Shadows over Ustalav
The style of this campaign is more focused on investigation, supernatural dread, and horror than traditional fantasy campaigns. Ustalav is a country with a long established history of conquest and civilization. While some areas of Avistan, such as Varissia, The River Kingdoms, and Irrisen are similar to most fantasy settings, others are much more civilized. Ustalav, Taldor, and Andoran are more similar to 18th Century Europe in style and culture. One may draw parallels between Andoran and the United States, Taldor and the Byzantine Empire, Ustalav and Eastern Europe. Druma and the Dutch, Galt and France.
While not “steampunk,” it is a world in which the first results of industry are apparent. Literacy is on the rise but still the province of the wealthy. Good steel implements aid farmers. Modern alchemy provides kerosene and other useful materials. Merchant guilds operate across borders expanding trade and culture.
Ustalav is a country of extremes, whose urban centers are places of learning and culture, and whose hinterlands are places of superstition and dread. Many consider themselves to be forward thinking beings of culture, but just as many are prepared to burn a witch for crop failure. In both the urban centers and the hinterlands, the rule of law is expected. Adventurers are often considered to bring trouble. Those who walk in civilized areas in full armor and armed for battle are considered dangerous and often shunned. Ustalav is highly humanocentric and outsiders and non-humans are likewise looked at as threats until proven otherwise. How one chooses to react to such conventions is their own affair.
Still, it is a dangerous world, and many do wear light or concealed armor and carry light weapons or a staff for defense.
Magic, particularly of the arcane sort, is feared and reviled – especially the art of necromancy. This is a natural reaction to hundreds of years of being subjected to the brutal reign of an undead wizard. Obvious spell casting or flouting of magical ability may have nasty consequences, ranging from social prejudice and ostracism all the way to the extremes of encounters with lynch mobs out to protect their community.
While spell casters are not unheard of and may even operate openly within their own communities, it takes some time to develop the necessary trust… sometimes, years. Magic in the big cities such as Lepidstadt or Caliphas is more accepted and with lessening degrees of prejudice… but the threat of mob justice and attacks on known casters is always in the undercurrents of any community.
Magic isn’t the only thing to inspire prejudice – race is often a factor. Humanity, the majority population, in Ustalav is suspicious and close minded enough when it comes to their own kind, let alone when it comes to the non human races. ‘Magical’ races such as Elves and Gnomes are distrusted, Dwarves are seen as tight-fisted and grasping, and halflings, while perhaps the most tolerated of the non human races are looked down on. Half Orcs and Orcs experience fear and hatred in varying degrees due to the constant raiding of the Orcish tribes from Belkzen. Kellid Barbarians, even though they are human, also experience similar responses.
Finally lethal combat is looked on very harshly by local authorities. Fisticuffs and brawling are one thing, using a sword to cut down a foe in the street or blasting people with lethal magic in a bar is quite another. If weapons do come into it, clubs, staves and perhaps knives are seen as semi acceptable solutions in the right circumstances (and are easily disposed of). A good way to see the inside of a jail or wind up dodging groups of vengeful friends is to use deadly force at the wrong time. Adventurers are well advised to use non lethal force in situations where the law may get involved, failing that, ensure that they either have a very good reason for its use, or avoid conversations with law enforcement types, such as city or town guards, altogether by a rapid departure from the scene.
We will be assuming the default availability of guns in Golarion. Per the SRD:
“Emerging Guns: Firearms become more common. They are mass-produced by small guilds, lone gunsmiths, dwarven clans, or maybe even a nation or two—the secret is slipping out, and the occasional rare adventurer uses guns. The baseline Gunslinger rules and the prices for ammunition given in this chapter are for this type of campaign. Early firearms are available, but are relatively rare. Adventurers who want to use guns must take the Gunsmithing feat just to make them feasible weapons. Advanced firearms may exist, but only as rare and wondrous items—the stuff of high-level treasure troves.”
Guns and ammunition are not generally available for purchase, though the components needed to craft these items are generally available.
Metal cartridges may be crafted per the Gunsmithing rules. Advanced firearms may not be crafted by usual means, and must be acquired as wondrous/rare items. Methods may include side-quests, befriending influential NPCs, treasure troves, the liberal application of funds, and so forth.
Note that when using the Rapid Reload feat with firearms, you must select a specific type of firearm to gain the benefit of the feat. Rapid Reload may be selected multiple times to apply to multiples types of firearm.
Ustalav is a nation steeped in superstitious, witchcraft, and things that go bump in the night. Powerful words and deeds have lasting effect within its murky borders: nothing is every forgiven or forgotten but the the peril of all.
Curses are a very real and present part of the world of Carrion Crown. In addition to cursed items or magical curses (as the bestow curse spell), there are places, names, even entire families within the Immortal Principality that bear curses of more sinister and difficult to detect kinds.
Some locations bear the scar of past misdeeds, suffering, and tragedy. These places are called haunts. Haunts contain the lingering ectoplasmic energy of the dead. This ectoplasmic residue can affect the mortal world to varying degrees based on the strength of the energy. Haunts usually have some sort of trigger than causes the energy to become active (usually this trigger is the presence of the living). Haunts usually behave in a prescribed or compulsive manner. The spirits that comprise the haunt, as with all but the most malicious and wicked spirits, always seek rest. Many, however, do so in ways that confound or horrify the living. More powerful haunts are deadly. Haunt effects usually reflect the unfinished business or tragic event that causes the spirit energy to become trapped in the location. Haunts can be permanently dispelled by laying the spirit to rest. This usually requires an extremely specific ritual or action taken in the curses location that appeases, captures, or releases the ectoplasmic energy.
Haunts can usually be combated with quick senses, strong wills, spells and items that destroy or ward off the undead, and thorough scholarship. The key to permanently dispelling most haunts is knowing their origin or knowing tales of other similar happenings.
Some spirits, usually Evil spirits, are bound to places, items, or other people. These bonds serve as anchors in the material plane that help the spirit manifest its ectoplasmic energy. Most bonded items, place, and so forth are cursed. They bend to the will of the spirit, and reflect the spirit’s compulsion or purpose. These bonds, however, can be potent tools in combating Evil spirits. Because they are powerful anchor-points for the spirit’s manifestation, bending a bonded item, location, etc to your own will can over-power the spirit’s will and drain its strength.
The Evil Eye
Words and deeds are powerful in Ustalav, a place where superstition reigns. The DM will be using a modified version of the Ravenloft Campaign Setting Curse rules to handle the consequences of hasty words, dying vows, and sworn revenge. PCs and NPCs alike all possess the power to curse the name of their foes. But in Ustalav, those curses tend to have more potency than they might in gentler lands.