GrimWyrd: A Campaign Primer

GrimWyrd is a campaign setting for the GURPS tabletop role-playing game.

  • TL 4; Supernatural, Magic, Fantasy, Cinematic, High Adventure

The setting was originally envisioned as the backdrop for a simple one-shot throwaway adventure. In the years since it’s inception, the world has grown from a knee-jerk, one-dimensional, zero depth side note into a thriving, dynamic, living landscape. The player characters of the long running inceptive adventure have been built up and re-imagined half a dozen times. They have survived threats to life, limb, and even reality itself. Battling Dragons and Demons has grown from a penultimate event to a near-regular occurrence. They have seen the lands rise up in revolution, cast down in plague, shaken with cataclysm and rallied under the banner of revolt!

In short, they’re big damn heroes, and GrimWyrd is their world of Adventure.

 

History, Backstory, and Timeline

The lifeline of the world can be broken into three larger vague areas: Prehistory, Session Zero, and the Here and Now. 

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In the Prehistory of GrimWyrd, the larger events of time unfolded gradually over a empheral world. The lands were given shape by The Precursors; the Demons of The Darkness gathering in the cracks of the creation, the shining lands above them bathed in the first Mana created by the creatures of The Light. The early empires of the world flourished in this land; Dwarves, Elves, and Men carved out their first homesteads. The early Beastmen and Ogre-Magi set the foundations of their ziggurats and great temples in the East, the first steps for their war with the Demon Princes. The Old Ones slumbered, brought into creation but set aside by their creator, not yet turned to the plans that were set before them. In the PreHistory, the world was shaped and carved out by the peoples upon it as well as the creatures behind The Veil; the Fae and Great Spirits circling each other as predator and prey, not yet consuming the spirits of the lesser folk, not yet interested in their tiny, insignificant lives.

Not much is known of the Precursors. Who they were and what their motives are is unclear. Their creation is the entirety of the lands of the Earth below, as well as the realms of Magic, Farie and Spirit behind. In this creation, the forces that give life to mortals  intertwine with the physical realm; a kind of parallel permeation of the lands allows for mortal spirits to share space with the pure magic creatures of Fae, as well as mana-birthed terrestrial life like Elementals or Elves.

In the Physical Realm, man can walk and talk, see light and hear sounds. Experience is limited by the senses, but is bound within the sphere of reality. This it the realm we are used to living in daily; matter, energy, all of it transforming into the earth and skies and waters of the world we take sustenence from and live off. Here, the first Men build their homes and bastions from tree and stone. The First empire of Dwarves carve their great cities into the heart of mountains. The elves wander the lands, savage and untamed, unsophisticated, victims of their every whim and desire.

Layered atop and within is the Magical Realm, where Mana flows. The energy which sustains magical creatures travels here, flowing from  the bleeding nexus where it is generated, out into the lands and it’s life. Some modern mages have breached this realm to allow for powerful workings, but it is mostly unreachable; the power-source of the universe untapped for millennia. The Precursors did their most fine work here, entwining the power of Mana into the souls of the Elves, forever binding their forms to sustain upon the magic forces.

Aside these two realms is the Spirit Realm; a shadowy parallel to the Physical realm, it is the home of creatures born not of flesh but of soul. Men may have an immortal power tangled here that escapes to the Aether on death, but those born of the Spirit Realm leave pure physical remains on their departure. The ruby-crystal Thaum a product of their thaumatological lives, the sum total of their supernatural processes. The Fey rule here, their kingdoms and fiefdoms a mockery of mortal creation, a land of immortal souls trapped to experience aspected reality forever.

With these realms the foundation of Grimwyrd, the world matured, ripened, and developed. In some places, it festered.

The Darkness was the leftovers, the non-world, the Precursors did not have a plan for. The great writhing gestation would be carved and scraped and beaten into shape, and the leavings, the extra gristly bits were IT. The void between realms trickled full of the Darkness, blistered and boiling, roiling in great terrible hatred. Misabused, damaged, unfathered, unloved, tormented consciousness, life and death, misery of exalted existence. An infinite sea of untamed life and untapped potential.
…wasted…
never used, never realized, never given hope. Festering.

IT’s first creations were the Princes of Darkness. Demon lords given form and power, carved of the very flesh of the hated universe itself. Tied to the great heaving oceans of hatred, mana tainted black with power and black with misery. They stepped onto the creation of the Precursors, cloaked in their power, treading iron hoof and obsidian blade, and the great ones flinched  and took a step back. The war that followed would define the term for generations.

In the end, the lesser mortals hid in the periphery of the world, and the Beastmen ruled. The Ogre Magi chained the elementals to their whim, lifting ziggurats in their own name. Unchallenged was their power, their reach supreme, their mastery of magic all-encompassing. The glory of their empire would curse their heritage, and exalt the profane. The rivers ran red, and the wind blew rust. Life was almost extinguished.

In those dark times, came the Alliance. Men, Dwarves and Elves banded together to oppose the Princes of Darkness, the children of the great all consuming flesh. Their forces swelled over the ages, hid in the shadows, and struck without mercy for the merciless. Striking at a time of weakness, they overthrew the oblivious and overconfident Demons, banishing them to the Spirit Realms, forever cursing their essences to live there. The ritual of spirits, a cornerstone of the age to come.

In the time that followed, the Alliance prospered and the world once again grew.  Outside of the guidance of the Precursors, the world was shaped by it’s residents, carved into a beautiful form, or abused into subjugation. The Empire of Dwarves crawled across the face of the land like a living thing, their Thaum-engines and Elemental hybrids fuelling a colonization of the lands unchallenged by even the fiercest natural forces. Earth and air became their playthings, their canvas on which they drew, and their whetstone on which they sharpened their blade of conquest.

Men lived as they could, harnessing the gifts of the land to build their own Kingdom,s their own world, but they did not have the gifts of the Precursors, or had forgotten the blessings bestowed to them. Their only advantage was the magic which they could tap into; free of the spiritual anchor the Elves had, they could experiment freely with magic power and ritual, devising workings unheard of by the Elven Mystics.

The Anhaern matured, slowly gaining insight into their power, their ties to the Mana that sustains them and how it effects the world of mortal men. In the times that the Dwarven Empire would carve Mountainhome, and the Human kingdoms would erect keep, they would cultivate a vast jungle homestead, nurturing great works through living wood. Living as they did in the wilds of the world, the Men and Dwarves discarded them as backwards and unprogressive, but their line would not fall to anything less than violent death, and as generations grew and fell about them, the Elves watched and waited. They saw the Darkness growing, the gulf between the three widening, the choices leading to habits, leading to rituals, leading to beliefs that would mark the next age. The coming of the Horned King, and the rise of the Beastmen.

For in the wild lands, in the wastes, the Beastmen still lived. They grew unchecked by the Ogre Mage’s whip and unfettered by the Orcish prod. The land they inhabited would be called Gorgoth: The unclean place. There they were born, grew, fought, struggled, procreated, and died, uncountable. From this seething mass, a great one came, rose up, and gathered the rest below him. He gave them knowledge, ferreted from the magic of the Darkness, twisting the growth of the creatures about him so that mighty sharp heaps of ivory and tusk grew. He then became known as the Horned King.

In a short span, the Men, Dwarves and Elves would come to know fear and his legions rose up to take from them the lands he saw unspoiled, untainted. The dwarves, long since drunk on power had dug too greedily and too deep. In their mountainhomes they had heard the tolling of dark bells of brass, ghosts of hells arisen, demons awoken to take them into the void. The Ways, their interconnected network of Magitec Highways, were shut, sealed against the tide of The Darkness. Their Easternmost colonies the last to succumb, redoubts resolute. The elves, hearing the whispers of the dark even among their wisest, long saw the coming conflict, and had begun the making of the living magical foci for a device they foresaw would be needed now. They took the plans to the Men of the land, Their untamed wizards and harnessers of power, and with the great makings of the Dwarves they turned to creating the greatest mortal working ever seen since; The Ansible of Spirits.

The armies of the Alliance opposed the Horned King; Dwarven guns, Elven arrows, pikes of Men. Conflict raged throughout and the earth was blasted. Beastmen fell in droves, but the rising tide of bloodshed threatened to drown out all. The Ansible was unleashed, finally, in the desperate last hour. The wheels turned, the workings tapped potential, and fate intervened by mortal hand. The Beastmen were cursed, their line blackened, and the lands of their forefathers boiled black in response.

In the end, the Horned king was no more, the Ansible cooled and quieted, and the echoes of war faded. The bones were stacked and memorials were raised. Never again will this evil hunt us, this darkness seek us out they thought, safe in their homes, their armies marching in return. Little did they learn, that IT is unending, unfathomable, great and terrible in IT’s hatred.

It would find them again.

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Session Zero is the state of the world as originally envisioned at the beginning of the inaugural game session; put together for a Roll20 campaign,  it served as a simple primer with which to base characters off of, to get a bit of dice throwing down. GrimWyrd Session Zero was a world where the Empires of Men, Elves and Dwarves lived in fear of invasion by the Beastmen, at any time. War was brewing on the edge of Gorgoth, and heroes are going to be needed to fight the coming tide.

Greyhold is the bastion of good shining in the dark; the Kingdom of men is fair and true, with peace for it’s citizens. The Wizards of the Royal Academy are the finest alchemists and magic wielders the world has yet seen. And the Academ’s gun smithy has unlocked the power of Dwarven gunpowder, without the approval of the undercitizens. The Duchy of Bandobras to the West boasts the finest silk, wine and song of the known world, decadent and brimming like an overfilled cup of wine. Stewing beneath the surface, a simmering pot of treachery and politics. Backstabbing, betrayal, and debauchery not yet known to the public.

The Anhaern is the exotic South, where the elves live in secretive seclusion. Their tribes harboring druids and mystics of great power, but with little want to venture beyond their havens to meddle with the short-lived mortals. Fine Elven crafts are unparalleled in their meticulous detail and engineering; the near immortal lifespan of an elf allowing for dedicated mastery of any material craft, apprenticing for decades before allowing mediocre first (or even tenth, or hundredth) attempts to see the light of day.

The Dwarven Karak-holds are bristling with the short folk, constantly vying for power between their bickering clan-holds. Ritual competition between generation spanning feuds, breeding warriors, historians and senators each hell-bent on the supremacy of their own family, their own clan. Honored traditions of decorum and protocol creating some of the most long winded and procedural politicians ever seen in the world. The craft of their honor-duels trickled down into the other races, birthing a school of dueling in the lands of Men and a habit of honor-fights between the nobles of Greyhold aristocracy.

The Ro-Haern are the half-blooded descendants of the realms of Men and Elf. Since the abandonment of the human lands by the Anhaern, and the subsequent mass migration out of Greyhold and Bandobrass, the cast-off sirelings of human and elf unions were left in between. Belonging not to the noble houses of the immortal Elves, and too foreign and impure to be wholly considered Human, they were cast out. They travelled alongside elves first in the great trek South, then on ward again along the highways of the world when they could find no home there. The tradition of migration and the distrust of the populace spurred deep seating habits of mistrust and crime among them. Within a generation, they had become the uncontested masters of underhanded crime, flourishing swordsmanship, horse stealing, deal breaking and coin exchanging in all the lands.

Gorgoth is a seething hive of scum and villainy, savagery and blood sacrifice. Orcs, hobgoblins, trolls, ogres and worse live in the black earth here, carving out little tribe and massive bloodshed. Constant war in the wasted lands has left those here in a state of constant turmoil, leaving nomadic lives, pitching bone and hide tents where the sun can be shaded from. Barbarism and savagery is all they know, all they hear, and all they can inflict on themselves and each other. Now, they turn North, on the lands of Men, to unleash their savagery on the soft hides of Men.

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Here and Now: The world is in turmoil and in dire need of repair, lest it fall to utter destruction. The Darkness has awoken, the Veil between worlds shattered, and the mortal lands set into chaos. A sickly lime light cradles the moon in a dying embrace, and the world sleeps in fear of it’s baleful revealing gimlet glare.

The Kingdom of Greyhold has fallen, it’s king dead at the hands of usurper mages tainted by the great Darkness. Mad despots make playthings of the citizens, subjecting them to horrors unbounded. Their magery not a virtue to uphold righteousness, but a wicked tool to carve out petty cruel lives.

The Elven Anhaern is much the same; The Lords of Darkness have assassinated any of the greatest leaders who would oppose them. The great forests aflame with demonic fire, a backdrop of ferocious demonic magic fueling the pulse of life felt by all Elves. Their natural link to mana severed, they stalk the homeland crafting patchwork blood magic to supplement their limping souls. Savagery begets savagery, and their jungles teem with new predators seeking lifeblood meals of their own kin.

The Dwarven Empire has closed its borders and patrols them in a paranoid fear; the chaos of the lands around them giving rise to suspicions unfounded and founded alike. The gravespeakers of the Allfather warn that dire portents have arisen, and the coming of a great age of darkness that will swallow the Dwarven holds whole. Whispers in the dark breed fear tenfold, hatred and suspicion unending, and cater to the baser sides of all desire.

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About KentonBlack

I'm an avid gamer, computer troubleshooter, and all around dashing fellow. I blog After Action Reports on my gaming, running as the GM for several GURPS 4e games
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