A Inside Look at Gessa's First Campaign
We got this running in the midst of an, and I really hate to say this, unprecedented *gags* pandemic. When we were in the first shutdown, we started to play over Discord using a play by post format (1). So naturally, I started writing a campaign about, you guessed it, a pandemic as an outlet. Though it was born out of the pandemic/quarantine/the world imploding produced madness, the campaign’s similarity to current events of the world begin and end with it being about a pandemic. While we will address the issues surrounding pandemics, nothing will be drawn from what is actually going on with any specificity.
Of course, in the World of Gessa, it needs to be a magical plague besetting the populace. The Burning Pox. It starts out as itchy lesions on the skin, but as the disease progresses the skin starts to smolder and burn. The lesions start to glow as the disease start to work its way inward, burning the lungs. Finally, the disease quickens, culminating in the immolation of the patient’s lungs and eyes. If they survive, they survive filled with this cursed light and fire and become one of the Ashhollowed, the Burnt, the Ashen, the Cindercursed. They end up blind by normal sight, but the fire that is inside them allows them to see in a different way, reading the magical energy and auras around living things. And they can use the fire burning in their chest to do magic, the silver and gold flames used to spread the curse themselves. Several subclasses will be made for players wanting to play an Ashhollowed character, or if they are unlucky enough to contract the disease over the course of the campaign.
The campaign has players start at the beginning of the pandemic. Rumors of the disease abound, but few have seen it first hand, but it is spreading over the eastern parts of the continent of Kerana, home to most of the humanoid races in the world. The campaign begins in the broken empire of Astara. Like the Roman Empire in our world, there has been many Astarium Empires. This one centers around an Astrological based religion, one of strict rules claimed to be handed down by the Sun, the Moon, and Stars. Top to bottom, the Empire is ruled by the Church of the Sun, Moon, and Stars, though in the South, they prefer the Sun and the North, the Moon (Look here next week for a full description of the Church and the Astarum Empire). In this era, the Empire is fractured. The Southern regions of the Empire are still held in a theocratic version of the Empire, but the North declared its independence a century ago. The Church’s power over life in the Empire is eroding, despite their efforts to maintain control, with more and more states declaring independence and noble families insisting on more and more independence within the Empire proper from the Church as lost magics of the Elves start to be rediscovered in the 3rd former empire region, Nawor. This conflict is something that is exacerbated by the plague over the course of the campaign, the players will eventually take sides (or choose not to partake) as their quest to discover the origins and the cure for the cursed disease places them in the middle of the complex power struggles within the Empire and between the Empire and its former states. This, of course, is not the only campaign we have planned. This one focuses on a European esque region, the struggle between Empires and kings and the peasant underclass, and the effects of a magical curse spreading over the continent like, well, fire. But we are planning to have a wide variety of campaigns set in the various cultures of Gessa and exploring many other issues. This will come much later, depending on the success of the first campaign, but we are also planning campaigns dealing with:
The effects of Magical-Industrialization and the destruction of the environment as the world discovers a new, easier to obtain, source of magic, set in the age of Airships and Aurum
Exploitation of resources and people as a new race of insectoid people arises to sentience when the Hobbits they share a subcontinent with exploit them.
Impacts of Colonialism as an undiscovered continent of Gola is discovered by the others as Xerac, Kerana, and Jotunlund compete while the natives of Gola resist.
Campaigns set outside the standard European fantasy, including Wuxia style campaigns set in Xerac, as well as areas similar to the Middle East, the Americas, Polynesia, and Africa. To write these, we will hire writers and consultants from these cultures as the main authors to these campaigns to ensure as much as possible we give these the treatment and the representation these areas of the Gessa deserves.
These campaigns will be designed with the idea in mind that there are many paths and choices players will make, so design will prioritize giving DMs the tools to be flexible with the story, designing things so the factions and events involved will react to the players actions rather than the players railroaded with a set and prescribed plot. We also recognize that there are competing systems that people prefer to play in, so our campaigns will have versions for both Dungeons and Dragons 5e and Pathfinder 2e. Buying the books will include the digital resources as well, with maps and handouts formatted for Roll20 and print.
Hopefully, by this time next year, we will have the first module, taking players from 1-5 of this campaign out, along with the Gessan World Sourcebook and Wiki for players and DMs to enjoy. Tune in next week for our first article detailing the setting itself with a guide of the history of one of the major Human societies, the various kingdoms and former territories of the Astarium Empire, and their Church of the Sun, Moon, and Stars.
We invite you to come along this journey with us... - Arewys
(1): If you aren’t familiar, play by post format is basically all done over text, largely asynchronously, in some forum. For years, I was active on Paizo’s rp boards, then Mythweavers. It is a format very near and dear to our hearts as that is how I met Will. It is a style that allows both player and DM to really think about their descriptions and writing, but as it is done one post at a time, it is very low impact, taking maybe 30 minutes or so a day, depending on pace. It makes for very RP heavy games.