Mar 17, 2011

Awaiting Renewal

Valley of the Old Ones is on hold, for an indefinite amount of time. I am currently EXTREMELY committed to finishing my PhD in the next 2-3 months, so I will not be spending any time on the blog or on most other gaming activities.

See you on the other side.

Jan 22, 2011

Regions of the Valley (2) - Enchanted Forests

This is the second northern region, covering the area from the Durwash River to the Lost Mare. It stretches north to the Destriel Mountains, and on the south it is bounded by the Great River. The King's Highway traverses the region from west to east, and provides a strong barrier to north/south travel.

Within the region is the entrance to the legendary Groben Caves. The icy upper levels of the Groben are home to any number of terrifying hairy beasts, as well as small groups of human primitives named the Oordut people. Shaman-Chiefs of the Oordut are known to ride the giant cave bears that haunt the region, and the savage women of the tribes often hunt the elusive cave wumpus. These mysterious caverns are vast, and stretch for miles and miles. They have deep levels that go down to the warring domains of the Gray Dwarven Kingdom of Deep Delving and the vast Black Goblin Empire.

The region takes its name from the three large forests in the area, the Black Fern Forest, the Woodrose Forest, and the Garrant Woods. Both the Black Fern and the Woodrose are home to many elves and other faery, and are also the site of several portals to the Seely Realms. The Garrant Woods are home to Highbark Much, a grove containing an ancient Druidic stone circle, now the meeting grounds for a band of Green Druids. Constructed near the site is also a shrine to Corrise. There are several small towns of woodland Gnomes. All of these things combined would be enough to scare off the average human peasant or villager who might think of penetrating these enchanted woods for wood gathering or charcoal burning, however the inhabitant that really keeps them away is the elder Green Dragon named Itre Khuulor (so called by the Wood Elves; none know the Dragon's true name).

In addition to the Caves and the Forests, the other major feature of the region is the Barony of Ockham. Currently the barony is occupied by Annalandra Sternhite. The Sternhites have ruled Ockham for the past 8 generations, having taken over the post by right of conquest (Baron Routhar preceded Mandar Sternhite, but Mandar killed the crazed wizard-baron when he attempted to kill all of the women in the barony). Annalandra is the second consecutive woman to be Baroness of Ockham, her mother Annalark preceded her.

Ockham is known for some rather spectacular sites. First, of course, is the home of illusionist magic, the "School for Mastery of the Illusionary Arts", a shape changing castle that floats in mid air above the Eyning Pool. Second is the "Bardic School of the Arts" in mysterious Larkstone Castle.

Jan 19, 2011

Regions of the Valley (1) - Shattered Plains

While in a human-centric fashion, it is convenient to speak of the Valley in Political terms by referencing the Westron Baronies, there are other considerations.

When talking about the geography of the valley, or the non-human Flora and Fauna, it is perhaps better to speak of the Northern and Southern regions of the valley.

In brief, these are defined by the Nine rivers, in terms of separation one from another, and the big divide between North and South is of course the Great River.  What follows is a brief naming and description of the regions, Northern first, from west to east.

Shattered Plains

The most western of regions north of the Great River is mostly plains. It is bounded on the north by the western reaches of the Destriel Mountains. The eastern edge of the shattered plains run up against the Durwash River. The southern boundary is the Great River, and to the west is the defacto edge of the Valley of the Old Ones. The western edge of the valley is patrolled by great hosts of the Omart Empire.

As the empire is certainly not interested in entering the Valley (or involving itself with the Westron culture that has taken root here), and the large military patrols seem charged with keeping all FROM the valley contained IN the valley - there have been few large expeditions west.

Geographically, the shattered plains are quite interesting. They were once overrun by large icefields and glaciers from north of the Destriel mountains, and when the ice receded, the region was strewn with many bolders and singular rocky formations jutting up out of the plains.

The only Westron Barony to call the shattered plains home is the Granite Hold at Hogle, capitol of the Barony of Hogle. Although Hogle is the oldest of the baronies (first settled in the year 26, some 1500 years ago), it is also one of the smallest. It boasts a size of only 18,000 in the capitol city. The city is home to the Knights of Torisch, and their curious allies the Aublan Cat Riders. The Cat Riders, of course, ride the great plains cats that live in the region. Like much of the rest of the northern regions, the animals here have adapted to the sweeping cold that comes down out of the Destriel, and includes giant elk, great wooly mammoths and rhinos, and the great wooly buffalo. Only here, however, are the great plains cats found.

The Aublan valley is home to the Cat Rider peoples (who are semi-nomadic, moving north to Aublan for the summer and the breeding season, but moving south to near the Great River for winter). Aublan riders, who are quite proficient with the small horned bows that they shoot from atop their giant riding cats, are allied with the Barony of Hogle (or more accurately, with the Grand Master of the Knights of Torisch).  The Aublan riders are divided into two "nations" or collectives of clans,the Northern Hunt, and the Southern Pack.

Together they protect the region from maruding orcs and hobgoblins out of the mountains; from rampaging raids of Storm King Tribe barbarians; from the overzealous encroachments of Omart Empire patrols, and finally from the occasional uprisings of the primitive Keepi-keepi people who live among the great stones of the plains.

Jan 16, 2011

Session Report - 2 MarsCon sessions

Okay, so I ran my first games in the Valley of the Old Ones setting this past weekend at MarsCon, in Williamsburg.

The first session was on Friday night and consisted of these players:
  • John D - Played "Pilchard the Player", Human Bard
  • Marcy D - Played "Nika", 1/2 Half Elf Priestess (Lightbringer of the Order of St. Kelvin)
  • Carol D - Played "Clematis", Halfling Thief (and her corgi, Lollipup)
  • Robert M - Played "Creatus the Invoker", Human Magic User (Invocation Specialist, and Brimstone his toad)
  • Justin G - Played "Sigfried the Strong", Human Fighter
  • Tim G - Played "Sir Everard", Human Paladin (Order of the White Lady)
  • Elliott D - Played "Lotharius", Elven Fighter-Magic User (with Winston the Cat, his familiar)
  • Sara - Played "Mogge the Good Witch", Human Magic User (Alteration Specialist, with Rictus her Raven familiar)
  • Todd - Played "Bean", Human Thief
While the game was mostly a Dungeon Crawl (through the extended cellar layers of Finch Abbey), it started out with an encounter with two Carrion Crawlers bursting through the forest floor and attacking Lotharius, as he was investigating the dead clergy of Finch Abbey.  The opening scenes were of the (large) party of player characters trying to form some sort of group dynamic to fight off the two Carrion Crawlers.  Mayhem ensued.

During the Dungeon Crawl part of the adventure, poor Bean came close to dying a few times.  Although he was more than willing to lock some of his companion adventurers into a room with a dozen Hairy Spiders, just to save his sorry butt!  (it made me laugh - a couple of these are not experienced adventurers, and some of their antics showed it).

From the comments I got back, everyone seemed to have a great time.  Most of them were back for more play on Saturday night at the convention (we played both nights).

On the second night, neither Tim (Sir Everard) or Todd (Bean) returned to play.  And Sara (Mogge) left at about 9:00pm to attend other parts of the convention.  But I believe we had much more fun on the second night.

Winston was a hoot.  Creatus got in some seriously clever spell work.  Pilchard finally got to whip out his lute in combat.  Nika became a cleric of sustenance with crazy healing skills.  Lotharius on a suicide ride across the bridge of peril.  Sigfried became a dangerous man - threatening not only the enemy, but also breaking a handful of weapons in combat.  Clem really got to be a clever little thief, ahem ADVENTURER, as she became the master of traps and locks.  There were numerous near deaths.  Several Hedgehog People sisters of the Order of St. Brigid were NEARLY rescued.  Dark Elf archers, Ogre ambushes, pit traps full of skeletons, Winston getting stuck in the middle of a Web spell, and a secret closet with a Hooked Horror in it.  And a turkey leg for Lollipup.

It was glorious, and everyone had a great time.  Especially the Hooked Horror and Winston.

Jan 12, 2011

The Order of Saint Kelvin

 St. Kelvin was a priest of Magenta who, in the late 6th century, made the proclamation that knowledge and strength can come from the magic in the sun, as well as the magic that Magenta's daughters had in the three moons.

At the time this was very unpopular, because of the early attempts at city building south of the Great River, and the clashes that the migrating population had there when dealing with the Sun King tribes.  However, St. Kelvin (who at the time, was only Padre Kelvin of Kennidor) perfected a limited system of prophetic seeing based on the magic of the sun, and also researched a great deal of magic having to do with light.  Soon, this began to win over the opinion of peoples, who also understood the diabolical nature of Photoss and the relationship he had with the Sun King Tribes.

Before his death in 603, Padre Kelvin oversaw the building of the first Temple of Light, southwest of the Barony of Ungems, along the edge of the Nell Nod Forest.  This was a marvelous structure, and Kelvin and his followers were aided by the Wood Elves of the Nell Nod, who helped them with the earliest construction of crystalline architecture.  The Temple still stands, and an academic/religious town has grown up around it, as the center of what would later become the Order of St. Kelvin.  It is a lovely temple, built of white marble, but with the upper walls and portions of the domed ceiling made of crystals, so that the light shines in and splits into a hundred different dancing colors.

Priests in the order are split into two groups - the Light Holders (who stay at the many temples built in the wilderness by the order, across the valley), and the Light Bringers.  The Light Holder Temples are known as great spots of healing, peace, and prophecy.  The Light Bringer Stations are located throughout the valley on roads where there are no taverns or other resting areas.  They are left as open shelters, but often will have one or more traveling members of the clergy or lay members of the order.

The Order wears light blue colored tunics (over either skirts or pants, usually of white or tan, but not proscribed by the order), with a golden sun on the chest, and seven rays coming out in all directions.  Light Bringers wear a crystal on a necklace around their neck, and Light Holders wear a gold rimmed round glass around their neck.

Spells available to the order are from the spheres of All, Charm, Divination, Healing, Sun; they also have minor access to the spheres of Animal, Creation, Necromantic, Plant.

The order frequently welcomes Elves and Half Elves into its clergy.

The abilities taught to priests of the order include:
  • The ability to see as if with Infravision (out to 60').  Elves in the order have their Infravision improved to 120'.
  • The priests may Turn Undead.
  • Laying on hands, healing 2 points per level, per day.
  • Charm/Fascination - 1 time per day, works as the wizard spell Suggestion, but not usable in combat.
  • Prophecy - 1 time per day, requires a 10 minute trance of meditation/concentration, and then 1 question may be asked of the DM.
  • Light Holders may cast the "Light" spell 1x per day for free, in addition to other spells.
  • Light Bringers receive a +1 to hit with ranged weapons, if used outdoors during daylight.
Light Bringers may wear non-metal armor.  Light Holders wear no armor.  Neither branch uses shields.

Both types of priests may employ the Dagger, Dart and Spear.  In addition, Light Bringers may also employ the Javelin, Crossbows, Bows, Knife and Sling.

Jan 11, 2011

The Order of Brother Rudiger

Brother Rudiger was an early priest who venerated the goddess of agriculture, Corrise.  He was chiefly concerned, however, with the early communities of farmers that were beginning to spread out from the Baronial castles and their immediate protection, as Westroners spread throughout the northern part of the Valley in the 4th century after they migrated in from the West.  Eventually, in year 487, Rudiger died, and a group of his followers constructed a small chapel in a nondescript sheep hamlet (with no name) west of the Barony of Botts (but east of the Shadow Woods).

As farming communities grew, and villagers needed advice on building stronger stone buildings (to withstand years of the elements, and also attacks of the more dangerous denizens of the Valley) they would frequently consult members of the order, who would share the knowledge that Brother Rudiger developed in that regard (building and community design).  Soon the demand caused the small order to begin spreading, and building its hallmark small stone chapels across the land, in many small hamlets and thorpes.  A sub-order of itinerant monastics began as the Traveling Brothers, and then these spun a group of  nuns as the Traveling Sisters.  The small chapels are run by Community Vicars, and they will sometimes take up a vow of traveling over several years both to spread information about their own community, and to learn about other communities.  There is a somewhat military arm of the Order known as the Hearthguard which consists of fighters who have taken vows of service (always only for a few years) as well as the priests of the order the Guardians of the Hearth (most player character members of the order would be of this group).

One of the main things outstanding about the Order of Brother Rudiger is the fact that it sponsors an order of knighthood, consisting of both commanders of the Hearthguard and also Paladins known as the Knights of the Hearth.  These are covered elsewhere in the writeup on Paladins, but some words are worth covering here.  The Knights of the Hearth do not wear a specific livery of the order (with the exception of sometimes the symbol of a knotted golden rope on their shield or breast), but instead adopt simple two colored dress, and adorn their weapons, mount, and armor with favors.  These favors are collected at villages they visit in their pursuit of justice and chivalry.

Community Vicars, Traveling Brothers and Traveling Sisters (as well as Guardians of the Hearth) will appear in public only when dressed in their priestly raiment.  That consists of simple brown robes (sometimes hooded, or not, according to the clime) tied with a golden knotted rope.  Guardians of the Hearth may wear any armor, but it must be worn either under their robes, or with their robes still evident underneath the armor (so no full plate mail).  If they employ shields while questing or defending a village, it should be a plain design, of a single color, with a golden knot as the only charge.

Spells available to priests of the order can come from the spheres of All, Creation and Healing.  There is also minor access to the spheres of Combat and Protection.

Guardians of the Hearth are also taught techniques to incite fighters into a berserker rage (A willing warrior may be incited at most 1 time per day. It takes 1 round for the priest to incite the warrior. Then the warrior has +2 to hit and damage, and cannot leave the field of battle while foes still face him. Once he leaves, he chooses whether or not to emerge from the rage).

All priests can share a Soothing Word three times per day.  This can function either to remove the effects of a Fear spell or effect, or it can calm the reaction of animals or monsters, of hit dice up to twice the level of the Priest.

All priests also have the ability to turn undead creatures.

Priests of the order must have the NWP "Local History" of the community where they serve.

All sorts of armor and shields are available to Guardians of the Hearth.  Weapons include dagers, dirks, flails, and the morningstar. The last two are preferred.

Jan 6, 2011

Modern Languages

Many characters in a game will have access to multiple languages, and I think it is only fair to enumerate them for the setting.

Far and away, the most common language for Humans (and those dwelling with them) in the Valley is Westron.  This language is a modern variant of the original language spoken by the Human settlers who came into the Valley from the west.  The language has changed over the past 1500 years quite a bit, and when written word and documents are encountered written in the original form, it is referred to as Old Westron (generally not understandable by speakers of the modern language - like old english, there may be a few word similarities, but no fluency could be expected).  There is a written form that is very similar to our roman letters, called Westschrift.

Destrikking - This is the language of the Storm King tribes, although it is frequently called the "Northern Tongue".  The written form is in runes called the Ainark Runes.  Following a storyline of something written in Ainark would be difficult, but it is perfectly suited for recording spells and also associating great deeds with the names of heroes.

Holab - This is the language of the tribes of the Sun King, in its basic form.  There are two very different dialects, which we will call Eastern Holab, and Western Holab.  Details on the Sun King tribes will be coming soon, but for now just remember that those speaking Eastern Holab want to kill you and remove your organs for sacrifice.  Those peaking Western Holab want to kill you and eat strips of your flesh in order to capture your magic.  Clearly a travelogue, with lots of cheerful drawings and translation of common phrases would increase tourism in the area.  While both languages are mutually exclusive in spoken form, they share the same written language, which is very simple and not capable of conveying any nuance.  Sun King tribal wizards and shamans will usually employ some complex method of recording magical spells that involves complex knotted strings with hollowed out stones of different colors on the mesh the strings form.

Elves have a traveling language that they employ exclusively (when not speaking a Human tongue) while in the Valley, at least Wood Elves and High Elves.  They call it Eldarin and it differs from the language of Faery that they speak while in the Seelie Realms.  In an effort to mark their departure from Seelie culture entirely, the Gray Elves have their own tongue, which is completely different, it is called Elanarif.  Both of these have their own written form. It is considered highly heretical for an Elf to use the language of the Seelie Realm on this side of their portals.

The Dark Elves have their own language, as well, called Mortiggo it incorporates some languages of Goblyn (see below), and any words it has for surface geographical features (such as Tree, Mountain, Grass, etc) come from Eldarin.  The Dark Elves have a complex runic written form, called Mortine Runes.

The Dwarves have a language of their own, which they call Ardspeke.  It is written as Ardrunes.  Gnomes have a different spoken language, known as Kurakka Kurad, but it borrows the Dwarven runes for its written form.

The Goblyn races (Orcs, Goblins, Trolls, Ogres, Hobgoblins, etc) each have their own racial tongue, although there is a simple lingua franca used amongst them that is simply called Goblyn Speech, or sometimes referred to as the Black Tongue.  It exists in a very crude runic form, called Goblyn Runes.

Forest Folk usually will speak Westron, as will Halflings.

Giants will speak a confused mashup of Westron and Goblyn Speech, except for Frost Giants, which speak the Northern tongue exclusively.

Dragons do not speak modern languages.

The Saurian Races (Lizard Men, Kobolds, Yuan Ti, Turtle Folk, etc.) speak a language called Saurial (it is difficult for mammalian mouths to pronounce).  Their written language is mostly a simple script of horizontal and vertical scratches.  Much of their knowledge (as it is) is transmitted by unspoken low frequency sounds, and the same is true for spell casters of this race.  They will record spells by committing the instructional form of them to memory as a simple song played on a drum or flute, and accompanied by what sounds like a guttural humming or moaning.  This is repeated when a saurian spell caster needs to re-memorize a spell, or teach it to another.

Jan 4, 2011

Characters for a Convention Game

So, Marscon is coming up.  I am running a dungeon adventure, for pre-generated low level characters, 2nd Edition.

The players will have a list.  Those that are interested in playing can "pre-select" a character off the list (or in a few cases, actually request one).

What I have on the available list is this -

  1. Human Fighter (Male) - lvl 3; NG
  2. Human Fighter (Female) - lvl 3; CG
  3. Human Ranger (Male) - lvl 3; CG
  4. Human Paladin (Male) - lvl 3; LG
  5. Human Thief (Male) - lvl 3; NG
  6. Human Thief (Female) - lvl 3; N
  7. Human Druid (Male) - lvl 3; N
  8. Human Magic User (Male) - lvl 3; CG
  9. Human Magic User (Female) - lvl 3; NG
  10. Dwarven Fighter-Thief (Male) - lvl 2/2; CN
  11. Halfling Thief (Female) - lvl 3; CG
  12. Gnome Fighter-Illusionist (Male) - lvl 2/2; NG
  13. Elven Fighter-Magic User (Male) - lvl 2/2; CG
  14. Human Priest (Male) - lvl 3; NG
  15. 1/2 Elf Priest (Female) - lvl 3; CG
  16. 1/2 Orc Fighter (Male) - lvl 3; LN
I am going to restrict the sessions to 8 players each (although I would prefer 6 players).  The reason for 16 characters is so if I get a totally different group for the second session, and the new players want new characters . . .

The Dungeon I am going to run is not written with these players in mind, nor have they been designed with the Dungeon in mind.  It is (in a very small, localized sense) a sandbox type adventure.

The idea is this - in true old school fashion, there is going to be a lot of action (tactical action, meaning loads of combat) to keep all of the players engaged all the time.  The few areas that are thinking areas, will be quick puzzle type encounters.

More details to come, but that is it for now.  I plan to make the characters available here on the blog, as they are finished (or perhaps after the convention).

The Earthy Peoples

This is a brief overview of the last of the demi-humans who can serve as player characters (dwarves, gnomes and halflings) have not been covered yet, in terms of their place in the cosmology of the Valley of the Old Ones.

The Dwarves and Gnomes are among the oldest races to live in the Valley.  Their presence dates back to before the cataclysm that sundered the Seely Realms from the world.  It is unclear why they are separate from the rest of Faery, but it is so.  For a while, before the establishment of the Old Ones, the Dwarves and Gnomes were the only peoples living.  The Father deity of the Dwarves, known simply as The Krung, was responsible for building the framework of the world - it's mountains.  Out of the rocks of the mountains, the Dwarves were originally formed.  The shield bearer of The Krung, who is simply referred to as Mika, smoothed the land between the mountain spines and the flat plains by forming hills.  Out of these came the Gnomes.

As the Dwarves and the Gnomes began working the gifts given to them, they inadvertently awakened the elder elemental gods who brought forth the Old Ones.  As the myth recorders from Parn Tandalorn are apt to point out, eventually the Old Ones vanished, and gave way first to the Storm King tribes.  These became so numerous that they threatened the Earthy Peoples and also the Faery Peoples.  There was a war, with the Elves and Dwarves on one side, and the massed tribes of the Storm King on the other.  Something happened - none alive today know what it was, but the Dwarves never showed up at any of the battles.  In the end, the Elves capitulated, and agreed to stay to their own forests.  The Dwarves (and Gnomes) were not part of the treaty, but fled to the mountains and hills from which they were born.

The Halflings, on the other hand, are of an unknown origin.  There is no indication that they dwelt in the Valley in the time of the Old Ones.  There is also no indication that they dwelt in the lands to the West, from where the Westroners came before they migrated into the Valley.  Today, however, there are small settlements and communities of Halflings spread throughout the Baronies.  The Halflings are not known to have any deities of their own, but rather make themselves comfortable in the Westron Church.

Jan 3, 2011

Update map of the Valley

I'm still working on this, and I plan to do hex maps using Hexographer (in the classic Basic D&D style) of high interest areas.  But here is an updated map of the valley.

This is done using Autorealm version 2.1 with only free symbol libraries available from the various Autorealm sites.

Please let me know if this is a useful scale map.

The Faery and the Goblyn

Two broad groups of intelligent species dwell in the Valley that predate both the Older Ones, and of course, the younger races that dwell there now.  These are the Faery and the Goblyn.

The Faery include all of the normal magical races one would associate with that group - leprechauns, pixies, fairies, etc - but also the arboreal magical races - such as nymphs, dryads, nyads, centaurs, fauns, and elves.

The Faery do not have gods or goddesses, as such, but rather have a number of very powerful beings who rule over the Seely court.  These are King Oberon and Queen Titania, among others.  The Seely Court is removed from this world, and exists in the Seely Realms.  How or when this split from the World took place, none now alive know.  It is possible that Oberon or Titania know, but they do not speak of it.

The most human like of the Faery are of course the Elves.  They dwell almost entirely in their forest realms, which are areas around where portals from the Seely Realms intersect easily with the world of the Valley.  As expected, time and distance in the Seely realms are very different from time and distance as measured between portals in the world of the Valley.  Because of this situation - that the Elves congregate around the Faery portals - it is rare that Elves in any number are seen outside of their own Fey glens and hollows.

Humans who encounter Elves often mistake the leading figures of the Seely Court as elven "deities".  This is not exactly true, but it is common enough for humans to believe so.  There are Elves who venerate the members of the Court in such a way, that they behave as Priests while in the world of the Valley, receiving powers and spells from the realm of Faery due to their loyalty and fealty to the Court.

When the Seely Realms were separated from those of the World, at the same time the Unseely Realms were also formed.  These were populated by the Goblyn races, mostly.  Those consist of the goblins, hobgoblins, orcs, ogres, trolls and other affiliated races.  The magics of the Unseely Realms are not nearly as well formed nor as well behaved as the magics of the Seely.  Because of this, it is much less likely that travel back and forth against the Unseely portals takes place.  Unlike the Faery, the Goblyn portals are almost all underground, some are very deep underground.  A number of powerful dark magic beings rule over the Unseely Realms, and these are sometimes venerated by the Goblyn races as their own "deities".  This is much less likely than with the Fey folk.

Two interesting outliers from this situation are notable.  The first are the Dark Elves.  These are a group of elves that, for unknown reasons, have chosen to ally themselves with the Unseely Realms.  They dwell mostly underground, and are consummately evil.  They are the most powerful, magically, of the Unseely folk, rivaling some Faery folk for power.

The second exception are the very mysterious Gray Elves.  There are, roughly, three distinct groups of Faery Elves (apart from the Goblyn Dark Elves).  The first two - the High Elves (who dwell mostly in the Seely Realms, but visit the world of the Valley from time to time) and the Wood Elves (who are more likely to remain in the Valley for some time, but always remain in the forests near the portals where they can remain in contact with the Seely Court) never remain forever in our world.  They travel back to the Seely Realm (some more or less frequently than others, but none remain here forever), and look to the Court for their guidance and allegiance.

The Gray Elves, on the other hand, are of the Faery sort, but they have decided to come to our world and dwell her permanently.  They often take up residence in parts of the world far from the forests, usually because they cannot bear the sadness that results from their decision not to return to the Seely Realms.  They Gray Elves often speak in enigmatic riddles when discussing the world, and why they dwell apart from other Elves.  It is possible that they may know about the reason for the split of the Seely and the Unseely from the world of the Valley.

One curious feature of the separation of the Goblyn and Faery from the world, there are occasionally babies born to both Elves and Orcs (the races closest to humans) that resemble a human being close enough to be mistaken for one at a glance.  There are mischevious members of both the Seely and Unseely realms who will bring such babies to Human communities and exchange them for human babies.  In both cases (the elf or orc child raised by humans, or the human child raised by elves or orcs) the results are referred to as Half Elves or Half Orcs.  Once their true origin is known, neither are ever fully trusted by Humans.  It is not known how the human counterparts are treated in the Faery or Goblyn realms.

From Whence the Forest Folk

Regular Old School gamers will recognize the regular player character races in this setting.  There are, of course humans of various cultures, Dwarfs and Elves (both of a rather Tolkienesque flavor), Halflings (closer to Hobbits than to Munchkins or Dufflepuds), and Half Elves and Half Orcs.  More on the last two later...  However, there are other races, of a distinctive flavor, within the setting that might be appropriate as player character races, or some certainly as foes.

These are, of course, the Forest Folk.  A collection of several anthropomorphic races that dwell within the forests of the Valley of the Old Ones, usualy within the larger forests near the Great River.  These races are:

  • Hedgehog People - Peaceful folk, ranging in height from 4-5 feet tall.  They tend to build small peaceful communities, and are known for their masonry skills.
  • Mouslings - A tiny folk, most being about 2 feet tall.  They build great nest complexes underground.  On very good terms with certain fairy folk, as well as the more earthy sort of gnome.
  • Striped Ones - Resembling a five foot tall Raccoon, these are a wandering people.  They tend to have large family groups that travel around with colorfully painted wagons pulled by small oxen.  They have a well deserved reputation for being thieves.
  • Squirrelkin - Four foot tall squirrel people, being particularly good at climbing, as well as archery and other ranged combat skills.  These build tree house compounds deep in the forests where they live.
  • Badger Folk - Imagine a bulky six foot tall anthropomorphic badger. These are almost always encountered solo, but one is bad enough.  Given over to weapons mastery.  In their youth they will form temporary bonds for mating, but then spend most of their lives roaming and questing. 
  • Wolflings - Vicious hunters, the wolf people are semi-nomadic, having both summer and winter villages.  They will range far afield from their villages to hunt for food, and are not too particular about what they choose to eat, especially when times are hard.
  • Stoatmen - Bipedal stoat-like humanoids given over to cruelty and torture as entertainment.
While some of these may seem childlike and fanciful, they in fact have a place in the Valley of the Old Ones.  They are created beings, being the results of magical experimentation and spell craft by the long dead wizard, Han-Kar Vaunn.  The sad and lonley thing about the forest folk is that since they are races of beings created by a mortal, they have no souls.  Some scholars of magic and such affairs considered them to be cursed beings.  This means that a lot of restorative magic cannot affect them.  Equally, however, it means that certain magical attacks are also ineffectual against them, including some undead life and level draining attacks.

Being created beings (created by a mortal, that is) the Forest Folk have no deities that they call their own.  They venerate (those that bother) the Human Gods, Demigods and Saints.  This is especially true of the Hedgehog People and the Mouslings.  The Squirrelkin and Striped Ones are sometimes religious, sometimes not.  The Badger Folk and the Woflings, on the other hand, are Anti-theists.  They are aware of the gods, but begrudge them their worship.  Some even go so far as to openly make war against other Forest Folk (and Humans) who are religious.  The Stoatmen have female religious practitioners who worship dark powers, they are known alternately as Stoatwives or Stoatwitches.

Bardic Colleges

There are three widely recognized Bardic Colleges among the Westron Baronies, and also a distributed Bardic Circle amongst the tribes of the Storm King.

The three Bardic Colleges are located in the cities of Botts, Ockham and Gorrem.  These are responsible for training in the craft and science of being a Bard.  Within the Westron Baronies, and elsewhere, being a Bard can take on a number of different titles.  Almost every castle of any size has a Troubadour, Jester, Minstrel or other educated musician.  These sometimes appear to be Fools who only entertain their masters and the household, but they are finely trained in music, the ability to tell and remember a tale, as well as the ability to recall and pass on important information.  Some Bards progress in the science of Magic as well.  In addition to the castle Bards, there are many traveling Bards who bring news and information from place to place, as well as undertaking adventures and quests.

Each Baron with any sort of money also maintain a number of Heralds (more on that in a later post), many of which are also formally trained as Bards.  While the City of Narn professes to have a College of Heralds (which one time was responsible for all nobility patents and lists throughout the Westron Baronies, now that has largely localized), all those who participate are educated at one or more of the Bardic Colleges listed here.

  • In Gorrem, the Bardic College of Maelwyn (a master of the night harp from ancient times) is located.  It is housed within the Tower of Druaqua, and the Master of the Tower is Chief Harper Terr Ondway.
  • In Botts, the Bardic College of  Brandismore is located at Feyd Hall.  The Lute Master of the Hall is Mistress Leanarra Gwayne.
  • In Ockham, the Bardic School of Arts is housed in the ancient castle Larkstone Heights (once a building of the Old Ones, constructed of a mysterious green stone).  The headmaster of the school is Chanter Stuven Fivestar.

Almost all tribes or settlements amongst the Storm King tribes have a bard who is resident to that people.  They don't have a formal school for training, but do all by word of mouth from one generation to the next (in the old fashion that the Westroners used to observe, before the establishment of the three Colleges).

The concept of a Bard is unknown amongst the Sun King tribes.

Jan 2, 2011

Gorrem - City of the Ten Gates

The namesake, and chief, city at the heart of the Barony of Gorrem is also called the City of the Ten Gates. It has a population of 27,000. There are a number of towns that are reliant on it - these are the chief population centers of the Barony, along with each having its own supporting network of villages and farm country.
  • Colvine (population 4,500) to the north
  • Harwych (population 6,000) to the east
  • Sallow (population 6,500) to the southeast
  • Haventown (population 5,000) to the south
  • Lightcastle (population 5,500) to the west
  • Aldbridge (population 4,000) to the northwest
The Barony is located in the Wychwood (south central) region of the Valley, and its chief political neighbors are the Barony of Lynch (east, on the far side of the Tiazarr River); the Barony of Pellorix on the far side of the Ancelhenn Lake to the southwest; north across the Great River is the Barony of Na Kram.

Much of the Barony is forested, and in addition to the many human towns listed above, there are a large number of "forest folk" in the wooded areas of the demesne.  To the west (in the Redsmoke Woods) there are a large number of Hedgehog People.  To the east, in the Plum Woods and the Belley Woods, there are a number of Mouseling communities.  Also in the region between Belley and Plum is the Green Apple Commonwealth - a small Halfling county that owes fealty to the Barony of Gorrem.  In the forests in the northern reaches of the Barony, along the Great River, there are numerous forest settlements of Wolflings.

The Barony is not home to many Dwarves or Gnomes.  And the few Elven settlements that exist are deep within the forested regions of the demesne.

The current ruling family is the Household of Terrasund, with Baroness Catherine II on the throne.

The city is home to the Homehall Cathedral - maintained by a community of clerics and monastics of the order of St. Ermo.  The Tower Druaqua (Bardic College of Maelwyn) is there. Also within the walls of the city can be found Castle Tattelis - home of the Terrasund family.  Not really of political concern, but of possible interest to adventurers and explorers - the abandoned tower of Ordobrandt is also within the city, but it is guarded by city guard.

Within the walled fields surrounding the city, there is the keep and practice grounds of the Knights of the Malmen Rose.  The Knights are a chivalric (but not Paladin) order that has a loose alliance with Gorrem, but have a distinct arrangement where they do not have Feudal duty, but are rather allies.

The Ten Gates, as well as much of the city, are protected by the city watch, known as Gorrem Levy.  They are much more than a levy, however, as they are a regular full time soldiery.  Typical equipment includes ring mail, simple helmet, bardiche, and short sword.  The Gorrem Levy are (total) approximately 2000 strong, however only 800 are serving at any one time.  There are several towers both on the outer walls and located along the inner walls where these are housed.

In addition to the sites and locations already mentioned, the city is somewhat known for its Inns and Taverns, each of which boasts its own ales and beers.  There are competitive wars between the larger Taverns, each claiming to be the "Best in Gorrem" or "The Baroness' Favorite".

Area Map - Finch Abbey

Located in the Redsmoke Woods, in the western reaches of the Gorrem Barony, there is a small abbey of St. Brigid's known as Finch Abbey.

This is the location of the adventure I will be running at MarsCon (see here and here). Here is a regional map of the local area. The hexes are 5 miles across.