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. But first, I have to paint a picture of the background for this to be useful to the rest of Campaign Mastery’s readership.
This article concludes 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. It’s also the largest article ever published here at Campaign Bastery, by a considerable margin!
- Part 1 of the trio examined the general question of why I customize races in the campaigns that I create.
- Part 2 got specific, discussing Elves, Drow, Ogres, Halflings, and Dwarves.
- Part 3 is going to deal with Orcs, Dwarflings, and The Verdonne.
- Part 4 will bring the history of the campaign up-to-date. 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.
The observant may have noted that what was Part 3 has now been split in two. When the proposed Part 3 reached 22,000 words and a length roughly the same as Parts 1 and 2 together (despite part 2 being the longest article ever published here at Campaign Mastery) I decided that it was time to split them.
Some of the content may have appeared at Roleplaying Tips in the past, but I couldn’t find it when I went looking there. 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 bundling this up into a few larger articles, there’s still more than enough to make this a very substantial series – once it actually starts, next Monday!
Orcs In Fumanor
Orcs in Fumanor are primitive and simple folk – but maturing fast, especially since Drow started teaching magic to some of the smartest Orcs. They can’t cast anything better than 3rd level spells (at least, they couldn’t the last time the PCs checked on them), but they’re learning. It probably won’t have hurt that the finale to Campaign I gave every sentience in existance +2 INT, either, to a maximum total of 20. The Orcs weren’t all that happy with the Drow when they were hung out to dry in the course of that campaign, and were persuaded to enter into a treaty with the Kingdom of Fumanor. Unfortunately, the Elves now block easy Kingdom access to the Orcs; it’s a difficult and dangerous journey through Giant Spiders (hostile), Black Trolls (hostile), Dwarves (hostile), Kobolds & Minotaurs (hostile), Wild Tunnels (very hostile), Drow (friendly – mostly), back out the other side through Gnolls, Ogres, and more Giant Spiders (all hostile) and into Orcish tribal lands (some hostile, some not), who are being invaded by Undead from the Golden Empire (extremely hostile).
Tooth & Dagger: Rationalizing Orcs
Back in 1990 I started working on some new ideas for a variation on Orcs. This is an iconic race in both Tolkien and D&D but I thought those two iconic interpretations were too similar. I wanted to take some of the elements hinted at in Tolkien and expand on them to give a new interpretation. A decade-and-half later, I had finally finished. Written in a somewhat whimsical style in parts, and with modern referances that doesn’t really fit the other material contained here, this is nevertheless the basis of Orcs in Fumanor – it just so happens that most of it was written before anything else in the campaign.
It is worth noting that “Tooth & Dagger” has been generalized. It talks of mankind keeping Orcs as slaves – other races in Fumanor may have done so, but there’s no record that the PCs know of that says Humans did. Other races, yes, but Orcs were too troublesome.
There are several noteworthy aspects to the document. It is entirely written from an Orcish perspective and perpetuates the Orcish self-image (NB: they think of themselves as the Good Guys and the saviors of the world – after all the other species have polluted it so much that they can’t live in it). It is laced with Orcish mythology, such as the beLeif that Elves were a failed early attempt at creating Orcs. And it shows The Gods (well, most of them) to be unruly schoolchildren. But for all the distortions, there is a spark of harsh nobility – even raw, unpalatable honesty – in the Orcish perspective. Orcs call a spade a spade (or, perhaps, a tool-for-digging) without pretension or sugarcoating, and look unpleasant truths directly in the eye without discomfort.
As usual, I have provided Tooth & Dagger in both Letter and A4 page sizes.
From an outside perspective
In writing “Tooth and Dagger” I took the perspective that there had to be a good reason for the typical and expected Orcish behaviour. To outsiders, Orcs are exactly what they have always been – dirty, smelly, crude, untrustworthy, and uncivilized.
In terms of appearance, I’ve always thought of Orcs as looking like the Sontarans from mid-period Dr Who. More recent versions have faces that are more human and don’t look quite right to me. I’ve linked to an image of the first Sontaran to be shown on-screen (it might not display properly with IE, I had some problems). Just make the armor more medieval and made of cast-offs and other bits of reclaimed rubbish to get the mental image I have for them.
The discerning reader may have noted that there is no mention of Gruumsh in the article Theology In Fumanor: The collapse of Infinite No-Space-No-Time and other tales of existence. The question of whether or not Gruumsh was ever real is one that is occasionally debated in the campaign – or was beLeif in what he represents enough? It works for the Druids. The Gods have kept completely silent on the subject.
This puts Orcish PCs, especially priests, in a somewhat awkward situation, especially when dealing with the Deities that are known to exist within the campaign.
Thankfully for the sake of Tajik (see below), Ziorbe (described in part 2 of this trilogy) was able to employ some incisive logic to the question which has resolved practical doubts – at least for now.
- Either Gruumsh was never real or he was a member of the pre-Godswar pantheons, no matter how isolated or outcast from the other Deities.
- If he was never real, then what he represents is enough for beLeif in him to invoked for Divine Spellcasting. Which makes him as real as he needs to be.
- If he was real, and there was a brawl on the scale of the Godswar happening, he would have involved himself, whether invited or not.
- Therefore, if he was real, he probably gave his life in the Godswar, since he is not listed amongst the survivors by the other Deities.
- However, the survivors banded together into a united Pantheon and set about fulfilling the Divine Spellcasting obligations of all their deceased brethren, which would therefore have included Gruumsh.
- They are, however, no longer doing so. If a Divine request made to Gruumsh now fails, it is evidence that he was real and did die.
- Making such a Divine request without real need could only be percieved as a lack of faith on the part of the Priest, which alone may be enough to cause the spell to fail, and therefore this test is not conclusive.
- It is also possible that Gruumsh survived the Godswar but was once again made outcast, or stole away assuming that he was unwelcome, which may or may not have been true.
- If Gruumsh survived, then he was and is real, and will respond to Divine Requests if he is able.
- He may be unable to so respond depending on his condition following the Godswar. So failure to respond is not conclusive evidence, once again.
- In which event, treating Gruumsh as a surviving Deity should – theoretically – aid in his recovery from whatever injuries he recieved.
- It follows that – provided the other Gods do not take offense – nothing is lost, and potentially much can be gained, by treating Gruumsh as a real Deity who fought with the others against the Chaos Powers. Call on him when it is appropriate to do so, and ignore the question until it becomes relevant. If he can’t answer, for whatever reason, call on one of the other Gods to act in his name.
What Ziorbe did not mention to Tajik in providing this analysis as a bolster to his faith, are a few further lines of thought:
- It is possible that Gruumsh was in fact a Chaos Power masquarading as a Deity for the purpose of keeping the Orcs as a weapon agaunst Civilization.
- If this is the case, since the identities of the few Chaos Powers who have been destroyed or imprisoned are well known to the Gods, he is currently alive – and not happy that his worshippers have allied themselves with Civilization.
- Inevitably, within this scenario, he will attempt to reclaim his subjects and turn them against Civilization at some point where the opportunity to do so manifests.
- This will inevitably lead to a religious civil war amongst the Orcs, which can easily spill over into the rest of the Civilized peoples.
- The Chaos Powers being what and who they are, will undoubtedly ensure that this will occur at a time and place that best serves their purposes.
- All of which leads to the conclusion that Divine Prayers to Gruumsh are, in fact, an invitation to the Chaos Powers to use the Orcs as Pawns in some future attempt at destroying all existance.
- The Gods currently have their hands full without any additional distractions, hence they would not want to create additional problems for themselves by exposing this situation – and the Orcs wouldn’t believe them, anyway.
- Arioch, the God Of Secrets, would know – but has already demonstrated both the ability and willingness to lock certain knowledge into his subconscious so that he doesn’t know that he knows, as an alternative to being forced to act on or take into account, that knowledge.
- Another remote possibility is that Gruumsh is a false identity created by one of the Gods during the time of the Age Of Heresies.
- In which case, the Gods themselves might not know who he really was.
- The true deity behind Gruumsh may or may not be amongst the survivors.
- If he is amongst the survivors, then Gruumsh is as real as he ever was.
- If not, then he is still as real as he ever was – not at all.
- Either way, the results are exactly the same as if Gruumsh was real and died in the course of the Godswar.
- In which case, prayers to him will now go unanswered, unless one of the survivors decides to take on such a fictitious identity for their own purposes.
- Which would now make Gruumsh more real now than he ever was before.
- This would suit Arioch’s M.O. perfectly. He is the former Chaos Power who instructed his worshippers to become a Church dedicated to Charitable Works within Civilization in order to sow doubts about the established religious doctrine of the other Churches.
- He and the other Gods would certainly not want this new deception to become known. Therefore, since most of the Gods are incapable of lying, they would again keep silent on the subject.
- If this possibility is correct, it still does no harm and potentially great good to Worship Gruumsh as a Deity, even if he did not and potentially does not exist.
All of which adds up to a lot of soup out of not a lot of anything but ignorance! But it bolstered Tajik’s faith when that was necessary to the Party’s survival, and that was all Ziobe wanted at the time. Serious questions of Existential Reality and Religious Doctrine are somebody else’s problem.
Tajik – An unexpected Leader
The remaining PC in the campaign is Tajik the Orc. Tajik was the runt of the litter and he liked to ask questions – neither works in your favor as an Orc. He was always the last to be fed, getting the scraps and leftovers after the rest of the tribe had eaten their fill. His name actually means “Boy who asks impertinant questions” – Orcish boys don’t get named until its sure they will live long enough to make naming them worthwhile. Names aren’t cheap in Orcish society – they mean something to them. In time, he was apprenticed to the tribal Shaman, since he wasn’t fitted to a real job within the tribe, and the Shaman was the only one who could usually answer his questions. This upbringing made Tajik timid abd diffident (at least by Orcish standards). In time, Tajik was ready for the ritual that elevates an Orc to adulthood – the Chief basically gives them a task and banishes the prospective adult from the tribe until they succeed in that task, unassisted by other Orcs. Since Tajik wasn’t liked by the Chief (not Orcish enough), he expected to be given a dirty and difficult task; he was right. That task led directly to him becoming the leader of an Adventuring Party, “Tajik’s Misfits” and facing an invading army of Undead from the Golden Empire (more details below).
For the first time, Tajik found other people relying on him, and despite his initial discomfort and nerves, has proven to be a natural leader for the strange party of adventurers that have come together around him. He’s still growing as both a person and as a Priest, and prides himself on knowing and understanding things that not even the Archprelate has discovered. He may have left his village a cub; he will be returning as a leader, an enlightened theologian, and a seasoned warrior, with the confidence and ability to stand before any other Orc as an equal.
Dwarvlings In Fumanor
I don’t have to tell you very much about these because they are already described in a post here at Campaign Mastery, from the time when I adapted one of the adventures into a standalone module as part of that month’s Blog Carnival. You can get everything you need from The Flói Af Loft & The Ryk Bolti (the module was published in three parts, the link is to the first).
Leif – An Ambassador Alone
Leif was a Dwarvling approaching adulthood and a Prince Of The Realm Of Earth within the Cavern Realms of Zhin Tahn (don’t worry about it). He was so impressed with Eubani’s prowess as a warrior that he took the Elven Rebel as a role model and attempted to do everything the way Eubani would do it – without having the skills or natural ability. More than once, Eubani cringed as Leif did something boneheadedly stupid and risky to try and emulate his hero. As a result, Eubani began to teach Leif self-discipline and restraint – subjects he had never given even lip service to, in the past. Inch by inch, he is succeeding.
In the finale of the Zhin Tahn phase of the Seeds Of Empire campaign, Leif’s homeland and the other microworlds was forged into a new, stable, Prime Material Plane. With divine protection, his race survived. Unknown to the party at the time was that Time was somewhat unstable in the first days of existance of the new material plane – in about 3 days from the PCs point of view, 120 years passed within the Realm. Leif returned home to discover that he was generations out of date, and that his sister had been forced to usurp his inheritance of the throne. Now an anachronism, an embarressment, and source of political instability by his very presence, it was quickly decided that Leif would become the Realm’s Ambassador to the outside world – with the passage connecting the two sealed behind him. The title is hollow; Leif is an exile, having sacrificed virtually his every connection with his home in order to safeguard its continued existance (shades of Frodo in The Lord Of The Rings)! The only difference is that Leif is still out there, adventuring, and trying to come to terms with events.
As a result of this episode, for the first time, he feels his life directions moving in a different direction to those of Eubani. Where he will end up, what he will become, he doesn’t yet know – but he is slowly starting to outgrow his Hero Worship and forge his own path.
Leif was originally a PC, played by a handicapped guy named Peter E (surname withheld for privacy reasons) who tried out for the campaign. Unfortunately, he simply couldn’t keep up, and the problem was impacting the other players enjoyment of the campaign; although I wasn’t happy about it, I was forced to make the choice between him and the campaign. I’m still sure that I could have handled the whole situation better, and I wish we could have found a way to keep him as aa player, he had so much enthusiasm for the game and the campaign. I don’t have many regrets in life, but that’s definitely one of them – and I sincerely hope that he has found another group with whom to play. In the meantime, Leif is not only still an active reminder and commemoration of his involvement in the campaign, he’s the closest thing I have to a “protected favorite NPC” in one of my campaigns. The other players may not remember Peter, but I do, and I’ll continue to do with his character what I think he would have wanted. (It might surprise the other players to know that everything that Leif has experienced was discussed with Peter – in general terms – and his reactions planned out by the pair of us, in advance). Leif is still Peter’s character, so far as I’m concerned – he just can’t play him. (If I’d had time in my schedule, I’d have run a seperate game just for Peter).
The Fated – A Fumanor Class
I know I’m talking about races, but this character class is so much a part of the identity of the next character to be discussed that this material has to be understood. The Fated drew inspiration from a character class in the Planar Handbook which promised so much and delivered so much less than it promised – it simply wasn’t worth the expenditure of levels that it cost, as a prestige class. The abilities weren’t good enough, and the class wasn’t interesting enough for any player I approached to be interested in playing it. I commented in my Bio here at Campaign Mastery that I’ve never raed a game supplement without finding something that I thought could be improved. In the case of the Planar Handbook, “The Fated” was it. So I took the name and jetissoned the rest.
After experiencing the character class in play, I can state that the character class works perfectly, and is balanced just fine – unless you permit the character to accumulate too many unused Fate Points through inactivity. Verde, the prototype within the Seeds Of Empire campaign, was marooned for a long time (120 years) in the New Material Plane that now coexists alongside the original, in which time he was able to accumulate entirely too many Fate Points – he’s now a ealking wooden Dues Ex Machina. Any GMs out there who use the Fated should do one of two things: cap the total accumulation of Fate Points more stringently than these rules provide, or ensure that the Fated never lead a comfortable, quiet, existance. Or Both.
The Verdonne In Fumanor
I found the concepts of Huorn and Ents in Tolkien fascinating. Some of my favorite scenes in the Books revolve around the Ents, and some different scenes revolving around the Ents are amongst my favorites in the Movies (especially the extended versions). And I love the idea of the early Elves going around waking up the trees for no better reason than to have a good gossip session. In contrast the Treants in D&D seemed rather empty and lifeless. So I created the Verdonne as the pinnacle of a heirarchy of awareness and activity.
- At the bottom rung are unawakened trees. They have no volition so they do nothing of their own volition.
- Above this are sleeping trees. They don’t move from place to place and don’t engage in conversation, they just want the world to leave them in peace. These are essentially awakened trees that have rejected the “gift” of the elves.
- One step above Sleeping Trees are Leafy Grove Citizens. The trees in a Druid’s Grove have a measure of awareness but not a lot of higher sentience. They can move from place to place, under direction, and will defend the Grove from intruders. A few have even learned to speak Common.
- Fourth from the bottom are Awakened Trees. They may not move around much – though they can do so, under direction – but they are active conversationalists with those who understand them (Elves, Druids, etc) and can readily undertake other activities of their own volition. They just don’t do so very often. They have no real perception of time or urgency, and can waffle on for hours before getting to the point – if they are in a hurry. Virtually all trees in an Elven Forest are awakened to at least some extent. They have also been known to pretend not to know the difference from one day to another, just because it annoys impertinant people.
- Second from the top of this leafy hierarchy are the Huorns, also known as Treants, the tenders and caretakers of trees. Like a building’s Super, they deal with plumbing and irrigation problems (streams getting dammed, etc), shepherd trees around to ensure that each gets a fair share of the sunlight and don’t hog the fertile earth, etc. They are quite capable of being mobile as necessary, but that usually means there’s trouble, so they would rather not. They are slow to anger and even slower to calm down once roused. Decades are often not long enough. Fortunately, it takes a lot to rile them. To the unitiated or unobservant, they look just like trees – though quite often they will be an out-of-place variety of tree. They tend to work in Packs or Groups. Occasionally, one will go off and do something on their own, but it doesn’t happen very often. Huorns are notorious for disliking conversation with anyone except a tree or a Verdonne – they are even standoffish with Elves, who they regard as meddling busybodies. Humans, Orcs, etc, are nothing more than Vandals and Murderers, of course, and Dwarves are worse. Regarding other vegetable matter as distant kin of their subjects, they are exclusively carnivorous.
- The most mobile and independant leafy folk are the Verdonne. Shorter, more active, more alert, and more intelligent than other varieties of leafy people, these are the Guardians Of The Forest. No-one knows where they came from (except in general terms) or who appointed them to this role.
Verdonne look less like trees and more like wooden people wearing clothing and a cloak of leaves. They are evergreen except in times of acute starvation. Their limbs and features tend to be longer, thinner, and more angular than those of other creatures. They can be almost invisible in a forest. They are omnivorous and draw sustenance from the soil beneath their feet and from anything that dies on or in that soil; their feet can extrude thin vine-like stalks that slowly consume the remains, bones and all.
Verde – Puppet Of Destiny
There have been only a few Verdonne of significance within the Campaigns, collectively. There were the Verdonne who the original PCs saw in a vision explaining the history of Sovol Keep, a former dungeon that has been restored as a training ground by the Fumanorian Government. There are the Verdonne who were recruited from the Wilderness by Ceriseth to protect his Grove and fight on the front lines of the Fumanorian Civil War in the second Campaign. There’s Brightoak and a few of his cronies who now lead the Druids’ Council as Ceriseth’s hand-picked successor and who wears the Helm Of Oak, an artifact that was key to victory in that Civil War. (If you want to know more about the internal politics of the Druids, consult Flavours Of Neutral – Focussing On Alignment, Part 4 of 5, posted a few years ago. And then there’s Verde.
Rescued from the demi-plane of Earth (refer The Flói Af Loft & The Ryk Bolti), where he had been waiting for the Party to arrive, Verde has a Destiny. He knows what is and what it looks like, but doesn’t know when it will happen or what its significance is. Like all Fated, there are times when he has attempted to evade or avoid it, and times when he has embraced it. He has refused to tell the party what he knows of that destiny beyond the fact that it exists, and that it is going to happen. For a time, his path lies alongside that of the party – how long that will remain true is something else that he either doesn’t know or isn’t sharing.
When first rescued by the Party, he was a bit of a runt, little more than a sapling, but he’s squeezed over 120 years into his few short weeks with them and is now physically one of the more impressive members of the party at 10′ tall, STR 28 and CON 30 – his full growth as a Verdonne. As a result of his temporary joining with the party, he also now has 6 ranks or more in virtually every known skill – the result of 120 years of study, and typically wields a Greatsword or Composite Longbow with devestating effect – though his Slam-and-stomp-underfoot attack is not to be ignored, either (3d8+13, automatic grapple, does 9 pts of dmg a round if grapple is successful, does not take an attack to pin & damage a grappled foe). And, if he has to, he can always spend a Fate point or two to guarantee a potential critical hit and maximum possible damage.
I made the point earlier that Verde now has so many Fate Points that he is a walking Deus-Ex-Machina in many ways. Since the cause of this was entirely scripted by me as GM, correctly anticipating most of the Party’s choices, it can’t be described as in any way accidental – and it should not surprise the party to learn that Verde’s journey with them is going to come to a conclusion sometime very soon.
But first, he has one more role to play within the continuity of the campaign – the one that I’ll be writing about in this series. Nor am I promising that he will never be seen again – there’s still the question of Verde’s ultimate destiny. I know what it is – and how it will play into the planned Epic Campaign to follow the current ones.
In the meantime, Verde is usually a well-stocked library but not often a decision-maker. He is usually content to follow the lead of the others within the Party, and will rarely voice a personal opinion (unlike Ziorbe, who’s full of them). He’s a mouthpiece for factual information, gives the party a boost in combat that they don’t really need and won’t really miss, and stays out from underfoot.
On the rare occasions when he does take charge, he gives orders without explanations in a tone of voice that does not encourage debate (he’d make an excellent drill seargent) – and always has a good reason afterwards, though he was often not aware of that reason at the time. He makes it up as he goes along and that leaves the party very uncomfortable. When he starts issuing instructions, though, they obey without question – he’s been right every time, at least so far.
Humans In Fumanor
“Tajik’s Misfits,” as the adventuring party have named themselves, were lacking a human member for a long time. This made them very unusual as adventuring parties go.
Humans are the glue that binds most parties together. “Adventuring Parties” and “Adventurers” are a human social invention. It is unusual for a party to have more than one non-human member, though this is becoming more common of late.
Humans are the most diverse, forming segregated societies, and the most multicultural, integrating other cultures into those societies. The only other group that comes close to the human propensities in this respect – as far as is known within the campaign – are the Elves/Drow. But all the Elves are still part of a single homogenous society and all the Drow are still part of the one single homogenous society, so the exception to the general rule is very limited.
Few other societies do more than differentiate themselves from others of their kind at more than the clan or tribal level. Again, this is slowly changing – partly at the hands of the Verdonne-led Druids, and partly at the hands of the Lolth-led Elves.
Humans are also the de-facto common standard against which the diversities and individualities of the other races are measured – though there are ome races that refuse to subscribe to that standard, especially the Dwarves.
It is only appropriate, though, given the nature of the party’s other members, that when the Misfits acquired a human member, that individual would be every bit as unusual and outcast from the norm of society as the rest of the group. To understand what makes Julia unusual, you first need to know a little history….
The Ages Of Existance
I really wanted to be able to quote this completely. I can’t – I can only quote a version that’s been redacted to hide some crucial information from my players. The difference is only 139 words in seven passage – but those are seven potentially vital facts to future developments.
That doesn’t mean I have to leave Campaign Mastery’s readers in the dark, though! Accepting my players’ promises that they won’t look at anything I tag as “off-limits”, you can read the redacted version – and then download a full, unredacted version with the differences highlighted for easy consumption.
And, just be completist about this, I have also provided my players with a downloadable version of the redacted form for their reference and general use within the campaign. Thank me later :)
- The Age Of Divinity – Chaos Powers are expelled by/from the Void. Their willful resistance creates the Gods. The Gods create everything else. Magic does not exist, hence no god of Magic exists. The Gods form a single, united, pantheon.
- The Age Of Paradise – Golden Age with plenty for everyone, no conflict. Magic does not exist. The Gods form a single, united, Pantheon.
- The Age Of Theophany – Chaos Powers begin attempting to destroy existence, create elemental subplanes in which to reside. They release Evil into the world, create aberrations and dragons and other creatures of inherent evil. Chaos Powers corrupt the worship practices of the mortals of the world, dividing the Pantheon into smaller, weaker, Pantheons, and establishing conflicts between them. The Greatest Goods become the Noble principles. Gods elevate favorite followers to create Demigods. “Fallen Races” begin to worship the Chaos Powers.
Gods discover that the power of Worship, directed by the Priests, reshapes the Gods to match the mortal perceptions. Divine personalities become an imperfect reflection of their original natures. Gods have trouble coping with this. Worship practices fracture and splinter and diversify. The nature of the Shadow Gods emerges.
- The Age Of Isolation – The Gods establish Pantheon-based bodies of Canonical Lore to reinforce and solidify their natures and lay down Church laws to restrict interaction with other faiths to prevent corruption of the Laws and Lore. Higher Truth is sacrificed on the altar of expediency and Divine Survival. Worshippers are essentially tools, subservient to Divine Will and Purposes. Clerical Powers are granted to selected Priests. Mortal culture is still essentially tribal.
Illithid Researchers begin creating experiments, some of which become Dungeons, and some which release still more bizarre life forms into the ecology.
- The Age Of Bronze – Mortals discover the principles of working with Bronze, and of domesticating animals. Fundamentals of Agriculture are discovered. City-states arise as individual nations coalesce and prosper despite the occasional disaster caused by this or that Chaos Power. Coinage is invented.
- The Age Of Iron – Mortals discover the principles of working with Iron. Advances in Agriculture permit larger and more compact populations. Guild economics introduced.
- The Age Of Heresies – Chaos Powers (and their followers) impersonate legitimate priests and foster Schisms, iconoclasm, and heresy. Cults of various sorts emerge throughout civilized populations. Nations are split by Civil Wars. Bloodbaths and Pogroms leave the Gods virtually helpless to act and powerless to intervene.
- The Age Of Empires – Militant nations begin wars of aggression and religious conversion. Slavery and torture become acceptable and common practices. Cultures become Kingdoms become Empires, and war with each other even as they are being corrupted from within by the Chaos Powers.
- The Age Of Genocide – The Congress Of Shadow Gods is formed as an inter-pantheon alliance to counter the Free Reign of the Chaos Powers. They form coalitions of Empires aimed at destroying or neutralizing Shadow Gods who could not be trusted to participate, or who were unwilling to do so, or who were generally unwanted. Acts of Genocide are committed purely to prevent interference by Deities outside the coalition by wiping out their worshippers. Halflings are scattered and Gnomes left almost extinct.
Heresies begin to afflict the Gods of the Fallen Peoples who begin descending into the same state of anarchy as the more ‘civilized’ nations. Chaos Powers discover that they are just as vulnerable to the power of Worship as the Gods. They retreat into hiding.
The deities who were not part of the Congress Of Shadow enforce sweeping reforms and cerate Church Warriors to scourge the church of heresies. This is the origin of the more martial cleric that is the ubiquitous adventuring class in more modern times. They prohibit the worship at shrines within the home as had been the general custom previously and insist that all worship take place in an organized setting, resulting in the creation of Churches and Temples in all major population centers. (A temple was dedicated to one particular deity, and spread the Gospel according to that Deity; a church is dedicated to a pantheon generally, and even though the priest in residence is a follower of a specific deity, and his sermons are colored by the attitude and nature of that deity, his services are also more generic).
Political stability is forced on the populace by clerics who themselves are united only in lip service at first, through the direct intervention of the deities of the pantheon to whom the cleric’s favored deity is devoted.
- The Age Of Enlightenment – A new golden age, even more prosperous than the legendary Age Of Paradise. Trade prospers, Empires subdivide and fracture into individual Kingdoms, and it becomes common practice to take a new advance from another Kingdom and immediately seek to better it. The concept of Public Works evolves from the previous concept of Common Use; instead of an individual sponsoring a work for common use, for a fee, some common areas are paid for by the crown and are free for all to use. Inns and Hotels are established for travelers.
The Gods encourage each Kingdom to develop slightly divergent variants of the core mythos, enabling them to choose the elements that they most desire, resulting in the emergence of more rounded and distinctive personalities beyond those characteristics attributed to them by Divine Portfolio, and protecting the Gods from further manipulation of their natures by Mortals and Chaos Powers alike, or so they think. Open worship of the Shadow God of a pantheon is permitted, and even encouraged in some cases.
The Nobility of the age were enlightened, but ambitious; each Kingdom dreaming of forming the seeds of a new Empire. Frequently, each subdivision into an independent Kingdom was “earned” by the conquest or conversion or annexing of a new protectorate or province. Exploration was encouraged, and resulted in domains scattered far and wide, and an ever-greater entanglement of loyalties and trading agreements. In time, a coalition of Ruling Kings assembled and declared an Empire loyal not to one individual, but to the ruling council.
- The Age Of Armageddon – The Shadow Gods succumb to the temptations of the most powerful Chaos Powers – Greed, Arrogance, Envy, Pride, and Lust. They reunite to plot their ascension to the head of their respective pantheons. The Shadow Gods begin spreading coordinated subversive “reinterpretations” of the Divine Messages of the Temples and to the Gods it seems that the Chaos Powers are trying the same tricks again. As the Shadow Gods expect, the Gods treat this as a ‘solved problem’ and see no need to coordinate their efforts with the other Pantheons. Each affected Pantheon cedes full authority to the Shadow Gods.
It is eventually discovered that the plagues and disruption in one Pantheon’s Kingdom are the acts of the neighboring Kingdom’s Pantheon. Word spreads quickly through the trade routes, and each Pantheon finds itself at war with a former Ally, and their Kingdoms along with them. The Godswar has begun.
Cities are annihilated, pastures become deserts, climates are in upheaval. Seas boiled, mountains rose and fell in hours. Many lose their lives, and strange and desolate wastelands arise, containing pockets of wild magic, Previously-civilized creatures turn wild and become enemies to the nations which had harbored them. Deities who would have preferred neutrality were swept into the conflict, many Gods were destroyed utterly. Old grudges surfaced and the original cause of the conflict no longer mattered to the participants.
The Chaos Powers strike at the height of the conflict, sending the Fallen Races into a blood-lust berserker fury and directing them to invade the distracted and distraught Kingdoms loyal to the Gods, while manipulating the Earth Wizard D’Gaath, who they had corrupted over a number of years and who they now ‘inspired’ to create a superweapon against the Gods.
The invasion by the Fallen Races succeeded in restoring the diverse Pantheons to their senses, and the survivors banded together. But the Chaos Powers, sensing an opportunity, succeeded in inhibiting the appropriate sense of prudence in the deity Thoth, god of knowledge.
Thoth, at the right moment, was ‘inspired’ to realize the nature of the Creation of D’Gaath, and to ‘perceive’ an opportunity to study the minds of the Chaos Powers. Overconfidence was his undoing, as he activated the Earthstone created by D’Gaath, and the surviving Gods were imprisoned within it, while his rapport with the Chaos Powers overwhelmed him. Thereafter, he would be an unwilling servant of the Dark Powers.
- The Age Of Ambitions – While D’Gaath had been the primary target of the corruptions of the Chaos Powers, others had fallen to their blandishments and temptations, purely to create the social climate needed for an agent such as D’Gaath to have the confidence and ambition to overrule his rationality. With the Gods no longer fulfilling their divine ‘obligations,’ and the churches in disarray as a result, ambitious Wizards realized that they were the most powerful of mortals, as capable of creating miracles as the Gods had been, and as deserving of worship and authority over others. Many unleashed new horrors as acts of ‘creation’, others sought to impose their will directly on the temporal authorities, while some simply demanded the populace worship them or be destroyed. In so doing, they gave the churches – always jealous and suspicious of the independence of the Wizards – someone to blame for events, and a unifying target around which to rally their support. A crusade against Spellcasters followed, and even those who were loyal and true were executed in a wave of anti-arcane violence.
- The Age Of Apotheosis – The Chaos Powers had realized that the Gods incarceration was only temporary, designed to be nothing more than a passing annoyance, as had any number of prior minor skirmishes between the two. At best, they hoped to achieve a long-term tactical advantage by nullifying their own shortcomings. Indeed, most of what had occurred to them was not through their doing; they took full advantage of every opportunistic event, but they knew that subtle and intricate planning was not their forte. For that, they required a cat’s-paw of Lawful alignment; in Thoth, they found what they sought. Their first action was consistent with the high cunning they had displayed throughout the Age Of Armageddon; they had Thoth ‘rescue’ his fellow Deities, masking their achievement, and they returned to laying low save for the usual opportunistic work of corruption, and merely watched the consequences of their past actions create upheaval and unrest. While Thoth planned and plotted on their behalf, the Chaos Powers sought to take advantage of the temporarily overwhelmed Gods to press home their temporary advantages and revel in their positions of dominance. In so doing, they created the impression amongst their divine enemies that they had been responsible for all that had befallen the civilized world.
With the churches rousing the peasant population into taking part in the crusade against magic, the Ruling Nobles of the era were forced to find other sources of manpower to work the fields, build their walls, and maintain their privileged existences. Most of the Kings of the Imperial Council had long dreamt of becoming sole ruler, the one “true” Emperor, with martial forces so great that even the Churches would be subservient to them. It was not the Independence of the Wizards that rankled them, it was the disdain with which the Church overrode and usurped their powers and authority. The obvious source of labor was the forcible subjugation of a neighboring Kingdom and the enslavement of it’s population.
The Churches, of course, were not going to willingly relinquish their authority; and so the peasant armies were turned from the persecution of Wizards to armed uprisings against the Nobility. The few surviving Wizards took the opportunity to go underground, assuming prosaic public identities while preserving what little knowledge they could.
The climax of the Age of Apotheosis came when the Gods were released by a hardy band of Adventurers. Ironically, because the Earthstone inherently corrupted those who entered its vicinity, the Gods did their best to drive their eventual rescuers away, fearful in their own vulnerability that the Adventurers would be swayed to the cause of the Chaos Powers.
- The Age Of Recovery – The last 100 years or so, up to the founding of the United Pantheon by Aurella’s Chorus, the Destruction of Thoth through a plan of his own devising, and the Ascension of Lolth.
- The Age Of Kingdoms? – Some scholars feel that the division of the Kingdom into three separate Kingdoms with a common ruler, the existence of a united Pantheon, the addition of Orcs, Drow, and (more recently, the Desert-Dwelling Jal-Pur), all mark the beginning of a new age. Certainly, many of the old rules changed fundamentally when Arioch underwent Conversion to Lawful Neutral and became the thirteenth Deity of the United Pantheon. The exponents of this position also contend that given the change in the nature of the problems being faced by Civilization – Old Magic, the Golden Empire, the Green Horde, the Elvish Dragonriders, the Leafy Rebellion, etc, are all different in nature to those that were being experienced prior to this Event.
The contrary view is that these problems and manifestations are all the final stages of Recovery from what was to what used to be – that the Kingdom of Fumanor is finally achieving the dream of the latter parts of the Age Of Enlightenment, and becoming a unified Empire. Inevitably, this means problems with growing pains, Political representation, Equality and Equity, a more multicultural and global perspective, and – inevitably – a confrontation with the remnants of the past Empire – the Golden Empire.
No resolution of this debate is expected for some time to come. The general consensus amongst the learned is that the changes in the role of the Divine marks a new age as Impending, but not yet necessarily arrived; exactly where to put the dividing line will be unclear for some time to come. This is a period of transition from one Age to the next.
The Paladins Of Thumâin – A Fumanor Class
Character classes are defined by and represent a great many things – professions and professional relationships, opinions and culture, skills and knowledge, focus and intent, and collective understanding and the integration of that class with society. It follows, at least to me, that the specifics of any given character class will change, ever so slightly, when one looks at an example from a different era.
That means that a Paladin from, oh, say, 150 years ago, would not have the same abilities as one from the rulebook. To say nothing of one from 100 years ealier than that. Some training and abilities would be prioritized; other training and abilities might be delayed, stunted, or even non-existant. You can’t have Divination spells before Divination is discovered! It’s the equivalent of a man from 1763 vs a man of today (or, even more extreme, a woman or non-caucasion of that era in comparison to today. Some facets of life would be unchanged, at least in general; but almost everything would be changed in some detail, and some things would be changed a great deal more – even if the professions were called the same thing.
So I constructed a group of variant Orders of Paladins, the Paladins Of Thumâin. The Order of the Rose, the Order of the Thistle, The Order of the Holy, the Order of the Flame, and the Order of the Talisman. These are all splinters of the original Order of Paladins Of Thumâin, one way or another.
And one of those primitives, from a time when all Chaos was percieved as Evil and vice-versa was discovered by Tajik’s Misfits locked in a ripple of time, a tear in reality.
As usual, I have provided PDFs in both Letter and A4 size describing the class, and the recent history that spawned it. A little of that history is also quoted below.
I have been drawing heavily on this work as the basis for the sequel to Assassin’s Amulet – so you can consider Paladin of Thumâin a very, very early sneak peek, if you like.
Julia Sureblade – Exile from Yesterday
How would you feel if you were engaged in a noble and desperate task, with the fate of the world on your shoulders, only to find yourself suddenly in a world where that life’s work had been completed, giving rise to a great empire, which in turn had become corrupt and the enemy of everything that you believed in?
In Julia’s era, her Order (and others) was struggling with the age of Heresies, Half of recorded human history ago. Arioch was the leading enemy of everything, and in defiance of him, an Empire was being created. The Paladins of the era were completely convinced of the rightness of their cause, and some of them were also convinced that the ends justified any means – extremism walks hand in hand with being a Paladin.
She now lives in a time in which the Paladins of her world are held responsible for many of the worst atrocities in recorded existence, in which the empire that her fellows created gave painful and eventual birth to a new Golden Age, which in turn withered and died and almost brought about the annihilation of everything, and in which Arioch is the foremost defender of reality, honor, and fidelity.
It’s not just her world that had been turned upside-down, every guiding principle that she has ever believed in has been revealed as capable of deeds she considers wholly and unalterably monstrous and unforgivable.
She has spent her time quietly brooding, for the most part, trying to come to terms with the magnitude of the changes and with her self-percieved responsibility for those atrocities; only when called to action does she come to life. At the same time, the people with whom she is adventuring – most of whom she would have regarded as inherant enemies not long ago – are seeking to defend and maintain a faint and vanishing hope of a better tomorrow. That’s something she can both understand, relate to, and approve. Their cause is now her cause – and at least it’s a distraction from the turmoil within her soul. For now.
Her companions – especially Arron – have recognized that Julia is a prime candidate for self-inlficted martyrdom, and inbtend to prevent it, if they can – they feel that she holds too much knowledge of the past, and is in a better position to tell the world what to avoid in the future, to throw it away.
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