Chaos Lands News


Chaos Lands is a new roleplaying game setting I (Jonathan Benn) am writing. It was inspired by looking at the cover of the 1983 Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) Red Box. The amount of gold in that single dragon's treasure hoard is probably equal to all the gold on the real Earth. This inspired the thought experiment: what if D&D-style dungeon crawling actually made some kind of economic sense? How would it work? I came up with some pretty interesting ideas and a compelling magic system. I felt really inspired and the ideas just kept coming. I had so many ideas that they started to form into a game setting. Then I started doing some real-world history research and it all started coming together. So I decided to try developing a full-fledged game out of what was originally a whimsical day-dream.

The setting is the Roman Imperial era in the region of Carthago (Roman Carthage) in the Roman province of Africa (modern Tunisia). The year is 176 AD (or 929 AUC as the Romans would say, 929 years after the founding of Rome). The Emperor of Rome is Marcus Aurelius, along with his co-emperor Lucius Verus. Rome is at the height of its power (Pax Romana) after a series of beneficial Antonine Emperors. Rome has just finished fighting a war North of the Danube river against Germanic tribes (the Marcomanni and Quadi) and the Sarmatians. 10 years prior, it defeated the Parthians to the East. Soldiers brought back a plague (smallpox) with them, but Rome prevented a pandemic thanks to its magical protection.

When the original Carthage (belonging to the Punes) was destroyed in 146 BC (608 AUC), more than 300 years ago, the Romans invoked the ceremony of Evocatio, stripping the city of its protector gods. The land was sown with salt and left cursed and barren. A century later, when the Romans returned and founded Carthago on the ashes and bones of the defeated city, they brought with them Roman gods. The city and its environs were restored, but the mountains to the South remained cursed, or so the Roman priests say. They call the curse Chaos, as it causes dungeons to randomly appear and disappear in the mountains, along with strange dangers, monsters, magic, and seemingly endless wealth!

The players take the part of slave-adventurers owned by and toiling for the Roman state, under the supervision of Governor Quintos. They are forced to regularly delve into the Chaos Lands to extract its wealth. The details of how to create and use magical items are a closely guarded secret of the Artificer's Guild, but it is widely known that a lot of wealth is required. Consequently, Rome has a constant need for more precious metals and gems to feed its needs both magical and mundane. Governor Quintos is constantly on the lookout for new slaves to send into the dungeons. The Player Characters are among his newest acquisitions.

The game rules are a reskinned version of Into the Odd (Pay Version | Free Preview), which is itself a simplified version of Classic D&D, also called Original D&D (OD&D). It is part of a movement called Old-School Revival (OSR). Where modern D&D 5e involves players following a series of encounters with monsters, Classic play instead focuses on player agency. In Classic play, you solve challenges to acquire treasure. This might involve fighting monsters, but it often means avoiding or tricking them. You have to play intelligently to win and failure is likely. The Chaos Lands rules are easy to learn and the product will include all the rules you need to play.

Please contact me if you have any questions or comments.

—Jonathan Benn