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Caleon BRP [Long-Winded]


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By way of introduction, I'm Jeffery. I'm a gamemaster, author and huge BRP fan, though I almost never play it. I've done HERO, GURPS, Dark Heresy and even various flavors of DnD... but never played Basic for any great stretch.

For a long time, as far back as the first Stormbringer book back in the 80's, I've experimented with using BRP for my homebrew game. I thought I'd post the "What has gone before" bits and occasionally update this thread with new material as I translate it to BRP from its current HERO incarnation.

I distinctly remember typing it up on my Commodore 64, printing out test copies on an 80-column 9-pin dot matrix printer. The first rumblings of Basic Roleplaying Caleon were awful and I always got distracted, never finishing it. At least 4 other times I've started this project. This time... I finish it.

A good deal of Caleon exists because a player said "Wouldn't it be cool if..." as a result, some very obvious homages and outright rip-offs are to be found below. Notable among them is a black sword with a demon in it. I'd like to think that it's a slight nod to Michael Moorcock, but let's face it, I was young, I stole the idea, and now it's too late, the Black Blade, the Sword of Doom, Clarion Call to the Army of Fell Intent is a very important thing in my stories. Serial numbers or no...

In fact, I've changed so much of it, that really, the only resemblance is the black metal of the blade and the demon... the rest of it is all mine.

The current game is set in an age that technologically resembles the Age of Sail, with big clanking steam-powered mecha ruling the battlefields. The setting is high magic, steampunk tech, pirates-style shipboard action with swashbuckling, necromancers, demon-binding, nation-building and dungeon-delving.

I make it up as I go along and take many notes. We have played this world for 27 years, on and off, and at all stages of its timeline. What follows is the history of the world right up to about 600 years before the current game time.

A Speculative Caleon History

Much has gone before, and a little understanding goes a long way. This, then, is what we present here, little understanding much speculation and outright fabrication. These tales do not reveal history in its full glory, for there is much that remains hidden. These events, or those that caused them, have ample need of hiding, for full disclosure is ill-advised under the best of circumstances. If Men knew what strings were taut about them, or indeed the hands that pull them so tight, History itself might seem a lie.

If there is a pattern to the ways of history, it is that Men build empires and other Men tear them down. It is the fate of every nation to die and join the bones of its predecessor in the mists of time. So it is with Caleon.

Claws of ice had held the land in a grip of death for long ages, and as it retreated, the land was reborn, new sources of food appeared, and magical wellsprings burst forth, changing the creatures of that age faster then nature may have intended. Life multiplied and took forms startling in aspect. Into this world, came the Elves.

An Elven World

At the beginning of all things, it would seem, are the Elzar. Fair, dangerous and magical, they were not always the tragic shadows we know today. In those days lost in the mists of history, their glittering cities lay scattered across the cool, silent forests of the world and the spirits of earth and water bowed at their passing. They commanded the elements, and even tempestuous spirits fire and proud spirits of air did their merest bidding.

Elves manipulated essence as easy as a man might rise from his bed and pull on his pants. They hadn’t the merest thoughts on the matter, it was their nature.

It was this command of magic that proved their undoing. In those days, Caleon’s elves shone out like a beacon in the dead background of the galaxy. It was here that the Dharzooni Stellar Empire deposited their worst: rebels and madmen, dragon-blooded horrors out of legend, the Mogs.

The Coming of the Dharzoon

Slowly at first, with increasing intensity, the Empire commended its unwanted mages to Caleon. They arrived naked and bleeding, thrown from star-spanning gates to gulp cold air and find themselves alone, desperate and cut off from their former lives.

Anger seethed within each, their one-way trip set a burning in their already black hearts and they vowed a return to their former glory. We can only guess at this great distance in time what they truly thought, but surely, revenge was foremost in their minds.

Others were cast into the world, creatures to punish them, or slaves sent by some twisted sympathic dark soul. With return impossible, their sympathizers provided what comfort they could to their masters.

Castles rose up across the thawing ground, armies were raised from enslaved families and dreams of empires played across the troubled brows of the Dharzooni.

All the while the elves were patient, hoping this new race, and their attendant servitors would confine their warmaking to the small holds and slowly-growing cities. This was a delusion, eventually, the Dharzooni warlords tired of fighting among themselves and began forming alliances and cabals. In time, the smallish nations turned jealous, alien eyes on the forests of the elves and the Time of Burning began.

Of those days little is known save that any Elf that resisted found their cities burned, their children enslaved and their own bodies used as weapons. It is in these days that the first Trolls appeared.

New weapons forged of Elzar flesh and angry spirits of vengence assaulted the Dharzooni strongholds and brought them down. As slaves, trolls, angry elves and even their own children turned on them, the long slow years of their exile were paid for in their own tainted blood.

The Scattered City States

Without allies the Dharzooni faded from the world and were forgotten. Elves and slaves moved away from the old, cursed centers of Dharzoon power. They grouped by race, or by need and scattered out across the world for thousands of years. The world warmed, and the forests once again rolled out across a now-quiet continent.

All across the world, the Dead Gods’ thoughts began to seep into the minds of Men, for the Ilzar had made themselves known to Caleon. Those most devout to the Ilzar became the Ilzaru, in turn the most powerful Ilzaru were the Iltharchs, who had power as the gods themselves. Settlements were founded in their names, and civilization crept forward,driven by the thoughts of dead gods.

In time, towns and cities began to appear clustered about rivers and harbors, or beneath the great Mana Flows. As is the way with men and other creatures, Empires stretched out tendrils of power and influence, military might projecting the will of petty tyrants for an age until Mighty Kyloth arose in the North. Built on the site of a great battle between the Elves and the Dharzoon, upon the breast of the Lord of Snows, the highest mountain of the North, was great Kyloth. Its empire survives to this day a smoldering fragment of its former glory, but in those mist-shrouded days, Kyloth nearly ruled all.

Imperial Kyloth

From its metropol in the North, to the ever-expanding rainforests no corner of the continent was spared the march of Kyloth’s armies. Some resisted, holding fast to tradition and cultural identity, or in some cases a matter of race kept Kyloth at bay, for they were an empire, then as now, of Men. Elves stayed secure in their tree-realms, or it is said, upon the great moon. The savage races kept to their mountains and canyons, but one nation of Men pushed back the armies of Imperial Kyloth again and again over the ages.

The Ambitions of the South

The Rulanni were a proud lot. They were dark haired mystics who spent their time commanding demons and stout soldiers who it was said could take an arrow yet take no notice of it. Kyloth’s heavy blades and trifling magic was of no consquence to them. They ruled a shining city near the elven nation of Pel Koryad. Kyloth gazed in jealous rage at the walls of Serrule, and for hundreds of years plotted her takeover. The reverse is often said to have been true.

Serrule and the Jealous North

This rivalry sparked major wars, skirmishes and centuries of intrigue, but Kyloth was not the only envious eye turned south in those days. At times it must have seemed to the Serruli that the entire world coveted their long growing season and warm seas. They lived in an age of eternal summer and one man’s ambition out shone every other jealous heart on the planet. He was Arkoon, and even in defeat, he would be Serrule’s undoing

The Rise and Fall of Lord Arkoon

Steelfire Gorge

After bursting through from Chaos, magic courses around the planet, largely confining itself to the atmosphere. Occasionally the magic flows dive deep into the crust to erupt from the ground. In some of these mystical calderas, the flow brings liquified enchanted metal and glass to the surface. A thousand miles from the warm sun and inviting seas of Serrule lay the mighty caldera of Steelfire Gorge. It was claimed in those days by a clan of elven smiths led by the Forgemaster Hylothian. Arkoon sought him out, and commisioned a blade to make him lord of all. Hylothian labored on the weapon for a long age, binding a demon to the metal, gathering necromancers and dark mages from across the world to aid him in the creation of the Black Blade.

Before it was finished, Arkoon took possession of the blade and marched south at the head of the Army of Fell Intent. Near the Iron River, upon a spire of black rock he began his tower, a monument to hateful ambition and spiteful Chaos. After years of murder with mundane weapons, he and his most vile lieutenants journeyed to Steelfire Gorge to clain the weapon from Hylothian.

As his fist closed around the hilt, his fate was sealed, he saw his Dominion, all of Caleon, at his feet, and behind him he saw all the people he had killed and would have to kill to make his vision a reality. Hylothian perhaps had hoped that the terrible vision would stay his hand, but Arkoon simply smiled, thanked the smith in a too-gentle voice and returned to his tower.

His armies spread out across the South, seiging any city that might come to bright Serrule’s aid. While Arkoon busied himself at the walls of Chalasa, a band of heroes, twelve in number, were visited by emissaries of Hylothian’s smith-clan. Each was given a blade fashioned by the Forgemaster. Each in turn challenged Arkoon only to find their new weapons were no match for the Black Blade. Some barely escaped, though some had help in escaping Arkoon’s wrath.

Only when they combined their strengths, learning to use each weapon’s enchantment in concert with the others, did they finally bring Arkoon down. He was consumed by magical fires, and none of those days guessed his fate. His armies, so fierce only moments before, were torn assunder, screaming as they were drawn into Chaos. Of his lieutenants, only the fair-seeming Saakan survived the battle. Standing before the Twelve, he vowed to keep the Blade out of the hands of those who would use it for conquest. Ever did the Blade whisper foul, chaos-borne lies to him, but ever did he resist.

While he never took up the Blade itself, he did embark on military conquests from Arkoon’s tower and found himself, as his master before him, envious of Serrule. The bright city tempted many a conqueror, and Saakan’s force of dark beings, trolls, orcs and creatures too horrible to describe marched on the city.

Serrule Brought Low

What treachery opened the gates on that terrible day, none can guess, but Serrule fell, her brightness dimmed and darkness ruled in its place. A girl was born on the day that Saakan crowned himself King of the South, and her father vowed that she would dethrone him.

The Hidden Queen

The girl Yethaa grew in Saakan’s shadow, she was schooled at weapons, magic and the silent arts of dealing with spirits and demons. Her father whispered hateful tales of Saakan and of the unknown traitor to the city. She watched as Saakan’s soldiers, human and otherwise, kept the streets in a deathly palor of utter order. He may have been a pawn of Chaos, but the city’s borders expanded, Men and Orcs dealt with one another with words more often than with the sword. Saakan thought himself secure behind layers of stone and metal, scores of bodygaurds and magical wards. He was wrong.

An assasination attempt left the fair Saakan scarred and broken, though no less powerful. The would-be murderer was sentenced quickly and executed with terrible swiftness. Yethaa, now a woman, realized that someone had gotten through his defense, someone had reached him and nearly finished him. She gathered to herself others that had been prepared to retake the city. They made a pact and a plan, acting as dancers moving to their parent’s spiteful notes.

As for Saakan, he took to wearing his armor, his dark plastron and fell-seeming helm. He was never without it. There are those that joked he slept in his metal prison, or that the magical armor was the only thing that kept him alive.

Yethaa and her companions braved his once-bright citadel, brought down his gaurds, slipped over his walls and shattered his wards. Their victory was costly, and soon she found herself standing alone over the dying King of the South. As his last breaths sputtered from his ruined chest, the sun rose over the city and she looked out over it. So peaceful was the sight she was overcome. There was only one path she could take.

Saakan returned to the throne, imposing new and more restrictive laws, it was made a terrible crime for members of one race to attack another in any fashion, equal treatment of Men and Orc and Elf was made the absolute law of the land and all would suffer the fate of any of them.

A terrible stillness gripped the city for long years. As the cycle of years turned round again, the babes of one age are the men of another, and a rebellion was once again sparked, Saakan’s defenses seiged again and again the King of the South was defeated.

Before the King was to be executed, his helm and armor were taken from him… only to reveal that Saakan had been dead this silent age, and Yethaa, now an old woman, confessed that she had ended him years before, but only her deception kept the city safe and peaceful, to defeat a tyrant, she had to become one.

Before the rebellion’s leaders could decide her fate, the Hidden Queen took her own life. Saakan’s Blade, Arkoon’s before him, was hidden away.

Of the smith Hylothian, our tale does not tell his end, perhaps none do.

Zaratyn Triumphant

Serrule lost its purpose, the rebels were not statesmen; they were potters, sculptors and bakers. A new power was rising, and it overtook Serrule, Chalasa and all the South with wings of ambition and dreams of an empire greater than any before it.

Bells in the Desert

From the magical sinks out in the Great Zaratyn Desert, an Empire grew, drawing on magical power from hundreds of miles away, the wizard-lords of Zaratyn carved from Kyloth, Serrule and all of the South a new nation. Born in fire and steel, it set its eyes to the future, a future it seemed to have in mind all along.

As the great Bells rung, cities were brought down, they rung and demons were banished, they rung and seas swallowed mighty fleets. Magical power of this magnitude had never been unleashed and the entire continent shook in fear. Once tamed, the so-called Shadow Emperor penned a set of laws that would govern his empire after he was gone. These laws are the basis for every government still active. There are those that suspected the Shadow Emperor was a Dharzooni, so long was his reign. When after a thousand years he departed or died (the tales are ever unclear on this matter), his generals began to fight (for that is what generals do). They divided the empire into personal fiefs and ruled them under the laws the Emperor had left for them. Each interpreted his laws differently and soon gulfs of understanding yawned between nations.

A Blade was found, and the world would once again turn on its point. The army of Fell Intent gathered again under Uzeroth’s banner and he marched, conquering one nation after another until the Elven nation of Pel Koryad lay before him.

The Doom that came to Pel Koryad

The elves, and their human allies were rightfully terrified of any warrior that wielded Arkoon’s sword. The cities of the South were an annoyance to Uzeroth, and he ground them under his heel on his way to the elven lands.

One ancient wizard, who had in the distant past wielded a blade in opposition to Arkoon himself, sought a solution. The other blades were lost, rusting or destroyed, there was no time to find or restore them. Taking his sword, the legendary Xathos, he slew the gaurdians of the Dragon’s Eye, the most potent orb ever crafted. At the orb’s center is a pin-prick gate into Chaos itself. Entullian willed the orb to unleash its power on Uzeroth’s army.

The army died. The power destroyed every atom of their being, sent Uzeroth’s body into the Void, shattered cities thousands of miles away, buckled mountians, brought low empires and sank his beloved Pel Koryad beneath a boiling white sea. Only a few scattered peaks remained; desperate elves and men clinging to the rocks as the age was ended by one old fool with an orb. His body was laid to rest in a hidden place, and the orb consigned to the deep of the new sea he’d created with his stupidity.

This was not all history would hear of Pel Koryad, but it was the last for a long while.

The Board Reset, the Game Begins Anew

No cataclyism had ever befallen Caleon of so great a magnitude. Nothing was left. It was as if a great hand has reached out and cleared the continent like an angry player might clear a chessboard. Men and the other races dusted themselves off, began new towns, started new empires, and in a few generations, the ways of the old Zaratyn Empire were forgotten, save the Laws. The Laws kept back the darkness of anarchy, held at bey the wolves of disorder, gave those with power a reason to keep it. New nobility rose up and declared various rights under the Laws, and the people, being simple folk, shrugged and got back to doing all the work and dying that make the nobility so required an institution.

Sadi States

The area immediately north of the Circular Sea organized themselves around local heroes, builders of great cities and doers of great deeds. Of the greatest of these old Sadi States was the Ashureen Empire. It was yet another in a long line of empires begun by mages and alchemists, an empire of learning and random explosions in high tower suites and basement workshops.

Ashureen Empire

The Ashureen, as the ruling class called themselves after a wizard of a previous age who had left very good record of himself, were consumate alchemists and enchanters. The common folk were awed by their rulers’ abilities and the land was always fertile, the yearly rains were never late.

Long ages of the world passed by and the Ashureen gaurded their secrets, took to sealing themselves off and finally vanishing all together. They had held themselves to be a breed apart, and didn’t allow the common folk to mix with their own magical blood. They faded away, the last of them quite senile and alone, his empire having faded away with his sanity.

Eastern Thunder, Western Magic

Aemtyliak and the Imprisoned God

Far to the West, the Imprisoned God was discovered and his priesthood grew mighty in the eyes of his people. Here and there across the west, far beyond the rusting bells of Zaratyn, lay the cities of the Aemtyliak. In those cities, men and women slumbered as ever, but some beheld terrible visions in their sleep, they soon knew the visions to be the dreams of the god Sarthec.

After a time, the Dreamers began to see them in their waking hours. They walked, rode or dragged themselves to the site of their god’s prison. Many followed them, eager to understand the visions for themselves. They dug, with shovel, spade or bloodied bare hands and soon they had uncovered the gate to their deity’s prison. More flocked to his prison, and soon a town sprang up doing the brisk business that is religion.

Sarthec had a priesthood, adherants and laborers, now he would have a city. The city sprang fully-formed to the minds of the Dreamers of Sarthec, they could close their eyes and walk its streets, they could stand quiet and hear the wind whistle past her towers.

Aided by dream-sendings, each brick was laid out, every column and lintle found its place, and soon Sarthaan lay sprawling by a wide, deep river. It became the capital of the Aemtyliak, the old nobles losing the favor of the people and their mansions becoming temples. Sathec himself never stirred, never waking, his chains taut about his ancient form.

There were those that did not heed the dreamers; they died by the hands of their now-fanatical followers.

They ruled in his stead by interpreting his dream sendings. Some even learned to shape his dreams into reality, giving terrible forms to the nightmares of a god. Some of these monsters they controlled, others were beyond the will of men to master, and they escaped into the wild, where they breed true to this day.

The LandSea was home to the simple shaman Askwe, who had his own vision of the Ilzar moon-spirit Valshoon. This dream sending was powerful, and foretold the day that Valshoon would be worshipped alone among the Ilzar. His name would fade from the tongues of the living, and Men would raise armies in his name.

Valshoon’s priests soon made it punishable to speak his name, it was not to be written and anything bearing it was to be destroyed. They raided the temples of other Ilzaru and slew their followers in bloody wars across the world. Soon, worship of any deity was outlawed and the Zaratyn Church held sway within two generations.

The Machines of Dys

While the West concerned itself with mighty empires of statecraft and magic, the magically poor regions of the world slowly awakened to progress. Steam powered gears and the flash of powder became the primary engine of empire building and great clanking machines roared their master’s will across the battlefields of the East. It would be hundreds of years yet before the great engines would ever be imagined in the West, for a new nation was on the rise, shaking off the dust that covered Serrule and Zaratyn.

The Wars of the Constitution

The Rulani Empire will never end. It started over a game of darts in the shadow of the ruins of Arkoon’s tower and does not ever fall. If this considered is a spoiler, so be it. There are those that have seen the future, and they can say that while Emperors and Empresses come and go, wars are fought and Men and Elves died in their millions, the Rulani Empire will reach its hand across the stars themselves and claim all of the galaxy for its own.

But how does this happen?

More to come...

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