Hidden 3 yrs ago 3 yrs ago Post by Chicken
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Credit to JeremyPaillotin on DeviantArt.com.


Beware the Keep of the Blackened Mire, the old rhyme begins. Every child in the Kingdom of Beldemar knows the story. It is an ancient place, one which stood watch over the endless expanse that is the Wildwood, one which kept the beasts of that misty forest at bay. It was a marvel of man, a grand castle with magnificent turrets, a place where the governors of the past era dwelt. Few fortresses were as impregnable, and none held back the wild like this mighty keep.

None remember the true name of this once proud citadel any longer. It has long since sunk into the earth, the land around it becoming a thick and pitiless swamp. As many things built in the days of Old Aldonia, it fell when the Empire did. The Aldonians brought their destruction upon themselves, having tampered too long with magics that should have been forbidden. The Caernlings, those who called the land which is now Beldemar home, overthrew their masters and took Imperial holdings for their own... but for some reason they kept a wide berth from the Keep of the Black Mire.

Blackmire Keep remained dormant for years, though strange happenings surrounded it. Settlements established near it never lasted young; too many strange happenings dissuaded long-term settlement. It became known as a cursed place, a peaty patch of land where the grass grew tall and black, where the sun never quite shone, where the marsh ate the castle itself.

Recently, however, that dormancy has ended. People have been vanishing from their homes. Travelers claim to have seen shadowy figures and strange creatures in the surrounding lands. Dark storms have settled in the sky over the keep, and the vines grow thicker and more twisted. Something dwells within those pagan halls. Evil stirs.

Unfortunately for Beldemar, all their best knights and their armies are busy elsewhere. Abagon to the west has been thrown into a bitter civil war, and Beldemar itself has begun a naval campaign against the Holy Empire of Lithenia. The villages south of Benetia, the capital of the realm, have been left utterly defenseless from the machinations of the haunted keep.

But hopelessness leads to desperation, and desperation is good for you. You are a mercenary. You go where others will not, kill things so that others don't have to risk their own sorry hides. You and the other sellswords in Benetia are in a good position to earn a pretty purse of gold. Head to the crumbling castle; chase off ghosts for the sake of some superstitious serfs; get a sack of coins from the Lord Mayor and retire to live like a king in Carise. It should be easy, shouldn't it?

The Depths of Blackmire Keep


Welcome to Blackmire Keep, an overgrown ruin in the middle of a fetid swamp and part of my homebrew Men-at-Arms setting! This setting is one I originally intended to use for a tabletop RPG, but as time has gone by I've found myself wanting to apply it to a forum setting more and more. Freeform RP with only minor rules to guide the game may make for a better story, I reckon.

There are a few themes I want to touch on that will be part of this should people be interested:

1) This story is grounded in realism. Yes, there are fantastic elements. Yes, there are monsters and foul beasts. However, a single person with a sword cannot be expected to hold off an army, nor can a good enough acrobat make a 100 foot drop to the ground without breaking their legs. This is a setting where what you can do is bound by the limitations of real world physics, even if your enemies can bend those laws with magic.
2) Magic is bad. Magic is real, but it's also a corrupting influence. Those who practice it are burned as witches or worse, because inevitably those that wield it become twisted. It brought low the Aldonian Empire, and it will cause another catastrophe if left unchecked. No player characters get to cast magic. Well, unless they're really, really stupid.
3) You are mere men and women facing unspeakable things. In case it wasn't clear, the world of the Aldaric Sea Region isn't fair. Do not be surprised if you go up against the beasts of high fantasy settings equipped only with mundane equipment. Do not be surprised if something terrible happens to your character. Everyone that enters Blackmire Keep is at risk of death, dismemberment, or anything else the GM chooses to inflict upon them.
4) Death is permanent. No take backsies.
5) You are not heroes. You are mercenaries. You are sellswords from a variety of backgrounds, people with very real limitations. You will create your character in an RPG-esque fashion, but thereafter will not have to worry about RPG elements. Instead, keep in mind the limitations of the character you've made, and play them in their role as best as you can.
6) Faith is a matter of faith. The God of this setting is only as real to its people as the God of the real world. It is entirely seemly to make a character that doesn't believe in a higher power, and just as seemly to make one that does. There is no certainty of God's existence as there is in most fantasy settings.
7) You can only be a human. The people of Men-at-Arms come from a variety of backgrounds, but they're all human. Elves and dwarves do exist, but they're monsters, beasts of the fey; and though there may be orcs and other such beasties, none of them are friendly. If something isn't human, it's usually safe to assume it wants you dead. (A caveat - I may allow people to play characters with mysterious heritages or some sort of taint, whether from magic or in their blood. We'll cover that via PM when the time comes.)
8) This is a feudal setting. The divide between nobility and the common folk is very real. Consider that when you RP.
9) Everyone has flaws. I mean it. Every character will have a very real flaw once we've finished making characters. Bear that in mind - nobody in Men-at-Arms is perfect.

If you choose to participate in this roleplay, you should expect a combination of sorrow, of horror elements, of the gritty price of violence. You should expect to delve into an ancient place and uncover the secrets of why it fell, to face creatures which are beyond your ken. You will face hard choices, and some of you - perhaps all of you - will die.

However, should you survive the horrors of the Keep of the Blackened Mire, you shall be marked in the history of this world as heroes. Those who escape this perilous place and live will become legends in Beldemar and the entire Aldaric Sea Region.

If you're interested, please post below. I'll show the actual character generation rules only if folks are interested.
Hidden 3 yrs ago Post by BurningCold
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I'm certainly interested enough to learn more.

This sounds fun.
Hidden 3 yrs ago Post by Chicken
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Cool! If I get at least 3 players interested I think that'd be enough for this, easily.
Hidden 3 yrs ago Post by Zetsuko
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I'm interested
Hidden 3 yrs ago Post by Chicken
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Cool! One more person and I'll post the actual OOC, along with character generation rules and more world info. As said, this is a homebrew setting I cooked up in the past, so I've got some lore to condense into a few quick paragraphs.
Hidden 3 yrs ago Post by Ashgan
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I like the tone you're going for, with the gritty low-fantasy. If I'm being entirely frank, I think your world can offer more interesting premises than a good old-fashioned dungeon crawl, but maybe you can surprise me down the road. Either way, roleplays that hit my personal preferences are few and far between, so I'd like to let you know that I'm keeping a watchful eye on this.
Hidden 3 yrs ago Post by The Scotsman
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Well count me in! This sounds incredible.
Hidden 3 yrs ago Post by Chicken
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Well, just as an aside (since you mention other uses for the setting), I've considered turning my tabletop campaign idea into an actual storyline on the forum, BUT I need to change some elements to better suit the medium. So, in the interim, I want to see how this setting works out in forum RP.

One of the big things that I really want to hammer home, too, is that while the players are definitely low fantasy, the enemies you encounter COULD include mages, dragons, undead, the fey... etc. You're low-magic characters in a world of powerful fantasy threats. That's exactly why the setting is very dangerous.

But yes, I agree - a dungeon crawl is NOT the best use of this setting. In the future, I may whip out the campaign, which would be focused on the trials of a mercenary company across the Aldaric Sea Region with a focus on a mixture of supernatural threats and the Abagonian Civil War. However, I DO want to see how it plays out in a microcosm first.

But that's three four people who have expressed interest. Expect an OOC by tomorrow evening at the latest.
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Hidden 3 yrs ago 3 yrs ago Post by Ashgan
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In the meanwhile, there's a few more things on my mind I'd like to task about.

First, since this is a setting of your making, do you permit some amount of world building from your players? If yes, to what degree? Can a player, for example, make up a given organization, band, noble house or other such body as part of their background lore?

I understand you have typical high fantasy elements/creatures in the setting, even if players themselves cannot play as such. Still, do you have a rough estimate on how much we'll be seeing these things, i.e. how on the nose the fantasy will be? Are orcs, wizards, undead so common that our reaction would be closer to gruff annoyance, or so rare that we should be frightened and shocked to witness such a thing? Or anywhere in between?

You say faith cannot be proven in the setting, and belief is a personal choice; but nonetheless, is there a central church? If yes, can you describe it more in the ooc?

Lastly, can I ask what tabletop system you're using and if you play online or IRL? I'm rather fresh when it comes to tabletop rpg, but I do wish I had more people to play with on occasion. Being on this forum, it's clear you value storytelling, so the interests align to a reasonble extent already.
Hidden 3 yrs ago Post by Chicken
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In the meanwhile, there's a few more things on my mind I'd like to task about.

First, since this is a setting of your making, do you permit some amount of world building from your players? If yes, to what degree? Can a player, for example, make up a given organization, band, noble house or other such body as part of their background lore?


I do allow world building, though it's constrained (by and large) to simply adding more details to already existing settlements (a lot of which are largely undefined) OR to adding new markers on the map. I vet anything my players wish to add, but yes, I'm very open to people making the world more of their own thing. I can post the map here for your perusal.



I understand you have typical high fantasy elements/creatures in the setting, even if players themselves cannot play as such. Still, do you have a rough estimate on how much we'll be seeing these things, i.e. how on the nose the fantasy will be? Are orcs, wizards, undead so common that our reaction would be closer to gruff annoyance, or so rare that we should be frightened and shocked to witness such a thing? Or anywhere in between?


Hmm... Let me think of the best way to explain it.

Monsters are very real, though not everyone sees them in their lives. For instance, orcs (also called Jotun) are known to foray out from the northlands, and they have destroyed kingdoms of northmen (also called Reavers) in the past. Not everyone faces them, but you never get entirely used to them so much as you dull yourself to their presence. They behave in an entirely alien fashion, and do the most despicable of things.

Goblins exist, too, and they're far more widespread than Jotun. If there is any monster people are most likely to see, it's these creatures. However, they're still less common than bandits and highwaymen, and you shouldn't underestimate them due to their size. They're surprisingly tough little creatures.

Most people consider the undead to be campfire stories. A few know better, especially scholars or those that have suffered at their hands in the past. However, for the most part, nobody has seen such things in... a very long time.

As for the Fey, they're something that exists, but people don't generally see them. Generally. Sometimes children go missing, or sometimes weird happenings hint at their presence, but by and large people are able to avoid their ire... if they do what the old stories say they should. Their goals and their thoughts and what they really are, all of that is something not even the scholars can say. They are, however, incredibly dangerous when upset, and you'd be a fool to think them benign.

Spellcasters are rare enough, and thankfully so. Magic is illegal throughout all the realms, no questions asked, because magic invariably twists and corrupts those that use it. The law doesn't stop orcs and goblins from wielding it, of course, and there is the occasional wizard that plies his trade in the company of bandits, or tries to resurrect the dead to serve his bidding. There are druids and witches, too, the sorts of backwards people that lurk in the woods and prey on passersby. Those sorts in particular are the death throes of the Old Faith. They won't linger much longer in this world, surely.

As for other monsters... There are tales of giants, though they are definitely rare, and it's known that things like dragons, manticores, and hydras exist. However, they have by-and-large been wiped out from the region in the years that man has tamed it. Nevertheless, you occasionally do hear tales of such monsters rampaging through the countryside, especially near the Wildwood. Sometimes it's actually just a band of clever brigands. It's hard to tell truth from fiction these days.

You say faith cannot be proven in the setting, and belief is a personal choice; but nonetheless, is there a central church? If yes, can you describe it more in the ooc?


I certainly can and will! For the quickest possible summary: imagine if Christianity had sprouted up among a warrior culture that was something of a mix between Berber and Steppe, and then this warrior culture came and integrated itself into medieval Europe, bringing its religion with it. That's basically what we're looking at.

The most common church is the Celestial Church. More on that in the OOC. Lithenia, similarly, has its own church. Also more on that later.

Lastly, can I ask what tabletop system you're using and if you play online or IRL? I'm rather fresh when it comes to tabletop rpg, but I do wish I had more people to play with on occasion. Being on this forum, it's clear you value storytelling, so the interests align to a reasonble extent already.


I originally was trying to hack Pathfinder into working for a magicless party while still throwing magical threats at them. That, uh, required too much tearing apart of the system to make it work. I ended up not pursuing that option.

The truth is, I haven't been able to find a tabletop system that I thought fit Men-at-Arms well enough to actually start running games for it. I had a couple campaign ideas I'd worked out; I had the plot and several important scenes, and places where players would be able to really change the face of the world. However, I just didn't have a good medium through which to play this out on. So, Men-at-Arms went on the backburner, and I started running Dungeon World in a different setting.

However, I recently came upon the idea of just running Men-at-Arms on a forum. I figured it might be worth trying out, since even though I didn't have a firm ruleset I wanted to use, the stories were still there. So, here we are. Blackmire Keep is me getting this setting's feet wet online before I dedicate myself to trying the more daunting task of an open world campaign on RPGuild.

Also, I run games online via Discord. I've also played via Roll20 in the past.
Hidden 3 yrs ago Post by ECDN
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Consider me interested!
Hidden 3 yrs ago Post by BurningCold
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However, I recently came upon the idea of just running Men-at-Arms on a forum. I figured it might be worth trying out, since even though I didn't have a firm ruleset I wanted to use, the stories were still there. So, here we are. Blackmire Keep is me getting this setting's feet wet online before I dedicate myself to trying the more daunting task of an open world campaign on RPGuild.


On the subject of tabletop, have you ever checked out Fate Core? The system might be a little too streamlined for your taste, but it can be hacked to make it more or less complex down to the finest detail. It was built for that. Free scenarios and rulesets can be found online, though you'd be remiss to not buy the handbook, and for the purposes of hacking, the system toolkit.

Something to consider!
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On the subject of tabletop, have you ever checked out Fate Core? The system might be a little too streamlined for your taste, but it can be hacked to make it more or less complex down to the finest detail. It was built for that. Free scenarios and rulesets can be found online, though you'd be remiss to not buy the handbook, and for the purposes of hacking, the system toolkit.

Something to consider!


I gave it some consideration in the past, but I want to wait and see if I can find better options first.

Also: I'm delaying the actual OOC post until the morning. It's 1 a.m., and I can tell you I'm MOSTLY done with my post. Really, I just need to write the actual character application sheet and it's all done. But for now, I need rest.

I'll be waking up at 6 a.m. and leaving for work at about 7:30 CST. Expect the post to be finished and up by then.
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Hidden 3 yrs ago Post by The Scotsman
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There's ways GURPS, which is literally made with the concept of using it in any story. It's versatile but a bit mad, so we said fuck it and settled for a standard D&d game. Wasn't what we wanted specifically but it was easy and we had a lot of fun at the end.
Hidden 3 yrs ago 3 yrs ago Post by Ashgan
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Since everybody is pitching in with a game suggestion, I'll add my own to the mix: I have not actually played a game in it yet, but I would suggest to take a look at Zweihander. It's a setting-agnostic spiritual successor to Warhammer Fantasy RP, ergo it lends itself to games where players are low-powered, filthy peasant fops who have to face soldiers, orcs, demons and worse while trying to avoid dying of disease or going insane. The system is quite dangerous, wounds are explicit, fights lethal. Magic exists, is dangerous and difficult to control, but is not mandatory and it is very easy to run mundane groups (even if they might face supernatural foes). And it is entirely contained in a single rule book.

In theory. As said, I haven't been able to try it, but I like its philosophy and ideas. The only downside is that there are, essentially, no modules/scenarios for it. There's one pre-made adventure in the rule book, and that's about it. You can convert Warhammer Fantasy modules to Zweihander rules, but beyond that you homebrew it or you're out of luck.
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It's not as complete as I'd like - it took longer to has out than I expected. Still, here's what I've got so far. Feel free to look it over.

History and Religion sections will be squished down from their "screw this word document" volume sizes to more biteable sizes for your perusal tonight. So will an actual character sheet be available, too.

Click Me!
Hidden 3 yrs ago Post by The Scotsman
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Excellent, thank you!
Hidden 3 yrs ago Post by Dolerman
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I'm down
Hidden 3 yrs ago Post by Chicken
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I'm down


Cool! The link was already provided above, but I'll drop one again. Click me!
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