Wednesday, October 7, 2020

The races of Markwald/combining racial and background adjustments

The purpose of this post is twofold. The first, and by far the more straightforward, is just to illustrate how racial abilities might function if you dissociate the bulk of ability adjustments with race, and transfer them to background, as I have done here. Since two points of modifier have now been assigned to background, that only leaves one point associated with race (in rare cases, two, such as for half-elves in the standard design). Below are my suggestions for racial adjustments with just one point of modifier. For those who have no interest in Markwald but like the general idea of disaggregating race and ability modifier, they can simply use the pared down racial adjustment to one single attribute, add the two modifiers based on background, and leave the rest of the race package in the PHB or any other source unchanged. This still allows the potential of gaining +2 to an attribute of your choice, based on your background selection. Adjusting for races that get a total of +4 to attributes would be somewhat more complicated using this system, but since many of them give free selection as to which attribute to increase, you could still take the +1 adjustment noted below, the +2 adjustment from background, and then increase any other attribute by 1.  

Now on to the experimental part, which is really a partial reconceptualization of racial packages to fit the setting I have in mind. I've gotten rid of some races that don't belong (dragonborn), eliminated subraces that are generic and boring (high elves, wood elves), redone one (dwarves) that are uninspired with the aid of a class mechanic for Artificers that seems much more appropriate and topical, rethought gnomes and outfitted them with a halfling mechanic, left one largely intact mechanically, but with a new RP wrapper, and added one based on a variant of a Lukomorye race. The fluff describing each race is stolen from here, but I suppose I'm still allowed to steal from myself. 

So here are the race packages for Markwald - a setting which is inspired by Black-Death era Central/Eastern Europe, Grimm's Fairy Tales, medieval epic poetry, and whatever else I feel like stuffing in there.


Humans (Menschen)

Church teaching asserts that humans are God's stewards on earth. During the heyday of the Vallanda Empire, which it is said covered nearly all the world, that seems to have been close to the case in practice. The collapse of this empire 1000 years ago brought creatures that had older claims out of hiding, but with the spread of the Ecumenical Faith, they once again retreated from the world, into their mines, haunts, and isolated estates. Some say that the Totentanz was their punishment for human pride, though others insist that without a settlement between humans and the other races, the apocalypse unleashed by the Totentanz will be impossible to contain.

There are many human nations. Those native to the Markwald are called Tungri (or Tungren), while neighbors include Vallanda, Anten, and many others.

Human Traits: Mechanically, the distinction between the human and the human variant package is eliminated. You can take a +1 adjustment to any ability, and a feat of your choice (from the list of those available), or, if you don't want to take time to pick one, simply take +1 to any ability, and the Skilled Feat (acquire proficiency in three skills). And no, you're not being cheated out of a skill proficiency, because you're getting a +2 attribute adjustment from your Background, for a total of +3, whereas the variant human typically gets +2. Whether you pick Skilled or another feat, you still get a bonus human language, belonging to one of the above proximate nations, or, if you prefer, a more distant one.


Dwarves (Zwerge)


These people are quite similar to the standard dwarf race. Under the leadership of King Goldmar, they have withdrawn from most intercourse with humans, and retreated into their marble halls. "Mountain" dwarfs live in his realm among the unapproachable peaks of the Ardz mountains, and are a very rare sight in Markwald. Indistinguishable from the Dark Dwarfs (Duergar), they sometimes operate in secrecy, and are said to have fashioned networks of tunnels beneath some of the towns. When engaged in nefarious activities, they help poison dwarf-human relationships. Surprisingly, though, some are rumored to be physically attractive, though others are said to be quite ugly. "Hill" dwarfs are somewhat more widespread, and are said to dwell in the Düst foothills bordering Markwald from the south. Some of these, known as 'court dwarfs', appear in the castles of the magnates from time to time, or have special districts set aside for them in human towns. In contradistinction to kobolds, most dwarfs are clannish, and tend to stick to their own kind.

Dwarf Traits:

+1 CON

60' Darkvision

25 feet/round movement speed

Dwarf Resilience: Advantage on saves vs. poison, resistance to poison damage

Languages: either Dwarfish and one Human, or for those not raised by dwarfs, 1 Human and one bonus tool proficiency

Tool Proficiencies: One artisan tool

Dwarf Crafting: Similar to an Artificer, you learn to infuse crafted items with magical energy. You have four infusions, and may have two infused items at any given time. You may select any infusion that is available to Artificers at 2nd level. There are, however, several differences with the Artificer ability.

  • You may only infuse items that you can craft based on your own tool proficiencies
  • In order to infuse an item, you must work on it for a minimum of 1 day, and have all the requisite tools on hand to perform this work. You may then touch an item after completing a long rest in order to complete the infusion.
  • You cannot replace the infusions you know as a product of this feature with any other infusions.
  • With GM approval, you may start with two completed, functional, and if needed, attuned infusions as soon as you have completed the process of character creation.
  • The items do not vanish when you die.
  • Your infusion slots do not count against Artificer-based infusion slots if you happen to be an Artificer.
  • The attunement slots you use to attune to your infusions do not count against your total three attunement slots for other items. 


Getwerg (Hill dwarfs): 

Master Appraiser: You may add double your proficiency on History checks when trying to appraise gems, jewels, coins, artifices, or other appropriate items

Healing Elixir: You can create a Healing Elixir at the conclusion of a Long Rest. The elixir restores 2d4 + your INT modifier HP to whoever drinks it (minimum of +1). You may have as many active elixirs at a given time as your INT modifier dictates. 


Duergar (Mountain dwarfs):

Extended Darkvision: Your darkvision extends 120 feet.

Master Spelunker: You have advantage on Survival checks when underground.

Artificer's Lore: When you make Literacy/Arcana checks related to the functioning of artifices, alchemical objects, or magical items, you can add double your proficiency bonus to the check.

Sunlight Sensitivity: You have disadvantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks and attack rolls that rely on sight when you, the target of your attack, or whatever you are trying to perceive is in direct sunlight.

Duergar Magic: When you reach 3rd level, you can cast the enlarge/reduce spell on yourself once (using only the Enlarge option). When you reach 5th level, you may cast the invisibility spell on yourself once using this trait. You must finish a long rest before you may regain either spell. You don't need material components for either, however, you cannot cast these spells in direct sunlight. Intelligence is your spellcasting ability for both spells.


Elves (Albe)


These are significantly more remote and dangerous than the beings depicted in standard D&D settings. The elves (Albe or Alpe) a
re the royal lines of the Fee, and in response to the spread of humans, have largely retreated back to their own world - Albenheim. Retreated, but not given up on taking revenge. They are said to sometimes carry out attacks against people who are asleep, though the purpose of doing so is unclear. They also steal children, and replace them with changelings. In the case of a certain Pied Piper - active in Markwald over a century ago - they do so en masse. Rumors have it that they control leaders of the heretical sects, and may ultimately be responsible for the Totentanz, and the Wild Hunt.

The two clans of elves - light (Eladrin) and dark (Shadar Kai) are the two 'subraces' known in Markwald, though it is not clear that one is more favorably disposed toward humans than the other. The elves have their defenders, who argue that they are not evil, just misunderstood. Whatever the case, when they walk abroad in the world, elves are typically in disguise. Some changelings grow up to be half-elves, whose elven parents makes their desires and instructions evident, at some point.

Elf Traits:

+1 Intelligence

60' Darkvision

Languages: Elvish and any other language

Elf Magic: select any cantrip

Fee Ancestry: Advantage on saves against being charmed, and cannot be magically put to sleep.

Trance: four hours of meditation is sufficient for a Long Rest.


Lichtalbe (Light Elves - Eladrin): 

Radiant Resistance: You have resistance to radiant damage.

Fey Step: As a bonus action, you can magically teleport up to 30 feet away into an unoccupied space you can see. Once you do this, you cannot do it again until finishing a Short or Long Rest. At 3rd level, you gain additional effects based on season (as Eladrin). If the effect requires a saving throw, the DC equals 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Charisma modifier. Note that unlike for Eladrin, the season is dictated by the actual season, depending on what Realm you are in.


Schwarzalbe (Dark Elves - Shadar Kai):

Necrotic Resistance: You have resistance to necrotic damage.

Blessing of the Raven Queen: As a bonus action, you can teleport up to 30 feet away into an unoccupied space you can see. Once you do this, you cannot do it again until finishing a Long Rest. Starting at 3rd level, you gain resistance to all damage when you teleport with this trait. The resistance lasts until the start of your next turn. During that time, you appear ghostly and translucent.


Half-elves



Half-elves can be the product of a mixed elf-human union, but they could also be changelings, placed with human parents by their elf parent. They may grow up not being aware of having elven heritage. In any case, most-half elves can pass as human, and most do attempt to do so, at least at some point in their life. Some half-elves may, however, have purely human heritage, and but acquire elven traits over time because they grew up in Albenheim. The purpose of placing the elves with human families, or taking them to grow up with elves likely becomes revealed at some point.  

Half-elf Traits:

+1 INT

60' Darkvision

Fey Ancestry: As elf, above.

Languages: 2 bonus languages, as appropriate

Skill proficiencies: 2 bonus skill proficiencies

1 cantrip (any)


Gnomes (Kobolde)



Of the Fee, the kobolds (more commonly known wichtelmännchen or erdmännchen - 'gnomes' is the term used by scholars) actually interact with humans the most. The former two terms are used to refer to urban gnomes, who access the houses of town residents (perhaps through underground tunnels). They tend to be skillful at artifices, and sometimes reward certain craftspeople they like by leaving little gifts. Conversely, they torment those they dislike. Their motivations are unclear, though it is rumored that they seek alliances with certain artisan guilds, and are willing to share knowledge with them. The Erdmännchen are more likely to have forest or mineshaft haunts. They are wilder and more magical, and, like the famed Rumpelstilzchen are not above stealing (or bargaining for) children.

Unlike dwarfs, kobolds tend to be solitary, or attached to families - human, or, more rarely, their own, though they do on occasion form teams (but despite some kobolds' closeness to humans, they are reticent to give out their names). The urban kobolds roughly correspond to rock gnomes, the mine-dwelling ones are closer to forest gnomes. In fact, however, the 'gnome' presented here is an amalgam of gnomes, halflings, and the Russian domovoi. There may be a special subrace - Klabautermännchen - that dwells on shipboard with sailors. And a 'deep gnome' may in fact be ancestral to both dwarves and gnomes.

Kobold Traits:

+1 DEX

Small size: You have Disadvantage on using Heavy weapons. In addition, Kobolds receive a lower HD type than what is appropriate for their class. E.g. kobold fighters have d8 for HD, Kobold rogues d6, and so on.

+1 AC (also for small size)

60' Darkvision

Languages: Kobold

Tool Proficiencies: Artisan Tools (pick any)

Darkvision: 60 feet

Nimble: You can move through the space of any creature of a larger size than yours without provoking an opportunity attack. If you start in or next to a space with such a creature, you may Disengage as a bonus action.


Heinzelmensch ('Rock' or Urban Gnome):

Heinzelmensch Magic: You may select either the Mending cantrip, or the Spoil cantrip. You also know the Knock spell, but cannot cast it a second time without first taking a Long Rest.   


Nisse/Erdmensch ('Forest' or Mine Gnome):

Nisse Magic: You know the Minor Illusion cantrip. You also know the Speak with Animals spell but cannot cast it a second time without first taking a Long Rest.  


Orc (Riese):



The orcs of Markwald are quite distinct from D&D orcs. Their physique does tend to be orc-like, though they are typically hairier, and lack mandibles. They do not live in tribes or march in large armies. They tend to be solitary, hiding in caves and swamps, though some have established themselves as estate owners in desolate locales. In such cases, they typically demand children to eat or spouses to marry as the price for leaving the rest of the people alone. Unfortunately, their spouses tend not to survive long, though some orcs imprison old spouses and practice polygamy. Solitary orcs sometimes kidnap partners from neighboring towns and villages.

The Church holds that orcs are descended from Nadad - the first human murderer and fratricide. This helps account for the orcs' monstrous lifestyle, but it also explains their close kinship with humans and ability to produce offspring with them. It is not clear whether orcs are in fact half-breeds themselves - in Markwald, there is no clear distinction between orcs and ogres. What to their neighbors the Vallanda are orco, and to the Galli - ogres, the Tungri call Riese, though they are much shrunken in comparison to the giants of old. Some still do possess rudimentary magical abilities.

Riese (half-orc) traits:

+1 STR

60' Darkvision

Language: Riese (Giant), or appropriate Human (or other) if raised among other peoples

Bonus Skill: Intimidation

Relentless Endurance: When reduced to 0 HP, you drop to 1 HP instead. Once you use this feature, you cannot do so again until you finish a long rest.

Savage Attack: When scoring a critical hit, you may roll one of the weapon's damage dice an additional time and add it to the total. (Variant: you may select the Disguise Self spell, which you can cast once and take a Long Rest before being able to cast it again instead of the Savage Attack feature).


Tieflings (Tieflinge)



Though church scholars are divided on the matter of whether the Fee are evil or destined for neither Heaven nor Hell, the beings that sire tieflings (also rendered as 'Teufling') are clearly infernal. The appearance of such creatures are clearly marked as 'monstrous births', and though most die before reaching adolescence, some survive. Though priests typically do their best to save their souls, most tieflings who make it to adulthood are driven out from their native villages and towns. At that point, they turn to lives of highway robbery, or become mercenaries. The few that are magically gifted sometimes found heretical sects, or become sorcerers of some note. Various tiefling types exist, and trace distinct infernal parentages (there are many, and it takes teams of learned doctors to catalogue them all). That said, some scholars assert that tieflings are not infernal at all, but are sired or birthed by creatures called Salamanders from the Realm of Muspelheim. 

Tiefling Traits:

+1 CHA

60' Darkvision

Languages: Babel (natural Infernal Tongue)

Hellish Resistance: You have resistance to fire damage

Infernal Legacy: Select one of the following cantrips to know: Friends, Mage Hand, Minor Illusion, Thaumaturgy. In addition, at 3rd level, you learn and may cast one of the following as 2nd level spells once per Long Rest period: Hellish Rebuke, Ray of Sickness, Disguise Self, Charm Person. Burning Hands. At 5th level, you learn and can cast one of the following spells once per day: Darkness, Crown of Madness, Detect Thoughts, Suggestion, Invisibility, Flame Blade. Charisma is your spellcasting ability for these spells.


Lorelei (Undine)



Lorelei, known as undines to scholars, are water-dwellers, though they may also be found behind waterfalls, and atop riverbanks. They are especially known for their beauty (though some use magic to conceal horrid appearances) and their singing, which has enticed many a sailor or boatman. Occasionally, lorelei come to human settlements and take on partners, much like fee, orcs, or demons. The affairs tend to be unhappy ones, and cost the human partner their life or their sanity. To the lorelei, the cost is a shortened lifespan (but the gain, priests say, is their immortal soul). When they become 'human' in this way, lorelei retain some of their native traits, called watermarks - green hair, a greenish-pallid hue, and occasionally, scales or gills. Children born of such unions are also considered lorelei for game mechanic purposes.

Lorelei Traits:

+1 CHA

Language: You can speak the Aquatic tongue. If born among humans with no other lorelei contact, select a human language instead.

Amphibious: You have a 30 foot Swim speed, and can breathe underwater as if affected by a 3rd level Waterbreathing spell of indefinite duration.

Beguiling: You know the Friends cantrip.

Strength of the Deep: You have advantage on WIS saving throws against magical effects. 


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   










Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Two medieval backgrounds for Markwald

My previous post proposed (mostly) disassociating stat modifiers with race, and linking them (more tightly) with background. To that end, I presented a list of backgrounds I use in the Markwald campaign I just kicked off and the stat adjustments that would accompany each one. Two of the backgrounds I referenced do not appear in any official WotC publications, or in the Players' Guide to Lukomorye (my other project), so I present them here.

The first - Plague Doctor, is a background I designed shortly after the appearance of 5e rules, but in the last year, it has suddenly become highly topical (for obvious reasons). Of the new party of six in the Markwald campaign, there are two plague doctors, so it's a variant that should attract wide player interest.

The second - the Augur - seemed like an interesting background with good role-playing potential for a medieval setting. It's not exactly "new", and I am highly cognizant of the recent controversy concerning the Vistani in the Ravenloft setting - one that gives a designer a certain amount of pause. But I thought it was worth a try, especially since, as I have pointed out elsewhere, Ravenloft has far deeper problems with perpetuating racial and political stereotypes that simply its take on the Romani people, but that people will continue to play and enjoy the setting anyway.

So with this in mind...


Plague Doctor Background


You received some training as a physician, but were thrust into the front lines of fighting a deadly plague epidemic that struck at your city with some regularity. Every day, you went forth to do battle against the pox, armed with your scalpel, your leeches, and your caduceus, and protected by your full-length dark robe, brimmed hat, and a waxed mask with glass eyes and a beak containing spices that is supposed to serve as a filter against the “bad air” generated by the disease. As you were employed by your city, you had to take an oath of service that required you to follow a physician’s code, and you had to treat everyone – the rich as well as the poor. But you also had to learn how to navigate the city’s bureaucracy, how to stay (relatively) safe and sane, and how to make sure you got paid. Since you knew the majority of your patients were going to die regardless of what you do, you and your fellow plague doctors developed a unique outlook on life that combined self-interest, altruism, fatalism, and a quaint egalitarianism born of the fact that the plague recognized no social distinctions.



Optional: Background Ability Modifiers: +1 CON, +1 INT
Skill Proficiencies: Medicine, Nature 
Tool Proficiencies: Chirurgeon’s tools 
Equipment: A set chirurgeon’s tools, a plague doctor’s leather outfit (including mask), a vial of live leeches (or frogs), a caduceus (usable as a spell focus), and a pouch containing 10 gp.


Feature: The Grim Reaper’s Herald
 If you are sighted on the streets of a city dressed in your plague doctor’s regalia, people are likely to assume the worst. You may be able to clear the streets, and perhaps to enter restricted places if you make a believable claim you are there to treat a plague victim. You are also one of the few people who can legally handle corpses and perform autopsies.


d8 Personality Trait 
  1. You take your work and oath seriously, and would like to be treated as an authoritative professional
  2. You know that your profession is a mere fraud, and this colors your outlook on life in general 
  3. You are not above lifting a few valuables here and there – their owners are probably not long for this world, and won’t need them anyway 
  4. You use your position to befriend rich people you treat – it might come in handy 
  5. You know a few secrets and scandals involving your city’s administration 
  6. Your patients have an unusually high healing rate (and you’re not sure why) 
  7. You believe yourself invulnerable to the Plague, and other things as well 
  8. You think you have insight into the meaning of the Plague, and invent various apocalyptic theories on this score 

 d6 Ideal 

  1. Bon Vivant. Enjoy yourself – it’s later than you think (Chaotic) 
  2. Salvation. I work to save people, and by doing so, perhaps make myself worthy of being saved as well. (Good) 
  3. Rules. If you don’t follow proper protocol, things would be even worse (Lawful) 
  4. Judgment. I have the power to decide who lives and dies – as I should (Evil) 
  5. Fate. We have no control over the forces that govern life and death (but we might glimpse signs of Destiny if we look) (Neutral) 
  6. Aspiration. I work hard to make a difference (and a name for myself) (Any) 

 d6 Bond 

  1. I have lost my whole family to the plague, and don’t know why I was spared 
  2. I saved the life of a patient with very little influence, and this person now follows me around and showers me with attention 
  3. I have recently learned of a miraculous cure (but it is hard to get) 
  4. I don’t like it when the powerful put on airs – the great and the lowly stand equal before Death 
  5. My master had high expectations for me as a physician, but in becoming a mere plague doctor, I have failed him 
  6. If you want to get results, take your oath seriously, and do everything by the book 

 d6 Flaw 

  1. Sometimes it is better to put people out of their misery 
  2. I have a compulsion to use my position to enrich myself and my family 
  3. I have become a thrill seeker, and like to tempt Death 
  4. There are definitely scapegoats to blame for the Plague and other things going wrong 
  5. I’m jealous of others’ skill and accomplishments, and look for ways to make them mine 
  6. I dabble in divination, perhaps a little too much

Augur Background


You belong to a nomadic nation that has recently arrived from the East. Your people are usually on the move from town to town, moving about in carts or wagons, and occasionally, setting up an encampment known as a tabor. Belonging to the nation is a question of possessing the ‘augur spirit’ which is made manifest in following Augur customs – purity laws, respect for elders, and the worship of the Godhead through the feminine principle. Those who violate these customs or demonstrate no capacity to live in accordance to them are regarded as gadjo – outsiders; having two Augur parents is no guarantee of membership. Conversely, outsiders may be easily integrated into a group if they are regarded as having an Augur spirit. 

 Most people belonging to settled society are gadjo, and they regard the Augurs with a mixture of disgust and wonderment. They are perceived as godless, larcenous, and libertine, but at the same time, many gadjo secretly admire the freedom that accompanies the itinerant Augur lifestyle, enjoy Augur musical performance, dance, and outfits (especially at weddings and fairs), and consult Augur fortunetellers (hence, the origin of the group’s designation for outsiders). Not infrequently, the Augurs’ distinct lifestyle serves as a pretext for scapegoating: they are blamed for a variety of sins, from child theft to spreading the Plague, and expelled from towns, or sometimes murdered. They also have a reputation for pronouncing frightful curses against anyone they don’t like. 

The Augurs speak a distinct language called Val, which is made up of many loan words picked up from people they have encountered on their travels. They are encouraged to display their talents – whether musical, magical, or martial – freely, to the outside world, if they truly possess them. Some Augurs find the tight social regulation within their bands, or heavy-handed rule by self-styled Augur ‘barons’ or ‘kings’ onerous, and they break away to seek their own way in the world.




Optional: Background Ability Modifiers: +1 DEX, +1 CHA
Skill Proficiencies: Animal Handling, Performance 
Language Proficiencies: Val, plus an extra language of your choice 
Tool Proficiencies: Gaming Set or Musical Instrument (choose) 
Equipment: Travelers’ clothes, travel bag, bedroll, mess kit, a charm (roll on the Trinkets table), and a belt pouch containing 10 g.p.


Feature: Tabor Refuge 
You are aware of the names and rough locations of various Augur bands, and can solicit hospitality for you and your companions as long as you have not been branded a gadjo. You will also be sheltered by them if you have fallen afoul of local magnates or officials.


d8 Personality Trait 

  1. I have no compunction about lying to a gadjo 
  2. I meticulously follow all Augur customs and purity laws 
  3. Wherever I am, I always take note of all valuables, as well as exits 
  4. I am drawn to the open road, and don’t like staying in the same place for too long 
  5. I spout off people’s fortunes off the top of my head (whether I have any real talent for fortunetelling or not) 
  6.  I never forgive a slight – anyone disrespecting me will pay, sooner or later 
  7. I have one or more superstitions and objects or rituals I use to ward off bad luck 
  8. When I want something (or someone), I pursue the object of my desire at all costs 

d6 Ideal 

  1. Tradition. Following the laws and customs of our people is the only thing that keeps us safe. (Lawful) 
  2. Devotion. Regardless of the formal religion I follow, I strive to connect to the cosmic feminine energy. (Good) 
  3. Independence. I strive to follow my heart in all matters. (Chaotic) 
  4.  Change. The world is in flux, and we must change with it. (Chaotic) 
  5. Fate. Whatever happens, we cannot escape our destiny. (Neutral) 
  6. Aspiration. I owe it to myself and my intimates to develop my talents to the fullest. (Any) 

d6 Bond 

  1. I have been expelled by my band of Augurs, and will do anything to get taken back 
  2. I’m in love with a gadjo, and will pursue them to the ends of the earth 
  3. I’m accused of a crime (which I may or may not have committed) against my band, my baron, or gadjo authorities 
  4. I’m bound to my instrument – it has a soul, and must express itself through me 
  5. I have a vendetta against someone, and must get my revenge 
  6. Somewhere I have a child, and I must ensure that they have a good life 

d6 Flaw 

  1. I have a problem with authority 
  2. I’m inordinately drawn to pleasures of the flesh 
  3. I’m a thrill seeker who likes to tempt Death 
  4. I like to collect “souvenirs” from people I meet and places I visit 
  5. I’m rather liberal in uttering curses 
  6. My temper won’t allow me to let an offense go unanswered

Post Scriptum

The Sage can be kept more or less as is (per PHB), but the name should be changed to Learned Doctor, and instead of common clothes, the equipment list would include a scholars' gown, hat and hood, all of which would mark him/her as a member of the ecclesiastical estate. The speciality could include law, medicine, theology, as well as philosophy and its various magical branches (Theurgy, Alchemy, Angelology, Astrology, Goetia, Evocation, and Cabbalism). Necromantia is outlawed, but one might have received training in it if they knew where to look. 


Monday, September 28, 2020

Race modifiers disaggregation and Background

As I return to blogging (and playing), I want to offer a proposal in light of the forthcoming Tasha's Cauldron of Everything volume (due out from Wizards in November).

I admit I haven't delved into the discussion very deeply, though I have read through the sneak preview. But one of the main changes in the new book is a variant for disaggregating racial ability modifiers to allow more flexibility of character design (which is also a reaffirmation of WotC's new stated commitment to combating racial stereotypes). The point is to allow every elf, dwarf and orc to be different - choose whatever adjustments best suit your character needs.

The affirmation that people are different no matter what race or species they belong to is laudable enough, but it's not the key issue I want to address here. There is, however, the question of minimaxers seizing on the new openness to give their dwarf wizard an intelligence modifier (and an armor proficiency to boot), which gives pause to some GMs on account of likely abuse. This is also a serious matter, though to me, the more important issue is not one of power maximization as such, but buffet-style character builds that are increasingly disconnected from the setting in which they are to operate.

The other day, I had a brief conversation about this with a friend, who speculated that the retreat from racial bonuses will give greater weight to Backgrounds. I found that appealing, because arguably the main function of Backgrounds is to imbricate characters more tightly to a social structure (and ultimately, to a setting). For that reason, I thought that the idea of giving stat modifiers to specific Backgrounds would reinforce its importance as a game feature. This is not to say that all hermits, for example, are the same, any more than all orcs are the same. But Backgrounds are at least somewhat closer to occupations, which shape how a person turns out (or, in mechanical terms, shape a character's stats).

What I settled on trying out is to give two out of three positive stat modifiers over to Backgrounds, and leave the third with races (to allow for a modicum of physiological or social differences to remain - if all you want are the bonuses, why worry about races at all?).

So I came up with a system of Background stat adjustments that give +1 to two different abilities. In a later post, I will present a proposal for race design where each race will have only +1 to an individual attribute, so as to fit with the Background adjustment here without breaking the game. I am proposing these adjustments for character design in my Markwald setting (see the previous post), which I just inaugurated for play last week. So my list will not contain every single officially published 5e background, but it will the ones I find suitable for our own game (i.e. most of them).

List of Backgrounds by official name (with Markwald or Lukomorye variant names in parentheses):

Players' Handbook

Acolyte (Attendant): +1 WIS, +1 CHA
Charlatan (Mountebank): +1 INT, +1 CHA
Criminal (Ruffian): +1 STR, +1 DEX
Entertainer (Trouper): +1 DEX, +1 CHA
Guild Artisan (Artificer): +1 DEX, +1 WIS (for most), or, +1 STR, +1 WIS (for smiths,                 masons, carpenters, shipwrights, etc. Also for Clan Crafters from the Sword Coast Guide).
Hermit (Ascetic): +1 WIS, +1 CON
Noble (Boyar): +1 INT, +1 CHA (+1 STR, +1 CHA for warrior types, Knights of the Order           from the Sword Coast Guide, etc.)
Outlander (Heathen): +1 CON, +1 WIS
Sage (Learned Doctor; Scribe): +1 INT, +1 WIS (also for Cloistered Scholar from the                     Sword Coast Guide).
Sailor (Mariner); +1 STR, +1 WIS (also for Fishers from Ghosts of Saltmarsh).
Soldier (Person-at-arms): +1 STR, +1 DEX (also for City Watch, Mercenary veteran from             Sword Coast Guide).

Sword Coast Guide

Far Traveler (Foreigner): +1 WIS, +1 INT

Ghosts of Saltmarsh

Smuggler: +1 DEX, +1 WIS

Lukomorye

Courtier: +1 INT, +1 CHA
Healer: +1 INT, +1 WIS
Merchant: +1 INT, +1 CHA
Nomad: +1 CON, +1 WIS
Peasant: +1 CON, +1 WIS
Urban Laborer: +1 STR, +1 CON

Markwald

Augur: +1 DEX, +1 CHA
Plague Doctor: +1 CON, +1 INT

I plan to follow this post by a detailed writeup of the two unique Markwald backgrounds, and the (partly reconceptualized) player races that are supposed to balance character design in conjunction with the above Background adjustments.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Markwald

I have no intention of abandoning Lukomorye any time soon, but my goal was always expand into other historical-fantasy settings - a Central European-flavored one, an Islamic-flavored one, and one loosely based on the Bronze Age Near East  - roughly in that order.

I'm not sure why the first of these settings has been on my mind lately - perhaps, with the likelihood of spotty attendance by the Lukomorye regulars during the upcoming holidays, I've been wanting to do some experimental stuff with those players that are available. Perhaps the drive to finally finish Peterson's Playing at the World turned my imagination to a setting that more closely resembled the original D&D setting.

On the one hand, for such a setting, fewer things have to be reconceptualized, and the availability of Lukomorye's reconceputalizations as a resource means there is less work to be done. That said, what appears here is still very much at the initial stages, and will have to be thought through more extensively, and informed by more external reading.

Michael Wolgemut, Tanz der Gerippe (1493)

Lore

The Totentanz has swept across the land. First, the winters grew longer, and the crops began to fail. Then, a plague struck all the large towns, before sweeping into the countryside. The corpses of the dead rose before the survivors had a chance to bury them, and marched across the land in the train of the Sensenmann, reaping those that had been spared. And behind the dead, other nightmares followed. Packs of hungry werewolves roamed the woods, and witches had grown bold enough to hold grisly rituals on hilltops within sight of city walls. The devastation destroyed commerce, as people feared to travel to areas where the Totentanz might still be raging. And many of those who were willing to take the risk lacked the coin to conduct trade. Initially, there were not enough miners to dig up silver and gold. But soon, the mines themselves ran dry, or creatures who dwelt in them no longer desired any intercourse with humans.

Those that were left, frightened and confused, turned on one another, trying to claim what fertile lands and important thoroughfares were left. The faithless, rightly or wrongly suspected of welcoming the Reaper, were driven out of their compounds, and forced to find towns that would take them in; those that failed to do so, starved. Many also blamed the Church, which had failed to either predict or to stop the disasters. New heretical sects flared up across the land. They were led by preachers who questioned the Church's legitimacy, and proclaimed that a time of tribulations, heralding a final accounting before God, was at hand.

But in areas where the devastation had been less complete, or which had the good fortune to partially recover, new opportunities for those willing to face the dangers of the world left behind. Despite the scarcity of coin, magnates were willing to pay handsomely for to those who undertook to clear the royal highways to restore trade, or to keep the armies of the dead at bay. The Church was also willing to pitch in, especially to recover abandoned monasteries, or to root out witches and heretics. Towns in regions where mines had been plentiful sent out scouts to pump out water, in hopes of finding new veins in areas that had been submerged. Despite the Church's disapproval, rulers and nobles sought out magi who could make gold and silver out of base metals, unleash the power of the elements, and read fortunes to give their patrons an edge over their rivals. And mercenaries of various kinds sought work with anyone who would benefit from seizing their neighbors' land or treasure.

Rothenburg, Bavaria

Lay of the Land

A formerly prosperous region where major trade routes intersected, Markwald is dotted with numerous towns, each roughly 10 miles distant from its nearest neighbor. Most are inhabited by 1000 - 3000 people, though the seats of the magnates tend to be a bit larger. Some of the smaller towns have become deserted as a result of the Totentanz.

The towns that have survived are well-fortified to defend against the predations of bandits, monsters, and lords overeager to extend their domains. Behind the walls, one may breathe the free city air - many of Markwald's towns have imperial charters guaranteeing their right to self-government - provided one can put up with the stench generated by life in close quarters.

Most of the cities are ruled by councils that are composed of heads of the most important guilds. The councils, in turn, elect a Burgomeister, Shultheiss, or Vogt, usually based on how much money an aspirant for the office distributes to the individual syndics. The rough-and-tumble of political life is further stimulated by the patronage of major magnates, moneylenders, and the Church, all of which promote their own candidates and informal 'parties'. Successful syndics, it is often whispered, are those who have made mutually beneficial pacts with household kobolds or other Fee beings.

The insecurity of life for the underprivileged breeds anxiety that is often expressed through mass public gatherings. The majority of the population - including apprentices, unskilled laborers, and refugees from the country are not politically represented, and have little recourse other than to riot or loot when they want their voices heard. Aside from that, people turn out for funeral and holiday processions, public executions, visits by fiery itinerant preachers, bonfires of vanities, and fairs. Groups of itinerant Augurs occasionally encamp outside of the city walls, but in times of great stress or strife, town residents may carry out attacks against them. When strife within cities becomes pervasive, they are visited by the feared Vehm - a group of armed justices who punish guilty and innocent alike to restore order.

Beyond the walls lie tracts of woodland and scattered villages. The peasants are, if anything, even more anxious than the urban residents, exposed as they are to marauders without the protection of city walls. Many of them have sunk into personal dependence on the noble landowners, who, in exchange for work on their estates, promise to shelter the peasants within their castles in times of need. Some villagers have found that freedom is a high price to pay for security, though many suspect that they have instead made deals with marauders, or even the Dark Powers.

The roads that connect the towns to one another have, in many instances, fallen into disrepair. Places where they have become impassible often become sites of ambushes - by hungry peasants, greedy landlords, unpaid mercenaries, or even worse horrors. City governments, large magnates, and princes of the church are often willing to pay people to clear away roads and marauders, but they also act at cross-purposes to one another, favoring the restoration of certain routes at the expense of others.

Further afield lie abandoned mines and deep forest hollows that are haunted by creatures of darkness.
The Totentanz has encouraged some of them to return openly into the world. A few have even set up their own backwater estates that are tacitly recognized by the magnates in exchange for being left alone. Here, they lord it over peasants, forcing some to work, and some to be eaten. Other creatures, though typically not allowed to reside in cities, are protected by the major courts, and thus have some freedom of movement throughout Markwald. Worst of all are the abandoned villages and towns, which serve as gathering places for the dead, werewolves and witches - especially at night. Wondrous beings of a bygone age - unicorns and serpents, have been reported in some of the most out-of-the-way places, and their reputedly magical properties foster lords to hire hunters to harvest them for body parts, or to capture them for placement in menageries.

Augsburger Monatsbilder, c. 1520

The Economy

The crisis in silver production is more profound than the crisis in gold, which may still be earned by selling manufactures to more southerly regions. Although the dearth of silver makes it more difficult to stimulate local production, gold is somewhat more available for those who are willing to undertake strategically important work - prospecting for mines, hunting for buried treasure hoards, service as a mercenary, or alchemical research. The same applies to leading diplomatic missions into the domain of the dwarven King Goldmar, if he can be successfully persuaded to share some of his wealth, or at least to lend some money. As a result, the system of exchange in Markwald is more reminiscent of the traditional gold-centered economy of the default D&D setting.

Despite crisis-like conditions, the division of labor in the region is traditionally well-diversified, with mining, metal-working, textile, and dyeing skills particularly prominent. There are many well-qualified apprentices and masters waiting to be employed, though doing so will involve negotiating with guild masters, and probably, greasing some palms.

Selling exotic and magical items will be difficult in the towns, but buyers can probably be found among the magnates, if enough reciprocal interest can be generated. They may also be convinced to sell such items from their treasuries, if the price is right. Most dukes or counts have ancestral swords or armor that are marks of family prestige, but the need to raise money for armies or castle construction may force them to deal. The same can be said about the more unscrupulous bishops' and abbots' willingness to part with relics - this is the real reason for many establishments claiming to possess the same relics. Priests, in any event, are always willing to sell their services, and to offer incentives for adventurers to atone for their sins.

Player Races

The vast majority of people encountered in Markwald are human, and non-humans (or humans who do not accept the predominant Ecumenical Faith) will find it difficult to freely operate in the towns. Nevertheless, non-humans are present, though they do not in every instance resemble their counterparts from default settings.

Humans. Church teaching asserts that humans are God's stewards on earth. During the heyday of the Vallanda Empire, which it is said covered nearly all the world, that seems to have been close to the case in practice. The collapse of this empire 1000 years ago brought creatures that had older claims out of hiding, but with the spread of the Ecumenical Faith, they once again retreated from the world, into their mines, haunts, and isolated estates. Some say that the Totentanz was their punishment for human pride, though others insist that without a settlement between humans and the other races, the apocalypse unleashed by the Totentanz will be impossible to contain.
There are many human nations. Those native to the Markwald are called Tungri, while neighbors include Vallanda, Labdy, and many others.

Dwarves. These people are quite similar to the standard dwarf race. Under the leadership of King Goldmar, they have withdrawn from most intercourse with humans, and retreated into their marble halls. Mountain dwarves live in his realm among the unapproachable peaks of the Ardz mountains, and are a very rare sight in Markwald. Surprisingly, they are rumored to be physically attractive. Hill dwarves are somewhat more widespread, and are said to dwell in the Düst foothills bordering Markwald from the south. Some of these, known as 'court dwarves', appear in the castles of the magnates from time to time. The Dark Dwarves (or Duergar) operate in secrecy, and are said to have fashioned networks of tunnels beneath some of the towns. Their nefarious activities help further poison dwarf-human relationships.

Elves. These are significantly more remote and dangerous than the beings depicted in standard D&D settings. The elves (Albe or Alpe) were the royal lines of the Fee, and in response to the spread of humans, have largely retreated back to their own world - Albenheim. Retreated, but not given up on taking revenge. They are said to sometimes carry out attacks against people who are asleep, though the purpose of doing so is unclear. They also steal children, and replace them with changelings. In the case of a certain Pied Piper - active in Markwald over a century ago - they do so en masse. Rumors have it that they control leaders of the heretical sects, and may ultimately be responsible for the Totentanz, and the Wild Hunt.
The two clans of elves - light (Eladrin) and dusky (Shadar Kai) are the two 'subraces' known in Markwald, though it is not clear that one is more favorably disposed toward humans than the other. The elves have their defenders, who argue that they are not evil, just misunderstood. Whatever the case, when they walk abroad in the world, elves are typically in disguise. Some changelings grow up to be half-elves, whose elven parent makes their desires and instructions evident, at some point.

Gnomes. Of the Fee, the gnomes (more commonly known as kobolds, wichtelmännchen, erdmännchen - 'gnomes' is the term used by scholars) actually interact with humans the most. The former two terms are used to refer to urban gnomes, who access the houses of town residents (perhaps through underground tunnels). They tend to be skillful at artifices, and sometimes reward certain craftspeople they like by leaving little gifts. Conversely, they torment those they dislike. Their motivations are unclear, though it is rumored that they seek alliances with certain artisan guilds, and are willing to share knowledge with them. The Erdmännchen are more likely to have forest haunts. They are wilder and more magical, and, like the famed Rumpelstilzchen are not above stealing (or bargaining for) children.
The former type of gnomes correspond to rock gnomes, they former - to forest gnomes. The deep gnomes who dwell in the mines may in fact be ancestral to both dwarves and gnomes.

Orcs. The orcs of Markwald are quite distinct from D&D orcs. Their physique does tend to be orc-like, though they are typically hairier, and lack mandibles. They do not live in tribes or march in large armies. They tend to be solitary, hiding in caves and swamps, though some have established themselves as estate owners in desolate locales. In such cases, they typically demand children to eat or spouses to marry as the price for leaving the rest of the people alone. Unfortunately, their spouses tend not to survive long, though some orcs imprison old spouses and practice polygamy. Solitary orcs sometimes kidnap partners from neighboring towns and villages.
The Church holds that orcs are descended from Nadad - the first human murderer and fratricide. This helps account for the orcs' monstrous lifestyle, but it also explains their close kinship with humans and ability to produce offspring with them. It is not clear whether orcs are in fact half-breeds themselves - in Markwald, there is no clear distinction between orcs and ogres. A subspecies may have magical abilities.

Little pockets not ruled by magnates might just be orc domains

Tieflings. Though church scholars are divided on the matter of whether the Fee are evil or destined for neither Heaven nor Hell, the beings that sire tieflings are clearly infernal. The appearance of such creatures are clearly marked as 'monstrous births', and though most die before reaching adolescence, some survive. Though priests typically do their best to save their souls, most tieflings who make it to adulthood are driven out from their native villages and towns. At that point, they turn to lives of highway robbery, or become mercenaries. The few that are magically gifted sometimes found heretical sects, or become sorcerers of some note. Various tiefling types exist, and trace distinct infernal parentages.

I'm undecided about the rest. I may choose to include some shapeshifters from Lukomorye, but given the greater distance between people and animals in the Markwald setting, I may not. Something like a goliath or volot might work - Gargantua and Pantagruel studied at the Sorbonne, as I recall.

Backgrounds

Given how close this setting is to the default setting, derived as the latter is from a medieval European matrix, I can't think of a reason to leave out any of the standard PHB backgrounds (with the partial exception of the Folk Hero, on which more below). I'm not entirely certain about the Outlander, as Markwald lacks Lukomorye's extensive heathen hinterland, but Grimm's Fairy tales are certainly replete with wood collectors (i.e. foresters). That background would also work for orcs.

From the Sword Coast Guide, City Watch, Cloistered Scholar, Courtier, and Mercenary Veteran would probably be appropriate. Far Traveler would be, too, if someone chose to play a visitor from distant lands. Clan Crafter might work for a dwarf, and Knight of the Order - for members of the monastic fighting orders (on which see below).

There are some great nautical backgrounds in Ghosts of Saltmarsh, though the centerpiece of the Markwald setting is landlocked, for the time being. Fishers and Smugglers could certainly work.

From Lukomorye, I would certainly port the Peasant (still my preference over the Folk Hero), the Urban Laborer, the Healer, and the Vagabond. Merchant may work, and perhaps also the Scribe (although there are certainly Learned Doctors in this setting, who may deserve a background of their very own).

As for unique backgrounds, the I've worked out the Plague Doctor (and even had a chance to play one, briefly). The Augurs would get their own background, too - something fairly close to Ravenloft's Vistani. It's possible that there might be room for others - lay mendicant orders, special backgrounds for various types of non-humans, and so on.

Classes

At the outset, a few quick words about what's being left out. The barbarian, while possibly appropriate for a Viking Age setting, doesn't work here (and my experience with Lukomorye suggests that the Rage ability works just fine as a feat). Clerics as such don't really work in a historical setting without significant changes, so here, as in Lukomorye, they are altered. Monks are best left as a "foreign" class (though I do like the Sun Soul tradition as a kind of post-Cathar extrapolation). And a setting like this is probably too late for druids (there are several classes that would have access to most of their spells, and delaying the ability to polymorph to a more appropriate level is probably a plus). This leaves:

Artificer. For this setting, with its mills, clocks, and cannons, it would probably be appropriate, though I reserve judgment until the final version appears in the Eberron campaign book (which is being released even as I write this). I'm still a bit uncomfortable with an alchemist as a non-full caster in a high-magic game (transmuter wizards are the real alchemists), but that's probably a quibble. I do like the homonculi.

Bard. This is a pretty straightforward port, though the issue gets a bit murkier with specializations. The elite Minnesinger are an obvious subclass - but are they College of Valor (because they are knightly), or College of Lore (Wolfram von Eschebach knew a lot of occult stuff)? The Meistersinger are a good fit historically, but not into an existing subclass, so they might need a new specialization of their own.
I've never been a big fan of the 'newer' colleges, but for this setting, some of them might work. College of Glamour is a good fit for an elven bard - definitely a Pied Piper. College of Swords, and of Satire, might work for Augurs (though the latter might step on the Fool's toes).

Expert. This "sidekick" UA class might make for workable characters in this setting. In any event, I'd like to see them in action. Arguably, there are some prototypes - the Brave Little Tailor, the Skillful Huntsman, Clever Hans, Clever Elsie, and so on. All these characters might work better as rogues or fools, but they are generally more resourceful than roguish or foolish.

Fighter. There are fighters everywhere, obviously, the only question is, which subclasses to include. Battlemasters are the leaders of the Landsknecht mercenary companies like the Black Band. The more knightly fighters would probably end up with something along the lines of a hybrid between the Champion and the Cavalier - the latter subclass is a bit underwhelming, and Born to the Saddle can easily be ported over to the Champion without making it too powerful. As for others - Arcane Archer probably works for elves, Eldritch Knight - ditto (though some knights dabbled in the occult - is it better to have them wizard-based, as in the PHB, or sorcerer-based, as in Lukmorye?). I've never liked the Brute, it it would be OK for orcs. Sharpshooter is probably OK, the rest can safely be ignored.

Fool. I was accused by one Russian of only including the Fool in a Russian setting, though my response was that the non-inclusion was on the D&D designers, not on me. Holy foolishness was more widespread in Russia, but it existed in Europe as well. The fool was also featured in the Tarot deck, and village idiots were present as well. No Western fool matched Yemelia in the realm of cool, so the Idler's Aids specialization for the Simpleton archetype would have to be jettisoned. There may be room for an Everyman subclass for the Brave Little Tailors of the world, if they do not become Experts.

Friar. This is the revamped 'cleric' for this game, a more Western version of Lukomorye's priest. The friars sacrifice combat ability (armor, weapons, d8 hit dice), but receive more powerful Channel Divinity features, a much more extensive spell list, the ability to port spells from other classes' spell lists, and socially potent rituals to boot. I have observed one Lukomorye priest in action for an extended period of time, and she very much holds her own, and has an important role to play within her party (all of this probably indicates that the standard cleric is too OP, or too versatile). All the major mendicant orders (thinly disguised) represent their own domains.

Paladin. Definitely works here. As "foreign" classes in Lukomorye, they were reflavored to represent the monastic fighting orders. The Knights of the Ritterheim/Oath of Conquest (i.e. Teutonic Knights) definitely have Komtors in the region. As for Oath of Vengeance, it might just be better to give this over to the Holy Vehm - its officers are even called Justiciars (one of the level titles for AD&D paladins). Oath of the Ancients could world for elves (or their allies). Not sure what to do with the Oath of Devotion - could give this to the Knights of the Mitre (as a 'home team') in this setting, or could just leave it for unaffiliated paladins, as in Lukomorye. Haven't had much patience for the straight-up anti-paladin subclasses since I was an adolescent, so leave those be.

Ranger. Had to think about this one for a bit, but magnates still have their private woods, and there are still poachers to punish, and unicorns and giant boars to shoot down or capture - these are all Hunter rangers. Call them 'Wildhüter' for more local flavor. I haven't been a big fan of the new rangers, but for this setting, they may work - the Gloom Stalker to lead expeditions into old mines, or dwarf realms, and the Horizon Walker for Albenheim. I've always thought that Monster Slayers were a bit too similar to Hunters, but this sort of Witcher character actually works well for this setting. Normally, I'm a fan of the Beastmaster, and think they get a lot of bad press, but I'm not sure they work in a more urban setting like this one (ditto for the new Swarmkeeper). A rebranded version of the Lukomorye Ushkuinik (marine ranger) might work, however, if adventurers take to the seas (or discover that there are Lorelei to deal with somewhere downstream). 

Rogue. Of course. Most varieties work, and here, both assassins and their rural (Lukomorye) cousins - the bandits - would both be appropriate. Thieves's guilds are present here, and could play important swing roles in the multicornered struggle between cities, magnates, monsters, and the Church. Arcane tricksters would be appropriate for gnomes (but not only for them). Never saw much use for Scouts and Inquisitives (in a medieval setting), but Masterminds are certainly appropriate. Swashbucklers I can live with, though they are a little late flavor-wise. Not sure what to make of the new Revived - but this is a pretty undead-oriented setting.

Sorcerer. As with the ranger, I was initially uncertain, but in areas with tieflings and monstrous births, sorcerers certainly belong. The question is, which kinds. This isn't a dragon-heavy setting, and Chaos Mages are better in Swords & Sorcery environments (especially given the religious persecution of magic), so the two PHB types are not a great fit - hence, my initial difficulties. The same goes for the elemental bloodlines - they seem too heathen. The Divine Soul, on the other hand, is great - what better class for a heretical propheta who hears God talking to them? The Shadow sorcerer I've always liked, but they never fit. Here, with dusk elves, and the Grim Reaper, they may work much better. And the Lukomorye Netherworldly bloodline (pretty much the 'standard' sorcerer in any historical fantasy setting) would also fit right in. A shapeshifter bloodline might be good in Markwald, too, if there are no obvious shapeshifter races. And there are lycanthropous brooks to drink from...

Warlock. The Fae Pact and the Fiend Pact are both great for this setting (hello, Doctor Faustus! - or do you have magus levels also?). The Celestial might work also (though the Church doesn't care if your powers come from God - just ask Joan of Arc). Hexblades would probably work in combination with the Pact of the Undying (as in Lukomorye), with the Sensenmann filling in for Koshchei as patron. Lukomorye's Netherworldly pact is also a good fit (some named devils will have to fill in as patrons for various chthonic deities, though a Dusk Elf magnate could as well). The Shapeshifter Pact would also work really well here, given werewolf panic. Not sure about the Great Old Ones - there is probably enough going on here as it is.

Wizard. Unlike Lukomorye, this a terrific setting for this class. All the main schools can be in play, as students of ancient magical traditions they probably picked up as university students (I've reflavored illusionists as Kabbalists, transmuters as Alchemists, diviners as Astrologers, and so on). There is plenty to do in terms of tracking down texts, and if there is a printing press in play, there are lots of interesting decisions to be made about mass-producing spellbooks and scrolls, and what the likely response of the authorities would be. Wizards (probably 'magi' is better as a name here) are in an interesting position here - they are not exactly legitimate, and will be hunted down if they step out of line, but they produce useful services, and will have elite patrons who will defend them if they find them useful.

Other classes will have to be classified as "foreign". I toyed with the idea of including shamans, because in reality, they are much closer to hedge witches than members of the warlock class, but they conceptualize the spirits with which they traffic in animal form, whereas many witches in this period tended to be understand their partners as demons, and have an explicitly anti-Christian self-understanding, which doesn't really fit with shamans are they are currently written.

In any case, let's see where this goes.