I’ve got a lot of campaign prep to get done over the next few months. In fact, I’ve got so much to do that if I don’t do it here, in public, I’ll either never get it done in time – or be so distracted that Campaign Mastery will suffer. I’ve chosen to do the former.
This article continues the preamble/primer of preexisting background material that is needed for the reader unfamiliar with it all to understand the new content, and hopefully along the way, it just happens to give away a lot of material that other GMs should find useful.
- Part 1 of the trio examined the general question of why I customize races in the campaigns that I create.
- Part 2 is going to get specific, discussing Elves, Drow, and Ogres in Fumanor. If I can, I’ll also sneak in a few words about Halflings and Dwarves as well, even though that’s not really necessary to understanding what’s to follow. Well, the Dwarvish bit might be useful. It’s also going to be the longest article published here at Campaign Mastery at 13K words, plus downloads offering almost another 27K words!
- Part 3 will deal with Orcs, Dwarflings, The Verdonne, and the history of the campaign. With all that out of the way, I’ll conclude these preamble articles by quickly describing how I have written and am going to continue to write the rest of the series.
In other words, most of this trilogy is about who’s who in the adventuring party at the heart of the work to come.
I think some of the content has appeared at Roleplaying Tips in the past, but I couldn’t find it when I went looking there. But Johnn was kind enough, years ago, to give me explicit permission to republish the relevant materials, so there’s no problem. Some of the material dates back to the turn of the century, some of it dates from 2005, and some of it is more recent. Campaign Background material is like that – small increments of capital improvement adding up over a period of years into something massive.
To be honest, if I weren’t under the gun, timewise, I would probably split this up into seven or eight separate articles. But even with what promises to be one of the largest articles ever posted here at Campaign Mastery, there’s still more than enough to make this a very long series…
Explaining The Iconography
It’s a terrible thing to spend hours preparing an illustration for a series only to discover that some people don’t understand the Iconography. To the left is a small version of the illustration for part 1 – compare it with the one above that accompanies this post. Both contain:
- The overall series title;
- The part number of the overall series in the centre of the shield in colors that will vary as needed for contrast and diversity – this preamble is ALL part zero;
- A varying and somewhat scenic background image which will reflect the content of the article in some fashion;
- An icon in the top right corner of the shield that may or may not symbolize a different aspect of the content, depending on what I can find or create, in some contrasting color.
Clear now? Okay, let’s get underway…
Elves In Fumanor
In the course of the Godswar, Elves – as a race (and excluding Drow) – were wiped out, or so it was believed. All that was left was a bunch of half-elf wannabes.
The Half-elf Wannabes
They became fanatically obsessed with “breeding out” the human strain and reclaiming their “elven heritage” – perhaps understandable because they had always been the subjects of scorn and derision by the trueblooded elves. Unfortunately, a lot of information on this phase of “Elven” History appears to have been deleted and not archived when the PCs brought about racial purity in the conclusion to the first Fumanor campaign. But the key points are:
- Elvish history in general is poorly known, even to them, except in the most general terms. For example, it was known that Dark Elves (before becoming Drow) were exiled after slaughtering the entire sub-race of Aquatic Elves.
- Public Rituals had been witnessed but their significance was not explained.
- Private Rituals had not been witnessed at all.
- Imperfectly remembered and misunderstood ceremonies and rituals form the heart of the society, which is therefore superficial and unsatisfying. Their culture is fragmented but what remains is obsessively catered to without question.
- It was generally believed that Corellan and the other Elvish Deities had been killed during the Godswar, and hence were no longer being actively worshipped. Though the “elves” still paid lip service to the old faith, or else.
- Many former allies of the Elves have deserted them, and many past allies are shrouded in myth and mystery. Similarly, enmities remain without explanation.
- The Elves were agressively exploring ruins and the like in search of lost pieces of Elvish Lore.
- Elvish abilities had been weakened or lost altogether, and many of those that remained were misunderstood or not understood at all.
- Elves had lost the ability to Spellweave, which is how they crafted the environment of their forests to their liking. They are attempting to regain the knowledge, but it’s like teaching yourself brain surgery – with you also serving as the patient/experimental subject. Progress is slow, to say the least.
- Elves had lost the art of manufacturing Elven Chain and Elven Thin Blades and so on, which were also the products of spellweaving. For economic reasons (if nothing else) they would like to regain this craft.
- They all had chips on their shoulders the sise of the Grand Canyon. Especially regarding any suggestion that they were less than Elves used to be.
- Elves now had more in common with WW-II era Nazis than they do with Tolkien. With infusions of the Hippy Movement. Fanatically Militant Fascist Hippies – with pointed ears.
Racial Purity – at a Price
In the climax of the epic conclusion to Campaign I, every creature of mixed heritage became a pure-blooded example of the dominant race within their makeup as individuals. So some of the less elf-like half-elves (who may still have been in a position of authority within Elvish Society, depending on their ability, drive, and level of fanaticism) became human. Many of the lost abilities were restored at full force – with no explanation for how to use them – and the potential for the others was restored to full strength. Rituals which were carried out as a matter of rote and ritual suddenly invoked powers that the Elves didn’t know they had, and certainly didn’t know how to control. The driving ambition that had held their makeshift society together was suddenly realized – with nothing to take its place.
The consequences are left to the imagination of the reader. Suffice it to say that wild celebrations gave way to a purging of those social members found wanting in Elven Purity which was followed by a period of total anarchy and near-complete social collapse.
Fortunately, “help” was soon at hand – but I’ll come back to that, later.
Elves For The Educated Human
To educate noble humans, an enterprising Scholar (whose name has been lost to history) wrote a Book, “Elves for the Educated Human”, collecting everything Humans knew about Elves – including misunderstandings, wild imaginings, and deliberate falsehoods on the part of the somewhat secretive Elves, and others. The contents, in abbreviated form, represent everything that humans post-Godswar know about the race. Some of it was even correct, but even the hopelessly ill-informed Half-Elves (who called themselves Elves) knew better about the rest.
In the course of the first Campaign, the PCs discovered most of the truth behind the stories, thanks to a member of their party who WAS an “Elf”. Rather than spend a lot of web space on redundant, incomplete, and erronious information, I have converted that abbreviated synopsis into a PDF for GMs to compare with the true version below, which was provided to that PC only.
The PC Elf version (in-line)
In the space below, I have quoted the PC Elf version, which (by now) all the players know – even if most humans don’t. I’ve also made this available as a download for GMs to use in their own campaigns – the link is above, labelled “Elves & Elvishness”.
I would normally have simply provided the PDF but this is essential content to understand future parts of this series.
1. Elvish characteristics and The Faerlan
Among every elf’s most valued personal possessions is a small piece of leather carved with a number of different textures. Elves view the energies of the universe as a tapestry woven from “threads” of energy, and possess the ability to feel the shape of the weave of the resulting tapestry. This is the basis of their unusual sensory abilities, and is the basis for most tests of “Elvishness” – the more pure is the bloodline, the greater is the elf’s sensitivity to the weave. The leather carving, known as a “Faerlan”, is a tutoring tool and mnemonic device each elf begins carving as part of The Nilvahanin, “the ritual of childhood’s passage”, the ceremony which marks the passage from childhood to adolescence.
At that time, the young elf enters a meditative trance, aided if necessary by certain herbs and natural substances, a state in which the young elf remains until he has isolated the pattern which uniquely identifies himself to himself. This pattern is then carved into the center of the blank Faerlan, making it unique to that individual; An elf identifies with his Faerlan so intently that it can be considered an extension of himself, a part of his very being.
In part, this deep awareness of self is a fundamental constituent of the elvish “arrogance” noted by other races; with such a deep awareness of the fundamental aspects of their souls comes a deep and abiding sense of their place within the world, a self-confidence so intense that it is often mistaken for an extreme level of arrogance. In part, the perceived arrogance also stems from the awareness that they and their way of life produces such self-knowledge, and that other societies do not; the elves genuinely consider their society and way of life to be inherently superior to that of other cultures (and they might even be right about that).
Just because they can sense a pattern in the weave, however, does not grant instantly the ability to interpret these perceptions. To achieve even the limited reliability formerly associated with the purebloods required years of training and practice.
Each time the elf observes and identifies a new pattern within the weaving of life energies, he chooses that part of the pattern that they find most distinctive and carves a symbolic representation into the surface of the leather, so that when encountering a disturbance within the weave it can be compared with the carved patterns, and hopefully recognized.
Elves train frequently and regularly to be able to distinguish the different patterns by touch, even through heavy leather gloves. They are assisted in this by the weave of the Faerlan itself. Over time, the elves learn so many patterns and subpatterns that the original Faerlan is outgrown; added patches are sewn into the growing piece of leather. In the most sensitive of cases, the patchwork becomes a full suit of softened leather.
Such sensitives could not only tell, from a distance, in the dark, that there was a living creature in the darkness ahead, but could identify the type of creature and even it’s intentions. “A Gnoll and three Humans, led by Patrolivus the traitor, lie in ambush around the next corner. They have an elven prisoner,” is not beyond their abilities. Such a reading of the weave requires recognition of 7 separate interwoven patterns: The generic pattern for “living creatures” must be known, but this is elementary; recognizing how the weave changes with numbers gives a count to those who wait. The subpatterns within those generic patterns that distinguish Human from Gnoll from Elf must be separately identified to give type to each individual; the emotional state of “Ambush” – which is a fairly subtle one, simple “Hostile/Non-hostile” is more fundamental – must be recognized; and the unique pattern of ‘Patrolivus The Traitor’ as an individual must also be identified, perhaps the easiest task of all, save only the “Living Creature” pattern. Nevertheless, masters as adept as that in the example are very rare indeed.
Indeed, the elves use such “patterns of weave” to recognize individuals as much as they use faces and voices. This is one reason for the elvish indifference to the passage of years; they simply do not perceive the changes wrought by age, even amongst the more short-lived species, so long as the personality remains intact.
It would seem that the use of standard “Training Patterns” would arise fairly rapidly, with the young being schooled in a standard method of recognition of at least the major elements of the world around them. Such a proposal fails because what each elf perceives is different from every other elf; he does not sense the world around him so much as the interaction between that elf’s personality and the world around him. Given the uniqueness of each individual’s perspective, only technique can be taught; one elf’s Faerlan is meaningless to another when interpreting the weave of the tapestry.
One possible misinterpretation of the facts as laid out above should be laid to rest at this point. Simply because an elf has touched the fundamentals of his soul, it does not mean that he has identified, let alone come to terms with, every aspect of his personality. Life is as much a struggle for personal growth and awareness for the elves as for any other species. Through experience, they inevitably become aware of hitherto-hidden facets of their spirits, and through effort and growth they can seek to master those facets they find unwelcome, unappealing, or undesirable.
These perceptions have other implications for the elves. Because they are literally aware of things most people cannot see, they often appear distracted or aloof. They also have a tendency to consider themselves superior creatures to those who cannot share their perceptions, though this is most often expressed as a combination of condescending pity and outright arrogance – traits which their superior life-spans only reinforce.
It is normal for elves to grow in their abilities to work with this weave over time, eventually entering into “The Song Of Life” more directly than other species can. Most elves retire from adventuring eventually purely because they become overwhelmed with the “other world”. Eventually, some elves learn to reshape the patterns they are perceiving, becoming what the elves term a “Spellweaver”. These are both more powerful and more subtle than most human magics, and quite literally enable the elves to shape their preferred environment, manipulating it in many ways. It is said that the Verdonne were the creation over centuries of elves, that the forests in which many make their homes could have stalwart guardians.
As is only to be expected of those raised by such adults, there are a number of other cultural and psychological oddities which manifest themselves. The most notable are obscure senses of humour (frequently expressed as a love of cryptic answers to questions – purely as a form of ongoing teasing of non-elves); a marked level of curiosity; and a tendency to avoid hasty actions or decisions. This is not to suggest that elves are incapable of decisive action – merely that they might spend a week or two debating the need for decisive action first. These dichotomies have been known to drive diplomats from other cultures to profound despair and frustration.
2. Elvish Subcultures, Family Structures, and Personal Relations
There are a number of subvarieties of elf. By far the most common are the Forest Elves, and more than any others, the above personality description applies to that breed of elf. The next most common are the so-called “Dark Elves” (who are discussed in more detail below). A remote third in numbers are the Plains Elves, also commonly known as Wood elves; these are more gregarious than Forest Elves but are also far more frivolous, tending to abandon pursuits, tasks, even careers, on a whim. As a result they make good visitors but untrustworthy allies and neighbours. Rarest of all are the “High Elves”.
Descent is reckoned in three distinct and different relationships: Social, Environmental, and Genetic. The Genetic is the most significant; Elves, like most cultures, form family groups. Unlike most human societies, these are neither Paternal or Maternal in nature; authority is strictly through age, the most senior surviving member of the family being the Patriarch or Matriarch. Lineage, however, always descends through the Father. Thus, even if a Forest Elven male marries (“Joins With”) a High-Elven Female, any resulting children are considered to be Forest Elves.
However, Elven society promotes an extreme form of Exogamy – the concept that a child should marry outside of his village. There is limited but continual exchange between most of the subcultures (see separate subculture notes), through the bonding of Ealvorkin to one another.
It is not uncommon for a child of the High Elves to feel more at home in the forests, while a Plains Elf might welcome the isolation and introspection of the Mountain Heights. Between the Nilvahanin and the Ealvahanin (the ceremonies of passage between adolescence and adulthood, respectively) it is expected that young elves will explore the various environments available to them and determine where their places are henceforth to be.
If an elf determines that he is better suited to an environment other than his native subculture, he is required to locate an individual within the new subculture for whom his native lands are the preferred choice. He then exchanges places with that elf, through a ceremony called “The Ealvorinnikin”. He is adopted by the parents of the elf with whom he is exchanging places, renouncing any rights of inheritance associated with his former life, as does his exchangee. All property other than the most personal of belongings is given up, to become the property of his parent’s new son or daughter.
This adds new complexities to social and familial relationships. While the renounced kinships are considered more distant ties than those adopted, they nevertheless hold considerable value, in a fashion similar to “Mother-in-law” in comparison to “Mother”. There are terms for such relationships that simply have no cultural equivalent in human society. Some of the most common are:
- Ealvorkin – the elf with whom one has exchanged places, a kinship similar to that of “Blood Brother”. Through his sacrifice, an elf’s Ealvorkin has made a place in his subculture specifically for the elf in question.
- Fosterkin – “my child of another parent” – similar to “My Child” in usage and meaning, but referring to a child who has departed the family though exchange.
- Kinsson, Kinndaught – the equivalents of “Son” and “Daughter” applied to a child who has departed the family through exchange.
- Fathorkin – the male parent lost through exchange.
- Mathorkin – the female parent lost through exchange.
- Kinbrother – a brother lost through exchange.
- Kinssister – a sister lost through exchange.
- “Father”, “Mother”, “Son”, “Daughter”, “Brother”, and “Sister” – are all applied to the new relationships that exist following the ceremony, and thus do not necessarily refer to blood relations.
At first glance, these are relatively straightforward, but consider the complications for a family of 5 elves – Mother, Father, and three children – two of whom have been exchanged in this fashion. Where there were 5 members of the family, there are now 8 plus any birth-siblings of the original parents. And if one of those siblings should also have been exchanged? The number of “family members” grows very rapidly. These additions are considered part of the extended family, but not part of the immediate family.
This usually results over a period of a few generations* in an extended family comprising members from each of the socially-acceptable subcultures. Take 2 simple families – mother, father, and 2 children each – and then link the two by exchanging two of the children (one from each). Family #1. Plains Elves, now contains one member who is genetically a Forest Elf, and vice versa for Family #2
The exchangees do not have to be of the same gender. If either exchangee is male, his children are nonetheless considered to indigenous to the subculture of his new parents; if female, they are considered to be indigenous to the subculture of their mate. It is therefore posssible to have a family unit in which the father is a Plains Elf, The Mother a Forest Elf, and (after an appropriate exchange), the child is GENETICALLY a High Elf but Socially a Plains Elf. The Descendants of such a child are also considered plains elves.
In this way, elves from any one of the socially-acceptable community types contain the genetic material to repropagate all three subcultures.
This unusual social bonding, coupled with the long lives of the elves (see note on “Generations” below) has produced a number of important differences in Elvish culture. Since the usual reasons for forbidding incestuous relationships in society relate to the problems of Inbreeding, and there is frequently no genetic relationship between members of the same family, there is no prohibition on such Joinings amongst the elves. They have learned that few humans are capable of comprehending this, however, and that most hold arbitrary prejudices against such relationships whose roots have been long-buried in custom and tradition; and so Elves tend to avoid the subject with non-elves.
Since the Godwar, when the “pure” elvish population was virtually wiped out, inbreeding to produce a more-closely elven child is considered a positive virtue, and over the last century, what little force any such prohibitions held is now a fading memory.
* “Generations” are a human concept that finds little favour amongst elves, simply because the time period between birth and adulthood differs significantly from an adult’s fertile period; in humans they are approximately the same, 20 years. Furthermore, in humans, it is rare for an individual to see his or her 40th summer. The gap from birth to adulthood is 25 years, similar to that for humans, but this is followed by an unlimited adult lifespan – though few elves live more than 350 years, the oldest recorded elf died at the age of 768 (while she was hunting a were-elephant terrorizing her family). “True” elves used to live longer, and the shortened lifespans are considered a consequence of the human impurities in the bloodlines of modern elves. For convenience in speaking to humans, Elves deal in arbitrary “Generations” of 50 years length while ignoring the concept the rest of the time.
2.1 High Elves (Elvish Subculture)
Popular lore holds that these are the Elvish Nobility, but in this case, popular lore is incorrect. High Elves are those who prefer to live atop mountain peaks and snow and ice, where the isolation makes awareness of the weave more accessible. They are far more solitary than even the Forest Elves, and abide visitations of any sort unwillingly. While the most given to formality and approved codes of conduct, these are (as often as not) simply polite ways of being insulting. Nevertheless, by virtue of their greater mastery of the weave, the High Elves are normally amongst the highest authorities of Elven Society; and it is this that leads to the popular misconception. Most high elves are carnivorous in diet, and frequently have herds of goats and sheep.
As has been commented, the High Elves are more solitary and isolationist than most of their kin. This attitude is present in varying interpretations and degrees within the subculture however, as implied by the varieties of residence of the High Elves. There are two types of dwelling utilized by High Elves, Towers and Fillwaer.
The Towers are small structures in floorplan, frequently comprising many separate levels housed within spires that are connected by bridges of seeming delicacy and fragility, usually in multicolored pastel tones. Until quite close to these structures, it is almost impossible to gauge their size – they could be fairy castles or huge constructs housing an entire clan. This confusion is made possible because the High Elves and Fairies share a common architectural origin – no-one knows whether the elves expanded on Fairy Architecture or the Fairies miniaturised an Elven design.
The variations in size within this category of dwelling reflect other differences within the subculture. If the residence is home to but a single High Elf or a small family, they will have little presence in terms of cultivation and herds, and this is a sure sign that the resident is a mage of some ability or a spellweaver. Most of the dwellings used by the former group were, of course, destroyed during the Magewar. The residents of such isolated structures tend to focus very narrowly apon their own interests and to be insular and stiff-necked. Nevertheless, by virtue of their eccentricities, they are frequently more progressive in attitudes than other High Elves. It is not uncommon for such dwellings to have a number of areas set aside for the use of various pursuits; if such an area is not relevant to the interests of the current residents, it will simply fall into disuse until such time as a family member grows interest in the subject. There are often chambers in such towers that have lain disused for centuries, until none of the current residents knows of their purpose; this is especially true of some of the more esoteric subjects that capture the fancy of eccentrics.
If the residence is home to a typical family, they will typically have a reasonable area under their sway. There will be a couple of small farm plots in surrounding valleys, located some distance (perhaps 3 hours walk) from the residence itself, and there will be several herds which graze in different valleys. Such residences frequently block or occupy peaks overlooking navigable passes and there is an elaborate system of signal fires which keep the Towers in simple communications with their neighbours, able to convey warnings of fire, flood, enemies, or other emergencies. Unsurprisingly, with such isolated groups of individuals, family traditions assume a greater emphasis which makes each such family distinct. These groups are more stable than their more eccentric and solitary kin, and with space often at a premium, they cannot afford the luxury of leaving chambers disused for such lengthy periods of time. At the same time, they remain provincial in attitudes compared with many of their kin, further distinguishing one family from another. While naturally isolated and conservative, these groups are the most commonly contacted by the other subcultures, and hence there is a continual progressive influence which results from exchanged children, and this influence at least keeps these families willing to listen to new ideas and social movements – if hard to convince.
When the tower is home to an entire extended family or clan of 70-240, that group will typically control quite large areas. An entire valley might be given over to the cultivation of crops, and most of the surrounding mountaintops and valleys will be home to migratory herds. The clan might well hold areas two or three days ride from the central towers. As the most self-sufficient socially of the differing groups of high elves, these are usually the most conservative of the groups within the High Eleven subculture. Children are carefully reared in the disciplines that the household requires, and it is not uncommon for a clan to go for years with no communications with the outside world. The fact that the majority of High Elves are found in such communities further reduces the contact with this Subculture, by reducing the numbers available for interaction with the other subcultures.
The fact that members of such clans must spend time outside the Clan Tower has given rise to the other form of dwelling used by the High Elves, the Fillwaer. These are teepee-like structures constructed of thin timbers and furs, quick to erect and disassemble, enabling the shepherds to migrate with their herds. With a large herd, there might be up to a half-dozen such dwellings, each home to a single Elf or a single family group.
High elves, in general, number the most powerful and sophisticated spellweavers, using their powers to construct towers otherwise impossible, influencing the natures of the herds and farms, and shaping the raw beauty of the mountain wilderness. Beyond these simple purposes, they tend toward more esoteric and theoretical studies of the weave and less toward practical applications. Indeed, many of the greatest craftings are centuries old, and require only a little maintenance, further reducing the scope for practical applications of their knowledge. A High Elf might not be able to persuade a tree to grow into a shape suitable for a dwelling, but he could outline the peaks with eldritch fires, craft elaborate illusions to lead unwelcome strangers away from their homes and herds, and create subtle and sophisticated magic devices. Many High Elves specialize in air, earth, divinitory, and weather magics of great power, frequently cast only at need. More than any other elves, High Elves are interested more in what the weave and its properties are, and less with exploiting this knowledge in their everyday lives. Paradoxically, this makes their lifestyles the most akin to humans.
2.2 Forest Elves (Elvish Subculture)
These are the most populous of the elvish subcultures. They abide in forests which teem with life, much of it modified through Spellweaving. Trees grow in ways that suit the Elves, forming an impenetrable barrier about their forests, dwellings for elvish families that are green and grow with the family, community and common buildings, etc. Forest elves have a diet not dissimilar to that of humans, incorporating both meat and vegetable matter. However, they consume little food, as each such act is considered an arbitrary disruption of the natural environment they have crafted. The trend is towards berries, fruits, etc. – self-replenishing resources – with the occasional leavening of wild foul, boar, or fish.
As the most commonly-encountered varieties of elf, much of the human perceptions and misperceptions derive from this subculture. Those misperceptions (annotated with the truth of the matter) include:
- Elves are natural bowmen (true only of forest elves, though most high elves receive extensive training with the bow to enable them to drive off predators stalking their herds at range).
- Elves are invisible in the forest (untrue, though Forest elves are naturally skilled at camouflage and stealth in such an environment).
- Elves live in trees by preference (true only of Forest Elves).
- Elves live until killed (untrue of all subtypes, though they have life spans of such length that no known elf has ever died of old age in a reliably-chronicled manner).
- Elves love nature over all else (untrue. The Forest elves are, however, acutely aware that they have crafted the Nature around them to suit their needs and preferences, and of the place that has been moulded into that natural order for themselves; they then often extend those principles in general to other natural environments).
- Elves are pacifists (untrue, though they are rarely given to actions which cannot be undone later, for example any killing not absolutely necessary according to their world-views).
- Elves refuse to use wooden furniture and other things crafted of “dead trees” (untrue, though elves have very limited supplies for such because of their perception of Nature – they will not cut down a living tree to make such, save in most dire emergencies).
- Elves worship their meals (untrue, though Forest Elves behave in an almost-reverent way towards their meals, acknowledging the sacrifice made by Nature on their behalf)
- Elves never sleep (although superficial encounters with elves dispel this perception, it is technically accurate, after a fashion. Elves DON’T sleep, but they do need to rest in order to recover from their exertions just as do humans, albeight humans with superior constitutions.
Furthermore, Elves are continually inundated by their awareness of the weave, even without undertaking the concentration required to interpret it, and need to meditate regularly in order to rest – otherwise it’s like trying to sleep with a bright light being shone in one’s eyes. In order to focus oneself sufficiently to overcome this distraction, many elves find it necessary to meditate so deeply that they might as well be in a very heavy sleep, so isolated from the outside world are their senses. As the awareness of the weave rises, so does this need – reaching the point where the most powerful elven spellweavers require 14 hours ‘rest’ out of every 24 – because it takes them longer to shut off their more-sensitive awareness. However, because it is simply meditation, at need an elf can rest lightly – the equivalent of lying down, rather than “sleeping” – and can thus come awake immediately. They do so only when necessary, for they pay a penalty similar to that of a human who foregoes sleep in an adrenaline-charged situation – exhaustion and sharp tempers the next day).
- All Elves are Thieves (untrue, though most are unusually nimble of fingers and could learn that ‘profession’ at will. This misperception results from the combination of this unusual degree of manual dexterity and the Elvish attitude towards property ownership, which is detailed above).
- Elves are arrogant, indecisive, flighty, and continually laugh at humans behind the latter’s backs (largely untrue; the truth of this matter is dealt with substantially in section 1 of this text).
There are many other such misconceptions. In general, human perceptions of Elves have only a passing acquaintance with the truth of even the Forest Elves, let alone the other subspecies.
The forest elves lead, in fact, the least comprehensible lifestyle in comparison to human societies. They do not gather in population centres, and think nothing of a community dwelling that is located so far from the home that it is several days travel to reach it. So dispersed throughout their forests are they that it is possible that the equivalent community structure for another population centre might lie closer to a family dwelling than the one to which that family looks.
Forest elvish dwellings are crafted by the growth of trees; forming large hollows within the tree trunks, frequently 50 feet or more above the forest floor. Elvish trees can be anything up to 60′ in diameter, so these “rooms” can be quite substantial in size. A single dwelling for a moderate-to-large family might well consist of ten or twenty such trees, each containing five to ten “rooms”, which may be individually subdivided into smaller compartments. Such a dwelling “cluster” could be home to up to 150 Elves. These trees are connected by branches which form ramps and “broad” avenues (perhaps 2 inches across), which elves use to travel from tree to tree and room to room. It is considered possible for an Elf to go anywhere within an elven Forest while never touching the ground – though that is something of an exaggeration.
Much of the plant and animal life within the forests have been modified through spellweaving to serve the purposes of the elves. Certain trees grow with their roots rising completely above the surface of the ground, forming shaded hollows beneath the trees that are large enough to walk through. In these places, a particular lichen grows which, when mature, glows in the dark, producing sufficient light to read by. There is a particular moss which grows along the tops of the avenues and ramps of the forest dwellings which provides a more certain footing when wet by rain. These are but two examples among many.
In the forests below the lowest levels of the Elven “buildings” there are other trees, whose tops form a thick carpet that rises no higher than the lowest avenues. These form mazes which do not bar forest wildlife below 3′ in height, with many hidden passageways through which the elves themselves can pass. These mazes are sure death for any invader, however, leading through many traps and dangers crafted through Spellweaving. Vines that grow at ground level across deep pits, naturally disguised as leaves and virtually undetectable, trees bearing seemingly-edible fruits of extreme toxicity, and many other such dangers await any who force their way through the protected outer barriers. Regularly-spaced glades are used as the locations where spellweavers work their arts, where weddings and other ceremonies are conducted, where large social gatherings take place, and so on. These glades are strong in the weave and are amongst those parts of the forest most manipulated by the Elves. Those uninvited to enter will frequently not even perceive the glades, or will be attacked by the trees themselves apon entry, or will find that anything of once-living matter about the invaders’ person – wood, leather, etc. – will immediately decay and rot, or will turn on the wearer. Each such glade is different in nature, but all are natural defensive formations and strongholds within the forests. Whole armies can be destroyed apon entry to the forests without an Elf coming into sight.
The greatest dangers to the Elven buildings from an enemy who has penetrated the forest are the ramps that lead from ground levels up to the heights, and the Forest Elves realized this long ago, and crafted traps accordingly. Perhaps 1 in 20 such is genuine; the others are vines with burning sap, weakened (hollow) limbs which are home to stinging insects – wasps, scorpions, and other such – or snakes which kill by constriction.
Perhaps the greatest enemy to these Elves and their Forests is Fire. The Elves have strenuously sought to craft alternatives, such as the Glows described above, which make torches unnecessary. Fires naturally occur within forests as a means of clearing undergrowth, permitting other species of plant to mature. Some plants require fires to become fertile. None of these holds true in an Elven Forest, where the spellweavers perform these tasks; and hence at best, small campfires are cautiously tolerated. Standing guard against larger conflagrations are other plants which grow, vine-like, amongst the branches of every tree. These store vast quantities of a watery liquid which is released when a fire beneath grows too hot, inundating and extinguishing any blaze.
All this makes Elven Forests a haven for wildlife, especially smaller creatures. Squirrels, Birds, and many more species abide there, as do some more substantial creatures of diminished stature – boars, grenedraken, bears, and the like. All have been modified somewhat through elven spellweaving to some extent, to the point where none will attack a Forest Elf, and many will obey the commands of senior elves. They remain wild creatures, however, and will rarely leave their sheltered forests.
As should be clear from the above, Forest Elves utilize spellweaving routinely in their daily lives, and are the best-versed in using it for practical ends. They tend to have little interest in the theoretical extremes of the High Elves and are far more skilled than the Plains Elves.
2.3 Plains Elves (aka Wood Elves) (Elvish Subculture)
These prefer to dwell on well-grassed plains with at best scattered scrub. However, most such lands are overrun by Goblins and other Fallen Peoples, and as a result the Plains Elves have been forced into residences in more heavily-wooded regions, hence the alternative name for these peoples. Wood Elves – the more accurate description in modern times – are the glue that unites Elves as a people. They are the intermediaries who interact with both Forest Elves and High Elves, frequently occupying the intermediate terrain between the two. Within the subculture are two distinct social structures in place – nomadic tribes and simple villages. The population is roughly balanced between these two groups, which shows the amount of terrain which the Wood Elves claim.
Because they move around, and are dispersed over vast areas, the Nomadic group is the more likely to be encountered by any who do not know precisely where to look for a village. The villages in question are generally located on or near rivers and bodies of water and are generally simple adobe affairs. The two groups are very different in society, attitudes, and traditions, and amongst the elves it is considered that the nomads favor the Plains while the villagers look to the Woods. Over many long centuries, much time has passed in ceaseless philosophical debate within the various subcultures over whether or not the two should actually be considered separate Elvish Subcultures. Most elves candidly admit that the matter will never be resolved, because if it were, what would they debate through the long winter evenings?
As a consequence, one must always be cautious in. interpreting any statement made concerning the “Plains” or “Wood” Elves; the comments might apply generally to the entire subculture, or only to one faction, depending on the speaker’s stance on the issue. This must be taken into account before the truth of such statements can even be contemplated. Nor can it be inferred that simply because a given statement is true in reference to one subgroup and not the other that the speaker considers the two to be separate subcultures; he or she might be mistaken, or in error, or simply overgeneralising.
Despite the differences in the social structures (discussed in more detail below), there are certain things that both subcultures have in common even over and above those attributes which apply to all elves. In particular, their religious observances and interpretations are united; and they share a common ground in their approach to, and use of, spellweaving. Simply put, while High Elves study the weave itself and manipulate the unliving environment, and Forest Elves weave patterns in the nature around them, Wood Elves weave subtleties into their own natures; through the exchanges of children, traits thus developed slowly spread through the general elvish population. Most of the physical characteristics associated with Elves originated with the Wood Elves. Despite this, there has been sufficient separation that Wood Elves posses identifiable genetic characteristics, standing shorter than their kin, being darker of skin, lighter hair, and having a preponderance of light-coloured eyes – golds and yellows and light greens and blues, as compared with human eyes.
These common characteristics are the essence of the arguments in favor of treating them as a unified subculture. Arrayed against these arguments are the differences, which are discussed below. Adding confusion to the debate is the fact that there is continual migration between the two. It is not uncommon for a group of nomadic Plains Elves to sell their entire herd and possessions to another group living in a village, in exchange for that village; the villagers depart and become nomads for a decade or two, while the former nomads become villagers. What’s still more exasperating is that almost immediately, the former nomads take on the social conventions and characteristics of the village, while the former villages adopt those of the wanderers. When it is said that Plains Elves are flightier and more inconsistent than other elves, it is to this behaviour that the speaker refers for the most part.
Elvish trackers and pathfinders are legendary in their abilities; it sometimes seems that they can read the passage of their prey by the bending of a single blade of grass. All such abilities are the province of nomadic Plains Elves; as villages, Plains Elves are typically a little less sharp-eyed than their kin from the other Subcultures. Like their forest kin, the nomads are frequently expert with the bow; but villagers are singularly inept with the weapons. Villagers, on the other hand, are adept with the sword, a characteristic that is mysteriously lost when they “go bush”. Often, skills that are appropriate only to a rural/urban setting are lost and new skills acquired in their places when an elf goes nomad. A master baker can become as fumblefingered in the kitchen as the rawest apprentice, but a master horseman. Such inconsistencies drive the other Elvish subcultures to exasperation, perpetually promising new educational methods that would advance Elvish society by millennia, without ever delivering. The Plains Elves either cannot or will not explain the process, and it does not hold for the other Elvish Subcultures. Still more exasperating is that when a Plains Elf is exchanged for a a child from another subculture, the former Plains Elf ceases to display such behaviour, acquiring a subset of both sets of skills, while the newly-adopted child from a different Subculture begins exhibiting the new traits, retaining his skills in the abilities appropriate to his new environment and losing others.
It has been commented that Plains Elves share a common theology, but the details of that theology are another issue left clouded by this Subculture. This has often been raised in the interminable debates, with the implications that there is some connection between the two subjects, but always the issue has failed to reach any conclusion of value. Some details of these religious observances are known; Plains Elves have a substantially larger collection of divine beings than are acknowledged by the other subcultures, acknowledging a number of “helpful spirits” or “Tornwraights”, which they content hold an intermediate level between the Common Gods and the Elvish Peoples. These helpful spirits have both a physical and a spiritual reality; into each generation of animal is born a perfect specimen of that variety of creature, which becomes the physical avatar of the helpful spirit. These physical avatars act as guides in the physical world, appearing unbidden to help or hinder as appropriate to their nature. Just as real are the spiritual aspects of the Tornwraights, which embody the spiritual equivalents of the physical traits. Thus the spiritual avatar of the Bear Tornwraight has the spiritual strength that is equivalent to the physical strength of a bear. These spiritual avatars also appear unbidden, to teach, to advise, and to mislead (like the Plains Elves themselves, the avatars are inconsistent and capricious, a ‘coincidence’ that has not escaped the other subcultures). Only one Tornwraight is forbidden – that of the spider. Any who profess allegiance with the spider totem are put to death, and it is commonly held that the spider Tornwraight appears only to sow dissension and evil – sometimes by lies, and sometimes by giving fair and good advice in the knowledge that it will be scorned and rejected, to the individual’s detriment.
It is normal for one tribe of nomads or villagers to believe that one particular Tornwraight is uniquely associated with that group, and is the “totem animal” for that tribe. In social terms, they tend to model their behaviour on perceived characteristics of that Tornwraight; thus followers of the Fox Totem would emphasize craftiness and cleverness in their behaviour, and would be careful planners and strategists, while those who follow the wyvern totem would be more heavily armed and armoured, and would emphasize strength and combat abilities.
In a similar way, it is said that shortly after the birth of a child, a manifestation of a Tornwraight would make itself known in the child’s presence, that the Tornwraight would tell each child it’s true name, never to be revealed to another, and that by this sign might it be known which tribal totem the child would hereafter follow. Depending on the individual tribe, this might require that the child be sent to join that tribe, or he might be permitted to remain as a member of a more cosmopolitan society. Individuals who are marked by the totem of their birth tribe are considered favoured children of the Gods and Spirits and are groomed for positions of leadership.
At first glance it might appear that the Plains Elves are more primitive than the other subcultures – adobe huts, totemistic tribal beliefs and social groups – but these factors are misleading. Plains elves are in fact in many ways cleverer and more advanced than the members of the other subcultures. It is the province of villager diplomats to settle disputes between the differing socially-acceptable subcultures, and they are more adept artificers than either of the other groups. “Elvish Mail” is always of Plains Elf construction, being crafted of equal parts metal and spellweaving. Weapons from the Plains Elves are more commonly enchanted or of superior workmanship. In watercraft, none can match them since the Fall of the Aquatic Elves (see below). Where other subcultures either manipulate their environment or the animals themselves to their ends, Plains elves tend to take both as they are found in nature. Unlike the other subcultures, all plains elves are excellent natural riders, and all tribes retain herds of horses, while all villagers communicate by rider. The Plains elves are credited with the creation of a postal service, a craft which seeks to construct a network of messengers who can carry messages from anyone to another, relaying the messages from one to another as necessary, an idea which has been adopted enthusiastically by Humans. And Plains Elves always seem to have the knack of seeing through to the central issues of a dispute, of being aware of “the heart of the matter”. Again, dichotomies within a consistent framework, a paradox to exasperate others.
2.4 Aquatic Elves (Lost Subculture)
Aquatic Elves were closely related in many ways to the Plains Elves, and used their powers of spellweaving in similar ways. They preferred to live on coasts and in shallow waters, and modified themselves accordingly. They were sailors and shipwrights of uncanny ability, according to legend. Their totems were the different varieties of sea life. Although the details have been lost in the mists of time, it is known that for some reason, long ago, the Dark Elves began a war of extermination against their aquatic brethren, razing their villages and slaughtering whole populations. It is believed that in desperation, the Aquatic Spellweavers transformed the survivors into a new variety of sea-borne mammals that they could survive the oceans; but that interference in the weaving perpetrated by the Dark Elves and errors which were the product of haste caused this change to be irrevocable. With the Fall of Civilization during the Godwar and the resulting upheavals, the elves lost all contact with the seas and the ruins of the Aquatic Elves, and the very existence of the Aquatic Elves is now beginning to fade into legend, though it might well take another 400 years before this process is complete.
2.5 Dark Elves (Elvish Subculture)
The spider-clan of the Plains Elves long ago settled into a new environment. They believed that the surface world, with its myriad distractions for the senses, interfered with the development of the abilities to sense the weave, and that by living an ascetic existence within caverns deep underground, these distractions could be avoided, producing a manyfold increase in the powers of elvish perception and spellweaving. Those elves who accepted this concept were then joined by members of the other subcastes, and in particular by large numbers of High Elves (one reason why they are so much less prevalent today). The spider-clan thus began to utilize their spellweaving abilities in all the diverse manners of all the other subcultures, from the environmental manipulations of the Forest Elves to the raw Spellcraft of the High Elves. In order to protect themselves from “contamination” by the Sunlight, they erected barriers and isolated themselves from the surface population.
A schism then erupted amongst the members of the newly-emerging subcultures. The Spider-clan, closest to the Spider Tornwraight, did expect that they would command, as the ones who had led the others underground; but the malicious Tornwraight spun webs of deceit and ambition amongst the High Elves and Civil War ensued. When finally the bloodletting ended, the former high elves had formed a mage-dominated ruling caste; the former plains elves, a religious caste; and the former Forest and Aquatic Elves, who had been caught in the crossfire, a servant caste. Over the centuries that followed, the combination of the worst aspects of Elvish Arrogance, the lies and deceptions of the Spider-Tornwaight, and the consequences of inbreeding and an isolation even more acute than that of the High Elves led to the fundamental principles of Dark Elven society being adopted – that they were inherently superior than all surface dwellers, that they had been driven from the surface in a bitter dispute by the other Elves and their Gods, and so on. The spider-Tornwraight slowly became more Elven in characteristics and became the Spider-God Llolth, also known as the Demon Queen and by many similar names.
Then the Dark Elven tunnels were reached by some industrious dwarves, who little suspected the evil toward which they had tunneled, and the natural antipathy between the two creatures provided all the Dark Elves needed by way of confirmation. They slaughtered most of the Dwarves and took the remainder as slaves, they encouraged the creatures of the dark (modified in the way of the Forest Elves) to occupy the tunnels, and they stole forth from those tunnels to exact vengeance and conquest apon the surface world. They first turned to the weakest of their kin, the Aquatic Elves, with results described above; and then began to bedevil their other Kin, forming alliances with the Fallen Races and committing wholesale atrocities in the name of the Queen of the Spiders.
Over the years, in some respects, their attitudes softened, and it became accepted that skilled slaves were more useful than unskilled, but in the fundamental respects, they are unchanged – a xenophobic, cruel, and evil subspecies, mighty in the arts of sorcery, religion, battle, and spellweaving, with abilities built into their modified forms that vastly enhance the dangers that they bring when they appear. Although many of these abilities eventually weaken and vanish apon the surface world, this serves only to prove to the Dark Elves that they were right all along, reinforcing their natural egotism and Arrogance. Most Elves believe that this is the result of a twisting of the nomad/villager dichotomy of the Plains Elves.
It has been implied that exchanges only take place between the socially-acceptable subcastes, and in general, this is true. However, there are many exceptions. The spider-Tornwraight still seeks recruits amongst the surface population of the Plains Elves, and while all such followers of Llolth are put to death apon discovery, it is a clear and known fact that often Lloth succeeds in deceiving the Elves as to the totem to be followed by the child. In this way, some surface Elves are recruited as intermediaries and traitors and turncoats and spies and assassins for the Dark Elves. Some migrate to the world below; enough that any elvish abilities crafted into the Surface Elves eventually makes it’s way to those belowground. Similarly, rebellious and corrupted members of the High Elves are occasionally also recruited. Only the Forest Elves, for whom a life of servitude holds no appeal, are immune to the call, and as a result, they are the most stalwart opposition against the Dark Elves. It has been suggested that the concept of a skilled slave class is designed to permit the elevation of the Dark Forest Elves into a Warrior Caste, in an attempt to overcome this limitation. The extent of the validity of these surmises is unknown. It can be assumed that on occasion, a Dark Elf mating produces a child more akin to the surface; it is presumed that all such are routinely executed, sacrificed, or enslaved.
Reluctantly, the surface Elves have been forced to begrudge limited redeeming characteristics within the Dark Elven society; the strict moral and legal code, the sense of personal honour (twisted though it might be) and the raw abilities of the Dark Elves have all come to command both a grudging respect and an abiding Hatred. Against this is set the cruelty, the ambition, the traffic with fell creatures and Fallen Peoples, the ruthlessness, the acts of Evil, the Slave Markets, the corruption of the young and foolish, and the slaughter of whole populations. Much as the Dark Elves might be respected, they are hated more strongly.
The PCs had learned a lot about the Drow during the tumultuous conclusion to the first campaign, inlcuding the fact that Lolth had seemingly abandoned her subjects before the Godswar – something that the Clan Mothers had been desperately trying to keep secret in order to preserve their own authority. By the time the PCs had arrived, the deception was beginning to wear very thin, despite their best efforts, and it did not take much effort to convert most of the Drow to the worship of Corallen after exposing the deception and provoking a bloody revolution amongst the Dark Elves. From the last of the Clan Mothers, they learned that while she came close to being Divine, she wasn’t quite there – and desperately sought to bridge the final gap. After centuries? Millennia? of being worshipped as a Goddess by the Drow in hopes that the power of Belief alone could complete the transition, she began searching for an alternative. She had always been wary of her dependance on her subjects, in any event, and was not one to leave a potential vulnerability unguarded.
One of the Drow had discovered a strange type of Crystalline Golem, ones that were far more advanced than any ever seen on Fumanor before. Where they had come from, nobody knew, but they were programmable automatons, not independant entities. Lolth had always suspected that knowledge of her true origins as a Tornwraight was blocking her people from truly believing in her ascendancy to Godhood, but here was a race that could be programmed to believe in her divinity utterly and without reservation, and who had no prior conceptions concerning her existance. Accordingly, she killed the Drow who had made the discovery in order to preserve her Secrecy and began her takeover of the hidden Crystal Golems. When the first developments that led to the Godswar occurred, she felt that her subjects were in grave danger, and might be wiped out. She could choose to protect them, placing herself at risk, or she could abandon them to their fates (since they were worthless to her in terms of obtaining her true goal) and abide amongst her new worshippers.
Being pragmatic and utterly ruthless, she chose the latter course – not realizing that the Crystal Golems she had subverted were powered by Geothermal Energy (they lived in the heart of a Volcano) and that their power source was entering dormancy. It was all she could do to maintain her own existance while her new subjects slumbered. Because of her proximity to the declining Golems and their complete dedication to the beliefs she had indoctrinated into their programming, their belief overpowered the slightly less-dedicated beliefs of her Dark Elven subjects and she was locked in slumber until the volcano – and her subjects – reawakened.
During the second campaign, as ill-fortune would have it, the PCs were being attacked by something (I forget what) and chose to employ a magma spell against this relatively inconsequential (though still very dangerous) enemy. This inadventantly awoke Lolth herself, who promptly reached out for the power from her Dark Elven worshippers, planning to escape from this trap while she still could, only to discover that they had abandoned her just as she had abandoned them (the players thought this all terribly just, appropriate, and ironic). They also took the opportunity, while Lolth was still weak, to destroy the Crystal Golems, believing that to be the path to ending Lolth once and for all.
Oh, and it should hardly bear mentioning that Corellan had been so quiet because his Elves no longer worshipped him – they didn’t know how – and it was all he could do just to survive, in a story that very neatly parallels that of Lolth.
The Gates Of Goraldon
The Town Gates of Goraldon are an Artifact – of the Old School. For some GMs, that says just about everything that needs to be said, for others it may not mean a thing. They transformed illusion – ANY and ALL illusion – into reality.
The PCs had been led, step by step, to knowledge of what had really triggered the Godswar by Thoth, God Of Knowledge – who had been overconfident in his mastery of his Divine Portfolio, had sought out the Forbidden Knowledge (intending to just tap into it for a second to spy on what the Chaos Powers were up to) and who had been subverted to the cause of Chaos by the power of the Dark Side. Forced to construct a plan to defeat the Gods once and for all and destroy all of existance, he had done just that – but carefully built into the plan the potential for his own destruction and the defeat of the plan he had created, starting with giving selected individuals advantages that no others could obtain (the difference between an NPC and a PC, in other words). A key part of that plan was the rescinding of the Immortality of the Gods, and for that, he had found The Gates Of Goraldon – but naturally, the Chaos Powers had forced him to leave both himself and them immune to this effect. The PCs were able to use the Gates to make Thoth mortal (though that was about the limit of their capabilities, even using the artifact) and to defeat him and destroy him, exactly as he had planned from the very beginning, in the climax to the second campaign.
The Conquest Of Lolth
But there was a sting in the tail: Lolth still had a few of her faithful, in particular, the last surviving Clan Mother, who was quite happy to return to worship of the almost-Goddess if it meant an end to her humiliation and restoration of her power. In fact, since she would be the eldest of the new Clan Mothers, she would gain considerably in power as compensation for the suffering and humilation that she had endured. This permitted Lolth to survive long enough to make her move in a postscript to the second campaign – she snatched the Gates from the hands of the PCs and fled with them. The PCs immediately assumed that she was going to forcibly reclaim her Drow (misleading hints by Lolth implying just that) and were preparing marshmallows and BBQ ribs to enjoy while sitting back and watching the show when she confronted Corellan. Instead, she appeared in Elvarheim, the Elven Capital and used the power of the Gates to subvert them since they now lacked the protection of Corellan. Why assume dominance over a fallen, broken shadow when she could rule over the real thing? What’s more, she was able to employ the Gates to remove ANY doubt as to her Divinity from her new Subjects, and then employ the Gates to complete her ascension. Only those few elves who had not fallen into dissipation and who had left their homeland to wander were spared (purely because she did not think of them).
Once again, though, irony was the Spider-Queen’s enemy. The Gods in this campaign are total hostages to the beliefs of their subjects, as explained (briefly) in the Theology Of Fumanor. Her subjects believe that she is a Goddess – but only by virtue of the power of the Gates. Should anything ever happen to them, her divinity fails her. And, in the meantime, because she was not a Goddess already, and hence somewhat more limited than they would be, she was so busy embedding belief in her Divinity into the Elves that she failed to correct and control how they saw her – as a lurking, brooding, stay-at-home mother who must work through others. As a result, she has even less freedom and mobility than she had before the ascension.
The PCs in the Seeds Of Empire campaign have recently – and unsurprisingly – learned that her focus ever since has been on ovcercoming those handicaps. She – and they – believe that she has found a way to do it – and they are engaged in a desperate bid to stop her. More on that a little later.
Eubani – The Rebel Philosopher
One of those PCs is one of the few Elves not to have been converted to Lolth. Eubani started life with a simple goal – to become the greatest warrior ever within the history of his people. He wanted to seek out the legendary Huyondaltha, amongst other things, the Guardians of the Elvish Legacy, and his head was full of visions of Glory and Renown for returning to his people the Knowledge that they had lost, and which would enable them to become True Elves once more..
His experiences since setting forth on this journey at the prompting of Corallen, whom he still worships as best he can, have broadened his horizons and his ambitions. He has found himself a surrogate father to Leif (described below) who seeks to emulate what he and his people percieve as the perfect warrior; holding this mirror up to Eubani’s gaze has revealed the flaws in his ambitions. Finding common ground with Ziorbe (see below) and being exposed to his intellect has further awoken Eubani to the limitations of his childish ambitions. He is not sure of what he wants, anymore, but is dimly groping his way to a new course for his life to take. The closest he can come to what he wants is to become a Warrior-Philosopher, a description that he knows is not quite right. His quest remains one of personal fulfilment, but the needs to be fulfilled have grown ever more complicated as he has travelled and matured.
Drow In Fumanor
A lot of what there is to say about the Drow has already been said, making this a much shorter section than it might otherwise have been.
Narbeth started life as a PC in the original campaign but quickly became an NPC when the player dropped out of the campaign for personal reasons. He was a slave who had been given relatively pampered treatment within the Drow Caves, a sign that they expected something big from him. He had eventually taken advantage of that pampered treatment to escape, only to find himself acting as Guide to a bunch of PCs heading back to the Drow. In the Dwarven Tunnels that lead to the Drow Caves, his humanoid form was revealed to be part of the Draconic Life-cycle that all Dragons undergo; because his instincts were to treat his former comrades as meat on the hoof, he then left the party. Narbeth’s introduction was the first indicator to the PCs that the Drow had survived the Godswar.
The next encounter within the game between the PCs and a Drow was when one Baron Winthor, who had been opposing the party at every turn for reasons of aparrant prejudice and general dislike, was revealed to be a Drow Spy. Putting what they learned about Baron Winthor together with some overheard conversation that Narbeth had not understood at the time told the PCs that the Clan Mothers had spies in place in all the major human communities. This turned out to be in preperation for a Drow-backed Orcish Invasion – which (according to the Gods) was itself just a preamble and a distraction from something even more severe. Conditions were right for the ascension of a thirteenth deity, and the PCs were the ones who would have to make the choice – in the heart of the Drow City, in front of every single member of the Drow Ruling Families.
Gallas – Introducing an Overachiever
The first Drow to leave the Underdark following the conversion of the Drow to the worship of Corellan was Gallas, the undisputed star of the current One Faith campaign. From birth, he had been raised and prepared to be a sacrifice to Lolth, something he considered to be an honor (though one that he would have preferred to do without), because he was one of those throwbacks to the surface world (the he didn’t appreciate that at the time). As a result, he was up there on-stage when the first-campaign PCs blew up the Clan Mother’s schemes and revealed the Lolth that everyone had worshipped for the last century to be a fraud perpetrated by the Clan Mothers. With his illusions shattered, he was the first to embrace Corallen as his new Deity. After five years of training under Corallan, he achieved adulthood, and was directed to the personal tutelage and service of former first-campaign PC Rockerand, now the Archprelate of the United Pantheon. Rocky, in turn, saw somebody with unlimited potential and a dark streak within his personality who was utterly devoted to the Gods. That made him the perfect man for his prototypical Inquisitor, a profession aimed at reforming the Church, which had become extremely corrupt by the time the PCs unified the Pantheon. Since then, he has served not only in his primary role, but as a slayer of minor Chaos Powers, a Spy, a detective, and (most recently) a somewhat uncomfortable Ambassador. He dreads the day that Rocky decides he can retire, because it is completely obvious to him that he is being groomed as the Archprelate’s successor.
Ziorbe – Struggling to find his way
The final Drow of note within the Campaign is Ziorbe, who was always intended to be an NPC. Ziorbe is somewhat older than Eubani, and was more firmly settled in his worship of Lolth. As a result, he struggled to find a place in Drow Society after its reformation, before coming up with a plan – he would integrate himself with the rest of Fumanorian society by becoming incredibly wealthy – wealthy enough to buy acceptance. Never bothered by the finer points of property ownership, Ziorbe is perhaps best described as the prototypical Russian Mafia Don following Glasnost. Pragmastic, Ruthless, Evil, and very Intelligent, he is still a Drow at heart.
Ziorbe was sent to join the PCs by the Gods – he refuses to say which, but has hinted that Corellan was at least present at the time. What he did not see coming was the development of a genuine friendship with Eubani (an Elf, which he was reared to hate), an Ogre (who were enslaved by the Drow), and an Orc (who the Drow used as cannon-fodder all the time). He has also slowly been discovering, under Eubani’s tutelage, what it means to be an Elf instead of a Drow, and coming to the slow realization that he is in fact a Dark Elf and cannot wall his Elvishness off as his people have tried to do for centuries or more. This process has also made Eubani far more aware of his own Elvishness, and was the initial trigger for his growth in character.
Ziorbe’s primary contribution to the party is logical analysis. He may be a rogue but he is also an excellent scholar and thinker. He lacks arcane talent; if he did not, he would have been an accomplished mage.
There’s a lot more to Ziorbe than this brief introduction reveals – but the PCs don’t know about the rest, at least not yet. What can be said is that, much to his own surprise, Ziorbe has come to genuinely enjoy the company of the people with whom he is adventuring. Here’s what he thinks of the others:
- He finds it impossible to stay angry at the Aaron the Ogre, who he regards as a big, affectionate puppy.
- He has learned respect for Tajik, the Orcish leader of the party, whose people have been undergoing many of the same problems as his own.
- He has reached a surprising level of accord with Eubani, a rogue elf, who exemplifies many of the worst characteristics of his own upbringing – and by acting as a mirror to his own failings and shortcomings, has secretly shamed him now and then. He is slowly beginning to admire Eubani’s sense of purpose and conviction and finding himself inspired to do better himself, something that he will never publicly admit.
- The other members of the party are travelling companions of no particular value to Ziorbe at this time, to be used and discarded when necessary. They include Leif, Eubani’s protégé. Ziorbe is somewhat jealous of the attention that the Dwarvling (an unnatural blending of Halfling and Dwarf) receives from Eubani, but is in denial about those feelings, because they would imply that he values Eubani more than he thinks he should.
- Verde the Verdonne, a species that predates Treants and are a little more humanoid. Verde is a Fated, a character touched by Destiny in ways he still doesn’t understand, but who has class abilities that enable him to meet – or avoid – his destiny no matter how improbable the circumstances need to be. Like everyone else, Ziorbe is a little wary of the Fated; much of the time, he seems useless, even incompetent, but when the chips are down he can be devastatingly effective. And no-one is sure what he is capable of – making him an impossible-to-ignore x-factor in all Ziorbe’s plans.
- Julia Sureblade, a human Paladin of Thumâin, from the Fortress Of Odinskragg, part of an Order dedicated to the gathering of Knowledge of the Gods, founded at the height of the Age Of Heresies. This is a variant version of the standard Paladin, one of Eight that existed at the time. Julia is temporally displaced from the era prior to the Godswar, and is suffering badly from culture shock at the moment. Her presence worries Ziorbe no end – Paladins are notoriously straight-laced – but she has nevertheless managed to get her head around the concept of a Tree, an Elf, a Drow, an Ogre, and a Dwarf/Halfling Hybrid being allies. Which is almost as surprising as the fact that Ziorbe has also managed to get his head around the concept.
Ziorbe is slowly beginning to grow out of the naive expectations and plans that he held when he first joined the party and beginning to reassess his moral convictions. He has recently undertaken a metaphysical experience that has shaken his world-view to the core (described in “The Story So Far”, below) and is finding that in order to put that experience behind him, he has had to embrace subjects that previously held only intellectual value to him. The character knows he is at or approaching a crossroads within his life, but cannot yet see the directions open to him.
Ogres In Fumanor
Ogres have this image of being big and dumb. I hate cliches. Put those two facts together and you can see that Ogres in Fumanor are not going to be like any others. After all, Ogre Magi are hardly slow-witted, and are both smaller and physically weaker than other Ogres – by rather more than their semi-sedentary dispositions would allow; it’s not like they are Human mages who spend all their time locked in musty rooms, Ogre Magi get out and do things. On top of that, there is the unresolved question of who taught the Ogre Magi to cast spells, and the inspiration behind Ogres in Fumanor is pretty clearly explained. An episode of Deep Space Nine (the one that introduced the Jem’Hadar, with their addiction to Ketracel White, if anyone’s keeping track) provided the final piece of the puzzle. The solution was a naturally-occurring steroid called Bluevein that also increased Skeletal size and strength and acted a little like PCP to boot. This drug keeps Ogres big and stupid and pliable – and it was given to the Ogre Magi by the Drow (when they were just Dark Elves) in return for the loyalty of the tribe.
Even under the influance of the drug, Ogres are instinctive engineers, especially when it comes to seige weapons and other big things – they don’t have as much success dealing with the small scale. Without it, they are even better – but are still not rocket scientists by any means.
The Ogres of Ghurarghahome
The story of this particular tribe, and how they escaped from the addiction to Bluevein is contained in the attached PDF, The Ogres Of Ghurarghahome. Unfortunately, this is an incomplete document – I had several alternate races in development for the campaign at the same time, and only finished the ones that were required for PCs. The red in the contents serves as a reminder of the work that remained unfinished. This is one of the downsides of a sandboxed campaign! One of these days I’ll finish it, Generalize it, and put it on sale as a $1 PDF at Drive-thru RPG – but for now, you guys get the unfinished one for free. Unfortunately, the Letter-sized versions seem to have gone missing, so you’ll have to make do with the A4 ones only. Sorry :(
The unfinished Ogre Notes
I also have some unfinished notes on Ogres to offer. In due course, these would have been transplanted into the appropriate section of the main pdf if I had kept working on this aspect of the Campaign. I’ve included these notes in the zip file above.
Because I knew that the PCs would be paying a diplomatic visit to the Ogres in the course of the second campaign, I wanted something that would capture the feeling of their society – so I crafted a piece of music for the purpose. Here’s an MP3 of the result as an extra bonus for reading this far!
Arron – The Gentle Wisdom
One of the NPC members of the party in Seeds Of Empire is an Ogre from Ghurarghahome. Technically, he’s a Fighter, but appearances are decieving – he’s the last person to want to fight, and more often serves as a peacemaker whenever the opportunity presents itself. Although not the smartest character in the party by any means, he has an uncanny instinct for getting to the heart of a matter, ignoring the complications that confuse the issue. As a result, he wins most of the arguements that he enters.
Dwarves In Fumanor
I’ll keep this as short as I can. Dwarves have a very martial culture which is fanatically violent, a cross between Star-Trek-The-Next-Generation Klingons and the Taliban. During the Godswar, the Dwarves had retreated to the lowermost part of their mineshafts, sealing off the passages behind them. Other groups had taken refuge in these upper levels and a number of power struggles were (and are) underway as a result. From the Dwarvish perspective, they’ve been betrayed and picked on by every other race in existance and they have had enough; from the time they sealed their tunnels behind them, they were determined to live their lives on their own terms, and anyone who wanted anything from them had to earn it on those terms. Adding an extremely sense of honor and a propensity to get drunk, roudy, and rough, and you’ve more-or-less got them nailed. If it’s a Dwarf, it’s respected and trusted; if it’s not a Dwarf, it has to prove itself as good as a Dwarf or it’s considered subhuman – and the challenges are deliberately noteasy. How the Dwarves became this spectre of extremism is unknown.
Halflings In Fumanor
In the 9th Age of existance, The Age Of Genocide, one of the major skirmishes between the Chaos Powers and the Gods took place. In the course of this conflict, the Halflings as a society were all but wiped out and the survivors scattered here and there. The Chaos Powers had corrupted the holy scriptures of various peoples and persuaded them to undertake Crusades in the name their particular faiths; those encountered would convert, or die. Their intent was to so splinter and fragment the practices and beliefs of the civilized societies, to so enmesh them in contradiction, that the Gods would lose connection with the worshippers that empowered and shaped them. Except for a few kept as slaves by various Fallen Races (Drow, Goblins, etc), the remainder intermarried into human society and slowly faded away.
Then came the big finish to the first Fumanor campaign, and a few examples of those with relatively high concentrations of Halfling blood found themselves transformed into full-blooded Halflings. There are perhaps 50-100 representatives of the race now extant within the world. A few dozen have gathered as a seperate community, choosing to abandon existing family ties; others have reaffirmed their existing relationships despite the changes in size, appearance, etc. These relationships have been placed under additional strain, and several have ended, as a result, leaving these neo-Halflings embittered and angry. The Royal family have done their best to shelter the Halfling Enclaves (it helps that Rockerand, the Archprelate, is himself a transformed Halfling) but their capacity to do so in the current time of troubles is limited. Unless something happens to dramatically alter the outcome, the remaining numbers are insufficient to rebuild a stable population, and the Halflings are – once again – a dying race.
But this is Fumanor, where strange things – and the occasional miracle – have been known to happen…
That’s it, I’m out of space for this post! This article will conclude next Monday!!
- Inventing and Reinventing Races in DnD: An Introduction to the Orcs and Elves series part 1
- Inventing and Reinventing Races in DnD: An Introduction to the Orcs and Elves series part 2
- Inventing and Reinventing Races in DnD: An Introduction to the Orcs and Elves series part 3
- Inventing and Reinventing Races in DnD: An Introduction to the Orcs and Elves series part 4
- Inventing and Reinventing Races in DnD: An Introduction to the Orcs and Elves series part 5
- On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 1-4
- On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 5-10
- On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 11-14
- On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 15-17
- On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 18-20
- On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 21-23
- On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 24-26
- On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 27-28
- On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 29-31
- On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 32-36
- On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 37-40
- On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 41-43
- On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 44-46
- On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 47-51
- Inventing and Reinventing Races in DnD: An Orcish Mythology
- On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 52-54
- On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 55-58
- On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 59-62