Monthly Archives: October 2014

Rambling thoughts on religion in RPG’s

So, this is in response (in some ways) to Gregory’s post Gods, Demigods, & Heroes – itself a response to a couple of recent things he’d read and seen. Myself, I was underwhelmed by Monte Cook’s presentation – it seemed like a rehash of very basic theology from an anthropological standpoint. Now, as a bit of a disclosure on my part – I was raised in a utterly non-religious household, have studied and practiced various forms of paganism and the occult since my early teens, joined the Unitarian-Universalist church (and was the youngest member of my congregation to, as a teenager, take the “Build Your Own Theology” adult religious education course offered) and quite seriously contemplated becoming a minister for a number of years. I’ve even contributed a forward to a book about pagan shamanistic practice (no, I’m not saying which one here). I do have and practice a deeply spiritual life, but not one that I generally talk about here because it isn’t the focus of the blog.

Playing RPG’s for me was a galvanizing process to study history, religion, anthropology, occultism and all sorts of related issues. One of my fondest memories I being told at the Catholic university I did my B.A. at that I was one of the only people they had seen who probably could have tested out of the mandatory “western civ” classes they had with a focus on Catholic history – including the emphasis on Church history and related theological matters.

I tend to look at all of my gaming in terms of “big questions” – my science fiction game is/was about “what does it mean to be human?” and for my fantasy game I always tended to think of it in terms of a morality play, “what is the nature of evil?” I always found a nominal AD&D universe an excellent model for this (in much the same way as I expect Tolkien and Lewis did – both theologically minded writers) – there is clear “good” and “evil” and things can have a inherently evil nature or alternately natural valence for evil that is ultimately different from what modern Christian theology tends to talk about (aside from some fundamentalist sects). That’s before you add in something like Lovecraftian Outer Gods or Great Old Ones, where are manifestly not “evil” by the author’s definition merely  the ultimate “Other”. This issue is inherent within the boundaries of whatever version of Gygaxian Naturalism your game world is run.

So religion in RPG’s, in D&D in specific, has to contend with both ontological as well as epistemological evil, and evil as praxis – all within a setting that echoes the mythopoetic origins of the players understanding of good and evil. It’s a rich setting that can force a player and  DM to confront the social biases inherent in cultural constructions of morality and ethics. I think that it is the job of the DM to do this justice if that is the sort of game they want to run and that their players are ok playing in – most players probably don’t care or won’t notice depending on how the DM chooses to go about doing this.




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5E – Roguish Archtype – The Scout

This archetype owes its existence to the Scout “NPC” class from Dragon #161 for AD&D 1E. Not that I would have ever have expected it, but it was a very popular option for a large number of players for pretty much all the reasons suggested by the article itself, you get a thief without having to worry about them picking your pocket, as well as some other abilities that made it extremely useful for adventuring groups. This version isn’t quite so “not a thief” but I think it actually makes better overall sense and makes it useful as either the Scout or the Bandit NPC class from Dragon #63 – another class that was available to my players but not very popular.


The Scout

Not all Rogues are thieves or other urban entrepreneurs, some live and work in rural areas – sometimes as bandits and sometimes as scouts for caravans, the military, or other authorities. In either case, Scouts have great advantages when operating in the wilderness and have focused their skills and abilities to creating and discerning ambushes, as well as Stealth and Survival in the same environment which allows them to track targets with a great deal of success.

Bonus Expert Proficiency

When chosen at 3rd level the Scout archetype gains the Survival proficiency, as well as gaining Expertise (double Proficiency Bonus) in it.


Beginning at 3rd level, Scouts have Advantage on Perceptions checks to detect Ambush.


At 9th level, Scouts become highly skilled at camouflage in natural surroundings. Not only can they attempt to Hide when they are lightly obscured by foliage, heavy rain, falling snow, mist, and other natural phenomena, they gain double Proficiency bonus for Stealth when remaining motionless.


At 13th level, the Scout ignores the movement penalties for non-magical terrain, as well as the damage or conditions that are incurred from non-magical plants or terrain. Scouts are also able to blaze a trail for companions to avoid the effects of non-magical plants and terrain, though this treats the terrain as Difficult for all involved.

Uncanny Awareness

Scouts develop greatly heightened senses at 17th level. This allows them to detect Illusions on a passive Perception check rather than having to take an action. They also have Advantage when actively trying to discern Illusions as an action.

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5E – Monastic Traditions – Monks from the Shadowlands

So, in my days of 1E, I had developed a whole series of “Fighting Styles” adapted from the Oriental Adventures martial arts, these then turned into fully-fledged rules for fighting and dueling styles when I developed my own game engine. Now that I’m returning to 5E, I need to sort through these and figure out what belongs where. Most of these fold into the existing character classes pretty well given the existing options, but a few need to be fleshed out in new ways. So some of these are pretty clearly forms of Monastic Traditions while I may end up developing a couple of others as Feats. In any case, here are details of a pair of Monastic Traditions that originate in the Shadowlands.


Way of the Blood Moon

Monks of the Way of the Blood Moon are weapon-masters and follow a tradition marked by a passion for bloodletting and savagery. Born in the Shadowlands, and itself a descendant of some of ancient Elven schools and techniques, the schools of the Blood Moon can often be found in rough-and-tumble, lower class areas where they also teach basic fighting skills as well as the skills of the quiet blade and the stealthy attack.

Weapon Masters

Starting at 3rd Level when this tradition is chosen, the monk may use their monk weapons instead of unarmed attacks during their Flurry of Blows. They may also use their Ki to focus their blows, allowing them to add half their level to the damage of any attack with a monk weapon. They may also use Longswords as Monk Weapons.

Aggressive Attack

Starting at 6th Level, the character make half-move towards an opponent as a Bonus action, and make a Surprise attack immediately afterwards.

Blood Passion

At 11th Level, the character has begun to become consumed by the passion of slaughter and death. Each successful attack that does damage made against living foes allows them to heal a number of hit points equal to their Charisma modifier with each attack.

One Step, One Kill

Upon reaching 17th Level, the character has become a killing machine. Upon any successful attack, but before the damage dice are rolled, the character may spend 2 Ki Points and do double damage dice for that attack.




Way of Laughing Murder

Another school born of the Shadowlands, the Way of Laughing Murder was developed by and for the slaves there to use during gladiatorial amusements. Similar to the Way of the Blood Moon, the Way of Laughing Murder is about passion – but where the Way of Blood Moon might be akin to the efficient killing of a wolf or a tiger, the style of Way of Laughing Murder is like a cat playing with it’s prey. Similar Traditions (some derivative, others of different roots) exist in Ith as well as Khitain.

The Lover’s Embrace

Upon choosing this Path at 3rd Level, the character learns to treat their opponent like a lover and trains to embrace them closely. They may Grapple, using Dexterity rather than Strength, with any Unarmed or Monk Weapon attack (and may use their legs rather than hands) and upon doing so deny their opponent both Dexterity and Strength modifiers in combat. With the expenditure of 1 Ki Point they may also gain Advantage upon any opponent they are Grappling, and they may attack with either Unarmed or Monk Weapon attacks while an opponent is in the Lover’s Embrace.

Graceful Execution

At 6th Level, the character draws strength and focus from a well-skilled strike. They regain 1 Ki Point upon any Critical attack.

The Killing Dance

Such is the skill of the character that at 11th Level, upon killing an opponent, they cause Fear for all other opponents within view for the remainder of the combat as a Bonus Action for 4 Ki points. The effect DC for this is 8 + Proficiency Bonus + Dexterity Modifier (and has Disadvantage if the killing blow was a Critical), the save is Charisma-based.

Death Blossom

Upon reaching 17th Level the character reaches the ultimate extension of their Path, the Death Blossom. In a supreme display of deadly martial beauty, they may attack each creature within Reach with either Unarmed or Monk Weapon attack for the cost of 6 Ki points.

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5E – Ranger Archtype – The Huntsmen

Astute readers will likely note the similarities to the Huntsmen of Annuvin from Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain series – and well they should. These are modeled in most ways upon them, though they also owe a nod to the Valley of the Earth Mother from Dragon magazine #102, where the idea of an “anti-Ranger” was given written form. In any case, I really need to have these figured for my game world and this is what I came up with for 5E.


The Huntsmen

Amongst the lore of Rangers there are tales that speak of a dreaded brotherhood sworn to the death and who work in the service of evil cults and leaders in the wilds and ruins of the world. In many ways the antithesis of everything that Rangers normally stand for, Huntsmen are wild and savage and their secret rites of blood unite them unto to death and even beyond.

Brotherhood of Death

At 3rd level, allied as they are to Death, Huntsmen have Advantage when saving against both Fear and Enchantments. More importantly, when a member of the Huntsmen is within 30′ of another member of the Huntsmen who dies they immediately gain a 1d10 points of healing (which may grant temporary Hit Points) and gain Advantage on their next attack. Any Temporary Hit Points disappear after a Short or Long rest.

Huntsman’s Horn

When reaching 7th level, the horns and cries of Huntsmen can cause Fear to all foes within 30′ – those foes who fail a Wisdom check will drop what they are holding and take a Dash action away from the Hunstmen each round until they succeed at a Wisdom check – they are also under the Fear condition.


For Huntsmen of 11th level, their bloodlust has grown strong indeed. As a result, upon drawing blood against an opponent they may add their Proficiency bonus to Damage against that opponent, and have Advantage on all Tracking and Perception checks related to that foe.

Reaper’s Prize

Finally, at 15th level a Huntsman reaches the point where they actually feed upon death of living things, gaining Hit Points for each death within 30′ equal to their Proficiency Bonus plus their Wisdom modifier, doubled if they struck the killing blow themselves.

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You know what else I’m waiting for?

Treasure guidelines.

There is some interesting hints of what the Implied Setting suggests given the prices for trade goods in the Players Handbook as well as the ability to easily make and buy Healing Potions. There is also also the notes about a assumed limit of the “three attuned magic items” that are included in the Starter Set, with some examples of items that require attunement for full effectiveness and some that don’t.

So, that’s what else I was missing from the new Monster Manual. Not that I was ever a huge fan of the often clunky “Treasure Types” – but it would be great to see something like the treasure guidelines that ACKS uses.  That was, I have to say, one of things I was most impressed with in the ACKS campaign/domain guidelines. That is something else I’d actually like to see as well I guess, a domain game for 5E that is as well developed as the one in ACKS.

Now, the truth is that my economy is already quite well developed and the prices in the Players Handbook are something I already jettisoned – if for no other reason than I don’t trust WOTC to create an economy that makes sense. My initial review did nothing to change this supposition. So I’ll likely import most of my existing guidelines for creatures and treasure, but I still find this a rather irksome omission for the rules at this point.


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What happened to Gygaxian Naturalism?

Looking at the new Monster Manual I realized that it was missing a couple of details that I consider pretty essential. There is no listing of rarity of the various creatures, nor is there any hint of the number that might be expected to show up, or what family or social groups might look like. Ultimately, I can pull all of this up from older editions of the game or simply work from the real world when it comes to things like wolf packs or lion prides – but talk about creating extra work for the Dungeon Master…

I suppose I’ll get used to the obscenely large stat blocks that 5E has compared to 1E, and the fact that I have to dig into one to figure out what class and what level a NPC is because they can’t be bothered to put that at the top. I can even hold out hope that somewhere in the DMG will be an explanation for seemingly arbitrary CR ratings assigned to creatures. But this omission is one that I despise even more – because it seems to be a retreat from Gygaxian Naturalism in service to “encounter construction” As a result, I fear that players will always expect encounters to be “balanced” because there is no inherent rule for “getting in over your head” – this can only happen given the current rule assumptions if the DM intends it (which means that it’s inherently unfair if truly overwhelming as opposed to random chance).

Oh well, just needed to get that off my chest!


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Whew! Nothing like a combination transcription and brain dump!

So that gets “the history of the world” out of the way… Certainly not a complete history, certainly not even an in-depth history, but it’s a good solid, basic history that players can use to “figure some stuff out” and put things into perspective if they want or need to. It is also worth noting that my various campaigns span a large amount of “known human history”.

My very first campaigns, ultimately using a map that I still have and use in a (now) very old copy of my Judges Guild Fantasy Cartographers Field Book date back to early 80’s. I’d have a variety of “planet-hopping” at times using Greyhawk and the Forgotten Realms when it was released – along the Free City of Haven and the Wilderlands of High Fantasy – but my world developed early. These tend to get lumped under the title of the “Istarian Campaigns” and they all pretty much occurred during that time frame. Characters ranged in levels, but a number made it to name level, and one survives to this day as a Godling.

Right around when I graduated high school (that’s 1987 for those who care) I made the first of my “reboots” to the campaign world. I jumped forward in time to the era of Wars of Binding. I wanted a new start, and had the idea for a grand campaign set against an ancient evil trying to take over the world, thus the “Witch-King Campaign“. It chronicled the rise of Albion (Tobin I was an NPC) and the players were at first his adventuring companions, later boon companions, and the campaign began to focus on the missions that they went on to help him and the war against the Witch King. Characters ended up name level, and the players played them, their henchmen, and eventually their henchman’s henchmen.

That campaign ran for about four solid years, until I made another “reboot” – the core group of players were mainly the same, but the characters were now often three or four steps removed from enemies and events that they were being forced to react to. So I jumped it forward in time to what I now call the “Northanger Campaign” – this was an exercise in creating my own version of the Village of Hommlet, a small town at a crucial crossroads, and the initial characters were all from it. It was actually a fair amount of fun since I mapped out the town, a ruined castle, and detailed out the surrounding terrain. This is also when I dropped AD&D as a system and started running complete house rules and the occasional alternate rules system (the Palladium RPG and Thieves Guild were both popular as I recall). This campaign ran pretty solid for a couple of years, but eventually self-destructed (along with my first marriage). While not a perfect analogy, characters ended up in range of mid-to-name level.

After this I decided to try something new again, and ended up with what I called the “Padawan Campaign” because it followed a group of 0-levels who were students at the University of Art in Dinas Fforran (and elsewhere). It was rather experimental because we followed the first nine years of studies as “a year per session” and then started regular play when they became journeymen. This campaign culminated with the events of the Tearing of the Veil (which was a marathon holiday gaming event), but which I also used to bring in a whole host of old characters and NPC’s whose fates had never been specifically resolved. Again, not a perfect analogy, but the characters were in the solid mid-level range.

After the events of the Tearing of the Veil the players were bona fide heroes of the realm with lands and titles. The “Greywake Campaign” was a combination of PBEM and TT gaming that dealt with domain management (adapted from the excellent Pendragon supplement Lordly Domains) as well as the return of the High Lord and the Mad Gods War. This was a pretty enjoyable campaign, and the mixture of PBEM and TT really created a rich experience. The characters were a mix of characters from the Padawan Campaign and the Northanger Campaign, mid-to-name level.

The “T’zarr Campaign” was set up in the T’zarr Border States as a PBEM and then continued as a TT. It was a smaller group than I was used to, merely three players (down from the seven to ten during the “Witch King” days) and I continued what was now a run of semi-experimental set-ups. The players where all members in the household of a powerful mage, working directly for him – eventually expanding out to another mages household and taking the players into a fight against a powerful vampire that threatened to infect the entire city. The characters started out lower level and progressed to mid-level in power.

With the return of some players, the next campaign moved to a new part of the world, the Petty Kingdoms, in the “Dunstane Campaign“. A somewhat rollicking campaign, the characters rambled across the Kingdom of Dunstane, getting themselves into all sorts of trouble, witnessing the rise of the Shadarin and the coming of the Blight. The last stages of this campaign were quite creepy, as the party travelled deep into the Blight, trying to discover exactly what had occurred and discovering only a countryside wide crime-scene. It was the closest I’d ever run to a “zombie apocalypse” game (even though there were no zombies, just the lurking presence of the Ravengers). The characters started out “low-level” and ended up solidly “mid-level” in power.

After a very long absence, I finally returned to AD&D in what I called the “Barrow Downs Campaign” set in lands on the border of the Grand Duchy of Soahc. A brand-new set of characters, started as 1st level, the players ran rampant with the old 1E rules (even with house rules) and had a great time. While there was a fair amount of custom content, the campaign eventually settled upon Keep on the Borderland and the Caves of Chaos as the focus. I’d decided to ignore the events of the Blight, and the setting was far enough away that I could, but events in this campaign ended up being concurrent to the coming of the Blight – and perhaps provided the opening or the key that the Lords of Dearth needed to create it. Characters ended up mostly in the solid-to-high mid-level ranges

I was really stuck by the ends of the last two campaigns, and the players had a number of characters in limbo. So I decided to scoop them all up (and anyone else the players wanted) and I dropped them in the Castle Amber. After all of the very serious and somewhat dark content and tone of the last two campaigns the gonzo nature of the module was a great change, and the players romped their way through the “Amber Campaign“. After successfully completing the module (and only semi-breaking it in the process) I dumped the party into Aquitaine (though a slightly different version that I eventually dropped) and from there they ended up being recruited to investigate a certain slaver problem. By the end of this campaign, characters had progressed for the most part to solidly to high mid-level and some name-level.

Finishing S1 in the Amber Campaign, the gaming group faded out due to various commitments. After a hiatus, I started up a small game for the family based on members of the extended Mystryvven clan. The “Mystryvven Campaign” started with 1st level characters who progressed quickly but solidly into the low mid-range of levels. The plan was always to later integrate the characters from this campaign and the Amber Campaign, but this was delayed by work for everyone and now the release of 5E.

When 5E came out we switched, and started with new characters to running the Lost Mine of Phandelver. That was quite enjoyable and from there I switched to some old 3.5E products that I’d always wanted to run – so the “Siyahchal Campaign” was started by combining the Barrow of the Forgotten King triptych as the prelude to the far more ominous Age of Worms Adventure Path. Slowly, a selection of characters from the Mystryvven Campaign and even Barrow Downs and Amber Campaigns have been brought in and converted – with the character currently sitting at the 8th-10th level range for the most part.

So that’s it,  over thirty years of various D&D campaigns summed up. Countless hours, hundreds of characters, and probably upward of a hundred players over the years. All of this was interspliced with other games, with their own campaigns – my Traveller/Cyberpunk 2020 mash-up was had a number of cycles, and we played the heck out of the World of Darkness in a series of campaigns as well. None of this counts the games I played in myself either, a couple of which were run by my spouse as well as a great campaign I played in for years run by a good friend of mine.



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A Short Synopsis & Minor Treatise On the History & Nature of Creation (Part 5 – The Modern Era)

The Interregnum (1545 to 1670 R.A.)

The existing political landscape of the Heartlands was shaken by the events of the Cataclysm, Albion descending into chaos in the years that followed and eventually falling. The Petty Kingdoms were all but destroyed, some lasting as isolated enclaves within the Blight. The T’zarr Border States, far from the Blight, survived and even thrived.  The Grand Duchy of Soahc weathered the storm, ever-changing and yet unchanged as is it’s nature.

Damian Blackstaff and the Ashen Covenant

The descendant of Kesterin Blackstaff and heir to his power, Damian Blackstaff was present for the Cataclysm and witnessed it firsthand, saving the city of Vaille against desperate odds. In the ashes of the Cataclysm mages were the target of rage and violence across the Heartlands, led mostly by the surviving members of the Church of the Lords of Light. Gathering together in Vaille, surviving mages and their allies banded together for protection against a world that had turned hostile from all directions. The Ashen Covenant exists today, a hidden organization in an isolated stronghold, determined to insure the survival of it’s members.

Old Aquitaine (1670 to 1948 R.A.)

Eventually, a new power grew in the Heartlands, the Old Realm of Aquitaine. Centered in the northern reaches, with it’s capitol of Navarre high in the Mountains of Martyrs, the Old Realm of Aquitaine maintained excellent relations with it neighbors to the south (the Grand Duchy of Soahc) and east (the T’zarr Border States) but eventually became a victim of its own success.

Rise of the Great Guilds

The great strength that binds both Aquitaine is the string network of guilds that bind society together and act as a entire supplemental (and often alternative) system of governance within the environs of the realm. Loyal to themselves, to the status quo, and the general welfare of Aquitaine as a whole, the Great Guilds create subsidiary guilds and guildhouses to exert control over all the important aspects of trade and life in Aquitaine and the surrounding areas. Magic, mercenaries, merchants, adventurers, thieves, entertainers – all these professions (and many others) are governed by the Great Guilds.

Return of the Iron Court (1877 R.A.)

In the wake of the Mad Gods War, the battered remnants of the fleets and legions of the Iron Court fled the chaos of the final battle. More than six centuries later, they returned after having travelled not just across the Mortal Realms but even into the Great Waste to hide from the fury of the High Lord and the wrath of Albion. With the fall of Albion that Iron Court returns to what it left of their old lands – and  conquering new ones.

 The D’lanni Magistracy (1883 R.A.)

Thought lost in the Cataclysm, the floating city of Dinas Fforran reappeared deep within the ruins of Albion and cast lose it’s moorings  to float silently across the Heartlands. Ruled by the D’lanni Council, it remains one of the greatest of institutions of magic in the Heartlands though its mages and agents are both feared for their skill and despised for their abandonment of Albion in the hours of it’s need. Now a free city of trade and intrigue, Dinas Fforan charts a course known only to it’s rulers, with equally unknown goals.

The Siege of Storms (1900 R.A.)

Perhaps inevitably, the Iron Court attempted to destroy Dinas Fforan – something only possible due to their own potent fleet of windships. The siege lasted several nights and devastated the surrounding countryside and while both sides were mauled in the process the results were inconclusive at best. The Iron Court quickly realized that they were not willing to expend the resources needed to break the siege at the same time that they realized that the D’lanni were only interested in survival.

Black Dukes Proclamation (1948 R.A.)

In 2077 R.A. with the signing of the Black Dukes Proclamation the various duchies and powerful counties of Old Aquitaine all became independent kingdoms under the nominal authority of the High King in Navarre. This was a compromise on the part of all parties to prevent open rebellion but also a means to provide better alliances and defenses in the face of the Iron Court. Not a perfect solution, tensions remain and the authority of the High King is often bitterly disputed if ultimately recognized, the “New Aquitaine” is a powerful but often flawed beacon in the north of the Heartlands with the common folk often speaking with some fondness of “Old Aquitaine” as a time of less conflict and kinder rulers.

The False Archon’s War (1975 to 1987 R.A.)

In a troubling and once thought impossible situation, a third High Archon was elected along with a series of Archons across the Heartlands. The resultant chaos within not only the Church of the Lords of Light but Aquitaine, the Taurii Republic, and the T’zarr Border States lasted for over a decade before the rebellious Archons and lords were brought under control.

The Poisoning of Imris (2001 to 2013 R.A.)

Over the course of thirteen years, the Ithian Empire infiltrated the Kingdom of Imris via trade, marriage, and the discrete neutralization of threats and potential threats, ultimately placing one of their on the throne. In the years since their position has solidified and they have started to look elsewhere within Aquitaine for new breeding grounds.

The Hundred Blades War (2055 to 2058 R.A.)

One of the numerous trade wars between members of the Cartel (the Great Guild of Merchants in Aquitaine) explodes as various mercenary companies, then thieves bands, then adventuring groups become embroiled in their own conflicts as contracts are honored, old scores are settled, and spoils are taken. When the noble families begin to become involved, the conflict came to a quick end when the High King in Navarre, began to revoke charters and ordered the Imperial Legion to take action and against any and all brigands involved.

The Ravenger Campaigns (2085 to 2105 R.A.)

In what ended up being a failed a futile attempt, the Taurii  Republic began a series of campaigns against the Ravengers in the Blight, hoping that by exterminating them they could reclaim more land. Though warned by the Ashen Covenant in Vaile that the attempt would not succeed, the Taurii lose company after company of troops in a meatgrinding series of conflicts to no effect. The Ravengers numbers were seemingly undiminished, raids outside of the Blight increased, and the Taurii eventually stopped before they face a wholesale rebellion within their army, terrified of being send into the Blight again.

The Thirteen Moon Rebellion (2122 to 2123 R.A.)

In a frightening night of bloodshed the ruling family of Mystvale was slain, provoking a year long series of reprisals before the current ruling family was acknowledged as the proper rulers. Unfortunately, the common people do not rest uneasy under their rule and relations with the Elven Court have been strained in the years since.

The Goblin Wars (2161 to 2170 R.A.)

Boiling up out of their warrens in the Underdark, armies of Goblins rolled out of the mountains and attacked the civilized lands in a nine-year collection of conflicts that covered much of the Heartlands. In the Southern Heartlands, where the Blight acted as somewhat of a shield, the Trolls of the Black Hills took the opportunity to raid even more heavily into civilized lands than normal.

The High Lords Retreat (2180 R.A.)

The High Lord made his Retreat in this year, the Oriflamme remains banked, his Return not yet come again.

Current Time (2200 R.A.)

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A Short Synopsis & Minor Treatise On the History & Nature of Creation (Part 4 – The Classical Era)

There is a great Lord coming.
He will both walk in the Darkness and be one with it.
The Blood of gods flows in his veins.
Blood and Fire surround him.
His coming has been fortold, but not it’s manner.
He is the Unforseen, the Unheralded, and the Unexpected, a lambent ebon flame that burns within the Night.
Angels weep at the sight of that which he bears, and the Daemons fear it’s touch.
He is the last remnant of an older time, and his understanding is insanity.


The Prophecy of the High Lord

Many viewed the Tearing of the Veil as the final culmination of the Wars of Binding, but it was almost immediately revealed that it also set the stage for a resolution to a problem which had plagued the Mortal Realms, the Shadowlands, and even Faerie. All across Creation, a prophecy came of the coming of great Lord, a remnant of an older time bringing destruction in his wake. Collectively, across the Realms, forces began to gather and prepare, and equally old powers began to awake and return, woken by the sound of that Lord’s footsteps.

Dara Hannan, Countess-Palatine of Morrow, Kin to the Dragon, and Consort to the High Lord

Witness to the Tearing of Veil, Dara was steeped in sorrow, having lost the love of her life in that great and terrible crime. Already a potent mage, with the spirit of a dragon bound within her, Dara along with her companions and kin was instrumental in defeating Alkenzamier the Dark – though she lost many of those  closest to her in the fight. Rewarded with the lands and titles in Albion, Dara retreated to grieve her losses, found the second great love of her life, and then soon found herself embroiled in the coming conflict. Rebuilding the tattered remnants of the Circle to stand against the coming storm, Dara also built the bridges between the Shadowlands and both Albion and Silverveil, creating the foundation for the firm footing that the High Lord’s return needed.

The Mad God’s War (1043 R.A. to 1046 R.A.)

The Mad Gods War started when Valerius, the Founder and Warlord of Tierna, awoke after his long slumber to continue his war against the Witch-King, thought long dead, but in his opinion the coming Lord who was foretold. In his insane search for power to assume his place as Ilhiedrin’s Heir and thwart the Witch-King he slew many Godlings, disrupting the order of Creation. In response the High Queen of Albion invoked the Grand Alliance and called for aid to combat the swiftly growing theat. The call was answered in more ways than she ever expected as the Mad Gods War was seen as a crucial gambit in War Without End by players who had been maneuvering since the Invoked Devastation. And on the Plains of Furlaith the forces of the Grand Alliance met the forces of the Mad God, and ground near unto destroyed themselves until the High Lord of the Shadowlands met the Mad God in single battle, broke him, and threw him into the Abyss.

The Phoenix King

In Faerie, a promise made in ages past by a Queen who sacrificed herself for her people, finally came to pass. The heir to the Great Throne of Faerie finally came again, the Phoenix King. He took up the Blade of the Empty Throne  where it had sat since the Sundering. Calling the Elven Host for the first time since before the Sundering, drawing forth kin that had retreated to the far reaches of Faerie and the Mortal Realms, the Athamae of the Great Houses were loosed in the War Without End once again.

The Grey Elves

In what should have been nearly as great a moment of joy, the lost heir to the Great House of Elastrin appeared on the field of battle, bearing the equally as lost Athamea of the House, drawn in battle for the first time since the Wars of Binding. A rogue and a scoundrel, he heard the call of his liege lord and answered – and stood at the High Lords back against the vanguard of the Knights of Dearth. It was a battle that was not without cost, for that which could not be broken was, the Athamea of the Great House of the Elastrin was shattered – and the Elastrin were left without a center. The greatest of the Warrior Houses, the Elastrin found themselves broken swords, elves in twilight, lost in Faerie but unwilling to join their kin the Sundered in the Shadowlands.

The Peace of the High Lord

Standing on the Plains of Furlaith, the High Lord of the Shadowlands, the Immortal King of the White Empire reborn called a council of the gathered rulers and nobles, from the greatest to the smallest, as sovereign lord. Proclaiming his new reign over both the Shadowlands as well as the old lands of the White Empire, the High Lord declared his authority absolute in standing  in opposition to the Lords of Dearth and the Five Demon Emperors in combination with his supreme disinterest in ruling the Mortal Realms. He also declared his support and friendship for the new King of Albion, raised up by the Old Faith upon the passing of the Queen during the battle just passed.

The Shattering

The Mad Gods War shattered what the Heartlands knew of the order of things. The realms of Tierna and Albion both greatly suffered from the loss of land and people, and other countries suffered in similar ways. Tierna lost much land to the newly created Scarlet Sea, and the breakaway of what is now known as the Grand Duchy of Sohac along what had been it’s northern border. Albion suffered the breakaway of many of it’s northern duchies into a series of independent kingdoms. Elsewhere, Kistath saw a great deal of political upheaval as many tried to take advantage of the new balance of power with the High Lord while Ith and Thule were mostly unaffected by the changes.

Boon Companions

Following the Mad Gods War, with all standing in both awe and fear of his power, the High Lord returned to the Shadowlands with his troops, taking up residence in Ebionstark. Though few understand it, a quick friendship grows between Albion and Shadowlands, even if tensions remain with the shattered remnants of Tierna as old hatreds and habits remain deeply embedded in both cultures. Albion also maintains a distant stance to the creatures of the Shadowlands – holding true to both the letter and spirit of the Compact. The only race that has been become accepted in Albion, or even the rest of Uerth are the near-human sh’dai and they are eyed suspiciously more often than not.

Founding of Mystvale (1132 R.A.)

With the blessings of Albion and under the leadership of Ilian Half-Elven, a large number of Half-Elves and others move into Lorewood and build a new city, Mystvale. They have the tacit blessing of the High Lord and the open blessing of the Consort Dara, as well as close ties to the Phoenix King, with many elves joining them from the start.

Retreat and the Night of Ebion Fire (1197 R.A.)

In what is now known as “Retreat” the High Lord disappears for a generation, and in the coming years this becomes an unexplained mystery of the High Lord. In this case, the Consorts, Anakim, and Sha’Achtar managed to keep the peace until the city of Golath, north of the Martyr Mountains, rose up in open defiance of the High Lords decree, violated the Compact, and began to make open war on their neighbors. Before the Anakim or the Sha’Achtar could react the High Lord returned during the Night of Ebion Fire. Though different in appearance, and appearing as a young man, the High Lord bore the blade Deathkiss and wore the Ebion Crown on his brow. He scoured the city to the ground, slaying all within, save children under the age of majority, without mercy or cruelty. The children were fostered out among the Heartlands and beyond and held blameless.

Colonies Founded (1311 R.A.)

After years of searching, the new continent of Acadia was discovered by windships out of Zymora. Covered by a series of forests and plains ripe for settlement many of the countries of the Heartands (and elsewhere) sent ships and people, forming a series of colonies. At this point while travel of goods via windship is common the majority of people travel there via Navigator.  The wind passage is long and dangerous, and not a few ships go missing in the area, but it is much cheaper for moving goods and supplies.

Rise of the Petty Kingdoms (1327 R.A.)

As much of the Heartlands focused on Colonies, the Petty Kingdoms experienced a period of growth – taking advantage of deficiencies in trade. An area that had often been ignored for the most part, the Petty Kingdoms had been primarily at the mercy of the Nomads of the Tawill Plains and the Deep Ones of the Crimson Reef instead of the Goblins or the Trolls that plagued the main Heartlands of Avalon. In spite of this, the Petty Kingdoms had been intimately involved in the events

The Tauri Republic (1388 R.A.)

Though originally founded over a century previously by idealists from Albion, starting in 1388 R.A. the Tauri Senate voted to invade nearby kingdoms over the next nineteen years either by force or after instigating rebellions and “offering aid” to a country in dire straits. Bringing democratic reforms and  a keen intellectualism to their lands, the Tauri Republic accidently positions itself well for the coming problems, being less dependent upon magic or psionics then many of their neighbors.


“Behold the Witch Who Screams in Silence and Darkness, Firstborn of the Void, Forsaken, and Oracle of the Eighth Essence!
Behold the Life-Giving Sword Reforged in Blood and Shadow, The Solitaire, The Unforseen and Unlooked For Childe of the Storm and Crown of the Shadarin!
Behold the Passing! Behold the Meeting! Beware the Gathering!
Beware the Choice between Star and Shadow! The Sword! The Sword is Come!”


The Great Balance

The wise say that the multiverse exists in a state of equilibrium, constantly seeking a state of balance but never achieving it. This was illustrated in the twin kings of the Phoenix King of the Fae and the High Lord of the Shadowlands each coming to the fullness of their power at the same time. They also point to the rise of the Shadarin and the Cataclysm as another example of this, though a darker one.

Ashanden n’Dai Sa’J’asamyn kel Elastrin n’Hai Diablen

The son of the Witch J’asamyn and the self-exiled, disgraced, and un-seated head of the House Elastrin, Lord of the Great House of the Phoenix, “Ash” was ultimately a child of multiple worlds, multiple races, and always alone. Despite this, when he was faced with the reality of the War Without End, he was able to find the strength to stand and fight against the Dearth, with the remade sword of his House in hand. In doing so, he chose to stand with the Sundered, not with the Fae, and became the first of the Shadarin – those Forsaken to Shadow. Thus forcing the proud members of that Great House to choose between Shadow and Twilight and throwing the Court of the Phoenix King into disarray.

The Cataclysm (1507 to 1561 R.A.)

With Creation rocked upon it’s axis, distracted, the Lords of Dearth took this opportunity to put long-laid plans in motion. A seed of corruption, long hidden in the mountains southern Heartlands, blossomed and the madness grew in the minds of the infected until it exploded in a frenzy of blood and gore that spread across the Heartlands. It took three generations, but finally the spread was stopped, reversed, and even somewhat contained – though the effects and the danger remain to this day.

The Blight

The mountains south of Albion had long held secret pathways to the Realm of the Great Waste, in much the same way that there are hidden pathways between all the Great Realms that are known to the wise. The Lords of Dearth helped that realm of poison and destruction spill out into the Mortal Realm, leaving a Blight on the Heartlands that remains to this day. Encompassing much of what had been the Petty Kingdoms and Albion, the Blight does not just corrupt the creatures that live within it’s bounds but also poisons the minds of those who enter it or who dwell within it.

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Will-o-the-Wisp redux

So, I’m not sure now what the actually “type” the old 1E Monster Manual would have been, I always treated them as some sort of Fae (especially with the whole Boggart thing). In the new 5E Monster Manual however they are specifically a variety of Undead – probably in a quiet shout-out to the Dead Marshes.

Now, in my opinion this sort of monster always works better when the players can’t be sure what they are dealing with. As a result I had come up with two extra versions, one Celestial and one “good” Fae. So there is no good reason why I can’t keep them around for the same purpose.

In this version of the game I’d give them the same stats with the following differences:

Guardian Angel – Alignment is any good, instead of Consume Life it can use Beacon of Life (as the 3rd level spell) at will, the radius equal to it’s shed light radius (bright not dim). It’s damage for the shock attack is Radiant instead of Necrotic.

Fools Flame aka Fools Fire aka Fae Flame – Alignment is Chaotic Neutral, instead of Consume Life it can use a Hypnotic Pattern (as the 3rd level spell) at, the radius equal to it’s shed light radius (bright not dim). It’s damage for the shock attack is Psychic instead of Necrotic.

Now, you can mess with your player’s heads – and they (hopefully) won’t attack every single bobbing light they come across in the world. The substitute powers for Consume Life seem relatively balanced to me given how nasty that ability actually is in the new rules. I’ll get back to writing up world history now…



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