive minded. The only sentient races are insect-like, with a few human settlements along the edge of the kingdom, but those are all isolated pocket city-states each ruled by a tyrant and the people are oppressed and have no free will. Like Faerie of old Irish folklore, once you step into the land the old rules don’t apply. Even time and distance are out of your control and in her control, because you are in her web.
The major narrative itself is a retelling of the Hindu epic of Narasimha and Hiranyakashipu and the question: What happened next? (side note to any Hindu reading this, “inspired by” does not mean these are “representations of”. The DM took liberty and changed the story so the differences are not meant to be an insult to the divine Narasimha, but only that the story of Narasimha was so inspiring to the DM that he wanted to tell a story similar to it). So, since the DM already knew that the current civilization is the first, and the major story is a demon lord being killed and freeing civilization so his good son could rule, how or why would a demon create the world’s first civilization? There was an old paleontology article which claimed civilization replaced hunter gatherers because 20 weak and unskilled average people could kill one tarzan, and agriculture allowed a greater than 20-to-1 population increase compared to hunter gatherer civilizations. And there was the answer. Hiran wanted more people to kill. All the rest of the narrative followed easily from there. The current campaign is set with only one Monster Lord dead and the bad guys ruling much more than half the world. But they are not unified while the royals are. And being bound to the land they aren’t nearly as good on the offense as on the defense. Mostly they expand a kingdom by changing the world to swallow the terrain on the border into their own. But this is not happening, instead the royals are freeing people. Inertia has been on the side of good. Not everyone see it, in fact most players and characters think just the opposite. It looks like the Monsters are winning. But in reality, they are doomed and slowly losing. Civilization has not yet entered it’s golden age, but it is going to and the players can be a part of that happening.
This is why evil player-characters are problematic. Antiheroes tend to be ok. Villains are necessarily on the losing side, and are opposed to the whole structure of the world. Everything about the setting makes a villain unwelcome and vulnerable, which spoils the experience of being the antagonist in a plot (that is the main difference between an antihero and a villain: a villain is an antagonist an antihero is a protagonist). In general, evil characters are forbidden because the experience tends to be unsatisfying at best and frustrating at worst. Also, most players who want an evil character are jackasses who ruin games and really should not be welcome at the table. But that’s a different story. And “most” definitely does not mean “all”. Says the DM who has often played evil PCs.
Creation and Ancient History
No one actually knows how Home was created. The Hunters give a tale of a primordial turtle hatching, the fluid of his egg becoming the sea, his shell the sky and all the world is just his shell. The Grey Priest of Dagom teaches that The Demon Hiran woke up and that created the world. He saw it barren and dusty because humans are lazy and weak and refused to work even though they were starving to death. So he conquered them and forced them to work in the fields and grow food and the land flourished. But humans were lustful and petty and grew too numerous for the world, so he culled them to keep the population under control. The Royal Family and the Fey agree that the universe on the whole was created by immortal beings of great power but those beings are all dead and their methods and reasons are unknown. They also agree that right after creation these beings fought a great war (The Dawn War) over the nature of creation. The Fey believe that primal spirits stepped in and stopped the war and that the Demon came in after to enslave the world and that civilization and agriculture are shackles and slave labor forced upon the wild lands. The Royals believe that civilization was arising during the war, that the Demon stopped the war and then expanded civilization into the form it is now known. Some scholars try to claim all four beliefs are correct, that the turtle woke up because of the Demon, that it was one of the great ancient primal creators, that it was slain in the dawn war, and that the Demon was one of the spirits that ended the war (not the only one) and that civilization comes from its teachings but was already beginning without him.
Major Epochs of time
Scholars break history into the following major divisions:
- Era of Creation – almost nothing known about this except that it must have happened because the world exists. Hunter claims about the world being the shell of a primordial turtle are generally sneered at by scholars (hundreds of thousands if not millions of generations)
- Dawn War Era – it is clear powerful immortals battled and many died, then they stopped. It is also clear that immortals do not, in general, interfere personally in the world despite having the power to do so (between 350-800 generations)
- The Wild Era (disputed) – Hunters and Fey claim there were many generations between the end of the dawn war and the coming of the demon, Grey Priest and the Royals say this never happened (claims vary from 20 to 500 generations)
- The Demon’s Era – Hiran conquered the world and “invented” civilization and agriculture (well documented as 127 to 129 generations)
- The Werewolf’s Era – Hiran was slain, most humans refused to return to hunter-gatherer lifestyles, the werewolf set about exterminating all sentient life (quite short, lasting no more than 3 to 5 generations)
- The Royal Era – The Werewolf was slain by an act of the gods who gave two children to the world: one became the mother of all lycanthropes, the other the mother of all royal family lines. Her children have guided civilization ever since (42 generations and counting)
The Current Era – Royal Era
The royal epoch began the day the werewolf died. There are many variations of the story, the official version is that a woman approached the tribal elders and city leaders in a council and said that she would slay the werewolf that was depopulating the world, if in return all of humanity agreed to give her children the same authority of rulership that the demon had possessed. The council agreed, she killed the werewolf and had one daughter who grew up to be the founder of the first dynasty. There are many rumors and local legends of what happened to her mother, but no one knows the truth of it. What little is known is that all the leaders of humanity swore the oath of fealty, and then returned to their homes and had their people also swear it. Then the woman took her daughter and vanished.
Sixteen years later the daughter walked into the Demon’s old capital city of Kentarre, in the province of Kentarre and claimed his throne. Because the demon had used the title emperor, this woman also was called emperor, even though she was female. There is no such word “empress” instead “emperor” is understood to be a sexless, not a masculine, word, no different than how “ruler” or “leader” are neither masculine nor feminine. The first empress had eleven children, seven boys and four girls. She ruled until her youngest child was twenty years old, then abdicated and named the wisest and most compassionate of her children (the fourth born in order) the new Emperor and she retired into the forest with her husband never to be seen or heard from again.
Her children spread out from Kentarre into most of the Monster ruled kingdoms. There were many fierce battles, and it took generations, but slowly they claimed some land from the Monsters and even one—the blood lord of thitstir—was slain. Initially, the Monsters were overconfident and dismissive of the royals, they did not help each other, nor fight back with full strength when royals entered their realms. As time passed and they learned how serious a threat the royals were, the Monsters changed strategies and became much more aggressive. However, it was too late and the royals already controlled about a third of the world. Even still, the Monsters cannot unify as each believes only it is the rightful heir of the Demon’s throne. Or, like RhoDin and the Succubus, they simply don’t care about anyone or anything other than themselves.
Economy and Technology
The economy of Home is a mostly gift-based “perfect” feudal system. Earlier campaigns had it totally gift-based but players had a hard time understanding this, so the DM backtracked a little and it is now mostly gift-based. This means that nearly all wealth and all land is held by the lords. The concept of inheritance is limited, and understood as “a gift so personal and important that parents have gifted it to their children for more than one generation”. All land and titles are given out by the lords (Royal family or Monster Lords) and when the person dies, the title and land reverts back to the lord who can give it out to someone else. It is considered extremely bad form to ask for the same land that one’s parent ruled, or the same title that one’s parent received. Wealth partially works the same way. The lords give land to a peasant who works it and earns money, that money technically belongs to the lord but they only tax a certain amount, the wealth that is not taxed is considered a gift to the peasant. Taxes are usually fixed amounts so that a peasant who works hard can receive a bigger gift as reward for their hard work. Most peasants don’t view it this benevolently but that is how the language and society describe the situation. From a practical standpoint, money changes hands without reverting to the royals simply as a matter of convenience and to grease the wheels of society.
This is a holdover from the Oath of Fealty. Essentially the Demon owned everything, all wealth, all land, even people’s bodies and souls. They lived only by his grace. When the royals took over after the death of the werewolf, all mortal beings swore the oath of fealty giving this same authority to the royal family. The first act of the first emperor was to gift all the world their own body and soul back. The second emperor incorporated this gift into the coronation ceremony so that each emperor acknowledges and agrees that they will never try to reclaim these things. Wealth and land though, as stated above, are held in a perfect feudal manner.
Technology is based on Golden Age Greece and Imperial Rome (it varies by kingdom, just as in the modern world not all countries are equally developed). However, everything in a normal fantasy setting does exist somewhere, even platemail, heavily barded warhorses, crossbows and clocks. The higher the technology or the greater the magic required to create a thing the rarer it is. In many cases there may be only a single master craftsman in the whole world who knows how to make water clocks (for example), and that craftsman might only have one or two apprentices who will ever be taught the secret. Thus every water clock in the world comes from that one master or her master. If a player wants to have a repeating hand crossbow, they might need to go to the underdark to get one, or find a master craftsman who can custom build it. But it should absolutely be possible to get. This is equally true for fancy clothing, silk, cut gemstones (as opposed to older polishing technology), paintings, sculpture, building architecture, aqueducts, etc. If it exists in middle earth, or forgotten realms, or ancient Rome, or three-kingdoms-era China (or any equivalent setting or civilization) then it exists in Home. Some Victorian era steampunk-ish things might be justified via magic (especially in Faseloo or Suemonom), but these should be one-off masterpieces, irreplaceable and as rare as artifacts.