What follows is considered common knowledge among the various peoples of the Nomad Earth. Scattered throughout the exposition are house-rules that detail how this setting aligns with the 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons rules.
The Exodus and The Divine Council
In the days before the Exodus, there were many gods. They watched over the rivers, lakes, mountains, oceans, and peoples of the Earth. Their power flowed through those who worshipped them and while there was much darkness in the world, there was also great good. Eventually, an era of peace settled over the lands, and civilization reached untold heights in magical power and technological advancement.
Emerging from this golden age came four mortals of incredible power. Their names may have been lost to time but their deeds will never be forgotten, for when a traveller from another plane showed them a path to divinity, they attempted to achieve godhood. The Hunter took to the few remaining wild places of the world to slow the relentless march of civilization. The Priest communed with all the gods of the world and acted as their voice among mortals. The Warden raised the world’s largest army, and through strict discipline and might they protected their cities. Finally, in their hubris, the Mage wielded untold magical power to try and kill one of the old gods, in order to claim their place in the pantheon. With the extra power granted by the Outsider, the traveller who had started it all, the Mage struck a mighty blow. The maimed god bled, but did not die, and the pantheon of Old Gods sought retribution.
The Old Gods shook the Earth with their fury, and only the Hunter’s bond could heal it. They blasted the cities with fire and famine, and only the Warden’s shield kept them alive. They drained magic from the very ether, and only the Mage’s cunning held a fragment back. They called judgement upon the five usurpers, and only the Outsider’s shadow allowed them to escape. And they would have pushed and pushed with all their infinite might until the world cracked under the weight, if not for the Priest’s final plea for mercy.
With the world in ruin, the exodus of the Old Gods began.
And the five new immortals formed the Divine Council.
The Nomad Earth
In the present day, the world is entirely covered by the waters of the Boundless Ocean, where the ruins of Old Earth lie buried beneath the waves. The only land that remains are the great chunks of earth that were lifted into the skies during the Exodus, where they gently float to this day. These drifting Earth Motes now play host to all manner of cities and settlements, and civilization carries on as best it can after the destruction of the golden age of Old Earth.
Often referred to simply as motes, these floating islands are all that is left of the lands of Old Earth. Drifting a few hundred feet above sea level, the motes follow a set of paths known as ley-lines that crisscross the Boundless Ocean and occasionally converge or split at locations called Nodes. Left to the whims of nature a mote will continue to drift along these ley-lines at random, but a powerful enough druid can also influence its direction, selecting pathways as they find them.
Each mote is capable of producing its own unique biome, which are usually influenced by their natural course through the ley-lines. A mote whose natural course continuously carries it through hot, dry areas is likely to bear a desert biome, while a mote that sees a lot of rain might be topped with thick jungle.
As they travel, it is not uncommon for two motes to pass one another, and such an event is called a Convergence. If both motes bear settlements these occurrences spell times of great celebration and trade, otherwise an unsettled mote might be tapped for rare resources or relics of Old Earth. Not every encounter is friendly however, and some more vicious races will use these opportunities to raid a passing mote; Greenskins are well known for this behaviour. No convergence yet has resulted in a head-on collision, but scrapes are common when a druid isn’t on hand to steer one mote clear.
While many ships do still ply the waters of the Boundless Ocean, some wealthy or well-connected individuals are able to travel through the skies aboard a more advanced kind of vessel. These airships allow passengers or sailors to travel from mote to mote thanks to the incredible power of the Arcane Lodestones. Each airship carries one of these crystals, which absorb the ambient energies of the worldwide ley-lines. When an attuned individual sits at the helm they are able to channel the Lodestone’s stored energy into levitation and flight, directing the airship’s every movement as if it were their own body.
These rare vessels aren’t built anymore, and are instead excavated from the sunken ruins of Old Earth. Even after they are retrieved, an airship might require years of repair work before it is sky-worthy again. For these reasons, the dream of owning an airship is out of the reach of the common folk. However, it is possible to experience flight by booking passage on one of the few cruise ships and ferries that regularly travel between motes.
While the Old Gods are absent from the world, remnants of their power still remain. Devout Clerics and Paladins who revere one or more of these deities are able to call upon these remnants in order to perform miracles. Many of the names of the Old Gods are lost to time, or only known of in certain parts of the world, and so no widespread religious doctrine exists. Nevertheless, the power channelled by these individuals cannot be denied.
There is one exception to all of this however. The Priest and their followers form the one and only organised religion on the Boundless Ocean, with chapels and churches on most settled Motes.
Player Characters (and NPCs) can worship any god they like. Because they are so distant, there is no way to prove which gods did or didn’t exist. Nevertheless, someone with enough belief is able to channel divine power from somewhere and that is enough proof for most people.
Since the Old Gods have left the world. Any communion effect on a spell is answered by The Priest instead of any given cleric’s chosen god.
Alongside the divine power granted by The Priest and the Old Gods, there exists a magical energy that infuses the world itself. Once harnessed, this energy can create magical effects on par with the miracles performed by the most devout clerics. This energy is defined by academics as being arcane, a form or source wholly separate from the divine powers; though secular scholars have argued that this energy could be the true source of divine magicks as well.
Whatever one’s beliefs, it holds true that arcane magic can be harnessed through long and careful study, and those who dedicate their lives to this pursuit are known as arcanists. Across the motes, many different schools teach and study arcane theory and each has their own unique formulae and rules that they believe defines the laws of magic. The immense amount of time and resources it takes to achieve mastery at one of these schools means that they are most often attended by the wealthy, and even then there is no guarantee that any given student might achieve the status of arcanist.
Spellcasters are rare, typically from wealthy or noble families, and tend to selfishly hoard their powers and secrets. 75% of magic users have access to a couple of cantrips and perhaps a 1st-level spell or two and more powerful spellcasters get exponentially rarer as they get stronger. It is reasonable to expect that there are no living spellcasters with access to 9th-level spells outside of the new Gods of the Divine Council.
While many mortals have at some point witnessed the grand external magicks of the Arcane arts and Divine miracles, there exists a third, less-visible source of supernatural energy. This hidden power exists in the spark of life inherent in all living things, and to those who study its secrets it is known as Primal energy. It is this energy that allows a druid to commune with both beasts, plants, and motes, while allowing those of strong will to turn aside blows as if their skin was iron plate.
Because this source is drawn from each individual, it is much harder to codify than either Arcane or Divine magicks. For this reason, Primal energy is almost always studied from a position of emotional awareness rather than academic theory.
House Rule – Magic and Resting
Low Magic and Gritty Healing. Short Rests will take 8 hrs, and must be spent somewhere comfortable. Long Rests take 7 days and must take place in a settlement. This means that while on a mission, you will have the chance to take short rests, but typically need to wait until the job is done to get a long rest.
Resurrection. Reversing death is among the most difficult types of magic that can be attempted. Any spell that would bring someone back to life (with the exception of Revivify) requires an additional ritual to be performed, with the actual spell being cast at the ritual’s culmination. Up to 3 people performing the ritual can try to strengthen the dead soul’s connection to life and make their return easier. They can do this any number of ways, but commonly these will involve speeches entreating the spirit to return, or the presentation of items that had significance during the spirit’s life. These might require a skill check to be considered successful.
At the end of this process, the spell is cast and the deceased must make a D20 roll with a DC of 18 in order to return to life. The DC is reduced by 2 for each successful connection made by the people performing the ritual. If the roll equals or beats the DC then the deceased is returned to life and if the roll fails by less than 5 then they return as a partially undead revenant. If the roll fails by 5 or more however, the soul is lost permanently and an undead creature is summoned instead. If there is a body present it rises up as a ghoul, otherwise a wraith appears. Either way, the creature immediately attacks.
Revenants. These partially undead creatures are vulnerable to radiant damage and resistant to necrotic. Their gray, lifeless skin marks them as unnatural, causing common folk to fear them, which will grant either disadvantage or advantage on social ability checks. They require no air and no food or drink to survive, any they do consume turns to ash in their mouths. There are rumours among esoteric texts that an ancient ritual exists that can bring a revenant back to full-life.
In the Nomad Earth, Player Characters can come from any of the following folk. What follows is a short explanation of where these folk might originate from.
Humans. During the Exodus, a large portion of the Human population survived simply by virtue of being spread out. Humans can hail from anywhere in the Nomad Earth, and can be found on any civilised Mote.
Legacy (Variant Human) – Knowing full well that they aren’t as long lived as other races, some human families have dedicated themselves to a particular legacy. Members of these families follow stricter traditions and training than regular folk, and as a result they acquire more specific skills.
Elves. The Exodus was a time of great tragedy for all, but especially for the kingdom of the elves. Their home, the shining city of Aesira, was swallowed up by the Boundless Ocean and lost to the waves. Those who survived the loss found themselves isolated and scattered across a strange new world, with no central guidance. This has left the Elven people as a race of individuals, who rarely work with others.
Aesir (high elves) – This group of elves has banded together to try and reclaim their lost culture. These fair-skinned, lithe, and tall kin are naturally adept with arcane magic.
Vanir (wood elves) – Some Elves found themselves in the wild places of the world and learned to live with the land. These tanned and muscular kin are most at home among nature, especially forests, and tend not to wear shoes.
Kotir (desert elves) – These Elves roam the desert Motes in nomadic tribes for safety. These dark-skinned and graceful kin are natural survivors, enduring the terrors of the desert for lifetimes.
Dwalin (dwarves). Squat and proud, dwarves once built the most long-lasting structures and artifacts the world had ever known. During the Exodus, the Dwarven city of XX was flung into the skies almost entirely intact. Life in this city-mote has made the Dwalin a bureaucratic and communal people
City dwarf (hill dwarf) – Dwarven clans who reside in their capital Mote. These folk are masters of trade and enjoy the pursuit of mastery in their chosen craft.
Wild dwarf (mountain dwarf) – Dwarven clans that live outside of the city have more need to defend themselves. As a result, these Dwalin are trained from a young age in the basics of warfare.
Holming (Halflings). These diminutive people were spread far and wide by the Exodus. But unlike the humans, who simply settled where they were, the Halflings became a people constantly on the move, traveling the world on the backs of family housebarges.
Seeker (diver) – A Halfling family’s livelihood is based around the salvage and sale of Old Earth relics. Seeker Halflings are the ones tasked with diving down into the sunken ruins and searching for anything of value
Trader (lightfoot) – A smaller portion of the Halfling population works as traders, selling the recovered relics to land-folk wherever and whenever a Housebarge docks.
Drakys (dragonborn). Most surviving dragonborn hail from the Zorus Dynasty far to the South, named for the Ancient Gold Dragon that rules their close collection of Motes. Rarely seen in the Federation, it is not uncommon for rumours of war or invasion to follow the appearance of a Drakys.
Gnome. In the hopes of reviving the technologies of Old Earth, most gnomes spend their lives around airships. Because they are small and hard-working, they can find easy employment in any vessel or factory, and often stick around purely for the joy of discovery.
Half-elf. The occasional communion of human and elf is a curious one, as mortals and immortals become fascinated by the lives of the other. But their offspring experiences some of both, with the passion of a mortal paired with an incredible (if not truly endless) lifespan.
Half-orc. Afflicted with Greenskin, these individuals have begun to change into something beastly. While some are able to stall the disease, spending the rest of their days as a half-orc, for others this state is a temporary step on the path to violence and madness.
Godling. To some, the birth of a godling is proof that divine forces are still watching and directing from afar. But the truth is that no one really knows why some humans are born this way.
Tiefling – In smaller communities, the superstitious claim that when a tiefling is born it is either because the woman has lain with a devil, or the family has been cursed. Either way, a tiefling child is rarely well-treated in these less enlightened places.
Aasimar – The appearance of an aasimar child is always seen as a boon. Either a reward for faithful service, or a portent of great things to come. Aasimar children are forced to live with those great expectations.
House Rule – Desert Elves – Subrace
Ability Score Increase. Your Constitution score increases by 1.
Natural Riders. You gain proficiency in the Animal Handling skill and do not need a saddle or reins to ride a mount.
Desert Walker. The first time you would gain a level of exhaustion, ignore it. You regain the use of this ability after finishing a long rest.
House Rule – Diver Halflings – Subrace
Ability Score Increase. Your Constitution score increases by 1.
Expert Swimmers. You gain a swim speed equal to your walking speed and proficiency with Vehicles (water). Furthermore, when you run out of breath you can survive for a number of rounds equal to twice your Constitution modifier (minimum of two) before you drop to 0 hit points and start dying.
During the Exodus, the upheaval of Old Earth released a magical fungus from under ground. This entity has a unique life-cycle that ranges from mold all the way up to individually sentient creatures called goblinoids, and infected hosts called orcs. First taking the form of a sticky fungal growth that absorbs dead animal material to feed, the mold will eventually sprout egg sacs wherein a goblinoid is formed. These goblinoids can emerge as a variety of forms based on the creatures that were consumed in its creation.
When wild beasts are consumed, a basic goblin is born, short in stature but with the combined animal cunning and ferocity of its food source. When more intelligent species are fed to the mold, the resulting creature emerges as a Hobgoblin or Bugbear. Regardless of its type, goblinoids are asexual and reproduce only by securing more food with which to feed themselves and their progenitor fungus.
Wiping out the mold is a hard task made all the more difficult by the clouds of infectious spores that surround them. Any humanoid who breathes these spores has a chance of contracting greenskin, a parasitic disease that slowly breaks down its hosts mind while strengthening its body. The end result of such an infection is an orc, a bloodthirsty and deranged creature whose only motivations are combat and food.
However, not all of those who are infected with Greenskin succumb to its effects. Powerful healing magicks and the host’s own robust constitution have been known to stop the spread of the infection. Those individuals who show the visible effects of greenskin are known as half-orcs, and regardless of whether the disease’s progression has been stopped, they are treated as inherently dangerous by many.
The populace of the Nomad Earth are mostly devoid of magic. The people leave it to their clerics and arcanists to ponder. But monsters lurk upon lawless Motes and the remnants of ancient empires and older magicks await to be found there. All classes are available for Player Characters.
Bard. While the mundane minstrel or troubadour is a common sight throughout the Nomad Earth, there are colleges of arcane study that teach musical theory as a medium through which to manipulate and create magic. The bards who study and graduate from these colleges are unparalleled performers and skilled arcanists, though their approach to magic is often seen as strange by the more established arcane schools.
Barbarian. While every living thing has a spark of primal magic within them, some individuals are able to tap into theirs through raw emotion. Most common amongst the Kotir and Seeker Holming, these fighters are able to empower themselves to perform great feats of strength and to shrug off blows that would fell an ordinary mortal, simply by harnessing their raw anger and rage.
Cleric. It is not always clear why the Old Gods gift their divine power to mortal folk. But it is always those with strong convictions and a dedication to their chosen path who manage to perform divine miracles. The stronger someone’s belief, the more powerful they become, but when that belief waivers, so too does their ability.
Druid. The hidden Primal Energy of all living things might be invisible to most, but not the druids. Not only are these individuals aware of their own inner strength, but they are able to perceive the spark in other living things. This gives them a mystical connection to the plants and animals of the world that they are able to call upon in times of need. They grow in power while close to a ley-line and even more-so when near a node, but when removed from these places their connection weakens.
Fighter. Just as the Arcanists spend their lives in study, so too do some seek perfection in physical combat. Whether duelists, brawlers, champions or archers, these individuals hone their strength and reflexes until their skill in battle is legendary.
Monk. For some, the path to unlocking their Primal Energy lies through discipline, self-analysis, and training. It is nearly impossible to achieve this level of emotional control and awareness without the guidance of a tutor, but there are many temples and communes dotted across the Nomad Earth that offer this difficult path to those who seek it. Some attend in the hopes of overcoming a personal flaw or trauma, while others simply seek to unlock their inner strength. Almost universally, however, those with selfish goals are unable to find the peace required to succeed.
Paladin. When the clergy is in need of military strength, they turn to the various paladin orders for help. Having sworn an oath to uphold their order’s tenets, each paladin is a faithful soldier bolstered by some measure of divine power. Most chapters serve the mission of The Warden as both guardsmen and military force, while other orders follow more specific goals, such as the hunting and destruction of vampires.
Ranger. Living in isolation on the fringes of civilization, some mortals find themselves becoming attuned to their Primal Energy as well as that of the wilderness. Some of these individuals become unparallelled hunters while others use their newfound connection to befriend powerful beasts.
Rogue. Without the aid of magical powers or divine guidance there are still mortals who through dedicated study or necessity can become experts in their chosen field. In fact, many believe that because they require no outside help, these individuals become more skilled than any other.
Sorcerer. Much to the chagrin of studious arcanists, it is possible for individuals to be born with an innate understanding of how Arcane formulae work. Skipping years, possibly decades, of study and able to manipulate magical forces with natural ease, these rare arcanists often discover their abilities in flashy, explosive, and sometimes tragic fashion.
Warlock. Beyond the reaches of civilization there lies a world suffused with magic. The realms of devils, fae, and the Old Gods. These hidden places are incredibly dangerous for mortal folk to wander. Yet there are those foolish enough, or perhaps brave enough, to venture into these wilds and strike bargains with the powerful creatures who dwell there.
Wizard. The infamous arcanists, who spend their lives in the pursuit of knowledge, have the best understanding of exactly how and why magic works the way it does. Depending on where they learn their craft, they possess unique perspectives on certain types of magic, whether they be illusion or transmutation. Arcanists often keep meticulous journals that detail the complex formulae needed to enact their spells and protect these valuable tomes with their very lives, for they are the culmination of their earned knowledge. It is a very rare arcanist indeed who shares the secrets of his spellbook freely.