Rise of the Twilight Empire
Character Creation Primer
I use the background system from PHB 2. It’s pretty simple: pick a skill related to your character’s background. Add that skill to your class skill list, or if it’s already on your class skill list, get a +2 bonus to it.
In addition, I require three things from every character:
A relationship with one other PC
No one exists in a vacuum, and it makes putting a party together easier if you know at least one other PC before the game starts.
A short term goal
Your character needs a hook. The wilderness is a dangerous place. You’d be insane to go out into it. Why are you?
A long term goal
What does your character want to do with their life? Or rather, what would you like to see happen to your character in the long run?
Races of Clay (Humans, Halflings)
These are the races with little inborn magic. They are shaped by magic, rather than the other way around. Despite this lack of natural ability, they have crafted great empires through sheer determination and willpower, and now that their empires have crumbled, they cling to life the same way. Halflings and Humans are distantly related, though few today can say exactly how.
The Fey, or the Races of Wind (Elves, Eladrin, Gnomes)
There is another world, parallel to this one. A world where the rules of reality are as fragile as glass. A world of great beauty and terror. It has many names: Faerie, The Shining Lands, the Plane of Dreams. The scholars of Nerath called it the Feywild. It encroaches on our world, and many of its denizens and monsters have passed through the veil. Wood Elves are fey who came to the world millennia ago and have adopted this world as our own. Eladrin, or High Elves, and their servants the Gnomes, rarely leave their crystalline cities in the Feywild. If they have, it is either for a crucial mission, or it is to wreak havoc and discord. The Fey are nothing if not unpredictable.
Moradin’s Chosen, or the Races of Stone (Dwarves, Goliaths)
At the dawn of the world, a great war was waged between the gods and the primordials. Moradin, the Forge God, built two races back then: the Dwarves to forge great weapons and the Goliaths to wield them. Both have the endurance of steel, and the same can be said of their willpower. Both are reclusive. The Goliaths hide their clans high atop the mountains, while the Dwarves hide theirs beneath them.
Half-Breeds (Half-Elves, Shifters, Genasi)
Magic, once it has entered a human bloodline, never leaves. Since humans have so little natural magic, they absorb it readily from any source, and thus they can breed with many of the strange magical races of this world. Half-Elves have a touch of fey blood. Shifters have lycanthrope blood. Genasi have elemental blood. There are two other half-breed races worth noting…
The People of Fire (Dragonborn, Tieflings)
Millennia ago, there were two great rival empires that spanned the world: Arkhosia and Bael Turath. Arkhosia was ruled by dragons, while Bael Turath was ruled by humans who made a pact with the forces of Hell who became Tieflings. The two empires engaged in a war that lasted nearly a century that wound up consuming them both. Their legacy lives on, however, both in the ruins and artifacts they left behind and also their people. Because magic never leaves human blood, the half-infernal Tieflings and the half-dragon Dragonborn persist to this day.
The Ghostborn, or the People of Shadow (Shadar-Kai, Changelings)
There is actually another parallel to this world other than the Feywild, but where the Feywild is bright, the Shadowfell is dark. It is the land of death. The underworld. Purgatory. It is where all souls reside for a time before either being taken to the Astral Sea by their god or passing through the Raven Queen’s gate, beyond which even the gods may not tread. But even a land as dark as this is not totally devoid of life. The Shadar-Kai were humans who worshipped the god Asmodeus slew in his rebellion. In mourning, they entered the Shadowfell and pledged themselves to the Raven Queen. Its dark essence entered their souls, and now they need to experience extreme emotion to feel anything at all. Changelings, or the Faceless Men, are people who stole secrets from the gods and came to the Shadowfell to seek refuge. They were granted the ability to change their shape by the Raven Queen so they could hide on one condition: they could only take the form of someone who was already dead, or someone who gave their permission to use their face. That isn’t to say mimicking the face of an unaware living person is impossible, but it wouldn’t be advisable for a Changeling to return to the Shadowfell if they did. It is unwise to anger the Goddess of Death and Fate.
The People of Light (Devas)
There are two ways for an angel to leave the service of its god: rebellion and desertion. The rebels become devils, while the deserters choose to be born into flesh as the immortal Deva. When a Deva is killed its soul, after spending its time in the Shadowfell, is reborn into another body. The experience is traumatic, and only fragments of the Deva’s previous life remain in its memory.
The False Men (Warforged)
Nerath was famous for two things: its piety, and its magical craftsmanship. The Warforged are what resulted when it sacrificed the former for the latter. Nerathi mages learned the art of soulcraft, a domain previously restricted to the gods. They bound the new souls into bodies of wood and stone and used them as engines of war. Many believe that is why the gods did not lift a finger when the beastmen razed Nerath to the ground.
The Demonborn (Drow, Half-Orcs)
When men are tainted by demon blood, they become Orcs. When elves are tainted by demon blood, they become Drow, dark elves in service to their corrupted goddess, Lolth. But the demonblooded curse is not absolute, and some strong-willed individuals can overcome their instinct for bloodlust and cruelty and join the civilized races. Orcs who break away are often referred to as Half-Orcs, because an orc who does not kill for sport can hardly be called an orc at all.
Beastmen (Orcs, Gnolls, Minotaurs, Ogres)
The result of mixing demon blood with the various races. They are engines of pure destruction.
Goblins (Goblins, Hobgoblins, Bugbears)
These three are actually different breeds of the same race with wildly different physiques and temperaments (much like different breeds of dogs). They were once fey as well, but they crossed over so long ago, even before the elves, that they have gone completely native.
The Candleflames (Kobolds)
The servitors and slaves of the Arkhosian empire. When the empire collapsed, they spread out and bred like rats, and now they are a nuisance everywhere.
Arcane (Wizard, Mage, Bard, Sorcerer, Swordmage, Warlock, Hexblade)
Magic permeates the world, flooding in from the various planes of existence. Throughout history, the peoples of the world have learned to harness these energies to perform marvels that garner them a mixture of respect and fear. The purest of these practitioners are the Wizards, who learned their craft through intense study and mental discipline. There are the Swordmages, a nearly extinct order of Mage Knights who hone their bodies as well as their minds. There are the Bards, who have learned the secret of magic encoded in the songs of the old empires. There are the Sorcerers, who were born with such an abundance of power in their souls that magic courses from them in barely controlled bursts. And there are the Warlocks, who sold a piece of their soul to something dark in exchange for power.
Divine (Avenger, Cleric, Warpriest, Paladin, Invoker)
During the days of Nerath, the Divine Fires of the Astral Sea burned brightly in the cities of men. The gods were liberal with their favor, investing many with their power. Perhaps that is why so few prayers are answered today. Perhaps the gods’ power is mostly spent. Regardless, very few are granted divine favor in these dark days, and those who do receive it interpret their gifts in very different ways. Avengers believe that they have been granted power to spill the blood of the wicked, exacting justice with the headsman’s axe. Clerics believe that it is their purpose to seek out the sick and wounded, and to put things right where they find them. Paladins believe that it is their duty to place themselves before the darkness so that they may preserve what light there is left. And Invokers believe that it is their duty to bring change to the hearts and minds of men, restoring their virtue so that the gods might grow strong once more.
Primal (Barbarian, Druid, Sentinel, Shaman, Warden)
The world is a living place. It is located between the Astral Sea and the Elemental Chaos. It is where thought meets matter to create form. All that is has substance… and spirit. There are those who have learned to commune with these spirits. They have learned the ancient laws by which those spirits are bound, and they can call for their aid when needed.
Martial (Fighter, Knight, Slayer, Ranger, Hunter, Scout, Rogue, Thief, Warlord)
Finally, there are those who need no magic and survive by their wits and training alone.