(Pathfinder 1st Ed.) Low-Magic Dark Fantasy Game, ala Witcher-verse? - Myth-Weavers


(Pathfinder 1st Ed.) Low-Magic Dark Fantasy Game, ala Witcher-verse?

(Pathfinder 1st Ed.) Low-Magic Dark Fantasy Game, ala Witcher-verse?

The title's a bit wordy, but I feel it gets this interest check across. I have been thinking about running a low-magic, although not low-level, dark fantasy game for Pathfinder. Spheres of Might is definitely allowed, which I'm sure someone would ask about given the nature of the game. Major setting and campaign elements are highlighted below.

- Most of the playable portion of the setting is set in a war-torn set of pseudo-European nations. There may be a side trek into a desert kingdom whose politics puts Byzantium to shame.

- Magic was once prevalent, but an ancient mage-king changed all that when his actions drew the ire of the alien powers from the realm where magic was born. A last-ditch effort to put an end to his mad schemes of conquest and the intrusion of dark powers left the world mostly bereft of magic. Few are born who have any aptitude for magic and those who do are cursed by the attention of Those Who Walk In Shadow and the erosion of the mind that accrues over years of practicing the arcane arts. This isn't just fluff either and is going to have in-game concessions made for it. Despite magic not being readily accessible to humans, monsters have a much easier time drawing upon it and the undead are practically awash with it.

- There are more races than humans, but some are not as you remember. The elves of the setting are a perfect example. They are actual fey and are slowly dying off due to humanity's fondness for elven slaves, who are bound by cold iron collars that strip them of their immortality and much of their will. Because of their connection to the natural world, they are able to scrub some of the degenerative effects of magic-use, although that doesn't render them immune to the attentions of the dark powers from the otherworld.

- Technology is pre-firearms and culture is situated somewhere between real-world Dark Ages and Renaissance with the usual fantasy twist.

- The world is not as black and white as other settings. In fact, there is nothing pertaining to alignments at all. The Paladins of the setting, for example, do not call on the power of good to smite their foes. They wield ancient weapons from the previous age and, through their discipline and force of will, learn to channel the weapons powers in creative and mystical ways. This is a game where no choice is right or wrong and where a person's personal choices may shape them, but never define who they are. The most righteous of heroes might sacrifice their honor or the lives of innocents to accomplish a lofty goal and the most cold-hearted of assassins might be in his line of work to pay for the alchemical tinctures necessary to keep his beloved sister alive. In the end, what a person cherishes most and what they fight for are of the utmost importance, whether those things be honor, glory, gold, love, or loyalty.

- Major threats in the setting, some of which may be used and some of which may not be used, include: the Dragon of Carrogoth, who was born from the sin of a fallen paladin of the last age and who is a force of death and despair in those rare times when it is awake; Zarxes the Defiler, a lich from the sandswept lands who styles himself as the reincarnation of the slain mage-king of Errisia and seeks to tear down the barriers that hold back magic; the Holy Order of the Carnelion Sword, a splinter sect that broke away from the Church of the Sacred One and pursues a genocidal scheme to purge the world of "evil", meaning those tainted by magic (and their "tainted bloodlines" as well), heretics and nonbelievers, and anyone else who happens to cross them; the Briarborn, a group of fallen elves who sold their souls to Those Who Walk in Shadow to save what remains of the elven people and bring ruin to those who have defiled their woodland homes and slaughtered their people; and Those Who Walk in Shadow, alien beings akin to gods from the Otherworld whose motives are unknown, but whose malevolence is widely documented.

- Combat is much grittier and brutal than ever before. The Heal skill is pretty much a necessity due to bleeding wounds and possible infections. Critical hits can cause scarring or even permanent injuries. Armor provides DR and AC is provided by your actual class and level, while shields provide much better AC bonuses, as per some old rules I found.

- ABP will be used and magic items will be extremely rare. Those few that are found are likely going to be relics from the Age of Wonder. Those that are newer will likely have Stains, curses or drawbacks that vary in potency.

- Social class will be determined by a character's background and have a pretty big impact when interacting with a select few groups. Most nobles of the setting very much care for one's lineage and pedigree, while some of the more rough elements have a disdain for those of noble birth. Those few with magic ability are generally feared, although some find them fascinating. Alchemists are held in high esteem as healers and miracle-workers. It's all realistic to the setting.

I might be interested. Would Path of War be allowed or is that too magical?

Sounds like a party would really like to have a Scholar, who gets both medical training and the alchemy sphere. I'd be happy to play a scholar, and since I don't know any of the magic-using classes very well, am happy with low-magic. Would you forbid higher-tech Scholar knacks like Aeronautics (construct a flying machine)?

With magic rare, does that mean we don't have magical weapons and armour? That chews up a lot of WBL in most games. What should characters to do with most of their money?

@Divina Stella: Path of War should be fine. My main issue is actual magic tainting the feel of the setting. Pseudo-magical stuff like mystic martial arts and alchemy are non-issues.

@dalamb: The tech-level of the setting is pre-firearms which, by extension, precludes things like flying machines. The feel I am going for can be found in mediums like Berserk and The Witcher.

Characters having access to magic gear is going to be rare. ABP handles a lot of the problem with balance. As for what characters can do with money, special weapon and armor materials, weapon modifications, masterwork upgrades, and what have you are all options.

Hah, sounds like the kind of a setting where I'd take one level of some spellcaster class just so I can attract a lot of Fun from shadow-dudes.

Considering that you have elf slaves, do you have half-elves in this setting? Or are the elves a completely different species that doesn't create hybrids?

Originally Posted by Angelus Ex Machina View Post
ABP handles a lot of the problem with balance. As for what characters can do with money, special weapon and armor materials, weapon modifications, masterwork upgrades, and what have you are all options.
What does the ABP acronym mean? If it's a PF term, I'm enough of a beginner not to have run across it yet.

Originally Posted by dalamb View Post
What does the ABP acronym mean? If it's a PF term, I'm enough of a beginner not to have run across it yet.
Automatic Bonus Progression. Extra boosts so you don't have to rely on magic items to give you those boosts you need at higher levels. You should look it up to know exactly what you get!

Cool! A combination of high level and low magic with ABP sounds like a lot of fun, especially if the Scholar abilities are considered alchemical rather than magical and so have no social stigma.


I love the campaign backstory, it just oozes with possibility and inspiration.

With the whole low magic/'magic causes Cthulhu to pay far too much attention to you' thing, what about things like ki powers (Unchained Monk or SoM Sage)? Do they have the same side effects and/or social consequences? Or will they even be allowed at all?

What about psionics or akashic abilities?

Just trying to determine parameters.

Regardless, consider my interest piqued.


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