What is the Price of Glory? of Hubris?
System Neutral, with added Rules for D&D 5e.
This file is a work in progress. The conversational tone in places will be cleaned up in future edits.
It is the Age of Majesty, a time when Heroes are made and gods are forged. Ten Great Empires span the verdant planet of Thraxis, each with magical wonders the likes of which have been lost to most worlds. It is a time of fate and legend when men and monsters struggle to leave their mark for civilizations still to come.
This is not a world of kings, princesses, and chivalrous knights- it is a world of Emperors and Empresses, god-blooded Heroes, great monuments, legendary monsters, and Elder Races that are still near the peaks of their achievement.
It is a world of bronze, rather than steel. Only two empires have iron at all. What use is technological innovation when magic can solve so many problems?
Morningstar is a world of wonder. The dungeons and temples of this world are still being built and stocked, the artifacts are still new, and wonders are being created every day. Flying automata in the form of golden eagles whirl overhead, massive colossi stand with their heads in the clouds, and ancient dragons rule an empire.
Two worlds hang in the balance—Thraxis and Arril, blue sisters with continents, seas, and life. These two worlds circle each other... wracking each other with fierce earthquakes and tidal waves. Thraxis is the larger of the two, and Arril is its terraqueous moon.
Magic courses from the planes towards the worlds of Morningstar, drawn by a mysterious vortex called the Wheel—located between Thraxis and Arril. Because of this rift, Thraxis is a jewel of the planes; a world where magic is sometimes more abundant than its originating plane. It is a world that offers such power that beings from the far reaches of the multiverse seek to carve out their own place here. It is a world that can forge gods or give dying ones new life.
While the larger planar cosmology remains whatever it is in your campaign, the region around the campaign setting is twisted and warped by intense forces.
The Role of Consciousness
In the region around the setting, consciousness pulls magic towards itself. Any form of consciousness will do- from the faint awareness of plants to the will of a god. Life, or lack thereof, makes no difference either- undead and constructs draw magic as easily as living creatures do. Each source of consciousness draws a unique type of magic. While even largely unaware beings can draw some magic, the more powerful a being is, the more magic it draws.
Sources of consciousness can cause magic to pool in certain places of power, called Nexuses. Nexuses are places where one type of magic, such as "Ignan" (fire) magic is reinforced by a given amount, while other types such as "Necrotic" (death) magic are weakened. A reinforced type of magic is called a "Signature", while a weakened type of magic is called a "Countersignature". Every being in the setting has a personal Signature and Countersignature, which together describe the type of Nexus they create if they dwell in an area long enough and have enough power or numbers to do so. This effect happens automatically- a creature can't turn it off. Its very nature draws a specific blend of magic into the world.
A Nexus affects the nature of the area itself, shaping and changing everything in it to conform to its nature. For example, a Nexus with a "Benevolent" Signature would likely be a pastoral region with soft light and no attacking monsters, while a "Necrotic" region would be a dimly lit area blanketed in decay and suffering, likely filled with undead.
Many of the most amazing places on Thraxis are Nexuses. At the Temple of the Oracle of Tartantheus upon windswept cliffs, air and divination magics are strengthened, while necromantic and infernal energies are hindered—resulting in a place of airships and prophets where demons and undead hold no power. The Province of Sevaria on the other hand, is a place where fire and infernal magics are empowered while healing and light-based magics are weakened, earning the province the name “Hell’s Shadow”. Here, legions of men and demons fight an eternal war under a blood-red sky.
Especially powerful Nexuses have the power to change anyone who dares enter them.
THRAXIS , ARRIL, AND THE WHEEL
The Lovely One
The main world of the Morningstar setting is called Thraxis. It's a very high magic world- the amount of magic rivals that of many non-material planes. Thraxis is a (mostly) verdant world of vibrant colors, powerful beauty, and passionate denizens. The rest of this post is primarily concerned with Thraxis, so I won't fill a lot of space explaining it here.
The Wretched Sister
Thraxis has a sister planet called Arril. Arril is a very low magic world. Otherwise, Arril is a world like Thraxis, with continents, seas, and life. On Thraxis, it is considered a moon, as it is the only one they know.
During the time that the setting is concerned with, Arril is huge in sky, looming ever-present. It causes daily eclipses (somewhere), earthquakes and volcanism, extreme tides, tsunamis, and storms. Only great magic protects society from its constant onslaught.
Arril suffers even more than Thraxis. Huge fissures flowing with lava break up the continents, and immense storms last for weeks at a time. Arril is a scarred world, though she has a primal beauty from a distance, and can at times appear almost placid.
As a result of this and her lack of magic, Arril's Mother Spirit has grown intensely jealous and hateful of Thraxis. She seeks the destruction of the world as described in "Minions of Arril, below."
Arril's distance from Thraxis ranges from about as far as Mars is from our own world, to so close that the two worlds potentially share an atmosphere.
An Inescapable Vortex
Life draws magic in Morningstar, and the worlds of Thraxis and Arril are themselves alive. In their attempts to draw magic from each other, the Sisters created a rift called The Wheel. This magical vortex draws magic (and souls) over the worlds and into itself -- utterly destroying everything that passes through. After the wheel’s formation, Thraxis received a bigger share of the magic, and warped the planes around it to funnel power towards it.
The Wheel is solely responsible for the relative levels of magic on the two worlds, accelerating its flow for Thraxis, and draining it from Arril too fast for it to compensate for. Thraxis is filled with consciousness to replenish its lost magic, while Arril is smaller and has fewer sources of consciousness, especially powerful ones. On thraxis, this torrent of magic creates Nexuses-- areas where certain types of magic work incredibly well, and others work very poorly. It is like a scale- where one type of magic is enhanced another is hindered.
The Wheel was created when Thraxis and Arril tried to draw magic from each other and tore a hole though the planes. It exists across all planar boundaries that intersect the prime material at the region between Thraxis and Arril. It is invisible from the prime material plane, except in the case of a magical catastrophe when it becomes illuminated like a prismatic sun. It's visible, and appears differently, on every other plane.
The stars rule the fates of every denizen of Thraxis to some degree. Every being that is born to the world is influences by one of 12 northern star signs, or 12 southern star signs. The sign that a being is born under gives him or her certain special traits- an advantage and a disadvantage.
Comets, planetary alignments and other astrological events can be omens, alter the flow of magic on the world, or create unique circumstances for the completion of magical rituals and the like.
Thraxians are greatly concerned with the Heavens.
Space itself is like it is in our own universe- burning stars, hard vacuum, radiation, lack of gravity, etc. The difference is the presence of magic and the denizens of space that it allows for. Anyone who would travel there must solve the real world problems of spaceflight, using magic. Morningstar ties into an optional larger meta-setting called "Mystic Space".
THE MANY AGES OF THRAXIS
Arril's approach to Thraxis defines the length of an Age- a period of time lasting thousands of years where the world flourishes. Scholars have decided that an Age begins when Arril is at its farthest point from Thraxis.
No one can remember history from a point before the beginning of the Present Age, and all written text from before that time is indecipherable. People found themselves in a premade, if crumbling and depopulated world, and began to rebuild it.
Neither does anyone know the time span between the Ages (called The Fugue), only that during that time, civilization didn't exist, and people of all races lived as animals. It seems that it was less than the lifespan of an individual human, because when The Fugue lifted, most living adults slowly remembered skills and abilities that they had previously forgotten.
Previous Ages are a mystery as well, but there are theories that the Ages are cyclical and that history repeats itself to some degree. There is certainly evidence of this, in the ancient structures and objects that are found, but also evidence, often deep underground, of much stranger civilizations that once ruled the world.
GEOGRAPHY AND CULTURE
THE TEN EMPIRES
Inspirations: Greece and Rome.
This Empire of clifftop temples, monster-populated islands, and tumultuous city-states is a land of majestic vistas and high adventure. From the extradimensional prison that holds the Empire’s worst monsters and criminals along with treasures best kept hidden from mankind, to the powerful oceanic waterfall off the coast of the capitol city, Brekas is a land built for adventure.
Brekas has raised the creation of constructs to a high art. Golden eagle ornithopters wheel in the sky, marble sentinels guard the senate, and scorpion golems bear riders into battle.
Brekasians are a diverse lot, with a largely lawful and good disposition. In the north, many have wavy brown or blond hair and olive colored skin, while in the south most have curly black hair. Eye colors cover the entire human spectrum. There are many people originally from other cultures that have made their lives in the empire however, so the true variations are endless.
The Empire is a republic at its highest levels, but beneath that are a set of provinces and city-states that are largely autonomous, and have even been known to war with one another. They band together for the protection and mutual benefit that a large Empire brings, but struggle against the yoke of Imperial rule whenever they can. The Empire itself has legions, and most city-states have their own soldiers.
The Empire’s greatest wonder is an immense network of open-air aqueducts; so large that ships can travel its reaches. Raised on pillars of magically-fortified marble, these structures, collectively called “The Canali” are wondrous to behold.
Inspirations: Mythic India and the Vedic Epics.
Majestic flying cities called Vimanas, Cities of Egg-domed palaces, Titans called Rishis that war across the landscape, and gods that live and love among mankind are some of the hallmarks of Hajir.
Hajir is a vibrant land, from its multicolored desert sands to its lush fragrant valleys and verdant natural gardens. It is a place where awakened camel sages dispense advice on enlightenment, epic battles are fought with millions on a side over the fate of creation itself.
The Empire’s people divide themselves into four castes by birth- untouchables, artisans, scholars, and nobles. The untouchables are those who practice the dark arts (assassins, poisoners, necromancers), or who deal with the dead. Artisans are merchants and craftsmen. Scholars include most mages, as well as psionicists and teachers of any kind. The Noble caste is the fighting caste; they are not the only one who can fight- others are often drafted, but they are the ones who lead and control all major battles. The noble caste are almost uniformly planetouched, and all have unique features, such as blue or green skin, multiple arms, or a third eye.
The Hajiri have medium to dark brown skin, straight or wavy black or brown hair, and eyes that range in coloration from blues and violets to browns. As a people, the Hajiri are very accepting of paradox. Their gods are many, but they are also parts of one being… they believe in an afterlife, but also in reincarnation.
Inspirations: H.P. Lovecraft and Weird Tales.
Baroque temples to unspeakable gods, tentacled horrors that drive men mad, dark grottoes filled with incandescent eggs, and silent subterranean seas where ships manned by fish-headed men sail in the blackness—these things are what Hrum Vaat is.
The Aberrant empire is a network of caves and mines that spans the entire world. This realm is home to a grotesque myriad of aberrations, from the wormlike thugs with sonic attacks called ‘gedge’ to the mask-weaving biomagical artificers called ‘Lreans’ and all the others that adventurers are familiar with, such as aboleths. [as well as other intelligent aberrations]. These creatures have banded together despite any animosity they naturally feel towards each other in order to destroy the sunlit races.
Hrum Vaati government is an inscrutable morass of mystical factions that play games of power with lives, each seeking their own labyrinthine goals. From week to week, allegiances shift, and the powerbase is upturned. Under it all life goes on steadily, as the inhabitants of the realm each pursue their own goals. Hrum Vaat has its tendrils in every other Empire, but is most closely aligned with Ijamvhul.
This is an empire of strange cults and disturbing subterranean beauty, peopled by slavers and butchers with no respect for any kind of life but their own. It is also a realm of great riches, stolen from the sunlit races over the ages.
Inspirations: Heavy metal album covers and art by people like Gerald Brom and Frank Frazetta.
Ijamvhul, sere and unforgiving, is the land carved away from the Zeikrusian dragons and forged in pain. It is a place of dark majesty, with purple mountains, dangerous blue foliage, and great ziggurats built on the lives of millions of slaves.
Ijamvians hate dragons, regardless of their alignment. Generations of draconic wars have remade the race with a harder edge. Ijamvians are bronze-skinned, with straight black or white hair. They tend towards blue or even indigo eyes, but some have black or brown.
Ijamvhul is currently ruled by an Emperor and a cadre of syndicates beneath him. He usurped the former emperor, and it is only a matter of time before he meets the same fate.
Ijamvians keep slaves, and cooperate with Hrum Vaat on slaving missions. The two empires trade in magical wonders, techniques and services. Ijamvian freemen worship no gods, thinking themselves the equal to any deity. In fact, their “Zanoeen” clerics worship themselves, and cajole slaves to do the same.
Inspirations: Ancient Africa, including Egypt, Arabia, and Persia.
Kenabu is a place of primal wilderness juxtaposed with the amazing achievements of an advanced civilization. The demon gods of Maasa, the suicide Cults of Kashmak, the mysterious shrines on the shores of M’Gongo, and the monoliths and pyramids of Wiresh make this a land of hidden dangers.
Lush jungles and sweeping plains, fierce rivers, and ancient lakes dotted with tribal settlements, vast spired cities, and the rich ruins of several lost civilizations are the hallmarks of this Empire.
The citizens of Kenabu are a diverse mix of cultures, from the stocky traders of Ret, to the tall plainsmen of Umbekti, to the city-dwelling sophisticates of Nest. Physically, all have dark brown or black skin, and wiry hair. Beyond this, they come in all body types as suits their surroundings. Most have brown eyes, but a few are known to have lighter shades.
Socially, all cultures revere the very old and the very young. Beyond these similarities, every culture has different values. Some subcultures practice body modification, like piercing, trepanation, or stretching of body parts.
Kenabu is a democratic gerontocracy- they eldest members of society are those seen as best fit to rule.
Inspirations: Mythology concerning the dwarves, and the Ice Age.
The empire of the dwarves is a majestic realm of high mountains and deep gem-studded caverns, frigid winters, and fierce volcanoes. From the War-torn region of Baandral—where dwarves fight against Fey, to the province of Riggsur where they fight an incursion of Hrum Vaati aberrations, Kharkon is an Empire skilled in the art of war. But there is beauty here too- from the sharp, windy peaks of giant-occupied Jaag to the alpine wonderland of Zarvokh, much of the surface has been allowed to remain wild. The entire empire is dominated by ancient but rising mountain ranges, the scars of a land long thrashed by Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and unrelenting winds.
The empire is rich almost beyond description. The mines of the dwarves are fueled by powerful earth energies and precious minerals replenish almost as fast as they are removed. Most of this great wealth is stockpiled against a future catastrophe, but even so, Kharkon remains the wealthiest nation on Thraxis.
The Dwarves are great monument builders, using their wealth to erect immense citadels and fortifications, and towering dwarven colossi.
Along with dwarves, there are giants, humans and thull (see below) to round out the population. The general outlook of the people here is similar to those on a frontier; they are opportunists who band together to survive the harshness of the land.
The Empire has two dwarven figures in charge of it. A Female Empress, called ‘the Sovereign’ who deals with domestic issues, and a male called the “Lord Overseer” who controls the military.
Inspirations: Mesoamerica with some North American influences. The Popol Vuh.
A land of bloody god-kings and vicious feathered dragons, rainforest temples, and mountaintop observatories, Quetapan is a realm of contrasts. Searing red deserts with cities carved into the faces of their cliffs, dense and treacherous jungles filled with a cacophony of sound and colors, all these places are distinctly Quetapan.
Parrot-like rocs transport goods and people across the empire, men armed with fanged swords war against giants and bat-demons, and gliders soar in the sky.
Several major ethinic groups make up the citizenry of Quetapan. All have reddish brown skin dark hair, and dark eyes. These people come in all heights and builds based on their environments.
All of the cultures of Quetapan are very spiritual, and the empire’s many religions are quite deep. A few of the gods of the empire include the bat-god Seram Cor, who leads souls into the underworld, Mecheko- the buyer of noble souls, and Atchetak, the patron of warriors.
In the North there are the thousand tribes of Chotok—who hunt the forests, seas and plains. In the central deserts of Kukixtlan, the people build hidden ziggurats for human sacrifice. In the deep south, the astrologer priests called the Latomec build skyreaching observatories and are the best navigators in the world.
The Empire is ruled by starry-eyed Latomec priests and the functionaries beneath them. Trouble is brewing however, as an ancestral leader of the Kukixt people called the Sapa has begun to build an army to take over the Empire.
Inspirations: Ancient Asia, from China to Cambodia and the surrounding areas.
Xiangur is a place of ornate cities deep within forbidding bamboo jungles, serpent headed races worshipping dragon gods, noble warriors who fight on the backs of immense insects, armies of clay golems that number in the millions, and undead who dwell among the living. In the province of Oksua, fierce Collossi rampage across the land, laying waste to villages and towns.
This Empire is a land of jade, lotuses, pagodas, and city-spanning temples and monuments raised in testimony to the gods and to their builders’ pride. Its vast landscape includes vine-choked jungles, sweeping steppes, and soaring peaks.
The Lantarakhai of Xiangur use undead the way that Brekasians use golems. While they have golem armies, their primary troops are undead. They are not an evil people- rather, they view necromancy as a high art, useful for the betterment of mankind. While many citizens of the empire disagree strongly with the official treatment of the dead, the ruling province of Atsu Liat doesn’t give them a choice in the matter.
They are a golden-skinned people, with epicanthic folds near the corners of their eyes. They have straight black hair and eyes that range from blue to green but which are usually brown.
The empire is ruled by an eternal undead child emperor named Xiu Zong, whose every word is taken as a command.
Inspirations: Dark and bright fairy lore with pastoral fantasy thrown in. Some Lord of the Rings influence as well.
Crystal cities on pillars, surrounded by fairy lights…Richly colored forests filled with awakened animals…dark castles upon storm-wracked crags, abandoned stretches of highway where fey merchants deal in souls…these places and many more make up Ynnidon.
Entirely ruled by fey, Ynnidon is a fractured empire that only bands together to combat outside threats. Much of the Empire is wild, with diverse factions of every alignment fighting against each other more often than working together.
The fey are too diverse to categorize easily. Suffice it to say that every type of fey known to Thraxis has a place in Ynnidon.
Humans and other races do live here, but they are not particularly welcome. They eke out their livings, most of the time, in the shadows of the more powerful beings in their midst. Some areas are more hospitable to mortals than others. The lands of Lord Dust for example, are benevolent towards mortals, while the lands of the Stranger called The Empress are a dangerous place for non-fey.
There are innumerable factions of fey in Ynnidon, divided into three primary courts- the Dream Court, the Twilight Court, and the Nightmare Court. The Dream Court is good aligned, the Twilight court is neutral, and the Nightmare Court is Evil. Agreements between these Courts are achieved through contests and on occasion outright warfare. Members of these respective courts can respect each other and even work together for short times.
Among the Wonders of Ynnidon is the Moss Highway, a shifting road of plush green moss that changes its course every night and serves as a magical means of travel for those who know its vagaries. For those that don’t, however, it leaves stranded in dangerous territory.
Inspirations: Though Zeikrusia was influenced by many fantasy paintings, it is largely a new creation, based on extrapolations of what a draconic empire might actually be like.
Zeikrusia is skies filled with dragons of every color, cities that sprawl across mountain ranges, vast bog lands filled with great and terrible creatures, and smoking and corpse-strewn battlefields that cover miles. It is a place by turns beautiful and horrible, where dragons fight a perpetual civil war over power and greed.
Ziekrusia is a vast Empire- bigger than any other except possibly Hrum Vaat. With its immense mountains, searing deserts, turbulent seas, and freezing tundra, it is a place of extreme climates. Some of the strongest nexus areas in the world are found here.
The peoples of Zeikrusia are either slaves to evil dragons or under the sometimes absent, sometimes stifling protection of the good ones. Races include dwarves (especially stonecutters), Thull, lizardfolk, and humans.
Human and dwarf skin colors range from light in the north to dark in the south. Hair color, similarly ranges from brown and blond to black. The humans in the south of the empire share ancestry with the Ijamvians and have similar features.
The Empire of Dragons is locked in a bloody civil war that has raged for millennia. The only thing that keeps this realm an empire is that all sides see the place as the draconic holy land. The only reason the Ijamvians were allowed to carve out their small corner of the continent is because that particular place is considered unclean by the dragons because of the powerful comet impact that created the Wound of Feridu.
Beneath the dragons there is an entire culture that they hardly notice. While the Dragon-gods war for supremacy, under their noses, free humans, thull and dwarves live their lives. They even have their own governments, though war is rare. They simply have no taste for it. They will fight when necessary, however.
The most famous Wonders of Zeikrusia are immense citadels with their own weather patterns inside. They are city-sized castles used as lairs and fortifications in the war. Each citadel is the abode of a great wyrm called a Dragon God and also houses his immense treasure and personal army, whatever form that may take. Some armies are comprised of dragons or half-dragons, while others are comprised of humans, thull and dwarves.
These are just the other major regions and should not be seen as a comprehensive look at the other cultures in the setting. Many regions will have their own non-imperial groups.
Inspired by pre-Columbian North America, the many tribes of this vast land live out their lives, fight wars, and defend themselves from monsters. Its main threat is impending colonization by Quetapan.
Inspired by presettlement Austrialia, the aboriginal people here contend with dinosaurs and other dreamtime creatures. It is said that only they have the means to recover the truth behind the previous Ages. Threats include settlements by other empires that push the natives out, the many terrifying monsters that populate the land, and angry spirits that grow to immense power.
Merfolk and other aquatic beings here contend with Hrum Vaat. Brekas has formed alliances with many of them, including the Tanin- immense celestial whales that are said to be able to fly through space itself, and navigate safely past The Wheel.
Signature and Countersignature Spells- As indicated above, in a Nexus, certain spells that fall under a Nexus's Signature are enhanced, while spells that fall under its Countersignature are hindered. A Signature spell may have effects far beyond the bounds of what is normally possible, while a Countersignature spell may be rendered useless or worse- a liability.
Teleportation magic is dangerous when Arril is in the Sky, unless you are travelling from one type of Nexus to a Nexus with the same Signature. If you roll a mishap, you are redirected to the center of the Wheel and are lost. Teleportation works normally when Arril is on the other side of the world.
When you summon something, it stays. Morningstar is a planar focal point, and once under its influence, it is hard to escape without direct application of magic. At the end of the spell duration, a summoned creature is no longer under your control, even if it remains friendly to you. It will almost always leave. If it can accomplish planar travel, it may go back home, but it doesn't have to. If it's intelligent, it will seek out others of its kind, pursuing the goals of its people which can only be accomplished on Thraxis, such as settling into an amenable Nexus and growing in power.
Banishing works normally, except that a creature may always return to Thraxis at the end of the effect. The only exception is banishing the creature to The Wheel, or to Warreen Prison; an extradimensional trap capable of binding gods. Warreen Prison is a Wonder in the form of a hypercube filled with prison cells of all sizes, where every face faces The Wheel. Even if a creature can escape its cell, it can't escape the prison itself without an artifact-level key.
Wonders are immense structures that have the power of artifacts. They range from the Canali of Brekas; a network of raised aqueducts so large that ships travel them and which magically purify anyone who passes through their arches, to the Eye on the Sea; an oceanic portal that allows Ijamvhul to safely dispatch and recall any ships who have one of its keys to and from anywhere in the world.
Artifacts can form spontaneously over a long time, because of the great magic of Thraxis. Some factions are able to prophesize future artifacts, and arrange for their creation.
Constructs are very common on Thraxis. Thraxian artificers have found a way to animate constructs with just about any type of spirit, from elementals to formerly living beings. Common constructs do the drudge work of society, and stay in families for generations. There are also Construct Vehicles, sometimes animated by the spirits of the animals they resemble.
There are even ships in the works that promise to bring the cultures that can master them into space itself- possibly opening a route to Arril, as long as a traveler was willing to go the long way around.
Worship is a form of magic, and fuels a god's power directly. There are uncountable gods and many pantheons of gods.
Native gods form pantheons which an individual Cleric pays respect to as a whole. Each pantheon is cultural, they are not typically seen as different forms of the same few beings. They are distant and manifest most frequently as forces of nature or miracles in accordance with their Domains. Certain pantheons may break this rule, such as the Brekasian pantheon whose members like to assume human form.
Usurper Gods come from other planes, where they were often deposed by other faiths. They are drawn by the easy power and worship energies available to them on Thraxis. They tend to make more of a show of manifestation, which is why many worship them- after all, you rarely know if a native god was even there.
Godlings are gods-on-the-rise, and include powerful demons, elder things, fey, celestials, and even the mortal Zanoeen Priests of Ijamvhul.
Below, I only discuss the cases where there is something worth noting about how Morningstar handles a race.
If WotC allows them under their license, their primary setting role will be to stewards of the Zeikrusian dragons' interests, such as raising young Dragons, and fighting in wars. If not, I'll come up with my own draconic race.
Dwarves are supernatural beings. They will have the option to choose racial "Nexus Paths"- abilities specific to Morningstar, which will give them supernatural abilities appropriate to their race. There will be new subraces.
Elves are Fey, for now. I'll be exploring the difficulties this presents in 5th edition.Like Dwarves, their supernatural abilities above and beyond those listed in the PHB will be handled as Nexus Paths. There will be new subraces.
Gnomes were fey spirits, sent by the Empress, who inhabited the bodies of unborn dwarves as an attempt at infiltrating that society. They rebelled against her, and left on mostly good terms.
Thraxian Halfings come in the standard varieties, and three new ones; Bloodfed Halflings that treat with strange and otherworldly beings easily, Speaker Halflings that have a supernatural affinity for language, and Seaspray Halflings who rule the seas. They are all about buying a homeland for their people, as they have none of their own.
Along with other races that were called "planetouched" in previous editions, Tieflings are a natural result of the planar incursions on Thraxis. Tieflings in particular have even gained some political power in certain places.
Smaller cousins to cyclopes, Kyklopes are renowned artificers native to Brekas with an even demeanor that hides a bestial nature. They have special insight into fate.
Thull are the gentle predecessors of the monstrous humanoid races, such as orcs, goblins, and bugbears. Those races were the result of a failed fertility rite given to them by their god. When their god vanished and their numbers began to dwindle, they started using the rite as a prayer to other spirits, such as the bear spirit, or the boar spirit. The results of these corrupted rites are the monstrous races.
Vanara are monkeylike humanoids who dwell primarily in Hajir and Xiangur. They are mischievous and passionate, and can become good thieves or scholars.
[There are a few other races, but they're not ready to discuss yet.]
A world without paladins
Chivalry never existed here, and so the Paladin class is replaced by the Idol; a Hero of the people with the favor of the gods. The likes of Hercules, Rama, and Gilgamesh are the inspiration for this class, which has powers based on glory, the awe of the people, and weaving fate itself in their own favor. One such ability is Aegis- which protects the Idol from harm when he or she wears as little armor as possible.
A Master of Magic in Matter
Morningstar has its own flavor of artificer which makes the Age of Majesty possible- While Artificers do make magic items for personal use, including devices that bestow their spell effects, their greatest impact to the larger setting is to create constructs that serve society and do drudge work or serve as vehicles, and to contribute to the creation of Wonders- Artifact level edifices that grant their effects to large numbers of people.
UNIQUE FEATURES OF A MORNINGSTAR CHARACTER
A Morningstar character is set apart from a typical character not just in race or class, but by his or her nature. They are larger than life. It is perfectly possible to use the setting without these options, but they are presented for those DMs who want characters to engage with the themes and tone of the setting to a greater degree than is normally possible.
Morningstar characters can store an amount of Inspiration equal to 1/4 of their level, rounded up. They may not use more than one point of inspiration on the same roll.
A character may choose from up to 24 zodiac signs (12 northern, and 12 southern) depending on where he or she was born. These grant minor abilities while creating minor hindrances in certain circumstances.
Nexus Paths and Nexus Talents
Based on the Signature that a character promotes, characters gain access to special abilities above and beyond those from race and class. These abilities hopefully won't unbalance a character, but instead give them interesting options. A character gains Nexus Talents on their Path as he or she advances. A given Signature will have many Nexus Paths, so variety is ensured.
Nexus Talents are organized into "Nexus Paths", a set of abilities that relate to each other and synergize when taken together.
The goal of these abilities is to allow Morningstar characters to perform the amazing deeds of myth and legend without breaking the game. They're sort of like magical feats, but the main focus will be on interesting effects whenever possible rather than pure combat prowess. They also give nonmagical characters a bit of magic.
A Morningstar character using this rule must choose a Heroic Fault- a very rare situation where he or she receives disadvantage on all related d20 rolls. Think Achilles' Heel.
THREATS AND CONFLICT
Arril herself is the primary enemy of Thraxis, and all of her minions will stand in the way of a final confrontation which may or may not be possible in a campaign. Here are some of those minions.
The Canticle of the Morning Star
The greatest threat to the world is a dark prophecy called the Canticle of the Morning Star, and from this prophecy spring most of the world’s problems.
A living prophecy that describes all of the threats to the world, It appears in every empire, and in many forms. Every nation has received the Canticle in its own language, and in a form that holds meaning for it.
It is believed to be a message to Arril's other agents; marching orders of sorts. Those who defend Thraxis use its cryptic hints in order to find ways to thwart this plan. The Canticle itself is alive, however, and impossibly intelligent.
Each time it is thwarted, it adapts. Verses restructure themselves in the sinister text, and it plots a new route to destruction. Every time the Canticle changes, every copy of its verses changes as well, regardless of who transcribed them. It does seem that the Canticle itself has powers related to Fate- the events that it predicts can't all be the results of intelligent minions.
Its predictions are inevitable for almost everyone. Only Heroes have enough control over their own destinies to stand against it. Its verses number in the tens of thousands.
It is not merely a set of static predictions—it is alive and almost impossibly intelligent. It hates all living things on Thraxis, and actively seeks to destroy them.
This aberrant race from Hrum Vaat, described under "Unique Creatures", below, infiltrates societies of all kinds and plants seeds of chaos. Their plans are complex and subtle, but they will work with or on behalf of any enemy of the peoples of Thraxis while presenting the facade of a trusted ally. They believe that once Thraxis' destruction is ensured, they will be taken to Arril to rule an aberrant paradise. It is thought that perhaps they were the sole sentient race that arose on Arril. How they got here is a mystery.
Spirits created on the boundary of The Wheel itself. These creatures have magic-nullifying and necrotic powers. They can possess living creatures. Though they are born of the Wheel, Arril has gained control of them somehow, and they do her bidding.
Arril's role as an enemy of Thraxis isn't well known among the uneducated masses. Some of these worship the moon, and provide her with precious worship energies. In exchange, she chooses some among them to serve as clerics. Invariably, such cults grow more and more twisted over time, and even if started with good intentions, evil eventually results.
The Scriven (Warlock Pact)
Sometimes Arril speaks to those who want revenge. She offers a small portion of her limited power in exchange for serving her needs. The Scriven carve the ever-changing verses of the Canticle into their flesh, and are granted arcane power beyond their dreams.
Those who seek power love Thraxis- for it gives it to them. By taking over an area and creating a Nexus, a being's goals are facilitated, and they become magically unstoppable. Most of the time it takes many beings to create a Nexus, but sometimes a being is powerful enough to create and control one on its own. These beings are called Nexus Lords, and they gain dominion over the land that they control. They are like gods within their realm- the land responds to their will.
Powerful and bizarre outsiders work to undermine civilization. These beings are significantly more advanced than the other inhabitants of Thraxis, and operate on strange dream logic—as if anything outside of themselves isn’t real. Their power over reality is such that it often seems like they are correct.
The Strangers are like gods that demand no worship and offer no divine magic in return, but have goals nonetheless. They are known only by names like "The Flesh Smith", "The King in Mail", and "Lord Dust".
Each has their own mad theme. They can only be defeated by playing their games. The most rational of them is The Empress, ruler of the fey.
Usurper Gods and Godlings
Less powerful gods and even mortals on the verge of ascension can become Nexus Lords.
Some dragons are ancient enough to become Nexus Lords.
Other Powerful Beings
Demiliches, Great Heroes or mystics, and other beings of interest might become Nexus Lords. The Tarrasque could become a Nexus Lord. Any sufficiently powerful being is a candidate.
Morningstar has its own unique creatures, of course, in addition to those already in the game. Examples include the Lreans; physically weak, wormlike masterminds with the ability to create powerful suits of weaponized armor that disguise them as anyone they want until they reveal themselves, and Mogrekh; Mammoth-sized rams and ewes that the dwarves train for war.
Nexus-Infused Monsters (templates)
There will be a number of templates for giving normal monsters the power of a Signature.
Great spirits made flesh that form spontaneously at powerful nexuses and which must be put down before they cause major problems. They are Gargantuan.
War is one of the major threats to Thraxis.
Planar wars frequently spill over when outsiders come to Thraxis. Similarly, even native beings seek to destroy their enemy's Nexuses and bolster their own. Control a Nexus, and you control everything.
Ijamvhul vs. Zeikrusia (Hot)
Ijamvhul fights border skirmishes with the evil dragons of Zeikrusia.
Ijamvhul vs. Brekas (Cold)
Brekas and Ijamvhul thwart each other at every turn, and even resort to spying. Both sides are unwilling to declare open war, however.
Xiangur vs. Hajir (Warm)
Border conflicts occur between isolationist Xiangur, and Hajir, which doesn't respect invisible lines.
Hrum Vaat vs. Everyone (Hot)
Hrum Vaat raids the empires, the empires push them back. Sometimes, an empire takes the offensive.
CIVIL WARS AND CONFLICTS BETWEEN FACTIONS
Within various empires, provinces, houses, and even trade organizations, disagreement sometimes comes to blows.
Sometimes the imbalance of magic becomes too great, and Thraxis's Mother Spirit responds by unleashing a Rage Storm. These are localized apocalyptic events full of elemental fury and destructive but cleansing energies. These storms have the power to annihilate a Nexus, and many if not all of those caught inside one.
Sometimes a tear will form between the prime material plane and some other realm. These happen at random, forming a spontaneous Nexus. Beings that promote its Signature can spill forth, creating chaos.