Okay, so you've got bored of playing D20 in a pseudo-medieval setting, and you fancy trying a D20 game set in a pseudo-modern setting. Well, we have just such a setting for you: Planet Erf.
Planet Erf takes orcs, magic, intolerant religious psychopaths and the sheer joy of killing things with swords, and transplants it to a world which is sortof, kindof, and not at all, like our own.
Welcome to Planet Erf.
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In days gone past, Orcs were a proud noble people who swept out of the As steppes and smashed the shit out of half of Urp (with hindsight, teaching them how to sail was a major mistake, as many coastal communities will testify).
But gradually, humans turned the tide, and since then Orcs have been brutally oppressed as humanity waged a campaign of genocide against them. (To be fair, in 1968, a convention of human religious leaders, led by the Pope, did apologise for this).
Most Orcs now live in government-subsidised settlements, with no income save welfare payments, and a distressingly high incidence of both alcoholism and domestic violence.
In recent times, there has been a flowering of interest in Orcan culture, such as art and poetry, and many young people adopt elements of Orc culture (so called Orc wannabes... "Is it 'cous I's an Orc?")
It is now very politically incorrect to suggest that Orcs might tend in any way to stupidity or violence.
This is a world with neither electricity nor gunpowder. What it does have though is magic. Oodles and shitloads of it.
For thousands of years magic remained an arcane science, feared by many but wielded by few. But then something else was invented.
The wizards saw poundsigns, and threw the old guild rules out of the window (along with a few Luddites). Magic was used to drive mighty engines that drained water from mines, and sped mechanical horses along roads. It enabled man to talk shit to man while many leagues apart, and enabled especially egotistical men to broadcast bollocks to millions.
The World Of Planet Erf
The geography of Planet Erf is remarkably similar to our own.
To the west (of the map) are the linked continents of North and South Merika. North Merika is dominated by the United Merikan States (UMS). The UMS is the most powerful nation on Earth, and source of most advanced magical technology (rivalled only by the Empire of Nippon).
In the centre of the map is the continent of Urp. Urp was where modern magical technologies were originally developed, and it was Urpan explorers who sailed the world and settled Merika. Urp is still a rich and prosperous continent, but it is no longer the world centre that it once was.
The standard location for Planet Erf campaigns is the Britannic Kingdoms, a confederation of four kingdoms - Anglia, Caledonia, Hibernia and Taffland - spread over two islands (Hibernia is the smaller island to the west). The capital of the Britannic Kingdoms, and of Anglia, is Lundon.
To the east of Urp is the ancient continent of As. Most of the nations here are poorer than the nations of Urp and Merika. Exceptions to this rule are the Empire of Nippon (a collection of islands of the eastern coast of As) and several other adjacent nations.
To the south of As is the continent of Straylia. You'll probably never go there so we won't bother discussing it further. If you ever meet a Straylian, just buy him a drink and you're probably be fine.
Finally, we come to the dark continent of Bongo, which lies to the south of Urp. For thousands of years Bongo was home to a complex network of ancient societies. Then slavers and adventurers from Urp arrived. If it was worth something, they took it, and if it wasn't worth anything, they killed it, and claimed the experience. Temples were stripped, settlements razed, nations smashed.
Finally, after a hundred years of destructive colonialism, and having shagged the entire continent beyond recognition, they decided that the only fair and moral course of action was to say sorry, make their apologies, and leave discretely - and then observe the resulting mayhem and slaughter from the sidelines, while muttering that, well, it couldn't be helped, and didn't it prove that it was a hopeless case all along, old chap?
Bongo is now a seething mass of civil war and anarchy, which basically means you can rack up experience without getting into trouble with the law.
There are many currencies in use on Planet Erf, but the most widespread is the Merikan Dollar. One Dollar (usually referred to using the symbol "$") is divided up into one hundred cents. Also in some use is the Britannic Kingdoms pound. One pound is worth around two Merikan Dollars.
When buying equipment using standard equipment lists, simply assume that one GP is equal to $1.
The greatest difference between our technology and that of Planet Erf is the total absence of firearms. Gunpowder simply doesn't work, and besides, if it did the wizards would most likely have had it declared illegal.
But most other technical "devices" from our world have similar, magical, equivalents on Planet Erf. There are computers, powered by captured thinking demons, mobile phones, powered by captured telepathic demons, and TVs powered by... I think you get the gist.
Basically, you can just assume that any consumer gizmo will have a magical equivalent. (Although one difference is that demon rights protesters get *extremely* upset about computer games).
Transportation is a little different from ours. Ground transportation is generally by "horse", which in the year 2002 has come to refer to a magical artifact creature which is of a similar shape to a horse, but can run all day without stopping and includes such features as a radio, cigarette lighter and cup-holder.
Aerial transportion is by two means: broomstick and carpet.
Broomsticks no longer bear any resemblance to cleaning devices. In fact, the cleaning bristles were long ago discovered to be superfluous, and were discarded. The modern broomstick is merely an enchanted metal pole, around four feet long, with a seat mounted midway. They are fast, agile, and have a horrific safety record, especially among male teenagers. Nowadays, most broomsticks are manufactured in the Empire of Nippon in eastern As.
Carpets also bear little resemblance to their forebears. A modern carpet is a metal platform around 10 metres by 10 metres, with several hundred chairs bolted to its surface in close proximity. A carpet is surrounded by a transparent force field, which protects the passengers from air buffetting, but allows full all-round vision. Civilian transport carpets can achieve speeds of around six hundred miles per hour, but military version can achieve speeds two or three times this.
There is one big technological difference between the world of Planet Erf and a standard pseudo-medieval fantasy world: In Planet Erf, everything is precision mass-produced, to an identical standard, and using advanced alloys.
What this means is that all weapons and equipment are masterwork, but they only cost the standard amount for that weapon. However, if you purchase a "branded" weapon instead of a "generic" weapon (i.e. one which has a wanky name and is endorsed by a celebrity) you will pay 10-20% extra to cover the additional cost of marketting and packaging.
Planet Erf has the same religions as our world. The two most dominant religions are Islam and Christianity, with the most dominant branch of Christianity being Catholicism. Catholicism has often been criticised for being out of touch with the modern world, and it was for this reason that Pope John XXIII proclaimed the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, popularly known as Vatican II, in 1962.
Vatican II led to many changes in the Catholic Church, notable ones being the use of mother-tongues - instead of Latin - for parts of the mass, the empowerment of the laity, and allowing priests to use bladed weapons in combat.
Laws And Law Enforcement
Most First World countries (i.e. those in North Merika, Urp, Straylia, and the advanced Eastern As nations) have pretty strict rules on acts of violence. Though there are generally no restrictions on carrying swords, battleaxes and so on, but if you try using one in public you'll end up in court pretty sharpish. The same applies to the use of attack magic.
Countries in other regions are often more flexible in their application of the law, and in Bongo - most of which is in a state of intermittent warfare - pretty much anything goes. Hack away.
Where To Go Next
We've included a complete, ready-to-run scenario, "Oy! Leave Them Orcs Alone!" in this issue of Critical Miss. This scenario includes six pre-generated characters, which we'd recommend you use, since you probably can't create your own characters at this point, because you're probably still a tad confused about what the hell we're going on about.
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