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D&D 3E/3.5 I've been running a Ptolus campaign since 2006. Here's what I've done with the setting.

I was backer number 336 for the original, 3rd edition D&D version of Ptolus. The setting, as described by Monte Cook in his prototypical crowdfunding campaign, scratched all my itches: An urban setting, a technologically advanced D&D setting where the technology isn't always available as the world slips into a dark age, a well-developed faux Medieval Catholic church with room for traditional D&D religions alongside it, a looming imperial civil war, room for classic D&D adventures, and so on.

I was so excited that, months before actually getting the Big Book, I got a bunch of my friends to start an online play by post game on a private message board.

My intention was just to loosen up everyone's D&D muscles -- there were people who hadn't played in 15 years, and others who had never played at all -- with an intentionally retro D&D campaign set away from Ptolus proper, since I didn't have enough setting info to run a game in the city with any confidence yet.

So, I went to the far end of the Tarsisian Empire, into the Prustan Penninsula south of Tarsis proper, and created the Barony of Midwood. The Prustan Peninsula is the birthplace of the Tarsisian Empire and the Lothianism faith that is the dominant one in the empire. I reasoned that, even though the area was part of the empire, the region's old pedigree would give those there a few privileges and local imperial officials might still use traditional titles like Baron or Count alongside titles like Imperial Governor.

Midwood is a small forested barony with three (remaining) settlements just north of the wizard-blasted wasteland of Kem. It's mostly parochial, with villages devoted to apple or sheep farming. An indulgent wizard-baron and an officious bishop of Lothian are the local powers. But the barony has one main problem: Green Mountain. Formerly the home of a kingdom of Grailwarden Dwarves (every dwarven mountain is a kingdom, in my campaign, although they all pay fealty to the High King of the Grailwarden, who's a pragmatic sort who understands dwarven pride), 500 years ago, it was invaded by the green dragon Gax, who led a small army of kobolds across the Hotash Mountains to the west. The dwarves were summarily routed, and the survivors live mixed in with the humans in the barony. (There's also a hidden settlement of gnomes in the barony, who are allies, but keep to themselves.) Then, 19 years ago, Gax ... left. The kobolds are dug in, and Gax has made Green Mountain into a dangerous complex that has successfully consumed everyone who's attempted to brave the mountain since she suddenly flew away. But there's a growing sense, especially in the village of Maidensbridge at the foot of the mountain, that change is in the air. In fact, the town is the subject of a popular tavern song throughout the Tarsisian Empire, the Town Where Heroes are Born, as so many adventurers are born there. Some die in Green Mountain, but others venture off into the Empire, making a name for themselves and Maidensbridge.

Our player characters were the newest generation of heroes of Maidensbridge.

At least, that was the theory.

(If you like this recap, and would like to help me get my Ptolus character -- Baeril Underhill, gnome illusionist-turned-detective -- illustrated in the new 5E and Cypher editions, click here and complete at least one of the promotional activities.)
 

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I had set up Midwood as a sandbox, with lots of stuff to do other than just taking a crack at Green Mountain, which I inevitably envisioned as the "endgame" around level 5, after which we would start new characters or move everyone to Ptolus, once the Big Book arrived.

The barony has three main settlements, and a fourth whose inhabitants mysteriously disappeared overnight. There was a haunted Lothianite abbey, the obligatory goblin bandits in the woods, and some other challenges, ranging from longer-term mysteries to one-offs.

The players, of course, had different things in mind.

I was running an unusually large group of player characters. The eight initial characters included Tock Chandler, a discontented bard who wanted to get out of this one-horse village; Ragglus Chaplin, a failed paladin turned fighter who mostly sees himself as a bruiser at this point; Tucker Gallaway, a fighter and the deputy to Maidensbridge's constable; Emmerson Grant, who's both a cleric of Lothian and a novice paladin, whose open-minded ways regularly provokes the ire of the more traditionalist Bishop of Midwood; Emus Graymullet, a Grailwarden dwarf berserker (barbarian) and apprentice to a hermetic druid; Renraw Kem, a wizard school drop-out and the scion of the village Southern Gothic family; Katadid Leach, the apothecary's boy and a diviner; and Hazel Sawyer, a ranger and the eldest daughter of a woodcutter.

The group naturally split into malcontents and upkeepers of the status quo. After the very first adventure, where the group explored a barrow belonging to some of the wizards who had fled the wizard war in Kem, Tock decided to prank the others by pretending to intercept a communication from some bandits. The group then went and staked out a non-existent rendezvous ... only to have a band of kobolds wander onto the scene and get into a fight with the player characters. The player characters then got their first hints that the kobolds inside Green Mountain had their own dramas, with the Cult of Tiamat taking over the clan, which had previously worshiped Kurtulmak, and the cult had a scheme that could eventually threaten the entire barony.

But before the group could come to grips with that, things spun out of hand at a dwarven celebration. The local dwarves -- whom I modeled on Appalachia, rather than faux Scots -- had two rival clans, one of which wanted to retake Green Mountain and one which just wanted to integrate into human society and not lose any more clan members. Alcohol and music got involved and party members got sucked into the fray. Punches got thrown, Tucker Gallaway -- an officer of the empire -- got assaulted, and suddenly, half of the player character group had committed a capital crime.

And Tock, Ragglus, Renraw and Katadid fled Midwood, on the lam, outrunning imperial justice. The fugitives ran south, toward Kem, a wasteland destroyed by a generations-long war between wizards.

(If you like this recap, and would like to help me get my Ptolus character -- Baeril Underhill, gnome illusionist-turned-detective -- illustrated in the new 5E and Cypher editions, click here and complete at least one of the promotional activities.)
 

While the crew remaining behind in Maidensbridge took on the task of purging the evil that had taken root in Maidensbridge Abbey, the fugitives ran south, discovering that the imperial presence frayed the closer it got to Kem.

In Blackberry Ridge, on the border, they encountered a magistrate who was secretly a cleric of Kran, one of Prust's old gods that predate Lothian and are not enthusiastic about being eclipsed by him. The crew exposed and defeated him, earning the support of villagers there, before heading down into Kem. They also picked up a ninth player character, the ranger Lyadak Greensward.

Rival mage clans destroyed the region during the Wars of Fire thousands of years ago, leaving a blasted landscape with "a wizard did it" monsters roaming around, along with scattered ruins and settlements clinging to dreams of ancient glories despite it all.

To me, that sounded like Marvel's classic Conan comics and, in lieu of a giant gila monster, immediately had the fugitives chased by a bullette when they ventured into the wasteland, presumably beyond the reach of Imperial law.

They stumbled across a gigantic mage tower, inhabited by an eldritch giant (who I'll probably make a storm giant spellcaster in 5E) before stumbling into ruins inhabited by debased Kemites. I had intended it to be "Red Nails," but it ended up being more Scooby Doo, with the fugitives almost immediately bringing the entire ruined city into armed civil war and running screaming through the place, trying to avoid getting killed by the various gangs.

Eventually, they broke free -- with the help of the eldritch giant -- headed toward the west coast of Kem, where they hoped to secure passage across the Southern Sea to Freeport. The Southern Sea has pirates and Imperial cities that both sponsor their own privateers and decry the "piracy" of other nations' privateers. I dropped Goodman Games' Freeport in the middle of all of this, as the least law-abiding of Sea Kingdoms, where they hoped they could hole up and disappear.

They headed north along the coast, hoping to outrun the news of their crime on the semaphore tower system. The Tarsisian Empire has technology, but is falling into a dark age. So if the DM wants to, for instance, players can have access to guns and pocketwatches and such. But the knowledge of how to even maintain such things is dying out, and so groups that don't want technology available in D&D don't have to have it. I'm pro-tech, but only when it doesn't trivialize things. So player characters can't rely on traveling cross-country in a dirigible, but they do have to worry about not always being able to outrun information.

The fugitives' flight is slowed by their arrival in a very creepy seaside village with a very unhealthy attachment to the sea. Ptolus has Lovecraftian elements woven into it, especially into its deep worldbuilding lore, but unlike Freeport, where the Lovecraft Mythos are used without even having any names filed off, Cook has his own take on things. I wanted to start hinting at this aspect of the setting, especially since I knew the fugitives would be running through the Freeport Trilogy if/when they made it to that city eventually.

(If you like this recap, and would like to help me get my Ptolus character -- Baeril Underhill, gnome illusionist-turned-detective -- illustrated in the new 5E and Cypher editions, click here and complete at least one of the promotional activities.)
 
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As the fugitives made their way up the west coast of the Prustan Peninsula and to a no-questions-asked ship sailing to Freeport, the folks back home in Midwood began to put together that the kobolds of Green Mountain were trying to collect one or more scales from each color of chromatic dragon, for an as-yet-unknown ritual.

My goal was, if not low level encounters with dragons, to have them encounter more dragon-adjacent elements. I knew that this wasn't going to be a quickie campaign at this point, especially at the pace of play-by-post, but I wanted to get some classic D&D tropes in before we switched to the urban campaign of Ptolus full-time. (And even then, as you will see, the campaign won't be wedded to the location.)

First up was a scale from Flavivirus the Black, a black dragon whom another group of adventurers had recently dispatched. The group headed down toward Kem, coincidentally tracing some of the steps of the fugitives along the way, as they and a band of goblins and kobolds representing Green Mountain tried to both buy the scale off a representative of the other adventuring group. In the end, the heroes obtain the scale and hand it over to the baron.

The next was the scale of Vilustuminen the White, a white dragon that laired to the north in the Hotash Mountains of the Prustan Peninsula and had been the terror of the village of Bootblack, which I also made, coincidentally, the hometown of the Prustan who had invented the printing press, to give the place an identity beyond being a way station of their quest. Vilustuminen was dead, but something was living in his lair, and a band of ogres (modeled after Gryla and the Yule Lads from Icelandic Christmas lore) lived on his mountain. The group got around them but had to confront Nigliktok, the white dragon/snow leopard/mountain goat chimera that had taken up residence in the dragon's lair after its death. (The player characters were still around level 5 at this point, as I recall, and running under 3E rules.)

And after that, the group set sail themselves, crossing the Southern Sea to Uraq, the fantasy middle east lightly sketched for the southern continent in Praemal. Beyond the deserted north, the continent apparently turns into fantasy Africa and maybe even fantasy Asia beyond that, which is what we've done with it, with the nation of Uraq being the buffer zone between two (or more) civilizations that haven't on their own traveled far enough to have much contact with each other.

They had two missions in Uraq: Convince Ra'ad the Blue, a blue dragon who's set himself up as a secular ruler over a stretch of desert to give them a scale and then to invade an ancient ziggurat of Tiamat to try and discover what the ritual the kobolds were hoping to perform actually was.

But at this point, they were down a member, because I had tossed out what I thought would have been just a bit of soul-searching for Emmerson, the paladin/cleric. The party's exploits clearing the haunted abbey had attracted the attention of the Knights of Dawn, and he was invited to become a knight-aspirant in Tarsis. The Knights of Dawn are both the most impressive large order of knights in the setting and also serve as the bodyguards to the emperor of the Church in Ptolus. Instead of saying "I'm very honored, but there's this whole apocalyptic scheme I have to prevent," he said yes, reasoning that maybe he could get their help if things got bad in Midwood later on. (Spoiler alert: Things got bad in Midwood later on.) Players, man. They'll mess with your plans every time.

So Tarsis, which was the capital of the Tarsisian Empire before the Eastern Hordes (whom I've made Conan-style Cimmerians, more or less) invaded, doesn't have a pile of information about it in one place in the Ptolus book. But there's lots of info scattered throughout. It's late Roman Empire Rome, if Rome had achieved Renaissance-to-pre-Industrial Revolution technology before its fall, and is currently ruled by one of three claimants to the Lion-Guarded Throne, a technologist with, frankly, the weakest claim but who is, to my eyes, otherwise the most sympathetic figure in the running. Another note, from Ptolus' chapter on its Necropolis quarter: While Ptolus has catacombs full of undead, like any good fantasy metropolis must, Cook notes that its ghoul-filled catacombs are actually less extensive than the ones under Tarsis. (The idea that only Ptolus has adventuring locales in Praemal always seems crazy to me, although there are groups that insist it's true.)

Emmerson's time in the knight-aspirants exposes what an untraditional paladin he is and, arguably, how out of step the Knights of Dawn are. While his more liberal take on church teachings was a problem he knew would be coming -- it's something his player has wrestled with very well, swinging back and forth over the years as he has various crises of faith -- the idea that the Knights of Dawn thought horsemanship was important was a big shock to him. And that's without the realization that someone in the cloisters is attempting to kill aspirants and trainers. Emmerson's solo adventure climaxes with being plunged into the ghoul catacombs with the other aspirants as a test of courage, with the correct suspicion that at least one of them wants to murder the others, to clear the way for their chosen aspirants to become Knights of the Dawn. The scheme -- put Knights of the Dawn loyal to Empress Addares XXXIV, the claimant to the throne now in the Sea Kingdoms city of Dohrinthas, into the bodyguard of the Emperor of the Throne (the third and final claimant to the Lion-Guarded Throne) and off him. Emmerson, who like the rest of the group hasn't really formed an opinion on the succession crisis yet, what with the kobold conspiracy to wipe out their families and all, suddenly is looked on by all three factions as a loyalist to the Emperor of the Church, which will come back to haunt him and the group repeatedly going forward. Emmerson still fails to become a Knight of the Dawn -- seriously bro, do you even ride? -- but earns their respect and admiration. He's accomplished his real goal of securing potential allies when the dragon feces hits the poorly-functioning-because-no-one-remembers-how-to-keep-it-running fan.

Back in Uraq, his friends have uncovered the ritual the kobolds are hoping to complete: They want to summon an avatar of Tiamat to lead an army of kobolds and hired goblins to rampage all over the barony, wiping out the humans, dwarves and gnomes who live there.

(If you like this recap, and would like to help me get my Ptolus character -- Baeril Underhill, gnome illusionist-turned-detective -- illustrated in the new 5E and Cypher editions, click here and complete at least one of the promotional activities.)
 
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In the meantime, one of my players began running a parallel campaign, actually set in Ptolus proper. There are nine districts to Ptolus, and thus nine main divisions of the City Watch. Our group was the Tenth, a special group created to deal with adventurers (called "Delvers" in Ptolus) who pose problems and Delver-level issues that are beyond the scope of regular City Watch members to deal with.

I play Baeril Underhill, a lederhosen-wearing gnome illusionist who pretends to be a wide-eyed naif while actually maintaining secret identities and who is forever running around under illusory disguise, which is often layered atop non-magical disguises underneath that. And given that he views even his colleagues as not needing to know about a lot of his schemes and plans, he's a lot to deal with.

But it's not paranoia if they're really out to get you. Because Ptolus has three main crime families:

  • The Longfingers, who are your traditional D&D thieves guild (not as nasty as their inspiration in the Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser stories)
  • The Balcazar crime family, who are a pretty nasty group of fantasy mafiosos
  • The Killraven Crime League, which is what happens when Monte Cook decided that having an even scarier criminal family run by and consisting of (mostly) humanoid monsters was a good idea

The Tenth, it turns out, were the idea of the Balcazars, who want the Tenth to both be a bludgeon against pesky adventurers who might otherwise interfere with them, but mostly against the (very dangerous) Killraven syndicate.

The Tenth has been infiltrated, beaten, members have been killed, but they've also solved multiple crimes and saved lots of lives along the way. (We also had a side mission, played with mercenary one-off characters, involving an attempted prison breakout/extraction. Don't make the mistake we did: Ptolus' prison is nasty and it was a really ugly way of these PCs killing themselves.)

I've been playing Baeril since 2007, making him easily the longest-running character I've ever played. The Tenth are on a hiatus right now -- the DM of that game works in a hospital and, you know, he's fairly busy, even without COVID-19 -- but I will always be ready to jump back in and play him again.

(If you like this recap, and would like to help me get my Ptolus character -- Baeril Underhill, gnome illusionist-turned-detective -- illustrated in the new 5E and Cypher editions, click here and complete at least one of the promotional activities.)
 
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In these last days of the Tarsisian Empire (I mean, that's the way to bet), Imperial Governors aren't necessarily bringing their A game. Which means that Milton Drac, the Sea Lord and Imperial Governor of Freeport, fits in nicely.

After the RPG-obligatory difficult sea voyage, the fugitives go through Green Ronin's Freeport Trilogy. But knowing what I do about the larger setting of Praemal, I make sure to tie the Lovecraftian elements there to the quasi-Lovecraftian stuff in the Big Book and start giving them the first hints of what's going on, far behind the scenes of the setting.

Governor Drac is eventually thwarted, the horror he called up defeated and the fugitives receive an imperial pardon from the remaining members of the Captain's Council. But they also receive a summons: Having defeated the thing that Drac served, they're now the foremost experts on something the librarian-clerics of Locharit, the goddess of the written word, are hearing disturbing rumors about some things and their knowledge is desperately needed -- in Ptolus!

Meanwhile, back in Midwood, thanks to betrayals and trickery, the kobolds have managed to collect all five scale colors and begin their ritual to destroy Maidensbridge, the Town Where Heroes are Born. The player characters' various side quests and past heroics mean that, at the moment of their town's greatest peril, their ranks are bolstered by the Knights of Dawn, residents of Bootblack and Blackberry Ridge and others. The town is almost lost, lots of NPCs died, but Maidensbridge is ultimately saved.

The Baron of Midwood knights the heroes, but gives them a new mission: Find out what happened to Gax, the green dragon. The mountain can't be retaken and resettled until everyone can rest assured that Gax won't be returning to reclaim her lair. And fortunately, he knows just who might be able to provide that information: The nobles of House Dallimothan, sometimes called "House Dragon," who reside in the Noble Quarter -- of Ptolus!

Before they depart, Emus Graymullet is summoned by the High King of the Grailwarden Dwarves, who tells him that a prophecy says a great darkness is rising in the east that will bring on a night like the Utterdark that almost wiped out humans and elves in years past. (DMs who own the Big Book will know there's a countdown in the setting to something very bad happening, and I officially started the clock at this point.) The Grailwarden dwarves are calling their scattered cousins home and will be sealing their mountain against what they believe will be an unstoppable evil. But before that, they need to assemble all three grails they were given responsibility over by the dwarven gods. They have the White Grail, from which they get their name, and another dwarven hero is currently seeking the Unseen Grail, but now they need Emus to secure the Black Grail, which is locked away -- in Ptolus!

After more than a decade of a "temporary" campaign in the Prustan Peninsula, both the heroes and fugitives from Maidensbridge are heading to the City By the Spire at last.

(If you like this recap, and would like to help me get my Ptolus character -- Baeril Underhill, gnome illusionist-turned-detective -- illustrated in the new 5E and Cypher editions, click here and complete at least one of the promotional activities.)
 
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The Black Grail is locked away in the Banewarrens dungeon, which is full of the most evil artifacts in the world. I won't spoil exactly how, but the dungeon is central to Ptolus, even more than the massive Dungeon underneath it is. New 5E and Cypher system updates of the adventure are the latest (as of me writing this) announced stretch goal for the new Ptolus 5E/Cypher Kickstarter campaign.
 

The two groups warily reunited in Freeport, helped solve the city's succession crisis, and sailed off to Dohrinthas, one of the other Sea Kingdoms and the seat of power for one of the three claimants to the Lion-Guarded Throne. (And, for whatever it's worth, the only one with even a distant blood claim to being emperor or empress.)

In our game, one of the possible plot points in the Big Book has happened -- it actually happened in the Tenth campaign, which runs in parallel -- and the Emperor of the Church in Ptolus has explicitly declared himself emperor of the Tarsisian Empire.

In response, Empress Addares XXXIV in Dohrinthas attempts to rally the more conservative elements of the Church of Lothian, who weren't fond of Holy Emperor Rehoboth Ylestos, who they view as too "liberal," in that he doesn't declare all other gods but Lothian to be demons and doesn't insist that arcane magic users be put to death.

So, guess what our group with its two wizards and a spell-casting bard are sailing into? The Golden Inquisition, which takes its name from Dohrinthas' nickname of "the Golden City," hasn't gotten around to burning mages or even books yet, but they're getting warmed up, so to speak. The city is full of nervous residents. There isn't a warm welcome for a bunch of Prustans -- presumed to be loyal to Segaci Fellisti, who sits on the Lion-Guarded Throne in Tarsis -- including spellcasters.

The player characters figure out pretty quickly that they should think about getting out of town, especially after they try to pop in on the local wizards academy, Autumnway, and find that the streets no longer seem to ever actually reach the school and the would-be visitors are magically told to go away and not stir up trouble.

Unfortunately, Sir Emmerson Grant is a known quantity in Dohrinthas, and it's not long before he's picked up for questioning for -- checking my notes -- killing a resident of Dohrinthas and a loyal subject of Addares XXXIV. The fact that she was a murderer and a would-be assassin isn't an issue, since she was acting under orders from her empress.

The group is able to temporarily extract Emmerson from the palace where he's questioned before he's formally arrested and then tortured and executed. They hop a barge heading north and then sign on as caravan guards for a caravan heading to, you guessed it, Ptolus.

The group is currently dealing with my very shabby Agatha Christie murder mystery knock-off on the road, but will be arriving in Ptolus soon, at very long last. (Play by post campaigns are slow.)

(If you like this recap, and would like to help me get my Ptolus character -- Baeril Underhill, gnome illusionist-turned-detective -- illustrated in the new 5E and Cypher editions, click here and complete at least one of the promotional activities.)
 
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So, final thoughts, unless someone has a question or comment about the setting:

When I plopped down the $100+, or whatever it was, back in 2006, I thought Ptolus was a setting I could use for the rest of my life. While I do own other settings -- the systemless Pirate's Guide to Freeport, Redhurst: Academy of Magic -- that's ended up being true.

The setting scratches a lot of my itches, allowing political intrigue (Emmerson interfering in the assassination plot is going to continue to complicate everyone's lives, for instance), urban adventures, dungeon crawling, roleplay opportunities and more. While it doesn't break the mold like, say, Spelljammer does, it would be hard to find a classic D&D adventure you couldn't run in Ptolus or Praemal (in fact, I may actually use a spelljamming ship later in the campaign).

The setting is expansive and loosely sketched out, without having the relentless kitchen sink approach of Galaron or Mystara. (Unmentioned in my posts so far: a side campaign running one of the Arabian Nights-flavored Pathfinder Adventure Paths in Uraq, run by the same DM who runs the Tenth campaign.)

I've used Ptolus for 14 years now and, while I anticipate selling my 3E copy when my 5E copy is imminent (we live in a small apartment and are continually trying to trim the fat), I can easily see using it for 14 years more, which I have to say is a pretty good run. In addition to using it in the play by post games, it's also been the setting for playing in person with family and friends, including one memorable adventure where my son (a swashbuckling thief) and father (a pirate-turned-bard, which makes sense if you know my dad) pulled off a jewelry robbery in the middle of a fancy dress ball, only to be robbed by two Balcazar thieves, whom they pursued in horsedrawn carriages across the city, only breaking off the pursuit when the Balcazar thieves ducked into a local bar which my son, who loves his printed out PDF of thieves cant off DMs Guild, realized was a gang hideout and my father had to bribe my son to prevent him from running in anyway and probably getting them both killed.

The Ptolus Kickstarter campaign is in its final days and includes a huge swatch of 3E PDFs with nearly all of the Ptolus related content from that era (but not all the Praemal related stuff, which is scattered through a few more sourcebooks and adventures, including a write-up of the Black Grail itself). Stretch goals have included two new-to-the-public adventures and a 5E/Cypher conversion of the Banewarrens. (I suspect my group will be going in before it's converted, though, so that won't benefit me much.)

Physically, the book is really well done, like a masterclass for a design in usability. It's regularly, and appropriately, compared to a quality travel guide, with visual indications and color coding making it vastly easier to use at the table than any other game book I've ever used, including ones a quarter of Ptolus' vast length.

The Ptolus 5E/Cypher Kickstarter campaign ends on Friday, March 20 at 5 p.m. Pacific time.
 
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FYI, there are five hours left to back this Kickstarter campaign. In addition to getting nearly everything created for Ptolus under 3E (there's other bits and bobs in Malhavoc's stuff, but it was almost all things about Praemal in general, not Ptolus itself), there are now three new adventures (the third one is currently part of a stretch goal to combine the three into a single paperback), and the Banewarrens adventure is also being updated to 5E, although only in PDF at the moment.

For those facing financial uncertainties right now, either because of their work outlook thanks to COVID-19, or because their exchange rate to the dollar has cratered for the same reason, MCG has confirmed that supporting even for a dollar will allow people to buy in via BackerKit later on.
 

BSF

Explorer
Casts Raise Thread
Coming to this late. I was backer 574 from the original. Backer in the newer kickstarter too.
Definitely enjoying your story, very cool jump into the game before the books were even released. I have run a few campaigns in Ptolus, including 2 ongoing campaigns right now. It is a fun setting and I highly recommend it!

Really just adding a comment from your following statement.
. (The idea that only Ptolus has adventuring locales in Praemal always seems crazy to me, although there are groups that insist it's true.)
I suspect that this comes the sidebar of Page 44 of the Ptolus book.
"Ptolus in Perspective
In the world at large, there
are no “dungeons” to explore.
“Adventurer” is not a common
career choice."

Obviously, this does not eliminate all adventuring locales. But if your primary interpretation of an adventuring locale is a "dungeon", then it is an easy extrapolation to make So, I can see where some people might make that assumption.

That aside...
The book is an excellent value! I take stuff from the book and modify it to better suit my vision of the games I want to run. I pull stuff completely unchanged from the book. I have played it in 3.0, 3.5, & pathfinder. I have even changed everything over to 13th Age with Icons representing the Organizations I am planning to use in a campaign. The book gives me an entire reference of NPCs (with and without stats) that my players have loved interacting with and loved hating.

I don't love everything about the book and setting, but I love having an extensive reference that lets me pick out details and drop them into the game in a very consistent manner. I have had groups adventure outside the city. I have had groups never leave the city. The sheer value I have gotten over 14 years with anywhere from 4-9 players at different times is so cheap. By my estimate, I have gotten ~156 gaming hours of time in Ptolus just this year. I have 7 players, plus myself. 14 years ago, Ptolus cost me $120? I think that much? If I do cost per man hour of just this year alone, it cost me $.09/hour. But, I have several other years of playing in there too. It is a chunk of change in one shot. But the usability has made it a very worthwhile investment for me.

Sorry I wasn't here back in March to add my $.02.
 

I don't love everything about the book and setting, but I love having an extensive reference that lets me pick out details and drop them into the game in a very consistent manner.
This is how I feel about Ptolus, too. I love urban adventuring...but I don't love all the creative decisions that Monte made. Waaaay too many knightly orders. I could go on. But there's just so much material, much of it good, some of it great. Ptolus is a good value for any working DM.
 

Voadam

Legend
I have really liked the Ptolus setting since The Banewarrens back in 3.0. The decaying ascended paladin based theocratic empire on the verge of civil war provides a great D&D not-Catholic church to riff off of, with a standard D&D polytheism Old Gods pantheon allowing whatever pantheon you want to incorporate as background. A civil war of succession means government forces are off fighting the war so lots of opportunity for adventuring groups to be needed.

Banewarrens was my first 3e game I played in and three of us kept switching off DMing the same group in the world, each building off different elements. One friend built it out as the future of Greyhawk with the Old Gods being the Greyhawk pantheons so there was a temple to St. Cuthbert and Iuz cultists running around. My brother eventually had it as a precursor to Eberron with Lord Canith starting up warforged manufacturing based on stuff from the Banewarrens. I built out the ancient period of Danar Rotansin and the Banewarrens prisoners with other modules like Lord of the Iron Fortress and Demon God's Fane.

Later after joining new groups stuff diverged, my brother incorporated a homebrew cosmology a friend of his made that he like a lot, I went a different direction incorporating stuff from Golarion, Spiros Blaak, Midgard, Nyambe, some real world pantheons so a bunch of other modules could fit, and other stuff. The Holy Lothian empire has been pretty central as the backdrop though, and it is easy to jump into conceptually for people not familiar with the setting.

I too ran a couple games of the Freeport Trilogy in my version of the Ptolus world, though I went with the Freeport canon of the island city state being independent of the continental empire. I had Drac betray Adares and say the succession was contested so Freeport privateers could be hired by either side of the succession war. The Freeport and Ptolus background history sync up well, particularly the imperial arcane magic inquisition period matching up roughly to the start of the Freeport wizard's guild. Ancient Uraq and Kem from Ptolus are easy to weave in too.

My latest 5e campaign I DM'd was a Ptolus world based Carrion Crown adventure path conversion.

Lots of ways to go with the Ptolus setting.
 

I love the Banewarrens. One of my all time favorite adventures. But I've never played it! It will likely be the center piece of my next urban campaign...whenever that is.
 

This is how I feel about Ptolus, too. I love urban adventuring...but I don't love all the creative decisions that Monte made. Waaaay too many knightly orders.

I actually had to create another one. While there are knightly orders for heavy hitter characters, a low level chivalrous paladin, as I had in my campaign, had no real options. In real life, knights often belonged to multiple orders, so I made a default one for knights of the Tarsisian Empire that doesn't bring any particular prestige, but allows one to be a knight. (And, eventually, of course, he was knighted by his baron and had a chance to join the Knights of Dawn.)
 

I love the Banewarrens. One of my all time favorite adventures. But I've never played it! It will likely be the center piece of my next urban campaign...whenever that is.
My characters will be going through that imminently. Ironically, I'll have to adapt the 3E version, since the 5E version won't arrive in time. (Although, since we're playing by post, it's certainly possible the new version will catch up to us.)
 

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