Thursday, March 26, 2015
The settlement of Bildsa lies to the east of Skalafell and is the nearest settlement of Daggermen. It's leader is a woman named Hedris. Hedris has a difficult time maintaining order in her village and has sometimes come to Skalafell for help. This amuses Grettir.
Bildsa has no priestesses of Saewelo but some of its members are descended from Nerthuz, and thus they live off of game and what can be gathered from the forest. They occasionally send bands to trade or, less commonly, raid Skalafell.
The Spear People
The Spear People claim to be descended from Wodanaz, but the name of their human ancestor was not worth carving on Skalafell's Great Stone. Perhaps they know it.
They live closer to the Walchos and often trade with them, raid them, and sometimes even serve in their legions. This has made them love luxury and also fattened them like a pig for slaughter. They make for good raiding.
Their nearest settlement is called Hjall and is dominated by an old Walchos villa which the Big Man there uses as his hall. His name is Athelgar. Their are rumors he may try to host a thing sometime in the future, and it is unknown if any of the Daggermen will attend if he does.
The Red Men
The Red Men come from the north. They paint themselves in clay and mud, which one must assume they find after their priestesses melt the snow with Saewelo's light. Their warriors often raid the lands of both the Daggermen and the Spear People. The magic they cast on these raids is Lightning and Thunder and their warriors favor hammers and clubs.
The loot from these raids is sometimes taken to Skalafell and other villages to be traded. The Red Men are sometimes difficult to understand, as their speech is slurred but their voices are quick. They are known cheats.
When the Sun and the Moon still shone, the old people of Skalafell told stories of the Walchos and their great armies and their strange ways. They had not been seen in the lands of the Daggermen for many years when the Wolves ate the Sun and the Moon and it was a strange day when they returned. The Spear People say their kings came on white steeds but their soldiers were dead men caked in grave dirt and reeking of Helheim. One of the living, a strange man in a pointed cap, hurled a great spear across the Rinaz and then the dead men set about rebuilding their old forts.
The Daggermen have not seen these dead men. Raids across the Rinaz show most Walchos are just men, though they are exceptionally rich and do not descend from the gods. Their strange priests, who occasionally travel to the villages and halls of the Spear People and the Daggermen, claim their god died but rose again. Some among Bildsa and Hjall have said they've seen these priests raise corpses out of the ground like draugos. None in Skalafell have seen this.
Their speech is strange, but since they hire the Spear People as mercenaries many know the speech of men.
Wednesday, March 25, 2015
Most starting characters in Fimbulwinter are assumed to come from the settlement called Skalafell, which lies in the southern part of Scandza near the border with the Walchos. The inhabitants of Skalafell come almost entirely from the tribe of the Daggermen, descendants from Wodanaz's mortal son Gautaz.
Skalafell happens to lie near the crater-lake that marks where Wodanaz fell from the Bifrost when it collapsed. As such, the people of Skalafell believe it is their duty to safeguard his body until the day when the gods reawaken and the Sun and the Moon again show in the sky. However, Wodanaz is not the only god revered in Skalafell. Most notably, the village would not be able to survive without the priestesses of Saewelo whose magics can fool the crops into thinking there is still a Sun and who can also tell time. These priestesses have made Skalafell a pilgrimage site for other Daggermen. there is also a small enclave of warriors dedicated to Tiwaz,
A number of the settlement's most important inhabitants are described below.
Grettir is the Big Man of the village. When the Sun and Moon still shone, he might have been an earl or even a king, but in this age of winter his authority is greatly diminished. Still, he commands the loyalty of a number of fierce warriors, and his words are respected throughout Skalafell.
One should not take this to mean that Grettir is a clever man. He is a fierce warrior and charismatic in his own way, but his methods are blunt. He is well known to rely on his killers to solve most of the settlement's problems.
Grettir is known for swinging his strange, black sword in battle. Called Deathsinger, the warriors of the village claim he took it from a dead Walchaz during a raid in the south.
Groa is Grettir's wife and the chief priestess of Saewelo in the settlement. While her husband's descent from Wodanaz and fierce killers might keep order in the community, it is the magic of her and her sisters that keeps everyone alive. Without her the crops do not grow.
There is a sadness about Groa. Whether this is because of her domineering husband or the weight of her responsibilities in the community is difficult to say. She is seldom seen outside her chambers in the main hall except during the rites needed to keep the village going.
Grettir and Groa's daughter Geirfrithur would be the most marriageable woman in the settlement if she wasn't so stubborn. Many have tried to take her hand in an attempt to set themselves up as the next Big Man, but she has yet to accept any suitor. Recently she has been most fervently pursued by Haukur, whose nose she broke with the butt of a stave.
Her magical affinities are closer to those of her mother, but Alfifa thinks she may be even more powerful. Her dark hair gives her a mysterious beauty, but has led some to question whether Grettir is truly her father.
Alfifa is Grettir's rune caster and bone witch. A descendant of Wodanaz, she knows the strange form of sorcery that is now lost among the people of Scandza since the Sun and Moon were devoured. She is the only woman allowed in the hall during certain councils. During these, she often cuts flesh from Grettir's back and "reads" the blood as it flows in rivulets to the floor. Grettir's warriors find this very disturbing. At other times she spends hours, even days, in a cave outside the village the fumes from which are said to give her dreams.
It is rumored that she is seeking someone to learn her art lest it die from the world. Many believe she has her eye on Geirfrithur, but why she has not acted yet is unknown.
Kolskeggar the Black
Grettir is able to maintain his tenuous control of the village because he has the loyalty of men like Kolskeggar. A great bear of a man, Kolskeggar is a fierce warrior and descendant of Tiwaz. Grettir has called on him many times to act as his champion in single combat or to lead raids against the Spear People to the west. Though still formidable, it is difficult not to see that Kolskeggar is growing old as his head loses the last of its hair and his black beard turns to grey.
Kolskeggar's ax has a head so large that other men would have to wield it two handed. Its name, Calfsplitter, makes the men of the village wince and clutch their legs when uttered.
Birna was once a great shield maiden, but those days are behind her. She is no fan of Grettir and some of the men think she fancies his position. She spends most of her days teaching the youths of the village to hunt.
Haukur is a young man of the line of Gautaz and the most likely candidate to replace Grettir when he dies. It is for this end that he pursues Geirfithur; however, his passion for her seems to have dulled since she broke his nose.
It is an ill kept secret that Grettir hates Haukur and Haukur isn't fond of him either. The warriors at Haukur's side, though smaller in number, often mete out their own justice, much to the chagrin of Grettir.
Svartur is a Dweargaz from the north who was captured by Grettir's grandfather when the Sun and Moon still shone. He serves the village as a smith, and though few know where he finds his metal - he never seems to leave the village to trade or mine for it - he has crafted many wondrously beautiful items for Grettir and his warriors.
Thursday, March 19, 2015
I've been going through kind of a rough patch recently, and this was the first gaming idea I had in a while that got my creative juices flowing, so with the encouragement of Jeremy Duncan I decided to write some stuff about it.
- The gods died at Ragnarok. The Sun and the Moon were both eaten by wolves and now everything is eternal winter and twilight.
- The gods are dead, but their blood still flows. There are those among men who are descended from the gods and they have magic that is otherwise unavailable to men.
- I want to use OpenQuest or some other RuneQuest/BRP variety to handle the above, and because vaguely-Germanic migration periods settings are tied to RQ in my brain.
- The way many human communities survive in the snow and the grey is through the use of certain magics. Those halls who have someone descended from various agricultural, hunting, or sea gods are able to ensure their communities have enough surplus to continue to live and sometimes even trade.
- Communities that aren't able to ensure this surplus degenerate into barbarism. They raid their neighbors and engage in cannibalism and other things best not mentioned in a blog post.
- The old enemies - giants, dragons, trolls, draugr, etc. - still live too; however, these are only the most degenerate and cowardly examples of their races. The rest died at Ragnarok. Still, even these are more powerful than men.
- The various groups of pseudo-Germanic type people will have names like the Sword People or the Dagger Men or be named after a particular god they descend from.
- The map will probably be based off of Doggerland.
- To the south there are the remnants of a Roman-like empire that once had its own gods. They too died at Ragnarok. Many of these areas are ruled now by pseudo-germans, but the empire is coming back in a new form thanks to the White God.
- The White God is the only god that still "lives" after Ragnarok. It is kinda-sorta based on Christianity, but the eternal life it offers is the life of undeath. The White God is a god of snow and death and despair. Even so, many in the Empire and even in the pseudo-German areas have begun to worship him.
- I'm thinking the Empire will have an army called the Pale Legion which is made up entirely of dead soldiers whom the White God has resurrected.
- PCs will generally be warriors and important-ish members of a community. Since in OQ all PCs have magic they will be descended (distantly) from the gods.
- I've said pseudo-Germanic through this whole post because, despite the idea obviously coming from Viking stuff, I've always been more of a fan of earlier Migration Period material culture, like Anglo-Saxon, Gothic, and Frankish stuff.
- Quickie appendix N: Beowulf, Northlanders, Valhalla Rising, Before France and Germany, The Getica, Njal's Saga, Gesta Danorum, Ecclesiastical History of the English People
Wednesday, November 12, 2014
The only true Way to Power is to submit oneself to the will of a Dark Master. While this means the loss of one's Will, many see it as superior to scrounging in the dirt for arcane secrets and being limited by the Laws of Reality.
To make a pact with with a Dark Master, one must first summon it into the World. The rituals for this are usually and unfortunately very simple, but they only have a percentage chance of succeeding equal to the supplicant's Charisma + Level. After it has first been summoned, the caster may call the Dark Master again at double this percentage chance.
Summoning is a dangerous process. The supplicant must roll a d20 under their Wisdom score in order to have accurately prepared the protective wards necessary to survive contact with a Lord of the Pit. If they fail to do so they are either dragged to the Pit or hideously transformed, depending on the nature of the Master. For example, Armadeus takes men in a puff of greasy, sulfurous smoke while the Horned One turns them into mindless deer-men.
When making a pact, the supplicant must submit to the Service required by the Master. This is not to be done lightly, but once a Lord of The Pit is summoned they rarely leave without their pound of flesh.
In addition to making pacts, summoned demons may also teach spells. This requires a sacrifice the total HD of which must be equal to three times the level of the spell or a sinister task created by the referee with the campaign in mind.
Entering into a pact changes the character's alignment to Chaotic automatically, if it was not so already. Being taught a spell changes the character's alignment to the next alignment towards Chaotic, so Lawful characters become Good, Good characters become Neutral, etc.
Anti-clerics may not enter pacts as the Dark Masters are already the source of their Power.
Here are the mechanics for the three most common pacts witches and sorcerers are likely to enter into in the Dark Country.
Armadeus is the master of secrets, shadow, and in some texts the Undead.
The supplicant must write his Secret Name in Armadeus's Black Book in order to receive the Power. Once he has done so, he will automatically fail his saving throw against any effects caused by the demons in Armadeus's twenty and seven legions.
Level 1 (Prestidigitator)
The supplicant receives a familiar in the form of a black cat with piercing green eyes. Once per day, the familiar will reveal the location of a hidden thing to the supplicant.
The familiar spirit may also be dismissed to search for the Secret Name of any creature. This process takes one full day for Chaotic creatures, one week for Evil ones, one month for Neutral creatures, and one year for Good creatures. There is only a 50% chance of success with Neutral creatures and a 25% chance for Good creatures. The familiar will never learn the name of a Lawful creatures.
If the supplicant learns the Secret Name of a creature in this fashion, any saving throws made by the creature against effects caused by the supplicant are at a -4 penalty.
Level 6 (Magician)
The supplicant may retreat into his shadow once per day, becoming two dimensional and immune to non-magical weapons during this time. While in this form he cannot attack or manipulate three dimensional objects, but he only has a 2 in 6 chance of being noticed by those who did not see him transform. To exit this state, the supplicant must make a saving throw. On a success, they emerge from their shadow. If they fail, they must remain in their shadow for a full day. After three failures, the supplicant is stuck forever as a shadow and becomes an NPC with the statistics of the shadow described in the S&W Monsters booklet.
Level 11 (Wizard)
The supplicant may use their knowledge of a person's - but not a creature's - Secret Name to enthrall them. To do this, they must make eye contact with the person and the person must make a saving throw at the -4 penalty conferred by knowing their Secret Name. If they fail they are in the thrall of the supplicant until Dispel Chaos is cast on them. If the supplicant should die and the person is still enthralled, the victim will seek to resurrect the supplicant in any way possible.
The supplicant may have up to two thralls +/- their Charisma modifier.
Crapoad is the Father of Toads and Font of Blasphemies.
The supplicant must accept a toad into his throat. This toad will exist parasitically off the supplicant, and thus the supplicant will require twice the amount of food and water normally needed by humans. If this diet is not met, the supplicant shall not gain any benefit from natural healing.
In addition to this increased need for food, any time a spell is cast by a Cleric in the sight of the supplicant, the toad will belch a hideous blasphemy that has a percentage chance of negating the spell equal to the supplicants Charisma score.
Level 1 (Prestidigitator)
The supplicant gains a toad as a familiar. This is not the same toad that lives in his throat. Once per day this toad will reveal the location of any text the supplicant can describe, including a spell scroll.
Level 6 (Magician)
Once per day the supplicant may see through the eyes of any toads within the five mile hex they currently are in. In doing so they automatically find any locations, persons, or creatures that are outside, assuming the weather is amenable to toads. While searching in this way, the supplicant's body is in a catatonic state. A saving throw is required to exit this state. After three failed saving throws the supplicant's mind is switched with that of a toad and he is sent to wander among the bog as his body hunts for worms and flies to eat.
Level 11 (Wizard)
The supplicant may "silence" a cleric by causing any utterance - including attempts to cast spells - to come out as some hideous blasphemy or heresy. This requires eye contact and the sign of the evil eye to be made at the cleric, at which point the victim gets a saving throw. The effect lasts until a successful save dispels it, with a new save allowed every sunrise or until Remove Curse or a similar spell can be cast.
The Horned One
The Horned One is the Master of Beasts and of the Lusts of Men and Women.
The supplicant must submit to the Horned One's hideous advances, After the initial pact is made, all of the supplicants hit die are rerolled until a lower number is achieved. This becomes the new HP total for the supplicant until they gain a level. There is also a 30% chance the supplicant, regardless of gender, becomes impregnated with 1d3 devil-men as describe in the post on the Horned One.
The supplicant must renew the pact every year at a Black Sabbath held on Candlemass Eve. When this occurs the HD are again rerolled, though only once and the lower of the two HP totals is taken, meaning their may be no change. There is also, again, a 30% chance of becoming host to 1d3 devil-men.
Level 1 (Prestidigitator)
The supplicant gains a black goat as a familiar. This goat, at any time, may lead the supplicant to the nearest community of beast-men, devil-men, witches, or werewolves. This is easy as these often cohabitate. These beings will also know the supplicant as a friend.
The familiar also speaks the secret language of beasts, and once per day will translate for the supplicant. He will under no circumstances teach this language.
Level 6 (Magician)
Once per day, the supplicant may summon 2d6 hit die worth of beasts or beast-men - the type of which is determined by the refree and the number of which is determined by the hit die. These creatures attack anyone in the immediate area of the caster. The supplicant, and anyone aligned with him, must make a saving throw or be assaulted themselves. Good and Lawful characters always fail these saving throws. Once their quarry has been slain, they will return from whence they came.
Level 11 (Wizard)
The supplicant may, once per day, turn 2d6 hit die worth of persons into beasts or beast-men, caster's discretion. There is no limit to the HD affected, but a saving throw is allowed.
In addition to the other traits gained through pacts, each Dark Master makes its Mark on the supplicant. This becomes more pronounced as the supplicant levels. The individual marks are omitted from this post in order to prevent the Nightwick playgroup from metagaming.
Monday, November 10, 2014
A long while ago I ran a modern Call of Cthulhu game on G+ set in a fictional town in Louisiana modeled after my hometown of Hattiesburg Mississippi. There is a fairly likely chance that I'll be running a mini-campaign for my home group in the Classic/1920s era of Cthulhu. As a thought experiment this morning, I decided to sketch out what I think Lerouxville and its surroundings would be like in the '20s.
Lerouxville - An Arkham-sized town that, while extant as long ago as 1810, grew in prominence due to a mass migration of carpet baggers after the Civil War. It was for many decades a combination logging town and rail hub, but as logging has moved to the Pacific Northwest the magnates of the town have come to focus more on other forms of commerce. The town is surprisingly Klan free, in part due to the Klan's opposition to bootlegging, which has recently lined the pockets of many residents.
Borden College - This college was founded about 30 years ago as a teaching college, but in the intervening years it has added a number of eclectic departments. It is known throughout the region as a haven for radicals and wackos, many of whom were rejected from the more conservative institutions nearby.
Perilloup - This small community is a mix of Cajuns, African Americans, and mixed raced individuals and the subject of many rumors. It is older than Lerouxville and by historical accident is home to the Skipwith Parish* courthouse. It is home to an illicit gambling house and brothel, originally intended to service the loggers in Lerouxville. These establishments have seen better days. Many of the residents here make alcohol, which is smuggled to other parts of the country via Lerouxville.
Pinewood - A small farming community of old Southerners with only a handful of last names. Locals are poor, insular, and bitter. About halfway between Lerouxville and Pinewood is the Pinewood Asylum, which was built with a grant from the Collins family of Lerouxville.
Bayeux St Foy - About 30 miles south of Lerouxville, many of the Lerouxville magnates have second homes here to enjoy the lush scenery. Many of these homes include surrounding communities of share croppers. The town is rounded out with old cajun families who are resentful of the "New People."
*About 1/3 of Lerouxville lies in Skipwith Parish
Home Group Players Do not Read Beyond this Point
The supernatural elements can be roughly broken down as follows:
- The weird shit at the college - strange science experiments, weird ancient books, etc.
- The various turpitudes of the town magnates - usually pacts with Shub-Niggurath or Nyrlathotep for their own prosperity. Some will have oddly old world or New England character.
- Hoodoo - usually presented as weird practices but some of which will have obvious mythos roots. Practiced by African Americans, Cajuns, and old Southern families.
- D'Iberville Forest - strange standing stones in a region with mostly clay and sandy soils, "swam monsters," half-monster squatters
- Yig - might use Yig to tie it all together because of its association with African, New World, and really really old Old World stuff. Also there's just a lot of snakes
Wednesday, October 15, 2014
The Slumbering Ursine Dunes is only going to be available for a few more hours.
Honestly I could go on and on about how great the material Chris has made for his long-running campaign is and how it has been one of the greatest D&D experiences of my life to play in it, but since time is short and I need you to read this quickly, I'd rather focus on something more of immediate interest to me: two more dungeons.
If the kickstarter can just make a few more dollars, Chris will be producing two dungeons which have bedeviled and bamboozled us in the party for some time. They are the sinister Frog Demon Temple, whose deadliness has become a running joke in the campaign, and Bad Rajetz, whose mutable nature we have yet to solve after years of playtime. Plus Jason Sholtis of Dungeon Dozen and They Stalk The Underworld fame will be doing the art for them!
I want to see them. I bet you want to see them, and if you pledge you can also get another of other great locales in addition to the Dunes. Go ahead, you know you want to.
Monday, August 18, 2014
The City State of the World Emperor is surrounded by a great, green-stone wall and dominated by the equally green palace of His Piscine Majesty and temple of Mer Shunna. These, and other temples to the chief gods of the city, form a large square in the south of the city. From this square run great avenues that divide the city into its various districts and quarters. Between these avenues run various side streets and allies that give Viridistan the appearance of a tremendous spiderweb.
Below are description of the city's main quarters. Note that individual streets within these quarters will often contradict the general description provided here, and it is not uncommon to find extreme poverty in some of the older areas of the Noble Quarter or opulence in the Seafront.
The Temple Squares
As mentioned above, the southern portion of the city is dominated by a series of connected squares and plazas, themselves dominated by temples to various deities. Hypothetically, these squares should be the most open areas of the city, but they are so often thronging with the ecstatic members of various faiths, as well as those visiting the farmers markets, that is usually quite difficult to move from one side of the plazas to the other. The other major feature of these plazas is that they lie ever in the shadow of the fortress-palace of the World Emperor, a green-stone building of a size that rivals the Mer Shunna temple.
Example Place to Rob: Temple Tempter - this temple to Nephtys, goddess of wealth, acts as both temple and bank, though rumor has it that its vaults are currently filled with giant spiders, the result of a strange heresy best discussed elsewhere.
The Noble Quarter
To the East of the Mer Shunna temple lies the Noble Quarter, which is comprised of a series of small palaces, townhouses, gardens, and the various service industries the decadent nobility of such a city require. The design of these structures, with their courtyards, adjoining servants quarters, and in some cases private menageries, mean that this quarter takes up a disproportionate amount of the city's acreage. However, even with these lavish structures, there are still many pockets of poverty - old palaces converted into tenements, neighborhoods designed only for slaves, etc.
Example Place to Rob: The Apothecary - the nameless apothecary shop where the Noble Quarter meets the main Temple Square is known to but a few in the city. It's proprietor is a mysterious hooded man, though it is well known - well, well known to those who know of him in the first place - that he rarely spends any time within the shop. The classification of it as an "apothecary" is, perhaps, inaccurate and certainly belies the many magical wonders to be found within.
The Military District
North of the Noble Quarter is the Military District, a mix of barracks, military-service industries, and tenements for out of luck ex-soldiers. The tenements are sometimes purchased by up and coming mercenary companies and turned into makeshift fortresses. Brawls are almost as common here as fires, due to the animosity between the Viridian, Ghinorian, and Tharabian troops.
Example Place to Rob: The Green Warlords Armory - The Green Warlords rival the Imperial Guard in terms of prestige within the city. They are, in essence, a Viridian-only mercenary company in the permanent employ of the God-Priest of Armadod-Bog, who just so happens to be the World Emperor. Their armory is filled with alchemical weapons of various designs, as well as weapon-relics said to be from the Uttermost War and the days of the First Men. It is also well known to be heavily guarded, and not just by men.
The Guildsmen Quarter
The Guildsmen Quarter is a thin strip that of what passes for a middle-class neighborhood in the Wilderlands. As one would suspect, it houses the members of various guilds, both mundane and arcane, as well as their supporting businesses. Each street and alley that pierces the quarter is named for a particular guild, though oddly the vagaries of time mean that the guild present and the street name often become disassociated.
Example Place to Rob: The Ravishing Bazaar - While some may think of this place as a glorified toy store, this house of curiosities and amusements contains wonders which, while not particularly practical, are often valuable to the right kinds of perverts.
The Merchants and Thieves Quarters
These quarters, while technically separate, are so intertwined that it is impossible for those not native to the city to distinguish them. The Merchants Quarter is closer to the Temple Squares, but the characteristics of both - poor houses, raucous bazaars, hawkers of fine crap, and, of course, thieves - are common throughout. Like the Guildsmen quarter, most houses and businesses are multistory mudbrick affairs, though the slightly higher percentage of wooden structures makes fire a constant problem, as it is in the Military District.
Example Place to Rob: The Slop and Hop - it is a well known secret that this local tavern serves as the headquarters of the "thieves' guild," though whether or not such a thing exists as a unified front is debatable. Regardless, the thieves who operate out of the Slop and Hop supposedly store their goods beneath the tavern while looking for a good fence, so it may be a good place to rob the robbers.
The Elephan Quarter and Seafront District
These quarters are easier to differentiate than the Merchants and Thieves Quarters, but are similar enough that they may be discussed together. The Elephan quarter lies south of the Merchants Quarter, just below a fairly steep escarpment. It is a ghetto for the city's Elephan population, and thus is perhaps the worst maintained area in the city - more for the neglect of the city officials than any villainy on the part of the Elephans. It merges with the Seafront District where an artificial channel has been created to serve as a docking place for ships. The Seafront District is almost equally impoverished, but more often houses foreigners of various sorts.
Example Place to Rob: Spice Warehouse - Viridistan is known as the City of Spices, and the Mer Shunna temple holds a virtual monopoly on the procurement and sale of these valuable items. An enormous warehouse, constructed where once several Elephan families lived in terrible conditions, dominates the northern end of the docks and houses much of Mer Shunna's wealth.