Like tears... in... rain.
An Overview of the Campaign World
Key Points About the Setting
- Thule is Barbaric.
- The Wilderness is Savage
- Cities are Wicked Places
- The World is Mysterious
- Magic is a Secret Man Was Not Meant to Know
- Ancient Evils Threaten Mankind
Thule is a world where the Conan stories meet the Cthulhu mythos. Its inspiration comes mainly from the three authors of the weird – Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, and H. P. Lovecraft -as well as others like Edgar Rice Burroughs, Fritz Leiber, and H. Rider Haggard.
Thule is a bronze-age world set in the ruins of an iron-age one. The only people who know the secret of iron are the Dwarves, and they do not share. The Atlantean smiths knew of iron, of course, and of even better metals, but their secrets died with them when Atlantis sank beneath the waves so many years ago.
This tech level means that some items are just not available. For example, the knight in plate armour on a warhorse doesn’t exist. Stirrups haven’t been invented (so no lances), no-one makes full-plate armour, and while horses do exist, there aren’t the open plains that make big horses useful.
Magic is rare in Thule. Most ordinary people go their entire lives without encountering a magic item or seeing a spell being cast. Of course, it is different for PCs.
There are five sources of magical power.
1. Animism, calling on the power of totems and spirits, as practised by druids, rangers, barbarians and some bards.
2. Invocation, calling on the power of higher beings, as practised by clerics.
3. Arcana, the academic study of supernatural principles and effects, as practised by wizards, bards, and a few fighters and rogues.
4. Sorcery, the process of physically changing yourself into a being whose nature is in part magical, as practised by sorcerers.
5. Theurgy, the process of pacting yourself to some supernatural patron, as practised by warlocks.
It is important to understand that arcane magic (which includes arcana, sorcery and theurgy) was not invented by humans or elves or dwarves. It was invented by those who came before – the serpentfolk and the rakshasas – or perhaps by even earlier, and stranger, creatures. As a consequence, using such magic is inimical.
Magic items are rare. You can’t buy them. Trying to sell them is an adventure in itself.
Gods and Cults
Higher powers play little part in the world of Thule. They give magic to casters but don’t generally care how the power is used.
Some of the beings called “gods” are decidedly ungodlike. For example, Cthulhu, Nyarlathotep, Yog-Sothoth.
Many classic D&D monsters and races are just not found in Thule.
There are no orcs, goblins, ogres, kobolds, or similar. The role usually played by these races is taken by beastmen, gnolls, lizardmen and winged apes.
There are no chromatic or metallic dragons. Thule has its own type of dragon, and it is an apex predator! It is not, however, intelligent.
There are no sprites, pixies or other fey.
There exist things that are just wrong. Encountering them has a damaging effect on the psyche.
As does casting arcane magic…
A Thule game has rules for sanity checks and for becoming insane.
Thule and Hyboria are set on the same world, though more than a thousand years apart.
Hyboria, the setting of the Conan and Red Sonja stories, is sort-of a pre-historical Europe, with Cimmeria (Conan’s homeland) lying roughly where modern-day Norway is.
Thule is sort-of a pre-historical Greenland.
The ancestors of Conan are currently recovering lands they lost a few centuries ago when the cataclysm hit. In a thousand years they will form the nations of CImmeria and Vanaheim and Asgard; today, however, they are little more than rampaging barbarians.