Posts Tagged ‘Verda’

On Tuesday I wrote a post about a great antagonist for an Exploration Age campaign, The Servants. Well today I’m going to be talking about another villainous organization to be added to the Exploration Age roster – The Aberrant Alliance.

Aberrant creatures are one of Exploration Age’s main baddies. Just check out my previous posts about The Sleeping Ones, aberrant ruins, and The Underdark to get an idea of integrated these creatures are into the world of Canus. Well, you’re about to find out that the aberrants aren’t alone in their quest to reclaim the world for themselves.

There are a few humanoids all over the world who believe the aberrants had their homes taken from them unjustly. These people also share a belief that aberrants are the true masters of Canus and all other creatures should be subservient to them. They are dangerous, for they value the lives of aberrant creatures above their own.

History of The Alliance

Who wouldn’t worship these guys?

Historical records are vague, but it seems The Aberrant Alliance has been around as long there have been humanoids on Canus. For thousands of years, this group was actually several, small cults which would meet under the cover of night in secret places and perform rituals to communicate with aberrant creatures. These creatures would often take pleasure in simply causing strife and chaos in the lives of humanoids by ordering these self-proclaimed servitors to steal, lie, and murder in their communities. Other aberrant creatures took greater advantage of the situation, ordering these humanoids to do tasks which might help the creatures return to the surface and reclaim pieces of the world for themselves. These cults would destroy weapons, create teleportation circles, weaken the local military, and recruit others to prepare for the arrival and takeover of a settlement by an aberrant creature. These attempts were thwarted or the aberrants were removed from power when an uprising was successful, but even in the early days, many lives were lost to these cults.

It was the aberrants, after regrouping themselves in The Underdark, who united these cults under one banner. They learned humanoids all over the map had been contacting and aiding them. So they deemed all of these cults together The Aberrant Alliance. The cults would no longer serve the individual needs of a single aberrant creature, but serve all aberrants in their quest to reclaim their world.

Structure of The Alliance

I want YOU to join The Aberrant Alliance.

Today, The Alliance is still setup in small, individual cults or chapters, but each serves a greater purpose than its own needs. Each cult has a leader, chosen in a bloody contest every year. The cults capture an innocent person from a nearby settlement, release that victim into the wild or a dungeon somewhere and hunt the individual. Whoever makes the kill wins the contest and is the cult’s leader. Anything goes in this contest, so potential leaders must be willing to put their own lives on the line to hold the coveted position.

Each cult can communicate with a variety of aberrant creatures who give them orders, one of which is a cult’s designated point of contact. These aberrant creatures communicate with one another and organize the activities of the cults. Rather than random bands of murderous lunatics, the cults of The Aberrant Alliance are a unified organization to be reckoned with. Two or more cults may join forces to complete a larger mission, and they can count on one another for support when the going gets tough. Likewise, a member of an Aberrant Alliance cult who is traveling can count on support from Alliance members in other cults.

Cultists whisper about The Great Aberrant, some terrifying creature who is the organizer of all which The Alliance accomplishes. He has never been seen by the humanoids but has promised to show himself to them when the time comes for the aberrants to reclaim Canus.

Plots of The Alliance

I kinda want one as a pet.

The Aberrant Alliance has one ultimate goal – restore the societies of the aberrant creatures to their days of glory and enslave all humanoids so they may serve aberrant masters. They do this several ways…

  1. Recruitment – The more individuals they can get to join The Alliance, the better. The argument is simple – aberrants had this world taken from them by dragons. The aberrants did not start that war, they merely fought back to keep their land. Now there are fewer dragons than ever before. Humanoids never could have risen against the aberrants in those early days. Things should never have been this way. It is unnatural. Hard to believe for some, but the argument works with others (especially after a well-cast charm person spell). The Alliance has begun targeting the influential leaders of the world, some of whom are unwilling recruits subject to the incredible psionic powers possessed by some aberrants.
  2. Influence Leaders and Cause Strife – Nothing would help the aberrant cause more than the crumbling of humanoid civilizations. Through influencing leaders, aberrants can cause bad policy decisions to be made, which in turn can cause war, famine, and unrest. Meanwhile, rioting and other forms of violent unruliness caused by members of The Alliance will give the aberrants advantages in weakening the civilizations of humanoids.
  3. Secure The Underdark – The citizens of Quatus must be the first to fall. If the aberrants claim their resources and control The Underdark, they can then conquer the surface. Underdark humanoids are some of the most important members of The Alliance.
  4. Kill Dragons – Though there may not be nearly as many on Canus as there once were, the dragons are powerful and wise in their old age. As many as possible must be vanquished before the inevitable rise of the aberrants. The Aberrant Alliance is often contracting and recruiting dragon-slayers.
  5. Wake The Sleeping Ones – Half the world only recently learned of the morchia, half-devil, half-aberrant creatures slumbering in the Verdan Underdark. The West Canus aberrants only learned themselves. These children of the mostly extinct East Canus aberrants could be valuable allies in the coming uprising.
  6. Encourage the Discovery and Use of Ancient Aberrant Technologies – By funding expeditions into certain aberrant ruins, The Alliance helps ensure that humanoids have become reliant on aberrant technology. The aberrants know all the weaknesses behind these technologies and so should the time come for the aberrants to rise, the humanoids’ reliance on firearms, airships, and more will be used against them. Of course, the aberrants are wary of the certain ruins being explored by adventurers who might find a something of their own to use against them. So The Alliance directs adventures to the ruins they want to be explored, and defends those with secrets that should remain hidden.

An individual cult could be working toward one or several of the goals above. In general the members of The Aberrant Alliance try to keep their activities and motives private, unless they have no other choice.

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

Dragons are world-weary and few. I’m a huge fan of these creatures. Who isn’t? When the fourth edition of D&D launched I loved the variety of dragons in the game. I used them everywhere. They served as main villains, but also as mounts for bad guys, guardians of temples and artifacts, beasts that were summoned by wizards, powerful allies, combat companions alongside the PCs… you get the idea. After all of that I’m a little pooped out on dragons and they’ve lost some of their majestic pizzazz for my players. I know, I know. I blame me. So I’m taking a different approach.

However, I also don’t think dragons should be shut away in ivory towers, reserved for epic level encounters only. They are in the name of the game after all and a big part of the attraction. If you can’t see a dragon in your fantasy life when can you? (Seriously when can you see one in real life, if you know, please tell me.) As a player I’d feel cheated in a dragon-less campaign and as a DM I’d have a big dragon-shaped void in my gamer heart.

Dragons Are Special

What do you mean I ain’t special?!?

In Exploration Age, dragons should feel special, but not wholly inaccessible. The PCs should all know of the greatest dragons from childhood stories. The mere mention of a specific name should make an entire tavern nod with recognition. Before a dragon ever steps into the PCs’ lives they should know he or she is kind of a big deal.

Along the same lines dragons in Exploration Age should never play second-fiddle to another NPC. They don’t serve as full-time guardians or mounts, those are jobs for animals, not great majestic beasts. If a dragon chooses to work with an NPC, it is for one of two reasons. First the dragon is clearly in charge, the scheme is of his or her design and the NPC is the dragon’s lackey. Second, the dragon and NPC appear to be equal partners in a scheme crafted by the latter; however the dragon still considers itself superior (he or she probably is) and allows the NPC to think of them as equals as long as their goals are aligned.

Dragons of Exploration Age are proud of their mighty heritage. Since the dragons of Canus only grow stronger of mind and body as they age, some dragons from The Birthing Dawn (the time when the dragons came forth from Canus’ core) are still alive. Though old age will not kill a dragon, he or she could still be put down by physical wounds. There is no known ritual that can restore a dragon to life once it has died, which is why some might choose to become a dracolich. If sword or spell strikes down a dracolich, the phylactery will bring the dragon back.

In general, dragons have grown world-weary of the affairs of mortals. While once their goal was world domination, most no longer desire power and already have a vast horde of treasure, either acquired or more-likely inherited. Dragons often look to gain something far more useful than items or kingdoms – knowledge. They have the time and strength of mind to become experts in all sorts of lore. Some might spend their time summoning other-worldly beings to speak with them, reading mounds of ancient tomes, experimenting with magic, studying the stars, talking to spirits of the dead, or even occasionally seeking out mortals of renown – all in the name of expanding their minds.

There are, of course, exceptions to this rule. Some dragons may grow so bored and nihilistic they seek their own death, so they begin raiding villages and country sides as a challenge to find a creature worthy enough of granting them death. Others may hunger for knowledge so ravenously that they kill other dragons and extract the knowledge of the victims’ corpses. Still others, mostly younger dragons, may become obsessed with gaining power or a larger horde and seek out treasure, minions and power, or enjoy the company and affairs of mortals more than most of their kin.

Chromatic vs Metallic

In Exploration Age there isn’t a strict evil/good divide between chromatic and metallic dragons. Instead these general truths holds true:

  • Chromatic dragons can be found in Parian, Glacius, and Findalay.
  • Metallic dragons appear to be exclusive to Verda.
  • Chromatic dragons are quicker to anger and use their might and wrath to swing a situation to their advantage. They are more straight forward and demanding when dealing with lesser beings.
  • Metallic dragons are calmer and more level-headed in high pressure situations. They let their confidence and intellect win the day and prefer to have others fight for them, only attacking when there is no other option.
  • Surprisingly, these two types of dragons have always known about each other, or so they claim, but have had no known contact since they emerged from Canus’ core. The reason why is currently unknown, but it seems the dragons are not friendly.

Legacy of the Dragons

Exploration Age’s dragons are no longer active in the day-to-day lives of mortals, but that wasn’t always true. Drow and elves formed from the blood of chromatic dragons and share their love of knowledge, quick temper, immortality, and passion for life. They are fiercely proud of this heritage and call themselves The Dragon Children. Sharminds, gnomes, and dwarves fought against the chromatic dragons long ago, and their tales speak of the terror and violence dragons can rain down upon the world. Tieflings and dragonborn can trace their own creation back to the hands of metallic dragons. The dragonborn just recently learned of their lineage, but the tieflings have never forgotten their younger brethren, nor have the tieflings ever stopped hating the dragonborn’s existence.

The dragons influence can be witnessed throughout the world. Aberrant ruins tell tales of the wrath of the dragons, while abandoned nests tell tales of their caring, introspective natures. Tieflings have books and works of art from metallic dragons in their Spires. Dragonscale armor is more than practical, it’s a sign to others that you are a badass. Scholars may spend their lives dreaming of getting to sit down and access the mind and/or library of one of the more ancient dragons, while a village may live in fear because of their proximity to a dragon’s nest.

Stories are the largest legacy dragons give to the world. There isn’t a person on Canus who hasn’t heard at least a few tales about the majestic beasts as heroes or villains.

Do you agree? Should dragons be super special, but still fully integrated into the world?

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

I’ve made more than a few references to the tribes of humanoids living in Verda. There’s so many of them, it can be difficult to keep track. These tribes are made of humans, orcs, goblins, hobgoblins, bugbears, gnolls, and more. Many tribes are undiscovered deep in the unexplored areas for Verda. This allows me to work-in new races and elements as supplements for D&D 5 begin to come out. Exploration Age is not limited because parts of the world still remain a mystery.

Similarities Amongst the Tribes

Orcs!

There are two similarities that all of Verda’s tribes share. These elements are designed to help my players and I keep the numerous Verdan peoples straight in our heads.

  • All of the tribes are named after a beast, be it animal or other-worldly. e.g. Frog Tribe, Chimera Tribe, Remorhaz Tribe.
  • All tribes worship the same set of four gods, one for each element. These gods favor neither evil nor good, law nor chaos, so their word is interpreted in many ways.

This way we don’t have a collection of thousands of gods to keep straight and the tribes are conveniently named and easily identified by a symbolic beast.

The Major Variances

Verda’s tribes can fall into a few major categories:

  • Permanent or Nomadic – A tribe may have taken up a permanent residence in a ruin, natural holding such as a cave, or built their own permanent domiciles out of water material they had available. Many of Verda’s tribes have a more mobile life style, perhaps in tents or tepees. These nomadic people chase game and good weather, relying on both to sustain themselves.
  • Isolationist or Open or Hateful – Some of Verda’s tribes are happy with the arrival of Findalayans and Parians. These new visitors bring exotic gifts and make good trade partners. Others prefer to ignore these new arrivals, observing from a distance to see what they might do before rushing to interact. A third category of tribes is unhappy with the way Findalay and Parian have claimed pieces of their homeland and deal with the tribes as inferior beings. This third category has decided these newcomers are their enemies and need to be put down and sent home.
  • Small or Medium or Large – Most of Verda’s tribes are on the smaller side. Their populations are usually less than 100. The constant warring coupled with the recent plague and famine have kept the number of tribesman quite small. The medium tribes are between 100 and 200 people. Larger tribes can have as many as 500 members.
  • Warring or At-Peace – At any given time there is roughly a 50% chance that a tribe is at war with another tribe. The violence does not usually take place in full-scale battles, but is more like a gang war. Each tribe sticks to its territory and only commits violence when they cross paths with enemies. Some organize raids on their enemies, but rarely are these tribes looking at full-scale extermination of one another. These wars can begin as disputes over resources and game, to show superiority, or some other reason.
  • Racial Makeup – Most tribes are composed of humans, half-orcs, orcs, goblinkin, or some combination of all. There are other humanoids that also make up the tribes such as gnolls, ogres, and minotaurs, but there are fewer of these folk on Verda.

Minor Variances

Undead Wolverines shouldn’t mess with the tribes of Verda.

Those major details help me (or any other DM) quickly flesh out a tribe. The little details are then up to me. Things to consider that might help a tribe feel unique:

  • What natural game and plant life are around that the tribe might hunt and eat?
  • Does this tribe value strength at arms? Strength in arcane magic? Divine magic? Psionics? Unarmed combat?
  • Are men and women equals in this tribe? If not, which sex is the dominant one?
  • What do their living structures look like?
  • How do they get around? Mounts? Vehicles? On foot?

These questions are a great place to start when introducing a new tribe into the game!

Brief Overview of The Tribes History

The tribes have been on Verda almost as long as the tieflings. Their origins are unclear as they simply emerged from the The Sprawling Jungle, already worshipping their gods and divided into racially segregated tribe.

At first the tribes were racist and each believed its own to be the superior one. Many small and violent wars were had and smaller tribes ran to the outskirts of Verda, pushed away from the jungles by tribes with superior numbers. Even today, the tribes speak of The Beholder tribe which dominates the center of The Sprawling Jungle still pure in its strange racial makeup. They dare not head into the heart of the jungle, for there they may come face to face with the huge tribe that pushed all others further out into the world.

Over time, most other tribes softened in their views and accepted other races into their communities, even allowing marriage and mixed-race offspring to come into being. The tribes came together just as the morchia rose from the earth in an attempt to conquer Canus.

The tribes were great in number and for a long time they managed to hold out against the powerful morchia. Eventually though, their numbers dwindled and the morchia spread, even though warring tribes put aside differences to come together against a common foe. For over one thousand years this war raged, until the tieflings used The Reckoning Spell to end the war and drive the morchia back underground.

After that moment, the tribes always respected the might and power of the tieflings. When a tiefling comes into a tribe, they are treated with a healthy dose of respect… and fear.

The next problem for the tribes of Verda came in the form of the githyanki incursion. Githyanki, coming through a portal created by the tieflings, decided to take Verda as their own. They were less straight forward than the morchia, planting spies amongst the tribes and within the tiefling spires. Then the githyanki would strike suddenly and catch an entire settlement by surprise. The thriving tribes once again suffered many losses, until the tieflings opened a portal and made a pact with the githzerai. Together, the tribes, the tieflings, and the githzerai pushed back the githyanki. Today, the githyanki are still said to roam some of Verda’s mountains. The githzerai who did not return to their home plane retreated into the jungles and have not been heard from since after the war.

Since those two big wars, the tribes have continued their own skirmishes, survived The Tarrasque, harsh Winters, volcanic eruptions, and most recently a wide-spread plague. They are resilient people, smart, tough, and often they find pleasure in simple things like a good meal, a fierce battle, or a clever joke.

These guys deserve an “I survived The Tarrasque” T-Shirt.

The Tribes Today

Today, the tribes have become alerted to the presence of other folk in the world and across the oceans. Some of the tribes have gotten along and traded with the peoples of Findalay and Parian. As time has gone on, however, even the most open tribes have learned that these newcomers can be dangerous.

Many of the settlers have their own fear of the people of the tribes, since the orcs of their homelands are always murderous and fierce, or they assume that if one tribe takes pleasure and fun in killing they all must. Racism and assumptions about the tribes living life as uncultured savages have led to many misunderstandings, some of which have ended in violence.

The tribes present yet another layer and shade of gray to added to Exploration Age. They make wonderful NPCs and help make the world rich and complex. The people of the tribes also present an opportunity to play a different kind of PC than someone from Findalay or Parian. A PC could be naive, inquisitive, introverted, or suspicious. An expert in one land, and a stranger in another.

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!

Everyone loves the twice-widowed Queen Icillia IV. The octogenarian is praised for her even-handed ruling, merciful nature, and kindness to people of every class. Her reign has been long and prosperous for Aeranore. Not only do her farmers’ crops bring the nation great economic standing, but Aeranore has the largest and most successful settlements in Verda. Of course, there is the matter of the Twins, which could lead the entire nation to erupt into a civil war.

The Twins

Queen Icillia has two male successors, Fergal and Mankor. These identical twin brothers are now in their fifties, and have watched their resilient mother hold the throne all their lives. The twins are growing restless. Each desires Aeranore for himself and at this rate their mother could outlive them.

Fergal was born first (“by a minute,” as Mankor is quick to tell anyone) and has become a charismatic general. He is as ruthless and cunning at court as he is on the battlefield. Backstabbing, blackmail, theft, seduction, underhanded dealings, and even murder are all rumored to be part of Fergal’s toolbox when it comes to scheming and gathering power. Who could blame him? Though the throne is his by birthright, Mankor is clearly the queen’s favored son. Some whisper the reason she continues to sit the throne in her eighties is her secret hope Fergal dies in some war and Mankor be next in line. Any favor Queen Icillia gives to Fergal is for accomplishments that cannot be ignored, and nothing less.

Mankor is the seemingly softer soul. More educated and sheltered, the minute-younger twin has a love of music, wine, and bed partners. The queen looks upon Mankor with the greatest affection and has granted him a seat at her right side. For his entire life, Mankor has believed he is more worthy of the throne than his brother. His mother, who reinforced the thought, will not scheme against Fergal, she simply grants him no special favor. Mankor, on the other hand, has no such honor. Often he openly mocks his brother as a ruthless brute. More than once Fergal has thwarted assassins that have come for his life, many believe at the behest of Mankor.

Icillia is seeing her own health degrade, but it does not seem fast enough for either of her sons. So they plot against one another, they plot to strengthen their own claims to the throne, and some whisper, they plot the demise of their own mother. (DM Note: The fact that these two are identical twins allows them extra opportunities to sabotage each other via impersonation.)

The Twins are not simply power mongers. Both have visions for what Aeranore may become. Fergal believes that the smaller folk should have more of a voice at court and believes Aeranore must maintain a strong military. His biggest proposal, which has so far been rejected at court, is that anyone who enlists in the military has an opportunity to be heard once a year by Aeranore’s royalty.

Mankor also has a dream for Aeranore. He sees a land of inventors and researchers building new technologies and uncovering blank spots on the map. He believes Aeranore should be investing in young minds by scouting out potential scholars and mages then offering them scholarships to institutions like the Arcane College. In exchange these students then come and work for Aeranore’s government for a time.

The Twins are not the only forces at play.

Icillia V

When Queen Icillia IV was in her twenties she was married to a nobleman adventurer named Rallaigh DeTremont. Rallaigh went to war against Bragonay shortly after marrying Icillia and lost his life at the end of a dwarves waraxe. Shortly after, the queen gave birth to their daughter, Icillia V.

The queen rained love down on her daughter and told her tales of her father’s bravery. One day the throne would be hers after all, and she had to know what it meant to have courage. Little Icillia V grew proud of the father she had never met and desired nothing more than to go on heroic adventures. Everything the girl did was out of love for Rallaigh. That love was nurtured by her mother to prepare Icillia V to be an effective ruler. The queen constantly sang the praises of the girl’s father and spoke of how deeply she loved him.

Alas, the queen pushed too hard and praised Rallaigh too much. Eventually she remarried to the Twins father, Jerronic Tellibo. Icillia, appalled at the actions of her mother, forsook her birthright. She disappeared amongst the peasants, sought her fortune as an adventurer, or took any and all of the actions told in countless other rumors. Today she would be in her sixties, if she is still alive, and hiding somewhere in the world. Aeranore’s true heir to throne does not wish to be found, but there are those who wish to find her. Certain diplomats and nobles do not think either of the Twins sitting the throne is a good idea. They hope to find the lost princess so she might take the crown and perhaps avoid a civil war… but Icillia V’s return could just make a potential war even worse.

The Power Players

These rebels are… upset.

Two other groups further complicate Aeranore’s situation. Free Aeranore is a revolutionist group that spreads their message through acts of terrorism. They wish to bring democracy to Aeranore and put more power in the hands of the peasants by having a democratically elected group of leaders. The message of Free Aeranore is spread through vandalism and acts of violent aggression, such as raiding and raising government buildings, robbing treasury carts, and executing nobles. Their leader, a masked female who calls herself The Voice, claims Free Aeranore does not wish to commit such acts, but the monarchy forces them to do so. They have promised all acts of aggression until now have been warm ups for an imminent event they’re calling The Big Show.

Aeranore’s other issue is its largest Verdan colony, Paqual. Governor Sydal Freedrock has convinced the people of Paqual that they should not be subject to the rule of Icillia IV, who sits on a throne across the sea and does not understand the problems of the Verdan colonies. He wants Paqual and Aeranore’s other colonies to rise against Icillia IV and declare themselves a separate nation. Trying to garner support, Sydal will soon make his own claim for Paqual’s independence, with or without the other colonies. Many of Paqual’s citizens agree with this separatist attitude, though others see Sydal as a power-hungry tyrant who desires a kingdom of his own.

The Rumors

Aeranore’s situation is complicated even more by rumors whispered amongst the peasants and nobles alike. Here’s a few!

  • The Twins’ father is not actually Jerronic Tellibo, but actually his deceased, older brother Vant Tellibo. Therefore the Twins are actually bastards and have no claim to the throne.
  • Icillia V is actually still the 18-year-old woman she was when she left her mother’s palace to seek a life of adventure. Some say this youth has been achieved through a magic necklace given to her by an old tutor who looked upon her as a daughter. Others believe it is because Icillia has studied dark arts and transformed herself into some sort of undead.
  • Queen Icillia IV is not as healthy as she appears. She is suffering from an illness that will strike her down sooner than her sons might.
  • Mankor has a love all things lemon – pies, tarts, drinks. This has led many to whisper that Mankor himself is a mystauk host.

How’d I do?

I know I’ve said before I want every country to be a rich enough world that a party could simply complete a level 1-20 campaign without ever leaving its borders, but have enough connections to the outside world that an organically sprawling campaign may also be played. Hopefully, I have enough domestically going on in Aeranore to make things interesting if my players stay there. This is just a small piece of the country’s lore and we haven’t gotten into its connections to the outside world yet.

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!

If you do a Google image search for “tiefling” the images you get run the gamut of character archetypes. Bards, wizards, warriors, thieves, and impractically clothed, sexy women appear in a crazy number of artistic styles. This is a clear indication that this PC race has captured the imagination of many players. Here’s one of my favorites from Dragon Magazine 368 illustrated by Steve Argyle.

Step off me, bro.

Step off me, bro.

And here’s some others I like.

by Matthew Batchelder

by Matthew Batchelder

by Dave Allsop

by Dave Allsop

by Mirana Reveier

by Mirana Reveier

All of these artists have different styles, but you can see the one thing that shines through in all of the tieflings – their devilish nature. It’s not just the horns and tail. The eyes of these tieflings seem to burn red or gold, their expressions display moody emotions like anger and sadness, they dress in darker colors, and when magic is involved it is of a fiery variety.

What makes  tieflings interesting to me is that they have to either embrace or deny the devil within their very soul, and it’s a constant battle. They can’t just deny or embrace their inner devils once and be done with it. Rather, they must keep the devil bottled up until the time is right to release it or, perhaps even more interesting, visa versa.

Tieflings in Exploration Age

On Verda, tieflings are the descendants of part of an army of devils summoned to Verda by metallic dragons to fight the aberrants. In many ways this move by the dragons was a mistake, as some of the devils formed alliances with the aberrants, and even produced offspring with these creatures creating horrifying devil-aberrants who are still a threat today (more on that in a later post). However, many devils did choose (or were bound) to serve the metallic dragons. After many generations on the material plane, these devils evolved into tieflings. They aren’t humans with a little bit of devil ancestry, as in most settings. They are what devils became after hundreds of thousands of years on the material plane.

Tieflings have lived through a lot in their time on Verda. They’ve driven the aberrants underground, experienced plagues and wars, seen the rise and fall of The Tarrasque, and the creation and desolation of other races. For the most part, Exploration Age’s tieflings try to hold back their devilish nature, remaining mostly isolationists, studying the world, and always trying to better themselves.

Culture

Almost everything the tieflings in Verda do is about bettering themselves. They believe that overtime they will lose their devil urges altogether as a people if they continue to resist them. The tieflings may be right, after all look what millennia of living suppressed has done for them so far.

To that end tieflings are constantly at work to better themselves individually and as a society. As young children, they are constantly taught lessons in science, magic, history, planar lore, literature, arts, philosophy, and skill at arms. The last is an especially important discipline to tieflings, for they must learn to control their devil bloodlust in battle and how to harness and focus those urges when necessary for their own survival.

When a tiefling comes of age, he or she is brought before the individual’s Spire Council. The Council and the tiefling together discuss the individual’s best possible career path and how the young tiefling may better serve the community as an adult. The tiefling is assigned a discipline and leads his or her life in that trade. At anytime a tiefling may appeal to The Council to change careers.

As adults tieflings mainly value discovery and invention. A sound mind and body are important to bettering oneself, so soldiers still spend time studying and meditating while scholars still find themselves training and exercising.

Some of Canus’ most beautiful music, most powerful spells, most informative tomes, and greatest arms and armor are made by tieflings and some of its greatest warriors and mages come from that same race since they are always training, discovering, and inventing in the name of betterment.

The Spires

Tieflings live in settlements that spiral up into the sky. These Spires are surrounded by walls on the lowest levels and the private tieflings often keep their gates closed.

If travelers are allowed into the city, they are often confined to the lower half of the Spire, where most of the shops and services reside. The upper half of the Spire are the residences, military, academic, and government housings. The very top of the Spire houses The Council Chambers and a magically enhanced lookout post which allow a tiefling mage known as The Spire Guardian to look out 50 miles in all directions, day or night.

The Seven Spires are spread up and down Verda’s West Coast and connected to each other via linked teleportation circles and crystal balls. Each Spire is governed by an elected council of seven tieflings. Elections occur every ten years. Each council chooses a tiefling from their Spire to serve a ten-year term on The Grand Council, which gathers in times of crises to determine the best course of action for its people.

The Seven Spires are each named for a different gemstone. Each tower specializes in a different school of magic and fighting style.

  • Amber Spire – Specializes in Abjuration Magic and Great Weapon Fighting
  • Amethyst Spire – Specializes in Evocation Magic and Sword and Shield Fighting
  • Emerald Spire – Specializes in Enchantment Magic and Archery
  • Jade Spire – Specializes in Transmutation Magic and Two-Weapon Fighting
  • Moonstone Spire – Specializes in Illusion Magic and Polearm Fighting
  • Ruby Spire – Specializes in Conjuration Magic and Thrown Weapons
  • Sapphire Spire – Specializes in Divination Magic and Unarmed Fighting

Dragonborn

Only since the recent discovery of Verda have the dragonborn learned of the tieflings’ existence. The tieflings, however, have long known about the dragonborn. The dragonborn race is a creation of the metallic dragons, who were once close allies of tieflings. When they created a humanoid race in their image, the tieflings felt threatened and misplaced. They prepared for war against this new race and the metallic dragons. The metallic dragons, knowing they had hurt their old allies, sent the dragonborn across the sea to make amends, but the damage was done and the relationship was irreparable. The metallic dragons stopped meddling in the affairs of the mortals of Verda and retreated deep into their lairs.

Now that the dragonborn have returned to Verda the tieflings are less than happy to see them. The dragonborn often come to Verda, seeking out metallic dragons and books in the libraries of the tieflings to learn more about their roots, but they will find that in The Seven Spires they are at the very least unwelcome.

Exceptions

Not all tieflings fit the description above. Here are two groups that break form.

  • The Spireless – It is rare, but when some tieflings come of age, they are deemed undisciplined and a danger to the community. It is believed they will embrace their devilish nature and succumb to the evil and immoral temptations of their ancestors. These tieflings are sent out of the community and forced to make a life for themselves in Verda. They are known as The Spireless. Many of these tieflings will give into the darkest parts of their souls, profiting through evil schemes and manipulations. Others will try to find a more righteous path and hope that they can be accepted back into the society of their people.
  • Bloodstone Spire – The Seven Spires were once Eight. The Bloodstone Spire still stands, but during the day it’s gates and windows are shut tight. The Spire of tieflings that specialize in Necromancy and Stealth Tactics experienced a vampiric scourge a little over three hundred years ago. Now every tiefling within Bloodstone Spire is a vampire. At night they pour forth from the city, looking for tribes of humanoids to feast upon and bring back as slaves and livestock.

Tiefling Adventurers

Tiefling adventurers can be found in Verda and parts of Findalay and Parian. Though often isolationist in their actions, tieflings like to keep tabs on the other folk of Canus. Many are sent into the world when they come of age, to observe and learn more about a culture, or map uncharted lands, or serve as a diplomat.

A tiefling adventurer could also be one of The Spireless. For some reason he or she was deemed unfit for society and has to earn his or her way back in. Or perhaps a Spireless tiefling has forsaken his or her people and is now out for personal glory, wealth, or darker intentions.

Or perhaps a tiefling has become an adventurer of his or her own free will, despite a lucrative opportunity and career path back at home. This could be an interesting back story for a character indeed…

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 said a few times before that my players prefer a world that feels more real and that means a place where morality isn’t usually black and white. In the real world, it seems most governments, organizations, religions, and cultures are not perfectly good or evil. Often, this is because people are usually not purely motivated by the desire to be good or evil. They have other desires that are motivating their actions. Tradition, prosperity, and self-preservation are all motivators that can drive one’s actions. The morality of those actions are in the eye of the beholder. The most interesting antagonists usually are not evil for evil’s sake, but have another force motivating them. Similarly this applies to protagonists and good. Think of these examples in pop culture.

  • In Les Miserables, Javert is so dedicated to the law of the land that he doesn’t care about Jean Valjean’s moral character.
  • In The Punisher comic book series, Frank Castle seeks to give criminals a taste of their own medicine by mercilessly murdering them. He is both a damned criminal and savior.
  • In Game of Thrones, most of the characters without the last name Stark (and some with that last name) perform questionable actions in the pursuit of their goals. Several people believe themselves best suited to the throne for the sake of Westros, but only one of them may wear the crown and thus leading to violent and ugly actions on everyone’s part. (I’m trying intentionally to be spoiler free.)

Defining Gray

When we talk about morality being gray, it’s not usually a matter of half the time an entity is good and half the time that same entity is bad. A Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde situation isn’t relatable or sympathetic for most players. Often a world that is morally gray puts entities into situations in which there is no clear cut good or evil choice. Perhaps some are a shade darker or a lighter, but most cannot point to another and say with 100% confidence, “Well clearly, you should have done this instead.”

For instance, in Bragonay, the warforged were built as slaves for the dwarves. Bragonay has an entire economy who’s foundation is placed on the backs of these beings whom the dwarves created for just that purpose. However, these beings are completely sentient and turn out to be people in their own right, many of whom do not want to be enslaved. The dwarves are in a tricky spot. Freeing the warforged might be the morally right thing to do in many people’s eyes, but the dwarves will lose much and risk their country falling apart if they do free all these beings. The choice isn’t so easy, especially since, in many of the dwarves eyes, this is what the warforged were built to do. If not for their slavery and use to Bragonay, they would never exist in the first place.

Bragonay also recently tried to conquer all of Findalay, because they feel that Aeranore, Taliana, and Marrial were taken from them. Some might say the dwarves are correct. They settled all of Findalay first and welcomed the other races to their lands. As these other beings began to expand and took more and more of Findalay for themselves, the dwarves felt as if their hospitality had been taken advantage. So they retaliated and war began. The other nations united and defeated Bragonay, carving out pieces of the continent for themselves. To this day, that stings for the dwarves and they have tried multiple times to take back Findalay for themselves.

So to be a Bragonaian dwarf does not necessarily mean being a power-hungry slaver. Nor does it necessarily mean being on a crusade to take back the lands that were once Bragonaian. It could mean one or the other or both or none. It might mean being proud of one’s heritage and defending the choices of the dwarves while fostering a grudge towards Findalay’s other nations. Or perhaps a dwarf is more progressive and wishes to see the end of Bragonay’s slavery and a true peace within Findalay. All of these beings can be found within Canus and therefore the world is deeper and more complex. An argument could be made to support the actions of any of these people, though you or I may personally not agree.

That’s just Bragonay. Questionable actions in desperate time have been committed all over Canus. Fearing the end of their farming exports as other nations began to produce more food, Taliana poisoned the crops of other nations secretly, forcing them to buy from their people. The Metallic Dragons feared the aberrants, so they opened a portal to The Nine Hells and released a horde of devils upon the land. In response to a mad king’s purging Aeranore of gnomes, a group of gnomish wizards forms an organization of deadly assigns to kill the king and all his servants, who continues operating even after the success of their mission. Two rival guilds of mercenaries fear the other stealing work and resources and begin a bloody gang war. These are the kinds of events that make up the history in Exploration Age. They have lasting repercussions and give the world layers where the characters can take a stance.

A Pinch of Black and a Dash of White

In a fantasy world, it often helps to have a few entities that are, at least, trying to do the right thing, as well as to have some forces motivated purely by selfish, destructive desires. The small white spots in the world make PCs feel like they are in a world worth saving. Likewise, a dark force that can unite two entities with a strained and complex relationship is also a good thing to have on hand. Two parties who don’t trust one another working together for the greater good can be a very rich story indeed.

The goodly folk are the little people. Kindly farmers, halfling vigilantes, another party of adventurers, a waitress in a tavern, etc. Rarely are these good guys all together in some type of organization and they never makeup an entire army. This keeps the interactions with good people on a more intimate scale and it helps the PCs believe there is something worth fighting for. Since there is no army of purely good guys, they’d need to take up that standard, should that be the road they choose to take. Perhaps they will laugh at the kind farmer and thief with a heart of gold, call them naive, murder them, and take their loot. That is the other extreme certainly, but their interactions with these people could fall anywhere on that spectrum. Either way, these good guys have a purpose – to show the PCs there are people other than themselves worth fighting for.

In Exploration Age, I’ve tried not to overload the world with dark entities, and I’ve let them be in stasis mode at the start of the campaign, so that I can use them as little or as much as I want. Here’s some examples.

  • The Tarrasque, a terrible, iconic D&D engine of destruction, was defeated and imprisoned in a mountain by minotaurs on Verda 400 years ago. The minotaurs built a city atop this mountain and serve as guardians, should the Tarrasque ever be released.
  • In Taliana, a lich tried to take over the nation with the help of a cabal of werewolves known as The Brotherhood of the Moon. Though she was defeated, her phylactery was never found and the Brotherhood of the Moon still operates within the country’s borders.
  • A group of brain controlling parasites, the mystuak, seek to conquer every living being in the land and make Canus their new home.

Let the Players Decide for Themselves

When it comes to the actions of the players, I’ll let them decide for themselves if they want to be pure good, pure evil, or gray. However, because of the nature of Exploration Age, they will be placed in situations where the choices aren’t easy. That’s part of the fun of the world. Maybe a PC is being forced by a government to cooperate because a family member has been imprisoned and the PC’s service is a chance to reduce that family member’s prison sentence. Maybe the party seeks to overthrow a slaver, but that slaver has a family of ten mouths to feed, and freeing his slaves may actually result in a violent riot, since the slaves themselves have a psychotic, rebellious leader.

The important thing as a DM to remember is that a decision does not always have to be one thing or the other. That’s the beauty of D&D. Characters may do anything they might in the real world – there isn’t computer code telling them they only have two dialogue options. Always be prepared for your players to try to manipulate a situation to their advantage. Just remember all actions have consequences, and sometimes those consequences cannot be foreseen. That’s what makes a rich, complex, gray world.

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!