The Libertarian Gamer: Arcana Unearthed, Part 2: Races & Classes

In Part 1 of this column, I gave an overview of Monte Cook’s Diamond Throne (Amazon) campaign setting for Arcana Unearthed (Amazon) and talked about the sort of adventures I’d like to run there. In Part 2, I talk about the races and classes I’d use to achieve the goals set out in the first column.

One of the themes that Monte Cook specifically lays out in Arcana Unearthed is the concept of free will. He writes on page 4:

Although chance and fate seem to guide one’s life at times, Arcana Unearthed assumes a world where freedom of choice is more important than the unknown whims of fortune or the predestined plans of importal beings. Characters choose to become mojh, spyrtes, or rune children. Oathsworn choose their own oaths and fulfill them because they want to. Champions pick their causes, totem warriors choose their totem spirits, and witches decide their witchery manifestations for themselves. Characters witching to become great warriors can select the path of unfettered or the warmain.

In this world, characters make their own decisions — and they must live with the consequences. They have no game system to dictate their actions (and reactions), so they must take responsibility for their own actions.

Refreshing, isn’t it? With this concept in mind, let’s look at the sort of player character choices that complement the libertarian campaign:

Racial Insights

The diminutive, halfling-like faen are perhaps the most overtly libertarian of the races and indeed are almost anarchistic. According to the core book “they don’t pay a lot of attention to social standing or popularity, but they do enjoy praise” and “are not quick to judge a creature based on race”, which is true of most libertarians I know.

Going further, Monte says that the faen “believe that people should be able to do what they want, as long as it does not unduly harm or endanger others — or impinge on their desires. They’re not interested in law or government and resent someone attempting to give them orders.” That’s pretty much perfect for this campaign.

Litorians are half-man, half-lion humanoids who — as befits their feline nature — are typically wandering nomads. According to the book they “hold concepts of personal freedom quite dear. They believe in only a very loose, organizational structure from their tribal upbringing. Strength and respect govern their tribes, not law … their choices stem from their sense of honor and respect for others.” Based on that, a litorian would fit in well with this sort of campaign. While I guess that “strength” means physical strength (as in martial prowess) I think a litorian in this campaign would be more focused on strength of personality. If the campaign followed the anti-giants theme, a litorian — with its dislike of formal structures and government — would work well.

Personally I think the rule of law is important, albeit less restrictive, less invasive laws, so I think I’d use the litorian’s desire for loosely-defined power structures as a foil against the limited-republic tendencies of the rest of the party.

Mojh — humans who have transformed themselves into draconic hybrids — are selfish creatures motivated by their own intense quests for magic and knowledge. That’s not a bad thing in a libertarian campaign though, especially one focused on individual advancement.

The verrik — red-wine-skinned humanoids similar to humans, but more remote and aloof — could be useful. They are said to value innovation and respect genius and talent, which provides a hook for having one adventure with a party of exceptional individuals.

Humans, like the races in most fantasy settings (and science fiction ones for that matter) are flexible, generally optimistic, generalists capable of filling almost any niche … or no niche at all. As such, they are useful for rounding out this party.

Not all the races work well for player characters though. The bestial sibeccai — a race of animals “uplifted” by the giants who continue to serve that race — are described as being energetic and optimistic, with the occasional selfish tendency. Those are good traits (assuming we’re talking about rational self-interest), but they are countered by an intense need for rules and order that might run counter to the themes of the campaign. That said, they could provide a good counter point to the litorians.

The giants are the campaign’s lawbringers and strident “lawful good” types, and as a result, are inappropriate as PCs unless a player wanted to play against type. Similarly runechildren — members of any race who have special rune-derived powers — are motivated by strong altruistic tendencies that would run counter to the individualism of my proposed campaign.

Class Warfare

Some Arcana Unearthed classes simply call out to be included in a libertarian campaign. The champion strong > class — specifically the champion of freedom — is a natural, and calls to mind the stridently-libertarian Tritheronites in my regular Dungeons & Dragons campaign. Champions of freedom are described as as “fight[ing] against oppression, tyranny, and unjust imprisonment of free-willed creatures.”

Powers specific to this breed of champion include “Freedom’s Will”, which grants the hero a +2 resistance bonus to enchantment spells, “Freedom’s Strength”, which gives them a +1 to attack and damage rolls when fighting to free a captive or oppose a tyrannical figure, and “Freedom’s Movement’, which causes the hero to be immune to any spell that would bind, constrict or immobilize him. In addition, the champion can choose a specific focus to champion — such as a place — and gain additional powers.

Oathsworn are martial arts experts and similar to monks in a traditional D&D campaign. A key difference, however, is that they swear an oath to accomplish a specific goal, and gain powers from the swearing. An oathsworn in a libertarian campaign could swear to bring about the fall of an evil overlord, rescue a lost artifact of good, or hunt down bandits terrorizing free trade in a realm.

The Unfettered are described as “wild, uncontrollable, yet supremely skilled, the unfettered appears to be part madman, part assassin. In truth, he is neither. The unfettered is more a swashbuckling dervish, expert in using quickness and agility in combat rather than brute force.” The unfettered are the perfect, happy-go-lucky adventurers, always seeking challenges while simultaneously evading authority. Their uses in this sort of campaign are obvious, providing a contrast to the strident natures of the champion and oathsworn, while still complementing their own freedom-loving agendas with a more diversified skill set.

Mage blades combine traditional wizards with fighters to create something similar to the spell sword prestige class from Tome and Blood. Their swashbuckling nature would work well with the unfettered while simultaneously providing the party with some magical support.

Magisters are the wizards of Arcana Unearthed, but their approach to magic is scientific, rather than mystical. Perfect for those rational minded libertarians who balk at the instinctual magic found in other system (or even within other classes in Arcana Unearthed.) While nothing about the class is particularly libertarian, they can easily be played in a way that complements the campaign. They also provide much needed magical fire power and much needed healing.

Akashics are savants focused on the recovering of ancient knowledge, which they can access by uncovering magical nodes scattered around the realm. They are very useful both as walking adventure hooks, while simultaneously providing the party with a jack-of-all trades to fill in any holes left by the other characters.

A Party of Individuals

So what does this party end up looking like?

  • An oathsworn litorian focused on righting individual wrongs.
  • A human champion of freedom, who battles petty tyrants and has an eye on a larger campaign against the giant occupation.
  • A mojh akashic/magister who seeks out ancient magical secrets.
  • A faen mage blade driven by a hunger for adventure.
  • A human unfettered with a passion for exploration

This party’s make up allows them to get involved in the occasional political storyline while simultaneously engaging in traditional adventuring.

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