Country Living 4 – People

I love it when people do something that makes me start thinking about social structures in my world. I, sort of, know all of this stuff in advance – but writing it down makes me consider it more fully. In the process of writing this blog, I amended the rules for manufacturing developments slightly, revisited Divine Adepts – and added ‘dog’ as a custom familiar for Divine Adepts dedicated to a nature god. All-in-all, and excellent return.

Commoners

Most of the people in the countryside are commoners. These are people who haven’t had very much going for them, and who haven’t managed to ‘escape’ into one of the other classes – most of the people in the game world are commoners.  They live in a world of barter and copper pieces, where a couple of silver pieces is a good day’s wage – but they are both resourceful and hardy.

In my game commoners get full HP at first level then progress at average HP, and my NPCs have a basic 5 point build.  They don’t get traits, and I have removed Craft and Profession from the class skills list – nor can they take the Skill Specialization feat.  They are the ‘Salt of the Earth’ who provide the labour needed to do … just about anything.

It isn’t all bad :}  Most commoners have a roof over their heads,  clothes to wear, food to eat and aren’t too cold in winter.  They just don’t have any luxuries, or even any particularly nice things.  Like other classes they progress, but few go beyond Level 3.

L1 Commoners are Young Adults –  Probably 14-17 with few skills, no traits and no skill points in Crafts or Professions. They are kids setting out in life – unskilled, as yet, but ready to learn.  These are the guys you can employ for 1sp per day or hold your horse for a couple of coppers.  You will also find them doing the washing up, mucking out the stables or doing similar unskilled jobs.

L2 Commoners are Adults who have learned the basic of their job, and probably work somewhere as a labourer. They get average HP, and have learned one or two craft or Professional skills.  They might also take a trait, from my Commoners Traits list.  These traits represent ‘extra’ training and include some basic military skills, hunting skills, housekeeping skills.   They make up the majority of commoners.

L3 Commoners are well established.  They are the people who run the stronghold, act as foreman on work-gangs or oversee tasks.  They probably make up 30% of commoners in an area and are the backbone of the rural community.

L4 Commoners (and above) are rare – and all have their own character sheets.

This is a fairly standard template for my NPC Commoners :-

Str-11, Con-11, Dex-11, Int-11, Wis-11, Cha-11
Feats= Toughness, Endurance and Great Fortitude
HP 10 (L2, 13) (L3, 16)   (includes 1hp/Level for Favoured Class)
Skills (Includes 1 Skill Point/level for Human)
L1 – Climb, Swim & one at random.
L2 – 2x Profession or Craft & one at random.  (eg Prof:Farmer, Craft:Leather)
L3 – Often just extra points in the same skill areas as before (BUT – sometimes I get inventive)

That probably doesn’t look very useful – however, they can Take Ten on skills where they have spent points.  That puts DC10 tasks comfortably within their skill set – which means farmers can grow the common crops, woodworkers can make basic furniture, smiths can make everyday items, etc.

Those commoners with traits that give weapon proficiency will generally be proficient in one more of Sling, Club, Staff or another free weapon as well – as will any commoners who travel regularly or might find themselves in a tough spot.  Those with ‘Military’ traits will probably own a home-made Reinforced Tunic as Armour.

Clothing is basic – drawstring trouser or skirt, with plain jacket or vest, probably fastened with ties, laces or a simple belt.  Most are made of cheap wool, although some are of leather.  A shirt and breech-clout of a softer material probably finer wool (rarely linen) are prized items and are the only items washed regularly.  Wooden soled clogs and boots (more expensive) are the favoured footwear.  Beanie hats, socks and gloves are probably knitted wool, while cloaks, hoods and other coats might well be made of hessian.  Colours are often muted greys, greens, browns and yellows – all of which can be dyed fairly easily.

Food is basic as well.  Vegetable stew is the staple, perhaps with meat or fish a couple of times a week, while eggs can be hard-boiled and accompany apples or even raw onions.  Herb teas are a common drink –  Nettle Tea is a favourite, because nettles are readily available and can be dried for use through the year.  Hooch, is a weak fruit wine, fermented enough to make sure the water used in the process is safe and disease free.  Small ale serves the same purpose, but grain is harder to come by.  Bread costs money (or at least the grain does), so many commoners eat pease pudding instead.  It is a sort of porridge made from peas,  which solidifies when cold to make a bread substitute.

Inside the house will be some simple furniture – table and benches, a dresser for the pots and crockery, simple bed frames with straw filled mattresses.  Blankets and drapes will be rough wool (perhaps crocheted) or hessian.  There will be a single fireplace for heat and cooking.  Light comes from cheap tallow candles.

This equates to a ★ or ★★ living standard, depending on the status of the individual.  It is a basic existence – but one that provides enough food, shelter and warmth.  For most of the people, most of the time.

Warriors

Every village has some warriors, who are employed by the local lord, to patrol the village and its hinterland.   Villages with a watch tower just have a unit of guards, but larger villages might have scouts and cavalry as well.

Most are level 3 warriors, although their officer may be level 4, and if so probably has a level of Aristocrat, to represent his experience of management, leadership and command.  The officer is usually the magistrate for the area and the Lord’s bailiff, with responsibilities for collecting rents and assessing taxes as well.

The stats for the light troops I use in this role can be found here

Some Troopers live in barracks, while some live in cottages in the village and have the same standard of accommodation as most of the villagers.  However, they are paid in cash and have a slightly better standard of living.  Shoes and clothing is a slightly better quality, blankets are thicker, they have bread instead of pease pudding, meat is served more frequently, and they generally have some coin left over for a night in the tavern.  Not a huge change, but enough to be significant in a rural environment they are comfortably into the ★★ rankings, with some junior officers pushing towards ★★★.

Many troopers come from a similar background as the people they patrol –  and while they don’t get posted to their home village until they have proved themselves elsewhere, they have sympathy with, and understand, the people of the village.  Officers get paid more, have better accommodation and an even better standard of living.  In many cases the Local Officer is the wealthiest and highest ranking person in the village. …. While most officers come from a ‘better’ social class, it is still possible for someone from commoner stock to get promoted to that level.  An officer is the likely to be the only person in the village with a noticeably better standard of living  (★★★) as they are looked after by servants (Military Auxiliaries) almost as if they were a knight or a noble.

This is one of the easiest, and cheapest, ways for a commoner to move up the social ladder.  Lords are always looking out for likely lads (and lasses) to join their forces – the recruit is trained, equipped and paid, regularly, in real money – and it is likely that their offspring will be able to follow them into a similar role in the future.  Many commoners see it as a first step on the social ladder, and if they can make it as an officer … the world is their oyster …

Adepts

Almost all the smaller religious establishments, like those found in villages and hamlets, are overseen by adepts.  Great Shrines, Graveyards and Holy Houses are prevalent in Villages while simple shrines are sometimes found in Hamlets, however, there are exceptions.  Some religious orders develop hamlets that are primarily religious sites so, occasionally, you might run across a hamlet built around a Priory.  While there is normally one main deity in a hex, you can find shrines dedicated to other deities close by. 

The type, and level, of community support will vary according to the deity represented.  Pharasma, for example, concentrates on funerals, but will also help celebrate weddings and namings.  Erastil is more involved with the community, encouraging active participation in all sorts of events from the whole community.  Sarenrae’s priests, concentrate on community health, with advice and their healing skills. It is rare to find other deities’ houses in a rural setting – however, larger defensive buildings, such as a Fort or a Garrison, may well have their own Military Chaplain to support the troops and, perhaps, to help run militia training sessions.

Nearly all rural priests live at about the same standard as their parishioners, although they are normally comfortably into the ★★ rankings, in the same way as warriors are. These rural priests are almost built as Collegiate Adepts and come from a similar background to their flock.  While Rural priests get some of their stipend in cash, they also receive ‘collection plate’ donations in kind (perhaps a rabbit, or a bag of apples) from the local community.

This is another way that Commoners can move up the social ladder, although chances of promotion it is limited.  This is because most religious buildings (from Chapel Upwards) have a Cleric (rather than Adept) in charge.  At best, an adept might hope to become second-in-command at one of these larger establishments.

Of course, some rural religious buildings are home to PC clerics – and then all bets are off. You are unlikely to find many arcane or spontaneous adepts in a rural setting, as most gravitate towards towns and cities.

Experts

Experts are a different kettle of fish.  They are all different and unless you have family connections, it is difficult to become an expert.  Most Experts learn their skills in the family business, although some have parents with enough clout (or cash) to arrange a suitable apprenticeship.

Any business with an Econ value is run by an Expert, so every village and most Hamlets will have a few experts in residence. The farms are managed by expert farmers, the tavern by expert Inn keepers, the mill by an expert miller and even the market has its own expert merchant. In wilderness areas there will be expert hunters, trappers and guides.  While Commoners provide the labour that keep the economy working, Experts are the managers, supervisors and specialists.

Developments with Econ +1 (Tavern, Mill, Craft workshop) are normally run by an Expert-3 with +7 in the main skill that relates to the business. Developments with Econ +2 (Road House, Brewery)are run by an Expert-3 who has Skill Focus and (if appropriate) masterwork tools – which gives +10/12 in their main skill.

Along with the main expert there will be a spouse (probably Commoner-3) and a couple of other experts (possibly an Expert-2 and an Expert-1) who are either children of the ‘master’ or outsiders taken on as assistants.  The development makes work for a number of the local commoners, with a few taken on as permanent labourers, and many others finding part-time work here.

There is probably an apprentice or two as well.  L1 commoners who are learning the basics of the trade- in return for acting as gofers, servants and menial labour.  These apprentices can find themselves doing anything including sweeping the floor, pumping bellows or carrying fence posts.  Some develop as commoner-labourers, a few lucky ones might learn enough to become an expert themselves.

Most experts have the same sort of living standards as Warriors and Divine Adepts, although their exact place in the Village Hierarchy depends on ‘status’ of their developments

Example Hierarchy

Outpost and its hamlets

  1. Cdr Ress
  2. Lt Pickering, Brody (manager of the hopyard)
  3. Garrison Sergeants, Sub-Prior of Pharasma’s Holy House, Market Manager, Innkeeper (Tavern), Farm Manager (Westfarm), Manager of Roths Local Ales (Rothyard).
  4. Warriors, Adepts & Experts
  5. Smallholders and labourers.

Country Living 3 – Villages

Villages

Villages are the centre of rural life.  They act as a hub for smallholdings and hamlets that surround them, providing security and other basic facilities.  A ‘classic’ village has the church, the pub and the local market –  the main source of Security, Faith, Socialising and Trade  for everyone who lives in that hex.  It is the heart of the community.

Outpost, described below, fits that model – the garrison patrols a larger area that most and a lot of troops.  Under my Campaign Rules,  that takes up space so some other facilities are ‘smaller’ than they could be.   However, the better the defence/security the more hamlets it can support – so Outpost can support three hamlets rather than the (more normal) one or two.  As each hamlet is able to support at least one more business, with (perhaps) a local brewery, mill and blacksmith are probably first on the list for Outpost.  With a bit of thought, you can develop a thriving rural community – distributed among the hamlets but centred on the main village.

Then there are the smallholdings.  The various maps of the hex show the small holdings closest to the Village and hamlets, but there are others scattered around the countryside as well.

Example:  Outpost

This isn’t the Outlook of the present, but represents the plans for the Village of Outlook.  There is no Tavern at the moment, and the Holy House is still only a graveyard – however, this is what it could be. It currently has two dependent hamlets, West Farm and Rothyard, and has the potential to add a third.  However, it could be expanded – building a palisade around the village proper would increase its ‘Defence’ to four, which would permit the development of a fourth hamlet.

The Village of Outpost

The Garrison (1) The garrison buildings house three separate units of troopers – Guards to patrol the local area, Scouts who travel further afield, and Light Cavalry who patrol the roads.  Lt Commander Ress is also magistrate for the town and Lord Henry’s bailiff for the area, his assistant Lt Pickering oversees the patrols and day to day running of the garrison.

The Outpost Tavern (2) A simple eating and drinking house provides the village’s only real social space, and is busiest on market days, when more smallholders come in from further afield.  Its main stock-in-trade are local ales and wine, along with simple meals.  You are most likely to see tables of locals playing cards or dice, rather than hear a musician or entertainer.  However, there are occasional entertainers, and the Tavern often allows travellers to sleep on the common room floor for a night or two.

The Market (3) The market is busiest of Market Day (held twice a week) when people fetch in their wares from outlying smallholdings.  On those days you can buy a large range of local produce –  mainly foodstuff,  although there are other locally produced items as well.  There are always a couple of local smallholders with stalls, so you can buy fresh veg most days of the week.  And there are a few enterprising who buy up the left-over stock, and hold it to sell on over the rest of the week.  One trader has taken it a bit further, and buys up minor items to sell on his stall, and you can generally get an eclectic mix of wooden spoons, clay bowls, lengths of home-spun material, simple cloaks, hats, gloves – all sorts of basic accoutrements, available every day of the week.

Pharasma’s Holy House (4) A small religious community run by Broth Amos – who oversee the spiritual needs of the community.  They can offer simple weddings, namings and funerals – and have a small cemetery plot attached to their mission.  Pharasma isn’t big on ceremonies (except for funerals) so weddings tend to be a formalized hand-fasting and ‘namings’ tend to be little more than a recognition of the new villager.  They do, however, keep the villages records of births, marriages and deaths.

Workers’ Cottages (5) Terraced rows of cottages that are little more than a one up, one down – they often house a family of five or six people.  Each of the two rooms is about 20×10 – the ground floor often contains separate spaces for living and working, while the upper room can be partitioned with curtains or screen to give some element of privacy.    Each terrace (about 5 houses) has a couple of privies to service the block.  While not ‘comfortable’ by modern standards, it is often better than they would find in a town or city.

Country Living 2 – Hamlets

Hamlets

A Hamlet is little more than collection of smallholdings that are close to each other – but with something that gives them common goals and sense of community. 

Smallholdings are often built close to larger settlements (Village, Town City) which offer better protection, more work opportunities and a central market to see their goods.  This mean that the smallholdings near the settlement are closer together than those located further away – and that means that the people of the smallholdings have more chance to mix with each other and develop a sense of community. 

Very occasionally this will lead to the smallholders getting together on a communal project that benefits them all mutually – such as a community hall or a shrine (if they all share the same faith).   More often, someone else sees that smallholdings are close together, and sees that there is a ready supply of labour for a ‘country’ business, so starts a local business.  Once a hamlet is established, it can attract more smallholders, and develop into a living thriving community.

Country Businesses make use of whatever resources there are in a region – mostly they are farms of some type, although quarries, fisheries and lumber camps all have a place, if the terrain is right.  If there are suitable mineral resources, it might even be a mining hamlet, although in that case it is often the mine that comes first and the smallholders follow.  There are a few ‘special cases’ where a Lord or a Cleric  builds a hamlet for their own purposes –  much like a mine, the smallholders follow, knowing that there will be work available for them.

Example 1 – West Farm

This is an example of a basic hamlet, just starting out on its development.

There is a farmyard, with a row of cottages for the regular farmworkers.  It is a mixed-economy farm – in other words it grows vegetables, a cash crop (normally cereals) and keeps a few head of livestock for milk, eggs, wool and leather.

There are a couple of smallholdings nearby, and they provide casual and part-time labour to help keep the farm running.  Although they still maintain their normal smallholding practices at the same time, the steady supply of casual work gives them a bit more financial stability.

A win for everyone.

Example 2 – Rothyard

Rothyard started out in much the same way as the farm described earlier, but has grown. 

First it added fields of hops as an extra cash crop, along with the extra buildings needed to process the hops. Then, as more smallholders moved to the area, they added a small brewery making a beer for local consumption and a community hall to help bind the community together.

Now it is a nice, compact, hamlet.  There are a number of permanently employed staff living in cottages, and enough local smallholdings to provide part-time and casual labour when they need it.  However, it has grown as much as it can, and can’t really develop any further without losing its character and status as a hamlet.

Country Living 1 – Smallholdings

A couple of characters in The Stolen land have been building an agricultural rural stronghold – which started me thinking. While very little of this is new, I have spent some time pulling things together, and tweaking them slightly. Expect posts on Hamlets, Villages and the Urban Hinterland at some point 🙂


Smallholding

A single small holding, some distance from the nearest settlement is known as a thorp.  However, they are also the main type of housing found in hamlets and villages, and the most common housing in the hinterlands of towns and cities, as well.  Most of the population are small scale, subsistence, farmers and labourers.

A smallholding is the smallest unit of Country Living, which produces enough for basic living, and  is often a home for one extended family of, perhaps, 10-12 people. A smallholding is often a single room dwellings, perhaps with curtains or screens for privacy that serves as a living room, work room and kitchen – with cooking over a fire (perhaps in a fireplace).  Building materials depend on the environment – wattle and daub, sod/earth, logs – or a combination. There will be a few simple outbuildings, mainly sheds of some type, for tools, storage and animals.

Smallholders use hand tools to cultivate small plots of land, where they  grow common food plants,  and generally have a couple of goats and a few chickens to provide milk, eggs and (occasionally) meat.  There is often a small herb and fruit garden, growing crab apples, green plums and blackberries as well.  A well-established smallholder will have a few more goats, grow different varieties of fruit and may even have a donkey as a pack animal.

Foraging and small game hunting supplement this diet.  Game birds and rabbits might be taken with a sling, fish can be taken with a net and wild foods can be collected locally.  Occasionally a smallholder might have (and be proficient with) a light cross bow, and use that to hunt larger game

Many smallholders also have craft skills, although only at skill +4 or +5, which supplement their income.  They can often make a few coins by making baskets or simple furniture – or even shoeing horses.  These items are either bartered locally, or sold in a local market to make a few coins.

There is always work available in hamlets, villages and urban settings.  Much of it is casual or seasonal work, and there is never enough to go around – but it pays in coins, and they can be used to pay taxes of buy the few items that they can’t make for themselves.  If nothing else, there is often work available maintaining roads, bridges and other infrastructure – the local lord might pay in coins, but will probably take labour in lieu of taxes.

Smallholders work hard and might not be rich –  but they are self-sufficient.  Generally, they can feed themselves, clothe themselves and have a roof over their heads.  There might not be much in the way of luxury, and what they have is often basic, but they stay dry, warm and fed – for most of the year.


Example

Gurford is a smallholding situated at one of the few crossing places on the Gur River.  It consists of three dwelling huts, a work hut and a storage hut.  At night the compound is guarded by two large dogs.

There are a few ‘gardened’ areas around the village – a well tended and maintained radish and cabbage beds as well as wolfberry  and cloudberry  patches.

They make a few coins selling leather and reed baskets.

1 Arvon Fisher  is a fisherman!  He travels in a coracle – uses a net to take shoals of the small fish known as silver grunters, traps for eels and uses rod and line to fish for trout, pike and other larger fish.  The eels are normally smoked to serve as winter rations, while grunters are pickled in their own juices.  Old Arvon is a bit of a loner, he loves being on the water and will happily spend all day alone in his boat.  Since his wife died, a couple of years ago, his daughter (Mila) runs the holding.

2 The Tanners are a young couple and who have a son called Tigan (14).  Ramo Tanner smokes the eels, pickles the grunters and plucks the game, as well as curing hides and skins.  Mila Tanner (Arven’s younger daughter) cooks meals for the family, brews hooch and small beer, preserves the fruit, and patches clothes when needed.  She also oversees the gardening and basketwork.  Tig looks after the goats and helps out with the gardening.

3 Work Hut.  Is really just an open hut that is used as a work space by the family, mainly Ramo.   It is generally filled with food and hide that is being preserved one way or another – smoked eels, pickled grunters, or skins that being cured.

4 Storage, is another empty hut that is used to as a place to store provisions against the winter, however, it can serve as a second working area as well.  Depending on the season, there may be a barrel of pickles radishes, salted cabbage, a basket of dried cloudberries, an urn of wolfberry hooch and root vegetables ready for winter.

5 Besh Hunter is a Male half-orc trapper who married Arven’s older daughter – she died in child birth many years ago.  Besh works the local river banks, mainly for eels and small game, but also brings back reeds for basket making, sale and building maintenance.  His two daughters, Snaga(14) and Ush(15), tend the fruit and vegetable patches – although they sometimes go out on trips with Besh.  The Hunters have two large dogs, one of which stays with each of the girls during the day and guard the compound overnight.

Demographics

Some new users joined my game recently, and I realized that I didn’t have a good overview of races and populations. One also pointed out that I didn’t have an RTJ thread, either. So it seemed like a good time to start putting things right.


Overview

The game area is a heavily human centric place and the vast majority of people are human.  The main noble houses are human, as are most of the lesser houses and the people who populate towns and cities.  Dwarves and Halflings are the largest minority races, with limited representation of other races.   However, as always, half-elves and half orcs are disproportionally represented among adventurers.

Humans

There are six major Noble Houses. Each (rightly or wrongly) claiming a royal heritage, and all with a slightly different outlook on life.

House Surtova

House Surtova have a reputation as bullies – historically they were traders, pirates and brigands from Ioberia who conquered much of Northern Brevoy and ruled with an iron fist.  They aren’t liked very much by the other houses.  They now rule Port Ice, a large city in the north-west – but also claim the title of King-Regent and are the most powerful noble house –  by a long way.

House Garess

House Garess was once a powerful house of Ioberian settlers, they were an ally, and subordinate, of  House Surtova.  They controlled the flow of metals through an arrangement with Clan Golka (a Dwarven Clan) and were a strong house.  However, Clan Golka’s mines and holdings were lost, and House Garess has been diminished.  Once strong and proud, they are now one of the weakest houses and are trying to find their new place in the world. They still control a large area of mountainous land in the west, from a small city known as Greyhaven, and still have an allegiance (some would say dependency) on House Surtova.

House Lodvoka

House Lodkova control the islands and coastal areas in the north-east, from a small city called Winterbreak, they have a reputation as fishermen and traders.  Historically, they were Ioberian settlers and there is more than a little pirate in their background, which some say has seeped through to modern life.  Much of their land was once ruled by the Surtova, and the two houses are still in completion as traders on the Lake of Mist and Veils.

House Orlovsky

House Orlovsky emigrated from the city of Orlov in Ioberia centuries ago, and can claim one of the longest noble pedigree of all the houses – and they know it.  They established themselves in a northern mountain holding and ruled it as kings from their fortress town called Eagle’s Watch.  Many years ago, part of their lands were conquered by the Surtova, and although the Orlovsky have recovered most of it, they still bear a bit of a grudge.  With few trading resources and poor land, they are one of the weaker noble houses.

House Medveyd

House Medveyd are another house of Ioberian Settlers, this time in the west of Brevoy.  They came via mountain passes and paths through the Icerime Peaks and are a ‘rural’ house made up of smaller clans of farmers and hunters.  While the Duke rules from a large fortified Town called Stoneclimb, the original clan structure remains and it is, perhaps, the most egalitarian of the Noble Houses.  Never ruled by the Surtova, they were heavily influenced by the Aldori and have formal treaties with some of the Orc tribes along their borders.  The whole area has a Celtic/Highland feel to it.

House Lebeda

House Lebeda are one of the newest houses and only have about 200 years of history.  When Choral conquered the region and unified Brevoy this area was a disorganized mix of Ioberian and Taldan settlers, each going their own way.  The Lebeda only rose to prominence after the conquest.  They are a house of traders and farmers, and have a merchant house that works the East Sellen between New Stetven and the rest of Avistan.  They still retain elements from both cultures,  are independent and are among the strongest followers of Abadar (the merchant god).  They rule their region from a large fortified town called Silverhall, but have a significant presence in the capital city of New Stetven.

House Aldori

Mainly composed of Taldan settlers, House Aldori have a long history in this region and ruled the whole of the Rostland plain before Choral’s conquest.  For two hundred years they have been in decline, but are now making a comeback.  Countess Jamandi Aldori rules in East Rostland again, and they have a strong presence around the region, and many Aldori are based in the Free City of Restov, which was once their capital.  They are farmers and ranchers, but proud and with a strong duelling tradition.

Other Houses

There are a number of other lesser noble houses, some with strong magical affinities, spread around the ‘free’ areas of Brevoy.  Most, such as House Cartan and House Ventus, are based in New Stetven, although House Rogavia-Green and House Varn, both in the North East are worthy of Note.  House Khavatorov is an Aldori offshoot, once aligned with Choral’s House Rogarvia, now much more aligned with House Aldori.

The Cities

There are two cities that are that don’t fall under the complete control of one of the noble houses.

New Stetven

New Stetven is one of the largest cities in the whole region,  a metropolis, and right in the middle of Brevoy.  It is nominally under the control of King Regent Noleski Surtova, although his grip on it is weak.  It is a thriving, bustling place with many districts and businesses.  It is a cosmopolitan city made up of people from all races – although the vast majority are human.  However, there are people from all the major noble houses, a good number of lesser houses, and huge numbers of ordinary every-day folks, from all classes.

Restov

A large city in the south-east of the country, it was the capital of old Aldori nation of Rosland.  Now it is a free city with its own Mayor and council.  However, there is a very strong Aldori presence in the city and, politically, it is aligned with the other Aldori holdings.

Religion

Pharasma, Abadar, Erastil, and  Gorum are the main deities worshipped.  Pharasma has many followers in the countryside, Abadar is king of the cities and some merchant houses, Erastil is strong in the south-east, while Gorum is strongest among the noble houses in the north.

However, just about every faith is represented somewhere in Brevoy.

Dwarves

Dwarves are the second most populous race in Brevoy, and The Golka Clan were once ranked among the most powerful of groups.  However, their main holdings were ‘lost’ about 15 years ago, and they are working their way towards recovery.  The Golka are a super-clan –  made up of a number of smaller clan and family groups, who associated under one leadership.  Now that leadership is gone, but the dwarves have a natural tendency to work together for the benefit of all Dwarves (That is what a LG racial alignment does for you).  So there is a concerted effort to ‘better’ themselves and their race – still under the banner of ‘The Golka’.

There are many smaller clans and groups within The Golka (such as the Silverhammer, Bouldershoulder, Stigmar and Thaddeson families) but none are, currently, significant enough to detail.  Many still take a name associated with the Golka super-clan.

Home areas

While there are no great Dwarven holdings any more, there are four places that have a good-sized population, although they are not, generally, a majority.

Brundeston

Brundeston is a small hill town, with some metal resources in the east of Brevoy.  It is a free town with many Dwarves.  It is the only place with a Majority Dwarf population and just over half of the residents are Dwarves.

Restov

Restov has a large Dwarven district known as Dwarf Town, with a majority Dwarf population and have their own representative on the council.  Dwarf Town is renowned for its metalworkers, weaponers and armourers – Weapons and Armour from Dwarf Town are sought after.

Greyhaven

Clan Golka used to have a very strong presence in Greyhaven, and the lost Mines were located in the Duchy.  There are still a lot of dwarves there, working in various mines and foundries –  but vast majority are working  for humans from House Garess.

New Stetven

There are many dwarves in New Stetven, some work for other people, while a number run small businesses – normally associated with metal or stonework. While they do have a Dwarven Network, they keep a very low profile and rarely act together as one body.  After all, this isn’t the time to upset the rest of the city, and especially not the King-Regent.

Halflings

Halflings are everywhere – just not in very big numbers or in positions of authority.  Many are servants, farmers, small holders, shopkeepers or even ship’s crew – but you can find Halflings in just about every form of employment.  Many came from the south, fleeing tyranny and oppression – although many families have been here for two or three generations and are well settled now.  However, there are still Halflings arriving in Brevoy and the Stolen Lands now, with most travelling north along the River Sellen trade routes, then making a final push into Brevoy via Jovvox, the gnome settlement to the south. 

Half-Orcs

There is only one known half-orc settlement (in the far east of Stonewall) and that is tiny.   However, there is a smattering of half orcs most places, with a few more in Stonewall and Greyhaven.  As always, a disproportionate number of Half-Orcs leave home to seek their fortune – and many join adventuring parties.

Stonewall

The Medveyed of Stonewall have treaties with Orc tribes in the Icerime Mountains– or at least some of the smaller clans do.  A number of villages have Half-Orc residents, and (although rare) Half-Orcs are not seen as ‘unusual’ in most of the towns.

Greyhaven

Greyhaven ‘s territories extend into the Goluskin Mountains and there are frequent clashes between Orc tribes and the Greyhaven army.  However, there are more peaceful interactions as well and, while half-orcs are treated with some suspicion, there are enough around that they aren’t unusual.

Half-Elves

There aren’t all that may Half-Elves in Brevoy, because there aren’t many elves in Brevoy either.  Even if they aren’t born there, most of the Half-Elves finish up in New Stetven or Restov – because that is where the action is, and they are both fairly cosmopolitan environments.  Many are born in the cities as The Free Cities of Brevoy are  always an interesting stop for Elves doing the ‘Grand Tour’.  In the cities there are plenty of willing partners, of either gender, willing to help travelling Elves spend their cash.  Which is one of the reasons why a lot of city half-elves come from broken homes.  Some elves stay for longer, but few manage to live out a whole lifetime in the fast-paced human world, that doesn’t leave them time to think.

As always, a disproportionate number of Half-Elves leave home to seek their fortune – and many join adventuring parties.

New Stetven

The Metropolis of New Steven is busy, bustling and cosmopolitan.  Half-Elves barely get a second glance, and often feel at home here.

Restov

Another large city, it is cosmopolitan and the laws aren’t particularly intrusive.   Half-Elves do not stand out, and can fit into society fairly easily.

Gnomes

There are very few Gnomes in Brevoy.  There is a colony to the south, at Jovvox, but very few fancy lining in an oversized, and over regulated, human world.

Elves

There are no Elven settlements in Brevoy, and the nearest Elven state is hundreds of miles to the south at Kyonin.  Kyonin is an isolationist state and doesn’t allow other races into their lands, nor do its residents move to other nations, with short-lived populations.  Many Kyonin Elves travel to see how the short-lived ones lives and behave – but they generally return to their homeland fairly quickly.  Some, who become the parents of half-elven children stay for a while, perhaps 20 years or so, before they return.  Many males don’t even realize they have fathered a child, and move from town to town and assignation to assignation – and there is never a shortage of company to help them spend their travelling money.  Female Elves often have a similar lifestyle, but they understand the value of taking Night Tea regularly.

There are a few, longer term, more caring relationships, of course – but nowhere near as many as there are casual relationships.

Troops

And now I have gone back to thinking about the mass combat rules.  I like the concept –  no pseudo-war games – but the battle as a backdrop for character/party action that helps to decide the outcome of the overall battle.  However, I have never been happy with the mechanic that I was playing with – which always came down to a single d20 roll.  I couldn’t get a modifier system that I was happy with, nor a reasonable range of outcomes without being very manipulative.  But recently I came across the Troop ‘monster’ subtype.  Possibly I ‘came across it again’, but this time saw how I might be able use it.

However, it made me think about Defence and how I use Defence Points in my Campaign Rules.  Settlements are pretty much controlled by 4 starts.  Economy (Econ) or how much Money is floating around, Loyalty (Loy) or how much the rulers are liked,  Stability (Stab) which to do with the populations state of mind and Defence  (Def) which is all about how safe the settlement is.

There has always been some overlap between Def and Stab, and more advanced Defensive Building give Stab points, but most Stab points come from institutions such as courts, jails, granaries etc. 

The Watch

At the most basic level Def is all about protecting the population from local threats.  The village watchtower sends out troops to patrol the surrounding lands to keep bandits, predators and monsters away.  They are the guys who clear out the beetle infestation or deal with the goblin raiding party, they might also help chase out herds of elk, or other creatures, that are eating all the crops.  They also break up fights (etc) in the village and the Sergeant acts as a low level magistrate to help resolve disputes.  In a town or a city, they guard the gates, patrol the streets, disrupt burglaries and perform other basic security functions.

In other words, they defend the population from local threats through a mixture of small scale military and policing actions.  This led me to model The Guards on the gendarmerie system   of full time soldiers who serve (most of the time) as a ‘civilian’ police force.  The Guard are basically patrol men, who can operate as Light Infantry, should the need arise.  These guys make up the bulk of any settlement’s defensive force.  Just about all troops from Watchtowers and the town/city walls are guards.  Most of the time they walk patrols, stand by the gate, and break up disturbances – low-level military policemen, not all that different from the population they serve. 

The Campaign Rules say that any settlement with Def 2+  is able to patrol the surrounding hexes as well. There aren’t that many benefits from it, but it means that you will know as soon as a Goblin Clan move into the hex next door, and gives you a tentative claim on that land. It is particularly helpful in wilderness areas.  However, that implies that the second defence point is used for Scouts (either infantry or cavalry) to carry out regular patrols over those areas.

So, the first two Def points of any settlement, and all Def Points from watchtowers and walls should be guards/scouts –  all ‘light’, gendarme style, troops. 

Another option in the rules, allows settlements to employ marines to patrol lakes, waterways, harbours etc.  Unlike R/L, marines in my Campaign Rules are a Soldier /Sailor combination – warriors with Profession:Sailor as well as Profession:soldier who act more like militarized coast guards than anything else.  All units based at Military Jetties are Marines, and they follow the same basic pattern as the other Light Infantry Unit types mentioned. 

Militarized Policemen in peace time, who serve as rank and file Light Infantry / Cavalry when war comes.  The Guard, The Scouts (Foot & Cavalry) and the Marines make up The Watch – and are all L3 warriors with light weapons and light armour.  See The Black Watch for the origins of the name.

The Army

The army is a different kettle of fish – as Professional Soldiers they don’t have a local job in peacetime, instead, they practice, go out on exercises and hone their abilities.  They are a slightly higher level than the watch and have better equipment – which makes them more of a force to be reckoned with.  While they don’t do every day policing, they deal with incursions, insurrection, riots and other large threats that might be difficult for the watch to deal with –  and they are in the front line if there is a war.

The Army is composed of L4 Warriors with better equipment.  Those with Medium Armour and weapons that do d8 damage are classed as Medium Troops and cost 2BP.  Those with Heavy Armour and weapons that do d10 damage are Heavy Troops and cost 3bp.

Overall

That works for both the Troop subclass rules and my Campaign Rules.  It balances up the costs of extra equipment for better quality troops, and gives Players a choice of how to build their army.  Cool.

The only problem is how to charge people for these more advanced troops?  The more I think about it, the more I am tempted to make them upgrades.  Example:  A brand-new barracks (Def:2) comes with  two troops of Light Foot.  However, for 1 extra BP you can upgrade a ‘light’ troop to a medium troop.  Spend another BP (Now or later) and you can upgrade the other light troop to medium OR upgrade the medium troop to Heavy.  And so on …

Duelling

Questions from a couple of my players has encouraged me to think about duelling in a bit more depth. My ‘Stolen Lands’ game is heavily based on Paizo’s Kingmaker AP, which introduced the Aldori and their duelling style –  so duelling classes are important to the game.  We haven’t actually had any duels yet, but we are getting close to the point where I think we might – so I need to be prepared.

Styles

There are three duelling styles available to players in my world –

Aldori

Considered by many to be the most effective duelling style it was introduced by Sirian Aldori, the Sword Baron of Rostand. It is a delicate and acrobatic style based on a specialist ‘duelling’ sword and it taught in Brevoy (mainly in Restov and amongst the Khavortorov) and  Mivon by descendants of the original Aldori Swordlords.

There in no formal mention of a Real life equivalent – in my game the Duelling Sword is based  Katana and the fighting styles based in oriental martial arts.  The description of the duelling sword is katana-like and it fits the story given for Sirian Aldori.  He left Rostland in disgrace after he lost a duel, but then came back years later with a new and better style to reclaim his lands – and we know (from the Jade Regent AP)  that there is a path to oriental lands across the crown of the world.

The Duelling Sword is a ‘hand and a half’ weapon, that can be used in either one, or two hands. It is the ability to change grips, that gives the weapon it speeds and flexibility.  When duelling, the Aldori just use a single weapon and no shield.  Sometimes, when they are in combat, they might choose to use a second weapon in their ‘free’ hand, but their Duelling Sword becomes a lot less effective. Many of the  Aldori specialist archetypes, prestige classes, feats and traits become less effective when the Duellist is using a weapon or shield (including buckler) in their free hand.

An Aldori Duellist is just someone who fights in duels with an Aldori Duelling Sword –  however, the very best will have spent years following specialist training regimes.  A basic Aldori Duellist might just study for proficiency with a Duelling Sword, but to be recognized as a master, and a swordlord, is more difficult.  There are three main routes to becoming a Swordlord.

Swordlord (Fighter Archetype) – the mainstream approach used by the majority of Aldori  families and their troops.   When they achieve level five they are known as a Swordlord Elect (Think Brown Belt).  Level six gains them full Swordlord status  (Think Black belt)

Swordlord (Prestige Class) – The best route for anyone who didn’t follow the Swordlord  archetype – and even some that have.  Qualifying for and achieving a single level of the Swordlord Prestige Class earns you Swordlord Status.

Duellist (Prestige Class) –  An unusual way to qualify, but still possible.  Someone trained in a different class, but proficient with an Aldori Duelling Sword, may well be given Swordlord status when they qualify as a duellist.  However, they will have to prove their ability in a duel.

There are many  Feats and Traits are specifically helpful to Aldori Duellists. 

Traditional

A fast and furious fighting and duelling style from Taldan that is based on the Falcata and Buckler – it is also known as Rondolero. The style is common among fighting men across many areas where Taldan settled originally and is seen as a link to the ‘Old Days’.  However, duels are more gladiatorial than in the other styles.  It is taught in Silverhall, Restov and New Stetven.

Its real life equivalent has to be the Rodeleros of 16th century Spain, but with a nod towards the legionary soldiers of the Roman Empire.

A falcata is a fairly heavy slashing sword, an (in the games rules at least) a buckler is a small shield strapped to the arm.  Although you can grasp something in the Buckler hand –  you lose the defensive benefits of the buckler if you do that – and you also lose all the class benefits  that are based on the buckler.

A Traditional  Duellist is just someone who fights in duels with a buckler and falcata –  however, the very best will have spent years following specialist training regimes.  A basic Traditional Duellist might just study for proficiency with a falcate and buckler, but to be recognized as a master is more difficult.  There are not many ways to become a master duellist in the traditional style.

Buckler Duellist (Fighter Archetype) – the approach chosen by most characters who choose to make a career as a Traditional Duellist.  When they gain Level Six they are known as master Dualists.   

Duellist (Combat Feat) – This feat give a character with basic falcata and buckler skills a boost.  Someone with this feat and, at least, BAB 6 might be awarded Master Duellist status.

Modern

Also known as ‘The Light Blade Style’ in some areas. The rapier is the primary weapon of the Modern Duellist, but the style is flexible enough that it can be used with any light blade.  It doesn’t have the long history of the other two styles, but has been adopted by the aristocracy as a ‘Noble Sport’ and many young nobles get their first taste of swordplay in a duelling area.  Because of this it has become widespread and is available in many places, and is often learned by the middle classes as a way of showing their status.  General seen as the least effective style of Duelling, it tends to be looked down on by hard-core duellists.

Its ‘real life’ equivalent (in this game) is European duelling culture, and the fencing/duelling schools of the 17th and 18th century.

Based on the rapier and light weapons generally, the Modern Style lends itself well to two weapons fighting techniques.  Where a Traditional Duellist uses a Buckler in the off-hand, the  Modern Duellist can use a second weapon, although the Parrying Dagger is the favoured weapon, certainly among nobles and those who ape them.  Note that all the normal rules for two weapon fighting still apply.

A Modern Duellist is just someone who fights in duels with a light blade, most often a rapier. However, the very best will have spent years following specialist training regimes.  A basic modern Duellist might just be proficient with a rapier, or other light blade, but to be recognized as a master is more difficult.  There are not many ways to become a master duellist in the modern style.

Learned Duellist (Fighter Archetype) – This is a career path taken mainly by fighters with an aristocratic background, of one sort or another.  It is a good way to improve your status in aristocratic society.

Duellist (Prestige Class) –  this is the most common career path for a Modern Master Duellist, as it offers a straightforward route into high level duelling for characters from many classes.  Rogues and Bards are the obvious beneficiaries by any ‘combat’ character will have proficiency with rapiers and light blades, and most other classes can learn proficiency with at least one light blade. It is a common route for NPCs with the Aristocrat NPC class, as it can help them gain and maintain status in Aristocratic Circles.

There are many general feats and traits that will help a Modern Duellist improve their duelling ability.

Types of Duel

All duels follow the Paizo duelling rules – or they are not recognized as proper duels.  However, there are many ways they can be interpreted.

Sparring Duels

Duels intended for practice.  These are part of the everyday world of the duellist, and they help the duellist improve and learn better duelling techniques. They generally take place in a duelling salon somewhere in a duelling or sword school. They are fought to the first blood – and there is always a cleric or medic standing by.  Participants used matched weapons and rarely use armour – duelling salons normally provide a selection of weapons for participants to use.  More skilled duellist may use masterwork weapons –  however, both participants will use weapons of the same quality.

Formal Duel

Again, these may take place in a Duelling Salon although they may also happen under the watchful eye of a number of ‘seconds’.  While each participant supplies a second to support them – many duels are watched by a number of independent seconds, who can act as legal witnesses if the outcome of the duel is called into question.  Equipment is agreed between the participants, but should be equal or equivalent.  Formal duels can be fought to First Blood, Unconscious, or Death. 

In my games – first blood requires a medic present, unconscious requires the presence of a priest capable of raise dead or the equivalent, although ‘To the Death’ does not require any medical support available.  No formal duel can be started without the specific OOC consent of both players.

Combat Duel

If a Duel is called, and accepted, in a combat situation – weapons, armour and external assistance are only controlled by the ‘honour’ of the participants.  If an opponent cheats – so be it.

Peter Gasgano

Peter Gasgano first came to life back in 1999, as an NPC for a game I was running at a precursor to PlayByWeb, based on a home-brew Sage class. He became a PC in another game at RPoL running D&D 2.5 (Skills and Powers), before reverting to an NPC in a NWN persistent world, and eventually turning up in Pathfinder game I ran. In between he was a PC in a couple of ‘Tavern’ style games. Now he has grown powerful enough to be an Immortal in my latest game world.

This biography of my long-standing sage, has been ‘written by’ another long-standing character, who also has an interest in collecting information, and will probably serve as my ‘Senior Sage’ now that Gasgano is so important. I might write up Flower’s biography one day.


A biography of Peter Gasgano – as told by Flower Nightsky, Advisor and Librarian to Sir Joromi Doxaro, Lord of Holbridges.

I first met Peter when he come to Berghof to visit the Nightsky Monastary, in the hope of seeing their famous books of prophesy and, while he was refused access to the prophesies, he stayed with me for a few weeks, to learn what he could of the area and the order.  He was interested many things, his current field of study was people and societies – so he collected stories about individuals, groups and societies.  Eventually, he published a paper on the people and history of Berghof.  In return for my help, he told me about his long life and experiences – which I duly wrote down and published as a short biography. 

Peter, or as he is often known, Gasgano, is a small lithe man, not particularly strong, nor light on his feet – but gifted with love of knowledge and the ability to learn, with a knack of rooting out things that few others can find.   He isn’t particularly gregarious, although he is personable and people feel comfortable in talking to him.  Even when his notebook comes out and he starts writing things down.

His early years were spent on a farm, as a child of reasonably wealthy parents – who rented out their lands to tenant farmers.  While not robust, and not interested in the physical work of farming, Peter turned his mind to the academic side of farming.  Before long he had a good understanding of crop rotations, complementary planting, fertilizers and laboursaving systems.  He also had interest in herbs and, particularly, fungi.  Eventually, his father found him and apprenticeship with a sage called Reece, in Angasa.

He was soon sent to Galinia, to act as support for a group of adventurers who were clearing and exploring the land ready for recolonization.  Gasgano’s role was to bolster agricultural production for the clans that had remained behind and to offer support in the form of herbal remedies to the party, as well as recording the wildlife he encountered.  It went well, and he was eventually offered the role of Chief Herald for the newly reformed state.  All went well until, after a trip to Holy Isle to meet the Raven King of Armes, he returned to the land of his birth expecting to reconnect with his family.  Things did not go as planned, and he was caught up in a magical gate-trap which transported him to a different plane – and into the middle of a war between two competing religious factions.

Initially disappointed with their ‘catch’, his new colleagues realised Gasgano’s worth when they found a copy of the Book of the Dead, in the dungeons of a necromancer, and he was able to translate some of it.  That included a spell that allowed him to open a gate to the Paths of the Dead.  The Paths of the Dead surround a world and, if you know how, you can use them to travel rapidly from one point of the world to another.    However, he was soon scrabbling for other, defensive, spells as he and his group fought their way through The Paths to their enemy’s headquarters for the decisive battle.  His use of the book attracted the attention of Ankoo[i] (who is a servant of Aroon[ii], god of the underworld) who taught him how to use the book to travel between planes, and thus find a way home.  However, that made it easier for Gasgano to translate some of the more complex parts of the text, and he worked out how he could absorb some of the powers that were held in the book.

Eventually he summoned a Guiding Light, which led him from The Paths to The Boatman and eventually onto the realms of the goddess Takri[iii].  Takri’s role in her Pantheon is to ensure that souls got to their proper destination, and in this case, seeing as Peter wasn’t dead, he managed to convince her to allow a Guiding Light to show him the way back to his original plane.

He studied with a cleric of The Ruby Sorceress[iv] who sold resurrection to adventurers, and was at the destruction of an Artefact created  for a follower of the Four Horsemen[v] – then studied the religious library that priest had kept.

By this time he was well versed in the Paths of the Dead.  He could manipulate the borders with our world and move between those planes at ease.  He could also control the unquiet spirits of the paths and, if it was required, undead on this plane as well.  And he is the Master of Reincarnation.  Should he ever be killed, he was able to hold his spirit together, and then reform a new body 24 hours later.  He had become an immortal.

He must have sensed a kindred spirit in me, because he invited me to visit his home.  He lives on a permanent demi-plane, somewhere on the Astral Plane.  We travelled via the Path of the Dead, of course, and that alone was an experience worthy of note. The Paths are grey/green, with little or no other colour at all – it is a bit like looking at the word through a pair of heavily misted spectacles. They are full of the unquiet dead, souls who have not released their hold on the living world, or who do not have a coin to pay the ferryman. They clamour around trying to steal life essence, in the misguided belief that they can return to the living world, or trying to steal coins that they may pay their way forwards.  Gasgano constructed a barrier around us and they parted to leave us a way through, although they were always close and moaning softly  – although unable to reach us.  They, and their moaning, accompanied us all the time we were on the Paths of the Dead.

Then there was a very short trip into the Astral Plane, before Gasgano opened a way into his own home.  We entered into a small garden surrounded by fruit bushes and walls slung with climbing plants.  A shallow stream flowed from a wall fountain to make a pond in the middle of the garden, which was surrounded by trees, many bearing nuts, which obscured the sky and left us in dappled shade.  On one side a door leads into a small house.  There is a central living area a main suite for Gasgano and smaller rooms for guests.  While we needed to collect our own water and fruits from the garden, the house itself was kept clean and neat by an invisible servant. A flight of stairs led down …

Into the most comprehensive library I have ever seen.    Chambers filled with books and scrolls of all sorts – there is one with general works, another dedicated to natural sciences such as agriculture, herbs and fungi.  A third contains Gasgano’s own writings on the people and societies of our world, while another contains his books and research notes on death, the Paths of the Dead and other similar topics.  It was most impressive.

A door from the other side of the garden led to the Sunset Land.  A large red sun hung on the horizon, throwing the cool shadows of evening across a pleasant parkland dotted with large trees and small open air amphitheatres, all linked by narrow paths..    Small group of people congregated under trees to discuss lore and theories, while some of the amphitheatres hosted a ‘teacher’ holding forth of their favourite theories and philosophies.  Mostly this led to quiet debate, although occasionally voices were raised in fiercer debate of the finer or philosophical points of an argument.

We didn’t stop for long, before Gasgano returned us to this mundane world and the tasks of daily life.  However, that was a journey that I will never forget, and one that changed my outlook on life.  I have always followed a path of physical and mental development and trained both my mind and body to deal with the rigours of life – and my upbringing at the Nightsky monastery gave me a healthy respect for books and reading.  However, now I have taken the step of deliberately searching out new information and recording it as best I can, in the hope that one day I will be deemed suitable for an afterlife filled with gentle discussion and debate.  Who knows, one might still be able to grow and develop, even after one has died.


[i] Ankou, Breton Celtic: shepherd of souls.

[ii] Arawn, Welsh Celtic: God of the Underworld.

[iii] Takri, Valarez Pantheon: A bespoke Psycopomp written for a game set in Valerez, now translated to my New World Pantheon.

[iv] Wee Jas, Various D&D.  Shepherdess of the dead. She was the story-core behind the death system in NWN worlds that I worked on.

[v] The Four Horsemen, Pathfinder 1 Mythos.

Life, The Universe and Everything: Part 2a

You wait ages for a bus and then two come along at once … Welcome to me thinking things through.


The Structure of the Cosmos: Q

I would have called this a FAQ –  but no one has asked any questions yet 😛  But these are questions that I would want to ask.

Where do the gods live, if there aren’t any Outer Planes?

They live on great demi-planes floating somewhere in the Astral Plane.  A true god is so powerful, their power so awesome and the abilities so great, that their very presence adds a new bit to their realm each day, in much the same way as a Create Demiplane Spell.  The longer a god has existed and the more powerful they are – the larger/greater/ more sophisticated their demiplane is.

Rather than being arranged by alignment, these massive demi-planes are arranged by Pantheon –  so the whole pantheon are lodged together – rather than with others of the same alignment.  The residents of the gods are often clustered together in the oldest and most developed parts of the joint demiplane –  as you move outwards, the joint demiplane become less well-developed and less well sophisticated.  All very similar to an Outer Plane 🙂

There might even be a portal from the prima material directly into the realm of the gods.  Much as the Greek gods had Mount Olympus and the Norse Gods had Bifrost.

Yeah.  I know.  How big does a demiplane have to be a plane in its own right?  A:  As big or as small as you like.  Personally, I see the greatest of gods having almost infinite demi-planes.

Life

‘Normal life’ –Humans, Humanoids, Plants, Animals, Insects and even most Monsters are a collection of all the elements (Earth, Wind, Fire and Air bound together by ethereal glue) supported by a ‘life force’.   More intelligent things have a larger Spark of Life, while things with any sort of innate ability (bards, gnomes, magical beasts, dragons etc) have Motes of Magic, and some heroes and deities have Shards of Immortality. Anything with Int 2+ has a soul that can pass on to the afterlife.

The bodies of creatures such as Elementals, are made up of  one or two elements, although still bound together by ethereal glue. Ethereal beings might just be made of Ethereal glue and a life force.

Death

When a living being dies, the life force is separated from the  physical body, although a small amount of Ethereal glue continues to bind the life force together, for a while.  This means the  life force can’t yet leave The Miasmas that surrounds the Prime Material (Which allows speak to dead, raise dead etc) to work.  However, eventually the Ethereal glue weakens and the Spark of Life, as well as any Motes of Magic dissolve back into the astral plane.

This generally happens to non-sentient beings, those who do not believe in an afterlife and those who do not consciously follow a life philosophy.

The Afterlife

There are a number of things that bind the Life Force into a soul, and stop, or at least delay,the life force from fading away and everything being returned to their component parts.

Philosophy – some people consciously choose to follow or support a philosophy throughout their life,  and their soul may well finish up in a demi-plane created by earlier followers of those views.  For example,  Nature Priests (Druids, Rangers, Adepts etc) who have followed the Green Faith, but not dedicated themselves to a particular deity.  Oracles and some Witches fall into this category.  Note that this not an alignment thing –  there must be a  decision to follow a specific philosophical path.

Belief – a character who follows a religion and has a clear idea of their afterlife, does not fade away.  Instead, they make their way to the planes of their gods, and face judgement there.  This doesn’t happen immediately, as they need to wait until they can leave the Miasmas before they can complete their journey.  However, the soul might be hijacked on that journey (normally by something evil) and taken to a different afterlife instead.  It is much better to have a better funeral service where a priest calls on the services of a Psycopomp to act as a guide and protector.  This includes most ‘normal’ beings as well as any with a character class that gains divine spells.

Shards of Immortality –  heroes who have managed to incorporate at least one Shard of Immortality, but not enough to be truly immortal, do not fade away.  They are not strong enough to follow their own destiny – but follow lesser souls, to the afterlife as promised by their religion or philosophy – They often finish up as members of their chosen celestial (or diabolic) hierarchy.  If they don’t have a philosophy or religion, they need to find a protector quickly, or else their souls will be snapped up to feed the furnaces of hell (or its equivalent)

Immortal –There are a number of ways to achieve some form of immortality, and each have their own rules that should be followed.

Undeath

Undead creatures have found a way to replace their Spark of Life with a Mote of Magic – and they live the unlife that they have chosen – or been given.

In some cases, the ‘gift’ of undeath is passed from undead to undead naturally (Vampires) or through spells (Create Undead) or though sophisticated ceremonies enacted before death (Lich).  In some cases it comes with the ‘price’ of being controlled by the creator while other undead are free willed.

Many undead (Skeletons, Zombies) retain a physical body – but for others such as Ghosts or Wraiths, the elemental part degrades normally and only the Ethereal glue remains to bind the unlife force together.

High level free-willed undead may have incorporated Shard of Immortality – although they are few and far between.

Life, The Universe and Everything: Part 2

This is a refinement of my views of the structure of a fantasy game universe, which should be compatible with most D&D like games. I never did much like the model that has been used, and this makes more sense to me – but it is also flexible enough that it can be used with a variety of models – but still leave enough space for the DM to play 🙂

I know it needs a bit more refinement – but that will come in time. Theses things hang around in the back of my brain for ages, getting tweked and reworked all of the time – however, I don’t think the core of the model will change much.

And yes, I probably do need a decent editor to make it read better 😛


The Structure of the Cosmos

I use a different ‘Cosmic’ structure to most D&D style game settings. My world doesn’t have inner planes and outer planes, or even separate planes for different elements or alignments – I use a simple, much more flexible model.

The Ethereal Plane

Back in the beginning there was chaos – nothing really existed, it was all just ‘Stuff’. I have no idea where the stuff came from – we just have to accept that it was there. Although it would make an interesting project for a theoretical research sage.

Then something happened. There are many different explanations for this – The great Ey-Oy swimming, the natural separation of heavy ‘stuff’ from light ‘stuff’ – probably as many as there are religious groupings. It doesn’t really matter how it happened, what is important is that it happened – because it separated ‘stuff’ out into five different things. Fire, Air, Earth, Water and Aether – the elements. We all know what Fire, Air, Earth and Water look like – but Aether has always been a source of interest for sages, because no one is really sure what it is.

Most sages think it was the original ‘stuff’ and that bits of it changed to make up the other elements – however, they all agree that it is everywhere in the whole of the physical cosmos. If you think of a giant snow-globe – with red flecks for fire, white for air, brown for earth and blue for water – shake it up and watch them all swirl around mixing up and swirling around each other. The Aether is the liquid that they swirl in – it touches all four elements, it is everywhere – and it makes it all possible. Without Aether everything would just fall to pieces.

The Elemental Planes

One thing the sages can agree on, is that the four physical elements have an affinity for themselves – and they clump together. Think of lots of little magnets sticking together, or fat forming into greasy clumps after you roasted a joint, or even starlings flocking together. Again, it doesn’t matter how or why – it just happens. And that forms the elemental planes.

The sages argue about how many there are – some say there is just one plane of each type of element, others argue that there might be many different planes of each element. The most radical argue that there could be planes where two elements come together – Fire and Earth, to make a Magma plane.  Who, in this tiny little bubble of a world, can know all of these things?

One thing the sages are sure of is that the Aether, the Ethereal Plane, touches all of those other elemental planes, and holds them together.

The Astral Plane

Is the key to life. Some sages say it is the life blood of the primal creator god Ey-Oh, who sacrificed itself to create life in the universe, others say it was released from a water droplet that fell and burst, and I am sure that there are other ideas out there as well. However, they all agree that The Astral Plane is the source of all life.

However, rather than a snow-globe, the Astral is more like a tangled ball of yarn, threads stretch everywhere and practically impossible to separate. Indeed, you can see one of those threads if every you enter the Astral Plane – all you need to do is watch your own silver cord stretch back to your material body. However, there are many other threads, and only a few of them stretch back to a living being. Worse still, the Astral is a matted mess of more than one type of thread – think of strands of spider silk, mixed with the down from a baby’s bottom and the fluff of cotton-wool – among any other type of thin fibre that comes to mind. And those treads wind right through the Ethereal and touch everything in the cosmos.

Sages are not sure what these threads are, or where they go, but they are sure that there are at least three things involved – either as threads themselves or, as most think, caught up within them.

Sparks of Life

The first thing that any form of life needs – from the smallest simplest thing swimming in a primordial sea, right through to the greatest of the gods. Some sages argue that the bigger your Spark, the greater your life force – others argue that you can accumulate more Life Sparks. Others just say they don’t know. What they do all agree on, is that every living thing has at least one Spark of Life.

Motes of Magic

Sages believe that Motes are the source of all magic in the cosmos. Mages learn how to manipulate motes when they read their spell books, priests learn prayers s that grant them divine access to motes, while sorcerers just have an innate ability to manipulate them. Some sages even say that sorcerers and bards have motes of magic in their makeup. It doesn’t really matter, of course, so long as the magic works.

Shards of Immortality

The stuff of the gods. However not everyone who has Shards of Immortality in their makeup is a god, and they aren’t even immortal – however, they have taken the first steps along that way. However, as you incorporate more Shards, you may become immortal, and may (eventually) become

The Prime Material Plane

There isn’t just one of them, there are lots, because each world is its own self-contained plane. No one is quite sure how they came about, but a Prime Material plane is where bits of all the elements exist close to each other. The world itself is a chunk of Elemental Earth, the Sky is Elemental Air, the sea is Elemental Water and the sun Elemental Earth – and somehow they all co-exist together in the same little bit of the Ethereal Plane. Sages debate it endlessly. Most agree that there must be something special about that particular piece of the Ethereal. The Interventionists maintain that it a part of Ey-Oh that wasn’t completely destroyed, the Naturalists argue that it is a small piece of the original drop that remains, still others argue that it is a ripple in the fabric of the astral. None of them really know, but there are many different theories.

All believe that it needn’t just be one piece of each element. Moons are generally seen as an extra piece of Elemental Earth, while dual suns are each made of Elemental Fire. Some argue that that ‘extras’ will all slowly move closer together until they coalesce into one large piece. Some even argue that there is Elemental Fire inside the great ball of Elemental Earth, which would explain volcanoes and magma. But none of them really know.

The Miasma

What all the sages agree on, is the Miasma. This is a region close the the Prime Material where both the Ethereal and Astral planes act differently to normal. Some describe them as ‘thicker’ others describe them as ‘more dense’, while another group describes them as ‘closely intermingled’. The all agree, however, that something is different, and most believe that The Miasma creates a sort of border plane around the Prime Material – although it isn’t consistent. Some recognise it as a Border Ethereal, some as the Plane of Shadows, while still others call it the Paths of the Dead.

However you see it, all three seem to co-exist in the same space at the same time, like some twisted, not quite right, version of both planes, which have become twisted and interlinked.