The Dusk Barrens
Who will you be?
And how long will you last?
0. The Basics.
These are the basic things everyone should know:
The Dusk Barrens stretch to the west, sprawling across eldritch swamps and hilly forests that have never been tamed. There's nothing in the east for you. The Empire is rich and prosperous, but there's no adventure there. If you survive and find what you're looking for, you might retire there, to live a rich and fulfilled life.
Your adventures always start and end at the town of Prosperity Keep, the last bastion of civilisation on the edge of the Dusk Barrens. The town is poor and dirty, but it's safe – you won't be adventuring in it.
Each session is self-contained. Players venture into the wild, find or are found by adventure, and return home. There is no fixed regular party – the players initiate a game ("Next session, let's go after the rumors of a ghost in the Frozen Glade") and recruit each other ("Joe, you're good with undead, wanna come?"). Characters may group with other characters of any level.
Every session lasts 2.5 to 3 hours in real time, and then The Gloom descends and sweeps you back to town. The Gloom is a curtain of darkness that originates in the west of the Barrens, at unpredictable times, sweeping all adventurers and depositing them back at Prosperity Keep, confused and disoriented.
You get XP for every expedition you participate in. Extra XP is granted for making impressive discoveries, defeating formidable enemies, and gaining treasure. And also for contributing to the game by writing sessions summaries and the like.
Your adventuring career will end in one of three ways: You'll retire, hopefully after fulfilling your motivation for adventuring; you'll die in the wild, inspiring other heroes to continue in your stead; or something weird and unexpected happens to you. Celebrate the legacy of your old character by starting a new one!
All of these points might change in the future, as you explore and uncover the stories of the Dusk Barrens, changing the town, heroes old and new, and even the game's structure itself.
1. Choose a Race. (Compendium)
Dwarf, Elf, Halfling, Human.
Uncommon, but available: Half-Elf, Half-Orc.
Also available, from Volo's Guide to Monsters: Lizardfolk, Goblin, Orc.
2. Choose a Class. (Compendium)
Note the following changes and remarks:
|Barbarians||The best class for simply surviving, and overcoming the many physical challenges of the wild.|
|Bard||You have a way with people, and therefore you are always considered Practicing a Profession during Downtime, as a background activity that you simply always do. In other words, you live a comfortable lifestyle with no need to pay for it, and can still take other Downtime activities.|
|Cleric||Clerics worship or follow one of the Four Saints, or the Dragon Dark. See Divine Beings.
All clerics carry a small Shard of Divinity, which enables them to cast spells. They can't cast without it.
|Druid||Druidic magic is not a harmonious part of nature, but a form of worship of an Immortal called The Wild, which allows them to shape and influence the natural world. See Divine Beings.|
|Fighter||You start with an extra ribbon, a form of exploration-based special ability. See Ribbons|
|Monk||You probably seek to emulate the way of life of one of the Four Saints, from when they were still mortal.|
|Paladin||Paladins have dedicated themselves to furthering the causes of the Four Saints, the Dragon Dark, or a lesser known Immortal. See Divine Beings.
They have absorbed into themselves a small Shard of Divinity, which empowers their divine abilities.
|Ranger||Recommended favored enemies: Aberrations, beasts, constructs, monstrosities, plants, undead.
Recommended favored terrains: forest, grassland, mountain, swamp.
|Rogue||Thanks to your…unsavory connections, you are always considered Practicing a Profession during Downtime, as a background activity that you simply always do. In other words, you live a modest lifestyle with no need to pay for it, and can still take other Downtime activities.|
|Sorcerer||Most sorcerers are either mad or slowly going mad, and are regarded as dangerous, unwanted mutants.|
|Warlock||The warlock's patron is an Immortal, and her level 3 Pact Boon is, in a way, like a cleric's Shard of Divinity. The main difference between warlocks and clerics is that the latter regard their divine patrons as gods, while the former regard them as business partners.|
|Wizard||When choosing spells for your spellbook, I highly recommend considering taking at least a few utility spells among the many fireball-variants you're probably conisdeing.|
3. Decide on your Motivation.
The heroes of the frontier don't have Backgrounds; their past doesn't matter. This is a game about who you are going to become, and how far you'll dare to go.
Choose one motivation, then gain one skill proficiency and one tool proficiency of your choice.
|Motivation||Which means you want…||Suggested skill proficiencies||Suggested tool proficiency|
|Fame||Renown, gaining amazing trophies, starting a legacy||Athletics
|Artisan's Tools, Gaming Set|
|Riches||Gain enough money and power to retire comfortably||Acrobatics
Sleight of Hand
|Artisan's Tools, Thieves' Tools|
|Seeking something||Evidence proving your theory, divine revelation, proving you're the best at X||Animal Handling
|Herbalism Kit, Artisan's Tools|
|Regaining something you've lost||Your courage, your lover, your purpose||Arcana
|Herbalism Kit, Artisan's Tools|
|Running away||Escaping from captivity, avoiding an unwanted role in society, postponing your destiny||Athletics
|Disguise Kit, Thieves' Tools|
|No other choice||Exiled from your land, unwanted by your family or friends, cursed||Arcana
|Artisan's Tools, Disguise Kit|
4. Distribute Ability Scores. (Compendium)
We use the standard array: 15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8.
5. Choose Equipment.
Beyond what's determined by your class, choose an equipment pack.
Gain the tool or kit that matches your chosen tool proficiency.
Roll for a trinket, if you want to.
You also start with 20 gp, with which you can buy whatever you want.
Note: Equipment can get lost or worn on a roll of a natural 1; this includes weapons and armor, which lose 1 point of attack, damage or AC, until repaired during Downtime. Spellbooks and Divine Shards might get torn, broken, or lost.
You can also choose to destroy your weapon or armor when you're taking a critical hit, to reduce the damage to 0, completely absorbing the blow with your equipment.
6. Head into town.
Bring your character to the GM, to be approved and then pushed into the shadowy streets of Prosperity Keep.
The GM will tell you one rumour that you (and only you) know about the Dusk Barrens.
You and the other adventurers all have rooms in The Courthouse, the only inn in town. One day, your room will once again become vacant – for whatever reason. The events that lead to that day are up to you.