Dungeons & Dragons is a game that can be played a variety of ways. From kick-in-the-door dungeon hacks to the creeping horror of discovering ancient evils in deep crypt catacombs with NPC interaction ranging between following a random authority figures exposition to deeply involved aristocratic stratagems between rival heirs. Its arcs can vary in scope from the ignoble ends of sheer profit gain, or aspire to the heights of epic sacrifice. One of the goals of Oubliette is to inspire sophisticated gaming through a rich & detailed world; it attempts to create a plausible background of nations, species, & history so that players can suspend their own disbelief & portray believable characters. Extraordinary people in extraordinary circumstances, certainly, but almost tangible, more than an armor class & a d8 longsword.
Many of the things traditional D&D players take for granted are different: races, classes, divinities, even the comfortable old gold piece. Some rules have been changed; but not drastically; while lamellar armor might provide a different armor bonus or there might be a slightly different feat tree for two-weapon fighting, all these changes still mesh with a long-time players intuitive grasp of the D20 system. New players have the advantage of full immersion; they won’t have to worry about forgetting everything they knew about a wight or a ghoul, for example, since many of the familiar names of folklore & myth have been reappropriated. Here you will find imps not as demonic rank-&-file but as a playable race; goblins, the traditional bane of 1st level adventurers are now a vibrant people with a storied history.
So, welcome to the world of Oubliette.
Dwarrow: Living deep below the ground, the dwarrow seem almost kin to the metal & stone they mine. Dwarf-like, they are short & hairy with arms knotted from long labors. They have an intensely patriarchal society; extremely few non-dwarrow have ever seen a female of the species. Caught up in an eternal war with the Goblin Hegemony, many of the other, aboveworld, races distrust the xenophobic dwarrow. In fact, only a generation ago the Vellic Confederacy & the Dwarrow Patriarchy clashed in bitter conflict- a war that ended in a stalemate as the dwarrow raised an entirely new chain of mountains, reshaping the battleground of the conflict.
Ettercaps: Lurking at the fringes of every culture, these humanoids bear the obvious marks of their arachnid ancestry. Strangely enough, the ettercaps is unique, defying comparison even to each other: some have heads ringed with glossy black eyes while others have large, mammalian eyes swimming with pupils; some have chelicerae & fangs instead of mouths, some have lips that hide a toothless mouth filled with finger-like appendages. Ettercaps are by & large alien in mindset, though many of their crèches have been civilized by missionaries & proselytizers.
Ghouls: Not themselves dead or undead, the ghouls none the less have the pallor of the grave. Pale & universally thin, ghouls almost invariably find themselves working in morbid occupations such as gravediggers or undertakers. In Alade, they have risen to a position of some prominence within the cult of the funeral god, Animika. Tightly knit, the ghouls have a dearth of stories told only to other ghouls & one ghoul can be relied upon to help another in need.
Goblins: Menace given form, goblins are by & large accepted as a fact of life. In many of the city-states of the Vellic Confederacy, goblins are hired as mercenaries, pre-empting their natural inclinations towards warfare by suborning it to their natural inclination towards greed. Goblins are hook-nosed & green, as tall as most men but hunched over on flexible spines. Below the mountains of the Walk, there is a great goblin empire ruled over by their God-king, The Imperial Hegemon Rustmrik Hollowhaunt. Goblin society is made of three castes; at the top are the hobgoblins, the inborn officers of the goblin race. Goblins make up the massive bulk of the species, scurrying about on orders from above. The third caste is the goblin flukes: mutations & subspecies that range from the immense ogres to the sprightly gremlins. The technology of the Goblin Hegemony ranges from the stone age to the industrial revolution without ever leaving the worst aspects of both.
Imps: The smallest of all the races, imps are notable not only for their stature but also for their cloven hooves. Imps also have very bushy eyebrows & display strange skin pigmentation; they are covered in intaglio tracings great intricacy resembling tattoos. Often hired as tutors by the wealthy, imps display a preternatural wealth of knowledge on a wide variety of subjects. With a life span of only 30 years, imps are a constant bustle of activity as they attempt to accomplish as much as they can within this short period of time. Feral imps, often known as Grotesques, are a monstrous scourge on the entire world.
Wights: The oldest of all the races, immortal riddles incarnate, wights are often believed by the skeptical to be figments of others imaginations. The strange courts & families of the wights are extravagantly magnificent, reeking of magic & subtle implications of cruelty. Wights resemble no one other species so much as humans, but this only upon the first glance; the differences between the two are marked but, other than the wights’ pointed ears, difficult to pinpoint. Wights often carry deadly scytheswords, & to trifle with them is to tempt ruin & enchantment. Said by some among the wise to live only partly in the world, the wights are the lingering remnant of an ancient mystery.
Witches: Few common folk know much about the witches, only enough to fear the very mention of them. Witches love secrets & their lifestyles are no exception- witches sometimes goso far as to wed a human in order to pass as one. Hermaphrodites, witches exteriorly resemble human women, though a knowledgeable examination will reveal telltale clues such as their second eyelids, vestigial tails, & the tentacles hidden amidst their hair. Not innately evil, the witches are often helpful to those they live amongst, though it is the more memorable actions of other more bloodthirsty witches that have given them their generally poor reputation. Witches cast no reflection, though it is said that when a witch herself looks into a mirror, she does see a reflection- just not her own.
Woses: Old as the deepest hearts of the forests, woses are the wildness of man given form. Running with packs of wolves in sunless copses or settled into crude settlements on the edges of hoary woods, the woses remember the song of blood, which the rest of mankind in civilization has forgotten. While some tribes of woses are savage & dangerous, most are simply in tune with a more basic way of life; they know that the way of green things is to grow or to rot & that the way of beasts is to eat or be eaten.
These classes are available to any character (unless exempted for individual reasons). They require no innate powers or abilities besides talent & the willingness to persevere in study or training. The DM may forbid a player from choosing a class that they have not realistically had the opportunity to learn: an illiterate woodsman cannot spontaneously level as a cabalist for instance- nor could a frail cenobite take a level in dragoon without practicing the arts of battle.
Acolyte: Pursuing the secrets of the perfected self, acolytes are astonishingly adept at physical acts. Eschewing arms & armor as inconsequential, an acolyte is nonetheless a terrifying opponent in combat, acrobatically confounding their foes & lashing out with fists as hard as steel. These feats are performed as a reflection of the unity between their spiritual & material capabilities.
Antinomist: Ever anxious to delve into dangerous puzzles, the antinomist gains powers over the universe through a particularly dangerous means. By uncovering the true names of demonic powers & binding fragments of those names to themselves, the antinomist gains undeniable magical abilities.
Cabalist: Through eldrich research, the cabalist uncovers spells & hexes with which to use as he sees fit. A more scholarly approach to magic than some, the cabalist has a wide variety of spells available in his grimoire, including some spells that can indirectly invoke the power of divinity & mimic miracles. Some cabalists, learning the ancient curses & strictures governing the dead or demons, gain intrinsic power over them.
Cenobite: While not every worshiper or priest is endowed with the capability of performing miracles, an elect few are blessed with the ability to intercede on behalf of mankind. Some cenobites worship the Vellic God, some worship the Goblin Hegemons or Dwarrow Patriarchs, while others worship the deposed Psychopomp of Sheham- rare cenobites are even bizarre cultists, worshiping some darker power. Cenobites who find favor with their deity are powerful emissaries for their faith.
Dabbler: Dilettante & curious, the dabbler is the proverbial jack of all trades. With a wide variety of skills, abilities, & even a smattering of charms & spells, a dabbler’s life is rarely dull. Whether rakish or grave, dabblers are rarely unprepared- they always have another trick up their sleeve. With a versatile background to draw upon, few dabblers lead dull lives.
Demagogue: The pinnacle of aristocracy, demagogues are suave & debonair, moving through seas of intrigue like sleek predators. The rise & fall of empires is the business of the demagogue: it is their statecraft that steers the fate of nations, & their oration that inspires or condemns the achievements of others.
Dragoon: The masters of carnage, dragoons are towering warhulks on any battlefield, dreadnoughts with a potent battle-born expertise. Nearly invulnerable when encased in armor & equally unstoppable when holding a weapon, dragoons are hardened soldiers who blanche at no task. A lone dragoon can be the death of entire companies of conscripted soldiers.
Nonpareil: Swashbuckling duelists, nonpareil are equal parts acrobat & assassin. Skilled in avoiding blows as well as landing them, the combat style of a nonpareil is as much about panache & flourish as it is about slice & dice. A paradox of sorts, nonpareil are as likely to walk with the utter soundlessness of a cat as they are to crow with the arrogance of a rooster.
Scofflaw: Possessing certain fortes looked down upon by authorities, scofflaws are cat burglars & grifters, lock springs & riff-raff. Though their skills are generally criminal in nature, some find legitimate use for them as security experts, explorers, or spies.
Shaman: Keepers of small shrines & old faiths, shamans remember the old ways, & the old ways have power. Shamans assume the form of various spirit totems so that while others can petition the animistic forces of the world for succor through the shaman, the shaman himself becomes them.
Woodsman: Hunters without parallel, woodsmen are the hardy virtuosos of the wild places of the world. Despite their name, woodsmen can be the masters of any terrain, from the sandy dunes of Sheham to the swamps of Orus to the frozen tundra of Ahoon & even the blue waters of the Fahl Sea. There are many baleful things, too, in the untamed world, & the woodsman in turn becomes the bane of these things, one at a time.
Supernatural classes are available only to those who possess the magical humanoid type (hobgoblins, imps, wights, & witches) or at the DM’s discretion some other suitable type (such as an aberration). Supernatural classes are those classes that utilize the inherent magic of the character, manifesting it in some specialized way.
Chimera: Tapping into the potential of the flesh, the chimera actualizes his supernatural nature in manifold, visceral ways. The talon & scale are the inheritance of the chimera, as are a nearly limitless litany of other monstrous powers. Whether thriving alone in dark places or part of a freakish tribe, the chimera loses none of the reason it had before its transformations began.
Domino: Understanding of truth through the exploration of facades is the credo of the domino. Famously wearing not only figurative masks but also literal ones, dominos can be a horrific sight leaving others aghast, or a spectacle of relentless beauty at their whim. Their magical power rivals the most powerful of spellcasters.
Haint: Diaphanous & fleeting, when angered, the haint can be ghostly menacing adversaries. Able to assume an incorporeal form, if only for a limited duration, haints have greater access to the spectral than nearly everyone. Against their indefinite corpus, few weapons or foes can prevail.
Hayyoth: Subsuming ego for what they consider a more resonant identity, hayyoth consider the self to be a matter of function. To the hayyoth, personality is a thin film on the seething cauldron of purpose. Listening to the echoes of the labyrinth leaves the hayyoth knowing maddening enigmas- secrets of the self of many, of war, of darkness.
Malik: Malakim bond magically with their weapon, ceasing spiritually to be a warrior & a weapon, they become rather an amalgam of the two. With their weapon, a malik can parry spells, cut through wards, & shatter mundane weapons & armors with almost no effort.
Sephira: The masters of the self, sephiroth concentrate their efforts on manifesting themselves as an instrument of magical potency. Sephira emanate power in waves, focusing it to achieve amazing results. The sephiroth, more than any other class, embody the supernatural potential of weird.
Divine classes are available only to those with the human sub-type (& even then almost invariably humans rather than ghouls or woses) who are members of the appropriate nationality & religion. Taking these after 1st level may require DM permission, as one cannot idly become elected of God or be realized as one of the living gods of Alade. Divine classes are those that involve the investiture of miraculous power into an individual.
Eidolon: The idols of Alade live & die as other men, but that is the extent of their mortality; though flesh & blood, they are inarguably divine. The eidolon form the basis of Alade’s heroic mythology (or rather, legendary histories). Possessing a variety of miracles that they can perform seemingly at their whims, even the extraordinarily cosmopolitan merchant rank of Alade treat the eidolon with deep reverence.
Caliph: At the heart of the Sheham Social Progressives are the caliphs. Rejecting fully the tyranny of gods, the caliphs believe in their own personal divinity. When their divine aspect is upon them, caliphs are terrifying juggernauts, attacking in a wild frenzy. Recently having overthrown the Immaculate Psychopomp of Sheham, the caliphs now attempt to order the universe decimally in calendar, measure, & coin.
Myrmidon: As the agents of God on earth, the myrmidons strive to represent themselves as paragons of their faith. Charged with intervening in the affairs of the world on behalf of their divinity, they are unswayed by any mortal influence. Endowed with egregious gifts, the myrmidons represent divine vengeance- strict justice tempered by compassion.
Magic & Miracles
Many D&D worlds (such as Forgotten Realms) have developed a cavalier attitude towards magic & miracles. They are filled with cosmopolitan populations who are not awestruck by the works of wizards & clerics, cities with magic item “shops” littering the commercial districts & temples that serve more as resurrection factories than places of worship. The division between divine & arcane even begins to loose meaning, as all spellcasting becomes just another talent for adventurers to exploit.
Oubliette rejects this basic conceit, choosing to maintain an aura of mystery & suspense, dealing with the consequences of powerful magics & world altering miracles rather than excusing them with the blanketed security of High Fantasy. While many uncomfortable questions regarding the nature of deities & magic can be ignored by lifting the veil on the esoteric, Oubliette instead chooses to occlude the practice & nature of spellcasting & miracleworking.
Magic is the realm of all the supernatural classes (chimera, domino, haint, hayyoth, malik, & sephira), the antinomist, the cabalist, & to a lesser extent, the dabbler. It is concerned with being & nature above all else. This ontological framework allows the codification of formulas & spells; the manifestation of dweomers, hexes, & charms.
Magic retains something of the stigma it holds in many low magic campaign worlds. This infamy is far different than the unearned prejudices found in some universes’ ignorant commoners, or the backlash of mistrust engendered in the less fortunate populations of worlds such as Ravenloft against their supernatural repressors. Rather, the notoriety of magic in Oubliette is often deserved. Magic offers perils & pitfalls enough to ensnare all but the greatest of mortal hearts. Consorting with demonic anathemas, forging the very stuff of the soul- these are among the least, if most acknowledged dangers a student of the arcane faces. Magical knowledge itself is hidden, found in dusty tomes of long dead witchkings & amongst the members perverse cults- those that wish to learn magic’s intricacies must constantly dare these hazards.
Miracles are the legacy of the divine classes (eidolon, caliph & myrmidon) & the cenobite, the shaman, & to a lesser extent the acolyte. Miracles represent the intervention of gods in the world of mortals, whether the god in question is a Goblin Hegemon, the Vellic god, or an Alade eidolon. Whether beseeching for aid with prayers or acting as an exalted saint endowed with holy power, the miracleworkers art remain fundamentally similar.
While the aura surrounding magic is one of secrecy, miracles are instead founded on the antiphon to conundrum- faith. It is this faith that also forms the kernel at the heart of the miracleworker’s mystery- doubt. While the extant canon of any religion can answer many of a miracleworker’s questions, it remains only dogma. Questions about the true nature of divinity, the god’s relations to mortals, the origin of the holy & the fate of the dead are all pointedly open to those who look beyond scripture.