Tabletop Game: Banestorm
"Welcome to the land of Yrth, a magical realm of incredibly varied races and monsters – including people snatched from our Earth and other worlds by the cataclysmic Banestorm! Whole villages were transported – from such diverse locales as medieval England, France, Germany, and the Far East. Now humans struggle with dwarves, elves, and each other. The Crusades aren't ancient history here – they're current events!"That sales pitch very much sums up the setting of GURPS Banestorm, by Phil Masters and Jonathan Woodward. This setting book is the latest presentation of Yrth, the oldest fantasy world originally designed for GURPS. To expand on the story mentioned above, Yrth was originally populated by elves, dwarves, gnomes, orcs, and ogres. But a faction of the elves, deciding to rid themselves of the destructive orc race, designed a powerful magical ritual called the "Orcbane". It did not work as planned.The resulting magical catastrophe, known as the Banestorm, brought countless people and creatures to Yrth, including humans from medieval Earth. And as humans tend to do, they soon expanded to take over most of the continent of Ytarria, displacing the native elves and orcs (the dwarves remained safe in their mountain fortresses).Nearly a thousand years later, Ytarria is now more or less a Standard Fantasy Setting, dominated by The Empire of Megalos, surrounded by various other nations on all sides. Technology is maintained at a relatively low level by the Ministry of Serendipity, an Imperial office which hunts down rogue technologists and victims of modern Banestorm incidents, in order to brainwash them and erase dangerous information from their minds.The company gives the book a Web page here.
This setting provides examples of:
- Arabian Nights Days: Exemplified in two distinct nations: the kingdom of al-Haz, founded by Shi'ite Muslims, and the kingdom of al-Wazif, founded by Sunni Muslims. There used to be a third such kingdom, al-Kard, but after it was conquered by Megalos and subsequently became an independant nation, it became the culturally diverse nation of Cardiel. al-Haz and al-Wazif are primarily divided over the nature of magic and its acceptability according to Sharia law; the Wazifi Sunnis see nothing wrong with the use of magic for bettering human lives, though they require wizards to serve two years in service to the government, while the Shi'ite Hazi consider magic dangerous and morally dubious, and barely tolerate its use for good, with many mullahs wanting it outlawed entirely. Only the need to counter Megalos' use of magic in war keeps these radicals in a minority.
- Barbarian Hero: The Nomad Lands is essentially where most of them come from.
- Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp": From their descriptions and the book's illustrations, bushwolves, paladins, treetippers, and milkfish (native non-magical animals) sound like thylacines, glyptodonts, giant sloths, and manatees.
- Cherry Tapping: Sahud ninjas are quite skilled at this; since honor is paramount in Sahud culture, they often trip their victims, dump fertilizer on them, or otherwise embarrass them. This makes the victims look vulnerable and leads to a loss of face and power. It should be noted that the ninja are also quite capable of using lethal force, if necessary.
- City of Adventure: Tredroy, which is divided between al-Haz, al-Wazif, and Cardiel, is a Merchant City, and to some degree a City of Spies. It would be more of a City of Spies except for the fact that the three kingdoms are more likely to be allied than enemies, because of the mutual fear of Megalos.
- Elves Versus Dwarves: More in the sense of contrast between each race's preferred philosophy than in the sense of actual hatred. Elves prefer harmony with nature and dwarves emphasize craftsmanship.
- Fantasy Gun Control: Actually enforced by the Ministry of Serendipity.
- Horny Vikings. Invoked by some of the tribes of the Nomad Lands, which are in part descended from Norse settlers ... at least, those tribes that aren't descended from Celtic Warriors, that is.
- Humans Are the Real Monsters: Not a major theme, but this is a setting where humans are better at being orcs than orcs are.
- Knight Templar: Aside from the actual Knights Templar of Yrth (see below), Megalos also has the Knights Hospitaller, who are actually even more fanatic, barely considering friendly nonhumans worthy of protection, and rejecting any use of magic. In response, the Muslim nations of Ytarria have developed their own holy warriors, the Ghazi Orders, who mirror the Christian knights eerily well, and have even earned the respect of a few knights.
- Lady of War: Caithness has always been the only kingdom to allow female knights, ever since a noblewoman distinguished herself defending the independence of Caithness against Megalos and was knighted by the King. Numbers of female knights vary between knightly orders, but one order is mentioned having one female in five and another with one in ten. Also, a number of Caithness noblewomen prefer hawking as an entertainment to needlework. All of which works fine; Caithness is an easygoing country with room for both Proper Ladies and Spirited Young Ladies.
- Medieval Stasis: Ytarria has been kept at a late medieval level of technology and social development. This is in part due to the Megalan Empire's Ministry of Serendipity, a secret police force charged with hunting down inventors, technologies, and other ideas which threaten the status quo. The other nations of Yrth appear to have similar organizations.
- Named Like My Name: The authors, Phil Masters and Jonathan Woodward, are not related to (respectively) the Fantastic Four villain or the actor.
- Our Dwarves Are All the Same: Very much so, from the beards to the underground kingdoms. They are also well known as artificers and merchants. Some dwarven renegades actually end up becoming warlords in the Orclands, dominating orc tribes.
- Our Elves Are Better: Subverted in that they have clearly fallen on hard times since the Banestorm, and are essentially a Dying Race. They survive in small communities hidden away in the various forests of Ytarria, with their largest communities being in the two massive woodlands known as the Great Forest and the Blackwoods. One truly different variety is the Dark Elves, who are notable for being anything but Drow; they are actually a faction within elf culture, calling themselves "The Purifiers", with a philosophy of genocidal xenophobia, first against orcs, and then against anyone who isn't an elf.
- Our Goblins Are Different: Here, goblins are short, green humanoids originally from the mostly arid desert world of Gabrook. They are intelligent, civilized, and naturally curious, and actually fit well enough into human society. Hobgoblins are their larger, dumber cousins.
- Our Vampires Are Different: Averted. Banestorm vampires are pretty much the Dracula sort.
- Our Gnomes Are Weirder: These cousins of dwarves, noted for preferring the surface world, have more or less evolved into go-betweens between humans and dwarves, but are otherwise unremarkable as a race, harkening more to the pre-Dragonlance versions of D&D Gnomes then the modern gadget-loving versions. This is in part due to the Ministry of Serendipity's enforcement of Ytarria's status quo. Though it wouldn't be hard to imagine a hidden group of Gnomes experimenting with steampunk inventions...
- Our Orcs Are Different, and located somewhere between Tolkien and Blizzard orcs. Another race native to Yrth, they were once spread across the continent of Ytarria, before being pushed back away from the more fertile regions by the only race to rival them in aggressiveness, stubbornness, and constant breeding: humanity. Now existing mostly in the more arid region of the Orclands, they are divided into numerous tribes which wage war on one another when they don't gather to threaten their neighbors.
- Shapeshifting: The Emperor of Megalos and the chief adviser to the governor of East Tredroy are examples of this power; the former is a demon who wants to cause as much chaos and destruction as he can for as long as possible, while the latter is a dragon working to make Tredroy independent as part of a decades-long experiment in affecting human politics. There are also a few werebeasts and suchlike, especially in the Nomad Lands.
- The Kingdom: Caithness, formerly a Megalan colony that splintered off to become its own nation. Currently embroiled in a civil war between rebel nobles and loyalists to the crown.
- The Knights Hospitallers: The first Church Militant group to develop on Yrth from Banestorm Immigrants, they interpreted the event as divine will, and founded the city of New Jerusalem. Eventually joining Megalos, they have since become infamous for their rigid conservatism and intolerance, their order being closed to all nonhumans, preserving a hatred of Muslims even in times of peace, and even banning the use of magic among its members.
- The Knights Templar: The actual Knights Templar of Yrth, while being a Church Militant group themselves, are actually rather mild in their fanaticism, compared to their rivals, the Knights Hospitaller. On the other hand, they may have more sinister secrets, having mastered magic suspiciously rapidly after their arrival on Yrth.
- The Empire: The previously mentioned Empire of Megalos, which dominates most of the continent of Ytarria.
- Wutai: The nation of Sahud, a definitely Japanese-inspired kingdom with strong Chinese, Korean, and Mongolian elements. This is justified in that, like all of Banestorm's human cultures, Sahud was founded by humans from the cultures it now resembles.