THE SUNSET LANDS
Ghosts and pain rule the dark, arthritic Mother Countries: corrupt giantis mercilessly exploit the peasantry, aided and abetted by their sibeccai slaves and a handful of undead aristocrats. The heavy tread of civilization crushes the last pockets of green wilderness. With existing frontiers closing, the undead masters of the Mother Countries look further and further afield for lands to conquer, exploit, and control.
In the Far West, they find the Sunset Lands.
Ryker: Right? You in the right! Look, Starrett. When I come to this country, you weren’t much older than your boy there. And we had rough times, me and other men that are mostly dead now. I got a bad shoulder yet from a Cheyenne arrowhead. We made this country. Found it and we made it, with blood and empty bellies. The cattle we brought in were hazed off by Indians and rustlers. They don’t bother you much anymore because we handled ’em. We made a safe range out of this. Some of us died doin’ it. We made it. And then people move in who’ve never had to rawhide it through the old days. They fence off my range, and fence me off from water. Some of ’em like you plow ditches, take out irrigation water. And so the creek runs dry sometimes. I’ve got to move my stock because of it. And you say we have no right to the range. The men that did the work and ran the risks have no rights? I take you for a fair man, Starrett.
Joe: I’m not belittlin’ what you and the others did. At the same time, you didn’t find this country. There was trappers here and Indian traders long before you showed up and they tamed this country more than you did.
Ryker: They weren’t ranchers.
Joe: You talk about rights. You think you’ve got the right to say that nobody else has got any. Well, that ain’t the way the government looks at it.
Ryker: I didn’t come to argue. I made you a fair proposition.
The Sunset Lands is an experiment: a generational saga stretching across four hundred years. The heroes are those men and women who, in each era, strive to improve the world, and free the Sunset Lands from the mistakes of the dying Mother Countries. They are the explorers of the new verdant fields, the leaders of the struggling young colonies, the settlers who and the revolutionaries who struggle under the yoke of taxation without representation.
The center of the world is the Eternal City, the massive metropolis of Ka-Rone on the south side of the Diamond Isle. There, roughly half a million workers strive to enrich themselves and their familes, desparate to buy a little slice of immortality. The Eternal City is the nexus of a vast web of trade routes that connects the whole of the Mother Countries – coal from Ka-Del, timber from Udeph, wool from the hills of Ysellian and ivory from the sunny plains of Erique. The Kingdom of Diamonds and its smaller satellite states cover the Mother Countries like a heavy patchwork quilt. For hundreds of miles in every direction, there is no wilderness, no land untouched by traders.
The great giantish ships, crewed by sibeccai slaves, dwarf the shabby competition: humans, litorians, faen, and verrik, whose own dreams of empire and conquest have hitherto been thwarted. They ape the giants of the Diamond Kingdom slavishly.
This imitation extends to the popular art of necromancy. The oligarchs who rule the Diamond Kingdom and its satellite states are undead, centuries old – milliennia, in a few cases – and they grasp firmly the keys to their kingdoms. Pussiant darkbonds and mage-priests who subsist on Unlife and pact with beings from the Planes Infernal, the masters of the Mother Countries are ever watchful for threats to their power base.
Most mortals have no chance of ever joining the ranks of the Unliving elites, but immortality can be bought in other ways. The great Akashic Libraries in Ka-Rone and other cities store the memories of millions of men and women who lived and died, their personalities and thought patterns trapped in crystal like flies in amber. The wisest and the best of these memory-stones are consulted like counselors, and most gather dust, kept against the day they may be useful.
Then, to the Far West: the Sunset Lands.
A giantish trader blown badly off course discovered the route to the Sunset Lands a mere thirty years ago. The continent is big, that much is for sure. With magical aid, cartographers have determined the shape of perhaps five hundred miles of coastline, and believe that there are two large islands, with numerous smaller islands between them. Ao-Mordat, the first permanent colony in the Sunset Lands, was established a few years ago by the Diamond Kingdom on an island off the coast of the northern subcontinent. Ao-Mordat has a population of about three hundred: two hundred and fifty sibeccai laborers, who grow sugar cane in the hot tropical sun, and a handful of giantish and other colonists who oversee and guard the fledgling community.
No intelligent natives to the Sunset Lands have been met (but they almost certainly exist).
With the exception of runechildren, who are described in legend but have not been seen in the Mother Countries in millennia, all races in Monte Cook’s Arcana Unearthed are present, and appear largely unaltered in the Sunset Lands setting. The primary difference in the races is the lot of the sibeccai, who are seen by society in general and giants in particular as little better than beasts. The language reflects this: sibeccai are not called men and women, male and female (like all other races) but bulls and bettys. It is illegal to teach a sibeccai the art of spellcasting in most of the Mother Countries.
Perhaps three-quarters of the sibeccai in the world are slaves, owned either by giants or by members of other races as status symbols. In the Diamond Kingdom, sibeccai slaves perform much of the hardest, most dangerous labor.
The further one travels from Ka-Rone the Eternal City, the more likely one is to see free sibeccai, but even these freedmen suffer from prejudice and second-class status.
Mojh do not suffer the social stigmas described in Arcana Unearthed. In fact, most mojh tend to be of high social station, due to their magical talents. Exceptions exist, but a typical peasant is more likely to assume a strange mojh is a noble or aristocrat than a lowly laborer.
All classes in Arcana Unearthed are present in the Sunset Lands setting. Most of the inhabitants of the Mother Countries look on greenbonds with suspicion, but the backwards nature-priests are tolerated for their healing powers. All prestige classes in the Diamond Throne supplement are present in the Sunset Lands with the exception of the crystal warrior, whose craft is entirely foreign to the Mother Countries. Beast reavers and somnamancers are both quite rare and usually found only at the edges of civilization far from the Eternal City. Darkbonds and mage-priests are both relatively common and powerful (magically and politically). Rune lords come entirely (and uncommonly) from the ranks of runethanes.
In the Mother Countries, all spells with the (negative energy) descriptor are cast at +1 caster level. All spells with the (positive energy) descriptor are diminished unless laden. Magic in the Sunset Lands functions normally.
The projected scope of the Sunset Lands campaign is vast. Characters begin in the spring of D.T. 1522 (the calendar begins with the alleged founding of the Eternal City), at the fledgling colony of Ao-Mordat. They probably form a sizable percentage of its nonslave population. From there, they explore the new land and face the various threats on a young settlement far from civilization.
After a reasonable amount of time (eight to twelve sessions of play) the game will skip ahead several decades, to learn the ramifications of the players’ actions in the previous era, and continue the generational saga of the colonization of the Sunset Lands. In this way, hopefully, the 16th, 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries of the calendar will be fully explored.
At the time of one of these “time skips,” players will have the option of a) aging their character by the appropriate amount, probably moving him or her into the Old or Venerable age categories, b) creating a new character from scratch, or c) playing a new character who has been infected by the personality of the previous one, due to a mishap while studying a memory-crystal. Eventually, player-characters may become immortal via transmutation to undead (or some other means).
Ideally, the campaign will include roughly eight eras, from the first explorations in the early Sixteenth Century to the range wars/Old West/vanishing frontier of the Nineteenth.
Because the story of America is the story of killing people and taking their stuff.