Arcanis Player's Guide to Arcanis.pdf

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Player's Guide to Arcanis
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Player’s Guide to Arcanis
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Players Guide to Arcanis
Cover: Paul (Prof) Herbert
Artists: Toren Atkinson, Andrew Baker, Alex Bradley, David Griffith, Veronica Jones, Eric Lofgren, Richard
Pace, Scott Purdy, Hian Rodriguez, Jason Walton
Developers: Pedro Barrenechea, Matt Blank, Henry Lopez, Sean Molley, Kristy Weaver (Ockunzzi), Nelson
Rodriguez, Derrel Weaver, and Eric Wiener
Editors: Matt Blank, M. Sean Molley, Kristy Weaver (Ockunzzi), Derrel Weaver
Layout: Ruben Smith-Zempel
Art Direction: Jim Beck
Contributors: Aaron Dulgar, Brendan Robertson, Duane Choquette, Brian Schoner, Casey McGirt, Chris Sanders,
Daniel Perez, David Chappell , David Lopez, Eric Gorman, James Zwiers, Jeffery Witthauer, John
Komala, Kerry Nelson, Matt Blank, Nick Grover, Paul Dennis Waltman, Richard Pace, Robert A.
Maxwell, Sean Williamson, and Vincent Au
Special Thanks To
Adrian Estergaard, Robert Maxwell, Sean Molley, Brian Schoner, Russell Timm, Derrel Weaver . Ramon Guillen, Matthew
Tearle, Jeffery Witthauer, and James Zwiers.
Miami Playtest Team
GM: Lynn Register Players: Laura Register, Melanie Register, Albert Solano, Michele Ann Hernandez, and Lazio “Laz”
Quintana.
Out of Town Play Testers
GM: Jeff Huston Players: Lauri A Scheinholtz, Mark Henderson, and Dennis Walters,
Prestige Class Design Program
Richard K. Krick
Team Paradigm: Henry Lopez, Nelson Rodriguez, Eric Wiener, M. Sean Molley, Matt Blank, Peter Barrenechea
Except as otherwise identified, all portions of this publication are © 2000-2004 Paradigm
Concepts, Inc. All rights reserved. The mention of, use of or reference to any company,
trademark or product in this publication is not a challenge to the trademark of copyright in
question. Dungeons & Dragons ® and Wizards of the Coast ® are registered trademarks of
Wizards of the Coast and are used with permission. The D20 System and D20 System Logo
are registered trademarks of Wizards of the Coast and are used under the terms of the D20
System Trademark License.
ISBN 1-931374-30-9
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PROLOGUE
modest home in the Subura district of Grand
Coryan pale and shocked. His only servant
approached the centurion and removed his helmet and armor
gingerly, but try as he might, the faithful slave could not pry
his master’s grip from the hilt of his gladius. It was only when
the Mistress of the House came and soothed his worried brow
that the centurion finally relaxed his death grip enough to
carry the weapon away.
Taking the bowl of watered wine, she proffered it to her
husband’s tightly clenched lips. “Quintus, what has happened?
Are you hurt? You look as though the shade of your father
appeared before you.”
Still absorbed in his own thoughts, the centurion managed
a mirthless grunt. “If only it had been that, Cass. I swear to
Sarish that I’m still not sure what I saw.” Glimpsing at the
wine bowl as if seeing it for the first time, Quintus took it with
a shaking hand and guzzled it down in one gulp.
Cassandra val’Mehan kneeled before her husband as he
dropped into his chair. “Tell me what you saw, Quintus. What
did the Emperor do at the Temple Square?”
“Do? He turned the empire on its head.”
“Henceforth, the gods will speak through me.”
A burst of blinding, golden radiance suddenly materialized
in the air above the gathered throng. The intense light
momentarily blinded us, but as I blinked my eyes clear, a
massive, glowing humanoid figure became visible, floating
over the temple square. It was glorious, and radiant, and
terrible as it surveyed all. Amid the murmurs of the crowd, a
single word could be heard, whispered by a hundred mouths:
“Valinor.” First one, then another, then whole sections of the
crowd began to kneel.
The Patriarch, though, remained standing. “No,” he said,
quietly at first. Then, louder, “Do not be deceived by this
blasphemous trickery!” Throwing his head back, the Patriarch
gestured broadly, calling upon the light of Illiir to cast aside
illusions and reveal the truth. The radiant figure merely
watches implacably, looking no less real than it did before.
I saw fear begin to show in the Patriarch’s eyes then, but
he would not surrender. Raising his holy symbol, he screamed,
“Begone, creature of evil!” But the glowing entity remained
resolutely present. His eyes wide with shock and fear, the
Patriarch simply stared dumbfounded.
“You see, Felician?” said the Emperor. “It is you who
are the blasphemer. You seek to rebuke a Valinor on the very
steps of the Temple of the Pantheon. You are not fit to be the
Patriarch. You are not fit to be the Vessel of Illiir. You are not
fit to live.” And as the glowing figure watched in silence, the
Emperor drew his own ceremonial gladius and with one swift
blow, the Emperor of Coryan stabbed the unresisting Patriarch
through the heart. Eyes still staring upward, the Patriarch
collapsed to the temple steps.
At last, the shining being spoke. Its voice was impossibly
full, sonorous, and rich, its
words absolutely clear. Even as it spoke, its words
appeared written in the sky above, in enormous letters of
golden fire. “Calsestus val’Assanté, I anoint thee the Chosen
of the Pantheon. Let none doubt that your will is the will of
the gods.”
Even as the words echoed around the square, groups
of slaves stationed about were goaded into motion. Ropes
groaned and pulleys squeaked, and a tremendous statue was
slowly lifted into place atop the Temple of the Pantheon.
Finally, reaching its full height, standing proudly atop the
temple, was a statue of the Emperor Calsestus, and the statue
of Illiir that was once the tallest monument in Grand Coryan
now stood, quite literally, in the Emperor’s shadow.
Coryani citizens gathered in the square before the
Temple of the Pantheon. I was stationed with other
members of the Legion of Vigilance in a watchful semicircle
atop the stairs. The crowd fell silent as Emperor Calsestus
emerged from the temple, his face impassive. Queen Alezha
glided along beside him, the Patriarch followed a few steps
behind with his head bowed, and more legionnaires escorted
all three. All eyes were on the Emperor as he stepped forward,
raised one hand and spoke. The acoustics of the temple square
are marvelous, and even those at the fringes of the crowd can
hear him clearly.
“Patricians...citizens...friends, I come to you today not to
celebrate the anniversary of
my coronation, but to bring you grave news. I also bring
you hope; hope which the Empire has not known since its
earliest days.
“I have learned that Felician val’Mehan, the very Patriarch
of the Mother Church, has been conducting secret negotiations
with the heretical priests of the Dark Triumvirate of Canceri.”
Over the gasps of the crowd, the Emperor presses his attack.
“Do you deny the charge, Patriarch?”
I saw the Patriarch lift his head for the first time; his age-
lined face stoic. “I do not deny that I have been dealing with
Canceri temple officials. But I-”
“SILENCE, heretic!” The Emperor’s bellow echoed
across the square. “By doing so,
you have acted to subvert the will of the very Church you
were selected to lead. By your own
admission, you, the so-called Vessel of Illiir, have been
working in darkness, dealing with
the servants of evil. Felician, renounce what you have
done and admit your guilt, and Illiir -
and I – may yet be merciful.”
The Patriarch gazed levelly at the Emperor for a long
moment before answering. “I regret nothing. I renounce
nothing. I have done what I believe to be right, and Illiir knows
that I am innocent.”
“Think you so?” Calsestus laughed. “You are guilty by
your own admission. You
are a heretic and a traitor to the Empire, to the Church,
and to the gods themselves. No wonder
the gods have been silent, Felician; you, their chosen
vessel among mankind, are not fit for
them to speak through. But they have found a new vessel,
Patriarch.
daring to believe his words, but knowing them to
be true. The Patriarch dead? A Valinor appearing
for the first time in centuries? “Quintus, what will you do?”
Standing, the centurion gently pushed away from his
wife and called for his servant to fetch his armor. Strapping
his gladius to his side, he looked determinedly into his wife’s
eyes. “I have known Felician val’Mehan since I was a boy and
have always thought of the Patriarch as being one of the last
truly good beings left upon Arcanis. I cannot believe that he
would betray the empire or his faith.
Cinching the final straps securing his lorica
segmentata, he continued more to himself than to those
listening. “I will go out and find others who believe as I and
uncover the truth.”
Hugging herself in a vain attempt to stop her
shaking, Cassandra whispered, “And if you find that the
Emperor has deceived us all?”
“Then the Empire will shatter and the streets of its
city will be awash with blood.”
2
V alerius Quintus val’Mehan, walked into his
I t was impossible not to notice the huge crowd of
C assandra stared speechless at her husband, not
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FOREWORD
Foreword
in late-2001, it quickly became
evident that it was a very different
kind of D&D campaign world. Here was a world
where political intrigue, sweeping epic story-arcs and
equally grand villains awaited players; a world where
a keen mind and diplomacy were as important and
deadly as the most potent of magical weapons and
armors.
Arcanis, the World of Shattered Empires was
designed for the more seasoned and adult player; the
player who was tired of an endless series of simple
challenges that at its core was a cycle of break-down-
the-door-kill-the-monster-get-the-treasure. Arcanis
villains were not just two-dimensional cut-out bad
guys, but rather beings that had motives that in a
certain light could be construed as justifiable and in
some cases even noble. At times these opponents were
as decent and gallant as the players, yet their purposes
ran contrary to that of the heroes. Black and white
morality is a rare thing in Arcanis, rather shades of
grey permeate the world.
Arcanis gave players moral quandaries where
there are no easy answers and problems cannot always
be solved by three feet of enchanted steel. Difficult?
Perhaps, but thousands of players have not only risen
to the challenge, they keep coming back for more,
month after month. They understand that character
development is not just an incremental rising of
numbers on a sheet, but the true growth of personality
and goals of their dearest characters.
At this point you may be getting the idea that
games in Arcanis are all political intrigues and cloak-
and-dagger skullduggery with nary a dungeon to
explore or monster to slay. Au contraire, my friend!
Arcanis was developed with a rich and long history
extending back some 10,000 years. There are enough
lost cities, ancient crypts, undiscovered barrows and
wondrous realms to explore for many years to come.
Action is fast, furious and deadly. Old fantasy favorites
await to test your mettle as well as new and fantastic
creatures to stir the imagination.
Arcanis also took a different route when designing
the main empire of the Known Lands. Rather than
making yet another variant of a Western European
medieval nation, another well known period of time
was tapped; that of Imperial Rome. The Coryani
Empire was created in Rome’s image, replete with
scheming Senators, power-mad Emperors, rebellious
provinces, noble legionnaires and Centurions, and
glorious gladiators.
Other nations, once provinces of the once
all-powerful Coryani Empire, now revel in their
independence. Each of these other countries have their
own distinct personality which helps players further
flesh out their PCs into three dimensional personas.
One other major variant is the way the Gods
are portrayed. There is no one god of Evil which is
opposed by the obligatory god of Good. The Gods
of Arcanis are not so easily categorized for they do
not have an Alignment. These ultra-powerful beings
defy such moral trappings as they are as above Man
as a mortal is to an insect. Therefore the dogma and
teachings of the Gods are dictated by the various
Temples that venerate one or more of these immortal
beings. It is these religious organizations which have
an “alignment”, worshipping certain aspects of the
gods while relegating others to a nominal role. In
Arcanis it is not impossible to see a valiant Paladin
of the Lord of Death doing battle with a vile Holy
Champion of the same god. Religious schisms are the
order of the day, leading to even greater opportunities
for role playing.
The development of Arcanis became a two-
way street almost from the get-go as we had the
great fortune of being the first D20 company to
approach the RPGA and be given the opportunity to
launch a member-run campaign called Living Arcanis.
Living Arcanis was not just created so that players
could enjoy the adventures available in the Shattered
Empires, but as a way for the players to affect the
world and especially the Meta-Plot. The players
soon realized and embraced this concept, changing
the political face of Arcanis more than once by their
valiant exploits.
Certain adventures tagged as Hard Points,
scenarios that build and carry the story forward, may
have Critical Summary sheets which players can fill
out and send to us, detailing the path and actions
taken. After a set period of time, these results are
tallied and the actions taken by the majority of the
players become canon.
With over seventy adventures available for free
downloading and new ones every month, players
have plenty of opportunities to leave their mark upon
the Shattered Empires. For more information on the
RPGA and Living Arcanis, please visit www.wizards.
com/rpga/ and www.onaraonline.org.
I’d like to take a moment and thank each of
the Living Arcanis players, or the Arcaniacs as they
are now affectionately known, for making Arcanis
the living and breathing world it has become. Your
enthusiasm, dedication and passion inspire us and
make us strive harder to produce an adventure setting
worthy of your time and energy.
Thanks!
Best,
Henry Lopez
President
Paradigm Concepts, Inc.
4
W hen Arcanis was first published
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