Dwarves of The Stolen Lands

Dwarves have been a focus recently, partly because I have been working with the Dwarf Finance spreadsheets for The Stolen Land game, partly because of my recent interest in mines and partly because dwarf culture have become relevant in long-term planning for my next game setting.

This post concentrates on the Dwarves of The Stolen Lands game,  their general philosophies and how that translates into long term plans.  These dwarves recently (in Dwarven terms) lost their minehold, their leader  and most of their population in a catastrophic earthquake – a sure sign that they had lost the blessings of Torag.  This led to a Dwarven diaspora as they spread across the land.


So how does a Dwarven community cope with the traumatic loss of its greatest minehold, its leader and most of its population?  By falling back on the basic principles and philosophies of Dwarvish society.  Dwarves (or at least their society)  in my world are fairly traditional D&D Dwarves  As a group they are generally Lawful Good and build underground strongholds that are based on mining, working metals, collecting gemstones or quarrying stone – and they serve as the go-betweens for the surface and underground worlds.  If you want top quality marble –  you probably speak to a dwarf, if you want good quality weapons you should buy them from a dwarf hold, the same holds true for  gems, armour and just about anything else that consists of worked metal or stone, or comes from underground.  There are, of course, small Dwarf communities in all sorts of other settings, and it doesn’t affect PC choices –  but it is the  basic position that underpins NPC dwarf society.

Dwarf society, in D&D/Pathfinder is LG – So combining Lawful and Good from my last post, it should be based around these principles. 

  • Government – A cohesive central government where everyone works together with the same (or similar) sets of ideals.  It might be a Lord,  a council or some other structure.  The town operates in ways that support the whole community.  There are good public facilities  (wells, town dump, public baths) and support structures (hospital, alms houses, schools) for those who need them.
  • Business – Businesses are regulated, and there may be guilds controlling who can (and can’t) work or trade in the town.
  • Social Structure – People know their place and how to behave.  That doesn’t mean there is no social mobility – you just have to follow the rules and do well, then you will rise up the social pyramid. Not following the rules, means you slide down the pyramid instead.  Residents are expected to be supportive of their neighbours (although some element of competition is good) and those who rise up the social pyramid are generally successful financial and have a strong social conscience.
  • Laws and Punishments – are well established, the population understand the laws and punishments are consistent.  They are proportionate, and probably not lethal.  They may, however, include exile, social or business restrictions, jail time and (in the most extreme circumstances) judicial execution.

Applying it …


In the case of the Dwarven Diaspora in The Stolen Lands game, there isn’t a defined government – so we have to consider leadership instead.    Leadership is provided by Clan Golka, the family of the old Clan Lord, and they have representation in each of the four main Dwarf Enclaves, the most significant being Ralin Golka in Brundeston, who spread the message that The Great Clan is still in existence, and that dwarven Culture should persist.

They take management roles when they can and act as enablers when they can’t. Ralin is Mayor of Brundeston, the town marketed as the new hope for Dwarf society.  Darain al Golka, Ralin’s Cousin, id the leader of Dwarf Town in Restov and serves of the City’s overall council. Toran Golka (son of the Old Lord) remains in Greyhaven and provides the communication channels that keep that widely spread community in touch with each other.  Poran al Golka (another cousin) acts as a focus for the dwarves of New Steven.


Dwarf society is heavily rooted in their religion,  racial history and the ‘comforts’ that dwarves associate with ‘home’

The Church of Torag, under the leadership of Dunan al Golka, has done its part.  While there is, currently, no formal presence in Grey Haven, they have representation in Restov and New Stetven and an Abbey in Brundeston.  They have even facilitated the development of churches in the Colonies, with a strong presence in New Dawn and a lesser presence in Ringbridge.

Clan Lorson have also been instrumental in helping dwarves, wherever they are, recognise that they are still a part of Dwarf society.  Traditionally, they have been responsible for  education and dwarven lore.  They maintain Dwarf Schools in all four principal areas, and make sure that they cover Dwarf heritage and behaviour as they educate young dwarves, and they have libraries, specializing in Dwarf literature, in both Brundeston and Greyhaven.  Since the Diaspora started, Clan Lorson have started opening shops selling ‘Dwarf Comforts’, stocking such favourites as Keep-All, Nubbe paste and Dwarf Sausage –  which they believe will reminds  Dwarves of their racial heritage.  They also sell specialist Dwarf weapons and Armour (those with Dwarven in the name), so that adventuring dwarves look the part, and are constantly reminded of who they are.

Clan Devale are also important, their breweries ship dwarf Stout around the world, and their inns and taverns have a ‘Dwarf’ theme, with traditional Oompah and Brass Bands providing entertainment.

All of this is possible because of the core tenets of Dwarf culture and religion – and the interpretation of events by the priests who now lead the church of Torag in Brevoy. 

Hammer and Tongs: The Forging of Metal and Other Good Works is the principle holy text of Torag. Among other things …

  • It tells of the creation myths of the dwarves and the destinies they have forged, as well as the Quest for Sky and the simple need for community that binds dwarves together.[1]
  • The oldest copy includes a historical account of when the community was founded, as well as which families or clans were involved in the founding, in addition to other notable historical events.[2]

Under the leadership of Dunan al Golka, the Abbot of Brundeston, the church says that the earthquake that destroyed the original holding was a sign from Torag that the Great Clan had done something wrong, probably their reliance on the Humans of Greyhaven.  It wasn’t the fault of the humans, but of the dwarves themselves.  Now they must become independent and more self-reliant.  The diaspora and the building of a strong, distributed Dwarf society, is a holy task that should be the focus of all Dwarves associated with Clan Golka – and that everyone should work hard to make it happen.

The Dwarves form strong bonds with their local allies, and support them properly, their culture demands that.  House Aeris, House Solanus and  House Lebeda-Ondari can be sure of their allies, but they also have other responsibilities that are important to them.   They are supportive of Dwarves generally and support their great clan, The Golka, spirituality, politically and economically, and they have a mire direct responsibility for other members of their own name clan.

Note:  Clan Golka, is named after the Founder of the original (now lost) minehold, and is a two-fold entity.  At one level, it is a Great-Clan that consists of all the smaller Name-Clans that were based there and made their names there.  At a second level, it is a Name-Clan for the direct decedents of the original founder.


The Golka don’t have a formal homeland, although they do claim Brundeston as their own, and control a significant district in Restov.  In both of those places there are restrictions on non-dwarf businesses.    All the businesses in Dwarf Town, Restov are owned and controlled by Dwarves, many of them by significant dwarf clans.  The Devales even own an inn, just outside Dwarf town, that caters to dwarves and humans alike.  In Brundeston, non-dwarf businesses are restricted in what they can build, and primarily provide merchant or human-focused service.  All the Human businesses are outside the town walls.

Within Dwarf society, businesses are normally Clan based – with family groups passing skills down from one generation to the next.  But many clans were decimated by the loss of the minehold, and many of the remaining dwarves call on their ancestral history to facilitate moves between clans – bringing new skills with them.  At the moment, there are opportunities for ambitious clans and their leaders, as the whole community restructures itself to deal with the issue.

A number of traditional Name-Clans that have  survived the great loss and continue to  develop in their traditional fields, while other (smaller) Name-Clans are growing in importance as they fill the gaps created by the diaspora.

The traditional Name-Clans who have been a driving force behind the Diaspora include

  • Clan Golka who specialize in leadership, mining and metalwork.
  • Clane Devale –  brewers and publicans
  • Clan Ironheart – security and military specialists
  • Clan Rokser – quarrymen and stone specialists
  • Clan Lorson – education and dwarf lore

The smaller clans that are growing to help fill the gaps

  • Clan Hafgrey – mining
  • Clan Pandoon – smithing
  • Clan Silverhammer – quarries, stone and jewellery
  • Clan Stigmar – specialize in spreading Torag’s word and facilitate the diaspora.

A few individuals, such as Gandred of Ringbridge are also profiting, and building a personal position –  although many of those will (at some point) become associated with a clan as well.  After all, that is the Dwarf way.


There are few specific laws that are not based on traditional Dwarf law.  In Brundeston there are some simple zoning laws, Dwarves inside, others outside the walls, and restrictions on what outsiders can build.  In Restov, the dwarves have managed to negotiate an ‘exclusivity’ deal for Dwarf Town, but have retained the right for Dwarves to build outside the area – although city planning restrictions still apply.

In other areas, Dwarves are expected to be Law Abiding Citizens, and follow locals laws.

Laws in Brundeston are based on traditional values –  No theft, murder, assault etc. – with fair trials that try to get to the root of the case and proportionate punishments, although they are made public.  In many cases, judicial punishment is supplements by social and peer disapproval, which (for a dwarf) can be more difficult than the actual punishment.

Perhaps the most important part of traditional law, is that contracts are binding, and may last for generations.  A dwarf or a clan that breaks their contracts (without good reason) is often treated as a pariah, until they have made amends.  This may, in part, be the reason for name-clans adherence to the great-clan of the Golka – as long term generational contracts are adhered to.

The dwarven ideal of community wellbeing is important as well.  Dwarves will always negotiate for a good deal, but they won’t be cut-throat in their dealings – contracts should benefit both parties, if they are to survive.

Ironically, that isn’t the end of it. The next stage will be to develop a mire general model that can be used to describe Dwarf Mineholds in my new setting. But that doesn’t need to happen for a while. Right now, I can get on with planning for this week’s TT game session.

Societal Culture

Over the last little while, I have continued to think about Dwarves and their holdings, but that made me think about cultures, overall.  These are my thoughts.  The example below is for a LG community, because that is what is most relevant to me at the moment.  As always, comments are welcome.  You are also welcome to have a go at designing your own alignment based culture for a holding – and posting the outcome here.


Each town, city or stronghold will have its own ‘culture’ created by its management, governance and structure, based on the overall alignment of the town’s rulers and major characters.  The ‘average’ alignment of the citizens (mainly NPC classes) will be Neutral,  as they try to keep their heads down and go about their daily life.  That doesn’t mean that a LG city won’t have thieves, murderers, conmen (etc) just that the majority, or the leaders in the case of guilds, will have PC classes and count as major characters.  Townsfolk will follow the example of their leaders (in some cases, just to survive) – while those with different alignment tendencies will be trying to keep their heads down.

So what are the distinctive indicators of a town’s alignment …

Law – Chaos

Lawful – 

  • Government – A cohesive central government where everyone works together with the same (or similar) sets of ideals.  It might be a Lord,  a council or some other structure.
  • Business – Businesses are regulated, and there may be guilds controlling who can (and can’t) work or trade in the town.
  • Social Structure – People know their place and how to behave.  That doesn’t mean there is no social mobility – you just have to follow the rules and do well, then you will rise up the social pyramid. Not following the rules, means you slide down the pyramid instead.
  • Laws and Punishments – are well established, the population understand the laws and punishments are consistent.

Neutral –

  • Government – possibly a council (or something similar) where different philosophies are represented, or individual local rulers, who all have a similar philosophy.  Somehow, they find a compromise solution that they can all live with.
  • Business – There are business regulations and standards, although they  may be skimpy and might not apply to every business. Caveat Emptor.
  • Social Structure – Social standing is fairly clear –  but there are a number of different ways to progress –  not all of them approved of, and some might even be fairly unsavoury.
  • Laws and Punishments – are written down, but are fairly weak with loopholes and ‘get out’ clauses.  Punishments are defined, but how they are interpreted depends on the judge/ magistrate/ guardsman.

Chaotic –

  • Government – There isn’t a strong central structure, and different areas of the town might be claimed by local leaders with different philosophies.  There will probably  be hidden leaders and secret societies (that are influential), or the town might have a madman in charge.
  • Business – Anyone can set up a business and start trading.    Buy and shop very carefully, you probably won’t have any legal comeback.
  • Social Structure – There is one, but as there is an ebb and flow between the leaders,  it is difficult to know exactly where you stand.  Most commoners try to keep their heads down, stay polite and keep out of trouble.
  • Laws and Punishments – are not clear.  What is a crime one week, might be acceptable behaviour the next – and the punishment will change, depending on who administers it.  There might well be a lot of ‘Street Justice’.

Good – Evil

Good – 

  • Government – The town operates in ways that support the whole community.  There are good public facilities  (wells, town dump, public baths) and support structures (hospital, alms houses, schools) for those who need them.
  • Social Structure – Residents are expected to be supportive of their neighbours (although some element of competition is good) and those who rise up the social pyramid are generally successful financial and have a strong social conscience.
  • Laws and Punishments – are proportionate, and probably not lethal.  They may, however, include exile, social or business restrictions, jail time and (in the most extreme circumstances) judicial execution.

Neutral –

  • Government – The laws don’t really benefit any particular group – but nor are ant groups disadvantaged either.  There are some public facilities, but they aren’t extensive or comprehensive.
  • Social Structure – Social standing is fairly clear –  but there are a number of different ways to progress –  not all of them approved of, and some might even be fairly unsavoury.
  • Laws and Punishments – are written down, and fairly consistent –  but not comprehensive.  The loopholes and get-out clauses often favour those who can afford a good lawyer or have contacts – but overall it works and is reasonably fair.

Evil –

  • Government – is there to benefit the people in-power, with little or no regard for the general population.  Very few public facilities
  • Social Structure – Climb the social ladder by being strong and powerful.  But watch out, there is always someone else that wants your place.
  • Laws and Punishments – Laws and punishments suit the rulers,  and they will probably be extreme.  Order is often maintained through fear. Punishments always strengthen the rulers –  confiscation of property and money, slavery, death of a rival etc etc.


Startens Edge (LG)

A small mining town on the edges of civilisation.

Small Town – Population 240  Note: Population is smaller than normal under my Campaign rules as, there are no smallholdings or settlements outside the town wall.

Council: Sir Rodri Trevin (Paladin(Iomedae)-5, LG) ;  Dolmir Hafgrey (Dwarf Mine Overseer, Expert-4, LG);  Whitlock Rider  (Cleric(Erastil)-4, LG)

The town is made up of three distinct groups.  Dwarf Miners, Human and Halfling Townsfolk and the Starten Mission House.

The Key Players

The Mission House – Some time ago, this region was attacked a group of Orcs, who had summoned a demon to their aid.  A Paladin of Iomedae, and her followers, dealt with that incursion, and a small church – which became known as The Mission House – was built here to commemorate that event.  The church still stands and knights from the church still patrol the area, and even ride guard on the trade caravans that carry goods back and forth to the local market town. It isn’t a high-status mission, and the staff that are sent here are among the greatest of Iomedae’s servants.  That said, there is at least one Paladin and a couple of fighters stationed here, the rest are NPC classes –  but they are still a force to be reckoned with.  (Watchtower + shrine – size 1)

The Starten Mine – The mine is owned and managed by a group of Dwarves led  by Dolmur Hafgrey, the mine overseer.  The mine produces copper and tin, which is smelted on-site to produce ingots.   The primary ore is malachite, and there are occasional chunks that are pure enough to be sent for use as gemstones – although most is low grade and smelted.  It is the town’s most important economic commodity. Some bronze (A copper/tin alloy) is produced, to be used locally.   (Campaign rules – Standard Mine, size 1)

Elk Hall –dedicated to Erastil, the chosen deity of the local population, Elk Hall acts as both a chapel and a community meeting hall.  In between meetings it is used to host communal working sessions, such as a copper school, sewing bees, bulk jam making sessions or group basketwork. (Campaign rules – Holy House, size 1)

The Rest of the Economy

There are a few other Businesses in the town.

  • The White Stag Tavern  (Campaign rules – Tavern, size 1)
  • The Smithy –  working iron, bronze and copper. (Campaign rules – Craft Workshop, size 1)
  • The Tannery – preparing hides and skins for market. (Campaign rules – Craft Workshop, size 1)
  • Starten Mulers – carrying goods from Startens Edge to the big town (Campaign rules – Serai, size 1).
  • Mulers Market –  where all sorts of local goods are traded. (Campaign rules – Local Market, size 1)

The rest of the population are hunters, trappers and general countryfolk.  Between them, they have most craft skills (at a low level).  You can get food, baskets, rugs, clothes, household utensils and even basic furniture at the market –  along with simple weapons and leather armours. Rather than grow crops in fields (which are subject to raiding) the residents tend the local plants to make them more productive, keep goats for milk and cheese, and collect a good supply of fruit, nuts and berries to supplement their diet.

The primary export is copper and tin ingots from the mine – but that is supplemented by leather, furs and a few malachite gemstones.  The main imports are grains, vegetables, and ale.


The town has a ditch and palisade wall, which makes it an unattractive proposition for raiding – especially when it is protected by the soldiers from the mission, supplemented by a lot of experienced hunters who can put up an impressive flight of arrows.   The town has a communal stock of bronze tipped arrows, crossbow bolts, darts and javelins ready to supply defenders in times of need. 

Alignment Effects


For a small town, Starten’s Edge has good public services. There are …

  • Copper School (run by the priests of Erastil)
  • Public Baths
  • Communal Animal Pens (to keep the goats safe overnight)
  • Communal Smoke House to help preserve meat for winter.
  • Dump
  • Well

The priests of Erastil are the first line of Law Enforcement, using persuasion, peer pressure and religious philosophy to keep people in line, but Iomedae’s guards will step in when there are regular transgressions.  At worst, a really persistent (or serious) offender will be escorted to the nearest large town for formal court hearings.


There are a number of local laws in place.

  • No one is allowed to live outside the walls.
  • Every citizen must attend ‘Raid Drill’ every six months – where a community strategy, in case of a serious raid, is practised.  This is normally followed by a ‘Town Social’ where everyone comes together to eat, drink and socialize (often with dancing and other entertainment)
  • Every adult must have attended   Weapon Skills training, which is provided free of charge by Iomedae’s Mission.  For most people, this just involves learning how to use a club proficiently.   However, those who want  to take extra training can do so, and some residents learn the weapon and armour feats that they need to progress to Warrior or Expert’ at the hands of the Mission’s instructors.
  • Citizens who are skilled in using weapons and armour (Warriors & Experts), must serve in the local Militia and attend weapons practice and military training.  This isn’t too onerous, and while sessions are held every week, experienced militia members are not expected to attend all of them.  This covers most of the hunter/trappers, most of the teamsters from the serai and a few of the Dwarves.  Once the character has gained Profession:Soldier+1 (Normally via the Militia feat) they are classed as ‘Experienced’ and only need to attend monthly.

Dwarves, Mines and the Underdark / Darklands.

This all started out with the thought that “Mining should be more interesting!”, but as I started to work through that I realized that I needed to understand Dwarves better, and then that I had to have a better idea of what lay below the surface of the game world.   However, don’t worry too much – no one from any of my games are going to the Underdark, this is more to do with refining the campaign rules for when I use them again.  It won’t affect the current rules.

“Surface Society”

I am going to start with an overview of my version of “Surface Society”, or at least the part of the world that adventures come from in my games.  Surface Society, and it cultures, is primarily Human, although halflings and half-humans (half-elves, half-orcs) are an integral part of it.  Dwarves, Elves and (to a lesser extent) Gnomes have cultures of their own, that while they are compatible with human society, are separate and different.  Elves have their own countries, cities and towns, most of which are reasonable Xenophobic –  they don’t kill intruders, but they aren’t welcomed, and are ushered away as quickly as possible.  Gnome society is chaotic – you never quite know where you are going to find them, or what they will be doing – apart from experimenting obsessively with Alchemy or some other craft.  Dwarves sit on the border between the surface world and everything that goes on below –  they aren’t, quite, part of either world.

Dwarf Strongholds.

Dwarves are the civilized world’s gatekeepers to the world below the surface.  Their strongholds are normally built around mines, but they also connect to a network of underground tunnels and caves that lead deeper underground.  These are often a source of trade with other underground races –  many of whom have metals and gems to sell.  While they avoid many of the underground races, they trade with many others, creating a series of trade routes that bring underground trade goods to the surface world.

These underground trade routes are dangerous, sparsely populated and not well travelled, they wind and twist along (mainly) natural caverns, that can be home to all sorts of hazards.  Other humanoid races send hunting parties out to monitor the routes, so merchants either have to be strong or stealthy to travel them –  so many of the ‘merchant caravans’ are small and only carry a few trade goods with them.  Whatever they trade, has to be valuable, or the risk is too high. A single bottle of whiskey can be worth many hundreds of gold pieces when you are two miles underground! 

Races such as Pech and, Svirfneblin live deep underground and trade the most valuable goods, such as diamonds and mithral.  Mongrelmen and Kobolds are closer to the surface, and are less sophisticated in their mining and smelting techniques, so they likely bring lower value gemstones, or perhaps nuggets of  pure gold (or silver)  with them.


I had got used to the concept of ‘The Underdark’ and documented a basic ecology (just enough to inform play) but never really developed an interest in it.  I have adventured there once, in 40 years of playing, and never run a game there.  Pathfinder’s ‘Darklands’ concept, of a three layer Darklands, has more appeal for me, as it  allows me to create a more precisely defined sections  of Nar-Voth that fit below my various dwarven strongholds – and they can be a size that suits me, rather than the ubiquitous, and (for me) relatively boring  expanse of the Underdark.

That said, I like some elements of the Underdark, so my version will incorporate various things that I have worked with previously – although they will be modified. I also use resources from AD&D1 and AD&D2 as I built things.

This Link covers some of the work that I have done on the ‘Below Surface ‘world previously. I suspect that I will keep a lot of it, as I don’t like to discard stuff that works 🙂 Oh, and I love Nubbe Paste – and watching dwarves wind up the surface colleagues with it.

Religion – again.

Before anyone panics –  this won’t change the way that the Campaign System works in The Stolen Land –  However, it will help to enhance those rules in future games.  I can’t see me running anything that is so heavily campaign based again.  The Stolen Land has been great for seeing how big we can go with the campaign rules, but we have developed a huge area in a very short while.   Tusk and Midmarch (between them) have about the same land area as Eswatini or Kuwait (17,500 Sq Miles) with a population of about 27000 (approx the same as the British Virgin Islands) – and a major business (V&A shipping)  all in less than 10 years  :}  It works for The Stolen Lands game,  but it needs to go more slowly in future games.

I have been working on a ‘room by room’ development system for a game set in  a demi-plane (The Netherworld) and been tying it to the current system used in my Campaign System – using the conversion rate that 10 ‘credits’ are worth 1 build point.  It means that I can use the two systems interchangeably and, in future games, players will be able to choose to buy anything from a ‘one bedroom extension’ right up to a large castle or palace – and everything in between.

Which brings me back to religion :}  In Netherworld, there isn’t a need for public temples, chapels, cathedrals etc.  It  has a tiny population, just enough to service the PCs, and (unless the DM has a plot) they will follow the religious lead of ‘their’ PC, rather than branch off to follow their own faith.

That limits options for Religious Developments, but there are still three possibilities.

A PC wants a shrine for personal use.  Just something small for personal contemplation and prayer – not just by the PC, but by any member of the Household.  It might be hold more than one person at once, but it isn’t suitable for religious services or group worship.  It might suit a priest of a contemplative faith, a priest who wants to keep up with their personal religious regime, or any character with a religious bent.  This is represented by a shrine, which costs 0.5bp in The Stolen Lands or 5xCredits in Netherworld.  It consists of a single 10×10 room (or its equivalent) decorated with images and statuary appropriate to the deity, a simple bedroom for the acolyte who maintains the shrine, and a small office which acts as a vestry / workroom.  It is normally built as part of the main house, and counts as a permanent shrine, dedicated to a deity, for the purposes of a Consecrate (or similar) spell.

The next step-up, is where a PC wants a room that can be used for group worship, as well as personal prayer.  A Great Shrine is twice the size of a normal shrine (20×10) and is decorated with religious motifs and statuary.  This means there is room for a few rows of seats and (with some standing)  and can probably cope with a congregation up to 15 people – which should be more than enough for most households.  It comes with a Chaplain (Adept2) who can preside over minor services, who now lives in a larger bedroom and has a small library to help plan services and readings.  This costs 1bp / 10cr and counts as a permanent shrine.    A great shrine may be built as a standalone building in the grounds of the main house, or as part of a larger building.

With no need for public places of worship, further developments will be monasteries, priories or abbeys – and that needs much more thought.  However, it is worth remembering that, historically, the leaders of those houses often lived the lives of a noble, rather than the aesthetic life that we expect from monastics now-a-days.  And there were different types of Monastic Order …

Military Orders of the crusades (and there are plenty of other examples) there have also been RL orders whose main ‘mission’ has been charitable, or related to health care or education – and, I suspect, other activities.  Fantasy world settings have always had monks dedicated to collecting, storing, or protecting knowledge, and a priest of the ‘God of Magic’  may well want a religious establishment dedicated to the creation of magic items.

I have (or can easily develop)

  • Basic Military Buildings & Rooms (although these are, currently, restricted on Netherworld)
  • Crafting and Magic Labs
  • Libraries and storage rooms
  • Hospitals (mix of bedrooms, workrooms and offices)
  • Schools (Offices, Libraries and  a ‘common room’ classroom)
  • Large rooms (by using multiple smaller rooms)

I need to  develop

  • An Altar.  Many Abbeys have a church that is equivalent to a Cathedral.

Somehow, I feel that I am missing something.  But I am not sure what.  Any ideas or thoughts will be welcome.

Looking (a long way) forward 2

Following on from my previous post, this posts looks at the Hann Empire in more detail. It isn’t formatted prettily, mainly because it is an analysis, that I will be working with later. Function over form!’

Nation States and the predominant deities.

This is turning into an exercise of how to represent a mature ‘Celts met Normans’ society – without the influence of Christianity and the Roman Empire – using deities from 3e, then overlaying the PF pantheon.  My earliest settings were Celtic.  It moved to Norse overrunning Celtic,  a bit of Al Qadim, 3e and then pathfinder – this is an attempt to tie them together.  In the process, it does away with the RL gods from  the early legends and Lore and replaces then with 3e deities.

Imperial Deities:  Pelor, Abadar, Pharasma, Sarenrae

Hannish (Celtic, 3e) – Ehlhonna (NG), Obad Hai (N), Kord (CG), Wee Jas (LN) – – – – 

Hannish (Norse, 3e) – Pelor (NG), St Cuthbert (LN), Hieroneous (LG), Kord (CG) – –)

Sakaran Influence  (from Al Quadim and PF) – Haku (Sakar, Freedom) Bala (Sakar, Music)- – – – Sarenrae (NG), Sivanah (N)

Telidan (Pathfinder) –  Abadar, Pharasma, Erstil, Iomedae, Desna, Irori, Cayden, Torag.

Cult of the Small Gods – Takri (Demigod, Psycopomp, patron of sailors and navigators, N); Way (Quasi-Deity, patron of travellers); Azan the Wise (Quasi-Deity, patron  markets and small traders)

The Strongholds & Greater Hann

The strongholds was the first area I wrote, based on the AD&D1 rules.  Holdings were based on characters from a previous game –  but we played (TT) in Byrny and Westland.  It isn’t an adventuring area.

Galinia has featured in two games.  The first (online) involved reclaiming it from Humanoids. Those rulers eventually became mages/necromancers obsessed with Wee Jas, but then it was lost again. A NWN game was based around rescuing it from the humanoids/undead that overpowered the nation.  For this setting, the recovery continues, a Wizard rules a small strip by the shore, and is still dealing with the aftermath.  It makes a good base for adventures with undead, shape changers  and  normal monsters.

Angasa has never been more than a staging post for adventures in Galinia.  As a well defended island, it is very stable.  It makes its money out of trade, and can still act as a staging point for Galinia.

Nation StateRuler / statusNotesOriginalWangatePF
StilanKing Frederick Military College(Norse)PelorAbadar
MelangeDuke Mes Strong Religious(Norse)Pelor 
The ComplexPrince GoogleplexMagic College(Celtic)Deity Pelor & Wee Jas 
Rostil IslandLady Ryanne(illusionist)(Celtic)  
WestlandLord von Froog (Celtic)  
ByrnyLord Heplan Norse Abadar
Deep DelveLord GorwinDwarf Mines(Moradin)(Moradin)(Moradin)
Holy IsleOliver Green-Barrel Raven King of Armes,(Celtic)GreenGreen faith (Old Lords)

Brief description:  A well established confederation led by King Frederick VI of Stilan.  Pelor. Abadar and Pharasma  are the most prominent deities – which leads to a very stable and well organised nation, that is at peace with itself.  Pharasma and the Green Faith are the secondary deities, while most dwarves follow Moradin.  It has a large Military College and a Magic university.  Holy Isle also hosts meetings of the Empire council and has training bases for the Imperial Guard and the Imperial Navy.  (Pelor, Abadar, Pharasma, Green Faith, Moradin).  Holy Isle is very druidic, and is home to the Imperial College of Arms, that ratifies and records royal and noble titles – as well as their genealogies.

GaliniaLady, Xxxx Briganda-Shay Norse/Celtic/Finnish)Wee Jas and Obad-Hai
N with L and E tendencies?
FarfobestLord …..Dwarf Mines(Moradin)(Moradin)(Moradin)
AngasaPrinc, Augustus Briganda (Norse/Celtic) Abadar


Angasa is a bustling island state, its main settlement is a small city, that has been built on the back of trade along the western shores of the Hann Sea.  Prince Augustus Briganda (seventh of that name) runs a well organised administration, with clear (and fair) laws that he expects people to follow.  Primary Deities are Pelor and Abadar, although the Cult of the Small Gods has a large following here.  (Pelor, Abadar, Small Gods)

Galinia is almost the complete opposite, Lady Briganda-Shay’s state does not have a city, and the Lady’s Tower is situated in a coastal town.  Away from the town you will find a rural strip along the coast, with small towns and villages, often owned by the Treverii family.  Inland, you will still find humanoid tribes, abandoned keeps and ruined settlements.  Treated it with care, many of the ruins are infested with undead. The main deities are Wee Jas, Ehlona, Obad Hai, Cayden and the Green Faith.  The Dwarves are followers of Moradin.  (Wee Jas, Ehlona, Obad Hai, Cayden, Green Faith)

Note: Briganda-Shay and Briganda are  separate parts of the old (Celtic) Briganda family, who used to rule the land that was  ‘Galinia and Angasa’.  Once they feuded, now these ‘cousins’ work together (most of the time)



Urgon featured in two (connected) 3e games (and a spinoff).  One game saw a PC group travel across the top of Urgon – from Rediton to Falmar (With stops at Rebul and Dersolbek).  The second game  featured a party based in a stronghold close to the great lake, they adventured for a while, built a home in a disused wine factory, and ‘adopted’ a group of kids that they rescued.  The spinoff took some NPC class characters into the mountains –  but the characters all had some levels of commoner and  weren’t quite heroic enough.  Urgon is now very stable and doesn’t look like  a good place for adventures  (It has beaten off two waves of humanoid attack, and the tribes are now very disorganised.  However, there is scope to run something in the mountains behind – perhaps associating it with Kana (the Big Baddy) from The far coast.

 Primary 3e DeityPF additions
Gonma – KingdomPelor 
* Laroy – PrincipalitySt Cuthbert 
* Versair – Elected Governor – Sovereign LordElhona 
* Rebul – Theocracy (Hieroneous) – Sovereign LordHeironeous 
* Dersolbek – Dwarven Minehold –  Sovereign LordMoradin 
* Falmar – PrincipalityPelor 
Rediton – Elected Mayor –  Sovereign LordKord 

Overall – LN(g)

Urgon is a very stable area, led by the King of Gonma from the capital city of Dingonal.  Most of the inland is filled with rural towns and villages although smaller cities at Falmar, Carford and Laroy give the land stability.  Urgon also has a Dwarf enclave and a province controlled by priests and paladins of Hieroneous.   Pelor, St Cuthbert and Abadar are the primary deities, which leads to a strong central administration – which in some areas is really quite oppressive.  Rediton, at the other end of the nation, is a completely free town that elects its own mayor.

(Pelor, St Cuthbert, Abadar, Heironeous, Green Faith, Moradin)

Far Coast States

Initially, this was a D&D2 area –  with very little game time spent in these cities,  although a game based in Lower Smokey, the traditional homeland of the Pagini family, was set in an outlaying province of Sybarite. 

The Pagini still have a home and are one of the last, old-style, Clans recognised by the Empire. Jekleal was invaded by the southern Arab/Moorish state  (Sakar / Berbary) before the spread of the  3e deities.  It was liberated shortly after The Strongholds broke free from the Wangate Empire and the 3e deities started to creep in.

Probably not a good place for adventuring.  It was written too long ago, and I don’t have a good idea of the layout –  BUT the original campaign was based on a big Baddie (Kana/Kane/Kaine/Cane) based up in the mountains and organising the tribes.  No one even met him, but he was envisioned as an immortal wizard.  Perhaps an Mythic Character, perhaps a Lich –  perhaps even a demi-god’s avatar.

  • The Duke of Sybarite. (inland nation)
  • Prince Hardin of Bime (Coastal City State) – Magic Academy
  • Samia, Sovereign Lady of Jekleal (Coastal state without a city) Bardic College. 
  • Sovereign Lord Xxxxx, of Rockhome (Dwarven minehold – follower of Moradin.)

Description: The Far Coast States are one of the most cosmopolitan areas in Hann.  Originally settled by refugees from Greater Hann, it was invaded (and conquered) by troops from Sakar, although they were driven out before they could become firmly entrenched.  Then the new faiths and philosophy started to spread down this way.  Now it is a cosmopolitan island chain, that melds Hann, Telidan and Sakaran ideologies, to give this range of islands a culture all of its own.

For example:- – the Duke and Prince are followers of Pelor (Hann), The Sovereign Lady of Jekleal is a follower of Sarenrae (Sakar), while the Dwarves are followers of Moradin.   The bardic college follows many of the philosophies of Bala (Sakar), while the magic college specialises in Sivanah’s (Telidan) field of Illusions, and the merchants are all followers of Abadar.  The Green Faith are strong in Sybarite’s hinterlands. It makes for a dynamic and lively culture that is not dominated by any one section of society.

Pelor (NG), Kord (CG), Ehlonna (NG), Moradin.  Sarenrae (Sakar, NG) Bala (Sakar, Music). Cayden (CG), Sivanah (N) Pharasma (N), Abadar (LN). Green Faith,

Western Isles

Razardi was an AD&D2 gaming area, while Finaroka is supposed to be a base for adventuring.  These are some of the most multicultural areas of The Empire –  and feature deities from all over the place –  including Sarenrae, and the Small Gods.  Both are subtropical island chains.  The Razardi Isles were used in an AD&D2? TT game –  they have Hannish, Telidan and Sakaran deities here.  Probably used as a supply base for long distance adventures  (Possibly a Colonisation / Pirate adventure area in a semi Caribbean setting) and the main supply base for Finaroka.

The Razardi islands are a subtropical archipelago, south of the far coast states, and closest (of the established states)  to Sakar.  It is, in many ways, and ideal place to live.  The climate is good, the sea is teeming with fish and the Sovereign Lord rules fairly – and there is just enough rain to make the crops grow well –  if they are carefully managed.  The downside (perhaps) is that it is a very simple life, no great theatres, colleges or other institutions, even the churches are low-key.  Then, of course, there are the occasional pirate raids …  In recent times it has gained new importance as it supports expansion in Finaroka, and the lands beyond. House. Sovereign Lord Lief Alfson rules The Razardi Islands.

Pelor, Haku (Sakar, Freedom)  – Sarenrae (NG), Cayden (CG), Abadar (LN), Cult of the Small Gods

Finaroka – Imperial Governor of Finaroka.

Finaroka represents The Empire’s claim on new territory. This group of Islands off of the Sakar Coast, is overseen by an Imperial Governor, and is little more that a single large town, perched on one of the smaller islands.  They trade with a Dwarven Holding, and fish –  but there is little agriculture yet and the islands are dry, growing crops will be difficult.  Not only that the town is subject to pirate attacks by pirates –  both from Sakar and the Fiord Orcs.  It is a new and exiting place to be –  if you don’t mind the risks, the rewards could be great.

Deities = Pelor, Abadar, Sarenrae & The cult of the Small Gods.

Industry = Fishing, Salt Pans

West Telida

The Tannery League

Originally designed to support the birthday game, this region has never been played in.

The Tannery League is another well established state, controlled by three great royal families (Serise, Krote  & Momir), who each control; a third of the main city.  Other, lesser, noble estates are scattered around the area.  It is primarily an agricultural community, although the town s have enough industry to make items for export.  However, while the tannery league is very fair, many people think the laws are restrictive.

Abadar, Erastil, Sarenrae & Pharasma are the main deities of the Tannery League however, Iomedae and the Green Faith both regular followings.

The Farran Isles

Another area that has never been played in, which was originally part of the Tannery league, but, for this setting, will be an independent state.

A string of rocky islands along the coast with one small Port city and many fishing villages.  The Farran Islands are where the main trade vessels from Port Elizabeth and Porters Bar bring their goods for redistribution, and provides them with a link into The Empire’s trading routes.

Abadar, Sarenrae, Desna and the Cult of the small Gods are the main deities here.


Berhof is the setting for the Birthday campaign.  A Table Top game that runs for just one weekend a year. 

Set high up in the Telidan mountains, this run down ex-barony is ‘owned’ by the Duke of Krote (See the tannery states)  although he has little interest in the area.  Once it controlled a trade route along the spine of the mountains, now that trading by sea has replaced the longer, more difficult, overland trail and Berhof has little income.  The Duke has appointed a Hereditary Governor, who collects a small tax on his behalf, and lets them get on with it.  It is run by a small ‘noble’ council, who are desperately trying to make the Barony self-sufficient.  It’s only claim to fame is a great monastery/library dedicated to Irori – and the sages that reside there.  It is, potentially, a good place for adventuring.

Deities:  Pharasma, Erastil, Iodemae, Desna and Irori.

Not in the Empire but Friendly

Porters Bar

Built as an exercise in world building, at PBW, many years ago – with some input from the other world builders.  It has never been played in.

Porters Bar is an unusual place, the current rulers, the Shay Family,  trace their history all the way back to the original founders of the City, and claim that they are now deities.  Only direct descendants of The Royal Ancestors can become priest – they can cast spells and seem perfectly competent in their other clerical abilities and duties.    The original founders intermingled, and intermarried, with people from the local tribes, and they have their own, unique set of deities.

  • The Royal Ancestors
  • Yarma – god of hope and the downtrodden (originally Native).
  • Arth – Psychopomp and patron of soldiers (originally Native).
  • Shan – an Oriental weather deity imported by the founders.

Port Elizabeth

Port Elizabeth comes from an old module, that has been played through a couple of times.  However, the town is only a staging point for the adventure.

Port Elizabeth is an independent frontier town set on a subtropical jungle island.  The interior of the island is a full-on jungle and is a very dangerous place to be, however, the hinterland is safe and used for farming as all the local tribes, humanoids and monsters have been befriended or driven away over the years.  Ruled by a mishmash council, the town feels very disorganised and is not well defended.  Mainly Sakaran, it has the feeling of a frontier town.  Almost all the buildings are made of wood, and the marketplace is often has people from the jungle selling their wares.  It is home to the Al-Tajir, a trading brotherhood, who work closely with the FFTC.  Vessels from here travel north to Porters Bar and  the Farran isles –  but also trade along the Sakar coast, eventually arriving in Razardi and Finaroka.


  • Yarma – god of hope and the downtrodden (originally Native).
  • Arth – Psychopomp and patron of soldiers (originally Native).
  • Haku (Sakar, Freedom)
  • The Cult of the Small Gods (which is reputed to have started here)

Various Elven  Enclaves. –  Elves are isolationist.  My elves are Tolkienesque elves.  The live deep in well protected forests and don’t welcome visitors.  They send ambassadors to the rest of the world, and a few elves  make journeys of ‘discovery’, a bit like the ‘European Grand Tour’ – but they are occasionally.  I will ask that PCs to be played with the appropriate sense of naivety and arrogance (almost like a British Tourist abroad) ‘Elvish Culture is much better, I miss Fish and Chips and expect to be going home in a couple of years.’  This is where all those half elves come from :]  (female elves will quite happily leave a child with the father …)

Not in the Empire and unfriendly


Isn’t really a nation but a region of independent city states and tribes – all following the same (or very similar) philosophies.  They aren’t organised to make a strong force (anymore), they are generally on neutral terms with each other  (recognised, traded with, raided) – but would probably come together to defend their way of life.  This is a concept more than anything else.  Deities (etc)  might change.  It isn’t intended as an adventuring area, but more of an occasional antagonist.

Each City (or town) has a pyramid that contains the ‘Gods in the City’  (Did I forget to mention  Lankhmar as an influence) -these are burial crypts for the Founders and rulers of the city.  It is said that they will ‘come back’ to help defend their city from invasion – think Mummies, Skeletons and, perhaps, more.  Could there be a Mythic Lich controlling thing?  Not really a place for adventuring – unless the party are very high level  :]  There are other deities worshipped there too – 

  • Besmara (CN Patron of Pirates),
  • Azan the Wise (Quasi-Deity, patron of markets and small traders)
  • Sivanah (N)  Goddess of Illusions
  • Vataqatal: God of war and duty
  • Wee Jas  (Patron of necromancers)

Inland from the cities, the land becomes a mix of Badlands and dessert.  It is dry  (apart from Oases) and the home of semi-nomadic family tribes, who are fiercely protective of their tribal lands and assets.  Deities:-

  • Haku (Sakar, Freedom)
  • Sarenrae (NG)
  • Vataqatal: God of war and duty
  • Kor: God of wisdom.
  • Bala (Sakar, Music)

Strangely, these two very different groups recognise their kinship and deal comfortably with each other.

Adventuring areas

Written in:  Based from:-

  • Galinia
  • Finaroka
  • Berhof
  • Port Elizabeth  (Short)
  • Porters Bar


  • Western Mountain Chain  – Far Coast to Urgon
  • West Telida
  • The two marshy areas each side of The Strongholds

Death Gods

Pharasma  (Greater Goddess) sits in judgement and her Psychopomp assistants have a responsibility to shepherd any unprotected souls to the Bone yard.

Wee Jas (Lesser / Intermediate Goddess) is a strange goddess (She in LN with evil overtones – although her clerics are all LN).  She is a community deity in that her priests have all the normal Psychopomp priest spells, carry out burials, protect bodies and souls – etc.  However, she is also a patron of Magic (and necromancers and doesn’t have a philosophical issue with the undead – so long as they were lawfully created)

Takri (Demi-god) is from the Southern Seas and is a Psychopomp, but is also a patron of Navigators and Sailors.  She is generally worshipped in coastal areas as part of the pantheon of Small Gods.

Arth (quasi-god) is a deity specific to Porters Bar.  As a human, he had a dark history, but swore to redeem himself in the afterlife.  He is a psychopomp and patron of guards  and soldiers.

Looking (a long way) forward

I have been thinking about the next game I want to run  :}  I can’t see The Stolen Land game finishing soon, and it could be three or four years before I start a new game.  However, I must have a project, of some sort, to keep my might occupied. 

I don’t have much more to do on the main Campaign System used in The Stolen lands, it is running fairly smoothly and no one is asking for anything new.  I am working on a room-by-room version for another game that, I am helping out in, and I am trying to develop it in a way that the two parts of the system can be used together.   And, ideally, I would like to use that overall system in a game set in my own game world.

My game world (not the setting for The Stolen Lands) has grown over the years.  It started off as an AD&D1 world, and has progressed through AD&D2, 3e and Pathfinder – so the various parts of the world all work together on a basic level, but the deities and pantheons changed as the game systems changed.  My challenge is to draw those together in a way that creates different cultures across the game world, that give players a small push towards cultural Role Playing.  My first online game, based around reclaiming Galinia, a land lost to humanoid tribes, that incorporated Celtic, Norse and Finnish overtones, which many of the players picked up on and ran with.  I would like to try and create something like that again.  I started that game over twenty years ago, and as you can see from the  name of this blog, and the web address, that game has stayed with me for a long time

For years, I have been messing around with deities and pantheons trying to create the right ‘feel’ for my game world, The Hann Empire, without changing the basic ambience of a D&D / Pathfinder world.  However, most of my attempts at creating deities haven’t worked as well as I would have hoped.  So now I thought I would try a mash-up of the deities from the different editions – as well as a small pantheon that draws together a few deities that I created.  

My first game area was in the north and was based on deities from the 1st and 2ed book Deities and Demi-gods.  I moved to the west when I changed to 3e, and used the core deities when I designed it, then when I switched to Pathfinder, I moved east and built a new playing area based on those deities.  Between times, I wrote a few minor deities, that I liked, that were rolled into different games, and ran a game based on the Al Quadim setting, which sits at the south of my game world, then incorporated an oriental deity into a project world that has never been played in.  Now it is time to try and bring those together!

This is an overview of the deities that have been strong in the word.  This gives me the tools to get to work on the various starts within the Empire – and work out what each one’s religious landscape looks like.  I told you I like a project :}

The Old Gods.

The deities used in my first game areas, The Strongholds and Galinia, were heavily based on the Norse and Celtic (with a bit of Finnish thrown in) pantheons, as described in Deities and Demi-gods, will be incorporated into the Green Way.  While it follows the concepts of Pathfinder’s Green Faith, it (clearly) has a different history.  Followers of the Old Gods (known as The Green) believe that nature spirits are everywhere, and need to be treated with respect.  This doesn’t mean that every single nature spirit is worshipped individually (although in some areas they are) but that they, and the natural areas they embody,  should be treated respectfully.  There are a couple of ‘Greater Spirits’ that represent the overall concept, but even they are little more than names for outsiders.  It is the concept that is important. Any divine caster who follows The Old Gods draws their power from Nature itself. 

  • Gaia – the World Spirit.
  • Dunatis – the Great Spirit of mountains everywhere.
  • Manannan – the Great Spirit of the sea.
  • Mielikki – The Great Spirit of Forests.
  • Aegir – The Great Spirit of Storms.
  • Uller – The Great Spirit of the Hunt.

That said, each area of forest could have its own Dryad, a lake or river might be home to a Naiad – or some similar spirit, and all of them should be respected. 

This is not a major pantheon that controls any specific area of The Hann Empire, but clings on around the edges, in natural and wilderness areas, and as folk lore.  There are one or two major families or groups who are followers of The Old Gods, but they incorporate their beliefs into their modern-day activities.  They recognize the other gods, and even make sacrifice to them occasionally – but the core philosophy of respect for nature permeates their world view.

The Wangate Pantheon

When the Strongholds and Galinia were attacked and  overwhelmed by the Wangate Empire, who were a major antagonist during the early days, the 3e gods came to the fore.  The Wangate Empire was a LN/LE group of Humans and Humanoids, who swept down from the northern mountains.  Most of their gods were sent back north with them, the few who remained became the main deities of the West Coast.

OK, I need a new name for these guys.

The main 3e Playing area was based around Urgon, a state carved out and populated by refugees from The Wangate Empire’s depredations.  Eventually they, alongside local resistance fighters, magical help from Galina, and support from the nascent Telidan civilizations) were able to help liberate The Strongholds – which laid the groundwork for the formation of the Hann Empire.

These new deities spread out along the western shores of the Hann Sea, and their influence finally spread right down to the Razardi Islands and beyond.

  • in Urgon – St Cuthbert, Heironus, Pelor were the main deities, although Kord was also respected
  • in Galinia –  Wee Jas and Obad-Hai were dominant
  • In the strongholds Pelor was dominant in both towns and rural areas, while Elhonna was popular in wilder areas.
  • Across the land  -Elhonna and Obad-Hai were recognized as nature’s representatives and were accepted by followers The Green Way.
  • Dwarves in This region are generally followers of Moradin.

The Main Pantheon

The main Pantheon (the Pathfinder Deities) came to the fore in Telida, and spread westward across the Sea of Hann, as the Telidans traded their way around the coast.    In West Telida (the main trading state) Abadar is prominent in the cities while Erastil holds sway in the countryside and Pharasma is the main death deity across the land.  All three of those deities have been particularly successful, and are now the major deities of The Hann Empire.

You will find other PF deities spread around,  Irori has a small following of Monks, Gozreh is prevalent in wilderness areas and Iomedae has a number of specialist monasteries.  Of the three, Gozreh has travelled better than the others, as S/he had been recognized by the Green Faith as a representative of Nature.

Other PF deities can be found in Telida (and the rest of the world)  However, they are not so concentrated as the deities listed.

Dwarves in Telida are generally followers of Torag.

Southern Influence

Sarenrae, goddess of the Sun and Second Chances, has spread into The Hann Empire from the more barbarous states in the south, and brings with her a hint of a middle eastern culture.  She is generally found on the southwest coast of the Hann Sea, although she is also popular in Port Elizabeth (south-east)

Porters Bar

Porters Bar have their own set of Unique deities.  The Royal Family are generally devotees of The Royal Ancestors, but Yarma (a psychopomp with an interest in the Military),  Arth (Patron of the Hopeless) and Shan (A minor wind deity) also have a place.

The Small Gods

Those deities that I have written – that I quite like.  They are demi-gods or godlings and have limited spell granting powers.   They are particularly favoured by sailors, but also have a, smaller, following among other travellers.

  • Takri – Godling of Sailors, Navigators and a Psychopomp
  • Way – Godling of Travel
  • Azan the Wise – Godling of the Market Place and small traders.
  • Peter the Bodiless – Patron of Libraries.


Sometimes, completely out of the blue, I get the urge to look at an unusual aspect of world build.  So the time has come for me to add to my guidance piece on food production, cash crops and deal with the add-on aspects of the agricultural economy.  I can almost hear the cries of ‘Why?’  now –  but let’s just say I revisited an old article on forest gardening and then saw something about flax.

Forest Gardens

I wrote Forest Gardens years ago for a forested NPC state in a game I ran years ago, well before I started writing campaign rules.  PCs would never use them, and I don’t think any PCs ever saw one, as the game didn’t take them to that part of the world –  but I still had a thing about making worlds that worked and that I could describe easily.  I spent some time researching internet articles on woodland and forest agriculture, then a bit of forest/woodland plants that were edible.  I am not sure that I have a plan that would work in RL, but it is certainly feasible in a fantasy setting.

Forest gardens are clearing that have been cultivated  to  produce more of the forest plants that are edible by humans.  Most gardens have one or more  Sweet Chestnut, Hazel or Beech trees growing along their perimeter, while the borders of the garden are clearly defined by a thick hedge of Forest Gooseberries.  The clearing itself is generally scattered with wild apple trees, although the bulk of the garden is taken up by Apios Vines trained up trellises.  Clumps of sorrel grow close to the perimeter, while sweet smelling violets make up most of the ground cover and are used to mark the borders of paths through the garden.

Everything in there is edible, the violet leaves make salad greens and can be cooked in stews, and (for the Stolen Lands) I probably need to add a scattering of Plum trees.  However, it is the Apios Vine (Based on Apios Americana) that is the star of the piece, with both edible tubers (that work like potatoes) and edible beans.  I don’t think that would fully support a family – although it works well for smallholdings in forested areas.  But then, smallholders (in game) are written so that they need to hunt, gather, craft or work for someone else, to make ends meet.


I have known that Flax is an interesting plant for years.  It is the source of the fibre used to make  linen, and the seeds used to make Linseed Oil.   Linseed oil is an edible cooking oil, has been used in early oil paints  and as a wood treatment.  It is said to be the first vegetable oil produced on a commercial basis.  And once the oil has been extracted, the remains of the seed make good animal fodder.  Flax is one of nature’s  original wonder plants :}  Then I saw something that reminded me that flax grows well in damp ground – and I had farming in swampy hexes on my mind.  Not farming in full on swamps, but farming in areas that are partial swamp – as I was thinking about the settlements of Reedham and Litwins Cove, in the stolen lands game.

In The Stolen Lands

I don’t really get a lot out of this, except for a sense of satisfaction :}  However, I do get a description for smallholdings in forested areas and I get another choice for the cash crop for some Great Farms.  However, I think I will restrict Flax as a crop to hexes that are part swamp – part plains or hills.  For The Stolen lands – that probably just means Litwin cove – but it is nice to have a range of alternatives.

The FFTC as a Faction

It has been a difficult few weeks with lots of things going on and health issues to boot – but recently I have had more time to think about my games. In quiet or difficult periods, I always end up thinking about new games environments and rules tweaks that might help encourage role playing. Recently, I have been considering Game Factions, not as a really competitive tool, but as a way of encouraging players to choose a Role Playing theme for their characters.

First up is The Far Flung Trading Company, or FFTC as it is generally known. The FFTC has been around in (many of) my games for years, and first came into being in a tabletop game, back in the 1990s. Of the four ‘sub-factions’ described below, three have their roots in player run trading companies, while the fourth is a long-running NPC family – that goes back to games I ran in the 80s.

I suspect the traits might need reviewing, after I decide on the game to use it in 🙂

FFTC is a well-established, if somewhat erratic, Trading House.  It has never been a single ‘house’ in the traditional sense, but it is composed of a number of smaller interests working together. 

The FFTC concentrate on local trade routes.  They understand that they can’t compete with the major trade houses on major or long-distance routes, instead they provide the end services.  Be it coastal trading ships, barges on rivers or even mule trains – they are interested.

Members of this faction are expected to help develop trade links for the FFTC.  They don’t become merchants (yet), but they facilitate, smooth and secure trade for the FFTC.  They gain kudos (faction points) for every Shop, Trading Post, Market, Serai, Jetty, trade agreement, shipping contract or similar opportunity that they secure for the FFTC.  In the long term,  Faction Points turn into a pension for the character when they retire from adventuring (actually shares in their sub-factions shipping business).  If the adventurer is killed, the pension is used to provide a small income for their dependents.  At the end of their adventuring career, many adventurers defer their pension and take a ‘retirement’ job, running a trade station or serai, captaining a ship, as a warehouse manager or even as a merchant.  Of course, they have their own  money, made while adventuring, to build their own personal estates and income –  outside the ‘factions’ framework (if they so choose).

Of most value to the FFTC are vessels – ships, fishing boats, river boats that can be refurbished and put to use – and FFTC will always buy vessels from their members for a good price, and they are always worth bonus Faction Points.

FFTC will also buy goods (loot) from their members at slightly above market price, although this excludes trade goods, coins, gems, jewellery etc, that are always traded at full price.  Note that this is only offered to faction members share of the treasure. 

While there are many small groups involved, there are four influential families behind FFTC, all with different backgrounds and philosophies.  They work together to find new markets and new ways for the FFTC to grow.  These four families are :-

The Nightsky Family traces its origin to the union of a human Monk (Flower Nightsky)  with an elven adventurer called Belle.  Many of their scions are sent to train as monks, before returning to the work for the family.  They believe in bettering themselves by experience and personal learning.  Their members are generally Human or half elven.  Their family motto is ‘Know Thyself’.
Campaign Trait: Gain +1 trait Bonus in all profession skills (trained only).

House deKassen traces its origin back to a half-orc adventurer made good.  They own land and minor titles, but the shipping line is seen as a good proving ground for family members with wanderlust.  Family members are all half-orcs (Gagak’s blood runs deep) with an aptitude for music – many of whom train as bards. Their family motto is  ‘From Whence We Came’.
Campaign Trait: Gain +2 trait Bonus in one instrument type or singing.

Clan Marisi are an old family, who once controlled swathes of land on the Far Coast, but were driven off by barbarian humanoids.  Now the rump of the family are spread far and wide, with their shipping business as the glue that binds them together.  Members of the family are mainly human (or half-human) and are bound together by family loyalty and an adherence to The Old Ways.  Their family motto (loosely translated from an old Celtic language) is ‘In time we trust’.
Campaign Trait: Gain +2 trait Bonus on all D20 rolls associated with ancient cultures.

The Al-Tajir  are a trading brotherhood.  Descended from Moorish forebears that have an air of the old ways, although they are comfortable with the ways of the world.  They can be of any race or class, although all are skilled merchants.  Their motto is ‘We come in trade’.
Campaign Trait: Gain +2 trait Bonus in Profession Merchant.

So what is Roleplaying?

Recently, I have been in a conversation with a GM, whose game I play in, who wants to incorporate more RP into his game – and that made me start thinking about what I have learned about the subject, over the years.  Which brought me to the point of ‘What is Roleplay’, along with thoughts of ‘As a DM, what do I do that encourages Roleplay’.  And, of course, which of those things actually work.  If you don’t know already, I have spent my working like swapping around between academic and analytical roles.  This is what happen to you.

Face to Face games

Back in the day, back when face-2-face AD&D 1 was king, we had very few Roleplaying tools – basically Class and Alignment.  Class gave you a very limited set of skills to work with, and Alignment gave you a behavioural perspective.  There was the chaotic hanging off the back of the party sulking because they hadn’t got their own way or going off on their own in the middle of a perfectly good team plan.  The fighter beating is sword against his shield to attract attention, the cleric preaching to the peasants, and sometimes the other characters as well. 

Add in the limited class abilities, everyone was a specialist, you had to learn how to perform your role in the group and play that out.  Fighters needed to understand combat tactics, Wizards needed to know their spells – did you know that the 1st ed rules suggests that aren’t allowed to check a spell’s description mid-game?    Unpopular with modern character classes and endless spell lists – but certainly an element of Role Playing that was available to (forced on) us back in the day.

That was complemented by bits of in-character banter, generally quite short, and taking place in the context of the adventure.  There was never any deep Role Play, interactions with shopkeepers and other NPCs were rarely played out in any depth – and for good reason.  If there are six people sitting around a table waiting to play, and one gets involved in a 15-minute negotiation with a shopkeeper, the others get bored.  That might be a tenth of their game time for the evening gone up in smoke.

Role play is simple, quick and often behavioural.  Even today, face to face sessions at my gaming table are like that.  Interspersed with a lot of banter, in jokes, bad smells, bad food and great fun.   My tabletop game is played by good friends who I have known for years – and who (now) have known each other for years.  They trust each other, don’t need to be the leader, don’t need to be the best … it is a communal game played by a bunch of RL friends for communal entertainment.  TBH, I could run any old crap (and I have) as it is the players who make the game.

I think of that as Behavioural Roleplay because it is exhibited in the character’s day-to-day behaviour. 


There is another type of behavioural roleplay on RPoL as well – descriptive writing.  Just recently, for example, I have seen a cleric trying to work out how badly he was affected by an ability drain.  He made a good entertaining IC post, as he tried to check out his mental faculties.  Then backed it up with an OOC comment.  Other examples include: priests explaining their deity’s ‘take’ on something (The religious forum comes in to its own, occasionally); a strong argument to defend the waterway south of Tusk; an habitual drunk being drunk; characters negotiating business deals and bards singing songs.

And that, for some people, is enough.  And that is absolutely fine.  It adds greatly to the game.  It is so important, in my view, that I give XP awards for good roleplay in adventure posts. It isn’t much, and it isn’t every time, but characters who have a lot of roleplay elements in their posts, advance a bit more quickly than those who don’t.

There is still in-character banter between characters,  as anyone who has seen the Roths playing, can confirm.  But that doesn’t always come easy –  I have gamed with the other players behind the Roths for 20 years or so (on and off) and even then it took a while to build a joint background we were all happy with.  But we finished up with characters who trust each other and players who trust each other …  almost the same as those friends sitting around the table, having fun. 

Why did I bring the Roths into it?  Because I wanted to tell you that we had to work on it.  For inter character banter to work properly, characters have to know each other and have some trust in the other player.  How does that happen on RPoL?  Well, more role play, of course.  And that is where the DM comes in – we have to make time and space for that roleplaying.

When do characters get the chance to just chat, in a way that doesn’t hold the rest of the party up?  Even on RPOL an IC chat,  between two characters in an adventure thread, holds the game up for the other players.  There certainly isn’t time, in adventure threads, for meaningful relationships, ‘get to know you’ chats, or even an extended conversation.  Somehow, the DM needs to make time for these conversations, if we want to encourage more extensive roleplay.

Fuzzy Time:  While there are other techniques, I use a concept called Fuzzy Time.  Some threads, and most PMs, are conducted in Fuzzy Time.  That means no one is quite sure when that conversation took place –  it happened sometime during the characters’ downtime –  although the precise time (and sometimes place) isn’t known.  The prime rule for Fuzzy Threads are that characters can talk about anything that happened before they left town last. Current adventures are off limits.  But this means that parties can be thrown, a duelling league can be played out, committees can meet, lovers can love – etc etc.  It lets us have conversations between parties, for friendships across groups, maintain relationships while characters are in different group.  It is, I think, the main enabler of intercharacter RP in the Stolen Lands game.

Fuzzy Threads: If Fuzzy Time enables RP, then you have to have public threads that allow characters to meet and sets the scene for that Roleplay.  Characters are like people in RL, some make friends easily, other less so.  Some  people are happy walking up to complete strangers and saying ‘Hi, I want to talk to you’ – other people (and their characters) will never say anything like that, and are happy going through life with a series of casual acquaintances.  It is also a gender thing (don’t shout at me yet)  many more women have ‘best friends’ and hold deep meaningful conversations with them, than men do.  *shrug* That is as it is.  But many players and their characters are men – and in my experience, they don’t socialize as easily.  I rarely see private threads without at least one female character who (appears to be) played by a female.  I see quite a few threads where female characters form a personal bond and do stuff together.

However, I digress, almost all of those RP interactions have come from seed threads that I have started.  I start regular fuzzy threads all over the stolen lands game.  There have been parties, weddings, religious councils, development planning meetings, shopping trips, boat trips, duelling competitins, road trips huge meetings, small meetings – all sorts of Fuzzy Threads.  They serve two purposes – the first is to encourage a bit of non-adventure RP – while the second is to throw people together.

Religious Meetings, for example, encourage players of ‘divine’ characters to think about their deity’s position on a subject and put t forward.  Shopping trips, encourage players develop a ‘style’ for their character. I give players the chance to politic, cut deals, meet helpful NPCs etc.  Small scale, perhaps, but all different aspects of Roleplaying a character.  (What do you mean?  You didn’t know I was that devious?  I am a DM!  Of course I am that devious!)

In multi-group games,  the Fuzzy Threads have a second purpose as well.  Just as in RL, Characters have to meet and have a reason to spend time together –  ie RP in  any depth.  Those fuzzy threads are the bars, gyms and clubs of the real world.  Fuzzy Threads are where Characters first meet with characters from other adventuring parties.  If they don’t meet, there is no chance of any RP between them –  but if they do meet – sometimes there is a chemistry …  (But I’ll get to that later).

The fuzzy threads have a third use as well, I seed them with RP hooks for characters to follow.  Some fall by the wayside, but some bear fruit.  The last trip to East Rostland saw a couple dating, two women go out shopping (and deal with social inequality via a tipping quandary), a character make a declaration of political support, while another character negotiated a business deal.  That was a good thread for RP :]

One of the best I have seen was in Valarez, when the DM put on a whole ‘country fair’, with music, dancing, competitions and all sorts for a multi-party game.  That was fun to play.

Started by the DM, initial direction given by the DM – but then let the characters take over and respond to their actions.  Just normal DMing really, but in a context that highlights RP possibilities, rather than an ‘adventure’.

Spontaneous RP:  There are times when inter-character RP happens without much intervention from the DM, although it still needs enabling.  In the Stolen Lands, we have had people meeting it the inns, in the temple, and a couple of other laces, off their own back.  That led to short RP episodes – one of which caused a bit of a ‘falling out’ between characters.  But even then, the DM has to facilitate those meetings by creating places for them to happen.  There are any number of location threads scattered around the Stolen Lands.  It doesn’t take much to find one and resurrect it.  So long as characters use them according to the Fuzzy Time rules, that isn’t a problem.

In Valerez, the DM went about things a different way, by encouraging player to run NPC merchants using the Paizo Downtime rules.  We used the simpler system of cash values for rooms, buildings and developments – and it worked reasonably well.  However, it only ever led to sporadic  RP sessions.   That was fun, although there can be a lot of admin involved, keeping track of the gold you earn, seeing which extra rooms, or staff, you can buy.

I ran a low level magic shop.  It started off doing paper-based stuff, started off with scrolls, drawings, translations, scribing services etc.  Then added Potions and Alchemy, and finally Wands.  Scrolls are a pain in the butt.  As an Adept, Jahi could only make divine scrolls, and there aren’t all that many scrolls that are on both of the Adept and Cleric spell lists – They didn’t really take off until I got a wizard as an assistant.  Potions came from a L1 Witch assistant.

RP interaction came from three sources

  1. first was when PCs came in during downtime between adventures.  It tended to be short, and fairly concise –  but there was some RP involved.  Then it stopped until the next down time.
  2. Then there were the general RP sessions that the DM ran, and the down time sessions at the Inn, which formed the centrepiece of the player downtime experience.  So the Craft got to chat to the PCs for a while.
  3. Then there was some interaction between the crafter, townsfolk.  Mainly discussions on how we were going to arrange things between us, trading services and carving up new business opportunities.   

It became obvious that we all needed something unique to distinguish us from the other NPC crafters.  In some ways it was almost archetypes/ caricature / melodrama level –  but it helped distinguish us and make us memorable from / during quick visits between long adventures.


The longest running, and most intense RP threads have all be romantic.  Carried out in Private Messages (within the RPoL guidelines)  Romances can go on for a long long time.   I have seen them delve into house furnishings, where go for dinner, what to wear, whether to be seen together in public …  all the everyday dating /living together stuff :}  But fade to black before there is any Jiggy-Jiggy, because  the stolen lands is not an adult game.

Interestingly, they can continue working after marriage.  There are conversations about business, setting up a house, how to manage the holdings, how many babies to have …

Relationships are the RP source that just keep on giving.

Life goes on

It has been an interesting few weeks, that has thrown a couple of new challenges my way.

It started when government Covid restrictions relaxed enough permit large outdoor events, which meant that I could go re-enacting again.  The first thing I was able to attend was Military Odyssey in Detling, a multi-period military extravaganza, although WWII is very heavily represented.  I went down with the Wimborne Militia, to represent an opposition for the Pirates – so lots of cannons, musketry and sword fighting, all backed up by a Living History camp that lets us talk about the history of the time.  That was quickly followed by another event at Mount Edgcumbe, for a living history camp, with beautiful views across the River Tamar towards Plymouth and the sea. 

It is only in the last few years that I have moved away from re-enacting battles, towards the living history side (age catches up with all of us), but I have never really established a LH role for myself.  I have been re-enacting for a long time, I do a long of research –  but I am a bit of a butterfly, and I jump from subject to subject, which means I have a lot of interesting knowledge, but I am not a specialist or expert in any of them.  Certainly not knowledgeable enough to set out a stall and demonstrate.  However, I have worked out that I can play a ‘man in a pub’, with historic pub games, beer and conversation.  I have quite a lot of experience of the ‘Man in a Pub’ role, so I should be OK with that.  Sounds daft, but it will be a serious vehicle to get people to sit down and talk to me.

But then we (The Wimborne Militia) got invited to take part in a Games Convention, in February next year.  Apparently, they often invite Living History displays to set up inside the convention.  Possibly for LARPers, possible for the Cosplayers – possibly just to fill up space.  Who knows, but having been to a few conventions, I am used to seeing a wild and wacky range of stands, stalls and displays.

Long story, short –  it made me think about writing a board game.  So I did – well I have a prototype, anyway.  It might be rubbish, but I won’t know until people play it.  Militia Vs Pirates (Yeah, it needs a catchier name) that features …

Team and individual play. Twin boards (slightly different) one for Militia, one for Pirates. D6 to move (I guess about 20 rounds per game) collect coins as you go, with penalties and rewards on board squares. Cards to boost your game and disrupt the opponents. Game finishes as first player hits Home – but winner is the one with most coins.

…  Not one for serious board gamers, but while it has randomizers (Dice & Cards) there is plenty of room for strategies and tactics – and it could well be fun for half-an-hour.   Which left me printing off game boards and card fronts –  then sticking them to a second hand scrabble board, and a deck of card.  *grin*  I enjoyed the process, and we have something for the gamers to ‘play test for me’  when we are at the convention.  And, let’s face it, if it is any good, I will be in the right place to find a small games company to sell it to.

To make it worse, everything seems to have slowed right down.  Stolen Lands is slow, the games I play in are slow – one is so slow that I think it may well be dead in the water.  So I applied to join a new game.  It is a long story, but I finished up getting accepted into a game that I didn’t really apply for – which just happens to be set in a part of Varisa that I know well and enjoyed playing in.  Just as importantly, I had a ‘interesting’ character who was based in the region, and I thought it would be interesting to write up one of his children, and explore that background in a bit more detail.

Gagak helped settle a village, Skids Landing, on the very edges of the Sandpoint hinterland – but that grew when I used the village (later) as a base for some adventures that I DMed for that playing group.  So the first thing was to roll the village back to something that doesn’t impinge on the new DMs game.  So I finished up with a village based on Dwarf quarrymen, lumberjacks and hunter trappers – and a suitable rough and ready place it is too.  Just right for a semi-civilized barbarian and his three wives.

Then it was onto family life – how d one half-orc barbarian, three wives and seven children get on with each other?  And what do you get when the kids grow up?

Find out at Raven’s wiki page.