Wednesday, June 9, 2021

The Vaults of sha-Arthan

A few people have asked me for more details of the campaign setting I mentioned during my recent interview. Called The Vaults of sha-Arthan, it's an exotic science fantasy setting explicitly modeled on Jorune and Tékumel but intended to be much more "user friendly" and accessible. Rules-wise, it's based on Old School Essentials, with unique character classes, spells, monsters, and magic items. The classes are
  • Adept: A skilled user of psychic disciplines
  • Scion: An adventuring aristocrat, equally adept at combat and intrigue
  • Sorcerer: A master of arcane arts
  • Warrior: An accomplished combantant
  • +3 Nonhuman Classes
The world of sha-Arthan (which means "true world" in an ancient tongue) is one filled with sclerotic, decadent empires, one of which – Inba Iro – was recently conquered and its venerable throne seized. Though the new rulers, from an upstart frontier kingdom, have largely attempted to maintain the old hierarchies without interruption, cracks have nevertheless begun to appear. Hoary traditions once considered inviolable are now being questioned, including exploration of the Vaults beneath the capital city of da-Imer. 

Many large settlements of sha-Arthan are built atop subterranean structures known Vaults. According to common belief, the Vaults are the original home of Man. They are "vast deeps" from which the Litany of the Forgotten states the Ancients came, before even the First Cycle and the establishment of the Empire of the Light of Kulvu. Entering them, let alone looting them of their reputed treasures, is a great sacrilege in most civilized realms – or was until the conquest of Inba Iro. 
Characters begin the campaign as one of the brave souls recruited to explore the Vault beneath da-Imer, despite the taboos against it. They must contend with not only the dangers they surely exist beneath the city but also factions above that seek to help or hinder their progress for their own ends. As time goes on, I expect the characters will become more actively involved with these factions, in addition to traveling to other locales on sha-Arthan and unraveling the mysteries of the world.

In all likelihood, I'll start refereeing The Vaults of sha-Arthan sometime in July or August 2021. Ideally, it'll be a weekly online campaign, like my existing House of Worms campaign. However, it's also possible that I'll be running a play-by-post campaign in parallel, as a way to develop the setting further. I'm a firm believer in learning through play when it comes to setting design. While I already know quite a few high-level details of sha-Arthan, there's a lot more I haven't yet decided – and will only decide once I've had a chance to referee the campaign.

The Vaults of sha-Arthan is an exotic fantasy setting with lots of science fictional elements. It's a chance for me to play with many ideas I've been tinkering with for years but in a completely new context that draws on my years of experience refereeing Tékumel. I'm very excited about it.


  1. Sounds very interesting. Look forward to seeing this develop.

  2. Sounds pretty awesome! Are you looking for any new players for the PBP campaign, or do you already have that sorted?

    1. Nothing is sorted yet and probably won't be for a month or more. First dibs on spots in the online or PBP campaigns goes to patrons, after which, if there are still spaces available, I'll likely make an announcement here.

    2. Very cool. Any chance will see something in print?

    3. Almost certainly at some point. When and in what format I have no idea yet.

  3. I really dig this. It sounds very very cool!

  4. Sounds interesting. Artwork's top-notch, very evocative. Worth well over the usual thousand words. :)

    1. I've been blessed with many terrific artists over the years.

    2. Yes. Did you make the font for the logo or find it, and if you found it, what is it?

    3. The font is unique, though it's based on one called (I think) Tip Top.

    4. Nice. The way it's locked up in a frame reminds me of the logo for Jaquays' Dark Tower, while still completely being its own thing.

  5. Sha-Arthan.

    Inba Iro.

    Have you done a post yet on the importance of names in world creation? Their power to quickly evoke flavor and tone is pretty incredible.

    1. I haven't – but it's a good suggestion!

    2. You active in the Constructed Language community at all? It's a bit more of a writer thing than a gamer thing but there's a lot of crossover. I hover around the fringe of ConLang crowd, mostly because I find it fascinating to see how much work some folks are willing to put into creating languages around fictional cultures. Barker and Tolkein come up pretty regularly for obvious reasons, but the community's grown far beyond them.

    3. No, I'm not involved in the conlang community. It's something I'm interested in, but not enough to delve too deeply. When I was a younger man, though, I dabbled quite a bit in the field.

    4. Michael Moorcock is a master at coming up with unique, flavorful names:

      Terarn Gashtek
      Rackhir the Red Archer
      Moonglum of Elwher
      Agak and Gagak
      Chardros the Reaper
      Theleb K'aarna
      Jagreen Lern
      Saxif D'Aan
      Voilodion Ghagnasdiak

      Love all those apostrophes, hard K sounds, unnecessary Hs, and double letters.

  6. All this looks intriguing. I like the idea of a more accessible Tekumel-style setting. I'm looking forward to seeing how you develop this. (And I really like the crisp style the artist used in the pieces in your post.)