Ptolus: The Beacon City
What is Ptolus
The Ptolus Campaign is the 5e rules with the volume turned all the way up.
The conceits of the game are the conceits of the setting. The feel of the rules is the feel of the city. If the rules suggested that something might happen a lot, then in Ptolus, it happen a lot. The effects of 1st-level spells come as a surprise to no one here. Tanglefoot bags, rings of protection, and a druid’s animal companions are taken for granted.
The creator of Ptolus had this to say: "I loved it when one day a player of mine said, “I polymorph myself into a troll and run out into the street after the thief.” Another player said, “Dude, you can’t go out there like that!” And the first player replied, “Don’t worry about it! This is Ptolus—they see this stuff all the time.” I knew then that the first player really got Ptolus."
Where a City Watch patrol that found an entire city street blocked by a web spell wouldn’t be mystified but instead annoyed—the guards know from experience what a pain it was to hack through the stuff. (The risk of fire is too great to burn the webbing.) In the end, unless it was a busy or important street, the Watch most likely will just let the spell’s duration run out.
The people of Ptolus have seen this kind of magic all their lives. That doesn’t cheapen it or render spells humdrum—magic was never so common as to make Ptolus feel like a modern setting with magic in place of technology. The players just learned to understand that the folk of Ptolus lived in a world where the Third Edition Core Rules governed their lives.
The City by the Spire – The Ptolus that Was
To call Ptolus a dynamic place with a strange and varied identity is to understate the situation greatly. Explorers discovering how ancient the city really is and unearthing details of its varied history. Ptolus is where that strange breed that calls itself “adventurers” congregate. It was a place where people were as concerned with what lies below the ground as they are with what’s above. It was like no place else in the world.
Ptolus lies in the world of Praemal within the bounds of a very old Empire unsure of whether or not it has toppled. Three different emperors claim the throne, and portions of the once great realm cleave off like icy shards from a melting glacier. This decaying society looks upon previous centuries and sees grander, more civilized, and certainly better days. Progress seems on the decline—skills and lore that people possessed just a few hundred years ago are lost now. But this is not a time to lose hope altogether. This civilization, older than our own real-world cultures, is more sophisticated than our own in some ways, but less so in others. A myriad of races and peoples have come and gone, creating an intricate (and sometimes confusing) amalgam. Good struggles against evil, and law against chaos. But the shadows only threaten the light— they do not yet consume it. Not so long ago, the first men and women who would one day be called “delvers” returned from exploring the catacombs below the city of Ptolus laden with gold and magical treasures. Today, hundreds of new would-be delvers pour into the city each month, hoping to strike it rich like others before them. Most never crawl up from the realms below, but adventurers keep arriving with dreams of gold and fame. Those who do emerge back into the light bring with them tales of surprisingly vast reaches of natural caverns and ancient hewn passages, perhaps dating back to the dark days when this area lay in the thrall of the terrible Skull-King, Ghul, and the region was pocked with winding warrens and subterranean chambers created by his dark armies. They also tell of the horrors that dwell outside the life-giving reaches of the sun: unknown monsters and devious demon-minded things with a cunning unknown to human-, elf-, or dwarfkind. In the city, entire industries have evolved quickly to service the needs of these adventurers. In the shadow of an unnaturally tall, ancient spire with a very dark past, a whole new form of economics, politics, and social structure struggles to be born. Creatures and individuals (good, evil, and otherwise) that normally remain in the shadows are drawn to this large gathering of adventurers and magic. The needs of the delvers prompt renewed devotion to magic, science, and religion. As the Empire of Tarsis dies, Ptolus—for years a backwater town on the edge of civilization—is quickly becoming the center of something much larger than itself. Omens and prophecies of children born with strange birthmarks surface in the city with increasing frequency. No one yet knows exactly what, but something is happening in Ptolus. Something new stirs in the city… and that something is very, very old.
The City of Light – Ptolus Today
Today the city is a beacon to civilisation. The Great Heroes of the past destroyed the Ancient Evil and sealed the realm of Garth Gamell. Their fortunes were given to the city to help build a new Ptolus and the idea of "Devling" went to the wayside. That isn't to say that there aren't still adventurerers in Ptolus, quite the contrary. But their pursuits are more idealistic than that of their predicessors. The title of Delver is granted less frequently and only to those that offer assistance to the city in some great way such as the Great Heroes did decades ago.
Technology and civilization
Decades ago the Greatest Heroes put their money into investments and out of it was born an amazing breakthrough. The ability to "tame" chaositech. Chaositech was a horribly unstable way of creating powerful magics, but at a great cost. It would literally destroy your body and soul as it became a part of you. Thanks to Killraven Industries, that is all a part of the past and the technology and magics are now commonplace within the city of Ptolus. A monorail now extends around the entire city and to all major points outlying. Killraven Industries hopes to extend it to neighboring cities soon, however the chaositech only seems stable in and around Ptolus. They are installing new stable teleportation booths around the city soon that will surpass the monorail as the main means of travel. And magical items are more commonplace than ever, as Chaositech Crafters around the city learn the trade, waiting for the next breakthrough that will allow them to export these amazing machines and devices.