1. Welcome to the world of Pyrrhus.
Weapons locker’s on your right, the enemy’s straight ahead. Win and you’ll be richer than the dreams of avarice, or at least going to sleep with all four limbs intact this time. But victory may have a devastating cost.
Pyrrhus is a world of perpetual war. Violence is the universal language and the cornerstone of society. The known world is still recovering from the after-effects of catastrophe some hundred fifty years ago, by the local calendar. The glove was thrown, the hammer dropped, the destruction all but total. The shape of cultures, of nations, even the very landscape was changed. Some said it was the war to end all wars, the War of the Gods, but the rest knew better. War doesn’t change.
Or… does it?
In the ruin-filled continent, packed to the brim with squabbling fiefdoms, principalities, kingdoms, empires, republics and combines, one city still shines in pre-cataclysmic splendor.
Bastion, the City of Crystal and Steel. Concrete, pavement, metal and light ring outward in circles of wonder, spires clawing at the sky while mist pools in the neon-drenched streets. Flicking lights from computer and radiovision screens reflect off oil-slick puddles, and the coated masses hustle below flickering ghosts of the past. Every grand market and dingy back-alley shop holds wonders, and every grand plaza and seedy street-rat bar has some opportunity for the enterprising young adventurer. Bastion’s neutrality is enforced by the Sentinels, fearsome pre-Cataclysmic guardians armed with powerful weapons and psionic wards. Under the Sentinels, Bastion allows people from all corners of the world to meet and trade in relative peace. Peace, what a foreign concept!
There might be hope for a better world yet, if some enterprising young do-gooders push it along enough. Of course, maybe instead they’d just like to get filthy rich instead.
If they survive the mysterious hostile aliens, enemy armies, mad scientists, cyber-crackers, corporate hit-squads, criminal masterminds and unstoppable ancient relics of the Age of the Gods, that is. Have fun!
Commence Wargames & Wizards
Pyrrhus is a campaign setting designed as a backdrop for tabletop gaming with the BIWA Role-Playing rules system. This is a world where might makes right and constant warfare is the rule. After a horrific cataclysm about one hundred and fifty years before the present, the three great nations of the world were effectively shattered. Into this political power vacuum arose an almost endless number of smaller nations, countries, kingdoms and what have you, all battling for dominance over land, resources, ancient cultural and racial enmities, and plenty else. The powerful can always find a reason why they need something more, and everyone under them gets dragged along.
Into this world go you, our intrepid heroes. Pyrrhus is a world of endless opportunity for adventuring sorts, filled to the brim with ancient empires both remembered in battle-cries and forgotten in graves, dilapidated ruins reeking of treasures, legends to pursue and megalomaniacs to catch. You’ll probably want to start in Bastion, the only city in the world untouched by war, neon-drenched streets winding beneath dizzying spires, all full of every sort of person and being and every sort of technology and wonder sandwiched between fantastic old-world science.
Bastion has endless stories to tell, like the Sprawl of William Gibson’s cyberpunk stories or the Gotham City of DC Comics’ Batman. (Indeed, those two cities were a great influence on the look and feel of the place.) But there’s more than that. Plenty of nations have agendas to advance, and there’s room enough that MCs and players can make their own to their hearts’ content. There are mysterious visitors from the stars occupying desert craters, subterranean dungeons, crumbling military bases, and high-tech floating laboratories travelling on the ocean waves. We’ve tried to provide all the idea seeds and tools an MC would need to tell a good story.
Maybe players want to save the day from scheming advisors, shut down hostile mega-corporate takeovers, or just kick in the door to the secret underground military base and start blasting with your shotguns. Maybe they want to make a difference in the world, make things better, reconcile ancient hatreds and put an end to the warfare. Maybe they’re just in it for the shiniest toys. It’s always up to you, really. We’ve got a place in our hearts for Gary Gygax and Zeb Cook both, and Pyrrhus is meant to accommodate role-playing (amateur drama!) and roll-playing (shootin’ up bad guys for experience points) equally.
The 21st-Century Gentleman’s Guide to Pyrrhus
Pyrrhus’ setting can best be described as ‘Alternate Modern’. The world’s technology level is roughly equivalent to our world’s early 1980’s. Computers exist, of the glowing teletype text on black screens variety, and there is some limited networking, enough that ‘hackers’ find a demand for their work. Transportation is by automotive and motorbike rather than horse and caravan. The weapon of choice of militaries is the automatic rifle instead of the spear, and street thugs prefer big shiny wrist-breaking handguns to daggers. Business empires frequently wield as much power as nations, and are often much richer. (We don’t have cell phones, because there’s too many classic story tropes that access to cell phones kills dead. Think about it.) Things have progressed along roughly similar paths as the real world, with two great differences. The first is that unlike the real world, where humans are basically decent (or at least, just want to be left alone), the cultures and society of Pyrrhus grew up around the wholesale embrace of violence as a solution to life’s problems. The second major great difference in the path of development is Magic.
Psionics, psychics, ESP, spells, wizardry, sorcery, call it whatever. Magic is real. Magic is real enough and common enough that people react to it roughly the same way that people in North America react to the sight of a pigeon. Roughly two thirds to three quarters of the population are psychic. About 15% to 20% of the population are powerfully psychic, able to do things with their minds and a few impressive-sounding syllables what it would take expensive machinery to do in the real world. The most advanced tech are careful fusions of mechanics and psionics, substituting or bypassing the limits of physical laws with psionic effects.
There are three categories of magic which every power falls into, each named for one of the three great pre-Cataclysmic societies and each messing with the mundane world in a fundamentally different way. Menhir powers are the most ancient, a primal force coming from the bones of the land itself, stretching the laws of reality to enable mighty feats. Celestial powers come from, and are inspired by, the stars and extraterrestrial forces, warping the rules of reality to enable unlikely and spectacular effects. Akashic powers fuse psionics with technology, making machines work better or differently than they ought to, and effectively breaking the rules of reality.
Three kinds of psionics. Enhance laws of the universe, bend the laws, break the laws. From magic comes Menhir-enhanced berserker strength to shrug off a face-full of buckshot, Celestial-twisted bolts of light offering up a staircase over the barb-wire fence, or Akashic-altered submachine guns ignoring that whole ‘ammo capacity’ problem for when you just really need to go Sylvester on some bad guys. Just as well, Menhir-enhanced construction results in buildings literally sticking to sheer vertical faces without supports, Celestial-enhanced skyscrapers reaching high into the sky despite the objections of gravity, and Akashic-enhanced motorbikes making travel across hundreds of miles a matter of a few hours, instead of the weeks a horse would take. The more advanced theories of electromagnetism may not have been discovered, but when you can simply bend the air to transmit radiovision pictures hundreds of miles instead, who needs them?
It isn’t any wonder that war is bloody when anybody you meet could be packing a hydrogen bomb in their gray matter.
People are strange when you're a stranger
Most of us like humans, if only because statistically speaking we likely are one. But in the world of Pyrrhus, humans are just one of many races spread out on the continent. Creatures in Pyrrhus come in all shapes and sizes, each with multiple distinct cultures, nations and histories of their own, each with their own opinions on the others formed by diplomacy, history, trade, and the business ends of their firearms.
The Humans are the ones everyone already knows. A mixture of contradictions, humans are equally known for their capacity for great cruelty and ruthlessness, and their willingness to integrate with and befriend outsiders. With one hand they can offer a steel bar to the face, with the other a box of food to a starving beggar. Humans are found everywhere, are wild, unpredictable, hard to categorize, and you definitely want them on your side in a fight.
The Alfar hail from the caverns and snowy peaks of the eastern mountains, a short and thin people with pointed features and eyes that sparkle like gemstones. Alfar are a people of extremes, their mood either melancholy and grumpy or jovial and cheerful with very rarely a point in-between. In a world where the arms race is perpetual and technology advances at a breakneck pace, the Alfar are still the undisputed masters of craftsmanship, their long lifespans and attention to detail making their works of art priceless treasures and their weapons terrifyingly innovative.
The Hrokr are oversized avians with trickster grins and an inborn warped sense of humor. They are a race of scholars, by their traditions being the first people to receive the gifts of writing and Celestial magic from the ancient gods, and they put those gifts to use by sharing their knowledge with others through ‘lessons’, or as they’re more frequently called by others, ‘pranks’. If you’re their enemy, hope you live to appreciate the wisdom.
Myrmidons are the now-waking remnant of lost technology in a bygone era, intelligent humanoid war machines known for waking up confused in centuries-old battlefields, and for their unflinching loyalty to whatever cause or people they adopt as their own. Myrmidons come in many shapes and sizes, but all are composed of machinery that mimics the biology of living beings. Myrmidons make the best bodyguards on Pyrrhus, and command respect from those they befriend for both their loyalty and their tendency towards foolish heroics. Just as often, sadly, they earn derision for their attempts to integrate into a world which has long since left them behind.
The Lycan, or Lycanthropes, are proud, secretive and intense. Tall, strong and intimidating already, the Lycan clans can grow into bestial forms, taking on the aspects of animals and simultaneously turning them into creatures out of the sort of stories we really shouldn’t be reading to children at night. Lycanthropes are inborn masters of Menhir magic, known for using it to bizarre and innovative effect, pushing their natural capabilities to extremes, and driving up the asking prices for Lycanthrope mercenaries in armies across the continent.
The Irkrhysst, ‘Children of the Sun’ (or just Lizardmen, as the rest of the world calls them), are hulking, hunched-over reptilians, formerly the undisputed masters of the most advanced of the three civilizations. Scientists, scholars and engineering wizards, the Lizardmen are more capable than even the Alfar in construction on Pyrrhus, building their cities in impossible locales like deep swamps and hurricane-wracked bays, seamlessly blending artificial with nature. But more than that, anybody on Pyrrhus knows that when you hear of some shiny new bit of tech, the lizardfolk are probably already a generation or two ahead.
The Uruk, or just Orcs, are an aquatic people, hairy powerfully-muscled bodies at home slipping through the waves below, or traveling above in their floating cities. Everything about the Uruk is loud, from their speaking and singing voices to the stories they tell and the battles they fight. Orc Marines, soldiers trained to infiltrate battlefields from unusual directions like below the waterline, are some of the most desirable mercenaries on the continent. Ask an Orc for a story if you have the time; never get into a shouting match with one.
Duranta are the new kid on the block. Mysterious, secretive, sharing nothing with others, coming and going like the wind, jealously guarding… something. The Duranta arrived within the last few decades on Pyrrhus, coming from colossal ships that came screaming out of the sky and crashing into the great salt deserts to the north, leaving behind the massive crater now called ‘The Eye’. Duranta tech and weaponry are completely unlike anything else in the world of Pyrrhus; something distinct, something alien. Duranta motives are frequently unfathomable, and while they seem to be trying to spread a reputation as traders with their fleets of caravans distributing bizarre wonders, whispering behind their backs speak of darker secrets.
The Pyrrhic Geographic Society wants you!
The Pyrrhus campaign setting takes place on a supercontinent, a single giant landmass with a dizzying variety of environments. Great salt deserts boiling with heat lie to the north, frozen wastes which none have passed beckon from the south, and in every direction lie forests, mountains, valleys and plains, all bearing the unmistakable mark of the warfare and conflict that have shaped the continent.
Roughly near the middle of the landmass lies the sole center of neutrality among the world’s factions, the Free City of Bastion, drenched in neon and mist from the top of its spires to the bottom of its streets, patrolled by sentinels from an ancient time. Scattered in every direction around are fiefdoms, kingdoms, empires, principalities, republics, theocracies and confederacies, all vying for land and resources, led by master tacticians with grand plans of conquest or just petty tyrants looking to get enough land to build a bigger palace.
Cities of the old Empire spread out like fields of dancing light, Hegemon communities brave the most extreme weather and unexpected places, and Menhir fortresses dot imposing peaks and darkest forests. The massively irradiated Blight to the north-west, the aftermath of a long-forgotten battle, gives way on the south to Scarberg, a mountain with a massive slice taken out of the middle, whose sheer walls are now lined with elaborate carvings and gravity-defying homes. The Crying Mountain, an autonomous enclave of powerful businesses and cartels, drips with a perpetual dew that gives the territory its name. The mysterious, unsettling Eye, the glass crater left by the Duranta’s wrecked vessel, beckons from the White Wastes, great salt deserts where once oceans stood millennia ago. Hrokar monasteries dot the peaks of the Cloudforge Hills, promising secrets of science and magic to those willing to beat the odds of disaster on the tricksters’ roads.
National and societal identity is often equally as important in Pyrrhus as race. Though individual cities and towns may be peopled heterogeneously, particularly Hrokar enclaves, most of the upstart nations on the continent are composed of a mixed variety of races and cultures, most of whom identify with one of the three major pre-Cataclysmic civilizations: the Akashic Hegemony, Menhir State, and Celestial Empire. Many of them see themselves as the one true rightful inheritor of one of these fallen states, and feel a duty to attempt to reunite the wayward under their banner. People are bound by ties of political beliefs, family history, or even just which fizzy sugar-water beverage they prefer. There’s more than enough reason for conflict everywhere you go, and once the cycle of violence starts it is very, very difficult to stop. That doesn’t mean someone won’t try, though, does it? Even if not, your opportunities await.
Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.
The world of Pyrrhus is designed to offer the players and MC two things. The first is, of course, to give us an excuse to use the extensive combat rules. Role-Playing Games are, after all, descended from the medieval miniatures war-gaming played on felt-covered card tables in wood-paneled basements of 1970’s Lake Geneva, and combat is the major part of the BIWA rules system. That’s fine. War-gaming is fun.
But over the years, plot and background has become just as important. It’s not enough to kick in the door and attack the Orc with a Greatsword, we want to know why he’s there. What’s he doing? Does he have plans of his own? Are you making a widow of his wife or orphans of his children by treating him as just some obstacle? You monster. Get out of this house.
No, you don’t have to take it that seriously if you don’t want to. Games are supposed to be fun. But Role-Playing Games offer much more than just a backdrop to fight things, they offer a chance to tell stories, design elaborate plots, let players create a character and see what that character does. ‘Playing a role’, as it were. Pyrrhus is meant to offer the opportunity for both in equal measure. There’s fighting, there’s conflict, and it’s for some sort of reason, however petty or grand that reason might be. This campaign setting is designed to give you those reasons, make players think about what they’re doing, while still letting you take out the bad guys and rake in the treasures. Amateur drama is fun.
Stories can be set in the City of Bastion, in one of the provided lands, or MCs can simply design their own; there’s plenty of room for expansion. The rest of this book will contain descriptions of places, people, societies and history of this world, all the better to spark some ideas.
Now get out there and have some fun already.
Learn more about the regions and places of interest in Pyrrhus here.
Faces in the Crowd:
The Pyrrhus setting included with BIWA is a world like ours in many ways, but different in many, many others. One of the major differences is that there’s more than one sapient, tool-using animal walking around to think ‘Why?’.
Pyrrhus has a long history, and though conflict is a universal constant, the ‘who’ and the ‘why’ have changed many times. It wasn’t so long ago that Pyrrhus was under the control of the three great ancient civilizations: the Menhir State, Celestial Hegemony and Akashic Empire, grand multicultural societies of immense size and very different character. Even though they are gone now, Pyrrhan society and culture still feels their touch in the modern age.
The upshot of this is that in Pyrrhus you don’t have to be human, but a different creature entirely, with a different upbringing, personal outlook, ancient and personal history, and a different skill of inborn skills and abilities. From cackling trickster crow-men, grim and determined underground-dwelling master craftsmen, technologically advanced reptiles and even artificial constructs finding their own meaning of life, the races of Pyrrhus offer an array of choices for players to help them fine-tune their characters’ abilities and inspire histories and motivation.
Pyrrhus is a society where multiculturalism is the norm – the three great civilizations included all races under their banners, bound together by history, philosophy and culture. That isn’t to say there aren’t stereotypes, of course, but any race is a viable choice in any particular player group, and though there are clear preferences, any race can choose any power source for their special abilities. You are not what you were born, but what you can do.
Duranta: Constructs built somewhere far, far away, now trapped in a strange land. Alien. Foreign. Disturbing. You don’t belong here, stranger; mysteries of the stars swirl around you. Just how much do you want to know?
Hrokr: The avian crow-men of the mountains, sagely and wise, but with a trickster streak and a fondness for practical jokes. They’ll make sure you learn your lesson; hopefully you survive it.
Humans: You may be familiar with this one already. Stubborn, unpredictable, aggressive, but occasionally with surprising charity and heroism.
Irrkrhyst: Reptilian cold-blooded iguana-men with a long, long history, a passion for technology, good brains on their shoulders, and the biggest fanciest gadgetry.
Lycanger: The dread you feel in the dark may be related to these bestial, outdoors-loving shapeshifters. Nature wears a thousand faces. Be the ravenous animal you feel you are on the inside.
Myrmidons: These living weapons were built in ages long forgotten for the sole purpose of war, though now they face a choice. Will you be the soldier you were made to be, or will you forge your own path?
Svartalfar: The stoic people of the underground realms, master craftsmen and artificers, with an inborn control over the fates of their enemies, and absolutely zero patience for your nonsense.
Uruk: The only thing louder than the crashing waves in a storm is the voice of these cetaceans as they come for you, carrying out exacting tactical plans, and singing songs about it afterward.
“Sure, I’ll make it for you, but you’re not going to like the price.”
The Alfar have a reputation for being cynical, grim and fatalistic. The Alfar think this stereotype is nonsense: they’re just more sensible than the rest of these cretins. Perhaps it’s just a feeling that comes naturally to a race that lives longer than others and starts seeing the same inevitable mistakes over and over. Perhaps they’re just cranky. But man, have you seen the rings on that guy?
Svartalfar means ‘dark small ones’ in one of the ancient languages of the Celestial Hegemony, of which the Alfar people were a key part. Alfar are slightly shorter than humans on average, with long pointed ears, slim or narrow build, and large eyes, gemstone-coloured. They have dark skin that ranges from light grey to coal back, tend towards grey or white hair, and frequently grow thick facial hair that can reach the length of the head-hair on a feral human. Alfar are adapted to life underground, and frequently make their homes below natural features and cities, finding cold rock and earth surroundings familiar and comfortable.
Alfar tend to swing between melancholy or grumpiness with rare bouts of joviality and cheerfulness. There is very rarely ever a point in between; an Alfar doesn’t care to do things halfway, and that comes to their moods as well. Of the races of Pyrrhus, the Alfar are the longest-lived, frequently reaching a lifespan four or five times that of humans if unmolested by violence, disease or accident. They are also known across the entirety of the continent, no matter what their background, for a clearly inborn talent in crafting and creation. Alfar weave Celestial magic into brilliant and formidable works of blacksmithing, jewelery, sculpture, armor and weaponry. The ancient stories of Pyrrhus are full of tales of legendary Alfar-crafted artifacts, of grand underground palaces where every wall is a carved testament to ancient legacy, of shining swords that could cut a Kami or Demon in half.
Alfar prefer the Celestial power source for their inborn abilities. They were the solid bedrock of the Celestial Hegemony in times past, and gravitate towards the spellweaving and artifice of their ancestors. Even the Alfar of the Menhir and Akashic civilizations shared this trait. Menhir-derived societies are full of stories about young heroes questing to discover Alfar mentors that proceeded to bestow powerful weapons, or to discover and raid the underground treasure vaults of evil Alfar wizards. In the Akashic civilization, Alfar engineering was the practical effort that implemented the advanced electronic and psychic designs of the Empire’s dreamers.
As a Svartalfar, your inborn talents take advantage of your talent for ‘practical’ magic, and grant you advantages in construction and in navigating the Alfar’s natural environment
Your distinctions of ‘Good’ and ‘Bad’ are irrelevant. I am the one with the gun."
Duranta are newcomers to Pyrrhus. They have only begun to appear in the last few decades, and fit nowhere into known history. They are a strange, unknown quantity; mysterious, disturbing, and profoundly alien.
A Duranta appears, physically, to be a human. At first. Anyone observing one for any length of time rapidly notices the differences. The visage and body of a Duranta is subtly wrong in difficult to describe ways. When a Duranta moves or speaks, the muscle groups they use seem bizarre and unnatural, particularly around the face. Quite simply, they don’t look, act, or think like anything that belongs to Pyrrhus. Wherever the Duranta go, they inspire distrust and unease, the feeling that they’re completely out of place; that the Duranta do not belong here.
The people who think this are correct.
The truth of the Duranta is that they are not from Pyrrhus. The Duranta are living constructs, designed and grown on impossibly far-away alien worlds, and they conform to the templates of life native to those unknown realms. Their pallid appearance, metallic-coloured eyes and teeth, and unsettling movements push the boundaries of the uncanny valley. For this reason, most Duranta wear long, loose clothing like robes that hides their form, as well as masks that cover their heads. Some of these masks are simple ovals with the suggestion of facial features, and some are elaborate animal-like pieces that resemble natural and legendary beasts of Pyrrhan stories. The Duranta hide themselves like this simply because such eccentricities tend to raise fewer questions than full exposure to what lies underneath.
The Duranta were originally created as war thralls in order to fight battles of interstellar scope, and the milk-white fluids which flow in lieu of blood in their bodies propel them to bursts of incredible strength and speed as well as repairing their bodies at an enviable rate. Duranta are naturally psychic. While they do not advertise this fact, some Duranta are unfinished shells, nothing more than puppets to be hurled into battle by remote operators. “Aware” Duranta, in addition to their command of mindless shells, also have weak telepathic abilities, the better to coordinate among each other. Duranta have no reproductive system and cannot breed naturally, but they were long ago gifted with the secrets of their creation and repair, and the knowledge of how to reproduce new people and replacement parts is handed down from one generation of Duranta to the next.
The World Ships of the Duranta were vessels of war, not exploration or commerce. When those ships crash landed, they brought with them extensive secrets of engineering and weaponry, which the Duranta use both to intimidate Pyrrhan natives and also to ingratiate themselves with the local population. Duranta will often sell their services as mercenaries or technicians, and thanks to the efforts of wandering Duranta merchants, examples of utterly alien and exotic weapons and technology have started to pop up in diverse places, with the inevitable effect such things have on local wars and conflicts. Duranta have actively cultivated an image as ‘wandering merchants’ or ‘simple mercenaries’, and the truth of their origin is a guarded secret, not known to the general population. Some on Pyrrhus, however, have started to suspect the horrifying truth...
Duranta are new to Pyrrhus, and have no history in any Pyrrhan culture or society; they were totally unknown to the Three Civilizations, and don’t quite fit in anywhere. Duranta wander widely, however, and can be found anywhere on the continent, normally as part of a mercenary group, military brigade or caravan hawking strange and exotic weapons. Being naturally psychic, the vast majority of Duranta take to the Horizon power source; when asked, a Duranta will respond only that they find it ‘familiar’. However, more and more frequently, Duranta following Celestial or Menhir are being spotted in bloody conflicts across the continent. Duranta using Celestial and Menhir powers tend towards a particular experimental use of their powers, almost like the aliens are testing or researching them. There are no heavy concentrations of Duranta anywhere in Pyrrhus save around the great dry lakes and salt deserts to the far north of the Free City of Bastion; none save the Duranta know that it is here that their World Ships crash landed.
As a Duranta, you were designed to combat horrors unimaginable from the void between the stars, and it serves you well on the battlefield
“There’s no need for language like that, friend. Haven’t I given you exactly what you asked for?”
One of the universal sayings of Pyrrhus, no matter what age, race, civilization or society you’re from, is this: beware a grinning beak.
Hrokr are an avian people, humanoid birds. They tend to be about the same size as Alfar, but seem smaller by virtue of their thin bones and light frames; despite their appearance, however, the Hrokr can in fact be quite muscular. Hrokr skin is covered in feathers – soft and downy around their legs and stomachs, full and crow-like around their heads, chests and arms. Their faces are pointed, with great solid-black eyes, and ending in pointed keratinous beaks. From a Hrokr’s arms hang a great mass of skin membrane and feathers, resembling bird wings, and with which they can achieve some limited flight. Their knees are reverse-jointed, and their feet clawed and scaly. Hrokr prefer the open spaces, making their homes at the tallest peaks of mountains or the highest suites in cities; as an extension of this, Hrokr have a tendency to prefer to live alone, isolated from others, and have a fondness for the wilderness and wild places resembling that of the Lycans.
That isn’t to say that the Hrokr are anthropophobic. A Hrokr is the life of the party, the eternal jester. To a Hrokr, life is one big joke and most of you poor suckers missed the punchline. In addition to this, the bird-men have an almost pathological need and desire to ‘help’ others, which frequently manifests in a love of pranks and practical jokes. To a Hrokr’s friends, this behavior can be annoying; to the same Hrokr’s enemies, this behavior can be cruel, horrifying and quite frequently fatal. Hrokr are fond of striking ‘bargains’, or imparting ‘lessons’, and consider trickery the best way to do it. But don’t make the mistake, as some do, of taking them for laughing goofballs. What better way to teach a proud man humility than by burning his house down? Or better, getting him to burn his own house down, because you convinced him it was a good idea?
Most Hrokr align strongly with the Celestial power source. According to their legends, which greatly influenced the shared mythos of the Celestial Hegemony, Hrokr were uplifted from mindless beasts by the God Odin, the Wise, and instructed in the arts of writing, art, and magic. The crow-men took this to heart, and the desire to uplift others is ingrained in them, as well as knowledge of the Hegemony’s elemental magics. Relatively few Hrokr lived in the old Menhir State, and those that did were frequently loners and outcasts, characterized as unpredictable tricksters; their descendants retain a streak of bitterness, and their pranks more frequently veer into cruelty. Hrokr aligned to Horizon retain a flair for the immaterial, and tend to rely more on psychic powers and flashy effects than others from their technologically-aligned culture.
As a Hrokr, your inborn talents mark you as a troublemaker and you know it
Humans are a walking mixture of contradictions. They are known for their great capacity for violence and willingness to kill over the pettiest possible reasons; yet at the same time, for their great ability to surprise with selflessness and compassion, and fight for the most hopeless causes in the name of what they feel is right. Humans are, at best, half-civilized. Only a thin veneer of society keeps most of them from acting out their most destructive impulses. Still, they seem to try their best.
Humans are the same physically as humans in our world. They are mammals of the ape family, symmetric and bipedal. Most have a large quantity of hair on the tops of their heads and little elsewhere; males will frequently grow hair on their faces as well. They come in a wide variety of skin tones and hair colors, with no real differences except the cosmetic between them. Because they are familiar to our readers, this book uses the term ‘humanlike’ to describe other races which share the same general shape.
Humans have no particular preference towards Menhir, Celestial or Horizon for their power source. In the era of the Three Civilizations, the human population was equally split between them – even in the modern day, humans are found essentially everywhere, largely due to their stubborn adaptability, relatively rapid maturation and competitive instincts. Stereotyped as particularly violent, Humans found their calling in the front-lines of the grand conflicts; even today, many other races find it hard to shake that possibly-irrational distrust that the Humans around them will fly off the handle at any given moment. Humans, however, can boast a proud history in the arts and sciences as well – radio, in particular, was a human invention, partially responsible for the rapid technologization of the Akashic Empire.
Humans can be found all over Pyrrhus in no particular concentration, save perhaps the neutral Free City of Bastion, where they outnumber the other races. Humans living in the areas of the old Celestial Hegemony, particularly around the Cloudforge mountain range in the east, normally take on a more academic and artistic bent than their fellows, likely due to their exposure to the monasteries and academies of the Hrokr dotting the peaks. Those descended from the frontline soldiers of the Menhir State naturally value personal strength and fighting prowess, and tend to be loners more than not, frequently with complex (and to other races, as well as human women, silly) rituals and contests among the men to determine relative pecking order. Humans from the old Akashic culture, meanwhile, tend to be nearly as fanatical about the latest high-tech toys as the Irrkrhyst, and exhibit a particularly Lizardman-like streak of interest in the newest electronics.
My people were running Empires millenia before you apes thought to build mud huts."
In the mother language of the Akashic Empire, ‘Irrkrhyst’ means ‘Children of the Sun’. This is both literal, as the heartlands of the old Horizon civilization sit in the sun-drenched deserts and swamps of the northern part of Pyrrhus, and figurative, as the Irrkrhyst pridefully consider themselves the first people, the origin of civilization. Perhaps they are right. The state of historical records pre-collapse being what they are, it’s difficult to know anything for certain, but available evidence suggests that the Irrkrhyst have been on Pyrrhus longer than any other species.
The Lizardmen, as the rest of Pyrrhus calls them, are large, cold-blooded, iguana-like reptilian beings. They are covered in scales, with clawed hands and feet, double-jointed limbs (enabling them to walk comfortably on two or four legs), and slit-like eyes, which frequently range from white to gold in color. Lizardman scales come in every imaginable color across Pyrrhus, though pale colors are significantly rarer than darker ones. Instead of hair, Lizardmen have a variety of different forms of spines, ridges and crests made of keratin over their heads, necks and backs. Because their mouths are so different from the other races, Lizardmen occasionally speak foreign languages with a hissing or lisp. The race also exhibits a strong sexual dimorphism – females are noticeably larger and more muscular than males.
Irrkhryst are the foremost scientists and engineers on Pyrrhus, bar none. It may be inborn in the manner of the Alfar and their crafting talents, or it may simply be a strong cultural predisposition, but the shiniest electronics and technology always seem to find themselves in the hands of the lizards first. The Irrkryst were the masters and cultural center of the ancient Akashic Empire, which was the first to discover modern metallurgy, the first to discover modern chemistry, the first to discover modern electronics, the first to discover bioengineering, the first to discover gunpowder. The most famous universities and centers of academia on Pyrrhus are all inevitably run by Lizardmen; the deadliest weapons of mass destruction seem to wind up in their hands first as well. Lizardman technological templates are also unique in Pyrrhus in that, despite their cultural mania for the latest inventions, they retain an almost Lycan-like reverence for the natural world. The capital cities of the Akashic Empire were marvels of modern technology built into and in symbiotic relationship with nature, and many still exist in the sun-drenched north of the continent.
Irrkrhyst have a strong preference for Horizon as power source, and Horizon fueled the Akashic Empire. Many even claim that the Irrkrhyst invented Horizon themselves, as an escape from the Celestial magic which relied on the Old Gods for power. Much equipment sized for Lizardman hands presumes psionic talent, reinforcing that preference. Irrkhryst who are powered by Menhir exist in moderate numbers, however, and greatly benefit from it through a focus on using their size and brute force to great advantage. Irrkhryst who are powered by Celestial exist but are rare; much of the Celestial Hegemon’s lands are inhospitable to them due to the cold temperature, and opportunities for them to learn Celestial are unusual as a result.
As a Lizardman, you have the claws and natural resilience of reptiles to draw on, not to mention your prodigious size compared to the apes
"I saw a werewolf drinking a pina colada at Trader Vic’s. His hair was perfect.” - 'Werewolves of London' by Warren Zevon
The oldest and strongest emotion is fear, and the oldest and strongest fear is the fear of the unknown. The darkness when you turn out the lights, the loneliness out in the wilderness where civilization dares not tread. To the Lycanger, that strange unknown is them.
The Lycanger, also called Lycans, are in their natural form somewhat similar in appearance to Alfar or Humans, though one would never be mistaken for the other. Their limbs and digits are long, thick coarse hair covers their skin, and powerful coils of muscle twist across their frames. They have protruding noses and mouths, with a canine facial structure, erect pointed ears, red to dark-red eyes that stare intensely like a wild animal, and mouths full of sharp, conical teeth that mark them as predators. Their natural form isn’t all there is to see, however, for the Lycan are shapeshifters. They can change form, by spontaneously altering their bone, tendon and muscle structures, stretching or shrinking skin, and growing or absorbing hair and keratin. A Lycan’s transformed body resembles a fiendish, bipedal version of one of Pyrrhus’ more dangerous animals – wolves, bears, arbreghasts or moose, as just a few examples. Lycan call these transformed states Totems, and they organize themselves into lineal tribal units based on the nature of their animalistic forms. A family line could be of the Boar totem, for instance, and all members of that tribe are joined by their shared possession of a monstrous, tusked Totem form.
Though a Lycan can operate a radio or drive a car as well as anyone else, most feel a need to ‘get their hands dirty’. Societies and cultures with heavy Lycan populations are known to prize physical capabilities, working the earth, and clever feats of strength, with a slight disdain for new advances and an appreciation for tradition. This comes largely from their history as the prime movers and shakers of the Menhir State, a civilization that endorsed concepts like ‘might makes right’ and idolized lone heroes as an ideal. Lycan religions and legends portray them as connected to the earth and nature in a way other races are not, and even if the modern world is mostly based in cities, Lycan will always treasure ‘wild’ values. In modern Pyrrhan society, this sometimes manifests in unique ways. Lycan creations such as the gunblade and the trollhammer merge gunpowder technology with the old ways of brutal close-quarters combat, and Lycan military commanders have made melee tactics horrifyingly viable in an age when ranged combat increasingly reigns supreme.
The vast majority of Lycan prefer Menhir as their power source. Lycan cultural identity persists as the unknown outsider and the dark wilderness embodied, even despite being the majority members of the old Menhir State. Lycan mythos is full of stories and song praising lone heroes, clever adventurers, and other similar figures who stood alone against impossible odds, which fits well with Menhir’s enhancement of the Lycan’s natural abilities. Lycans following Celestial as their power source are little different from their Menhir cousins, though they tend to take more readily to the giddy joy of long-range pyrotechnics. Horizon Lycans tend to be somewhat more civil and social than those from elsewhere on the continent, a remnant of a culture that placed more value on the group than the individual – in their use of psionics, they put technology-enhancing powers to deadly and destructive use on the battlefield.
As a Lycanger, you are the stories parents tell their children to scare them into behaving
Myrmidons are sapient, intelligent war machines from before the collapse of the three civilizations. They are notorious for waking up lost and confused in ancient battlefields, for their unfailing loyalty, and for being almost impossible to kill.
There is no standard appearance for the Myrmidon, though some traits are seen more frequently than others. Their appearance is that of brassy clockwork and plantlike fibers, fitted with metallic armor resembling that left behind by armies from the unrecorded past. Their ‘faces’ consist of few identifying features other than glowing eyespots, covered in one from a vast array of known helmet designs ranging from the utilitarian to the ostentatious. Many Myrmidon are built in the shape of other races of Pyrrhus; thin and lanky like the Alfar, for instance, or hunched-over and hulking like the Uruk, covered in serpentine pattern scale mail like the Irrkrhyst, even occasionally with nonfunctional ‘wings’ like the Hrokr. They speak from a module located in what would be a living creature’s throat area, though the mechanism for how this module works (along with the rest of the Myrmidon, really) eludes known science. In some ways, they are as ‘alive’ as any other race – healing powers function normally on them, they require sleep to recharge, and they seem to require air to breathe despite having no apparent lungs or vital organs.
In other ways, though, they are very much more machine than living being. The single universal physical trait among all discovered, active Myrmidon is the presence of a crystalline orb buried deep within their chest cavities. This orb houses a Myrmidon’s personality and mind. As long as this core remains, a Myrmidon cannot really die, and can be recharged or repaired later on. Sometimes, this is much much later. Even the most ancient Myrmidon aren’t sure exactly how old they are, but it’s possible that they were around as early as the Irrkrhyst were. Maybe earlier than that.
Myrmidons as a race have no shared society, culture or goals. Remnants of an unknown era, Myrmidons must each individually choose who they are and what they want to be. Some wholeheartedly embrace their apparent purpose as pure soldiers, fighting for whatever cause will accept them. Some attempt to rally their fellows to join a Myrmidon society separate from the rest of Pyrrhus, inevitably with tragic results. Some reject the idea that they are nothing but mindless weapons, choosing friends or causes that they feel they can believe in. Ironically for artificial beings, to be a Myrmidon is to have to choose what it means to be alive. All Myrmidon however, whatever the rest of their personality is like, are known for their dogged and unyielding loyalty. Once a Myrmidon chooses a master, or a cause, or a friend, it follows and protects it absolutely until death – normally, that of the cause, not the Myrmidon. Being effectively immortal can be very lonely.
Myrmidons are found all over the Pyrrhan continent, and have no cultural preference for any power source.
Whether you embrace or reject your nature as a living weapon, a Myrmidon is still an almost-immortal fighting machine, and your inborn talents reflect this
“Of course it looks impossible, we haven’t won yet! Imagine the songs we’ll sing about it!”
The other races of Pyrrhus would call an Uruk almost as violent as a Human, ordered to a fault, and without any sense of self-preservation. The Uruk would respond back that the rest are weak cowards with no sense of adventure. You can’t sing about sitting at home all day, after all.
Uruk, also called Orcs, are sleek, fur-covered humanoids, top-heavy and with a distinct hunched-over profile and protruding spine. They have abnormally-long toes on their feet, and both feet and fingers are webbed, with a tough membrane between them. Uruk have no external ears, and their eyes are placed on the sides rather than the front of their pointed heads, giving them a wider but shallower range of vision than other races. Their fur covers their entire body, and is swirled in distinct white, brown and black patterns which are particularly complex around their faces. Uruk are amphibious; newborns require water to survive, either salt or fresh, and adults remain well adapted to aquatic maneuvering. The Uruk respiratory system is notably complex and robust, with the capability of straining oxygen from both air and water, even if it is thin, polluted or toxic. In short, an Uruk can breathe basically anything.
An Uruk is a born explorer, soldier and warrior-poet. Their natural physical advantages propel them to discover the unknown, and to try to make an impression once they arrive there. Their cultural upbringing, coming largely from the adventurous and martial spirit of the old Menhir State, instills a need to accomplish great feats and to stand out from others. Combined with a sense of protocol, honor and ‘pack loyalty’ which seems ingrained in them, it’s no wonder that Orcs are frequently stereotyped as almost as violent as humans. It’s true enough that a natural aptitude for ordered thinking combined with a fearless attitude makes them natural shock troops and commanders. More than once during past wars, units of Orc ‘Marines’, soldiers trained to infiltrate through waterways and inhospitable environs, turned the tides of particularly difficult battles. Less violently, their powerful lungs and naturally loud voices contributed to the creation of a rich oral storytelling culture. In many places on Pyrrhus, Orcsong is considered a high art, and the image of the Uruk storyteller sitting around a campfire on some oceanic rock or on a boat in the storm singing songs of valor is a literary cliché recognized everywhere on the continent.
Uruk most frequently use the Menhir power source, though an increasing number follow Celestial. The Uruk’s adventuring ways greatly informed the old Menhir State, and the surviving culture of that civilization was largely based on the values of both Uruk and Lycans, that of strength, deeds and reverence for the nomadic hero. The Celestial Hegemony, however, also had a significant population of Orcs, who took well to the vast variety of biomes on that part of the continent, and whose descendants wield Celestial magic with brute power. Fewer Uruk lived in Akashic lands, and so fewer nowadays follow the Horizon power source, though those that do are feared for their deadly wielding of psionically-infused and enhanced weaponry on the battlefield.
As an Orc, you are here to kick ass and sing songs about it later