Setting: The Summerlands (Part 2)

In my last post, I started detailing the Summerlands setting, a land of eternal summer, ruled by absentee overlord dragons and populated by a variety of races, each with their own motivations and agendas. Throughout the summer, I’ll be writing up the pieces of the setting, inspired by this month’s topic for the RPG Blog Carnival, hosted by Tales of a GM.

Today, we’ll look at creation stories, and some of the limitations a setting like this offers players and GMs, in terms of characters and opponents. (Of course, player races are great antagonists, too!)

Summerlands 2

Creation Stories of the Summerlands

If anyone knows for certain how the Summerlands came to be, it is the most ancient dragons, but if they do they keep that knowledge to themselves, high in their Skytop aeries. On the plains at mountains’ feet, where the reven make their cities and built their temples along the mighty rivers carrying runoff down from the peaks, there are many who think they know, and more who revere those who claim knowledge.

The tytons, the strig, and many reven credit the dragons with the creation of the world: separating the sea from the land, raising the mountains, and seeding the peoples in between.

The grippli, however, believe that the Summerlands are all that remains of a great world, one that spanned far beyond the Skytop Mountains and into the trackless desert beyond. The inhabitants of that world, they say, built mighty cities of stone and iron whose buildings touched the sky, and had many creatures, including the dragons, as their servants. The first ones went to war, maybe against each other, against the gods, against the world itself, or against a frightening race of space creatures, and the first ones lost. Their world was turned to ash, and only powerful magic saved the Summerlands. Eventually, the creatures there, the reptiles, the frogs, the sea mammals, and others, became the creatures of the Summerlands. For the grippli, their creation story explains why the defend the natural places so stridently.

The sea kin, meanwhile, believe that life comes from the water. The purest forms of life are those that are closest to the water, and those who are least connected to their origins, like the reven, are missing some piece of their spirits. The varanus and the wilden, too, tell creation stories, each putting their people’s home at the center. The tunder, with no lands or home to speak of, but who can be found in most communities in some number, tell a different story.

The tunder claim (though few put any stock in their stories, as tunder are inveterate liars) that the Summerlands were created by a minor god, whose name changes in the telling, and who seeded the Summerlands with races it thought would be interesting. There is nothing beyond the mountains or the sea, they say, because the space in between is all that the god made. Often, it is a minor god of war, hoping to prove that all creatures will make war with one another, eventually. Other times, it is a nature goddess, collecting her favorite species from a doomed world. Like the tunder, the specifics of the story they tell changes to suit the needs of the moment, but the spirit is the same: an ancient god created the Summerlands and then forgot about it.

Lists of Seven

Playable Races of the Summerlands

These seven races are appropriate for player characters. There are no elves, orcs, halflings, or gnomes in the Summerlands, nor are there “traditional” dragonborn, dwarves, or humans.

  1. Grippli
  2. Reven Dragonborn
  3. Sea Kin Human
  4. Strig Aarakocra
  5. Tunder
  6. Varanus Lizardfolk
  7. Wildren Dwarf

Antagonists in the Summerlands

There might be other creatures (particularly the occasional magical beast), but the seven categories below are the most commonly encountered antagonists in the Summerlands. There are no giants, demons, devils, celestials, aberrations, undead, and few elementals.

  1. Beasts
  2. Sahuagin
  3. Bullywugs
  4. Monstrosities
  5. Plant creatures
  6. Fey (particularly dryads, blights, quicklings, kelpies and selkies)
  7. Dragons

Classes in the Summerlands

Divine magic is almost unheard of in the Summerlands, and there are no monasteries or dark entities with which to make pacts.

  1. Bard
  2. Druid (Circle of Wilding)
  3. Fighter
  4. Ranger (Rage Warden)
  5. Rogue
  6. Sorcerer
  7. Wizard

Backgrounds in the Summerlands

  1. Acolyte
  2. Dragon-touched
  3. Entertainer
  4. Farmer/ Fisher
  5. Folk Hero
  6. Noble/ Knight
  7. Outlander

Feat: The Ritual of Evolution

The dragons of the Summerlands granted their favorite reven the ability to evolve, to attain a form closer to the dragons’ own. Eventually, however, the ritual was stolen by the other races, and filtered throughout the Summerlands, becoming available to all. The ritual allows participants to tap into their race’s historical and potential future abilities in powerful ways.

Ritual of Evolution
Prerequisite: resident of the Summerlands

You take part in a powerful ritual, tapping into your racial heritage and gaining abilities that will one day be common to members of your race or sub-race. You gain one of the following feats (you must meet the requirements of that feat):

Call of the Wildren
             Requirement: Wildren Drawf
            Requirement: Reven Dragonborn
            Requirement: Varanus Lizardfolk
Mighty Hunter (Grippli: grow to medium, +1 Dex, proficiency with longbow and Stealth checks)
            Requirement: Grippli
One with the Sea
            Requirement: Sea Kin Human with 4 class levels or 4 hit die
Powerful Wings
            Requirement: Strig Aarakocra or Tyton
Requirement: Tunder

Hacking the Summerlands

I love origin stories, particularly the way that every society has one, always with themselves at the center. I hope that was interesting to other people, too.

Limitations: as I wrote here, I like the idea of limitations. This isn’t a world that has room for barbarians, and there seems to be no divine magic. Healing can come from bards or druids, but clerics and paladins just don’t fit. I might build a draconic pact warlock that would belong, and the other pacts can’t access a patron. (That said, if a player came to me with a paladin concept that was perfect for this world, I’d probably allow it.) In future posts, I’ll go into more detail about the races (and their evolution feats), the antagonists, and some of the classes and backgrounds.

I hope the Ritual of Evolution works. I wanted something that would be unique to this world and would incorporate the magic of the dragons into the idea that there are people who are exemplars of their race (sort of like the racial classes in earlier editions of D&D). Maybe undergoing Evolution means that a character owes something to a dragon, or that the dragons are going to oppose them because it was stolen. Either way, the feat is more than an improved set of numbers: it’s a story.

Next time: Sea kin: Humans of the Summerlands


4 responses to “Setting: The Summerlands (Part 2)

  1. Hi Quinn,

    A great selection of races, and I like the idea of limitations too. So often, I can be more creative if I limit the options. It seems counter-intuitive, but restrictions really can breed creativity.

    Enjoying your series



    • Hi Phil,

      I agree completely! I think this is especially true in a game that has hundreds of supplements with thousands of pages of additional material. Sometimes, players balk at the idea of limitations, but if the limits make sense in the world, I think it’s good.

      Sometimes, it forces a player to fight for something they’re passionate about, too. Recently, I run a game where I didn’t want bards, and one player immediately came in with a great story about why his character was a bard. Being told “no,” at first, forced him to amp up his creativity, and the results were excellent.



  2. Pingback: June Blog Carnival at the Halfway House » Tales of a GM

  3. Pingback: Summerland: An Overview » Tales of a GM

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