[WotBS] Ostalin world building ideas
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  1. #1

    [WotBS] Ostalin world building ideas

    I'm quite enamored with Ostalin's existence in the WotBS adventure path. It's not too often you see a setting that includes a region that allows Xianxia to co-exist with the Fantasy genre, and I find it a fascinating combination.

    For those unfamiliar with Xianxia, it's basically the Chinese equivalent of the Fantasy genre in the west; just with a foundation set in Wuxia instead of chivalry and an exploration of the schools of buddhist and taoist philosophies (concerning reincarnation and karma) instead of pagan religions and multiple deities. The two genres share a lot of similarities for players to use with their focus on epic and cosmic struggles, focus on heroic archetypes, and a plethora of supernatural abilities, supernatural creatures, and gods/demigods. The similarities got me thinking about how I can build out and develop Ostalin in my WotBS setting, and since the WotBS campaign is being rewritten for 5e, I thought I'd share my thoughts with the community and collect opinions. Some thoughts to get started are as follows:

    Druids as a Secret Society based in Ostalin
    A common theme in Xianxia is the idea that the world of martial arts and the supernatural is separated in some way from the world of the common folk, and that there exist separate but equal factions within the world of martial arts. Western audiences can understand this difference as being akin to the relationship between the Wizarding world and the Muggle world in the Harry Potter series; and the relationships between factions like the vampire societies in Vampire the Masquerade. The Druidic language provides a perfect barrier between druids (the Wizarding world) and the rest of the world (the Muggle world), and give players and DMs a lot more opportunities to handle the druidic language class feature when not around other druids. Even when handling druids, there is plenty of ideas and conflicts if the DM treats druidic circles as distinct factions. That means the druidic sign a PC encounters from another druid could be from a friendly druid npc or an antagonistic one who is operating secretly and the PC has to decide whether or not to reveal the secret war to his allies.

    Stories of shapeshifting monsters who assume the shape of humans are rife in Asian fantasy literature and connect nicely (even if reversed) with the druid's wildshape abilities. It wouldn't be unusual for monks in Ostalin to be able to transform into animals if we assume a Xianxia inspiration for their more mystical members. The druid's spellcasting and focus on nature also makes them natural allies or antagonists to the four elemental titans, keeping them in check and maintaining the balance. This ducts nicely with the secretive nature of their society and helps bring Ostalin's traditional isolationism into the main storyline.

    Anyway, this is just the start of an idea I have when trying to incorporate druids into the campaign beyond their traditional role as protectors of nature. Any thoughts are welcome, as are your own ideas about how you incorporated any of the other classes into the setting.

  2. #2
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    It is 3am so I cannot give this the proper brainpower, but I like where you're going. You also make me feel better for what I honestly felt was a kinda shoe-horned in Asian culture.

    I did something a bit similar for ZEITGEIST, which is mostly Europe-in-the-1800s inspired, with the collapsed nation of Elfaivar standing in as Persia/India resisting colonialism. But then it was worked into the plot a bit more thoroughly. With hindsight I think the Ostalin/Two-Winds thread of WotBS felt . . . 'undercooked,' I guess.

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    I always had the impression that Ostalin would have benefitted from an expansion on the Khagan succession issues and felt as if that had been part of the plan all along. (It might have been scrapped because it would have felt a bit repetitive after the Dassen adventure)

    Anyways, the idea sounds great. In my own campaign, I hinted at the existence of a continent-spanning druid network that existed before the current nations. Druids were once cornerstones of every smller nation and helped them to maintain balance, tame their environment (mostly weather) and live in concordance with their surroundings. Remnants of this influence can still be seen in Ragesia and especially Sindaire with their focus on bears that always reminded me of totem spirits or a favorite shapeshifting form.

    I added the existance of something similar in what is now Shahalesti, back in the days when the three elven tribes lived in constant exchange. They had a covenant with the local nature spirits that granted their druids power and insight into the natural world. This pact was shattered before or during the invasion of Morrus, the Shahalesti turned to arcane magic, the drow went underground and only the Taranesti retained some of their druidic influences. Needless to say that the nature spirits weren't really happy about this development.

    There's also Toma, the mad druid, who appears in one of the bonus adventures who's an expert on elemental spirits, elementals and elemental planes.

    Besides that, I always read the orc tribes as being inspired by mongolian culture while Ostalin had indeed a wuxia vibe (I mean, flying monks?). Regarding your druidism, I'd add biomancy which clearly originated from Ostalin. That could be either a special druidic technique (that got stolen or corrupted?) or something that got developed as a "mundanely magical" counterpart to druidic powers.

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