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Campaign Workshop: Gloriana, Gaslamp Fantasy for D&D 5e


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I probably shouldn't do this, but waht the hell, can't hurt to see if folks would be interested in bringing this to life, right? Gaslamp Fantasy, for the unfamiliar, is essentially "Victorian Fantasy", similar to Steampunk being "Victorian Science Fiction". Prominent examples of Gaslamp Fantasy in gaming include Victoriana (adventuring in the Victorian Era on an Earth where D&D-esque demihumans (and Wind in the Willows-esque beastfolk) and sorcery are real) and Castle Falkenstein (an alternate Victorian Earth where famous Victorian fictional characters are real, and the presence of faeries has brought both sorcery and steampunk technology into reality). Both of these, however, go for the approach of "take real world Victorian Earth, add random fantasy bits", and that just isn't satisfying to me. So, I started crafted my own take on the subject in Gloriana, coming up with the following material:

Setting Pitch
Merchants backed by steely-eyed soldiers funnel the wealth of lesser empires back to fatten the hoard of a dragon queen. Elven aristocrats while away their evenings in brilliant soirees where the trappings could feed families for a year. Scarred, flint-eyed dockworkers huddle in a smokey tavern, human and orc and others united by their experiences as they whisper of heresies such as “democracy” and “revolution”. Welcome to Gloriana; a fantasy world draped in the glamors and splendors of the Victorian Era... but equally steeped in its cruelty, its decadence, and its hypocrisy.

Setting Statements
Invoking Earth: Though Gloriana takes its inspiration from Victoriana, it takes place in its own world, and is not constrained by real world politics, history or geography.

Gaslamp Fantasy: Victoriana motifs in a magical world is the foundation of what Gloriana is. Mad science, adventure, action, romance; Gloriana is a world of wonder and danger, glamour and squalor, where passion can make a man a hero, a monster, or very, very dead...

Science Born of Sorcery: The Industrial Revolution was not born of science, but of sorcery; it was the transformation of magic into something that can be mass-produced and cheaply acquired that truly transformed the world.

The Great Game of Empires: The mightiest nations of Gloriana eye each other uneasily, fingering their metaphorical knives. Spies, diplomats, assassins... politics is a thriving and deadly industry in this world.

Explore the Untamed Frontiers: The lands beyond the Old World are a source of intrigue to those who have the opportunity to pursue them. Whilst vulgar profit is, of course, never far from most heroes’ minds, the drive to explore and adventure in strange and unfamiliar lands is lauded and celebrated within the courts.

Gilt Over Rot: For all the splendor and purported civility of the Old World, it is a pretty face over inner ugliness. Deep social inequalities and corruption plague the so-called “civilized” empires, and colonization remains a deep-set ambition. There is much darkness to tackle, for those possessed of courage and a civil mindset.

The Gotterdammerung: Magic is ebbing away. It is not dying, per say, but its presence is diminishing; the mightiest displays of its potential are slipping from the world and nobody can say why.

Humanity, the Everyman/Reign of the Elders: Humanity has a place in Gloriana, and individually it can be a place of pride and prestige. But as a whole, humanity stands eclipsed by the glories and powers of older races, powerful empires built by non-human hands accepting humans into their ranks, but with no homeland to call their own. Some accept this, others lash out.

Designer's Notes

>This world is Earth-like, not an Earth-analogue. The aesthetics are shamelessly stolen from Victorian era fiction, but this is not literally "Victorian Earth, but Queen Victoria is a mithril dragon".

>Steampunk "science!" is in fact a form of sorcery; all technology in this world has its ultimate roots in the magical energies of the world itself. In other words, it's magitek with a steampunk veneer.

>There should probably be some kind of arcane equivalents to coal, oil and other fuel, but I haven't come up with anything so far. Stuff that at least partially makes magical mass-production possible.

>Flying machines are possible, but rare and expensive; attempts to create cheaper, more readily mass-produced versions haven't worked yet - but there's big money to be made for anyone who can figure it out.

>The world is divisible into several noteworthy continents; there may be others, but these are all the ones that are present "on the world stage" so far. Names are from the in-universe equivalent of Eurocentric:
>>The Old World - the Europe analogue, the hotbed of the empires, Great Britain, France, Russia, Germany.
>>The Young World - the Americas analogue, where the natives take rather a dim view of attempts by foreigners to just annex everything.
>>The New World - undiscovered regions so far.
>>The Dark Continent - Darkest Africa meets India. Full of ancient and decadent powers, and mysterious, unexplored lands.
>>The Exotic Orient - You need a picture painted?

>Magic is the lifeblood of this world, but it's ebbing away. It won't vanish completely, but it is dwindling; the most powerful expressions of magic itself are becoming increasingly rare. Basically, the total numbers of wizards isn't in decline, but their power level is averaging out, to simplify things

>There are two major philosophies about magic's fate; the Cyclists believe that this is a natural phenomena, with magic waxing and waning like the tides, and see no reason to panic, whilst the Drainers believe something has changed that is sucking away the raw magic.

>>Sub-philosophies exist mostly to reinterpret these basic truths; for example, some believe that magic is dwindling because the mortal races have gotten too stagnant or too jaded, others believe that "science" is leeching the power from the world.

>>Technically, there are four major philosophies about magic's fate, but the Dying (who believe that magic will ultimately vanish forever) are generally considered Drainer-extremists, and nobody respects the Denialists (who insist that nothing's going wrong).

>Stealing from 4e, "magic" manifests through different manners, creating 4e's Power Sources; Martial, Arcane, Divine, Primal, Psionic, Shadow and Elemental. Each of these Sources is regarded in a different light by different cultures; most embrace 1-3 and shun the others.

>Humanity is the "Everyman Race" of the setting. This is not necessarily a good thing. Humanity has no independent empires to call its own, but is instead integrated into the power structure of other empires. Whilst the foolish look down on humans, the wise respect them; the average human may be weaker in this respect or that, but humanity produces more exceptional individuals than other races, and an exceptional human can easily match - or master! - a member of another race.

>General themes include Romanticism, Adventure, Two-Fisted Tales, and Gotterdammerung.

>Possible Nations:
>>Hobgoblin kaiserreich.
>>Great Britain meets The Council of Wyrms.
>>Bael Turath succumbing to its own decadence, with its gnoll jannissaries plotting revolution.
>Celtic "Airlantis" ruled over by magical viking elves, with a growing population of half-elves seeking greater power.

3rd Level Fighter

...has a cunning plan...
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My first comment is that if you call something 'Gloriana,' I expect it's focus to be Elizabethan England, not fantasy Victoriana...

Mr. Kent

The Oh Em Gee
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One of my own homebrew settings was on the cusp of technological revolution - there is an alchemical mineral substance called "blasting powder" that acted similarly to gunpowder, but resulted in firearms being referred to as "blasters". It gave everything a slight pulpy edge!


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Make the China analogue a land rules by kitsune and thus known as the Land of Foxes. It would be a nice step away from the stereotypical association of China and dragons.
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