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Setting copyright 2009 by Michael E. Lopez, Esq. Materials licensed under CCL ANCND 3.0
Home Page ~ Overview
History ~ Inhabitants ~ Atlas ~ Gods ~ Religion ~ Magic ~ Economics
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What is Calisenthe?

Calisenthe is a fantasy campaign setting designed to allow the player characters to both be developed and operate within a fully realized social, historical, political, and economic context. It is a world with dozens of races, nations, factions, peoples, and religions. Although it is, essentially, a "traditional" fantasy setting, it has several highly salient features that should be mentioned up front:

Active Gods: The Gods of Calisenthe are very real, and most of the peoples of the world know that they are real. As one might suspect, this has a profound effect on how humanity has developed. Religious wars are surprisingly uncommon, for there is little debate that a nation's gods are real or not. The presence of active deities actually reduces dogma and theology; it is not necessary to create intricate systems of theological metaphysics when the head of your church can ask questions of God directly.

The Evil Gods Are Here: Key to Calisenthe's writing essays setting is the fact that those Gods who are thought to be "evil" are in fact trapped on the planet with humanity. They were exiled here for their sins in the Celestial Palace, and here they stay working their mischief and pursuing their own selfish ends.

Low Magic, but Powerful: Magic is not a prevalent force in Calisenthe. There are no magic shops, and seldom few magic practitioners. But magic in Calisenthe is incredibly powerful: those who do practice the arcane arts are capable of truly terrifying displays of power. Magic items are extremely rare, but potent.

No Demi-Humans: This isn't entirely true: there are "elves" in Calisenthe, but they are really a species of man. While there are a few non-human races, the infinite variety of humankind is more than enough to allow players to find a race and culture that fits what they want to play.

Few Monsters: There are few natural monsters in the world of Calisenthe. Fighting a bear or a lion is dangerous enough without needing to make it into a Displacer Beast or an Owlbear. What monsters there are are generally supernatural: demons, the descendants of demons, and the undead; monsters do not just appear, and they almost always have a purpose (and usually a sinister one). There are several races of humanoid, including Lizardmen, Korom, Ankora, and the mysterious Vedart, but they are not "monsters" – they are the inhabitants of civilizations.


Who is Jaltanis, and why am I being pestered with his name?
-King Norilan I of the Sethreki

There are two predominant themes that went into the design of the Calisenthe setting (although they need not necessarily be manifested in game play): Choices and Salvation.
The theme of Choices is one of consequences, responsibility, and loyalty: the characters are immersed in a realistic world filled with hundreds of people, all following their own agendas. Just as in the real world, if you wish to do anything of any import amidst this sea of interests and egos, there are dozens of people who will attempt to tell you how to do it, try to profit from your ingenuity, or just work to prevent you from doing it at all. Choices are easy to make; informed choices where one must consider all the context in which one operates are far more difficult, but far more interesting. Some may seek to escape this web of obligation and ambition -- certainly you may act as you wish out in the wilds, away from civilization: but tales of your foreign adventures will eventually reach home, will they not? And surely you do not intend to stay in the wilderness forever. Eventually, politics is going to matter.
In Calisenthe, political conflict serves as a "thickening background" against which all of the party's grand adventures takes place. If the party's decision to defend the mountain village against a Korom incursion is not directly motivated by politics, it will certainly have political fallout. Perhaps the local Count will be grateful. Perhaps he will be upset that the players are usurping his authority with the villagers. It will depend on the Count. It will depend on the players' previous and subsequent actions.
Even among the player characters there are personal and sometimes hidden agendas. Most of the time, these do not conflict, but sometimes even the most battle-tested of friendships can face unavoidable choices: where do your loyalties lie? Choices are difficult, but they have to be made.
The theme of Salvation is, at its heart, a type of choice. Calisenthe is a world filled with and steeped in evil, with but the possibility of goodness. That possibility lies in the hearts of men.

The Human Paradigm
The world of Calisenthe is a world of men; Dwarves and Minotaurs and Centaurs are but isolated freaks if they exist at all. The cities teem with greedy, nasty factions of humans all dueling against one another to accomplish their goals. The subtextual story of Calisenthe is the story of mankind's fight against darkness, of its pushing towards salvation. With every bridge, with every city, with every law and temple, with every book and school and hospital mankind pushes further away from his benighted cradle of ignorance and fear and towards a future wherein he might find solace.
One should not think that there is no intelligent non-human life in the world. But what foreign races there are have been driven over the centuries into the dark and less fertile areas of the world, or lurk there by nature; the majority of them are either demon-descendants or strange races created by warped and twisted gods fallen into evil. Mankind is alone in receiving the blessings of the Gods. The rest of the world is, actively or simply by nature, working against their betterment and salvation.

A Tortured World
Calisenthe maybe a world of men, but it is not mankind's world; they simply live here. While the benevolent Gods look over their faithful, and take pity on the plight of man from the safety of the Celestial Palace, the Gods of Evil are quite literally on the ground. This world is their prison, and its very bones are infused with the spirit of their father, Elledan, the mightiest and most twisted of all Gods. The twisted Children of Arlavel, terrible demons, stalk the shadows and uninhabited frontiers. Their influence is felt throughout the land, but most poignantly in the hearts of men. Kingdoms clash and leave corpses strewn by the thousands across the same lands year after year. Greed and ambition fuel the dreams of men, turning them to murderers and cutthroats. The majority of people know nothing of these terrible influences, and truth be told, their lives are simply difficult -- not beset with unending sorrow and evil. The threat of corruption sits always like a curtain in the background – easy to miss but astonishingly obvious once one sets ones eyes upon it. Good or evil? The choice is a man's to make.

Shaping Your Destiny
Salvation and Choice all come down to one thing in the end: what will you be in your life? The single most important thing in a role-playing game is to have the denizens of the world care about the player characters. Character creation in Calisenthe should be an involved process; no character should be created in a vacuum. Friends, family, business interests, and personal history should be developed and woven into the fabric of history and sociology that is presented. Beyond these initial steps, however, getting the world to care about the player characters is a question of the characters' actions.
Every action a character takes makes an impression on the world. Every action leads to consequences. Some residents of the world may react positively. Some negatively. But they will react. And the greater the action on your part, the greater the reaction. Threaten their interests, and they will seek to destroy you. Offer them the chance to increase their power, and they will count you as ally, or at least allow you to help them.
Calisenthe is designed to be an immersive and setting, rich with motivation and history, that is able to be both dynamic and reactive. The "meat" of the campaign setting is in other men: what they want, what they will do, and how they will react to the players. It is designed to give the players a realistic environment for their own desires and plans. The scope of ambition can be limitless: Do you wish to be Emperor? Give it a try and you may well prevail. But do not expect the Emperor to take your efforts lying down. He is a watchful man, and the moment that he realizes you pose a threat, he will move to destroy you. And he is Emperor for a reason – there are thousands of nobles and soldiers who have a vested interest themselves in seeing the Emperor maintain his power.
Perhaps your ambitions are less lofty, and you wish only to run a farm? Once you start producing, expect your neighbors to care about what crops you grow and how it affects the local market. Expect the traders to care what prices you set, and expect them to ignore you if you set them too high. Expect the local lord to particularly care how much you produce, and how much of its value he can manage to get into his own coffers.
No one cares about your character until you make them sit up and take notice. So go out and make them.

Game System

Calisenthe is a world designed for a highly customized version of the Rolemaster 2d Edition (RM2) ruleset. Actually, I doubt that there is anyone out there who uses Rolemaster in a way that isn't highly customized: it's more of a set of rules for designing role playing games than a role playing game itself. The Rolemaster system places emphasis on certain aspects of play which lend themselves to the Calisenthe theme of Choice. Combat is extremely deadly. You can easily die if you choose a bad place or time to fight; even a lowly kobold (if there were such things in Calisenthe) could slay a mighty 20th level fighter, although it would certainly be a rare occurrence. But that possibility keeps players on their toes, and makes them think about the consequences of their actions. Rolemaster character generation is also incredibly flexible, if a bit on the complex side. If you want a fighter who can cast a fireball... well, it will be expensive but you can do it. Wizards can wield swords, if they wish. Anyone can learn to pick locks. There are well over 100 skills available to players (and I've reduced that number considerably). This gives players the flexibility to be and do whatever they wish: for the non-magic using professions (what in D&D are called classes), profession simply dictate how expensive it is to purchase certain types of skills. The magic professions are a special case, as it is not easy to come by divine or arcane power, and those who seek such powers must devote their lives to it. Nevertheless, Calisenthe could be easily adopted as a D&D setting, or into any other type of setting, for it is true in real life as it is in my game: you can do whatever you want. You simply have to worry about whether certain companies might try to stop you...