World Building 101: A Primal Primer

Over the past several weeks, I have been discussing how to integrate characters from different power sources into your campaign setting. The key is to ensure that your player characters feel as if they truly belong in your world, no matter from where they draw their power. Today we will be examining the Primal power source and how to fit primal characters into your campaign.

The primal power source, fortunately, is one that has a fairly simple common origin—the spirits. With this basis in mind it’s relatively easy to explain the acquisition of new abilities over time, even in the absence of formal training.

Of course, this is not to say that formal training is not a possibility when considering the primal classes. To a certain extent, it’s still quite reasonable to expect that between characters of primal origin, learning would be shared—but unlike the other power sources, academies or long-term arrangements seem unlikely. A couple of options are outlined below:

The Circle: A loose organization of primal characters within a given region or dedicated to a certain cause, a circle may share their wisdom with others who share their goals, or for a price, to any with the proper aptitude. The price may be monetary, but is more likely to involve favors or quests. Specific mechanics for a circle may be related to their cause, their patron spirit, or simply particular tricks that are employed by the particular organization.

The Mentor: One on one teaching and sharing is definitely possible for primal characters, though long apprenticeships are less in keeping with the methods employed by these characters. Knowledge of the ways of the spirits may be shared, but it must also be experienced, and there is only so much that can be done without the student doing for themselves what has been explained by the master. Another option is for an exchange between equals, with two full fledged primal characters exchanging information in an even trade, rather than a master-student relationship, even between those who began in just such a fashion. Consider what a given teacher might know when designing feats or powers for your campaign if you use this option.

The Journey: While a journey with no set destination or aim aside from honing and mastering a given craft can be appropriate for any class, it is especially so for primal classes like barbarians. The journey becomes the medium, and techniques may be gained from something as simple as trying a new maneuver to honing a given style to perfection. This is a difficult origin to include specific mechanics for ahead of time—you may have to play it by ear to determine what fits.

The Spirits: The spirits themselves, so central to the theme of the primal power source, can be used as an explanation for advancement of primal characters. Perhaps the character has a particular patron spirit that teaches new evocations; perhaps they must travel and contact specific spirits to learn from them, as part of a quest. Customized powers and feats could be tied to relationships with the spirits or the type of spirit in question.

Also important when considering primal characters is deciding how people in your world view the spirits and powers that call upon them. Are they commonplace and widely accepted, or mysterious and ancient, forgotten by most in the more civilized society? Do people make offerings to the spirits and the gods alike, or are the deities in your campaign world jealous enough to ban honoring powers other than themselves?

Another key consideration is the nature and identity of the important spirits in your world. You should come up with some of the commonly encountered types of spirits, and some of the oldest, most powerful spirits as well, in order to give your primal characters a sense of place in the world. Having several powerful spirits with tales told of their deeds and exploits will give your primal characters stories to relate around the campfires, and can lead to many potential story hooks for later on.

At this point, we have spent a little bit of time exploring how to integrate four power sources into your campaign: arcane, divine, martial, and primal. While other power sources exist, and more will be released soon, hopefully the ideas shared so far give a sufficient idea of how you can integrate each of them into your own campaign setting. For now, then, we shall move on to other discussions—next week, we will look at how to base an entire campaign world around a particular power source.

Comments (2)

Andy (January 26th, 2010)

Very nice series, by the way. I’ve been seeing this pop up in my RSS feed for a while, and took a glance through it. Cool stuff. I love how you’re breaking it down into components, to help the reader not be overwhelmed.

Brandan Landgraff (January 26th, 2010)

Always glad to see positive comments in response to these articles. I’m often writing weeks ahead of when they’re being posted and occasionally get to worrying about whether or not anyone’s even going to like it, so it’s nice to get that reaffirmation that I’m not writing a month’s worth of something nobody wants to see…

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