Friday 12 June 2020

Pax Lexque Campaign Guide

Pax Lexque Campaign Guide was written by Ed Stanek and Xuân Stanek with contributions by Susan Stanek. Art is by GAOZ Artworks (cover), Xuân Stanek, and Ed Stanek (cartography), as well as public domain images (with references on page 185). The publisher is Raorgen Games.

This is a campaign setting for Dungeon Crawl Classics, which posits an alternate Earth in which the Roman Empire has to contend with the strange sentient races common to fantasy role-playing games, as well as dark magic.

Centuries ago, a "magical arms race culminating in the Wars of Darkness tore the empire apart and lay waste to much of the Great Sea region." The Great Sea being, of course, the Mediterranean. In the PC's time, a special military force, the Manus Legis ("Hand of the Law") is charged with dealing with "unexplained problems left over from the magical war cursed or haunted battlefields, horrific monsters summoned during the war, necromancers and diabolists who still try to delve into forbidden knowledge." It is likely, but not necessary, that the PCs will be a unit in the Manus Legis.

The discerning judge who wishes to include an element of time travel in their DCC campaign may decide that the world of Pax Lexque either leads directly into the world of "modern" DCC XCrawl or runs parallel to it. Either way, I could easily see a group of DCC XCrawl promoters "poaching" teams from the past, so that your Pax Lexque PCs could find themselves facing DungeonBattle Brooklyn....conversely, a diabolical cult might kidnap DCC XCrawl athletes to accomplish some task in the past/their parallel world.

After the Introduction and a historical timeline, the volume describes an Atlas of 26 separate regions:Aegypt, Aquitania, Arabia, Belgica, Betica, Britania, Cypria, Dacia, Druzix, Felicia, Germania, Hellena, Hispania, Macedonia, Mauretania, Meria, Nurdarim, Pamfilia, Roman Empire, Rome, Scythia, Semosiss, Stonarx, Syria, Talin, and Thracia. For each of these areas, geography, history, politics, religion, and daily life are described.

Regional maps are provided for each area as well, although these would be more useful with a hex overlay or at least a scale for distances. Cartography is done with Campaign Cartographer and is very clean, but it is not what DCC maps usually look like. Artwork is, similarly, not what one usually expects with a DCC product, being largely vector graphics and/or photographs with filters to make them appear painted. This isn't a serious criticism, but it is something the potential buyer should be aware of. Font and layout choices are such that this 189-page pdf could have easily fit into a more slender 100 pages - perhaps not a problem with the pdf, but something that might affect your decision to purchase in print.

As an example of an area overview:
The land of Macedonia is beautifully scenic, but badly scarred. Though not without its share of virgin wilderness, large areas of Macedonia are still reeling from the Wars of Darkness. Macedonia struggles to heal from the mistakes of its past and that legacy won’t be shaken any time soon.
The Macedonian landscape is a study in contrasts. The rockiness of the terrain may be a constant, but it takes a variety of forms. Progressing from the central mountain range, through the rocky, uneven valleys of the inland hills to the crags of both coasts, the land of Macedonia is striking to behold.
In its earlier days, the central mountains were home to many small mining villages. Today, these places are ghost towns, in some cases literally. As the Macedonian economy fell apart as a consequence of the Wars of Darkness, internal commerce ground to a halt. With very little mechanism to bring ores to market, the mines fell silent.
The coastal cities are beginning to stabilize once again as trading ports, but their prosperous days of the centuries past are behind them. With little moving in the way of local resources coming to the ports, few traders have reason to stop there. Even the once thriving capital city, Thessaloniki, is only a shadow of its former self.
The inland hills are an untapped resource. For centuries a cash cow of olive, fig and date orchards, much of this land is now inaccessible because of magic blight or extraplanar creatures left over from the wars. Most of these once prosperous orchards have been wild and uncultivated for centuries.
The text then goes on to describe the history, politics, etc. of the region.

For obvious reasons, the setting book takes some extra time to describe the Roman Empire, the city of Rome, and Roman law. As the PCs might very well be applying that law to various necromancers, diabolists, and monstrous beings, this is important. As other PCs might run afoul of the law, it is also important - it is not legal to cast just any spell, and murder hobos cannot necessarily act with impunity.

Gods and Patrons

Pax Lexque has a unique (and interesting) take on gods and patrons. There is no difference between the two, and all clerics can cast patron bond. Patron bond is a little more powerful in this setting as well, and when a cleric casts it, the recipient might receive a modest boon in addition to the normal effects. Clerics also gain access to the patron spells of their gods.

One of the results of this is that the Pax Lexque Campaign Guide contains a number of new patrons for players and judges to play with. Spellburn functions differently. I.e., a "full patron write up" in this case includes notes on how Spellburn operates for the patron, but not an actual table indicating how Spellburn manifests.

The patrons are:

Celata -­ Whisperer of Secrets: Celata is the one who knows the unknowable, that which is hidden away from mortal eyes. She whispers in the dark places to her faithful, giving them visions and understanding. Caves, springs, and thermal vents are sacred to her as are the wombs of women, for what is more mysterious than the knitting together of life?

A full patron write-up is provided.

Doraga -­ Master of the Forge: Deep inside an unfathomably large mountain is the monstrous forge of Doraga, Lord of the Dwarves, Master of the Forge. Every volcano that erupts is the stoking of his bellows. Every earthquake echoes the beating of his hammer. Near the dawn of time, Doraga forged the first dwarves from iron and molten stone. As his craftsmanship, they reflect his very persona. When a dwarf works a forge and smiths a piece of metalwork, he is engaging in an act of piety, reflecting the spirit of Doraga.

Doraga does not normally have arcane patrons, so there is no Spellburn information. The patron write-up is otherwise complete.

Eliha -­ Father of the Wind: The father of all djinn, Eliha, has made his presence known in Arabia since before the recorded history of that land. Every dust devil that skirts along on the desert sand is said to be one of his messengers. Generally, Eliha’s influence is seen as helpful as his westwinds bring moisture off the Great Sea. However, his temper is known to flare as sandstorms that rage across the land. Just as the wind is unpredictable, so Eliha is enigmatic. This should not be confused with being chaotic however. By contrast to Labul, whose focus is seen solely in destructive, chaotic storms, Eliha is measured and balanced, sometimes wrathful, sometimes gentle. His unpredictability is seen more as a difficulty in mankind knowing the mind of the djinn than an indication of chaos.

Basic description only.

Elkev ­- Master of Flame: The brother of Eliha is Elkev, the father of all efreet (or ifrit). Elkev’s name inspires both reverence and fear. In Arabia and Syria, Elkev is seen as the source of the sun’s fire, which is recognized as necessary for life. As such, he is celebrated for providing light and warmth. On the other hand, those who invoked Elkev recklessly in Arabia’s war against Rome caused great damage to the land. On the balance, the people of Arabia fittingly approach Elkev the way one handles fire, with care and respect.

Basic description only.

Ellelliara -­ Light of Dawn: To the elves of Hellena, beauty is a way of life and a cornerstone of their culture. Nowhere is this more evident than in the person of their national patron, Ellelliara. According to Hellenic tradition, when the world was fresh and very young, Ellelliara gazed upon it and was pleased with its beauty. She rode a sunbeam down from the sky to walk among the forested shores of that land that would become Hellena. As she walked along the green fields, in each of her footsteps sprang up flowers orchids, hyacinth, crocus. Sweeping her hands through the grass as she walked, the taller grass stalks became seedlings, growing in the breeze behind her jacaranda, fig, pomegranate. Reaching an overlook of the rocky coast, she looked back on the new garden that had sprung up in her wake. Tears of joy dropped from her face as she was overcome by the beauty. As the teardrops hit the ground, they sprang forth into the first elves her children.

A full patron write-up is provided.

Fortruvius ­- Lord of Valor:  Integrity. Respect. Ritual. Discipline. Courage. Perseverance. Honor. Pursuits of these virtues lead to glory. Glory in battle. Glory over one’s enemies both internal and external. Glory everlasting. Those dedicated to Fortruvius commit themselves to a continual regimen of self-improvement and set themselves the task of becoming exemplary.

A full patron write-up is provided.

Gulyabani ­- The Hidden One:  Sometimes called the King of Guildmasters, Gulyabani is patron of goblins and thieves. Most of the humans who secretly follow Gulyabani do so seeking favor in their pursuit of larceny. To the goblin folk, following Gulyabani is far more than that. He is their master who drives them on in their war for survival against the big folk. It is he who inspires their ruthlessness and teaches them that anything they can take, they deserve to have. Every raid on a human caravan is an act of identity for them, and an unspoken act of worship to the one who taught them to strike from the shadows.

Basic description only.

Helet -­ Chief of the Hunt:  Helet the hunter is revered by the Celtic people. His teaching, “You must know your quarry before your quarry will know death” is learned well by rangers of the Great Gaulic Forest. Though his followers take great pride in a hunt well done, a hunt is never to be undertaken for sport. Legend has it that overzealous hunters will become the hunted, stalked by one of Helet’s wolves.

Basic description only.

Iber -­ Father of Peace:  The people of Hispania and Betica tell of a time in the unknown past when Iber pulled the Iberian peninsula out of the churning waters, with the specific purpose of creating a place of peace and harmony. He then sculpted the earliest Iberian people from the land and tasked them with maintaining the peace of this new land. Iber is generally thought to not be particularly involved in the events of the land now, leaving that task to his people. It is said though, that he does watch the realm from a distance, ready to nudge the scales should anything in the land tip too far towards chaos. His followers are ever watchful that the proper order of the world is maintained, including an eye towards a stewardship of the natural world. Things that are deemed unnatural, such as undead, are the greatest anathema to the Iberian outlook.

Basic description only.

Labul -­ Anger of the Storm:  Not simply a patron of the air or of rain, Labul is specifically the Master of Storms, violent raging destructive storms. While some who call on him do so in an attempt to appease the Anger of the Wind, many of those who seek his attention are seeking to cause destruction. Certainly during the Wars of Darkness, the Lord of Lightning was called upon by many to wreak havoc on enemy armies or even to lay waste to civilian populations. Labul is a wild and unpredictable patron, and those who wish to draw his gaze and channel his power do so at their own peril.

Basic description only.

Mordines -­ The Shadow of Death:  The Master of Darkness, the Dark Veil, the Stalker in
secret he is still worshiped in hidden places throughout the great sea. The reasons for his ongoing influence vary. For some, it is simply to seek a divine stamp of approval on the evil they wish to work, but others are true believers in his call. They believe he is the master of all, the highest of the immortal beings, because death eventually comes for every man. Even the long-lived elves eventually fall under his axe. It is said to be Mordines who gives power to the undead, that by his hatred of life the restless dead will not find peace. Those who follow Mordines consider it the ultimate blessing and sign that he has approvedtheir work if, upon their death, they continue to malevolently stalk the land of the living.

Basic description only.

Mothir -­ King of Battle:  The Germanic tribes of the northern wilds have various patrons, but the most commonly revered is Mothir, the Father of Courage and Judge of the Battlefield. There have been those who erroneously have thought that Mothir is simply a Germanic name for Fortruvius, but the two patrons are actually quite different. While Fortruvius also promotes courage in battle, his focus is on valor, honor, and self discipline. Mothir, as reflected by Germanic culture, is focused on the ferocity of battle. He is well represented by the legendary berserker warriors of the Germanic tribes. All of this does not mean he is outright evil. He does not necessarily champion cruelty and bloodlust. However, once the battle is joined, he does expect his people to fight with all their heart and soul.

Basic description only.

Procella -­ Mistress of the Waves:  Almost everyone who sails the seas or lives on the coasts around the Great Sea gives at least token respect towards Procella. She is the embodiment and personification of the Great Sea, and her character reflects the range of what the sea means for those who live on it life-giving through its supply of fish and transportation, but occasionally treacherous with an unpredictable storm. There is debate among scholars and even among her clerics whether Procella is simply the patron of the Great Sea, or actually is the Great Sea. To most of her followers, the distinction is fuzzy. They tend  to see the relationship between Procella and the Great Sea as being one of those things that is too lofty for mortal minds to comprehend.

A full patron write-up is provided.

Ramasar - The Untamed One:  The centaurs who rule over the vast open plains of Scythia and their horse riding neighbors in Dacia, revere the paragon of equines, Ramasar the Swift. Said to be faster than any other being on the earth or in the heavens, Ramasar is the soul behind the way of life on the northeastern plains. Their shared reverence for Ramasar has created an ongoing bond of brotherhood between the humans in Dacia and the centaurs in Scythia. It is very common for the two to meet at each other’s annual festivals to come to each other’s aid in times of need. The Stallion is said to have only one herd on the earth, and all who look to him are considered part of that family. Ramasar promotes dedication to family, tribe and tradition as well as being at peace with the natural world. Speed in running is considered a mark of Ramasar’s approval.

Basic description only.

Reku ­- The Light Giver:  The people of Aegypt have a recorded history longer than any land other than Hellena. Throughout the 7000 years of their civilization, their primary patron has been Reku. Reku is the personification of the sun. His light is his blessing on all people. He withdraws that blessing at night so that mortals will understand the gift they have been given by the contrast of its absence. The people of Aegypt believe that the earth has always existed but that there was no life on it until Reku first shone forth upon the land. Suntanned skin tone is considered to be a sign of closeness to Reku. Legends tell that further south of Aegypt there are people born with skin far darker than any Aegyptian. These are spoken of as Reku’s first children. Reku calls upon his followers to live orderly lives, as his course across the sky is predictable, and to give generously to each other, as he gives generously to them.

Basic description only.

Savra -­ The Scaled One:  The generally recognized correct name of Savra is not pronounceable by humans, nor readily represented in any humanoid writing system outside the lands where she is worshiped. As an adaptation, the name “Savra” is derived from the elven word for lizard. Savra is revered in the lands of Druzix and Semosiss by the lizardfolk and serpentines respectively. Each of them represents Savra as a female of their own type and insists that the other group has misrepresented her. Some human scholars claim that Savra is actually a dragon. Regardless, Savra herself does not seem to have clarified the matter, so the debate will likely not be resolved. Savra is an advocate of order and structure and this is evidenced in the highly regimented, caste-based societies of both Drizix and Semosiss. Savra’s followers believe it is a living service to their patron to seek to fulfill their allotted role in society and not to seek to change the status that Savra has assigned to them. 

Basic description only.

Senet -­ The Eye that Sees:  He is the eye that sees the old things, the forbidden things, the things that man was not meant to see. The second pharaoh to rule over a united Aegypt, Senet II delved into the secret ways of the foundation of the world. He and his cabal of sorcerers researched and studied, testing ways to tap into the energies of the world by trial and error. How this got started is uncertain. Some records seem to indicate that a spirit of some kind, perhaps demonic, perhaps a ghost, whispered to Senet about power that could be his. For a decade, the pharaoh and his inner circle discovered new and more powerful magics and summoned progressively more powerful beings from outer realms. And then it ended somehow, suddenly it all just ended. The historical record of Aegypt gives no details. The record of Senet simply stops as though mid sentence to be followed by his successor with no mention of magic again. There is no record of how Senet died. His tomb, underneath a pyramid in the desert, many miles from any city, was avoided by all for 6000 years. The people of Aegypt never even spoke of it, except to tell foreigners to stay clear.

Basic description only.

Tanalis ­- Lord of the Forest:  While many patrons are believed by their followers to have created them or their homeland, with Tanalis, the opposite is true. The elves of Aquitania believe that the forest formed as the world was birthed, that it is the natural state of being for their land. It wasn’t Tanalis who produced the forest; it was the forest that produced Tanalis. In the earliest of days, when the trees had grown and the animals sprang forth from the land, the forest had a will and a consciousness of its own, a consciousness that is now asleep. Before she slumbered, sensing that her thoughts were fading, the forest knew that she would need protectors. Thus it was that she birthed the first wood elf, Tanalis, making him immortal to watch over her forever. Pleased with what she had produced, she brought forth 120 more, 60 male and 60 female. Her energy already fading, these were lesser than Tanalis. She could not make them immortal, but she gave them lives as long as her greatest trees, so they would understand what they were protecting. Since then, Tanalis has guarded over both her and her children.

A full patron write-up is provided.

Ubaste ­- Feline Mother:  Patron of the felids, the cat people of Felicia, Ubaste is represented by her people as a golden-furred female of their kind. The people of Aegypt also revere her and consider the felids to be Ubaste’s chosen people, a contention naturally echoed by the felids. Ubaste is also often looked to for blessing by merchants. She is seen as a mother figure, though a rather distant and aloof one, who brings wealth and prosperity to those who please her.

Basic description only.

Judges may wish to round out their campaign by using materials from Divinities & Cults Volume I and Volume II.


Four new 10-level classes are included in this tome. They are:

Dwarven Cleric: The culture of the dwarves is heavily invested in ritual, heritage and tradition, so it is of no surprise that the dwarves hold tightly to the faith of their fathers. The dwarven cleric is a key part of passing down the heritage for each generation. Also, the dwarves often find themselves in conflict with the darker denizens of the underground. In these cases, the dwarven cleric is integral to the ongoing durability of the dwarven armies.

For other takes on dwarven clerics or priests, see Crawl! Fanzine #10 and Gygax Magazine #3.

Elven Ranger: More combat-oriented elves from Aquitania.

Felid: The natives of Felicia are a bipedal feline race called the Felids. They are typically known as a people who live for the moment, with little concern for long term matters. The stereotype of the hedonist felid, focused only on enjoying the finer things in life, is an exaggeration, but does have some roots in reality.

For other takes on animal people, see Bronx Beasts, Mutant Crawl Classics, and Primal Tales #1.

Gnome: The small folk who dwell in Cypria and Pamfilia, the gnomes, are about the same height as halflings, but tend to be a bit slighter of build. Their diminutive size, however, can be misleading. Gnomes have more than a few tricks up their sleeves (sometimes literally) to dissuade would be enemies. Gnomes are quite skilled at a range of innate magic, especially illusions, automatically having access to some spells.

For another take on gnomes, see Crawl! fanzine #6 (reprinted with some expansion in Gnome Jambalaya).

New illusion spells are included to support the gnome, although they are not limited to that class. They are hallucination (level 1), greater illusion (level 3), and ethereal illusion (level 4).

Pax Lexque is a campaign setting based on an alternate reality historical earth in which the Roman Empire was co-mingled with conventional elements of fantasy - elves, dwarves, wizards, clerics, giants, dragons and everything else you’d expect.

After a magical war tore the Roman Empire apart, the empire is now rebuilding, with its eyes on its eternal motto, “Pax Lexque” or “Peace and Law”. The campaign's starter modules (The Hand of the Law) place PCs in a special forces arm of the imperial army. Their squad is sent on missions to deal with unexplained problems left over from the magical war - cursed or haunted battlefields, horrific monsters summoned during the war, necromancers and diabolists who still try to delve into forbidden knowledge.

This guide is meant as a sandbox environment. The world of the Great Sea region is presented with its history and geography broken down to twenty nations, ready for characters to explore. Nineteen new patrons particular to this world are described, six of which are presented in full detail, complete with patron spells. Also included are four new character classes: Dwarven Cleric, Elven Ranger, Felid (or catfolk) and Gnome.

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