19 June 2009

My Setting: Ilmahal

Here is the map of my 'homebrew' campaign setting, 'Ilmahal.' (I drew this map in September 2003.)

Below is a brief overview of the setting. I'm in the process of thinking about possible revisions to it, and so will wait a little while before posting more detailed notes.


The island of Ilmahal is slightly smaller than the island of Britain. It resembles Britain in terms of geography and climate, except for the fact that Ilmahal has a number of small but imposing mountain ranges along its eastern coast. It exists in the northern part of the world of Ilden. Culturally and politically, Ilmahal resembles post-Roman, Dark Ages Britain. The southern portion of the island was once the northernmost province of a great empire, the Aphorian Imperium. After the collapse of the Aphorian Imperium, Ilmahal descended into a dark age of chaos and barbarian invasion. Two centuries ago the southern portion of Ilmahal was united into the Kingdom of Olbian, which resembled pre-Saxon ‘Arthurian’ England. Alas, Olbian collapsed after its second king failed to produce an heir. Since then, the realm has been divided amongst petty kingdoms, city-states, and bandit lords, all struggling against each other – and against the many vile sub-human tribes that ravage the land – for supremacy.


  1. Fantastic map! Looking forward to seeing more of your setting.

  2. Thanks for your kind word, KenHR! I have two other maps of the setting, each focusing on a particular region (the 'Earldom of Ysfael' and the 'Duchy of Briz'). I may post them soon. The notes themselves may take a bit longer.

  3. Stunning! And its strikes exactly the right tone given the kind of campaign you want to run.

  4. Thanks post festum!

    One of the main questions that I'm struggling with right now is whether to allow non-human player characters in Ilmahal, and if so, which races.

    In the past I've allowed dwarves (which I've called 'Vadhre') and halflings (which I've called 'Waldleuti', and reworked into furtive woodland creatures). With one exception, I've not allowed elves ('Alfar'), as I have a particular take on the elves of Ilmahal (namely, they are powerful, arrogant, and 'alien' or seemingly 'amoral' in their outlook, viewing mortals as mere flies).

    Since I'm trying to give the setting an even stronger 'swords & sorcery' feeling this time out (think of the Arthurian tales, but as written by Robert E. Howard, with some advice from H. P. Lovecraft), I'm contemplating either (a) prohibiting non-human character altogether, and making the current non-human races more 'alien', or (b) reworking the Vadhre, and perhaps the Waldleuti, as human 'sub-races'.

  5. Well, now that I've read the S&W core rules--which are kind of like a cross between basic and advanced--I certainly don't think you should include the Elf "class". It seems pretty weird and, well, lame.

    I think dwarves are fine, though I don't quite get the large penalty for experience.

    Generally, it's always been weird that there are these races that live for 300 or 1000 years, and yet they never get much better at fighting or magic-using than humans. So maybe you should prohibit them.

  6. Bobcat, since the S&W rules are based on OD&D, and Basic D&D and AD&D are both based on OD&D (developing OD&D in somewhat different directions), it makes sense that the S&W core rules would strike you as a cross between Basic D&D and AD&D.

    The experience penalties for Elves and Dwarves in S&W are meant to replace the 'hard' level limits found in OD&D, Basic D&D, and 1e AD&D.

  7. I guess I never played OD&D, so its rules are unfamiliar to me. That said, why should there be level limits or more experience required for elves or dwarves? They seem to be only a little better than humans as far as their racial bonuses go, and I think that would be better offset either by racial penalties or by racial bonuses for humans.

  8. Didn't you play 1e or 2e AD&D, Bobcat? Both those versions of the game had level limits for non-human characters.

    With respect to OD&D and 1e AD&D, I believe that Gygax imposed 'hard' level limits for two reasons: (a) to provide some 'balance' between non-human and human characters (non-human characters had certain racial advantages, but humans could progress without limit); and (b) to ensure a 'human-centric' game (Gygax, coming from a 'swords & sorcery' background, wanted to ensure that the most powerful characters in the world would typically be human).

    I've never liked level limits. However, other attempts to 'balance' human and non-human characters often seem clumsy (e.g., the bonus feats and skill points for humans in 3e).

    The increased experience requirements that S&W uses (a system that was also used via 'attack ranks' in the BECMI and _Rules Cylcopedia_ version of D&D) could be rationalized as reflecting the mindsets of long-lived non-humans (i.e., they live so long that they tend not to learn as quickly as humans, or something like that).

    Personally, these days I prefer simply to restrict player characters to humans, and make non-humans as powerful or weak as I judge appropriate, instead of striving for some artificial 'balance' amongst all the races. For instance, in my campaign world of Ilmahal, the Alfar (elves) typically are vastly more powerful than humans. Only their limited numbers and ennui prevent them from ruling the world.


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I'm a Canadian political philosopher who lives primarily in Toronto but teaches in Milwaukee (sometimes in person, sometimes online).