put Maraille: A D&D idea stack

Maraille: A D&D idea stack

Maraille is a planet (circling the main star of p Eridani) in the Incatena, my sf universe and the setting for my novel Against Peace and Freedom. It's also a D&D campaign!

You can think of it as “Clarke's Law meets D&D.” Maraille is set in an sf universe with advanced technology— only it’s a medieval world. It has no magic, only high technology.

It’s kept that way by the powers that be— the Jondiles— based on the curious notion that certain desirable human traits are best nurtured in a stressful, low-tech environment. Most other planets are organized on the principle that human peace and prosperity should be maximized. That means, of course, that they're democracies run according the the latest findings of socionomics, using the latest technology, open to everything the galaxy has to offer.

But what if you need a general, or a ruthless soldier, or an assassin, or a scholar who understands the old religions because he lives them the old way, or a diplomat who can deal with primitive worlds, or even an actor who can truly embody a historical role because it's second nature to her? The usual answer is “special training”, but the Maraillais answer is “maintain two billion people in historical poverty and skim the population for skills we can use.”

Maraille isn't the only exception to the rule. Retrohabitats are fairly common in the Incatena: generally a space station or megahabitat where progress has been halted at the stage preferred by its occupants (or their ancestors), for religious or ideological reasons. Maraille is the only planet that's a retrohabitat; also the only one that's run by people who don't themselves want to live in the past.)

Two ways to read

You can just read about the setting. I've tried to put the descriptive information first. Just stop when it starts getting too D&D-ish.

Campaign rules are in this color so you can ignore them.

The system and the planet
Political map

Or you can use it for a D&D campaign. That's its metanarrative origin, in fact. About 20 years ago, I was going to run a campaign— that would be AD&D v1.0— and prepared a HyperCard stack to both run the combat and give the background information.

The illustration above is from the original stack. It's a hassle to even run a HyperCard stack these days, but that pic makes me all nostalgic. This is what we had to do before color was invented. And that illo took most of the card, which in turn was a fair fraction of the original Mac screen. HyperCard motivated some severe chunking of information. It was so easy to get a stack going— design your cards, add text and pictures, add programming to make it do stuff. And then you'd always hit a wall as it was interpreted and huge stacks started to get slow.

I've heavily adapted that stack to make this page. Although I could use Javascript to re-create the combat calculations, there was nothing new in that and there must be a million tools out there (plus all I know is 1.0). I've added more setting information, and I encourage you to use anything else from the novel or the Incatena page.

This isn't really a module or a campaign… in fact, we never did start the campaign, so I can't even say these ideas are tested. That's why I call it an idea stack. But if you're the sort of DM I was, you can yourself handle turning an interesting set of ideas into a game session. (If you do, tell me how it goes!)

Campaigning on Maraille
Differences from D&D
Puvár (Power)

The system and the planet

The century

You can start your campaign in the same year as my novel— AD 4901. That is, Maraille uses the same calendar as the Incatena and doesn't substitute a local era.

The exception is the Arabyah-speaking region, which uses the Islamic calendar. January 1, 4901 corresponds to 6 Shawwal, A.H. 4410.

Maraille was settled in 3252— that is, 1649 years ago. Keep that in mind when setting out ruins and lost items, and recall that population would have been low for the first few centuries. It's safe to make buildings, artifacts, writings, etc. up to 1400 years old.

The system


p Eridani is a binary system, 26.3 light years from Earth, in the constellation of Eridanus in the far southern sky. There's very little known about it in the contemporary science of you humans.

It consists of two K stars orbiting each other at 30 to 98 AU, which is far enough apart that both could have planetary systems. Maraille orbits p Eridani A, which has the local name Solé.

Its binary Otsolé ranges from apparent magnitude of -15 to -17 (5 to 20 times brighter than the full moon, but nothing compared to the sun, which is -27). Corollary: when Otsolé is out, the night is not dark— you can easily read and walk around by its light. But it's not daytime.

Here's that link to the Incatena again, which provides background on what this interstellar civilization looks like (and the metanarrative on why it's that way).

The planet

Maraille was settled in the 33rd century, from several nations, but led by the French (and their descendants on Novorossiya). Thus its name is pronounced mah-RIGH [ma 'raj]. Those who designed the colony, the Fondateurs, had a variation of the retrohabitat idea: they maintained that medieval conditions produced better people— hardier, smarter, more virtuous— but they had no desire to live that way themselves. They wanted to harvest the cream of the crop and take them into the Incatena.

The key fact about Maraille: Contact with the Incatena is limited to Île de Maraille. Here, about 25 million Maraillais live, with modern comforts. This is where the only spaceports are— and for that matter the only airports. The people of the Island call themselves gens de l'Île “island people”, which the rest of the planet turns into Jondiles. Offworlders in general are not allowed on the rest of the planet, except under escort; the nature of Maraille society is not generally known, as it violates the Incatena Treaty.

On the rest of the planet, including the oceans, high technology is forbidden. The cutoff is roughly AD 1450.

The map shows land use patterns rather than climate: light green for arable land, beige for grassland, yellow for deserts, brown for mountains, dark green for jungles, purple for tundra.

The circumference of Maraille is about 22,000 miles, a little smaller than Earth. (The diameter is 7000 miles.) The map omits a featureless section of the Oçã Daiping about 2000 miles wide. The map also omits the featureless south polar sea, and most of the boring northern continent, Polér.

Maraille did not have its own ecosystem, but it did have a pleasant climate and a carbon dioxide atmosphere. It was seeded with oxygen and terrestrial crops for about a hundred years before the first settlers arrived.


The languages spoken on Maraille, and their ancestors:

Englese English
Lindese Spanish
Maraillais     French
Laparól French
Hanwa Chinese
Ruskwá Russian
Dotish German
Kku Indonesian
Bandu Swahili
Hongo Japanese
Bharati Hindi
These are of course the 50th century derivatives of contemporary languages, which is why things are spelled weird on this page. The medieval situation encourages dialectization, and it can be assumed that each language area contains a wide range of dialects.

I've distinguished two French languages: Maraillais is a modern language which keeps in touch with other 50th century forms of French; Laparól is the primitive version, modified by a thousand years of medievalism and its own geographical context (e.g. it will borrow words mostly from Englese and Arabyah).

Maraillais speakers can speak Laparól. They study it in school and have experience in the Laparól regions. However, if they speak pure Maraillais among themselves, Laparól speakers cannot understand them.

The language map suggests the places of settlement of the original colonists, which was largely planned. Of course there have been major modifications due to war— e.g. Englese has expanded to the east at the expense of Bharati, and the Lindese have conquered quite a few Kku speakers.

Aliens (Skweeoo, Dzebyet, Garcheron) will of course speak their own language. Ogorodé do not have their own language.

Of course you will represent the language of your campaign area with English. (Or whatever you and your players speak.) Don't try to represent Englese with King James English— it's a language of the far future, not the past! However, you can use archaic English, if you like, to represent very old language materials.

Do please throw out all of the D&D stuff about alignment tongues, Thieves’ Cant, and other languages that wouldn't be present on Maraille. I also encourage you to make encounters with people of other language groups difficult. In real life, working with an interpreter is extremely cumbersome, and working without one is (for untrained people) nearly impossible.

It is extremely unlikely that players will know any alien languages.

If you need more names for your campaign… feel free to make them up. Believe me, there's a limit to how much conlanging you can impose on a D&D campaign. You may note that I've distorted the words to suggest future change, and you can follow my lead, but no matter how carefully you introduce "Mahmud al-Quds, Calif of the Qabili Saltana", your players will refer to him as "the bearded guy".

Political map

This map shows the major political entities. The very light color indicates unorganized territory, which of course is the best place to look for trouble.

The most powerful countries are these:

The Han Empire
The Fondateurs set up the empire as close in governance and technology to the ancient Chinese empires. Despite the name, the technology is Míng. It is the only area where gunpowder cannons and wood-block printing are allowed.
This area is an Islamic caliphate, Sunni in theology. The Jidrashi are known for the magnificence of their cities and the tolerance of their rulers— minority religions and women are treated better here than in the north of Legrón continent. They also pride themselves on their sophisticated architecture, art, medicine, and poetry.
A great Catholic empire, whose tile-roofed cities on the Mar Metteráno are one of the prettiest sights on Maraille. Extremely intolerant of non-Catholics; through its Patriarchy it attempts to control Catholic behavior worldwide.
França Confedaçõ
Politically, a barely unified mess of squabbling principalities, barely able to maintain their borders against the Qabili to their east. But Jondiles from Île de Maraille are frequent visitors (as they know the language), and their interference and the Objects of Puvár they leave behind create unique threats and opportunities.
The Slavic republic north of the Metteráno, age-old enemy of the Lindese, not least because of their heretical religion, Mirism. The people are dour and pessimistic, but have a genius for mechanics and trade.

The Englese Sector

This is the intended playing area, though of course you are not restricted to it. All these countries speak Englese, except on the eastern edge where Lindese is spoken.

Feudal kingdom with fairly autonomous barons; booming maritime trade in the big cities of Westlin and Sweetaven.
Declining empire— a few centuries ago, ruled almost all of the Englese sector. Corrupt but still fairly rich; dominates the sea trade from the capital of Toraunt.
A backward region, mostly forests, but important as a source of coal and iron. Theoretically a kingdom, though the king in Brendat barely rules his own bedchamber.
Run by a religious order, which clamps down on all the sin it can find— heresy, prostitution, gambling, wine-making. There is a parallel network of criminal gangs which supply all these things and often works outside the borders.
A republic, though this mainly means that the burghers of Billindawn and other towns, plus the nobles, rule as an oligarchy. Still, considered the most advanced country in the sector. Jondiles have been known to quash important inventions before they can go anywhere.
Run by the Tyrantess of Dologiria, who lives up to her name with paranoid persecutions of anyone she considers a threat. The only realm which legally allows slavery. Frequently at war with Eleny.
An island devoted mostly to fishing and herding in the hills. After a revolution, there are no nobles and towns are self-governing; this is considered radical and dangerous in the rest of the sector, but as the people are poor no one worries too much about it.
Territory won by Coronians from Bharat two centuries ago; run by the military, it still has a large population of sullen Bharatis. Source of the best mercenaries in the sector.


The campaign was going to start in Albion, so I have a map. It's a kingdom, with its capital and Parlmet at Speiry. It is not the strongest or richest state in the Englese sector— Coronant and Eleny are stronger. Its nobles, in fact, tend to resist any central control except in wartime. The Parlmet consists of the nobles, important religious leaders, and elected representatives of the towns.

The coastal cities of Westlin and Sweetaven are dense and self-governing, with a dizzying gulf between rich and poor— though the poor city dwellers, canny and grasping, are probably better off (though unhealthier) than the peasants in the countryside.

Named towns have at least 5,000 inhabitants— lesser villages and manor halls are not shown.

GMs: you should be a bastard about roads (in purple) and rivers. Travel should be two to three times faster along roads than in the open country, and crossing a river where there is no road (thus, no bridge) is a problem. Albionese would prefer river to road travel— though slower, it's far cheaper and safer.

Points east

Notes on some of the countries to the east:

A great Catholic empire, the great power in this part of the world. Extremely intolerant of non-Catholics; through its Patriarchy it attempts to control Catholic behavior worldwide. Has expanded greatly in this region and is aggressive with all its neighbors.
Capital Sanosé. A republic, something of a refuge from the harsh rule of the Lindese, but troubled by frequent wars with one or the other of their huge imperial neighbors.
Capital Nadu. Shaivism (see below) prevails here. Head of state is the Nizam, but effective power is held by a hereditary prime minister. Once a rich country ruling what is now Emarch.
Capital Patta. Vaishnavism is the dominant religion, and indeed a class of religious scholars known as Pandits rule the country.
The rich and busy port of Lumbani rebelled against Bharat when the Vaishnavites took control. The merchants who run the city and the country have little time for religion, but the common people are often Buddhists or Mirists. One of the most prosperous nations in the north, though frequently threatened by either Bharat or Amkar.
Capital Noveuko, with Noötheism as the commonest religion. One of the only states which has attempted to retain a democratic, indeed socialist form of government. Often fights Nordberg, to its east, which has a more authoritarian government.
The Slavic republic north of the Metteráno, age-old enemy of the Lindese, not least because of their heretical religion, Mirism. The people are dour and pessimistic, but have a genius for mechanics and trade.
Technically a Mirist matriarchy. Women tend to control the large guilds and noble houses, and preserve their power by marrying late and often living half the year apart from their husbands, trading or intriguing in the capital, Georgrad.
A Shi‘a Islamic state, run by its own theocracy. Pembang is a rich trading port, said to sell everything that can be gotten on Maraille. Long ago lost its western regions to Molograd and its southern regions (across the sea) to Tierralinda, but now cultivates good relations with Molograd in order to prevent conquest by the Lindese.
An easygoing though not very wealthy island republic, mostly Shi‘a in religion. Its trade is mostly handled by colonies of Jidrashi.


Maraillais religions include:
The seat of Catholicism is the empire of Tierralinda, where the Patriarch of Maraille sits. Its official language is Lindese, which clerics above the parish level will have to know. See also the Catholic Orders. Unfortunately, the type of Catholics who settled Maraille were those who wished to return to a more authoritarian and patriarchal world. Only a minority are really zealous, but they try to make it hard for everyone else. On the other hand, Catholics believe in education, and their schools are often the best around. Catholicism is the commonest religion in Albion.
This religion formed from a merger of Evangelical Christians and Muslims. It's rather stuffy about anything invented after the 40th century, but by our own standards it's progressive (e.g. it has no problem with homosexuality). It studies both the Bible and the Koran, worships Jehovah/Allah, worships on both Friday nights and Sundays, and celebrates both Christian and Islamic holidays. It views Muhammad as a prophet, and Jesus as something more than that— the precise theology is a dance of careful statements. Very interested in proselytizing outsiders.
A motley collection of fierce sects which refused the Tunisian merger. They mostly pursue their own ideas of holiness, which differ from sect to sect and often from church to church. They do not proselytize. They are convinced that everyone else (including other Christians) are going to hell, but that's God's holy choice.
This is the religion of Jidrash as well as Kku, though since the first is Sunni and the second Shi‘a, they are really separated by a 3200-year-old feud. Maraillais Islam comes from The Future and accepts female equality; they consider the Lindese backwards.
One of the two major divisions of Hinduism, accepting Shiva as the chief god. They have merged with the Jains, and their priests are usually naked mendicant beggars. (This is not required for player characters.) They believe that the aim of life is to escape the cycle of rebirth through spiritual liberation, which comes from personal devotion to Shiva, who will take believers to his/her heaven. (Shiva has a female aspect, named Shri.) They tend to despise the Vaishnavites as bourgie pretenders.
The other division of Hinduism, accepting Vishnu as the chief god, or his avatars Rama, Krishna, or Mohini. Far more theological and less ascetic than the Shaivites, they believe that any sort of lifestyle can be managed in a holy way. Though they counsel devotion to Vishnu, they also maintain that the god is nir-guna “without attributes”. They disdain extreme asceticism such as that of the Shaivites.
This is a rough rubric for East Asian spirituality, common in the Han Empire as well as Honshima— it is a mixture of historical Buddhism, Dàoism, Confucianism, Shinto, and Communism. People accept whatever ideas and practices make sense to them and disregard the rest. Some belief in praying to gods, many don't. For those who wish to practice spirituality, there are temples where meditation, work, and reading are the chief avocations.
Mirism derives from Novorossiya after our day, and is commonest in the Russian sector. Its name comes from mir ‘peace / world’, and it considers itself a high-minded, pacifistic, and rationalistic religion, although popular variants are more mystical— e.g. some adherants choose a personal deity or spirit animal. It emphasizes community (but distrusts authority), manners, and individual responsibility. People try to stay close to nature. Before Maraille was founded, Novorossiyan Mirists supported the project and many migrated to Maraille, eager to give up high technology.
This is the only religion that can claim to have been founded on the Vee, the Incatena's virtual reality network. It worships Mind as the aspirational deity of the cosmos, believing that the universe creates Mind, which when complete creates the next universe, in an eternal cycle. The Vee isn't available on Maraille, but a thorough denial of the importance of physical reality goes down well enough. Noötheists tend to be idealistic but individualistic, and great believers in mind-altering drugs. It is particularly common in the Dotish (German) sector.

Note: religions are not restricted to their ancient cultures. Even before colonization most countries were diverse in religion (and race), and a thousand years of migration, war, trade, and evangelism have created even more miscellany. Rulers may oppress minority religions, but can't get rid of them. All of the above religions may be found in the Englese sector.

In the cities one may encounter actual agnostics, or devotees of various schools of philosophy, from Social Vegetarianism to Chaotic Materialism.

The Ogorodé follow the dominant religion of the areas they find themselves in. The Jondiles rarely follow a religion, though some do so as a way of influencing the medievalists. The Dzebyet have their own theistic system; the Skweeoo are all atheists.

Clerics should choose one of these religions, or one that is likely to exist in the human future. No standard D&D paganisms or player-made ad hoc religions. Players should be expected to follow the morality of the given religion in order to gain their spells. I would discourage “too magical” spells, or require that they be cast using Objects of Puvár.

Catholic orders

These are specialized monastic orders. Like any Catholic order they are normally involved in the church organization helping people; player characters are those who have specialized in exploration and fighting for justice. All orders are responsible to the Head of their order, and ultimately to the Patriarch of Maraille. Knowledge of Lindese will be required to advance high in the Order, to found a religious establishment, or to deal with church politics.
Medellinians believe in direct action to advance social justice. They are often highly educated. Some are free to wander the world seeking fairness and championing the poor. They do not rule out war and revolution in order to improve the world (by their lights).

They are very conscious of community and social issues, and are likely to seek out other Medellinians to accomplish some good mission. They may not accumulate wealth, nor be friendly with the rich— and lords do not look so kindly on them either, as they interfere with what the lords call “how I choose to run my domain.” They do not get along well with Inquisitors or Picarians.

Mendicants are the wandering friars of medieval times. They are preachers and contemplatives, living in poverty and devoted to the love of God, their fellow man, and the whole world. They are supposed to be humble beggars (St. Francis was one), but because of their holiness they may rise in academics (St. Thomas Acquinas was one). They rarely believe in changing the world as Medellinians do, only undertaking service to others. They tend to annoy Jesuits and Inquisitors.
Jesuits are an Order dedicated to the pursuit of Reason, and to the service of the Patriarch of Maraille. They are accomplished teachers, theologians, diplomats, administrators, and occasionally soldiers. They have an ancient rivalry with the Inquisitors. They can work surpisingly well with Medellinians.

Jesuits are organized very strictly, and every Jesuit will have a spiritual director to report to (the Master of the Order reports to the Patriarch, of course). Disobedience to one's director is a serious crime, and it isn't yours to reason why (unless the director suggests an action contrary to the expressed direction of the Patriarch).

Picarians are an order of religious knights, dedicated to the righting of wrongs and the use of force in a good cause. They are similar to Paladins, but are more concerned with personal holiness, and readier to use non-violent methods. Often upper class in origin, they tend to look down on Mendicants and Medellinians.

Unlike Medellinians, Picarians are individualistic in temperament, and once an evil is corrected they tend not to stick around— they ride off into the sunset to look for other causes. They are also more concerned with individual rather than social morality— they will go rescue the kidnapped daughter of a liege where the Medellinian is more likely to seek redress for the liege's downtrodden peasants.

Inquisitors are an Order dedicated to proper teaching, public order, and eradicating heresy. They are the secret police of the Patriarch and often go on missions executing his personal instructions without question and without mercy.

They may make temporary alliances with non-Catholics, but only to advance their own missions or goals. They are harsh with what they consider sinners, they prefer the authorities to those they rule, and they despise Medellinians. They tolerate Picarians, but they have age-old grudges with Jesuits.

These are detailed to offer more local color for clerics, and so players do not treat the Catholic church (dominant in Albion) as a monolithic entity. A player's Order should affect local politics, what alliances are possible, how NPCs react to them. It should also replace “alignment”. Spells that deal with “good” should be interpreted as “good according to the values of the cleric's Order.”


For species which might be found in the Incatena— the Skweeoo, Dzebyet, Garcheron, and Ogorodé— see here.

The most common will be Ogorodé, a species of small, easily overlooked omnivores, who take the jobs no one else wants to do… a social niche which has allowed them to spread to a thousand planets. (By comparison there are fifty human worlds.) The Fondateurs had not planned to include them, but a few made it to Maraille, and they are too useful to give up.

I suggest you use Dwarves as the model for Ogorodé… but their basic personality should fit the above description. For D&D campaigns, I gave them (and no other species) the power of telepathy. Mining would be only one of the nasty jobs they are willing to take. They have no beards, much less artfully braided ones.

Skweeoo are large and hard to kill. To save time you could model them on orcs, though you should not think of them as brutish nor as warriors. They are highly intelligent and rationalistic and come in three sexes.

Dzebyet look like little blue monkeys, about four feet tall. They have been civilized for about 90,000 years, so they consider even the Jondiles to be amusing savages. As they are highly advanced and very dextrous, you might model them on elves.

The latter two species should be very rarely encountered. They were not among the settlers of Maraille. NPCs of these species, or players, should have a very good reason for leaving the Île de Maraille, and a story for why the Jondiles either allowed this or didn't catch them. (Scholarly research is always a good dodge.)


The human lifespan is about 70 years on Maraille. This is fairly high for a traditional culture, and is related to the fact that Maraillais science is often ignorant, but only rarely wrong. E.g. it believes in hygiene, and is fairly well-informed about nutrition, animal breeding, and land management.

However, it is a mere pittance by Incatena standards of age. By contrast, Jondiles live over 400 years; Dzebyet live to 300; Skweeoo can last thousands of years, but as their brain cells slowly regenerate their memories only go back a thousand years or so.

A Jondile matures sexually at 19, and is done schooling by 40 or 50, at which point an ordinary Maraillais will mistake him for a young man of 30. He will look indefinably "middle-aged" till about 100, then "Jondile old"— different than a middle-aged human (the years do not slide by with no effect, after all), but not somehow old-looking. Even when a Jondile hits old age (375-450), the symptoms are different than for normal old age. For instance, the skin tends to become glossy rather than parchmenty, and the characteristic disabilty is plumpness, not emaciation.

Ogorodé, approximating as usual to local conditions, live to about 60.


A whole planet whose tech level is artificially capped? Is that allowed?
Once you can have space habitats, people will undoubtedly use them to create their own societies based on dodgy ideologies. It's like 19th century utopian towns in overdrive. Maraille is just one of the larger such projects.
Why doesn't the Incatena shut it down?
Two reasons. One, it's a weak confederation which doesn't have the power to do it. Two, many of its best Agents, diplomats, and generals are recruited from Maraille.
Do they allow tourism?
The exact nature of Maraille is not known to the Incatena at large. Besides, tourists would probably ruin it.
Do they painstakingly reproduce ancient societies?
You've never tried to get your gaming group to roleplay, have you? No, they just put down colonists and let it grow organically. They did intervene to shape some societies, e.g. to give the Han Empire texts suggesting how the empire should work.
How did they find the colonists?
They only needed a few thousand; most were volunteers. (A few thought they were joining a modern colony and were cheated by local organizers.) There are always people who idolize the past; it just hasn't been possible for them to go join it.
How did they prevent the colonists from maintaining 33rd century knowledge?
Most didn't want to. But if they did, there's not much you can do with that knowledge just in your brain, and with everyone pressuring you to chop wood or grow plants.
But they could have, I dunno, written down Maxwell's Laws, or a diagram of a steam pump…
High tech depends on low tech. You can't build a steam pump without strong boilers, which requires high quality steel. You may know how a rifle is constructed, but you don't have machine tools, or the apparatus for refining the raw ingredients. You know about electricity, only you don't even have a simple battery. Plus, the tech gap is far bigger than it was for (say) Mark Twain's Connecticut Yankee. If you had an 1890s telephone, maybe a smart Renaissance man could reverse engineer it. It'd be impossible with a cel phone, much less a neurimplant.
How do the Jondiles prevent new technology from appearing?
They can freely roam the planet, so they keep track of what people are doing. The savant who's getting a little too clever is likely to be recruited.
What if the Maraillais embrace really regressive measures, like footbinding?
The Jondiles can intervene there, too. Though their aims are a little strange, they do not want to encourage cruelty. They don't get into remote areas, however, so there are backward kingdoms here and there.
Wouldn't Maraille be a playground of sexism and racism?
No; the Fondateurs were not fundamentalists or Moldbuggers. The colonists started out with the usual Incatena mixture of races, so racism is not really a thing on Maraille. (Inhabitants of Nordberg are not all Nordics, etc.) They started out with fairly equal sex roles. Many areas, such as the Han Empire, Molograd, and Jidrash, have kept these intact; other areas have regressed somewhat.
What about homophobia?
Again, the colonists were a product of the 33rd century. Even fundamentalist religions had long ago made their peace with gays and lesbians. If you're trans, you can live as either sex, but Maraillais technology is not up to SRS. (Unless a passing Jondile takes you to Île de Maraille.)
There's two billion Maraillais. Couldn't they just swamp Île de Maraille?
With what? The Maraillais don't have enough oceangoing ships to carry a large army— and all oceangoing ships are tracked, and diverted if they come near the Island. The primitives don't even know where the Island is, and they don't have a clear idea of who the Jondiles are anyway. They just seem like scary eccentric wizards.
Doesn't Incatena technology respond only to neurimplants? How could Maraillais use it at all?
Ah, you're a close reader of my work. And this is one reason why something like a computer or a nuclear power source would just be fancy bricks to the Maraillais. But the more simple devices do have a touch interface. It was not unforeseen that the primitives would sometimes find and use Objects of Power.
Are the Maraillais Aristotelians or something?
The Fondateurs did not teach the scientific method, but they did not attempt to teach anything false. However, teachings you can't practically use in a medieval enviroment (like knowledge of DNA or quantum mechanics) were lost, and erroneous speculations grew up. The Maraillais are better in many areas than medieval Europeans would be, especially in medicine. They do not reproduce the exact errors and superstitions of the past; they've invented new ones.
Do the Maraillais think they're on Earth? Do they remember the colonization period?
They know their world is called Maraille. Stories of colonization are highly distorted (e.g. there's a legend of moving from another place). Settlers did not start with paper technology, so writing things down was hard. By the time they had it, the original settlers were dead and people were more interested in their present history. Besides, it's been over 1600 years… things that old are rare, hard to read, and hard to relate to the present day.
Are the Jondiles all sinister controllers?
By no means; they have a large island of their own and the vast majority of them live ordinary 50th century lives. There is a faction which believes that the whole setup should be abandoned and the planet allowed to develop normally— but they remain a minority.
Do you think retrohabitats are a good idea?
No, not at all. I think they're a logical derivation of trends that would exist in the Incatena, which in turn are derived from my observation of humans today. Also, it's worth pointing out that Earth has one pretty successful retrohabitat today— Amish country— and one pretty vile one— North Korea.
Can I do a steampunk campaign?
You can do any kind of campaign you want, but FWIW Maraille does not have steam technology. Think 1450, not 1850.
Can I include a culture you didn't put on the map?
Knock yourself out. I'd just suggest doing what I tried to do: create unexpected juxtapositions, like Chinese next to Bantu, or Indians next to Germans. Also remember that the colonists were not transported from the past. If you plonk a bunch of Greeks down on the planet without modern technology, you will get something medieval, but not a re-creation of Sparta or the Byzantine Empire. (Though they might call it that!)



Campaigning on Maraille

Differences from D&D

The rules are really up to you, of course. This is only an idea stack, and I've avoided specific, numeric rules… not least because the system I know, AD&D 1.0, is decades out of date.

General differences:

  • There is NO MAGIC at all. Magic doesn't work on Maraille, in the same way it doesn't work outside your door. To a degree Puvár, the Power, replaces it. But this is just 50th century technology. A class called Powerlords replaces magic users.
  • As partial compensation, religions are treated as having actual power. Thus you can have clerics.
  • Throw out the alignment system. There is nothing to enforce it; objects of Puvár do not care about good or evil, law or chaos. Their narrative purpose may be served by religions or, sometimes, Jondile action.
  • The normal D&D species do not exist. There are no orcs or elves in the Incatena. However, you may allow alien PCs, some of which can be modelled as standard D&D races.
  • The Incatena allows genetic modifications, and these were available by the time Maraille was settled, and indeed hard to separate from the orthohumans. (It's all just modified DNA, no magic required.) I would suggest allowing the half-human characters for this: e.g. allow halflings, half-orcs, and half-elves, but not full orcs and elves.)
  • Use only normal Earth animals as monsters. (This includes dinosaurs. In the Incatena universe, dinosaurs were found on Novorossiya.) As a special dispensation, you can use anything that can be interpreted as an alien, without magical powers. Maybe the Fondateurs brought a few to enhance the difficulty level.)
  • There are no psionics— with the exception of the Ogorodé. Some Objects of Puvár have psionic-like abilities.
  • Death should be permanent. Incatena technology does not include resurrection. If this bothers you, I suggest allowing the party to carry negative-HP characters around, and letting them recover back in town. Unless they've been eaten or burned to ashes or something.

Campaign advice

For an initial campaign, I'd suggest a party of naive, native Maraillais. That is, pretty much the sort of adventuring party you'd create in any medieval setting.

For later campaigns you could allow alien or offworlder characters.

Some campaign ideas:

Investigate a ruined building rumored to contain an Objet of Puvár.
The local noble wants help against a bandit gang said to have a weapon with Puvár.
Save your town from an interfering Inquisitor.
A pack of dinosaurs from the jungle threatens your region.
You hear of an interesting invention, and hear that the Jondiles want to shut it down.
An alien crash-lands nearby and wants an escort to the nearest big city.
There must be some good loot (but also hard enemies) at one of the Schools of the Puvár.
Your offworlder research station is attacked by bandits.
An industrial accident has released mutagens, and you need to fight or capture the mutants.
Out in the Southwaste there is said to be a treasure trove (the fabled Research Station).
An assassin has a cloak of invisibility and is out to assassinate the king. Or one of your party.
A Medellinian has an interesting plan on how to overthrow the Tyrantess of Dologiria.
You are from Île de Maraille and need to confiscate several overpowered Objects of Puvár.
Your offworlder party crashes in the wasteland.
You're an Incatena Agent, assigned to hire the best assassin in Toraunt for the Agency.
It's suspected one of the Fondateurs still lives.
The Incatena wants to eliminate slavery. Play as the Incatena Agents or as the Jondiles resisting them.


Whatever the Maraillais does not understand— technological marvels, uncanny abilities, unexplained events— he tends to attribute to the Puvár, or The Power. (From ancient French pouvoir.)

To be clear, there is no Puvár; it is not The Force. But under the conditions of Maraille it is inevitable that such a concept would develop.

Professors usually deny and disparage the Puvár; clerics of most religions reject it. If something seems inexplicable, the authorities say we should just defer to the superior understanding of the Jondiles.

But the commoner can hardly be kept from positing some kind of supernatural explanation for unusual things— the Puvár. Others go further, and claim to possess an understanding or mastery of this unknown force. These are the Puvarö, or in plain Englese, Powerlords. They accumulate objects with Puvár, they theorize about the magic forces inside them, they combine these with incantations, special drugs, meditation, mesmerism. They are the occultists and Forteans of Maraille… except, of course, no one can prove them wrong, and it's obvious that the Jondiles do have powers which the professors cannot explain. The layman gives them a wide berth.

Powerlord skills

Obviously, the most effective source of Puvár are actual Objects of Puvár. A Powerlord will have at least one, and will seek assiduously to acquire more.

Objects of Puvár

Objects of Puvár are off-world technological objects. Despite the best efforts of the Jondiles to prevent their spread, they are not uncommon on Maraille, being in high demand, and unscrupulous importers not lacking. Almost everyone has seen, though only a minority will possess, minor Objects like flashlights (heatless torches) and long-lasting pens.

The source of Objects is of course Jondiles or other offworlders. They would hardly think of going to the mainland without a stock of equipment. Inevitably some items will be lost or stolen… or smuggled out.

The more powerful items are subject to immediate confiscation by Jondile agents. Naturally they will respond to reports of use in public in towns; use off in the wilderness will be harder to track down.

The Objects are rarely very large— you won't find volants, ground transports, battleships, helicopters, or terraforming equipment. Such things would be hard to smuggle and impossible to hide.

There is also Incatena technology that by its nature cannot be smuggled into Maraille in any transferrable way; however, offworld or Jondile characters might have these:

(Is the Vee available on Maraille? Yes, but outside Île de Maraille it's low-bandwith: no VR, just text and images, not unlike today's Web. You cannot contact anyone off-planet. Plus it's closely monitored by Jondiles, so if you're doing something shady you'd better not rely on it much.)

Obviously, objects of Puvár should be difficult to obtain, and described as they would appear to the medieval Maraillais. It is also important to keep them rare. A major appliance is a treasure worth fighting battles over, and an array of half a dozen of them would be a king's horde. If a party is known to possess one, the avarice of others will be awakened. They are not available in stores (though perhaps very minor items like bandages are).

Treat Objets of Puvár as more durable than their present-day equivalents (if any)… but not ridiculously so. Many are electronic or photonic, and will not deal well with immersion, burning, etc. Maraillais would of course have noticed this, but may not know everything that can harm their Objects.

Some items may require replenishment (ammo, printer supply blocks…) or can be used up. But for the same reason these can be more safely handed out to players.

Objects of Puvár, including their Maraillais name, are given below. This is not an exhaustive list! Think of useful, portable objects available now or in the Incatena future.

AI (talking box)
anesthetics (unfeeling potions)
antibiotics (curing potions)
antidote for Maraillais poisons (protecting potions)
antiseptic bandages (Jondile bandages)
artificial limb (metal arm/leg)
baro riot control dust (disabling potion)
battle laser (large lightning-hand)
calculator (metal abacus)
chainsaw (living ax)
chemical poisons (killing potions)
crewsuit (Jondile leather)
electric whip (shocking whip)
electronic book (talking book)
energy screen (Powerlord's shield)
fiberoptic rope (light-bending rope)
flare (shooting star)
flashlight (heatless torch)
fusion heater (firebox)
GPS device (wayfinder)
grenade (boomapple)
gravity adjuster (rods of lightness)
heating element (heating rod)
IIC infantry suit (Jondile battle armor)
jetpack (backpack of flight)
laser pistol (small lightning-hand)
lightbending suit (cloak of invisibility)
lie detector (truth box)
max gun (multi-ball hand cannon)
mec (metal man)
microwave oven with energy shield (magic plate)
nanoduper (cornucopia)
nanoscanner (rod of discernment)
nutrition supplemnt (Jondile rations)
pasta maker
pen (inkless plume)
plasmator (lightning cannon)
plastic clothing (Jondile cloth)
plastic explosives (fire-earth)
power source (Power stones)
pressure suit (Jondile light armor)
projectile pistol (hand cannon)
radioactive powder (dazzling powder)
recharger (Puvár dispenser)
refetalizer (limb maker)
space scooter (iron horse)
spark generator (dazzler)
telephone (rod of distant communication)
telescope (seeing rod)
tracking device (trailer)
volant (flying wagon)
water purifier (magic jar)
wristwatch (wrist clock)

Jondile/alien clothing

Ordinary Jondile clothing is typically a bodysuit of a plastic-like material, comfortable and durable; it can be treated as equivalent to leather armor.

Jondile light armor is a light bodysuit of a plastic-like material, a standard-issue military uniform, durable and resistant to body blows and, due to a built-in metal mesh, to blows from edged weapons. It provides little or no protection against gunfire or lasers. Some versions are pressurized.

Jondile battle armor is a metallic pressure suit, which resists blows, bullets, gas, lasers, heat, water, radiation, and vacuum. It is by no means impermeable: it can be punctured by sufficient force. In an actual 50the century military situation its major use is to protect against the environment (e.g. space, poisonous gas, radiation), not against weapons… contemporary weapons will generally kill you no matter what you're wearing. In police situations or on Maraille its protective ability is good, however.

Aliens cannot wear human clothing/armor, and vice versa!


Powerlords are those who devote themselves to learning the Puvár.

They generally study the Puvár with tutors or in schools. Tutors were themselves trained somewhere; every Powerlord ultimately owes their “Puvarology” to a particular school, though they may or may not acknowledge this. (Still, it's useful to have allies.) The major ones:

Dunwich in Mowr, Albion
Strom College in Loury, Dologiria
The Bell and Bowl in Calimoon, Remmir
Lar Sekrè in the França Confederacy
Lun and Hanlin, in the Han Empire
al-Sirr and al-Qudra, in Jidrash
Püvartektik in Knoll
Nayan in Bharat
Shkol Nauk in Molograd
Colegio del Poder and El Yonosé in Tierralinda
These require knowing the appropriate language, of course.

Powerlords are intended as a rough equivalent of magic users, and should have the same sort of attribute requirements, hit points, level advancement, etc. I would allow them ranged weapons just to keep them useful.

They begin with one Object of Puvár. A good one, please… something that would give the first-level Powerlord something of a reputation, and usefulness in a first-level party.

You should not give Powerlords spells! Rather, structure quests to give them Objects of Puvár as rewards.

I've also created a list of Powerlord Skills to give them more things to do.

Powerlord Skills

These are mostly inventions to make Powerlords more interesting.

You might give a Powerlord one to begin with, and require them to research others.

If application details are not given, treat the Skill much like the old Fallout 3 skills. That is, your skill is a number from 1 to 100. A beginning character might be given a skill value of 10. Then roll a d100 to see if the skill solves the situation.

Skills do not stack— use the best one that applies to the situation. For some of them, it would make sense to allow the player to take multiple ranks in that skill for extra benefits.

Animal training

This is knowledge of the most advanced methods in understanding, training, and taming animals.

If successful, the player will be able sense the mood of the animal and (if it was not actually hostile) influence it in a friendly direction.

In combat, this anticipation, plus the use of some confusing gestures and sounds, is enough to reduce the animal's to-hit roll by 1.


Athletic skill develops the body, increasing strength, dexterity, appearance, and endurance. An athlete is a consummate runner, boxer, swimmer, and climber. In addition, athletics increases one's chances of accomplishing difficult bodily feats (say, executing a back flip in order to confront an opponent attacking one's rear), and conveys a limited resistance to disease: the athlete generally does not fall prey to diseases spread by given environments or through contagion.

To reflect an Athlete's consummate bodily skills, treat him as fighting one level above his actual level, and keep in mind the above discussion.

Body Control

Body Control is a series of physical disciplines which allows one to stoically resist pain or discomfort. (Think of an Indian fakir.) The skill also includes limited ability to survive killing environments or diseases, to resist torture, and to feign death. A rank of Body Control increases armor class by 1.


Makes the basic thief skills (detect, disguise, hide in shadows, move silently) available to a Powerlord. In addition, as a skill roll, allows one to persuade NPCs, reduce prices, etc.


Though Maraillais do not have the tools or training of a Jondile physician, a lot of information has leaked out and can be studied. In effect Maraillais physicians are far better than they should be for the medieval era. Even in harsh conditions, things like knowing when to boil water, and how to properly bind a wound, can be lifesavers.

Powerlord healing is most effective with combat wounds, less so with diseases or degenerative conditions.

Some Jondile supplies are common enough that they are not considered Objects of Puvár, though you won't find them in the village market: painkillers, wound ointments, bandages, wound spray. If the player has such things available you can add +30 to their roll.


The herbalist acquires a wide experience with various natural drugs, herbs, and poisons. Types of herbs include poisons, stimulants, hallucinogens, depressants, inhibitors or exciters of natural drives, healing potions, and trance inducers.

If someone has this skill, you can let them bring a bag of herbs along— they should specify the types and numbers of doses. They either have the herb they need, or they don't. The numeric roll can be used to see if they can find any good herbs in an hour's search.

Some local herbs (not an exhaustive list):

alcohol— depressant and anti-inhibitory for d8 hours; easily bought
antivol— will suppressant; available from Powerlords or Jondiles
belladonna— strong poison; sold in herb stores
Bharati pepper— extremely hot pepper; powdered, can be used offensively
bitterbalm— delays death; grows in plains, forests
cocanis— strong stimulant from the rain forests
coffee— mild stimulant; easily bought
comfrey— healing effects d4; grows in moderate climates
dorwort— suppresses sex drive and pregnancy; grows in mountainous areas
marijuana— stimulant d4 hours
mustard— emetic; readily bought
peyote— hallucinogen d8 hours; grows in desert, can be bought
soma— euphoriant, grown in Bharati areas
scorbo— trance inducer; herb shops
sweetbalm— healing effects d4; found in forests and jungles
tea— mild stimulant; easily bought
tokornis— true aphrodisiac; prostitutes or Powerlords may sell
wilimar— anesthetic; grows in plains


Meditation is a form of mental discipline, stilling the tempest of conscious thought so that one may come into a state of religious exaltation. For the campaign, the important ability is resistance to telepathic intrusion.


The Mesmerist can place a subject into a trancelike state which reduces will and inhibition, and makes him pliable to the Mesmerist's suggestions. (However, the subject's instincts of self-preservation still operate.)

Player characters cannot be Mesmerized.

Applied to NPCs not in combat, roll at three times the skill level. E.g. if your skill is 10, your chance of influencing the subjeect is 30%. The GM can modify this based on the outrageousness of the suggestion.

The Powerlord may also attempt it in combat, in place of any attack. If successful, the creature is confused and loses their attack that round.

Street Smarts

Street smarts is a sort of counterpart to woodcraft; it consists in “knowing your way around town”— especially the tough parts of town: how to talk to people, how to deal with gangs and criminals; knowing where to obtain things, how the bureaucracy works, when the police are likely to come, who's on whose side, what slang is in, how to play the right sports, how to get in and out of places stealthily. Note that there is nothing evil about street smarts: a cleric in a slum neighborhood is likely to have it.

It operates at a penalty in a town not known to the player.

In combat, it consists of special knowledge of combat moves, places to apply damage, and environmental advantages. It increases one's to-hit roll by 1.

Ogorodé telepathy

The Ogorodé are natural telepaths. Face to face, they can read each others' conscious thoughts, emotions, and basic attitudes. This can only be done face to face (or at a distance of a foot per skill point).

(If you want a natural explanation, it's that all brains transmit electromagnetic waves, and Ogorodé ones all the more so. Natural science cannot decode these transmissions, although it can detect them.)

The Ogorodé use this ability on a natural level to build consensus, to speak only what will be well received. They tend to have passive, inobtrusive personalities: it's hard to get one to argue with you. They naturally assume a helpful, subservient role in society, using telepathy to make themselves pleasing, avoiding all controversy and wordly ambition, absorbing the religions and languages of their hosts. It may or may not be noble, but it has insinuated them into dozens of alien cultures, and sustained their own, on their own terms.

Ogorodé can read surface emotions of humans, animals, and other races. They can read and project surface thoughts if they directly touch the subject.

Telepathic abilities are automatic, and do not vary by level or by a skill rating.

There are no forms of telepathic attack. In addition, the skill does not allow psychic probing— even touching the subject, you can only tell what they are thinking, not search their memories. (This is because it monitors electrical activity, not neural configuation.)

In combat, telepathy gives a sense of what a creature will do next, allowing avoidance. Treat this as a -1 on the creature's to-hit roll.