Posts Tagged With: Shadowlands

A Short Synopsis & Minor Treatise On the History & Nature of Creation (Part 3 – The Ancient Era)

This synopsis focuses on the Heartlands of Avalon as it has been the focus of the campaign game, with very short excursions elsewhere, for essentially it’s entirely since the early 1980’s.

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A Short Note

For all intents and purposes the recorded history of humanity starts about 6000 years ago with founding of the White Empire in the ruins of what had been the Second City. Before this the details are murky at best regarding the Diaspora and records of the Invoked Detestation, the War Without End, and the Second City, are derived almost entirely from Elven and Dwarven sources and there is very little detail that even the educated have. The Druid’s Isle is said to have some of the oldest records, as is the Great Library of Irem, while some others say that the Oracles of Sylentia have the most complete records. The Society of Light maintains excellent records of membership, tithes, and family lineage that go back to Enoch.

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The Diaspora of Humankind (-4700 to -3700 R.A.)

In the wake of the Invoked Devastation there is the great Diaspora of the survivors of humankind throughout the now unmoored Mortal Realms, and even into the Shadowlands and even the Great Waste. Desperately seeking safety, over the next thousand years humanity colonizes the continents of Thule and Avalon, Khem and Khitain, few finding themselves in the shattered remnants of the lands that surrounded the Second City, Atlan. It is out of this Diaspora that the modern human peoples can trace their ancestry, with many rich cultural groups – the Northmen, the Avalonians, the Kistathians, the Khitainese, even the Atlanteans who are the root stock of all peoples.

The White Empire (-3700 to -2600 R.A.)

Out of the Diaspora, in Atlan, an individual rises up who slowly forms what becomes known as the White Empire. A highly skilled and powerful mage whose abilities are said to rival those of dread Ilhiedrin, he does not age with the passage of time and becomes known as the Immortal Emperor. Within the safety of the White Empire and the High Law life flourishes for many, and the reach of the White Empire grows far with colonies and embassies far and wide, keeping the humanity in contact with each other. The Immortal Emperor rules wisely and justly for over a thousand years, and then disappears, revealing the rot hidden in the heart of the empire.

The Chaos Wars and the Age of the Black Empire (-2700 to -2500 R.A.)

While the White Empire survives for a time through sheer inertia, soon the Chaos Wars break out as the inheritors of the Immortal King’s power, the Lords of the Seven Darks, face rebellion and revolt to their goetic perversions. It is a horrible war that lasts only a hundred years, and was primarily a human one, terrible in its own way but it is only a minor skirmish in the War Without End. This time period is known as the Black Empire, and the Empire dissolves in fire and blood, the last of the great human empires to rule over or have significant control across more than a single continent.

Enoch the Patriarch (-2531 R.A.)

What speeds the end of the Black Empire was nothing as simple and as complex as the faith of single man. Enoch. Bloodied under the lash, bent under the labors of a slave, Enoch was a man of such compassion that the Sarim Themselves looked down with mercy at the suffering of his people when he prayed for help. The first Lightbringer, Enoch is the Patriarch of the Church of the Lords of Light and the First of the Elect in the Eternal City – and his service was the rock the Society of Light was built upon.

Dawn of the Society of Light (-2500 to -500 R.A.)

Taking his people out of bondage, Enoch led the members of the Society of Light away from the ruins of the Black Empire and fled into the wilderness of Khem. Here they founded the settlements that would eventually become known Kistath, a grand series of kingdoms and empires built for the most part on the bedrock that is the Church of Lords of Light.

The Trinitarian Heresy

An early, but significant, threat to the soundness of the Society of Light was a resurgence of an old issue. The lessons and offspring the Grigori still plagued the Celestials of the Eternal City, and within the Society of Light there began to come desire to be more than servants, more than helpmeets, of the Celestials and join them in a more perfect union both spiritual and physical. While the High Men are often considered among the greatest of the hero’s of the War Without End, they can often prove to be the most despicable of villains as well. As result, the mating of human and Celestial remained forbidden, and all such lines of worship and philosophy were declared heresy. Despite this, the flames of the heresy rekindle every few generations and must be ruthlessly stamped out.

Ishtarian Schism (-1694 R.A.)

In -1394 R.A. a group of conservative members of the Church of the Lords of Light fled Kistath, sailing across the sea to the rich northern Heartlands of Avalon to found Istar, the “Star of Heaven”. Successful though almost immediately in conflict with the native cultures which followed the Old Faith as well as several other cults, the Istarian Oligarchy lasts over a thousand years before ultimately falling to rebellion and conquest, creating a culture of sophistication and education. Existing in an uneasy relationship with the Council of Deva’s, the “western church” appointed one and then another “High Archon” to oversee their affairs and rarely seek guidance from the authorities in Kistath.

Rise of the Third Cities (-1000 to -100 R.A.)

After the end of the Chaos Wars and the Black Empire there came the rise of the Lesser Kingdoms and the High Men. This was the time of the Third Cities, built across continents and realms – Silverveil, the City of Radiance, built by the Tudarin and an alliance of other races; El-Obeid, the Cynosure, built in a crossroads of time and space where it still exists today; Chorazin, the City of the Darkness, eventually damned by the Sarim; Harrow, Gate to the Shadowlands, home to the Black Watch and the Vault of Tears; Dolmen, the Necropolis, now lost to the Lords of Dearth; Ys, the City by the Sea, decadent in its trades and appetites; Ebionstark, the Citadel of Shadows, the stronghold of the Witch-King; Irem, the City of a Thousand Pillars, lofty in ideals and knowledge; Ringhold; the Clockwork City, stronghold of alchemists and science; Carcosa, the City of Seven Essences, now fallen to the King in Yellow; and Ryl Shantor, the City of Kinship, built by the Pendragon. There was a insularity to this time period of nine hundred years that had never quite existed before, a flowering of various cultures and races marred little by major war or other conflict other than small border conflicts as various countries established themselves.

The Wars of Binding (-200 to 100 R.A.)

The Wars of Binding were a three-hundred year long series of conflicts on the continent of Avalon and were marked relentless warfare against the dreaded Witch-King and his lieutenants, the Lords of the Seven Darks, also known as the Dark Apostles, who served him in the mistaken belief that he was the reincarnation of the Thrice-Cursed, Ilhiedrin. Fought primarily in Avalon, the conflict reached as far as Thule and Khem, even south into Ith, with the Witch King winning until Tobin I of Albion formed the Grand Alliance of humans, elves, dwarves, and gnomes and carrying the fight to the Witch King himself in the Shadowlands. The Wars ended with the siege of Ebionstark, the Witch-Kings citadel, and the raising of the Veil between the Shadowlands and the Mortal Lands. The Witch-King was slain by an avatar of the Godling Tyrmic, the Silver Fist, in the final battle within Ebionstark itself.

The Circle

Formed in response to the threat of the Witch-King as well as the hostility of the Church of the Lords of Light, the Circle was a organization devoted to preserving the natural order, thwarting the Lords of Dearth, and providing inspiration to all those inclined by way of both words and deeds. A select organization, it’s members were originally all members of the Old Faith, though it gradually came to encompass many cults and even select members of the Society of Light if they deemed worthy. Comprised of mostly of humans, half-elves, elves, and gnomes, it was based out of Silverveil and it’s members were often rangers, bards, druids, and mages. It was instrumental in the Wars of Binding and throughout the history of Albion it was an important, though secretive, force for good in the world.

Tobin I, Darktreader and Dragonlord, Founder of Gwynarch and Albion

The son of a clan-chieftain of Oss, Tobin was trained as a ranger of the Old Faith and pursued this career across the Heartands for years in the early parts of the Wars of Binding as a member of the Circle. It was not until he visited Lady of the Singing Fountain in the Great Realm of Faerie, and trained to be a mage that he grew to see his true calling though over the years he also studied as a druid as well. Gathering companions around him of many races, he founded Albion, formed the Great Alliance with the help of his friends, and fought the trolls of Black Hills, the giants of the Wall of the World, and united the kingdoms of Brittit and Lorewood with his own realm of Gwynarch to create Albion – ultimately standing against the Witch-King and prevailing.

Albion (0 to 1377 R.A.)

Founded by Tobin I towards the end of the Wars of Binding in the Heartlands of Avalon Albion and was a multi-racial center of learning and civilization. While not having the size or the breadth of the White Empire, most agree that Albion had all the depth of that great civilization and perhaps more. Home to the fabled University of Art in Dinas Fforan, Albion was a haven of tolerance and scholarship in lands that had become known for suspicion and close-mindedness during the trials of the Wars of Binding. While the ruling family and much of it’s nobles were of the Old Faith, they not only tolerated but welcomed all other faiths. Over time these both resulted in stronger ties and better trade with Kistathians, Northmen, and even the Ithians and Sh’dai. Similarly, while tensions rose with their main rivals, the Iron Court of Tierna, Albion ruled over a period of magical and technological expansion that remains unrivaled for the most part.

Dulain the Archimage and the Veil: (42 R.A.)

Born the son of a minor noble, Dulain the Archimage grew in power during the crucible of the Wars of Binding. A genius, his skill came not from the Mouth-to-Ear teachings of the Elder Races, not through careful study over time, but because his innate understanding of the arcane arts was perhaps the greatest there ever was and he ruthlessly pursued every potential advance he could find to expand his skill and power. The Veil was his creation and it is the greatest magic ever cast by mortal mages and it casting was at the sacrifice of a generation of mages and the aid of the Celestials, Archfey, Fiends, and Elementals alike. The Veil is a marvel, a living enchantment that spread across the Mortal Realms and the even into the Shadowlands and it bound and limited Undead, Fiends, Elementals, Abberations, and Creatures of the Dearth among other things.

The Cult Wars (152 to 277 R.A.)

After the Wars of Binding there was a time period of relative peace and prosperity. The hero’s of the Wars slowly died off  and the there peace – until the Cult Wars. The dread Arch-Lich, Shator, He whose name should only be whispered, manipulated the Society of Light and the Druidic Order into open conflict and it was only the sacrifice of King Tobin I of Albion in slaying the Arch-Lich and the creation of Crown Peak that brought the Cult Wars to an end. The Cult Wars wreaked an incredible amount of havoc as a result of the use of horrific weapons left over from the Wars of Binding. The city of Ryl Shantor was lost during the Cult Wars and legend has the people scattered to the four winds and the seven realms in sorrow and shame.

The Compact and the Hall of Tears (300 R.A.)

Following the Cults Wars the University of Art gathered mages from across the Heartlands together and in the 300th  year in the Roll of Albion singed the Compact and laid the foundation for the Hall of Tears. The Compact bars the teaching of certain magic and the creation of a host of magical artifacts. The Hall of Tears is a repository for magic that is deemed too dangerous to be allowed to wander around loose, guarded by the organization known as the Black Watch which had been set guard the borders to the Shadowlands.

The Great Horde (450 to 600 R.A.)

The nomads and barbarians of the Tawill Plains began incursions raiding more and more frequently in the Heartlands and over about one hundred years these grew in intensity until the Horde invasion. The Horde swept up through the Petty Kingdoms and into the southern realms of the Heartlands (then known as Cathalia). There the Horde was stopped by the mixed forces of the southern realms, the navies of Albion (both air and sea) along with the various armies stopped the Horde in it’s tracks in 747 R.A. and the next 50 or so years saw the gradual end of that threat for the time being.

Flight of Dragons (521 to 603 R.A.)

Known only in lore there was one Flight of the Dragons in the Ancient Era, when the great Wyrms flew forth from their hidden lairs and caused much calamity and sorrow. This lasted for around 100 years overall, rising, peaking, and then falling off. The great Dragon of Mithril Hall took up residence there at this time and the dwarves have desired to return there ever since. The Green Wyrm of Halstor’s Tower also appeared at this time and no-one has managed to slay either one.

The Nightfall War (627 R.A.)

In a foolish attack, Tierna attempted to take capture the Hall of Tears in what has become known as the Nightfall War. The Masters of the Black Watch, faced with an armada of Wind-ships, were forced to open the Vaults of the Hall and use the items there in it’s defense. Not one ship survived and the Masters were reminded of the old adage “Call not up what you cannot put down again.” The City itself was almost destroyed in the process and spent years in recovery, trying to regain the trust of the lands around it.

Seven-Day War (652 R.A.)

After a series of provocations on both sides, Albion and Tierna clashed for seven days and six nights in the air above Oss and the Bay of Iasrod. The navies of both countries were savaged by the magical fury that both unleashed in an effort to win what was ultimately a draw. Tierna and Albion both withdrew, neither having gained more than a slow and expensive process of rebuilding shattered windship navies and equally damaged wet navies.

Rebellion and Reformation in Albion (659 to 705 R.A.)

Attempting to take advantage of the aftermath of the Seven-Day War, the Duchy of Bria tried to rebel and separate from Albion. While unsuccessful, this marked the beginning of bad relations between the nobles of Bria and the Crown of Albion. Many families have blamed their current status on actions that date back to this time and while the now Grand-Duchy of Bria is almost a separate state in many respects there is great deal of animosity. The separate nature of the Grand-Duchy of Loren (formally Lorewood) also dates back to this time. The commonly held reason that Bria has not rebelled again is the magical might of the Crown of Albion and the continued vigilance of the Wardens.

Zymora and the T’zarr Border States (689 to 822 R.A.)

In 1689 R.A. the realm of Zymora was found out of the old realm of Prythain. Well-regarded, Zymora was often counted as an ally of Albion and the two nations are good trading partners. The T’zar Border States were formed at this time as an answer to possible northern expansion of Zymora. In fact, the Border States became an excellent trading partner of Zymora and while not allied in any military sense there were numerous intermarriages between Zymora and the various Buffer States. This time period included worsened relations with the Ossian Clans of the Tanglehills with both Albion and Tierna. Factions within the Society of Light within Cathalia resurrected the Inquisition and the cities and towns of that country and various of the Petty Kingdoms and other small nations were gripped with fear as a result.

Alkenzamier the Dark and the Lords of Dearth

Though the Wars of Binding were past, evil remained in the world – much of older than any would wish. When Ilhiedrin brought forth the Five Demon Emperors into Creation again, he was far from their only servant. The Lords of Dearth are the most powerful among those, and they have sacrificed morality for power, life for unlife, doing their utmost to subvert all that Creation is. Alkenzamier the Dark was foremost amongst the Lords of Dearth and chose his moment to strike most carefully.

The Tearing of the Veil (1042 to 1043 R.A.)

As the years grew long, the wonder and magic that was the Veil grew strained, tattered, and it was at this moment that the Dearth chose to strike. Divining that a living enchantment needed a living anchor Alkenzamier abducted that anchor, the direct descendant and incarnation of Dulain, and slowly tortured her to death, ripping apart the Veil beginning the deconstruction of Creation as well. It fell to a group of heroes, old and new, to save the Multiverse, some at the cost of their lives. Ancient of days and mere saplings with their greatest deeds still to come, they sought out Alkenzamier in the depths of Abyss, on the edge of Creation itself, and Called the Gods Themselves to heal the Veil, awakening Old Powers that had long slumbered.

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Sh’dai – The Shadowed (1e)

“Is it my hair? Is it my eyes? Is it my skin? My smile? The magic that dances at my fingertips and flows through my veins like an intoxicating black wine? You look at us and see something that is almost like you, you imagine us like some sort of darkly fey version of the half-elven of your realm. You call us ‘shadowmen’ and ‘shevach’ thinking that we care – nor do we care, save that we know that your kind consider these insults. You both envy us and fear us because our feral beauty, seeing it not as a blessing of our forebears but as the taint of daemons and worse. We live on the borders of the Realm of the Dead and we have seen seen more of “worse” by the time we’re of age than your kind have seen in a generation.

Please…

We are the children of the Sh’achtar, cousins to the Daemon, and we do the will of the Unborn this world and the next. We welcome your worst.” 

– Naamah lia Shere Da’Ishtiare n’hai Eshu n’Hai Diablen, Witch of the Ebon Circle.

The Sh’dai, also known simply as “the Shadowed”, are the primary race of the Shadowlands, though a number of families also make their home in the Mortal Realms as well. Privy to some of the darkest Mysteries, the Sh’dai are a race that treasures secrets and subtlety and appreciate magic as much as the Fae do. Amoral if not evil by human standards, the Sh’dai are a culture that stands as the first line of defense against the depredations of the Dearth, a fact that they are well aware and justifiably proud of. Quick to take offense, Sh’dai are passionate people with carefully maintained codes of honor that keep those same passions in check. Legends of their vices streaches across the Mortal Realms, and their appetites are fueled by drugs, slaves, and a variety of entertainments that are generally considered at least somewhat unwholesome. Thier cities are considered dens of the most vile vices in the Mortal Realms, and their slavers are feared.

Appearance: Male Sh’dai stand 70″ tall (+1d6 or -1d6), and weigh 145 lbs (+1-20 or -1-20) while female Sh’dai stand 68″ tall (+1d6 or -1d6), and weigh 135 lbs (+1-20 or -1-20). Both sexes tend to have slender builds that belies their strength and pale skin that can actually range into the purest ivory – often adorned with piercings and tattoos. Both tend towards features and lithe muscular form that are considered amazingly attractive in human terms – despite the fangs, cat’s-eye pupils, pointed ear-tips, and fingernails that can double as weapons (+1 Damage). Sh’dai hair is most commonly ebony in hue, with very occasional reds and platinum blonds to snow-white. Sh’dai tend to wear thier hair long, often with simple braiding to keep it it of the way in forge or fight, and they often have exotic cuts and styling. Sh’dai eyes are dark, blacks, greys, with occasional exotic colors like crimson or deep purple, all with slit pupils that betray thier feral nature.

Lifespan: Sh’dai are young adults at age 50, considered mature adults at around age 100, and can live up to 1000 years of age. They generally begin play at 45 + 5d4 years of age.

Common Alignments: The Shadowlands are a dark and hard place, and while Sh’dai culture promotes Lawful ethics it’s morals are most commonly Evil in bent – Sh’dai from the Mortal Realms tend to be more Neutral in morals. The Sh’dai are a product of their environment and the close proximity to the Realm of the Dead demands strong passions to stave off its soul-numbing effects. Unfortunately that level of passion often leads to excesses that would kill many mortals. It is not that it is impossible to find Good within the Shadowlands, but the selfish road of Evil or Neutrality is much easier. Chaotic individuals are seen as dangerous liabilities who are weak links in the chains that bind the Dearth and rarely trusted with any responsibility.

Common Classes: The Sh’dai generally multi-class and have a penchant for mysticism. They value skill and precision over brute force, but have a fine appreciation for the uses of raw magical and psychic power. They do not have many clerics, instead tending towards the having Witches, Templars, and various forms of Psychics meeting those classes roles. Similarly, Illusionists, Elementalists, Tantrics, and Diabolists (most especially) are more common than generalist Mages. Assassins and Scouts are also more common than Thieves, and the Bloodmoon Adepts are quite feared by those who know of them.

Common Professions: Two factors influnce Shadowlands society greatly (that being the largest concentration of Sh’dai). The first is that slave-holding is both common and accepted in the Shadowlands and the second is that the Realms of the Dead border the Shadowlands and the constant threat of the Dearth cannot be ignored. As such, while there is no leisure class, and Sh’dai certainly span the entire range of social classes, those Sh’dai found in the Mortal Realms tend to either be cadet branches of various noble and merchant families, or are nobles and merchants from the Shadolands themselves because others simply do not have the ability to travel easily. Those Sh’dai in the Mortal Realms not fortunate to be born into the middle and upper classes are often fimly established with the lower classes where they find their nature suited towards any number of professions generally considered unsavory.

Common Religions: While the Sh’dai are quite willing to give the En Khoda Theos Kirk their due, and hold the Bel En Khoda in high regard as well, they reserve their deepest veneration for the Unborn and their servants the Witches of the Shadowlands. It is hard to say if the Unborn are singular or plural, but they dwell in the great spaces Between. They are a limnal and everwatchful eye for the Dearth and the Five Demon Emperors, and their whispers and murmers fill the minds of the Witches and their dreadful champions, the Sh’Elin.

Statistic Bonuses: +1 to Dexterity, +1 to Talent, +1 to Power, +2 to Comeliness, -2 to Charisma

Languages: Kens,  Fingerspeech, One Additional Human Language (Int10 +1, Int12 +2, Int14 +3, Int 16 +4, Int17 +5, Int18 +6).

Special Abilities:  +2 to Surprise; 120′ Ultravision; Sh’dai may use Cantrips as a Mage, but gain no level bonus unless they are a Mage or other spellcaster.

Special Vulnerabilities: Used to the Shadowlands, Sh’dai have thier vision reduced to 30′ and they are -1 to Hit in bright light. Sh’dai reputation means that they generally suffer a penalty of -20% to Reaction Rolls with creatures from the Mortal Realms and -40% for creatures from Faerie. Sh’dai also suffer the standard nonhuman penalty of -10% to experience for each character class.

Character Class Limits: Entertainer – 6th, Mage – 7th, Priest – 7th, Psychic – 7th, Rogue – 11th, Warrior – 5th, Warrior-Monk – 7th. As always, this is for Prime Attributes of 15 or less, 16 is +1 level, 17 is +2 levels, 18 is +3 levels, and 19 is +4 levels before the XP penalty is doubled from -10% to -20%.

Psionics: Sh’dai are all Minor Psychics and start with a Natural Thought Shield and the Disciplines of Lights and Rapport.

Additional Proficiencies or Skills: All Sh’dai gain one free weapon proficiency to be applied to any of their normal weapon choices by class. Sh’dai Warriors also have one additional weapon proficiency.

Rogue Bonuses: Slight of Hand: +5%, Open Locks: No Bonus, Find/Remove Traps: +5%, Stealth: +10%, Climb Walls:  No Bonus, Acrobatics: +5%, Tumbling: +5%

Perception / Hear Noise: Base 20%

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Gnomes, the Fae’shin (1e)

“We’ve been living, fighting, and dying side-by-side since the Wars of Binding, enough that some you call us “halflings” and treat more like your some of your own kin and less like the Forest- or the Mountain-Folk. Some say that it our friendship that brought the Fae into the Great Alliance against the Witch-King, and here in the Heartlands we’ve certainly had good relations with Albion since the Wars of Binding. I’ve always thought that it was because we’ve shared a dislike of goblinkin, a hatred of the Dearth, a love of good food, better drink, and a quiet pipe at the end of the day. We have more respect for the Great Mother these days than you do – with the Lighters spreading there aren’t enough of the wilderwise that still honor the Old Faith. That said, there are still enough of you here in the hills that we both call home that we can still share a pipe and a tankard of ale at the end of a hunt.” – Prince Gnaismith Glittergold, Ambassador to Albion.

The Gnomes, also known as Halflings, the Small Folk, and the Little People, are an earthy and lively race that inhabits the forested hills of the Mortal Realms for the most part, across all climates. Technically speaking they are considered part of the Faerie Folk, but are so down-to-earth that even most humans don’t see them in the same light as their distant cousins in Faerie (Pixies, Sprites, etc.) or the Shadowlands (the feral and greatly feared Daeshin Vorre). They enjoy food and drink, and have the lusty appreciation for life that makes them easy to get along with for most humans  – who find them much more approachable than the dour dwarves or the ethereal elves. They are also known for their sense of humor and have a reputation as tricksters and jokesters. .

Appearance: Male Gnomes stand 42″ tall (+1d3 or -1d4), and weigh 80 lbs (+2-12 or -2-8) while female Gnomes stand 39″ tall (+1d3 or -1d3), and weigh 75 lbs (+1-8 or -1-8). Both genders have generally average builds that tend towards the rangy and tanned complexions. Their hair tends to come in various shades browns, blacks, and occasionally very dirty blonds, very rarely in true blonds. Beards are rare and tend to be more wispy or short rather than the full facial hair of humans or the bearded glory of the dwarves. Eyes are most often hazel, but brilliant greens and blues occur rarely.

Lifespan: Gnomes are young adults at age 50, are considered mature adults at around age 90, and can live up to 750 years of age. They generally begin play at 60 +5d4 years of age.

Common Alignments: Chaotic Good, Neutral Good, True Neutral, Chaotic Neutral.

Common Classes: Druid, Healer, Fighter, Ranger, Archer, Thief, Scout, Mountebank, Bard, Illusionist.

Common Culture: Gnomish culture is based around family and clan, with tracing lineage and relationship being a common pastime. Gnomes tend to be an odd combination of free-wheeling spirits mixed with strong traditionalism and loyalty to each other and to their friends. Generosity of both spirit and goods is considered a virtue, along with wit and humor. Many Gnomish families have integrated into human kingdoms, most commonly living in rural communities engaged in hunting, mining, and craftwork. There are, however, a number of independant Gnomish kingdoms scattered across the Mortal Realms.

Naming Conventions: Surnames are often a combination of an element and a terrain feature (Mudswamp, Silvermoraine, etc), though the oldest of families have a similar convention to Dwarven custom of a descriptor and an element (Glittergold, Brightiron).

Common Dress: Gnomes tend to prefer practicality over style, with kilts and blouses for men and dresses for women being traditional. Colors are often a mix of neutral browns, greens, and tans mixed with splashes of color (blues and reds are favorites). Jewelry is common and plentiful for men and women, commonly a torc or necklace, along with a mixture of rings, bracelets or bracers, and brooches.

Common Professions: Gnomish society stands on its own in rural settings, so any profession appropriate to that setting is possible. In more urban settings Gnomes are known as superlative jewelers and gemcutters, finer even than their cousins the dwarves, and the less honest among them make excellent safe-crackers and locksmiths. Illusion magic is generally considered the province of the Gnomish gentry and nobility, and being a Ranger is considered one of the most honorable pursuits that a Gnomish warrior can take.

Common Religions: Gnomes invariably follow their own version of the Old Faith, though there are only priestesses in thier hierarchy. Some Gnomes will worship at the En Khoda Theos Kirk (the Great Elemental Dragons), but this is rare and is seen a bit of affectation by other Gnomes. In either case they will only rarely will they worship side-by-side with humans though, preferring to establish their own groves or kirks.

Statistic Bonuses: -1 to Strength, +1 to Dexterity, +1 Power.

Languages: Faerie, Dark Tongue, the local Human Language (Int15 +1, Int 16 +2, Int17 +3, Int18 +4). Gnomes may also communicate with all small burrowing mammals such as badgers, moles, ground squirrels, etc.

Special Abilities: +3 to Hit with Missile Weapons; +1 to Hit Goblins; -4 to be Hit by Larger than Man-Sized Creature; If alone or only in the company of other Gnomes or Elves (or 90′ distant from others) they have +2 to Surprise Rolls; Highly Resistant to Poison (+1 to saves per 3½ pts of Constitution); Highly Resistant to Magic (+1 to saves vs. Spells, Rods, Wands, & Staves per 3½ pts of Constitution); 60′ Ultravision; Invisible in natural surroundings: 90%; Detect Snares and Pits: 70%; Identify Pure Water 80%; Predict Weather 50%. Gnomes of 4th level or higher may use an Animal Friendship spell 1/daily. Noble Gnomes may all use Cantrips as an Illusionist at 1st Level, and at 4th Level may use Ventriloquism, Dancing Lights, and Light 1/day each. At 8th Level, noble Gnomes may use Mirror Image, Confusion, and Dimension Door 1/day each as well.

Special Vulnerabilities: Gnomes do not suffer from any particular vulnerabilities that are not immediately obvious. They are short, do not swim particularly well and prefer to stay away from water and boats. They are sometimes treated more like children by ignorant but well-meaning humans (and some insufferable and condescending elves). Goblins will tend to target them in preference to other races with the sole exception if Elves (who suffer from their greatest hatred). Gnomes all also suffer from the standard -10% penalty per character class to all experience gained.

Character Class Limits: Entertainer – N/A (Mountebank – 8th), Mage – N/A (Alchemist – 6th), Priest – 7th, Psychic – N/A (Illusionist – 6th), Rogue – 8th, Warrior – 5th, Warrior-Monk – N/A. As always, this is for Prime Attributes of 15 or less, 16 is +1 level, 17 is +2 levels, 18 is +3 levels, and 19 is +4 levels before the XP penalty is doubled from -10% to -20%.

Psionics: None inherent – they may not roll for Psionics, instead they develop and train as the Illusionist or Mountebank classes instead.

Additional Proficiencies or Skills: None, though if a  Gnome chooses to specialize in Shortbow it only costs two rather than three proficiency slots. Gnome Warriors have one additional weapon proficiency.

Rogue Bonuses: Slight of Hand: No Bonus, Open Locks: +5%, Find/Remove Traps: +10%, Stealth: +5%, Climb Walls: -10%, Acrobatics: +5%, Tumbling: +5%

Perception / Hear Noise: Base 20%

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So who does my character worship..?

So, ckutalik over at Hill Cantons has a nice post about religion and gaming. Now, what many folks don’t know about me is that at one time I seriously considered a career as a minister, though my Calling found another expression eventually. With that piece of information in place, you can imagine that religion and spirituality play an important place in my game worlds.

I’ve really run the gamut. In the old days, the very early days, I took a page from Katherine Kurtz and ran with a direct analog of the Catholic Church – which was also rather nice because I used the Deryni in my game world as well. The “Old Faith” was an amalgam of Celtic myth and modern NeoPaganism, and pretty much all real world religion existed in one form or another – there was the “Church of the Divine Couple” for the Egyptian mythology, and the Northmen worshipped the Norse and Finnish Deities. Pretty much if it was in Deities and Demigods I was willing to include it. I also ran with the Greyhawk deities as they came out, the Forgotten Realms deities when they came out, and I have always used the Cthulhu Mythos as well as the Moorcockian Courts of Chaos. For the nonhumans I pretty much ran with whatever the “flavor of the day” was, though it was always somewhat oddly incorporated at times to try to make sense of the multiple different, “hard polytheistic”, pantheons.

But currently, religions and spirituality have gone through a handful of more recent evolutions as I’ve tried to get away from “ripped from reality” and more “inspired by reality” combined with “entirely fabricated”…

To start with big bag guys, the ones that pretty much everyone agrees are worth banding together to fight against are the Five Demon Emperors and the servants of the Dearth as worshipped by what is commonly known as the Cult of Shator under the auspices of the King in Yellow. These are combination of the Great Old Ones or the Outer Gods of the Cthulhu Mythos. Their very existence, even as a thought, brings corruption and destruction to multiverse. More than unbridled Chaos, more than simply Entropy, they are literally Nothingness made manifest. (Evil)

One of the oldest human religions is known as the Heptarchy by sages, a pantheon of seven deities made up of the Lady Night and her children, and the Twin Brothers of the Perihelion (and their dark triplet) and the Three Sisters of the Perilune. Found in both urban and rural settings, the Heptarchy is quite popular, though each deity maintains it’s own religious hierarchy. Relationships between the deities and their cults vary, but are generally neutral or good as none of the deities are in active conflict or direct opposition – save perhaps the relationship between the Midnight Sun and his two brothers.

There is the Old Faith – a pantheistic worship of nature, it’s cycles and its elements, the manifest spirits of which are often referred to as “the Old Powers” by both humans and the gnomes. The Old Faith is highly organized, with twin orders of male and female druids, along with the a variety of warrior societies (most famously the Rangers) organized into lodges. (Generally Neutral)

Then there is the Society of the Light – a religion originally inspired by Augustine’s notion of the “City of God” and then mixed in with healthy doses of early Jewish, Christian, and Islamic custom and belief along with a good dash of Sikhism. It is marked by a hierarchical relationship of mortals and the Sarim (the ruling angels), overseen in the Mortal Realms by the Council of Devas in Kistath. It has a multiple Rules, and one significant heresy (the Trinitarians) based on the actual spiritual and physical union of mortal and angels. (Mostly Lawful Good and some other Goods and Neutrals)

In opposition to the Society of Light there is what is often termed “the Horned Society” – the cults and organizations devoted to the Fallen (Angels) in what is in many ways a mirror image of the SOL. The War in Heaven and the Fall was fundamentally one of philosophical difference in how to pursue the War Without End against the Dearth. (Mostly LE, some other Evils and Neutrals)

In Thule, the worship of the Freyja the All-Mother is most popular. The pantheon, the Æsir, is greater than just the All-Mother, but after the Ragnarök there were few survivors and Freyja was the greatest among them and took the high seat of Hliðskjálf. Her servants, the Valkyrja, continue to choose the worthy among the slain to serve her as einherjar in Valhalla. (Generally Good and Neutral)

The Khemeti are also known as the Church of the Divine Couple, the Khemeti are among the eldest of the organized religions – perhaps not even originally of humankind. It is said that the Khemeti arose out of the Great Chaos at the beginning of Creation when Ptah and Ma’at created a sense of Order and Logic in the random Chaos. Currently they are worshipped primarily in Kistath, they have a very small Cult in the Heartlands and are essentially nonexistent in Thule. (Lawful)

The elves have, at their heart, a spirituality that is governed by “Li’vicor” or the idea of “Ruling Passion” or “True Will” – while at the same time having an appreciation for the universe that is similar to the pantheistic view of the Old Faith combined with a respect for the “E’lin” (the “Elect”) who seem to have a special relationship with what the Old Faith would call the Old Powers. (Good)

The dwarves don’t speak of their spirituality or religion, but seem concerned with “forging their souls” and “anvil of the world” by those outsiders that they trust enough to speak about such things with. They also have a great venerance for the living stone and their ancestors, how this all fits together is unknown. (Lawful)

There is also the En Khoda Theos Kirk – the Dragonborn’s Kirk (Church) with its worship of the four “Great Dragons” that are generally thought to encompass various aspects of the natural world and the elements. A complex religion, there is no higher authority than each kirk’s Dorje (priest), and it is a deeply contemplative religion that focuses on meditative practice, often in a monastic or other secluded setting. Primarily followed by the Dragonborn it is also followed a surprising number of members of other races and small Kirks can be found in most major cities. (All Alignments)

The Teotl is the pantheon of the Old Gods of Ith. A bloody state religion marked by human sacrifice and the veneration of the Ithian Serpent Folk. Of all the major human religions, it is the one that is closest in some ways to the philosophies of the non-human races and has it’s roots in the mysticism of the Serpathians.  (Neutral and Evil)

The goblins, ogres, and trolls worship the Formorians, a collection of beings known as “the Goblin Court”. Generally hateful and destructive, the Goblin Court is still opposed to Dearth and Arras-Kol, the Great Goblin, is ever vigilant for the seeds of corruption in his children. (Evil)

The Lords of Chaos – The greatest of the powers of Chaos, sometimes known as the Wyld, often accept worship and service in exchange for favor. With some of their members being corrupted by the Dearth (known as the Forsaken, Tiamat and Typhon), they are quick (perhaps overly quick) to act against the Five Demon Emperors. (Chaotic)

Then there are the Godlings, sometimes known as the Disparate Names, a mixture of demigods, quasi-deities, and lesser deities that work alone, in conjunction with, and in opposition to themselves and the other pantheons. They are commonly described and organized in what is called the Lords Tarot, though this may be a purely human invention rather than a true reflection of the Godlings actual relationships (All Alignments).

Finally, opposing and at the same time including the Dearth are the Bel En Khoda – the Thirteen Great Gods. These are almost like reified Platonic Forms. Though, truthfully, this isn’t worship (save in the Shadowlands where the Unborn are revered above all), but their presence is always acknowledged, by everyone with any level of mystical or magical knowledge, and many mystical or spiritual organizations are essentially organized around a philosophical allegiance to one of them even if it doesn’t exactly qualify as “worship”. (All Alignments)

I’ll probably detail those out more in future posts.

TTFN!

D.

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A Giant Among Elves… (4 Sessions so far)

And yes, Tier is – a seven foot tall, five inch (or so) tall Grey Elf.

There is a story behind that actually. Way back in Session #6 there was an Obelisk, and it ended up sending three characters off. Tier ended up in the Shadowlands, what somebody inventing the Shadowfell must have plundered from my brain while I slept – except mine is far, far cooler. In that session he gained a point of Constitution, but also four inches (taking him to a solid 6’6″) in the process.

In any case, Tier ended up captured by slavers, and after being run through his paces at the local ludus and earning the sobriquet “Cries for Blood” he was purchased by the master sh’dai swordsman known as Darkness at Noon, the Dueling Hawk of the mysterious lilim called Gyrmawlkyn, the Lord of Hali, Master of Carcosa, and Bearer of the Dread Sword of the Hyades. Taken back to Carcosa, he trained for a short period of time with both Darkness at Noon and the albino mage called Ice and after ten successive (and obviously successful) bouts was granted an audience with the odd creature who owned him.

Tier had been informed previously that the Lord of Hali had a habit of training gladiators and then sending them to the great Arena at Khazan where they would have the opportunity to fight for their freedom. His reasons for this are unknown, but it seems to play into his political machinations in the Halls of the Ebon Council and his rivalry with the dread Leo’trahh, Grand Maestra of Death, and Demi-Empress of Khazan and it’s environs. Upon his audience, Tier was granted the choice to stay in the service of the Lord of Hali or the opportunity to travel to the blood-stained city of Khazan and fight there for his freedom. Tier chose to travel to Khazan, and was told that in the event that he won his freedom he was welcome to return as he wished to take service or merely to guest for a time. Taking both his leave and a selection of advice from Darkness at Noon, Tier then traveled to Khazan and entered the Arena.

Now, understand that I have essentially a direct AD&D analog to the T&T module, rolling the same tables and having the same events and odd possibilities for non-combat resolution of various of the rolled encounters. It also gives the ability to purchase enchantments and spells for his weapons at a high cost – as well as needing to pay for healing. This certainly proved incredibly valuable for Tier, because his first two encounters were possibly the two worst in the game. All he has to do is win three battles and he’s free – and at that point gets the chance to sign up for seven more in order to try to win an audience with Leo’trahh.

The first battle was with the with a shoggoth. Yes, a Shoggoth. In T&T, this is a crazy gawd-awful creature – in AD&D it’s darn near as bad (I happen to have the good edition of Deities and Demigods) and when I combine some of the elements from Call of Cthulhu it’s certainly one of the nastiest things you can run into. But the module give the player a small chance to win the fight without even having to engage in combat, a successful Intelligence check and Luck check grant the player not only the knowledge that shoggoth’s enjoy piccolo music but the presence of a piccolo on hand! So there is one shoggoth dancing ponderously on the sands of the arena to the great amusement of the crowd – and Tier winds his first fight.

Needless to say, the odds were far against Tier this fight and he got a roll on the “Special Magical Weapon” table instead of getting a monetary award. It is worth saying that Arena of Khazan was kind of notorious for having some incredibly overpowered magical weapons as potential rewards off of this table – and when I say overpowered I mean that these would likely be considered very unbalanced artifacts in many settings. T&T was far more four-color than most games though, and I’ve always liked them. Heck, I recognize a couple of them from SD’s world – so I know how some people managed get ahold of them!

In any case, Tier was granted a “Great Kris” for his valor and luck – it is a +3 Elven Shortsword that grants the wielder immunity to 1st- through 3rd-level spells. Powerful, but not massively so compared to some of the things I could have rolled up…

So then we are on to round number two, and what does my son roll up?

A Balrog.

It’s kind of a toss-up if a shoggoth or a balrog is worse in T&T, but imagine a cross between a Type VI and a Fire Giant and you pretty much have it in a nutshell. Now, in the module, the Balrog is so sure of itself that it just stands there and lets the character strike first – actually challenges them to. Tier is no idiot, he takes his chance and runs up to the damn thing and lashes out with sword and dagger (being a two-weapon fighter). This thing has 90HP, and through a combination of pre-bought spells boosting his weapons and two fantastic rolls (I swear, his dice are blessed at times) he nails the thing for 66HP of damage – and then in the following round beat the things initiative and do the 24HP of damage needed to drop it.

If I had false teeth I would have dropped them in my lap, he’s a 4/4 Fighter/Mage with 32 HP and he just killed a roughly 20HD creature.

The crowd goes wild, and off he trots up to claim his reward – which is another roll on the Special Magic Item table. This is where I really had to sort of adapt something, so the “Bottle of Warrior Juice” (which doubles the characters Strength and Constitution in T&T) became the “Elixir of Ares” and there a 50/50 chance that it will give the player 1-3 levels in a Fighter class or grant them a +1 to Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution. Tier, of course, rolls the attribute bonus and given his already existing stats now has a Strength of 19, a Dexterity of 18, and a Constitution of 19.

But… I rule that this also increases his height by 1d12 inches – and he rolls a 11.

So now we have a 7’5″ tall elf.

I wish I could say that his third fight was as exciting. There was a beautiful elvish mage of some sort in a silver robe with a silvery-grey staff, after spurning the opportunity to either spare her or throw himself at her mercy – she let loose three salvos of five Magic Missiles apiece and Tier was done for (somebody forgot about his Great Kris)…

Luckily he had reserved some cash for this event and he was saved from being monster-chow, but having lost that fight, he still had to win one more before he was free.

It was a kobold.

Really.

So, with his hard-won equipment and prizes, plus a paltry 100sp tossed to him for winning his “fight” with the kobold, Tier has been released into freedom in the great city of Khazan, on the borders of the Shadowlands and Great Realm of the Dead. He’s not exactly sure how to get home, or what would happen to him when he managed to get there, but he has his freedom and a rather high level of notoriety!

We’ll see what he does next – this was kind of perfect set of crazy events for a 14-year old. Hopefully he can maintain his run of luck!

D.

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Two other campaigns at the moment…

My son is sick today, and he’s been asking why I’m not posting about his other character Tier – who disappeared along with Kyril and Roland after he touched the Obelisk with the Candlestaff. So while I’m not going to say much about that character at the moment, I am going to mention that I have essentially two other campaigns running in my game right now – both of them solo-games.

The first is the “Hali” game – this is the game with Tier. He ended up in the Shadowlands, a… well… I guess I need to do a post on the cosmology of my game universe. Let’s just say it is kind of the opposite of the Faerie (yeah, very 4E – and no, I didn’t steal it from there…). That has, at the moment, a single character:

Tier, NG Grey Elf, Fighter/Mage, 3/3, Minor Psychic.

Tier has been enslaved and is currently owned by the Lord of Hali, one of the many Sh’dai nobles that owe fealty to the Witch-King and sit on the Ebon Council. He’s owned by said Lord because he did really amazingly well in his gladiatorial trials and is potentially a good investment. This campaign may very add a few people as we run into days where not everyone can show up – it’s kind of easy to drop in and out of…

The other campaign is another solo campaign, this one with my spouse – and it essentially picks up where I left off with my house rules (just switched over to AD&D). This one is down south in the Heartlands, where the Blight just occurred in the middle of the Petty Kingdoms. Converting over those characters wasn’t that hard really, but also includes folks who are movers and shakers (or potential movers and shakers) in the game world. My spouse is playing one of her favorite characters (Karin has gone though a handful of incarnations) and a couple of older PC’s that she has never had a chance to play – plus a couple of henchmen she’s picked up over time.

Karin – TN Sh’dai, Duelist/Witch/Tantric-Assassin, 4/4/4, Psychic.
(H)Lise – TN Human, Tantric, 3
(H)Byrne – LE Sh’dai, Cavalier-Champion, 3, Minor Psychic
Bjarte – NG Human, Archer-Ranger, 1
Khemais – LG Human, Healer (Duelist), 1 (1)

NPC’s
Ash – LE N’Dai, Duelist/Diabolist/Bloodmoon Adept, 5/5/5, Psychic
Lynn – LE N’Dai, Cavalier/Diabolist/Templar, 5/5/5, Psychic
Kyril – TN Human, Mage (Witch), 4 (1), Psychic

Yes, this is where Kyril ended up just to make things interesting. I’m sure he’ll make his way back up to the Barrow-Downs campaign at some point, but at the moment he’ll provide some much-needed magical support as an actual mage for the group and give him some seasoning I suppose (if he doesn’t die). This group has been hired by the Guild of Art in Albion to try and get to Vaile, one of the bigger cities that is deeper inside the Blight to see if they can figure out what happened or if there are any survivors there that aren’t utterly crazed. This game also lets me get a nit more used to running higher level encounters again before the Barrow-Downs party gets to those levels.

TTFN,

D.

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