I’ve got so much campaign prep to get done that if I don’t do it here, in public, I’ll either never get it done in time…
A shout-out to the sources
There aren’t many sources of non-original material that I have used in my Campaigns, but sometimes something is just too useful. These chapters reference two such sources.
The Grave Of The Prince Of Lies from 0one Games
free mini-module, all about Dwarves and Drow and Betrayal and Obsession published by 0one Games (“Zero-One Games”, I think) and available at DriveThruRPG – check it out, and tell ‘em Mike sent you!
I freely acknowledge the copyright of 0one Games and the author, Mario Barbati. Any content below that references the original sources is intended as homage and acknowledgement. It might also be useful as an example of how to adapt such third-party material into an existing campaign.
Relics & Rituals
The material on Spellweaving was extracted and adapted from the descriptive passages of a Prestige Class under development, though the concepts been part of the Fumanor campaigns from the very beginning. This prestige class is an effort to formalize the concepts into game mechanics, which in turn have been based on material within Relics & Rituals by Swords & Sorcery Studios and published by White Wolf.
This game supplement is available from RPGNow as a PDF (reduced to under US$11 as I write this). Some sellers still have copies of the hardcover version for sale through Amazon for about half that price – plus postage and handling – less if you buy one of the second-hand copies.
While the concepts for the prestige class were my own, elements of the game mechanics derived from this source have undoubtedly shaped and influenced the descriptive content, so I feel it only proper to acknowledge the source.
Chapters 6-10 are all in final form. I don’t change “speaker” in mid-paragraph, but the speaker does change from one paragraph to the next. So if it seems like the tone changes direction suddenly – sometimes it does.
Chapter 5 is first draft, extracted and modified from a Prestige Class under parallel development with this history – finishing that is part of the camnpaign prep that needs to be done. But one thing at a time!
The Art Of Spellweaving
As they grew learned and wise, the Elves began to master the natural world, developing the art of Spellweaving. Unlike the gross magics of other species, Spellweaving is a slow and delicate shaping of patterns of nature; a single Spell might take years or even decades to weave. This is an art that only Elves, with their long lifespans and persistence of worldview and Elven Sight, could master. While some rare Humans might live long enough to learn the basics of Spellweaving, their attitudes are too inconstant, their attention spans too brief, and their faculties too limited, to permit true understanding or the delicacy of touch and deftness of control that is necessary. Elvish Spellweaving controls and shapes the most powerful of forces over vast areas. 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.
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 learn to reshape the patterns they perceive, 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. Spellweavers form the innermost layers of Elvish society.
High Elven spellweavers use 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, divinatory, 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.
Forest Elves abide in forests which teem with life, much of it modified through Spellweaving. They 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. 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 elvish craft their dwellings by growing and shaping trees into the forms required; creating 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. Humans consider it possible for an Elf to go anywhere within an Elven Forest while never touching the ground – though that is something of an exaggeration, as humans are want to do.
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 modern times, 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 by 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. – immediately beginning to 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 now 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 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 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 forest dens.
While High Elves study the weave itself and manipulate the unliving environment, and Forest Elves weave patterns in the nature around them, Wood Elves (also known as Plains 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.
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, since the Fall of the Aquatic Elves, none can match them. 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.
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.
The spider-clan of the Plains Elves long ago settled into a new environment and are now known as Dark Elves or Drow. 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.
At this point in our narrative, these arts are still in their relative infancy, and many of these changes have not yet been achieved, or are present only in rudimentary form. Each is the result of hard lessons learned.
It was while searching for The Other that Elves first made themselves known to Humans, seeking leave to explore through, in, and beyond the Kingdoms of Man. Although there had been sporadic and individual contacts in the past, this was an altogether more organized approach, and exposed the Elves for the first time to the full political machinery beloved by Humans – laws, treaties, “Diplomacy”, and deception, the full range of human social relations. And it exposed the humans of the era to many facets of a perspective alien to their perceptions – for while Man accepted and tolerated the vagarities of nature, he perceived it as something to be controlled (not gently shaped); as something to be sheltered from, if it could not be controlled (not lovingly appreciated); and as something to be endured and escaped, if it could not be sheltered from, not something to be revered. “A human,” it was said, “would take the world apart to see how the mechanisms worked, and more importantly, whether or not they could put it back together in a manner more to their liking.”
The formal contact changed both societies dramatically. Humans rediscovered the potential for a more harmonious relationship with the natural world around them, which ultimately manifested in the resurgence of Druidic orders. The Elves, for their part, were forced to structure their society somewhat, formalizing relationships and obligations that had simply been there through the long centuries previous. They also chose a King to represent them to humanity; this role was not taken very seriously by Elves, being adopted for the sole purpose of making Humans more comfortable. The Elves recognized that Humans had an innate preference for centralizing authority and dealing with other centralized authorities, and while their race had no such drive, they were willing to accommodate the human need.
And so they chose the most vain amongst their people, the Elf with the greatest love of luxury and its trappings, provided him and his family with a throne, crown, clothes, and the finest furniture and food, and entrusted to him the responsibilities of greeting and entertaining visitors from other races, and of formalizing any agreements with non-Elven Authorities with seal and signature.
Since this was a purely ceremonial role, there was no need at this time for a Council of Advisors; nor did the King hold any authority over the Elves as a people. His sole function was to formalize decisions once they were taken; Elves persisted in deciding matters amongst themselves as they always had, through the binding consensus of interested parties.
It was through their association with Humans that the Elves first learned of Dwarves, a discovery that set in motion a chain of events that would forever alter Elvish society. Some years earlier, some thousands of the bearded folk had crossed the borders into human-controlled lands, wounded, despondent, and despairing. They had been exiled from their homes by the betrayal of one of their own, seduced by a Princess from another race called Drow. Details were sketchy, but the Dwarves had been permitted to travel to the lands to the far Sunset, where they had settled into a vast tent city. Some hired themselves out to raise the money for food, but most had given themselves over to abject despair, spending their days drinking themselves into insensibility and bitterness, or crafting improbable schemes for the reclaiming of their homes. A proud and noble people, skilled smiths and wrights, now broken and humiliated. Could these “Dwarves” be the “Other” that the Elves were seeking, inquired the Humans?
The Elves who heard this tale knew immediately that the Dwarves were not who they had been seeking, but the involvement of the Drow nevertheless made this a matter of vital interest to the Elven peoples. Unwilling to reveal to humans matters that were none of their concern, the Elves answered “Perhaps,” and urgently sent a deputation to learn the truth of the reported event from these refugees.
When these investigators returned, they bore grim tidings. The Drow had formed a matriarchal society, based on cruelty and the enslavement of others, within tunnels deep under the mountains. Family groups called Houses competed with each other for the favors of their Spider Goddess; when their population had grown to the point where these tunnels became crowded, they chose to annex those carved by another race, the Dwarves, rather than extending their own domains. The Daughter of one of these matriarchs, seeking to elevate herself and her House, had seduced the youngest Prince of the Dwarves, inveigling him through romance and sorcery until he was utterly enthralled.
At her instigation, he had raised a band of personal followers who had slaughtered those ahead of her in the line of succession to rulership of her House, a deed met with considerable approval by the Queen Of Webs. The Princess had then prevailed apon him to spy out the defenses of his people, and apon ascending to the rule of her House, a combined assault by her forces and those of his personal entourage penetrated those defenses and routed the Dwarves completely. So profound was the anger of the Dwarves that the offender’s name had been expunged from all records; they renamed him “The Prince Of Lies”.
This forced the Elves into an unhappy position. While angry at the disrespect paid to Corellan by the Drow, these were still their brothers, sisters, parents, nieces, nephews, husbands, and wives. They had come to understand why Corellan had prevented them from starting what could only be a Civil War which would entangle the entire Elven Race.
And yet, Corellan’s instructions had been not to interfere with the Drow “so long as they impose their will apon no others”; clearly, they had overstepped that boundary, and the Elves were forced to interpret Corellan’s instructions as a Divine Commandment to oppose the Drow and their dark Queen. The search for the Other was, of necessity, abandoned until the Drow problem had been dealt with.
An army of Elves was gathered at the instruction of the Elven King, and travelled to the tent cities of the Dwarves, where they announced that they were the Kin of those responsible for the Dwarvish Exile, come to aid the Dwarves in reclaiming their homeland. Alas, the Elves (for all their wisdom and learning) had little experience in dealing with other races. The Elvish attitude – “We are going to do this, we have been commanded to do so by our God. You can help if you want to” – was guaranteed to irritate and further humiliate the Dwarves, whose natural pride was already sensitive because of their situation.
Despite the growing irritation of the Dwarves, the combination was extremely effective, and succeeded in overcoming the Prince Of Lies and his Drow paramour, and reclaiming sufficient of the Dwarven tunnels for the Dwarves to return to their homes. Lolth, never one to forgive incompetence or presumption, closed the links between the Drow tunnels and the Dwarven mineshafts, trapping both the young House Mother and Dwarven Prince between the Drow and the invading armies.
Even so, it should not be presumed that the pair were without resource and skill of their own; they successfully evaded the conquering allies and fled, pursued by a mixed force of Elves and Dwarves. Ultimately they were cornered in some remote corner of the world; when they were finally trapped, the Drow Matron turned on her Dwarven lover, seeing no further use for him, and killed him and his surviving personal guard with a Curse, only to be slain herself by those who had pursued the couple so remorselessly.
Legacies of The Prince Of Lies: Dwarves
All three groups had been marked by the events surrounding the Prince Of Lies episode. Despite the success of their collaboration, relations between the Dwarves and Elves had been forever poisoned by the Elvish attitude. It was natural, for an Elf, whenever engaged in, or proposing, some joint activity with a Dwarf, to remind that Dwarf of how successfully they had united in the past. They could never quite grasp the fact that Dwarves resented the humiliation of the need for the aid of outsiders. The Dwarves had not asked for any of it – the manipulations of the Drow, the exile, or the aid of the Elves. They further resented being made secondary participants in the war to reclaim their homeland. And they absolutely and definitively resented the perception that Elves expected them to be grateful for their unwanted and multiply-humiliating interference!
To be fair, relations with Dwarves were always going to be difficult; there were too many personality traits in opposition. Everything from sense of humor to stiff-necked pride would have gotten in the way. Nevertheless, events conspired to do irreparable harm to relations between the races. It must be remembered that from the Dwarvish perspective, Elves and Drow were one people. They were all Elves. They perceived irrefutable similarities between the attitudes of the Elves and the Drow – both had treated the Dwarves without respect. Coupled with the Elvish sense of humor and ability to find the sunny side of just about anything, and their never-ending ability to “babble”, the Dwarves were left with the overall impression that Elves were an untrustworthy, arrogant, and deceitful race, who delighted in belittling and humiliating Dwarves and in regurgitating past humiliations.
As a people, their racial pride had been publicly humiliated by the events; and while they did everything in their power to erase all memory of that humiliation, that pride aroused a feirce determination never to be so humiliated again. Their culture was forced down an increasingly martial path in consequence. Where once they had prized skills in finding, mining, and working the treasures of the earth, military prowess now became the dominant desirable trait.
This cultural transformation was as much a reaction to the Elvish behavior as to the Drow manipulation of events. Had the Elves approached the exiled Dwarves in a manner that did not offend the always-prickly Dwarven Pride, commonality of purpose could have produced an alliance that would have held steadfast for all time. It was the difference between “We have come to aid you in reclaiming your homes” and “We are here to lead your people back to their homes.”
Legacies of The Prince Of Lies: Elves
The Dwarven reaction to the events of the first Drow War greatly puzzled the Elves of the time, and they spent long years analyzing the events and how they had led to the bitterness expressed by the Dwarvish King at the War’s end. When they reached the conclusions set forth above, they were able for the first time to see themselves through an outsiders eyes, however dimly. Humbled by their unrecognized and unremarked mistakes, the Elves decided never to speak of the Prince Of Lies or the circumstances of the first Drow War again. As the generations passed, the matter was lost to memory, and the status quo came to be accepted by the Elves as simply “the way things are”. Only humans, who were only peripherally involved in events, retained any record of the tale, and at the time they had insufficient experience with any of the races involved to understand the all-important subtexts that had dictated the consequences, so their records were woefully incomplete.
That said, the Elves were determined not to make the same mistakes in future. It had become clear to them that the authority granted, and the responsibilities delegated, to the role of King were more important than they had appreciated. This time, they had resulted in a Civil War, and perhaps perpetual mistrust with another Race; what effect might they have next time? And yet, the Elf chosen for the role had been selected not for his relevant abilities, but for his love of pomp and ceremony. While he had managed – just barely – the Prince Of Lies crisis, it was not unfair to lay the blame for many of the mistakes during those events at his feet. While the chosen King was more than sufficient under normal circumstances, events could transform into the extraordinary in a heartbeat. At such times, the King needed Advisors to guide him – although he would remain the public spokesman, the Council would make the decisions.
Years were spent considering and debating the structure of the council, and who should be eligible for inclusion, and the issues of mandatory vs. voluntary participation. Ultimately, a ruling body evolved that was uniquely Elven in character. Actually, years were spent considering and debating each of these issues.
At the heart of the Council (known formally as The Gilandthor (The Gathering) were five Elves: a representative of each of the four branches of the Elves: Mountain, Forest, Planes, and Aquatic. Of course, the Aquatic representative was unable to participate directly, but worked closely with a volunteer Elf from one of the other groups who conveyed the position of the Aquatic elves on any matter to the Council.
Supplementing these four were specialist members who were dedicated to each of the major races, and whose primary responsibility was to consider that race’s reactions to any action proposed by the Council. If this council of advisors had been in place prior to the crisis, the theory went, the Dwarven Specialist would have been able to point out the consequences of the approach adopted by the King, and a more amenable tone adopted. It might not have prevented the subsequent estrangement of the allies, but it would at least not have exacerbated the problems.
Legacies of The Prince Of Lies: Drow
The impact of these events apon the Drow were no less profound. Through the presumptiveness and independent scheming of one Princess, centuries of planning had been torn apart. While the damage was not irreparable, the confrontation with the Elves had been instigated precipitously, before She had completed preparations for a decisive blow. As a result, although Shehad approved of the ambition and cleverness of the House Princess, the results were completely unsatisfactory.
She resolved never again to be caught unprepared, without a ready-to-implement backup plan for any action contemplated. In the meantime, it was clearly long past time to bring the House Matrons firmly into line, and to bind them more closely to herself; She ordered that the Priesthood of Lolth be elevated to dominance over all other elements of Drow society. To celebrate this ascension, the existing House Mothers were martyred in Her name – a rather pointed reminder to their successors of the consequences of exceeding their authority.
The sacrifices struck Drow society like a thunderclap, and a superficial peace enveloped Drow society as a whole. While the newly-elevated House Matrons would never cease their attempts to climb above those around them in power and authority, the conflicts between them became the stuff of plots, intrigues, and shadows. While each priestess was loyal to their House, they were first and foremost the Children of Lolth; should any House conflict even threaten to endanger the most trivial whim of the Spider-Goddess, betrayal from within was certain, and the punishment swift.
This change completely transformed the balance of power between the Drow Houses. Previously, there had been six arenas of primacy, all of roughly equal value: Wealth, Political Connections, Spycraft, Secular Authority, The art of Spellweaving, and Martial power. The change to a Theocracy elevated the Secular arena to dominance over all others. The ranking of the House Priestess relative to that of other Houses became the sole measure of success, and all else was merely a tool to be exploited in this pursuit.
The Ongoing Elvish Glossary
- Arnost: Simple Speech (Modern “Common”, a human tongue)
- Arrunquessor: Plains Elves
- Calquissir: High Elves
- Corellan: The First
- Drow: “Those Who Dwell Apart” (in Nuthanorl)
- Eltrhinast: “Guiding Spirit”
- Gilandthor: “The Gathering”, the formal title of the Elvish Council.
- Hithainduil: High Elven Language
- Illvayssor: “The Other”, a mythical race
- Isallithin: “The Sundered”, a name applied to Aquatic Elves
- King: A human title interpreted by Elves as “speaker to others” and defined as such within their language.
- Nuthanorl: Low Elven Language, Common Elven
- Tarquessir: Forest Elves
- Zamiel: Drow Language
Next time: Lolth schemes, the Verdonne are revealed, and at last the Elves find “The Other” – but it’s not the glorious occasion they hoped for. All in Chapters 11 through 14!
- 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