So we’ve been talking lately about some of the things that make the Dungeons & Dragons 5e system great! Game mechanics like advantage and inspiration. The things that got me excited about playing Dungeons & Dragons again. So today, I thought I would talk about the net result of that excitement, the campaign world that I have begun for my players… Helden Welt!
I wanted to create a relatively new world so that my players would have the chance to shape its legend and lore through their heroic deeds. But, I also wanted a good supply of ruins and fallen civilizations for adventure hooks and dungeon delving. So I settled on a post-apocalyptic world that pits my players, and their kind against a shadowy overlord for their very survival! Think “Into the Badlands” meets “Conan the Barbarian,” set in “Middle Earth,” borrowing a ton of hooks, ideas, and concepts from various supplements, authors, and DM’s that I’ve read, played with and known throughout the years. It is an amalgamation of all of the ideas that have intrigued me over the years. It is an homage to every storyteller that has made me stop and say, “Holy shit! That is fucking cool!” I thank you all!
I have a handout that I give to my players which introduces them to their world. A brief history that sets the scene for the adventures they are about to embark on. Since I am introducing you to Helden Welt for the first time, I thought it would be appropriate to share it with you here:
“The first ascension began as these things are wont to do. The Great Powers of existence come in pairs, always equal, always opposite. As there is light, darkness also exists. Where there is order, chaos ensues. Where there is good, evil seeks to tear it asunder. This harmony—as it is—born of the primordial mists of time and entwined as two strands of the great thread, passed for an eternity, for time beyond comprehension. All the while coiling. All the while tightening. Until…”
“The great thread snapped… Unleashing a force of energy, the likes of which has never been seen before or since.”
“The opposing strands spun out faster and faster the force of energy became manifest. The planes of existence were formed, the gods were birthed, the waters became apparent, the great mountains belched forth from them in fiery torrents, and all creatures great and small were spawned. Each to its nature. Each according to its thread. For better, or worse… The Second Ascension was born, and the struggle continued.”
“The Children of Dammerung—more commonly known as Elves—awoke first. An ancient, powerful and beautiful people, whose years are long and whose passions run deep, the Elves were born wielders of the thread. Of all creatures throughout history they resonate the thread, they intrinsically manifest the twilight between darkness and light, they are balanced and whole with the thread, and so were the first to become aware, wandering free for many years untold.”
“The Children of Tiefe-Erdboden—more commonly known as Dwarves—were born soon after. A proud and just race, where the Elves prefer beauty and magic, the Dwarves prefer carving into the hearts of mountains and toiling at the forge.
For eons these two great peoples grew and prospered as keepers of the thread. Long did these peoples dominate the land, the Elves above and the Dwarves below, ever stemming the tide of evil, ever tending the secret of the thread. Alas, it was not to continue. By the whim of the gods, strife began nipping at their heels.”
“The awakening of Man—The Children of Erdwesen—was upon them, and with it— in accordance with the thread—came the Children of Teufel-Tiere, the fallen peoples, the Goblins, Hobgoblins, Bugbears and Orcs. As in the beginning, where there is light, there must be darkness. Where there is order, chaos ensues. So as man was born of courage, compassion, and ambition the fallen peoples were born of fear, cruelty and indifference. So is the way of the thread.”
“Fantastic wars were waged during the Age of the Immortals, battle lines were drawn and alliances forged. Each to its nature. Each according to its thread. And so, the struggle continued. The peoples of man and the peoples of the fallen spread far and wide, populating every corner of the known world. The delicate balance of life tended by the early races was lost. Mighty Kingdoms rose on both sides, The Wars of Sorrow played out, and legions of lives were lost. Still the Great Thread prevailed. All the while coiling. All the while tightening. Until…”
“Once again the great thread snapped…”
“It began with a rumble, a deep low moan that reverberated from the very depths of the Under Dark, escalating quickly into a squelching squeal as if the very world itself were screaming out in pain, and then, an ear-piercing crack. The ground shook and swayed violently, great Kingdoms were razed, generations were lost, the seas rose and raged, even the mountains fell as the very rock of which they were born split and fiery death spewed forth as the fury and force of the Great Thread spun out once again.”
“The cause is lost to the mists of time. Some blame the Elves, the traditional wielders and manipulators of the thread for pushing too far in their desire to harness its power. Others blame the Dwarves for digging too deep, and unearthing an ancient evil in their endless desire for more copper, silver and gold. Still others blame man for destroying the balance of the Great Thread in his endless desire to conquer, to spread, to leave his mark. The truth is no one knows how or why The Reckoning came, but come it did… Wreaking death and destruction on a scale which is incomprehensible.”
“The world which remains, the Third Ascension, is a shadow of what it once was. The Reckoning saw the greatest civilizations ever known enter a Dark Age from which they have yet to recover. The Elves have retreated to the farthest habitable corners of the world. The Dwarves mightiest strongholds, delved into great mountains, have long since fallen into shadow’s hands. The fabulous riches for which they are famed have been plundered by enemies from below. Their numbers depleted and their Kingdoms long gone, this once proud people has been reduced to vengeance and despair. And man? Man suffered The Reckoning more than all. Left alone—for the most part—to fend off the incessant pillaging and raids of the fallen people, without assistance from the Dwarves and Elves, Man remains, but his existence is anything but certain.”
“The retreat of the ancient races has left a void. A void that has not gone unnoticed. The God of Evil, born of the primordial coiling of the thread, known from time immemorial as the Dweller in Enderwelt, or simply the Dweller, has recognized his chance. Throughout the endless march of years, the Dweller has had its evil hand in many things. Indeed, it is whispered that the Dweller was responsible for the beginnings of the Wars of Sorrow and even, the Great Reckoning itself.”
“The Dweller has once again begun rallying the forces of the fallen peoples, drawing them from all four corners of the known world. Drawing them to Enderwelt and servitude. It is rumored that the Dweller is building a massive army of the dead, and that he has recruited seven personages, seven different beings to represent each of the Seven Deadly Sins: Pride, Lust, Gluttony, Envy, Sloth, Greed, and Wrath. These creatures each come from a different race, and each seem to be the sin personified that they were chosen to represent. The Dweller calls them the Seven Deadly Lords, or the Seven Lords of Sin, with The Lord of Wrath standing as Captain of the other six. If this proves to be true, surely man’s survival, his very existence rests on a razors edge. Still the Great Thread prevails. All the while coiling. All the while tightening.”
“This… Dear adventurers, is the world that you know. A world that is narrow and constricted. Always the forces of evil press upon its borders, always the darkness comes, seeking to pillage, seeking to enslave… Seeking to feed. A little over a century ago, the Second Ascension came to a brutal end. The Third Ascension was born, and the darkness comes. The year is 117 P.R. (Post Reckoning) and the location is The Vales. A harsh land to call home. For a century, it has remained a lightly settled frontier, full of death and despair.”
“But take solace dear friends. Remember, The Great Powers of existence come in pairs, always equal and opposite. As there is darkness, light also exists. Where there is chaos, order shall follow. Where there is evil in the hearts of man and beast, good shall triumph. This harmony born of the primordial mists of time and entwined as two strands of the great thread is still holding sway. All the while coiling. All the while tightening.”
“Bold adventurers have begun to take up the call of all that is good and right in the world. They set off for the Enderwelt to seek their destiny. It is these adventurers who, provided they survive the challenge, carry the battle to the enemy. Such adventurers meet the coming of darkness in a testing ground where only the fittest will return to relate the tale. They will be tried in the fire of combat. True, some few who do survive the process will turn from Law and good and succumb to shadow, but most will remain faithful and ready to fight evil wherever it threatens to infect the known world.”
“You are indeed a member of that exceptional class, an adventurer who has taken up the cause in search of fame and fortune. Of course, you are inexperienced, but you have your skills and a heart that cries out for adventure. You have it in you to become great. You have a fire in your belly. A knot that gnaws at you. The legends passed on from your father’s, father’s, father of glory and conquest still ring in your ears. The knot tightens… Can you feel it? All the while coiling. All the while tightening. Until…”
“You feel something snap. The Great Thread has got you now. This is its secret. This is its power.”
“Welcome to your world… The world of Helden Welt!”
If you are interested, you can download PDF copies of the handouts I give to my players below:
- Click here to download the Helden Welt introductory player handout
- Click here to download The Vales player map handout
So? What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts on Helden Welt, or (even better yet) the backstory for your campaign world! Let me hear your thoughts in the comments below!