Celtic-Type Setting in D&D 3.x

This topic was started in rec.games.frp.dnd on May 24, 2007.

The original thread can be read at

Here are some initial thoughts on a Celtic-type region in my campaign.  I haven’t worked out much by way of names and the like yet; here I’m sketching out what game entities could be expected to be found.

In short, a fairly heroic Celtic-style campaign setting.  Largely late bronze age culture technologically, there are more advanced nations that interact (enough that they do show up, not so much to be common).  Lots of interaction with the fey (which is probably part of the reason they still use bronze — those bringing in iron would probably be… firmly discouraged from continuing to do so).  Religion is fairly animistic (no big religious structures, though culturally similar from area to area; some fairly common strictures, and those who travel generally know enough to realize they are ignorant of local rules and behaviors and to adapt as needed).

Races

  • Humans certainly.
  • Dwarves might be a type of fey that can actually handle iron (though they won’t provide it to those who would work against their cousins).
  • Elves may be present as ‘part fey’ creatures (or replaced entirely by them); they probably won’t be included as presented in the core rules.
  • Halflings may or may not be present; they might be ‘lost fey’, trapped in this work or barred from returning to Faerie and gradually lost their fey natures.
  • Gnomes and goblins might also be fey (perhaps from the Seelie or Unseelie Courts).
  • Half-elves might exist, if elves do, but it is uncertain.
  • Orcs and half-orcs might still be present, probably as servants of the giants.

Classes

Several of the classes below might normally end up replaced by prestige classes, but since they are classes that likely wouldn’t turn up in this campaign anyway I’m not going to worry about it.

  • Barbarians would definitely be present (rage was a common trait of heroes).
  • Bards would likely be present, but might be replaced with a prestige class with more druidic underpinnings.
  • Clerics probably would not be present ‘locally’ (that social role is largely held by druids), but foreign clerics may well show up (and likely be somewhat unpopular).
  • Druids would definitely be present.
  • Fighters would definitely be present.
  • Monks probably wouldn’t be present, unless they can be recast as wrestlers and some of the more metaphysical elements replaced.  The class as presented has ‘too much Shaolin’ in it to really fit properly.
  • Paladins probably wouldn’t be present ‘locally’ but there could be ‘foreign paladins’.  I might consider Green Ronin’s Holy Warrior class for some characters, if the Holy Warrior domain choices make sense.
  • Rangers would definitely be present.
  • Rogues probably wouldn’t be common.  Wilderness sneaks are probably better modeled using Rangers, and many Rogue abilities would be better suited to non-heroes.
  • Sorcerers would be present, but not common and not very trusted.  Those with fey derivation (enchantments and illusions) might merely be untrusted, those with more overt magic would likely be feared as demonspawn or dragonkin.  Each derivation would likely have different ‘class spell lists’.
  • Wizards would not be at all common locally, might have some come from foreign lands.

Clerics and Druids

My thinking regarding clerics and druids is that druids are more shamanic and focus on the spirit world.  The culture here doesn’t particularly have ‘gods’, but instead venerate their heroes and respect the other spirits of the world.  They don’t worship or otherwise fit more ‘normal’ cultural molds.

After all, there is little need for people trained to call on gods when gods don’t exist, but there are instead ‘small gods’ you might actually be able to track down and speak to directly to ask for help.  Though you risk a smiting or being cursed for the temerity of annoying them.

Given the power curves of most of the classes, and the slight nerf I’d likely have on Sorcerers, I think it might be worth scaling Druids down a little.  Perhaps make them a prestige class instead, they have to spend time doing something else first.  Failing that, slow their spell access and weaken wildshape somewhat (though wildshape could be appropriate to other characters as well who are not spell casters at all).

Martial Characters

I don’t have the notes above, but I could probably be talked into incorporating elements of Tome of Battle: Book of Nine Swords without too much difficulty.  Change some of the weapon associations and there are a slew of combat abilities that fit the stories of combat fairly well.  It could also address the disconnect I feel with Monks — tune up a martial adept correctly and it can probably fit pretty well.

Skills

All present unless otherwise indicated.  Literacy would not be assumed, and in fact would be fairly uncommon among most people.

All classes get two more skill points per level (eight more at first level) just on principle; D&D 3.x is way too stingy with them.

Feats

All present unless otherwise indicated.  Probably no heavy armor, probably not much medium armor.  Weapon proficiencies would be reduced (technology reasons, more or less).

Combat

Normal rules unless otherwise indicated.

I might incorporate Defense Value (Defense Bonus, whatever it was called) from Unearthed Arcana, to help make up for the lack of heavy armor.

Equipment and Gear

Bronze age, more or less.  Some iron or steel possible from foreign sources, but the fey don’t like it and come down very hard on people who bring it in.

Spells

Druidic and enchantment/illusion, mostly.  Other types may be possible, but generally from foreign or other untrusted (demonic and/or draconic) sources.  Subtle magic (abjurations and divinations, for example) might not be noticed much at all.  Some transformations, if they make someone more heroic, might be accepted with less negative response.

Monsters

  • Aberrations would be very uncommon.
  • Animals would be very common.
  • Constructs would be almost completely unheard of.
  • Dragons would be present, not common, and best avoided.
  • Elementals would be uncommon.
  • Fey would be fairly common, if not often encountered (their influence and actions may be felt or noticed more often than fey are actually encountered).
  • Giants would be fairly common, and would be hero bait.
  • Humanoids would be mostly human, some (but not many) others unless they either have fey or giant connotations.
  • Magical Beasts would be uncommon to most people, but tales would abound and heroes could expect to run into them from time to time.
  • Monstrous Humanoids would be uncommon, likely having fey or giant connotations.
  • Oozes would be fairly uncommon, but might be found as hazards.
  • Outsiders would be almost unheard of (yes, I know I mentioned demonic bloodlines above).
  • Plants would be uncommon.
  • Undead would be uncommon and perhaps treated more as known threats that might be propitiated, not as things to be fought.  Though it occurs to me that various spirits (such as those of ancestors or fallen heroes) could reasonably be handled as undead.
  • Vermin would be uncommon.

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2 Comments to "Celtic-Type Setting in D&D 3.x"

  1. November 29, 2011 - 1:49 am | Permalink

    We used to have trouble with snakes around here, but a cleric adventurer turned up and fixed it for us! :-D

    Fey would be fairly common…

    … and better avoided or negotiated with than fought? ;-)

    Plants would be uncommon.

    I know you mean “monsters with the Plant type” but this still made me chuckle.

    Incorporeal undead would fit in okay, more so than corporeal ones in most cases. There is a fair bit of overlap between the fey* and undead realms IRL so I don’t know if there’s anything interesting you can do with that?

    Funny you should mention rogues, I can think of some legendary figures who would fit that class fairly well. Less for the “sneaky” specifically as for the “skills and talents out the wazoo”: Lugh Samildanach leaps immediately to mind. Also maybe Cúchulainn; Gae Bulg == Sneak Attack? Mind you, Cúchulainn would also make a classic Barbarian so YMMV. Get a DIY class up in here! :-)

    TBH I would probably merge bard and druid if doing something like this, have a single class with optional variations to cover both extremes.

    (* Aside on terminology since it’s vaguely relevant: around these parts we would use “fey” as an adjective, but it’s not very common. More usually we would use “fairy” as both the noun and the adjective. “Faerie” on the other hand we would associate with pretentious foreigners. :-D)

  2. June 21, 2013 - 9:22 am | Permalink

    I ran a Celtic-themed 2e campaign for about 3 years back in the 90’s, and I found that D&D maps pretty well to Celtic myth.

    I broke humankind up into a number of different ethnic groups – the Gwyll, broken into Amer, who were basically Celts, and Marer, similar to the island and coastal Scots. The Varnr, essentially the norse, and the more settled Kuarians, similar to the later Franks.

    Orcs got turned into Fomorians (optionally with one eye), and elves to Tuatha de Danaan. Dwarves were Dvergar, and giant Fir’Bolg and savage Condriani (gnolls) also wandered the world.

    I took a page out of the Chronicles of Prydain and added Huntsmen as well, savages who wore the skins of animals and gained HP when members of their pack were killed.

    I did split up Druids and Clerics – Clerics tended to be more urban, and Druids had more influence in rural/wilderness areas. The Varnr had no Druids, and Clerics tended to be leaders of the community (Godi, essentially).

    Steel was available, but was over 100x more expensive, relative to standard D&D prices, and comparatively rare. Lots of things in standard equipment lists simply weren’t available.

    It was a great game – I liked a low-power, low-magic setting. It simply didn’t work to play it in 4e (I can’t deal with 3e prep time), but I have high hopes for 5e to revive it.

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