Gnarth Campaign Setting

A quick introduction

HPL, REH, CAS, ERB, Vance, Lin Carter, Pulp Sci-Fi, Blackmoor, Land of the Lost, Carcosa, Planet Algol, Futurama, Tekumel...

Gnarth is a weird/sword & planet/pulp fiction milieu, not a traditional fantasy setting.  It isn’t an ‘alternate’ earth, it’s an alien planet where Magic works!  Most Classic mythological creatures are not found on Gnarth, nor are ‘Fey’ (elves, dwarves, brownies, sprites, etc), Elementals, nor even most ‘familiar’ animals and avians, as neither mammals nor birds evolved naturally on Gnarth.  The atmosphere, gravity, terrains, and climates are similar to Earth, although it is warmer and drier.  Eons of magic use has resulted in a bizarre ecosystem, in which native dinosaur and proto-mammals exist alongside imported alien and also magically created creatures.  Several species are able to Cast Spells, produce Magical Items, and otherwise alter reality through the use of Magic.

Fighters still wear armor and fight, Wizards still cast Spells, but all can use just about any weapon, and most Magical Items can be used by any Class, blurring of the lines between Classes. Spellcasters have more options in Combat, and Fighters have access to more Magic.  ‘Knights’ are a sect of warrior priests, analogous to Clerics, sworn to protect the populous from evil, specifically from the Old Gods and their servants.  ‘Prophets’ and ‘Cultists’ are emissaries and devotees of specific gods, following their dictates.  ‘Theiving’ abilities can be gained as Special Skills by any Class.


Many thousands of years prior to the current campaign, Demigod-like beings, the Old Ones, arrived on Gnarth, which already had highly evolved flora and fauna, and created or imported the Elder Races of Gnarth.  The Elder Races performed all manner of strange experiments and magic rituals on Gnarth, altering the planet and its ecology.  Eventually, their powers allowed them to overthrow, banish, &/or imprison the Old Ones, but cataclysmic wars between the various Elder Races destroyed their civilizations. 

Isolated enclaves of these Elder Races still exist on Gnarth, each continuing to plot their recovery, but the time of their glory is now long gone.  Ruins from this era are cyclopean stone formations, and underground dungeon complexes.  Little else remains, except the rare find of one of their highly powerful magical or technological artifacts, which are viewed with equal respect and apprehension, as none know the secrets of their construction and operation.

After the fall of the civilizations of the Elder Races, a race of human(oid)s known as ‘the Ancients’ ruled Gnarth.  Many tales are told of them, but very little is sure, as almost all of their records have been lost.  Some maintain that The Ancients were as the multicolored Gnartians of the present day, while others say they were a species apart, or a common ancestor, or a race of warrior giants… It is known that their Magic was both more common and more powerful that that currently practiced on Gnarth.  It is postulated that they attempted to utilize the magic and technology of their predecessors, which were never completely understood.   Planetary disasters occurred, culminating &/or coinciding with the appearance of the Great Crimson Nebula, and the apparent extinction of the Ancients.

Remnants of the Ancient world can be seen in ruins and roadways, religion and ritual, and many Magic Items of the Ancients can be found by adventurers.

The current historical age of Gnarth, in which the remnants of the Elder Species, various Monsters, native, alien, and created, and Humanoids, all seek to survive in a hostile world, none secure in their positions.  Several species have come to dominate the planet, to a degree; including Reptilians, Insectaurs, and the polychromatic races of Gnartians.  Humans also currently occupy Gnarth, most descended from persons who travelled to (or were abducted to) Gnarth over the long years.

The planet is marked by unusual deserts, jungles, and other odd and unique areas.  The great majority of Gnarth is uncivilized wilderland; large-scale nation-building is not possible due to inhospitable conditions and a high concentration of weird and dangerous creatures, and so relatively isolated Fortified Cities are the norm.  Ruins of past cultures are common, and often repurposed by current occupants.  Magic is relatively rare on a large scale, but exists everywhere to varying degrees.  Most members of the ‘top’ species toil to merely survive, but a few intrepid individuals chose instead a life of Adventuring, exploring and plundering in the weird and untamed lands beyond the city walls…


Gnartians come in six colors; Purple, Blue, Red, Yellow, Orange, and Green, and can only produce offspring with a mate of similar color.  Although few living know this information, the Gnartian races are an artificially created set of Human subspecies, engineered by either an Elder Race, or The Ancients.  Customs and attitudes regarding Race vary according to specific locales and individuals.  Generally, more uncivilized areas are more insular and racist, while more urban and advanced areas are more polyglot and enlightened regarding this issue.  Gnartians have a few features which are distinct from Humans, but individual color does not affect game mechanics.

Native to Gnarth, Reptilians are the evolved descendants of saurian bipeds.  As a general rule, they do not mass in cities, living in smaller, often nomadic groups in the Wilderlands, although they will occasionally gather in larger numbers for rituals and trade.

Hexapod aliens from another Galaxy, originally brought to Gnarth as mercenaries by the Ancients, stranded there in large numbers when the Ancient World fell.  They maintain clans, or hives, each with their own agendas and allies.


If they worship anything, Evil creatures worship the banished/imprisoned Elder Gods. It is considered a major faux pas to mention any aloud by name.  The ‘Gods’ of the PC species are a motley lot, pursuing their unknown agendas through their worshippers, unorganized into pantheons.

Both the Elder Races and the Ancients developed advanced sciences, but why spend much effort in an area of such limited potential, if Magic can produce similar or better results, often instantly?  Almost all of the scientific knowledge of previous ages has been lost, and nearly all non-magical artifacts of the Ancients have long ago become inert or been destroyed by time.  The very few examples which remain operational are generally viewed with apprehension and distrust.

Mounted travel is most common, facilitated by use of creatures such as Pack Lizards, Gnarguamodons, Centisteeds, and Ridespiders, among others.  Travel between fortified settlements is dangerous, difficult, and generally costly.
An extensive ‘Subway System’ of transit corridors, subsurface canals, and labyrinthine dungeons - the works of previous civilizations - connect many points of interest, but present their own hazards.
Telepylons are one of the few extant examples of Ancient Artifacts, allowing adepts to travel instantly between Dimensional Gates to various widespread regions.
The seas of Gnarth are both few and highly dangerous; maritime efforts are usually limited in scope.  Travel by air requires Magic, or certain very rare mounts.

1 GP = 2 SP = 10 CP
1 PP = 5 GP = 10 SP = 50 CP
1 SP = 5 CP
Platinum Ingot = 500 GP = 1,000 SP = 5,000 CP
Gold Ingot = 100 GP = 200 SP = 1,000 CP
Silver Ingot = 50 GP = 100 SP = 500 CP
Copper Ingot = 10 GP = 20 SP = 100 CP
(One ingot/100 coins – of any metal – costs one Encumbrance Slot to transport)

Gnartians speak a common, core language, likely descended from the speech of the Ancients, which has been lost.  Both Reptilians and Insectaurs also have their own languages, neither completely reproducible by Humans, although both species can speak Gnartian, and the languages of both can of course be understood through Magic.  Humans seem to pick up the Gnartian language surprisingly rapidly, usually soon after drinking the native water…

Gnarth is orbited by three moons, all of which can often be seen both day and night.  Klaatu, the closest satellite, is a greenish planetoid covered in fantastic jungles, home to several surviving Elder Races.  Verrada, the largest, is a pale pink and gray body in geosynchronous orbit, a largely uninhabited wasteland which nonetheless contains a small number of native and alien creatures.  Nikto, the smallest, fastest, and outermost satellite of Gnarth, is a cold, airless world, cratered and pale, rumored to be inhabited by the ‘Gods’, and the spirits of the dead.  

(more about Sword and Planet tropes here:)