How I Set Up My New PF2 Game, “Gatekeepers.” Part 3: Themes and Baselines

Furthering the discussion of my new PF2 campaign, “Gatekeepers,” I want to discuss some of the themes and baseline setting ideas the players and I settled on in Session 0. This isn’t a detailed rundown of the world (I haven’t even named the “Continental Empire,” yet), but it’s supposed to give my players enough of a feel they can figure out how their character concepts fit into the starting area of the campaign.

(I’m not saying the party is going to face a dragon in the first session, or even first story arc… but “powerful monster threatens your whole homeland” is certainly on-theme for the kind of game I’m planning. Art by nyothep.)

Players all all 1st level and likely not yet proper “adventurers,” though they are seen as competent and skilled for their age group and social strata –someone neighbors and friends may go to for help if overwhelmed. They are all from the same town (“Tidegate”) and may or may not be friends, but they are at least all familiar with one another. Players can expect that simply being basically good people of reasonable bravery and competence is going to get them involved in the campaign — the opportunity to put their foot on the path of adventure will come to them.

While there isn’t anything definite set up yet, the players noted they’d enjoy having a base of operations to work out of, and I promised to accommodate that in time. So while individual adventures may take them anywhere, the players can expect to get to a place they think of as a fairly safe home both often and regularly with downtime activities an option there.

Mid-high fantasy. Minor magic and consumable magic items are fairly commonplace. Permanent magic items are more rare. In part this is a nod to the optional rules in use — with automatic bonus progression, the campaign doesn’t need easy access to runes for weapons and armor, and I don’t expect to have magic shops of weapons, armor, crystal balls, and so on. However, alchemists, herbalists, and wizards are considered scholarly experts and may well have talismans, tinctures, potions, scrolls, and other consumable magic for sale. But a magic sword? If they really exist, you may never have seen one. And anything that seems very well-crafted or lucky may be described as “magic.” Old Matron Coglie, who always wins the prize crop awards at the autumn faire? Her plow is described as ‘magic,” with varying degrees of being serious about it.

The campaign’s starting point, Tidegate, is a minor stop on a major trade route, and has grown to be a diverse and liberal settlement. It contains numerous different ancestries, and while individual assholes may well have weird hang-ups, there are no societal biases against any ancestry, sexuality, gender presentation, or ethnicity. There are biases against some specific groups of choice — for example the Band of Bloodletters may see themselves as a positive force for keeping populations and kingdoms strong, but are seen as murderous psychopaths locally and anyone associated with them (even if, for example, your brother became one and you didn’t) is likely to be mistrusted in Tidegate.

The baseline culture will be Northern European in inspiration, but tons of elements from other societies are known, and some have taken root to be considered typical or even “local.” Further, different cultural norms aren’t automatically looked down on just because they are different — Tidegate has benefited from adopting a lot of foreign people, concepts, tools, and even philosophies, and is open to learning more.

There are no languages, or cultures, tied to a specific mortal species. “Common,” as a language, is a trade tongue that has developed due to a world-spanning trade system. The Continental Empire happens to have elves as its Imperial Family, and thus the language spoken throughout their lands is “Elven,” but anyone from the Continental Empire likely speaks Elven, and elves native to the major world power that happens to be united under a dwarven king likely speak “Dwarven” rather than “Elven.”
Planar and magic languages are a different matter, and things like Abyssal and Necril are actually innate magical forms of communication specifically suited to expressing the concepts common to the entities that instinctively undertsand them. These tongues can be learned by mortals, but it is time-consuming and difficult.

The baseline is the default gods of the Second Edition Pathfinder Core Rulebook, who are common among all five the world’s Great Empires and six Lesser Kingdoms, and became “standard” during the Bloodletter Wars of a century ago. They are thus all called the Modern Gods. All those gods that are not evil are generally welcome in all those nations, and even some acknowledgement and appeasement (rather than “worship”) of the evil ones is generally tolerated.

There are Ancient Gods… but most people don’t know the names of any. They’re largely seen as being irrelevant anymore. They mostly get mentioned when someone is cussing (“By All The Ancient Gods!”).

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About Owen K.C. Stephens

Owen K.C. Stephens Owen Kirker Clifford Stephens is a full-time ttRPG Writer, designer, developer, publisher, and consultant. He's the publisher for Rogue Genius Games, and has served as the Starfinder Design Lead for Paizo Publishing, the Freeport and Pathfinder RPG developer for Green Ronin, a developer for Rite Publishing, and the Editor-in-Chief for Evil Genius Games. Owen has written game material for numerous other companies, including Wizards of the Coast, Kobold Press, White Wolf, Steve Jackson Games and Upper Deck. He also consults, freelances, and in the off season, sleeps. He has a Pateon which supports his online work. You can find it at

Posted on September 28, 2022, in Adventure Design, Microsetting, Pathfinder 2nd Ed and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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