Gaming on Karil
by: Kevin Wilson
I have made changes in the AD&D system, and these have been addressed in my rule changes. You should read this book at least once in order to get a feel for the campaign. I do not allow mind-control, charm spells, or other radical changes in the minds of any sentient creatures. Thus, I promise that your character will never be possessed, charmed, reincarnated, or forcibly altered against your will.
Psionics do not exist on Karil at all. No psionic characters will be permitted.
Lastly, and I am sure that this will shock those familiar with me, but there is no thief class on Karil. Not to fear. Instead, the other three character classes are all allowed to take thieving abilities as part of their reperatoire of skills. I finally got tired of seeing thieves taking a beating all the time and created a campaign where everyone, to some extent, is a thief.
Good luck, and as they say on Karil, "Keep your wits close at hand, and never draw your sword in anger."
A Brief Overview of Karil
The Karils are a group of islands on the world of Theran. The largest is about the size of Australia. In addition, much of its size is taken up in its north-south dimension, so it possesses a wide variety of climates. The Karils are isolated from the other major land masses on Theran by a wide ocean.
Karil is inhabited by several races:
- Bounders: Short, rabbit-like humanoids. They are nervous and very quick.
- Feran: Graceful and catlike, feran live among the trees of the forest.
- Grae: Living much of their lives underground, grae are unaffected by darkness, and can smell out metal deposits with their bulbous noses.
- Men: Men are very adaptable creatures who have spread all over Karil.
- Slith: Serpentine humanoids with a poisonous bite, they are usually very peaceful creatures.
- Weinan: Small flying humanoids with the ability to change their skin color.
Karil has a long-standing tradition of "Do unto others before they do unto you." As a result, all its inhabitants have learned the art of guile to some extent. Politics is often seen as a game by those who practice it, but assassination is anathema. Duels are fought out in the open, if they must be fought at all, but are considered crass by the cultures of Karil. Wit and skill are revered over brute force.
The animal life of Karil is relatively harmless compared to that in most game worlds. No creatures of enormous size are known to exist, and nearly anything larger than a tiger is an herbivore.
The plant life is quite varied and often magical in nature. Many of these plants are harvested by alchemists for use in potions. Others can be eaten right out of the ground to gain their benefits.
The fighting style on Karil tends towards light, quick weapons. Fighting florentine style is quite common. Shields and most of the heavy armors, on the other hand, have fallen into disuse, and this is thanks to a relatively new alchemical development: smoke powder. Smoke powder, unlike gunpowder, is extremely unstable in large quantities, and is therefore unsuited for use in anything larger than a pistol. However, bullets essentially ignore armor. Magic has been used in various ways to impede or improve pistol performance, but these developments are still new. In the meantime, adventurers would be well advised to be wary of anyone packing a pistol, as they can inflict a lot of damage, and even the clumsiest person can fire a pistol relatively effectively.
There are two mage types on Karil: Alchemists, and Enchanters (or Demonologists, as the clergy call them.) Both of these mage types are dependent on advance preparations, and are not capable of hurling fireballs, lightning bolts, and such. Thus, moreso than in other game worlds, mages receive at least some weapon training, and have a d6 for hit dice.Priests must choose from only a few religions, who are said by some to be merely aspects of the same religion. Priest magics cannot bring the dead back to life.
The Islands of Karil
The Karil islands, or Karils as they are usually known, are a small collection of large islands on the world of Theran. The largest is approximately the area of Australia, with most of its size being taken up in the north-south direction. As a result, its southern reaches are warm and temperate, reaching a tropical climate at the very tip. Its central area is mild and pleasant, primarily filled with forests and plains. Lastly, its northern reaches are chill and approach arctic conditions towards the northern tip. The prevailing winds blow west around the southern tip, and east around the northern tip, allowing boats to easily sail around the island in a clockwise direction.
Nasqui is the northern portion of the main island (which is usually known simply as Karil.) The weather in Nasqui is frequently cold (winter lasts approximately 8 of the 12 months) and as a result, the vegetation is somewhat sparse and tough. This makes animals scarce, with those that exist typically growing no larger than a wolf. There are several very vicious man-sized creatures that have been known to attack people in their search for food. Nasqui has an abundance of mineral ores to make up for its inhospitality, however. Many grae live here and work the mines, where it’s always a constant, comfortable temperature, no matter how cold it is aboveground. Indeed, two of the six major cities are built entirely inside played out mines, and most of the others are built partially inside mines. Of the six races, bounders, grae, and men are the only ones who do well in Nasqui.
Jemmit, the Capitol
Jemmit is a capitol that reflects the character of its people perfectly. It is situated in the middle of a deep forest, with no roads wider than a wagon trail leading to it. The city itself is a grim wooden fortress built atop a medium hill. The forest is kept cleared back for 200’ in all directions around Jemmit, to give the pistoliers and ballistae crews a clear killing field. Underneath Jemmit is a two level mine, which houses many of the inhabitants of the city, and has room for all in the event of a siege. Large storerooms are filled with food in this underground city, and a river populated with cave fish flows through the 2nd level, assuring the citizens of a source of food and water. As many have found, Jemmit hasn’t really fallen until you’ve cleared out her lower levels, and that’s as nightmarish a task as you could ever hope to be assigned.
The Isle of Svall
Svall, a reasonably large island to the northwest of Karil, is nothing more than a frozen waste with several extinct and a few active volcanoes atop it. In the crater of one of these volcanoes is where the ascetics have placed their main monastery. Through magical means, they have calmed the volcano, and its heat and rich soil allows them to grow enough food to feed themselves. Here, they are free to practice their arts without interruption or distractions. In addition, the icy wastes below give them an ideal training ground.
Ketter is the central portion of Karil. Its primary commerce is trade between Anson and Nasqui. It is a common saying in Ketter that the Ketterans feed on distrust. If their northern and southern neighbors ever became friendly, Ketter would find itself in a dire situation, its inhabitants forced to feed themselves through honest labor instead of a shrewd trade. That’s not to say that Ketter isn’t capable of supporting its inhabitants. Far from it. Ketter is a land of fertile plains, bountiful wildlife, and lush forests. The feran almost exclusively make their home in Ketter, as do many bounders, slith, and men.
Kathas, the Capitol
Kathas is a major port with a huge protected bay. Almost all of the overseas trade that goes on in the Karils passes through Kathas at some time or another. It is here that the Ketteran navy is sheltered, with the mighty ironsides next to the older, more stately galleys. Ketter has the largest navy in all of Karil, which helps to ensure her control of the overseas trade routes. Frivolous nobility flock to Kathas from all over to take part in the autumn harvest festival, a week of debauchery and celebrating so intense that many regular inhabitants board up their houses and leave the city for a week to stay with relatives.
Merideth island is where the central headquarters of the solipsists is supposedly located. Supposedly because several attack forces have landed on the island to wipe out the solipsists once and for all only to find nothing there.
The Isle of Seriss
The headquarters of the rationalists is found on the isle of Seriss. It is a tranquil, beautiful island where the rationalists can observe nature, practice their agricultural skills, and seek themselves through meditation. There is no actual temple on the island to be used as a headquarters. Instead, there is a village of grass huts a little way away from the shore. There is, however, a mighty stone circle that the rationalists meet at and perform ceremonies inside.
Anson is the sothern portion of Karil. It is gifted with a subtropical climate, giving its inhabitants two harvests a year. As a result it has become a largely agricultural society, trading food to Nasqui in exchange for metals and some manufactured goods (all done through the neutral Ketterans, of course.) The people in Anson are more superstitious than the men of the north, but that is perhaps due to the close proximity of the dark jungles. People have often gone into them never to be heard from again. Even the weinan avoid those jungles. Anson is home to all six races, with a predominance of men.
Mestin, the Capitol
Mestin is also sometimes known as the Clockwork Capitol. Several famous engineers make their home here. Among their creations are four enormous clocks which track the sun across the sky and display the current date. A city of mechanical wonders and exotic fares, Mestin is often held to be the most technologically advanced city in Karil.
The Isle of Zariah
The isle of Zariah is home to The Dancing Cathedral, the most magnificent feat of architecture to be found anywhere in the Karil islands. As the sun carries out its daily routine, the lights reflected through the beautiful stained glass windows of the cathedral seem to dance with one another in a grand ball of colors. Also known as Mindani’s Cathedral, after its designer, it has become a favorite destination for holy pilgrimages. Of course, only those wealthy enough to afford its 20s ‘mandatory donation for upkeep and repairs’ ever see the inside.
The southernmost of the Karils is a small island named Remus. This is where the weinan are originally from, and their traditional culture is best observed here. Because of an agreement with the weinan made by the slith, only weinan are allowed to set foot on Remus. The other races, because of their deep respect for the slith, generally choose to honor this treaty. Those that do not, perhaps seeking the fabled Temple of Remus and its supposed treasure, the Star of the Night, generally find only madness and ruin, returning with tales of a monster-haunted land that seemed to fight them every step of the way. How the weinan live there so comfortably is unknown.
History of Karil
This is only a broad overview of the history of Karil. Players whose characters have the appropriate history skills will be told more as they need to know it.
Discovery and Colonization of Karil
According to legend, the inhabitants of the Karils came there seeking shelter from a race called the tarkin. The tarkin supposedly held a great superstitious fear of the islands and refused to set foot on them. The race of slith were instrumental in freeing the other races from bondage, and are accorded respect and honor for the deed to this day.
After their arrival in the Karil islands, the people began to spread out, remaining mostly in what is now Ketter. However, two factions gradually developed and began fighting over the best land. The northern faction followed a man named Nasqui, while the southern faction followed a man named Anson.
The First Nasqui/Anson War
Finally, there was bloodshed between the two factions, which developed into a feud and then a war. It looked like the factions were set to wipe each other out until the appearance of Zariah, the first Prophet.
Zariah, the First Prophet
Zariah was a human hermit. He didn’t like the company of others at all, and so he lived alone on the plains, hunting and foraging to feed himself. Then one day he came down to talk to Nasqui and Anson, saying that the God of the Islands had spoken to him and explained how to end the war, among other things.
Zariah was forced to perform several miracles in order to prove the validity of his statements, and did so easily, restoring sight to a man, and bringing a child back from the dead, a feat which has never been repeated (and which has become a favorite point of argument for modern scholars of history.) His status proved to the leaders’ satisfaction, he explained what the God had told him.
Anson was to take his faction and go south with them to form a new colony. Nasqui was to go north and do likewise. Those who had remained neutral were to stay in the central part of the island and maintain the original colony. This plan caused some grumbling among the factions, but Zariah summoned lightning from the sky, and they quickly agreed to the plan.
The Demon Plagues
Time passed, and the three colonies grew into great countries. They were prosperous and trade was conducted, with Ketter acting as a go-between for the other two countries. Zariah had attracted many followers before his death, and some of them were now performing miracles of their own. Then one day, a band of adventurers returned from an old ruin with some mysterious books. When deciphered, these books explained how to call upon creatures who lived in other dimensions and bargain with them for their services. All sorts of strange and wonderful devices could be crafted in this manner.
The adventurers performed the ritual and summoned up a poltergeist, talked to it, and then bound it into a sword. Several days later, they fell ill with a mysterious disease, which proceeded to spread like wildfire among the populous, inflicting nearly everyone in the three countries. Fortunately, Zariah’s old followers were at hand, and walked among the plague victims, healing them with a touch here and a whispered word there. Of the tens of thousands who had contracted the disease, less than 10% died. After this tragedy, the Church of Three, as Zariah’s followers had become known, swelled in membership immensely. An effort to ban enchantment, or demonology, was made. Unfortunately, the books turned out to be incredibly common among the old ruins of Karil, and the lure of power was too great for some to resist. Two more outbreaks of plague claimed the lives of another hundred people or so, but then they stopped. The reason for this is unknown, and the Priests of Three still use the "Demon Plagues" as an example of the evils that come of consorting with demons.
Svall, the Second Prophet
In time, the Church of Three grew lazy and corrupt. They began to charge for their healing services, and built gaudier and more opulent churches. The Dancing Cathedral was built on the Isle of Zariah, and became the headquarters for the Church.
Then the second Prophet appeared among the grae. His name was Svall, and he said that the God of the Islands had spoken to him, condemning the greed of the Church. As proof, he offered several new miracles which no one had been able to perform before. He called for the Priests of Three to cast aside their wealth and travel with him, seeking to purify their bodies. Some did, about 1 in 5. These became the ascetics and, in their early days at least, travelled the land doing good where they could.
At this time, there was a race of large predators that would frequently feed both on the people’s livestock and on the people themselves. The creatures were called rotin, and a group of farmers approached the ascetics asking for aid in curbing them. Svall decided not only to reduce their numbers, but to wipe them out entirely. Systematically, the ascetics proceeded to do just that. When the last rotin died, Svall found himself unable to perform miracles any more. Contrite, he prayed for forgiveness, and was rewarded with a vision of the volcano that would become the ascetics’ home. Svall was never again able to perform a miracle, and the ascetics no longer travelled the land attempting to help the people.
The Rise and Fall of the Demon Emperor
A decade or two after the ascetics finished building their monastery, an enchanter named Merphis found a scroll with the name of a powerful demon on it. He summoned the creature, little realizing exactly HOW powerful it was. The demon broke the circle he had used, blasted Merphis’ mind into jelly, and took over his body. The demon must have been mad, because it took over the town of Mertin, and then declared itself Emperor of all Karil. After making its absurd declaration, the demon proceeded to go on a week long spree of terrible debauchery, ended only when the kitchen staff found it in a drunken stupor and boiled the demon until it departed from the world.
Seriss, the Third Prophet
More time passed, and a third Prophet arose, this time from among the slith people. Seriss said that he had been told that the ascetics’ error had been turning away from the mind and spirit to pursue a path of violence. He proposed a peaceful priesthood coexisting with nature away from the temptations of civilization. They would meditate and seek peace through the control of their emotions, and observation of nature. He and his followers became the rationalists, and they retreated to an island to pursue their religion.
About that time a group of enchanters got together and organized themselves. The leaders of the three countries supported them in the hope that they would impose safeguards upon the practice of enchantment that would prevent such disasters as the Demon Emperor from re-occurring. The Church wasn’t pleased by this decision, but it saw the reasoning behind it and chose not to argue.
More time passed, and certain herbalists began to expand their knowledge beyond the realm of roots and leaves. Like the rationalists, they wished to pursue perfection through the observation of the physical world. They began to theorize that all things were made up of only a few building blocks put together in many ways. Using vitae and other naturally occuring magical things, they started exploring the nature of the universe. They invented some wonderful things, and the Church, which had been concerned that they were going to be another group of enchanters, relaxed. Then, they went and invented smoke powder, and all hell broke loose.
The Thousand Wars
The various noble families all saw smoke powder as their chance to gain a throne for themselves. Cobbling together peasant armies and arming them with the new pistols, the nobles waged gruesome war on one another from behind the safety of a line of farmers.
Merideth, the Fourth Prophet
As the bloodshed was getting worse, the fourth Prophet appeared among men. Her name was Merideth, and she strode out onto the battlefield, bullets passing around her (and, some swear, through her as well) and began killing the nobles who lead the armies in various nasty ways. In less than a month, the wars were ended. Meredith said that she had been told to stop the bloodshed. She said that she had been told that the rationalists had focused on expanding their minds, and neglected their spirits and emotions.
Furthermore, Merideth said that the spirit was the most important path to perfection, for only it was immortal. The other things were ephemeral and illusory. Gradually, she attracted a group of priests and they claimed an island for their headquarters. They became the first solipsists. Predictably, her teachings were too radical for most people, and not only did they not catch on very widely, but they also angered the Church as well as the other factions.
The Faction War
A lot of bitterness and anger had built up between the Church factions, and the solipsists became the spark that started a war between them. For a time, priest fought against priest as each faction sought to eliminate the others. Then, after about a week of fighting, the miracles stopped working entirely. Reluctantly, a truce was declared, and the priests went back to tending the sick and injured. Once they did that, their powers returned.
The turmoil of the Thousand Wars and the Faction War have died down. The Church factions are eying each other warily and jockeying for position, though never openly. They restrict their activities against the other factions to small acts of sabotage and subterfuge now. The three countries have reached a sort of balance of power, and for the last fifty years, the islands have sat in an uneasy truce on all sides. How long it can last is anyone’s guess.
Overview of Karilian Fauna
The wildlife to be found in the Karils is a mix of creatures both familiar and foreign to us. On the one hand, many of the domesticated creatures seen roaming the streets of the cities in the Karils would be recognizable instantly to you or I. Cats, dogs, pigs, cows, and even chickens live in the Karils. Also, many animals such as wolves, deer, bears, and boars run free. Admittedly, only a small portion of Earth’s wildlife exists on Karil, but these creatures fulfill basic needs and are easier to identify with than exotic creatures that would only serve the same purpose.
More interesting to players are the wildlife they are unfamiliar with. There are few of the standard AD&D monsters, and in fact players will find that the bulk of their enemies are other (NPC) characters. There are no undead, fairies, humanoids, dragons, or such in the Karils. Instead, the Karils are populated by ordinary, if sometimes vicious, animals.
For instance, in the northern reaches of Nasqui where it can get so cold that smoke powder freezes and becomes useless, there live two major predators that threaten people. The first is called a snowstalker, a type of large, shaggy canine with six legs that is rumoured to be nearly unkillable. The second type of predator is called an ice lion. It lurks among the treacherous crevices that crisscross the mighty glaciers in northern Nasqui. When a creature falls into one of the crevices, presumably injuring themself in the process, the ice lion is waiting to feed upon the weakened being.
Further south, in Ketter, the creatures are a bit less malevolent. The most notable of all Ketteran wildlife are the great herds of steelbacks, enormous herbivores somewhat resembling a rhinocerous. Unlike the rhino, their sense of sight and hearing are both quite keen. Smart travellers avoid them. A steelback stampede is a horrific last sight.
Finally, in the jungles of Anson lie the most exotic, and unknown creatures. Adventurers who travel into these jungles are seldom heard from again, although some return with horror stories of malignantly intelligent beasts. One intrepid explorer, Sir Renaldo Matthias, returned with the head of an enormous insect that he claimed had sucked the blood from his guide’s body.
So, while the Karils have little to offer in the way of standard fairy tale monsters, they have more than their share of very real, and very deadly, creatures.
Overview of Karilian Flora
Karil is very unusual in its flora. There seems to be some sort of magic inherent to its soil, because many of the plants and trees are magical. Even those that aren’t often have some property that people have found useful.
Among the trees, there are a number that we would not be surprised to see in the forest or a botanical garden. However, there are four types of tree that stand out: bloodwoods, goss trees, barrens, and vagabond trees.
Bloodwoods exude a sap that looks startlingly like red blood and scream much like a dying animal when struck with an axe. The sap is sometimes fermented for a rather ghastly looking, but supposedly delicious, wine.
Goss trees have, instead of leaves, a network of tiny green fibers stretched from limb to limb. They look like trees playing cat’s cradle. This goss is often used as a cheaper alternative to silk.
Barrens are considered a mixed blessing by farmers. Their seeds and roots exude an herbicide that the barren itself is immune to, but that other plants (including its own offspring) die if exposed to for too long. It is possible to clear a field by planting barrens in it, but care must be taken that the precious topsoil is not lost when the barrens’ root systems are removed. Barrens are easily spotted. Simply look for a tree with an oversized root system extending through the topsoil around it that has no other plant growing within 10’ of it.
Vagabond trees are mobile. Not such that they can get up and walk around like a person, but they are capable of slowly crawling 5-7" a night, usually to seek a spot more exposed to sunlight, or to chase after dwindling water reserves.
The number of unusual plants is rather large and will be covered in Appendix F: Karilian Herbs.
Copyright © 1998-2006 Phillip Riley
Last Updated Sat Aug 11, 2007