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Shadowlands: Epic Fantasy Sci-Fi Mashup Setting's video poster

Imagine a gritty harsh fantasy RPG world where magic is based in reality, politics are complicated, and nothing is as it seems. Read more

New York, NY Games
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pledged of $10,000 goal
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This project was successfully funded on November 24, 2011.

Imagine a gritty harsh fantasy RPG world where magic is based in reality, politics are complicated, and nothing is as it seems.

New York, NY Games
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About this project

We DID it! We're successfully backed!  There's still time, so...

If we can raise more money in the time left, here is what we promise:

  • at $11,000 - we'll give you another map of the city, broken up into regions, showing the control of the mafia families and who's who!
  • at $12,000 - we'll give all backers at all levels a MINI-ADVENTURE, a side-story with several encounters we've been working on which will whet your appetite's for more of Tarina's seedy side!
  • at $13,000 - we'll give everyone at all levels a unique new monster, native to the ancient steamy jungles of Tar Sequinus!
  • at $15,000 - we'll significantly expand the size of the Tarina Cityguide for all backers at the $25 and above, 15 extra pages of NPCs, locations, Traits, Equipment, and Feats. 

Imagine a fantasy gaming world as rigorously realistic as ours, replete with dark, gritty, manipulative personalities and cultures. Now add to that an enormous ancient world and "magic" that is more based on a hard sci-fi mashup than fantasy hand-waving. 

Players interface with ancient technologies, navigate byzantine layers of intrigue and may just survive long enough to achieve the power of the Old Gods themselves.

It all starts with TWO books, a map folio, a world map and with as little as $10 you will be:

Welcome to the

What if magic were real? What would it look like?

What would it take to believe that gods could walk the earth? What sort of beings could they be?

What if a fantasy world were created to fit within the bounds set by physics and the social sciences? A fantasy world made to be believed?

Welcome to the Shadowlandsa new Campaign Setting for the Pathfinder roleplaying game and compatible with the d20 game system! Over 15 years in the making by some of the hottest talent, both new and veteran, in the RPG industry.

Ben Wootten's "Brotherhood Chapterhouse"

The Products

Our initial launch includes 2 product releases:

The Gates of Tarina – An introductory module designed for a party of 1st level adventurers. It’s an urban mystery that will run your group of greenhorns through a gauntlet of Tarina’s vying powers, each at odds and each hoping to get their hands on some missing items….

Tarina Guidebook – A Player’s Guide to the Region surrounding Tarina. This book has everything a player needs to create a character from scratch to go adventuring in the area around Tarina! Also in this book:

·         More than 5 new races and sub-races
·         A new base class (the Brotherhood Adept
·         Three new Prestige Classes
·         A new monster - a vicious "elven" zombie, the Automachinoi (as shown in the video)!

·         Unique rules for Magic and Arcane spellcasters, including rules for magical surges, new spell lists, and more. 

·         Rules for psionics (called mentalism) & playing psionic characters.

·         A rich history, filled with politics, culture & intrigue - a Roman style civilization against the backdrop of a dangerous dinosaur filled jungle!

·         A rich city of a 150,000, beautifully mapped out, with 4 pages of history & culture, 4 pages of powerful NPCs, 4 pages of new options for Divine spellcasters, & much more. 

But don't think we can list everything the world offers right here and right now: that depends on what YOU help to create! This launch is your chance to be a part of the building of a world!

Michael Arrington's satellite map of Tarina

Future plans for the development of the website and the Shadowlands Setting  include:

  • Game adventure modules
  • Sourcebooks
  • Online store
  • Serialized fiction
  • Wikipedia style encyclopedia of all things Shadowlands (the Sæmyyr Incunabulum)
  • Bonus materials, both for Gamemasters and for Players
  • Online space for game hosting & organization
  • Ability for preferred members to contribute to world-building!
  • Much more!

Ben Wootten's cover "Approach to Tarina" & the gorgeous layout of John Cason.

The world is vast and there are many future stories to be told and games to be played! 

Join us and donate today!

Jon Roberts' incredible map of Sæmyyr (final version has cities & names).

For more on the creation of the Shadowlands and the building of the world Sæmyyr, you can start here: Metagame Theory Podcast #207.

To read a little about the complexity of realistically mapping a world as large as Neptune, read more here from Fantastic Maps.

Finally, for an example of actual play in the Shadowlands Campaign Setting, listen here at Troll in the Corner!

Twitter: @BlackStarGames

Facebook: BlackStarGames

Dedicated to the Memory of my father, Clarence E. Merwin.


Film: Ryan Lauderdale

Editing: Jules Beasley

Voice-over: Chris Merwin

Acting: Chris Merwin, Skid Maher, Jarl Thunberg

Graphic Design & Layout: John Cason

Artwork: Ben Wootten, Jon Roberts, Michael Arrington, Ambrose H. Hoilman

Script: Ben Cacchione & Chris Merwin (& Thomas Hobbes)


  • The Gates of Tarina serves as a teaser to the world of Sæmyyr and to our upcoming campaign Saga, "Curse of the Raiton King". The adventure module is designed for four first-level characters and introduces them to Tarina, a seedy port city at the far border of the vast empire of Tar Sequinus.

    A cross between the Italian Renaissance city-states and the Roman Empire, the region of Tar Sequinus and the city of Tarina re-imagine these cultures against the backdrop of dinosaur-infested jungles, the remains of an ancient, ruined civilization, and a city completely overrun by organized crime families who control every facet of life. Tarina itself, the "Black Pearl of Raetia", is a sizable city by medieval standards, housing some 150,000 souls — though it’s small in comparison to some of the larger metropolises of the world of Sæmyyr! The city is beautifully rendered through Michael Arrington's (Acacia Games) truly gorgeous satellite map, which details all the major sites of this dark, urban adventure.

    The Gates of Tarina opens with a mysterious death, thrusting the players headfirst into the middle of two warring criminal clans and several powerful factions, each at odds with the others. Along the way, players face evil cultists, corrupt city watch officers, clandestine knighthoods, and criminal masterminds. To get the job done, players might choose to ally with any of these, but would-be heroes will learn quickly that Tarina does not take well to those who would challenge its modus operandi.

    The adventure is intended to highlight the moral ambiguity, the tough ethical choices, and the intrigue that are hallmarks of the Shadowlands campaign setting. Things are not always as they seem here....

    We’re excited to show it off, and think you’ll want to play it at least twice!

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  • One of the things that we have always loved about fantasy setting is its epic quality and focus on the relationships between characters and places. From Tolkien to George R.R. Martin, fantasy has the ability to sweep us up and make us feel like we are involved in something big! This is the tradition of Gary Gygax and the original D&D adventures. We want to share a world that is vast and full of possibilities for adventure, relationships, machinations, and intrigue. The Shadowlands is a harsh place (all of our races, including humans, are "beefed" up) and we hope that its this sense of epic struggle that captures your imagination. With dozens of factions, each with competing ideologies, we hope that we provide you a great environment for building lots of intrigue! What has always bothered us about fantasy though is that it sometimes hand-waves some important aspects of everyday (and not so everyday) life.

    We've taken inspiration from Science-Fiction, especially "hard sci-fi", and tried to give our cultures, nations, factions and everything in between a consistent realism. Dwarves and orcs don't live side by side in cities, xenophobia is the norm, not the exception. And magic! What about magic?! Part of the appeal of science-fiction is that the technology, no matter how far fetched, has to be feasible, it has to be believable. Our languages are based in real linguistics, our races follow real sociological motifs, our histories are the types of rich varied histories you would find on our world which so capture our imaginations.

    So how is our world different? How is it a mash-up?! We still have magic, it mechanically acts just like any other d20 or Pathfinder system, but its the story background which is different. In the Shadowlands setting, divine spellcasters unknowingly draw their "power" from Artificially Intelligences which by tweaking quantum probabilities "grant" a spell. The same goes for Arcane spellcasters, although the source is different. The mage, without even knowing or understanding it, communicates with a series of 10,000+ year old AIs to compute the quantum probability of a fireball, and then like magic *poof!* does it! Mentalism (psionics) is a measure of information shared across a shared neural network between sentient creatures who are connected via nano machines. All of this is invisible to the *character*, but maybe, as your character advances, the layers of reality get peeled further and further back, and your character will get a glimpse of the ancient super advanced technology behind their spellcraft!

    Life on Sæmyyr can be many things, it can be epic fantasy if you want it to be, an alternative d20 or Pathfinder setting, or a unique and plausible blend of fantasy and science fiction on an incredible scale!

    Please support our Kickstarter and help make this world a reality!

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  • Our plans for the Shadowlands are big, really big! We have 15 years of material developed, enough to last us many many modules, supplements, adventures, and more! What we don't have yet is enough funding. Its the sad nature of the roleplaying game industry that art and printing are very expensive and players demand high-quality art and still want to have books they can hold in their hands.

    Unfortunately the costs of being a small indie game publisher means we don't have the start up capital to begin right out the gate with a large beautiful 200+ page "Shadowlands Player's Guide". We have the material, trust us! Large hardback (even softback) player's guides can run more than $50,000 to produce in even small print runs. Hundreds of art pieces, dozens of maps, and thousands of words mean that even producing a PDF version of an initial player's guide would cost well in excess of $30,000. We thought that this was simply too much to expect of a Kickstarter.

    So what we are providing is a teaser. A module showcasing the tone and theme of the world and a small, regional, player's guide for a particular city in the world - Tarina. We hope that this beautifully produced, very thoughtful, and unique combination will be enough to entice you and other gamers to believe in us, to support us and make the rest of the campaign setting a reality.

    So what are our plans? If this Kickstarter is successful, next year we'll give you a fully fledged Campaign Saga (like an Adventure Path), with over 100 pages of edge of your seat action and intrigue. We'll also be giving you a Faction Guide (possibly TWO if we can!), a totally new regional Player's Guide for a complete new region, AND, maybe, just maybe (if we are wildly successful) a "Player's Primer", a 100 page introductory guide to the amazing world of Sæmyyr in all of its richness. And of course we have super ambitious plans for a beautiful interactive multi-tiered website with stories, a wikipedia style encyclopedia (already in development), weekly serialized fiction, and more!

    So please, help make our world a reality, donate what you can and spread the word!

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  • Absolutely! We are happy to spread the love and ship anywhere! We ask though that if you do live outside of North America that you help us out with covering the cost of shipping (especially for books, maps, t-shirts, etc.) and add in at least $15.00 extra to your donation. Even this little amount gets us one step closer to realizing our production!

    Last updated:


  • You selected
    Pledge $5 or more

    7 backers

    Shadowlands Explorer: Patrons at this level will receive a high-resolution copy of the Sæmyyr World Map, designed by acclaimed RPG cartographer Jonathan Roberts of Fantastic Maps.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $10 or more

    5 backers

    Shadowlands Adventurer: Receive the Sæmyyr World Map, as above, PLUS a PDF copy of the adventure "The Gates of Tarina".

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $25 or more

    2 backers

    Tarina Adventurer: Receive all of the above PLUS a separate map pack of 5 high-resolution maps designed for use in the adventure and for the city of Tarina.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $25 or more

    10 backers

    Shadowlands Gamer: Print editions of BOTH books: "The Gates of Tarina" adventure module AND the "Tarina Guidebook", everything you need to get introduced to the Shadowlands Campaign Setting!

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $35 or more

    33 backers

    Tarina Explorer: Receive all of the above PLUS a PDF copy of the "Tarina Guidebook", the source book for the upcoming "Curse of the Raiton King" campaign saga and regional guide to the area surrounding the city of Tarina.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $50 or more

    8 backers

    Tarina Patrona/Patronus: Receive all of the above PLUS acknowledgement in the 'Special Thanks' section of BOTH books with either your real name or chosen character name!

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $60 or more

    5 backers

    BlackStar Donor: Receive all of the above PLUS a limited edition BlackStar Studios T-shirt (still in design) marking you as a DONOR! Please provide size, etc. when donating.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $70 or more

    1 backer

    Tarina Retailer: 5 copies of EACH book (10 books total) at a special rate for small retailers. Must share EIN or equivalent Tax ID when making a donation.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $75 or more

    0 backers

    Sæmyyr Cartographer: Receive all of the above PLUS a full-color, poster-size printed Sæmyyr world map digitally SIGNED by cartographer Jonathan Roberts of Fantastic Maps.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $100 or more

    24 backers Limited (226 left of 250)

    Tar Sequin Rare Book Collector: Receive all of the above PLUS full-color print editions of both books ("The Gates of Tarina" adventure module and the "Tarina Guidebook"), SIGNED & NUMBERED by the two lead game designers - Chris Merwin & Ben Cacchione.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $160 or more

    2 backers

    Shadowlands Shop: Our special rate for larger gaming stores who want a great special! TEN (10) copies of EACH book (20 books total) PLUS 3 copies of the Tarina Map Folio PLUS 1 World Map poster. Must share EIN or equivalent Tax ID when making a donation.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $225 or more

    0 backers

    Shadowlands Super-Store: 15 copies of EACH book (30 copies total), 5 copies of the Tarina Map Folio, and 1 World Map poster for the largest gaming stores! Must share EIN or equivalent Tax ID when making a donation at this level.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $250 or more

    0 backers Limited (50 left of 50)

    Tarina Art Collector: Receive all of the above PLUS a full color print poster SIGNED & PERSONALIZED by Ambrose H. Hoilman of the “Gates of Tarina” cover art!

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $500 or more

    0 backers Limited (25 left of 25)

    Black Jewel of Raetia Art Aficionado: Receive all of the above PLUS a limited edition digitally SIGNED and NUMBERED digital print on real canvas of artist Ben Wootten’s painting “Approach to Tarina”.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $1,000 or more

    2 backers All gone!

    Paragon of Tarina: Receive all of the above PLUS you will be able to name and help develop one major NPC in the “Tarina Guidebook” and the forthcoming “Curse of the Raiton King” Campaign Saga.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $5,000 or more

    0 backers Limited (1 left of 1)

    Shadowlands Playtester: Receive all of the above PLUS one of the game designers will travel to your city (within the continental United States or Canada) and run a specially designed single session adventure for you and your group. You will also be listed separately as a "Very Special Thanks".

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $10,000

    0 backers Limited (1 left of 1)

    Local AI: Receive all of the above PLUS you will be allowed to name and give input on a local god/artificial intelligence which will feature in the will be featured in all future listings of Tar Sequin deities (including the forthcoming player's primer) along with an entry in the Sæmyyr Incunabulum -the online encyclopedia of all things Shadowlands.

    Estimated delivery:

Funding period

- (48 days)