Weekend in Thule

Many times life interrupts gaming, friends move or work gets in the way. This was the case for a group I played with 20 years ago. We were playing 2nd edition D&D at the time and after 4 years of gaming our campaign came to a close when life interrupted. Fortunately, I’ve stayed in touch and we will occasionally set up a weekend to play D&D together again.

At the other end of things, my oldest son (age 11) commonly observes my current gaming group and I  playing D&D. He asked if he could join us on our next adventure and it happened to coincide with one of these rare weekend games with the old crew. I was elated and invited him to join us for his first game of Dungeons & Dragons!

A weekend game with old friends always takes the form of a one shot and it was my turn to jump behind the DM screen. I decided we would step into the world of Primeval Thule and I would run Richard Baker’s, Secret of the Moon Door. I’m a big fan of this setting and I wanted to expose more of my friends to it. Baker did a great job with this module and its very easy to customize.

With a table of friends (some from the past and others from the present) and of course my son, we ventured into the Atlantian colony of Katagia. We solved the disappearance of the sage Ghilean. We discovered a lost temple to the dead goddess Selene and unlocked the Secret of the Moon Door.

THE GOOD:
I tried something a little different and let the players design the NPC Ghilean. They all knew Ghilean was a sage/historian, but they each had to answer three questions at the beginning of the session. First, how did they meet Ghilean? Second what was one thing they liked about her? Lastly, why are they answering her letter for assistance? As we went round the table each player’s answers begun to flesh out Ghilean and the type of person she was. The players were immediately invested in the NPC because they had help create her.

THE BAD:
We ran a little short on time. The module is broken up into three parts and unfortunately the final part had to be trimmed so that we’d reach the final battle with the villain. I think I needed the equivalent of one more session (4 hours) to really do the third part justice. However, I think most players still enjoyed themselves and understood we were under time constraints.

Curse of the Onyx Order

A small group of men and women push against the winds and snow of the glacier Kang. They climb with purpose towards a mist shrouded mountain top. Their loose clothes and hair whip about as if Kang were trying to tear them from the peak. The snow stings their faces and the cold is unrelenting. The day has grown long and little light pierces the billowing clouds.

This tale began many moons ago, in Old One-Tusk, a busy taproom in the city of Droum. The heroes sat near a burning hearth, when they met a hooded woman, in robes trimmed with fur. Her skin was sun kissed and her orange gaze and blueberry lips charmed and lowered their suspicions. They would come to know her as Tantra Heploy. This exotic woman would lure them into a terrible curse and bind them to one another.

They became the bearers of the cursed, broken, Black Idol and they would be pursued by the Cult of Crawling Chaos. To remove the curse they would reassemble the Black Idol and in doing so doom the lands of Thule. To not pursue the idol’s pieces would drive them each into madness and depravity.

Their adventures would take them to the elf ruins of Serisedyn, and there in the shadow of Kang, they named themselves the Onyx Order. They would go on to brave the ghoul infested Silent Courts of Droum, the pirate controlled streets of Rime and finally the ruins of Gyar Gunn Vodd. They would lose friends along the way… the warlock Cididel, the ranger Elise, the wizard Wallace and the Paladin Han. Devastation lay in their wake, caused by the building and binding of the Black Idol; the destruction of Droum’s port, the razing of Rime and the doom of the Bearslayer clan.

In the ruins of Gyar Gunn Vodd they bound the final piece of the idol in its place. As the curse lifted from their souls a great meteor fell from the heavens. The Mouth of Dhole, an ancient portal to another world descended from it prison in orbit and crashed upon the snows of Kang. What terror would this eldritch relic release upon Thule?

The Onyx Order now approaches the summit and the opportunity to reap their revenge. The Cult of Crawling Chaos has ascended to the peak ahead of the Order. Their leader, a warlock known as Yadawa, is intent on opening The Mouth of Dhole. The time has come to finish what Tantra started. Death awaits…

Thank you to all the players that made this campaign so great! Here are some pictures from the final game.

 

Human, Subraces

I am considering removing elves, dwarves and halflings as player character races for my future Primeval Thule games. This would leave the players to choose from Humans and Half-Elves. I needed to figure out alternatives to replace the variety in player races. Primeval Thule already introduced a human subrace with the Atlanteans, so why not take it a step further and create all the human cultures of Thule as subraces.

Human, Dhari
The Dhari are a spiritual people giving reverence to nature spirits. They speak their minds and prize self-control.
Ability Score Increase. +2 Wis, +1 in ability of your choice
Feat. Gain one feat of your choice.
Skills. You gain proficiency in one skill of your choice.
Control Emotions. Advantage on all saving throws to resist the Frightened condition.

Human, Kalay
The Kalay show concern for manners and appearance. They have a gift for the gab and are known for their skill in conversation.
Ability Score Increase. +2 Cha, +1 in ability of your choice
Feat. Gain one feat of your choice.
Skills. You gain proficiency in one skill of your choice.
Chatty. Gain +2 on all persuasion and deception checks, so long as the target understands your language and is not a Kalayan themselves.

Human, Lomari
Most Lomari consider themselves warriors and martial training is a standard part of their childhood. They are honourable and settle disputes with challenges and duels.
Ability Score Increase. +2 Con, +1 in ability of your choice
Feat. Gain one feat of your choice.
Skills. You gain proficiency in one skill of your choice.
Early Training. Gain +2 on all athletics checks.

Human, Nimothan
A Nimothan is tall and strongly built. Bold and boastful they are easily angered, but rarely hold a grudge. They live in the most northern parts of Thule, in some of the coldest regions.
Ability Score Increase. +2 Str, +1 in ability of your choice
Feat. Gain one feat of your choice.
Skills. You gain proficiency in one skill of your choice.
Strong and Resilient. Gain advantage on all exhaustion checks.

Primeval Thule – Races

Having Dungeon Mastered a few Thule one shots and a short campaign in Primeval Thule, there are some revisions that I would suggest to make it more low fantasy. It’s my hope that this will make it less likely that my future Thule games will slip into the high fantasy genre.

Elves, dwarves and halflings are one of the staples of high fantasy and while I feel there is a place for them in Thule, I don’t think they need to be a player race. Many of the fantasy D&D races were already removed from the Primeval Thule setting: half-orc, gnome, tiefling and dragonborn. So why stop there?

Elves are from another world and migrated to Thule in ages past. They’re civilization is in decline and many of them have grown addicted to the black lotus milk. I think they make a better mysterious “alien” race and the less the players know about these strange elves the better.

Dwarves migrated to Thule from parts unknown and with the exception a few clans all live in the eastern volcanoes. The best part about Thulean dwarves is that they know the secret of steel. So many great stories come to mind of heroes seeking a dwarf smith to forge them a weapon. They fill a niche as the NPCs who know how to forge steel.

Thulean halflings, to me seem to be an after thought of the design team. Tribal halflings who live in the jungle reminds me of the cannibal halflings in Dark Sun. Besides there are far better pint sized cannibals in Thule like the tcho-tcho. So why keep halflings?

That leaves us with atlanteans, half-elves and humans as player races. It’s a short list, but lets not forget that Thule expands its humans into sub-races. We can further define these sub-races by assigning them unique racial traits specific to their culture/heritage. In the coming weeks I’ll post some examples of the human sub-races for Thule.

Thoughts on Primeval Thule

There are no shortage of setting books for fantasy role playing games. There was a time when they were scarce, but the internet changed all that. I am fond of setting books because I find them to be a source of inspiration. That being said, I don’t commonly run adventures or campaigns set in them. I think the reason for this aversion, is that I fear I’ll get it wrong. I’d love to run a Dragonlance game, but what if my player’s know the world’s lore better than I do?

Primeval Thule by Sasquatch Game Studio is a campaign setting that I decided I could run, without the fear of getting it wrong,  or so I thought. The setting draws on the origins of pulp, sword and sorcery literature. Authors like Robert E. Howard (Conan) and Fritz Leiber (Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser) are strong influences on the setting. It also draws on H.P. Lovecraft (Cthulhu), utilizing his Great Old Ones and their cults as villains. Primeval Thule is a low magic setting, where magic is not something the common mortal was meant to wield. However, its an original setting and I didn’t have to worry about a player knowing more lore than me.

My current Primeval Thule campaign offered perks to players who chose classes that do not wield magic. Spell casters were not restricted, but they were not encouraged. In the end our group of six, had three spell caster. The characters are 7-8 level now and I feel the campaign has lost its low magic feel. If I were to run another campaign in Thule, I would make spell casting more of a chore. Maybe ask casters to track their spell components and have them constantly searching for more components. Another option would be to find new classes and sub-classes that don’t rely on spell casting. This would give players more options during character creation to stay away from magic users.

This idea of different classes and sub-classes makes me wonder if Dungeons & Dragons is the right system for Thule. D&D is based on a high magic, fantasy world and therefore its classes lend themselves easily to wielding magic. There was a third edition D&D setting called Iron Heroes, by Mike Mearls. Iron Heroes introduced a wide range of martial character classes. As it assumed a low magic setting. In my opinion a system like that would be better for the Primeval Thule setting. However, third edition D&D is very rule heavy and my preference is for light rule systems. I’m not sure what the fix is.

I enjoy Primeval Thule as a setting and I enjoy its source material. Its intention is to be a low magic setting with high adventure. If everyone in your party is a spell caster I feel as though you’ve missed the point. You have gotten the setting wrong. That’s where I’m at with my current Thule campaign, but fortunately it is nearing its end and I will have time to reflect before revisiting Thule.

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