My Next Campaign Setting

Jirelle, Pathfinder iconic Swashbuckler
(I definitely won't be using Pathfinder, whatever I do.)
I should be furiously typing away at Steamscapes, but I desperately need to drain the overflowing brain juices that are clogging my writing-pipes. The thing that's inconveniently obsessing me at the moment is the idea of a broad-based classic fantasy swashbuckler setting.

It's not that there aren't fantasy swashbuckler (or sword-and-cape) settings. I can think of Lace & Steel, 7th Sea, 50 Fathoms, and Freeport off the top of my head (and that's not even counting pseudo-real world settings like Honor + Intrigue and Pirates of the Spanish Main). The problem is that each of these settings is rather narrowly focused on either musketeers or pirates, but not really both. (Yes, there are pirates in Lace & Steel and 7th Sea, but both settings explicitly do not have Western Hemispheres, so they don't really do proper pirates.) 

The slightly broader-based settings (Lace & Steel and 7th Sea again) aren't classic fantasy either. There's no elves or dwarves or hobbits in either setting (though Lace & Steel does have centaurs and satyrs). Honestly, I like multi-species settings and so do most RPG gamers. 

Basically, I don't know of any Age of Sail equivalents to the Forgotten Realms or Golarion. 

(Yes, I'm fully aware that both settings -- Golarion and its iconic swashbuckler and gunslinger especially -- verge on being swashbuckling settings, but neither one is explicitly a sword-and-cape setting. I want a setting where chainmail and plate armor are completely passé.)

Here's what I want from my next campaign world:
  • Swordfights - specifically graceful duels of skill vs. skill, not brutal cleaving
  • Repartee - smack talk and speechifying should be in the heroes' arsenals
  • Acrobatics - swinging from falling chandeliers and leaping out windows
  • Panache - duh
  • Sex-positivism - 'cause I like sex
  • Multiple sentient species - 'cause I like inter-species sex
  • Democracy - 'cause I hate kings; maybe a Rome-like republican empire?
  • Gunpowder - explosions are cool and guns level the battlefield
  • Exploration - you have to have remote islands if you're going to have a pirate republic
  • Intrigue - for which you need established, competing governments
  • Upward mobility - PCs should be able to rise to rule nations, which would be easier to believe with a merchant nobility or meritocracy

I don't specifically feel the need for any emphasis on magic; despite being a wimpy nerd, I've always identified more with swordsmen than sorcerers. I really don't want any Lovecraftian twists; I'm completely over sucker-punching PCs.

I don't necessarily need classic D&D-style races, but I definitely want a range of humanoid species. Riffing off of Lace & Steel's half-horses and satyrs, I've been considering the idea of a world where the Greek and Roman inhuman races interbred with humanity, resulting in crossbreeds somewhat like tieflings and aasimar. They're distinctly not purely human, but more human-like than not. There might be bull-horned minotaur-born, elf-like dryad-born, omnisexual satyr-born, and cat-like sphinx-born. Heck, maybe there aren't any pureblood humans in the setting (or all the pure humans are the "primitive" natives of "Africa" and the "Americas").

I'm mainly thinking of this in preparation for my next duet campaign with Robin, but a stupid, stupid part of me almost wants to suggest abandoning A Gleam of Silver for this concept. You could easily run a magic-lite swashbuckling game in D&D 5e using only fighters (champions and battle-masters) and rogues (assassins, swashbucklers, and thieves) with maybe berserker barbarians and Way of the Open Hand monks (and maybe the Unearthed Arcana magic-less ranger). It might be fun to do a straight high-fantasy sword-and-cape setting, too,

A really, really stupidly stupid part of my brain wants to test-run several different game rules to figure out which one handles swashbuckling best. Savage Worlds is fast and furious, but the duels are almost too fast. D&D 5e looks like it could handle sword-and-cape -- especially with some of teh alternate rules in the DMG -- but it's an unproven commodity. Honor + Intrigue is built for swashbuckling, but previous experience showed the combat rules were almost too detailed. And despite being an early backer, I've never even attempted playtesting The Queen's Cavaliers. Alternating systems from week-to-week, though, would probably mean sticking with a more humanocentric setting, H+I and TQC don't have rules for non-humans.

Whew! I think I got all of that out of my system. Once Steamscapes is done, I owe it to all the hard work Robin and I have already put into it to get back to work on The King is Dead. If this fantasy swashbuckler thing continues to prey on my brain, I might turn it into the focus of future blog posts (I can't just keep giving away all the TKiD stuff, after all) -- but I also have to admit to a temptation to return to Regency/Gothic. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is coming out next February... 

Updated to fix the name of this danged game.


  1. That´s sound really cool man. I have been toying with ideas for a setting like that for some time too.

    1. Thanks! I'm surprised something like this hasn't been published.

  2. Yeah, this sounds like lots of fun! I'd love to play in it!

    And you're right, TQC doesn't support non-humans at all.

    1. Thanks! It's getting more and more tempting to develop this idea.

  3. Just a heads up, its actually Lace and Steel, not Steel and Lace.

    1. Dagnabbit, how did I miss that? Thanks! Got it fixed!


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