Posts Tagged ‘elf’

Hey guys! A brand spanking new episode of my podcast, The Round Table, is up on The Tome Show’s website.

In this in-depth analysis of the character creation rules in the brand spanking new edition of FREE Basic D&D, I chat with Rudy Basso, Vegas Lancaster, and Alex Basso as we dissect Part I of the downloadable pdf. Spoiler alert: we love it. Discussions of Parts II and III goodness to come in the future. This podcast was recorded on July 6, 2014. If you like Vegas, check out his improv troupe in Philadelphia, PA – The N Crowd.

If you like what you’re reading please follow me on Twitter, tell your friends, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

Werewolves.

Ok, now that you’ve read that how many of you immediately went to the sexy werewolf zone? Even if you didn’t go there at first, you still know what I’m talking about, and it’s ok. Genre fiction that’s popular is usually a very good thing for the nerd community as a whole, even if sexy werewolves are not exactly your thing. That being said, they are not my thing. Neither are werewolves as normal folk who get amnesia about their transform into raging killers during the full moon. I’m trying to uncover a new way of thinking about them in Exploration Age.

There’s so much more to this guy than simple sex appeal. He’s not a piece of meat, people.

A History of The Brotherhood

A little less than 400 years ago, a secret cabal of elf werewolves formed in Taliana. The Brotherhood of the Moon had one mission – to propel their race up the evolutionary ladder by giving the gift of lycanthropy to every elf in Taliana.

At first The Brotherhood of the Moon was a few roving werewolves, who would seduce non-lycan elves into accepting the gift with promises of heightened senses and increased physical prowess. But as they grew, the werewolves developed a more formal organizational structure with a leader, called the Moon King or Queen, and chapters that were secretly operating within Taliana’s major settlements. In the beginning these chapters focused on voluntary recruitment. As their numbers grew, The Brotherhood of the Moon hatched a more sinister plot.

They began to target members of Taliana’s ruling Parliament. Many of these members were extorted and blackmailed into becoming werewolves. As their influence spread, so too did public knowledge of the cabal. They grew too bold and Taliana began hunting these lycanthropes down. The Brotherhood of the Moon took this aggression as an act of violent discrimination against werewolves and responded by raiding villages and infecting the population with their gift. Many elves would rather die than become a werewolf, and the Brotherhood of the Moon was happy to grant that option.

After many deaths on both sides the cabal was brought under control. The remaining members of The Brotherhood went into hiding, until a lich attempted to seize control of Parliament and declare himself King of Taliana. Trivarch Leroux enlisted The Brotherhood’s help by promising to help fulfill their mission of wide-spread lycanthropy once he was in power. Trivarch’s plan was successful and he covered all of Taliana in the eternal night of a full moon to help The Brotherhood regrow its numbers in exchange for enforcing his harsh rule.

Trivarch wasn’t in power for long. A group of vigilante halflings calling themselves The Mothers of the Field destroyed him and restored the rule of the elf Parliament. (It is important to note Trivarch’s phylactery was never found.) The Brotherhood of the Moon went into hiding once again to escape the justice of Taliana’s Parliament. (One more note: the Mothers of the Field are still operational and will take on any authority they believe is corrupt or unfit to rule. Some see them as heroes, others as terrorists.)

Roughly 200 years ago, The Brotherhood of the Moon hatched another plot to increase the werewolf population of Taliana – they began seducing and mating with unsuspecting elves by order of the then Moon King. The werewolves had always stuck to their own kind for breeding, believing in keeping their own blood pure. Two werewolf parents produce werewolf offspring though their chances for conception are lower than most other humanoids. The thought was  a single werewolf parent would produce lycanthrope children and increase chances for conception by mating with a more fertile non-lycan partner. The Brotherhood soon found they were incorrect. Werewolf and elf parents alike were shocked to find themselves literally birthing a new race – the shifters.

Shifters doing their thang! You do you.

A Note on Shifters

I won’t go into too much depth here, since this post is supposed to be about The Brotherhood of the Moon, but as you can see the two are related.

Shifters were born outcasts. Many were killed as babes, their parents too horrified to look upon them. To many elves they were monstrosities and to many werewolves they were an evolutionary misstep and deserved to die. Many of the shifters who managed to have a parent kind enough to let them live were still kicked out of the house at an early age or orphaned when their parent was murdered by bigots or committed suicide after learning they had consummated with a werewolf.

These abandoned shifters found each other and formed communities of wandering vagabonds who make a living performing, swindling, and selling crafts. Today these communities exist all over Findalay and many look forward to the circuses and carnivals the shifters provide. Others feel the shifters have been short-changed and try to help these beings find a more established life in Findalay. Some fear the partial werewolf race avoiding and shunning them. The truly fearful seek out and kill these half-breeds.

The discovery of Verda has opened up new possibilities for the shifters, a place where they may have a home of their own free from persecution, stares, jeers, discrimination, violence, and the ever-looming Brotherhood of the Moon.

Brotherhood of the Moon Today

Today The Brotherhood of the Moon is operating in Taliana and scheming up ways to bring the gift to the inferior elves. They have also made it their mission to hunt and kill shifters, since the werewolves believe this evolutionary mistake is theirs to correct.

Currently, Moon Queen Elvira Selene rules The Brotherhood. Little is known about her plans. Recently werewolf nests have been found in some of Taliana’s major cities. While they have been destroyed, it begs the question how many undiscovered dens of lycanthropes remain? Has The Brotherhood mobilized once again or have these hideouts been in existence for years and just now being discovered? Are they planning on taking over the cities of Taliana from these nests? Are they engaged in smuggling orange spice (ooo more on that in another post)? Are they on an intelligence gathering mission? Whatever the reason, the discovery of these nests has the people of Taliana on edge once more…

Werewolf. With a sword. Yep.

Werewolf. With a sword. Yep.

So how’d I do? Do you like this new spin on werewolves, as racial supremacists convinced that non-lycanthropes are fools resisting the natural progression of life and evolution on Canus? I hope it terrifies and intrigues you!

If you like what you’re reading, please check out my podcast on The Tome Show, follow me on Twitter, or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

I’ve already mentioned that the religions of Exploration Age don’t have gods who intervene. They exist in the minds and hearts of the people, and perhaps even have a form somewhere beyond the multiverse. Something divine is granting spells to the clerics, so in some ways there is proof of their existence. However, just because these gods do not show their faces, does not mean the people of Canus do not act in their names, which certainly lends to the real world feel of Exploration Age.

There Were Only Drow

Until a little over ten thousand years ago, there were no elves on Canus. The time of the drow goes back more than half a million years. The elves have existed for a fraction of the time drow have been in Canus.

The drow worship two sister goddesses. Meliko is goddess of light, nature, healing, and arts. Fana is the goddess of dark, civilization, science, and war. To drow, light and dark do not have the connotations that they might to us modern-day real world folk. Darkness is good, it provides stealth and protection from their enemies who cannot see through its piercing blackness the way the dark elves can.

The drow believe Meliko and Fana work hand in hand. Meliko provides the spores and Fana provides the darkness so their mushrooms might grow. Fana leads the soldiers to war and Meliko binds their wounds. The drow believe they give both of these goddess equal footing.

Then The Division happened. Aberrants, driven below ground by dragons, regrouped and began multiplying in The Underdark. They overwhelmed the drow, destroying many of their kingdoms. But the drow eventually regrouped and fortified their remaining lands. Some of the drow hatched a plan to take back their lands in what was sure to be a violent and risky struggle. Other drow did not want to further risk the lives of their people and headed to the surface world, where eventually, their skin lightened, their eyes grew accustomed to the sun and they became the elves Canus knows today.

Religious Justification

The drow who left for the surface world to become the elves had their reasons for leaving their brethren behind. Many simply wanted to avoid a violent struggle, which is ironic because their struggle with their own kin continues to today. The drow who left begged their kin to follow. The drow who remained claimed that by running, their brethren were not honoring Fana in turning their backs on the war to reclaim their homeland.

The drow who left, upon hearing that argument, claimed that their left-behind kin were not properly worshipping Meliko by staying underground and in the dark, rather than living on the surface world, where the day/night cycle honored both goddess equally. Furious with one another for the accusations of defying The Sister Goddesses’ will, a war between the two camps of drow broke out that continues even today. The elves vehemently believe the drow are wrongfully worshipping The Sister Creators and showing Fana too much favor. They believe Meliko and Fana have given them a mission to bring all their brethren to the surface world and that their elf form is the one they were always intended to have. Meanwhile, the drow, who still have not liberated their stolen kingdoms from the aberrants, believe the elves are cowardly, traitorous, tradition defiers who do The Sister Creators ill and must die for those crimes.

Much like in the real-world, religion in Exploration Age is sometimes the catalyst for an event and sometimes it serves to complicate a problem which already exists. Either way, the goddesses themselves are not directly involved, and two groups with the same religion have a slightly different idea of how one should worship and that has lead to bloodshed and war. This happens all the time in the real world.

Just for fun, here’s a more slightly more fleshed out description of Meliko and Fana I’m working right now.

The Sister Creators

Meliko and Fana are the goddesses worshipped mainly by the elves and drow of Findalay. Though these races share the same goddesses they honor them in slightly different ways, which is part of the reason the two races are in a violent struggle. Other races on Findalay may worship The Sister Creators, particularly the duergar, deep gnomes, and halflings who live amongst the drow and elves.

Clerics of The Sister Creators often dress in a bright color and dark color to show their appreciation of both goddess and carry two holy symbols or create one that is a combination of both sisters’ symbols. Services in honor of The Sister Creators are elaborate in The Underdark, often involving weekly two-hour long prayer sessions and displays of divine magic. On the surface world, The Sister Creators are honored in smaller, less public ways, usually at home shrines where individuals or families will pray twice daily, once in the morning and once in the evening for a few minutes.

Meliko

Meliko is one half of The Sister Creators. She is the goddess of light, nature, healing, and arts. Legend has it that Meliko created Canus. Her favored weapon is a longbow. She is often represented in drow art as a beautiful drow woman carrying a torch, and her holy symbol is a flaming torch wrapped in moss. In elvish depictions, she is an elf holding the sun in her hands and her holy symbol is an arrow who’s head is on fire.

Fana

Fana is one half of The Sister Creators. She is the goddess of darkness, civilization, science, and war. Legend has it that Fana created the drow, dragons, and aberrants. Her favored weapon is a long sword. She is often represented in drow art as a hooded drow woman carrying a scroll, and her holy symbol is an Underdark city skyline. In elvish depictions, she is a hooded elf holding a black orb in her hands and her holy symbol is a long sword with a pure black blade.

If you like what you’re reading, please check out my podcast on The Tome Show, follow me on Twitter, or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

This weekend I sat down to make the timeline of major events in Exploration Age that lead up to the time of play. I found that I still had a lot of thinking to do. Mainly, how did Canus and the folk of Exploration Age go from literally nothing to being what they are now?

I don’t necessarily have to describe how the world came to be, since medieval fantasy RPGs are somewhat based on our own world’s actual past. Back in the day those folks weren’t sure how our world came to be (though they did have theories, but that’s another post). However, I do need to describe how the beings that populate Canus came to be where they are now. History is very important. Big actions have big repercussions that are felt for long periods of time. For instance…

  • During prohibition of alcohol, the American gangsters are born and continue to operate even after it becomes legal to drink again.
  • During WWII Germany invades the Soviet Union. After WWII, Berlin is occupied by the Soviets until 1990.
  • The Americas are discovered and a whole bunch of countries rush to colonize.

You get the idea. My point is – the actions being taken that greatly affect the folk of Canus are those which deserve to be written down on the timeline. The players are not going to care to read every little detail of when a specific plant came into being or care when a local organization of farmhands was formed. I only put that kind of thing in if I know it’s going to be important to the plot. The rest of the stuff, can be big, broad strokes to give your players the idea of the history of a people or government or culture, etc. Most of the time, these will be actions taken by a specific group or individual. The only time pure nature makes it on the timeline is for something really crazy – like a meteor causing the end of the dinosaurs, an earthquake swallowing a city, or ice covering the planet.

Remember that, in general, you care more about the history of the world than your players do. “Why do the warforged hate the dwarves?” they might ask. “Because they kept them as slaves,” you reply. For some adventures and for most players that will more than suffice.

Starting the Timeline

Before I began the timeline, I had to figure out how old Canus is, or at least how far back its significant history begins. Since I want the world to be frame by the Findalayan point of view, I decided that it’s been 700 years since Findalay’s Founding (FF), when all nations of Findalay officially recognized each other. Before that, Aeranore, Bragonay, Marrial, and Taliana all came into existence, but they constantly at war with one another. For thousands of years! So when they decided to put down the sword and begin trading, that was a big enough event for them to begin counting the years. Now that’s not to say there haven’t been disputes and wars in those 700 years, but each nation is now officially recognized by the others.

However, more important than those 700 years are the years which came before. Those years, Before Findalay (BF) have had a huge influence on what happens in the world today. So I wanted to go back and in broad strokes think about the world and how each nation of people got its start. How each race came to be and what actions led to where they are. And of course, since this is a fantasy setting, I wanted to make sure there was plenty of magical flavor to all of it, since that’s what we love.

Before Dwarves, Elves, and Humans

So before our PC races made it onto the scene there were great forces walking the earth, just like in the real world there were dinosaurs before us. I wanted Canus to do something different for originality’s sake, so I decided the first beings to populate its surface were aberrant creatures. Beholders, illithids, umber hulks – all the bizarro creatures that normally live underground, well their ancestors lived on the surface of Canus.

Just some mind flayers hanging out, thinking about their ancestors.

I like the idea of picturing these creatures’ surface-dwelling ancestors. I like thinking about what their great civilizations might leave behind. This gives us a way to spread similar, but mysterious ruins all over Canus. It also gives the aberrants a reason to abhor surface dwellers once they are driven underground (more on that below). That’s my first beat on the timeline and it has a bunch of question marks next to it, because no one sure how far back the aberrant civilizations go.

Now, I don’t know about you, but my dragons are pretty important to me. They’re old and mystical and have been around almost since the beginning. More importantly to me, chromatic and metallic dragons are part of the material world. Think about it, dragons have all this magic at their disposal and for the most part they choose to stay in the material world. They must really like it there. I decided that on Canus, dragons are drawn to staying in the material plane because they are literally part of the world. The first dragons were incubated in Canus’ core and birthed out of the ground. For whatever reason, the metallic dragons ended up in Verda and the chromatic dragons ended up in Parian and Findalay.

So the aberrants are doing their thing when suddenly the first dragons hatch from beneath the ground. The dragons think to themselves, “It’s time for us, baby. These crazy-looking dudes got to go.” War that rages for years with neither side having a clear victory. So second timeline beat – dragons hatch from the earth and war begins. This is around 500,000 BF. Broad strokes.

You didn’t know I was down here, didja? DIDJA?

Now, when the dragons hatched from the ground, the spaces and tunnels their bodies made became The Underdark. The chromatic dragons bled for their efforts, lacking the finer scales of their metallic kin, and their blood became the drow race. This is also part of the second beat.

Third beat on the timeline comes when the dragons gain their advantage around 300,000 BF. The chromatic dragons create a new race to aid them – the giants. With the help of the giants they destroy many of the aberrants and drive the rest into The Underdark. Meanwhile in Verda, the metallics have a different plan and open a portal to the Nine Hells calling forth devils to kill the aberrants. This only half works, as some of the devils create alliances with the aberrants, creating a horrifying half-fiend, half-aberrant race who eventually become The Sleeping Ones. In the fourth beat on our timeline, around 100,000 BF the devils who remain on Verda and side with the metallic dragons eventually evolve into the tieflings.

The pattern here with the beats is that they get closer together and more specific as they continue. More significant history exists closer to the time of the game. In-game there would also be better historical records for more recent events.

The PC Races

So you can see above where tiefling and drow came from, but we still have a bunch of races to define here. I’ll give you the bullet points for each.

  • Eventually, the giants get tired of their chromatic dragon oppressors and create the dwarves and gnomes to help them rise up. Their bloody revolution is not so successful and dragons and giants, now few in number are scattered across Parian and Findalay. Some gnomes and dwarves retreat to The Underdark and become duergar and svirfneblin. Some stay on the surface and begin to found their own civilizations.
  • The aberrants regroup for thousands of years in The Underdark and then invade the kingdoms of the drow. After a few thousand years of war, some drow grow tired of the war and retreat to the surface. These drow evolve into elves, the drow left behind feel betrayed and the hatred begins.
  • When the elves retreat to the surface some of the svirfneblin come with them, who evolve yet again over the course of time into halflings. So halflings and gnomes are related in this campaign.
  • Metallic dragons create the dragonborn race to help populate Verda, but the their allies, the tieflings become jealous and so the dragonborn are sent away on ships and eventually come to land in present day Marrial.
  • In a cycle of slave creation learned from their masters, the dwarves create the warforged.

I’m a big fan of evolution apparently.

It’s obvious there are some races I’m choosing to leave out of this list. I think the only races that need a big explanation are the ones that have their heritage impacted by their creation and evolution. Orcs, minotaurs, etc. formed organically over time and scientific evolutionary processes. Or magic if you like. Or divine intervention. Their origins are not as important as their actions, which do end up on Exploration Age’s timeline.

Human might be the most obvious race missing from the list, but that’s because I think the big questions of why are we here and how did we get here are part of the human experience. I think it will make the humans of this world feel natural and relatable to sort of just appear without fanfare one day and through survival, suffering, and hard work build a civilization.

Action!

So once the races are established the timeline gets pretty interesting. The Bragonay dwarves have all of Findalay under their control and then the other races begin trying to take their land in a crazy struggle that has alliances forming and breaking everywhere. In the midst of it all, earthquakes, plagues, inventions, magic, and the like happen. Meanwhile on Verda the half-fiend, half-aberrant problem persists with a host of other failures and successes on the part of its people. There’s some big events that lead up to the time of play, like the discovery of Verda that I’m excited to share in the future.

Looks like the world is coming together! I’ll probably divide the timeline up into different ages such as Aberrant Age, Draconic Age, etc. and have the time period of play be known as… you guessed it. Exploration Age.

If you like what you’re reading, please check out my podcast on The Tome Show, follow me on Twitter, or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!