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.

Starting a New Year

The Campaign Rounds, in my RPoL game, happen every RL six months but represent a year in game time – it amuses me to use the dates of the summer and winter solstices to start campaign rounds.  We started off running campaign rounds every time the group levelled up (I was using a group levelling system) – but that didn’t work well when we recruited new players, because they were never going to catch up.  However, that, and the XP system I have put in place, might be a good blog post later.

Anyway, we are coming up to the start of the next Campaign Round, it will be year 4715 and players will have to age all of their characters (any entourage and secondary PC characters, as well as their main PC) by one year.  Better news is that existing Entourage members can advance a level – assuming they haven’t reached their permissible level limit (1/2 the level of their PC), or their level cap (L5).  Secondary PCs, such squires or cohorts purchased with a feat, are not affected because they level according to their own rules.  But most importantly, it is the time they get income from their investments and get to develop the next part of their Character’s (non-adventuring) story.

As DM, I control quite a lot of resources, and while my NPCs each have their own agenda, I like to support the PCs when I can.  I always appreciate it when people interact with the structure of my world and, while all things should be a challenge, I try to use NPC resources sympathetically.  So I tend to have a quick look at each Business, town or estate, before time, just so I am aware of the problems that they might face – and the options that are open to them, should I be asked for advice.  These are my thoughts:-

First, I think, the political climate is important. The King-Regent of Brevoy and The Rostland Aldori are gearing up for a civil war – with a large part of Rostland as the prize.  Midmarch is on the border, and we have PCs with family, and allegiances, in different camps.  We know that the Gnomes of Jovvox (who sell weapons in bulk) are building a shop in Ringbridge (close to The Aldori) and we think that members of the Rostland Aldori have been speaking with their ‘cousins’ in Mivon.

Other things affect the development climate as well.  V&A Shipping will be opening up their first external trade link (quite an important occasion) with a jetty in Jovvox and regular services between Tusk and Jovvox.  They are also negotiating for permission of build a jetty in Mivon.   Zelona will take ownership of an ancient keep found in the Narlemarch.  Henry isn’t interested in colonising that area so, while Henry is prepared to be supportive, Zelona and her colonists are ‘on their own’.

Henry’s main plan is to push Midmarch westward to the East Sellen River, an expansion which will (eventually) cover two ‘interesting’ sites.  An old villa, once home to a mage of some sort, which should really be occupied to prevent its re-population by monsters, bandits or tribes.  And Bogside, a village on the marshy borders of Hooktongue Lake, which could be taken over – once the current despotic overlord has been dealt with.

But back to Midmarch:

Tusk

Tusk has been growing rapidly, and has progressed from a simple village into a small city in just a few short years – and that is starting to create size and pressure problems.  There are three core districts:  Central district (Civic buildings temples etc) is almost full.  Port Henry (The dock area) has ONE development slot left.  Merchant (home of traders etc) has more room,   but (for aesthetic reasons) should probably be saved for the other mercantile businesses which will surely arrive.  Outside the walls there are Lakeside (which is filling up fast) as a military / trade district.  College (which is what it sounds like) and Ivory Nob, the putative ‘Noble District’.

What would I do?  I think I would build a seventh district, to close the outer ring of the city, and start paying smelly and low status developments to move there.  Build your own ‘Workers district’, rather than let it develop haphazardly.  Things like the Orphanage, The Grain Silos, The Brewery (have you ever lived close to a brewery?) and the Leather Works.  It adds a point of consumption (which they would have to pay from taxes) but it establishes the structure of the city and helps with planning.  It makes it easier to build an outer wall, gives another water border and makes planning and zoning really easy for the next few Campaign Rounds.

Oston

Oston is almost full as well however, the senior residents (Oleg and Svetlana) have decided to limit the size of the town, and won’t allow development of new districts, because they want to ‘live in the country’ – rather than a big town or city.  A one district Small Town fits that model well.  It also fits in with Henry’s views of a rural economy to the north of Midmarch – which is where all the good agricultural land is.

What would I do?  Oston has barracks for its troops, and therefore has two defence points.  This means Oston can have two Hamlets (secondary settlements) in their town hex. Oleg and Svetlana are cool with that, so long as there is an agricultural / country feel about such developments.

The Others

I don’t see any real issues for any of the other estates.  I expect Marik Metals will develop their new mine and I guess the Vallani estate will start on building canals soon.  WSM needs to pay back debts this round, and V&A Shipping need to remember that they will want quite a bit of cash (to develop in Mivon) soon –  and work out how to raise that out of the campaign/BP rules system.

And my advice for Zelona, if you want a rural/wilderness holding, get your village built first – then look at extending into the surrounding wilderness areas.  You might be able to help fund that development by building suitable hamlets (say Fishing and a Green Lumber Camp) in the Old Keep Hex.  Last thought is that you will need to balance Econ, Loy and Stab carefully and use the space in your village and your fishing hamlet wisely – while you have more usable space, I struggled when building the Northern Narlmarch Reserve.   However, you could also build a small town (as Tatzleford will do) which would make your planning a bit easier, but might not suit your RP needs.

Taxes and the Economy

Being in lockdown, with little to do and bored with updating my wiki – I took a shower.  Did you know that showers are one of the best places for thinking, ever?  My campaign system incorporates taxes – and I had a rough idea of how they, and the economy, worked – but by the time I came out of the shower, I had it all sussed out.  Now I need to write it down before I forget.

There are only three different taxes – and they are very straight forward.

Ordinary Taxes

Ordinary Taxes are the main taxes that everyone pays, it goes to the Council or Lord who ‘owns’ the settlement and is used to help expand and maintain the settlement.  It is based on the economic value of the main businesses in the settlement and is currently set at 20% of the economy.  However, it doesn’t come directly from the settlements businesses – but to understand that, you need to understand the three tier economy.

Primary Economy

The Primary Economy consists of the main businesses in town that are run by the PCs or significant NPCs.  If it contributes Economy, Loyalty, Stability, Defence or Magic Items  – it is a main business and part of the primary economy.

Example:  An inn contributes +3Economy and +1Loyalty to a settlement,  and is always part of the primary economy.  It directly employs waiting staff, bar staff, cooks, housekeeping staff, stable staff etc.  It rents rooms, sells food and drink and may have other facilities (such as meeting rooms) as well.  But it hardly pays any taxes – directly.

Secondary Economy

The secondary economy represents those businesses that directly service the Primary Economy.  It is generally run by the middle classes and less important NPCs, and includes craftsmen, professionals and the moderately wealthy.  There are many more people involved in the Secondary Economy that there are in the primary economy.

Example:  the Hotel buys meat from a butcher, veg from the market, crockery from the potter, beer from the brewery, wine from the wine merchant …  The inn needs cutlery, pots, pans, bed linen, laundry services and many other items.  The Commoners need somewhere to live, so the Secondary Economy includes tenements and other rented facilities owned by, and providing an income for, the minor aristocrats and lesser NPCs of the town.  All those members of the Secondary Economy have to pay taxes and fees, and they pass those costs on to the Primary economy, as part of the cost of doing the job.

Tertiary Economy

This consist of the commoners who supply the Secondary Economy.  The brewery needs barley and grains, the butcher needs animals, and the market needs eggs and vegetables.  Somewhere along the line someone has supplied metal to a smith or tinker, material to a seamstress and carried wine to the wine-merchant.  It consists of farm labourers, porters, teamsters, cleaners, spinners, weavers, woodcutters, quarrymen, apprentices, servants – and all sorts of other low skilled commoners. And there are more people involved in the Tertiary Economy than in the Secondary.  These guys all have to pay taxes and fees as well – and these get passed on as well. 

The Effect

The economy is like an iceberg – you only ever see the top 10%,  but there is much more going on underneath.  So while ‘Ordinary Tax’ is based on the economic value of the businesses in a settlement, the money doesn’t actually come from the business itself – it comes from all the people who are involved in the business or servicing it via the Secondary or Tertiary economies.

Nor does it come in the form of income or corporation tax – those are much too difficult to police.  Instead, there are fees for using the market, property taxes, fees for passing through the gates – every one finishes up paying bits of tax, according to their station. However, those costs finish up reflected in the prices that the Inn above charge. 

It is important to remember that these taxes are assessed in BPs – which are an indeterminate mix of cash, goods and services.  So some commoners might pay in labour (sweeping streets, painting bridges, carting refuse).  Some members of the middle classes might pay in a goods or services – a supply of torches, or perhaps pens, ink or maybe even paper or a signwriter might ‘refresh’ some of the town’s signs each year.  There are many options – including coins. 

Simple Tax

This is the tax that is paid to the overlord to help grow and maintain the region / province, country or empire.  Rather than being a set percentage, Henry of Midmarch collects Road Tax – this comes in the shape of road tolls and settlement income raised from goods entering or leaving a settlement.  To keep it simple, Henry collects all the income generated by Roads or Highways within the Campaign System Rules.  He does not claim the income generated by canals.

However, a different game could use a different way of collecting this tax.

Development Tax

A Development Tax, is a fee paid when you are granted permission to build or develop something. 

Settlements of all sorts are required to keep Economy, Loyalty and Stability in balance, if they don’t bad things start to happen in their town.  Investors and business-folks are mainly interested in developments with an Economic benefit for them.  To balance that, the council has to add points of Loyalty and Stability to their town – they can either do this out of their tax money, or they can ask the investor for a contribution towards expenses. 

In Midmarch this has settled at roughly 0.5bp per every point of unbalanced economy –  the town has to find another 0.5bp from its own resources to keep the balance.  This is a discretionary tax – it is normally lower for ‘friends’ and higher for ‘strangers’.   Religious building don’t add to the Economy but do add Loyalty and Stability – so they are often encouraged, tax-free, to help balance economic developments. 

It happens on a provincial level too.  Henry of Midmarch claims the right to charge a fee every time someone wants to settle a hex.  He has a sliding scale of fees for his followers – first hex free, next six hexes taxed at 1bp per hex, 2bp per hex beyond that.  It is higher for strangers.  The right to settle at Tazleford was bought by an elf, who paid for it in a heady mix of gems, jewellery and magic items.  That was three or four times the cost that Henry would have charged one of his favourites.   Indeed, he has been known to give hexes away free to people who have done him a service.

Extra taxes

I have described a full tax system here – however a monarch can charge whatever taxes they think are appropriate.  In England / Britain we have had taxes on the number and size of windows, taxes to fund ship building, or special taxes to support an army.  Not to mention import and export duties on all sorts of items – at one point merchants had to pay a tax to be able to export wool that had been produced in England.

As a DM, you should be prepared to throw in strange taxes if it suits you.  As a player, you should expect them …

Mass Combat

Overview

I have never found a set of mass combat rules in a D&D style game that I liked – but I never really knew why. However, sometime ago I saw a blog that explains it perfectly. The quote below sums it up.

“All of these games perpetuate the flaw that kept Chainmail from catching on in the first place: in order to play them, you have to stop playing D&D.

D&D is not a war game. All the design decisions that make a good war game lead to a bad D&D game, and vice versa.

-Because war games are played competitively, they must be fair. D&D campaigns can only achieve longevity when they are unfair in favor of the players.“

There is more to it, and I ‘sort of’ like the system he comes up with – but that doesn’t work all that well with my overall campaign rules. So I have come up with my own version.

Base Concept

I have read mythology and fantasy books for years, and whenever they describe wars, the action focusses on the heroic individuals and the actual battle take place in the background. The Siege of Troy, for example, focuses on Paris, Achilles, Ajax and other heroes – not on the battle. In Celtic myth Cu Chulain fights off a whole army almost single handled – but the stories deal with the small encounters rather than mass battles. In The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien focuses on the heroes at the Battle of the Black Gate – and I could go on.

It is that style of heroic battle that I want to portray in my mass combat rules. The battle is still there and becomes the backdrop for normally D&D style small group combats – with the PCs as the Armies’ heroes. Importantly the outcome of the PC encounters affects the morale of their army, and adds to their saves and combat rolls.

And that matches my experience as a re-enactor :] For years I have been a member of the Sealed Knot and, more recently, The Wimborne Militia re-enacting battles from 17th century Britain. I am never really aware of the overall state of the battle, apart from in the most general terms, because I am too busy fighting my own fight. The same was true when I was in command of a company or regiment involved in the battle – I was given a specific task, then relied on runners from a General to tell me what the overall position was, or to change my tasking.

I want to create the same sort of effect in my D&D game.

The Campaign Rules

My campaign rules are designed to support a long running game where the players can build up churches, businesses and strongholds – and even develop an independent state, if they want to – and these mass Combat rules need to work with those rules as well. That is particularly important at the moment as my primary campaign, runs on RPoL and can have fifteen or sixteen PCs split into three different adventuring parties.

Under those rules ‘Military Presence’ is defined by Defence Points. Each Defence point is, roughly, about a CR7 encounter (after very basic run-through combat) – and will form the basis of Army size/effectiveness calculations. To do this the size of the unit gets smaller and the toughness of the troops increases. So, perhaps, 10 guardsmen, 7 veterans, 5 light cavalry or 3 heavy cavalry, each make up 1dp of troops. And that makes sense to me, because all of those units have the same cost in the Campaign Rules (1bp) but if you want tougher troops you have to pay them more and buy them better equipment, so it balances out.

To find the total strength of the army I use the additive method found in the DM section of the PF rules. The table below is an extract.

Army CR Calculations

CRWeighting
165
2100
3135
4200
5265
6400
7535
8800
91070
101600
112130
123200
134270
146400
158530
1612800
1717100
1825600
1934100
2051200
2168300
22102400
23137000
24204800
25273000
26409600
27546000
28819200
291092000
301638400

Find the CR value of the unit in the left-hand side, then take the weighting from the right-hand side. Add the weightings together and then cross-reference that total to find the total CR of the Army.

So for example a very small army might consist of 4dp of guards and 3 DP of light cavalry

  • 1dp Guards = 535
  • 1dp Guards = 535
  • 1dp Guards = 535
  • 1dp Guards = 535
  • 1dp Lgt Cav = 535
  • 1dp Lgt Cav = 535
  • 1dp Lgt Cav = 535

Total = 3745

3745 = CR12 army.

For that example, I could just as easily have said 535* 7 = 3475 and got the same result.

This all assumes that the Army has a suitable NPC command structure in place, which should be more or less in place from their other functions in the game world.

However, this system allows us to be a bit more flexible. Perhaps a Cleric, Wizard and Ranger also live in town, and they come along to support the army …

  • Army = 3475
  • L4 Cleric = 135
  • L7 Wizard = 400
  • L6 Ranger = 265

Total = 4075 – or a CR13 army.

Note: Characters with at least one level in a PC or Prestige Class.

Example

Midmarch has an army worth 44 defence points, assuming that every unit musters as requested – that gives an Army strength of 23,540 – or a CR 17 army. However, there are a number of NPCs or inactive PCs who come along in support of the army.

  • Henry (Aristo/Scion) CR6 – 400
  • Rikka (Magus) CR5 – 265
  • El (Fighter) CR3 – 135
  • Abbess Beatrix (Cleric) CR3 – 135

Bringing the total strength up to 24,475 – which is still a CR17 army, but it doesn’t need much (perhaps the Roths) to push it up to CR 18.

It makes combining armies straight forward as well. For example House Khavortorov have 15dp (8025) of normal troops and supporters worth another 1465 – giving an army strength of 9,490 or a CR15 army.

Should Midmarch and Khavortorov join up to fight together – their total is 24,475+9,490 = 33,965. Or a CR 18 army. Again it doesn’t need much (just a L4 PC) to tip it over to a CR 19 army.

Making it work.

The battle ebbs and flows around the battlefield, often in sight of the heroic PCs battle. At the end of each combat round one of the PCs rolls for their army, DM rolls for the enemy. Opposed D20 roll – modified by the Army CR and mods awarded from the PC battle. Keep a total of Victory Points.

Army wins by 15 or moreDominant win+3 Victory points
Army wins by 10 or moreWin+2 Victory Points
Army wins by 5 or moreWinning Draw+1 Victory Point
 DrawNo Change
Army loses by 5 or moreLosing DrawNo Change
Army loses by 10 or moreLose-1 Victory point
Army loses by 15 or moreHeavy loss-2 Victory points
PCs get the better of the round +1 morale modifier to Army combat roll
PCs clearly winning +2 morale modifier to Army combat roll
PCs win Heroic Combat +5 morale modifier to Army combat roll, and
+5 Victory points.

The battle ends at the same time as the PCs Heroic Combat.

Victory Conditions

If an army ever reaches -25 Victory Points, it routs and runs away. It might be reformed later, but it suffers a -4cr depletion penalty until it can get back to its barracks and recruit new soldiers. Getting a routed army to reform is an RP challenge for the PCs. A routing army may be pursued by Heroes from the other side, but the victorious army does not chase them.

If no-one routs – then both sides retreat to their pre-battle formation when the PC heroic combat finishes. Any army who finishes the day with 1+ Victory Points – suffers a -1cr depletion penalty until it can get back to its barracks and recruit new soldiers. Any army who finishes the day with 0- Victory Points – suffers a -2cr depletion penalty until it can get back to its barracks and recruit new soldiers.

Whether the armies reform and fight again next day is down to the commanders on both sides. Either commander can choose to retire and concede the ground – if both choose to stand, the battle starts again the next day (with the cr penalties applied)

Why do it that way? Even a victorious army loses soldiers unless they are re-enforced – and that is hard to do with limited communications and really slow transport. But just as importantly, it means even Victorious leaders have to think about their army strength – especially if they think they need to take on a different army later.

Sieges

Sieges have always been more difficult that open battles, and even taking buildings with light fortification or defence is more difficult than taking, or burning, civilian properties. This is because there are more combat trained people about, that can fill in when required. Under the Campaign rules there are auxiliaries and militia – and then there are all those guys who are too old to go off on active duty. However, they can fire crossbows for the walls, chuck rocks over the battlements, pour hot stuff through murder holes or poke spears at anyone who comes close. So …

  • If the troops are at home (ie not out as part of an army) Defence Point Value for every fortified building, villages with palisades, or towns/cities with walls is doubled.
  • If the troops are away, with the army, the buildings are defended by those people left behind – so defence points still count (but at normal value) if the building or settlement is besieged.

The problem arises when you have a city like Tusk. Three districts are inside the walls – and benefit from defence – but another three are outside the walls and there is nothing to stop a marauding army destroying those districts – when the army is away from home.

Property Law

You wait patiently for a post, and then suddenly two come along almost at the same time. However, one thing leads to another – and it was the last post on settlements that made me think about property. While much of this post could be generally useful – all the examples come directly from the game I run at RPoL. In part that is because I am in the middle of developing a new element for my house campaign rules.

Land Ownership

This section refers to large tracts of land that are owned by Kings, Nobles and Aristocrats.  This ownership is heritable, and can be passed down from generation to generation.

Alloidal – this is the absolute land ownership enjoyed by absolute monarchs.  The land is held by the grace of The Gods and The Sun – or by conquest.   There is no higher authority who can make laws or take the land away from its ruler, except by conquest.

  • This is how Coral the Conqueror held Brevoy.
  • Before Brevoy existed – Lord Surtova,  Lord Olovsky and Sword-Baron Aldori held their land Alloidally. 

Palatine – Palatine states are one stage down from Alloidal states – the ruler owns the land but has a responsibility to a higher authority.  Palatine states are generally required to follow military  policy set by their overlord, use a national currency and pay Simple Tax.  Beyond that, they are free to rule their land as they see fit – they decide the laws, run the courts, tax their people, award titles and make any other decisions they want to.

  • Examples – House Lodkova’s lands.

Manorial – Manors are land granted by a higher ranking authority.  The owner can charge taxes and rent, sell or lease land and properties as they see fit. However, they are required to follow military policy set by their higher ranking authority, use a national currency, pay Simple Tax and follow all the laws of the land.   Manors are a single hex – but an individual may own more than one manor, which combine to create an Honour.

  • Examples of manors include – Ringbridge, Oston, Silverton.
  • Examples of honours include – the leMaistre estate (Newgate, Eastgate, Westgate) and the Vallani estate (Feyfalls, Whiterun)

Tribal Ownership – land owned by a particular tribe and the land is used for their communal benefit.  There might be a chief, and there is probably an elite – but the land belongs to the tribe.  There may well be a treaty arrangement between a tribe and the surrounding manor.

  • This fits the Sootscale Enclave (Kobolds) in Midmarch.

Property Ownership

This section applies to individual properties, rather than to parcels of land. However, It can also include livestock such as farm animals, mule trains etc, wagons, ships, boats and personal property such as weapons and armour.

Freehold – The owner has the right to sell or lease the property onwards but must pay Ordinary Taxes to their higher authority.  The authority normally retains the right to take it back into ownership if the property is abandoned or unused.  This type of ownership is normally reserved for the aristocracy and can be passed down through the generations.

  • Examples include – Henry/Adoven’s estates in Tusk –  and every other building listed in the spreadsheets. 

Leasehold – The owner buys the right to build and use a property for a limited amount of time (often 100 years).  For that time the owner has all the same rights of a freeholder.  However, the property must be returned to the authority at the end of the lease or a new fee paid for an extension. Many buildings in towns and cities are leasehold and are often ‘owned’ by low ranking aristocrats, or NPC craftsmen. They are not recorded in the financial spreadsheets and don’t affect their town’s balance/stats in any way.

  • Examples include – Many of the tenement buildings in Tusk are leased by House Hananki and Lily Teskertin,  who are junior members of the Tusk Aristocracy.  They are then rented out to commoners and other NPCs alike.

Copyhold – most commonly found in the country side, Copyhold is a way for commoners to own property.  Normally this comes in the form of a small piece of land that can be used as a small holding, in return for a fixed service.  That might, for example,  be a responsibility to maintain and repair a section of road.  So long as that obligation is met, the Copyhold remains valid and the commoner holds onto their land.  It can be sold, or passed on to the  next generation –  although that must be approved by the local lord / authority.

  • Examples include –  most of the smallholdings in rural Midmarch.

Owners

There are many ways that a property’s owner can be defined – here are some examples.  These  types of ownership apply to  Letters Patent and can be a signatory of a contract.

Personal – Cass Mordane owns land at Silverton (with Manorial Rights) as well as a Hotel and a Tavern (both freehold property).

Family – DELEM trading is the property of the leMaistre family.  It owns freehold property in Midmarch and across the southeast of Brevoy.

Joint – WSM is jointly owned by Domitius Solanus and Kendrick Winters.  It also works well for established adventuring parties and mercenary companies.

Charity – The Three Ladies School was set up to be self-funding and self-supporting.

Administrative – The Governor of Midmarch own a small estate that provides services to Midmarch.  Tusk Council owns a number of buildings in the city.

Communal – some properties are built and owned by the whole community,

Letters Patent

Letters patent are a way for a ruler to assign titles, land or a privilege to people, groups or families.  In many cases they can be granted by a representative on behalf of their ruler.

Patents of Rights – A Patent of Rights is a document that confers a specific right on an individual, often as a reward, or as payment for a service.  Patents of Rights are heritable and can be passed on to succeeding generations.

  • Examples Include Marik’s exclusive right to negotiate business with the Sootscale Kobolds.

Land Patents – Patents of Palatine land ownership must be signed and delivered by a ruler.  Patents of Manorial land ownership are often signed and issued by the ruler’s representatives.  Other types of land or property ownership do not need a Patent, just a contract with the Local Lord –  as they do not confer any special rights.

Patents of Nobility – The document that confers a title on an individual.  Peerage Titles (such as Duke or Count) are only conferred by Kings.  Kings, Dukes and Princes can all appoint Barons.  Lord and Lord-Dominus titles are often issued by the king’s representatives against given criteria.  In Midmarch the Governor can award the title of Lord-Dominus and can recommend the title of Lord – according to The Military Policy.  Patents of Nobility are heritable, but normally contain a clause that links them to the manors that triggered the ennoblement.  (Those manors / resources are inherited alongside the title – other properties may be left to other hiers)

The Terms

In Midmarch, Lord Henry LeMaistre, Governor of Midmarch is the ‘overlord’.

Simple Tax –  In Midmarch,  Simple Taxes are paid to the Governor to support provincial running costs. They are the fee you pay to ‘buy’ the land from Henry the Governor and the income from any roads that pass through your lands.

Ordinary Tax – in Midmarch Standard Tax is set at 29% – and is calculated and paid automatically (by your business managers) within the Campaign Rules.  It goes to fund and support the settlement the building is in.

Military Policy – Different levels of Noble title are awarded to those who provide different levels of military support to the state/province when required by the Overlord\Governor.  (Lord Dominus = 5 defence points, Lord = 10dp, Baron 15dp)

Settlements

Overview

Settlement types have been used to in D&D style games for as long as I can remember.  The first edition DMG had a nice table (p173) that was used for randomly determining the contents of a hex, which also include population guidelines. There has been something similar in every other rule-set that I have used – because it is such a handy tool for the world designer. 

There have been, and still are, many different RL definitions of settlement types.  They have changed historically and the change with jurisdiction, so in my definitions I have chosen something that ‘sort-of’ fits at least one RL definition, and fits in with the standard progression as seen in various game rules.  Where appropriate I match the descriptions up with examples from my House Rules and assign an average population to help with my number crunching and population calculations – although the number of people living in each type of settlement could vary significantly.  A settlement should have the people that you need it to have J

Minor Settlements

Single Dwelling

Literally just one single dwelling – it might be home to an extended family running a smallholding, a group of hunters, a hermit, a watchtower, or an oracle.   

Under my house rules, a Watchtower, Base Camp, Smallholding, Tree House, Holy Grove and Witch Hut all count as single dwellings.  Average population = 10.

Thorp

When two or three dwellings comes together, they are called a thorp.  They are too small to support a church, council, market, shops or businesses and tend to revolve around rural activities such as smallholding, fishing.   They do not have a might, however, have a shared barn or other minor infrastructure.  As a community they are relatively self-sufficient, but have to take their excess good to the nearest village or town to sell.

Under my house rules thorps form naturally in the hinterlands of towns and villages.  A typical thorp might contain two smallholding families and a family of ‘river-folk’ who make a living from fish, waterfowl and reeds. Most residents are commoners and you can find low levels of many country crafts  (basket work, carpentry, trapping, hunting, bow-making etc).  Average Population = 30.

Hamlet

A Hamlet is step up from a Thorp.  It is large enough to support a few businesses but relies on the administrative systems of a Village, Town or City.  It might be based around a farm, a vineyard, a ranch, a mine, a country house, a monastery –  there are many possibilities.

Under my house rules a hamlet counts as a secondary settlement and can be found in the hinterlands of primary settlements, although there are strict limits on the number of hamlets each settlement can support.  Hamlets are nearly always planned developments that needs investment, and they increase the number of Thorps and single dwellings a hex can support. Average Population = 200, however only about half of these people live in the hamlet, the rest live  in single dwellings and thorps close to it.

Rural Settlements

Village

A village is the main rural settlement – it is just about large enough to support a few businesses and the administrative system for the area.  However, it could be managed by a Village Elder, the Lord of the Manor or by a Bailiff (as part of a larger estate).

Under my house rules, a Village is the first of the primary settlements and ‘controls’ the whole of its hex and oversees any other settlements (Single dwelling, Thorp, Hamlet) in it.  There are restrictions to the number and type of developments available in a village, which makes it a part of the rural economy.  A series of hexes with villages would make a good ‘holding’ for rangers or (perhaps) followers of a farming / rural deity. 

Alternately, a village could also be upgraded (with the right investments) to a town (and then a city or metropolis) and form the hub of a more traditional ‘holding’.

Average Population = 300,  however only about half of these people live in the village,  the rest live  in Single Dwellings and Thorps close to it. (The village’s Hinterland).

Urban Settlements

Town / City / Metropolis

The only real difference between a town, city and metropolis is size – they all have the same sort of thing – only the scale increases.  Urban areas generally serve as a trade nexus, are the home of serious crafts-folk, professionals and the wealthy.  Small towns may have master-crafting weapon-smith, while larger towns and cities might produce progressively more powerful magical items.  The same is true of professionals – you are unlikely to find a lawyer in a village, but many towns will have some sort of legal professional – although the best will congregate in cities or a metropolis.  It is the same with magical service, religious buildings and just about everything else.

Small Town: Average Population = 1,000, however only about half of these people live in the town,  the rest live  in Single Dwellings and Thorps close to it.  (The town’s Hinterland).

Large Town: Average Population = 2,500, however only about half of these people live in the town,  the rest live in Single Dwellings, Thorps and Spontaneous Hamlets close to it.  (The town’s Hinterland).

Small City: Average Population = 7,500, however only about half of these people live in the city,  the rest live in Single Dwellings, Thorps and Spontaneous Hamlets close to it.  (The City’s Hinterland).

Large City: Average Population = 17,500, however only about half of these people live in the city,  the rest live in Single Dwellings, Thorps, Spontaneous Hamlets close to it.  (The City’s Hinterland).

Metropolis: Minimum Population = 25,000, however only about half of these people live in the city,  the rest live in Single Dwellings, Thorps, Spontaneous Hamlets close to it.  (The Metropolis’s  Hinterland).


Spontaneous Settlements

You may have spotted Spontaneous Hamlets in some of the descriptions earlier – but they are toy to help give the hinterland some flavour, rather than a serious investment.  Sometimes a hamlet comes into being without really being owned by anyone or having any great effect on the economy.  You find them in areas where there are a lot of small holdings or thorps – and the people club together to make community benefits.  No one owns enough of the building to be classed as the owner, nor does anyone make enough money for it to be classed as an economic benefit, and as a type of self-help, it doesn’t win any loyalty or stability benefits – it just makes the local commoners lives a bit easier.

Some RL examples might be a village hall, a Community Shop or Bar  (there are examples in the UK at present), a Communal Barn  (I am sure I have read about these in the US) and Communal Brewery (I know of these making wine in Italy).  In all cases the developments themselves are owner jointly by locals, there is minimal profit which is used to maintain the building or is shared out between the local ‘owners’.  However, each of these Communal Developments takes up as much space as their commercial equivalent, and the same rules apply –  no more than three developments and no more than size 4.  There are some examples below –  all of them  barter or exchange goods with the locals.  Visitors, of course, have to pay in good hard cash.

A tavern and shop might be a good combination for areas where many thorps are close together.  The tavern provides a community centre/hub, while the shop sells those everyday things that cost less than 5gp.

A fruit producing region might have a communal brewery and a community tavern to sell the country wines they make.

A craft workshop might make a good community centre in a hilly area.  Equipped with a number of looms and a couple of spinning wheels – the women meet here daily to produce woollen cloth. 

A communal barn might mean that merchants pay a better price for the goods – because they can collect more at a time and don’t have to call at each smallholding.

A communally owned Trade Post could encourage merchants to visit as well as offering, goods for sale and exchange.

While visitors pay in good hard cash, locals and regulars can barter or exchange goods with the locals – and any of these developments can double as a community centre, ‘host barn’ dances or even serves as a school/nursery for the local children.

But Why?

From a World Builder’s perspective – it happens.  People will do things to make their lives easier – and it is much more realistic than just having a hundred faceless thorps spread about the hinterland. It adds some flavour to the environment.

From a DM’s perspective – I want somewhere for when I have adventures set in the hinterlands.  If I have a thief on the run and hiding out – I have somewhere to put them.  If I have a werewolf stalking the hinterlands, I have somewhere for PCs to go and ask. Basically, I can create a small ad-hoc settlement, whenever I need one – without affecting the local town.

From an RP perspective – it enables a different type of ‘Good Deed’ for Characters rather than just making a cash donation to a ‘good cause’.  However, helping a community  develop something for themselves could be seen from a number of perspectives.  A follower of Abadar might see it as a way of promoting trade, business and self-reliance, rather than a good deed.  A follower of Erastil might see it as both a good deed and a way of promoting Old Deadeye’s philosophies.  A Chaotic  might just see it as a good deed – or even a random deed.  It also enables a different type of NPC reward –  over the years I have seen any number of PCs reward NPC’s who helped them with a handful of coins or even a reasonable value gem.  Now they can send some of their folk around to help with the construction of a community barn …

Life, The Universe and Everything: Part 1

The Universe

The cosmology that underpins my game universe.

In the Begining

Way back, back beyond the earliest memories of the old dwarf, and even beyond the earliest memories of the oldest god – there was nothing.  Or absolute chaos, depending on which priests you listen too.  But then, it was so long ago that it doesn’t make much difference really.  However most faiths tend to follow two main schools of thought

The Interventionist School

There was a noise, or least something happened.  Some say it was just a noise, although most priests agree that the primal over-god Ey-Oh came into existence – and most of those agree that Ey-Oh was deaf, blind and barely aware of its surroundings.  Instead Ey-Oh swum in the soup of chaos (or nothingness) until it started to take a shape and form a structure of its own.  His (or her, sages can’t agree) swimming created Planes of Fire, Earth, Water, Air, Hope and Despair – with the Ethereal Plane weaving in around and about them.  Great swirling nodes of elemental material swirled through the Ethereal, eventually leaving great inter-planar rifts in their wake – and it was the outpouring of Elemental material through these planar rifts, that created the prime material planes.

There are many Prime Material worlds, and each one is  a nexus point where  rifts from all six of the great planes have come together.  The ball of Elemental Earth that spewed from a rift created the land, Elemental Water created the sea, Elemental Fire made the sun  etc ….   Over time  flow though the rifts slowed, and the flow of elemental matter has come into equilibrium. 

Eventually Ey-Oh struggled to swim.  She was a creature of the old universe of Chaotic Nothingness, and could not understand the order of the new universe, and his existence came to an end.  But gods don’t die quietly, and Ey-Oh was no exception, rather than passing away quietly, Ey-Oh exploded in a great burst of Life, Magic and Immortality.

Many sages and priests, who follow this school of theology, believe the Ey-Oh recreated himself.  Many say he able to sense his universe around him Ey-Oh remains as the great over-god and all others pale into insignificance when compared to him.  Most say that Ey-Oh is The Universe itself.

The Natural School

Other sages and priests follow the Natural School of Creation.  They believe everything stsrted with the creation of the world, when the sky and the earth were one. As there was no sky or earth, as a result there was only an empty void. However, one day, a gap formed in the void. All that was lighter than the gap headed upwards and formed the sky. All that was heavier than the gap fell down to become the earth. Rain fell from the sky creating a great mire before a clear blue drop of life-dew fell, settled into the newly created swamp and grew into a great tree. The tree stood firm on the ground and pushed up the Sky. With each day the sky grew ten feet (3 meters) higher, the Earth ten feet thicker, and the tree ten feet taller. And the bubble expanded.

After a while the tree grew seed pods which, when they burst gave forth the Elements, time, positive energy and negative energy. However the release of all of those conflicting energies caused a huge explosion and the bubble that contained the earth and sky was blown apart – creating lots of little bubbles with their own little bit of earth and Sky. At the same time, life, magic and immortality were released into the world.  The energies coalesced to make the elements planes. The void that was left became the astral and ethereal – we live in one of those little bubbles, while life, magic and immortality pervade everything in the universe. It is said that the tree is still there, invisible to most, stretching from the heavens to the hells, passing through the Astral and the Ethereal, and linking all of the bubbles together. The elements trapped inside our world bubble became the Primordial Powers, and between them they nurture all life on earth.

Cycles

But all of that was so long ago, the Universe has changed many times since.  After The Universe was created, gods and people came into being – but no one really knows how.  Each race, indeed each nation, have their own ideas – but it is unclear and many cycles ago.   What we do know is there has been at other eras before the start of this one, and we know that, in Cosmic terms, we are only just at the start of this era.

The end of the last Era

After the eternal winter the great snake drank the sea, the wolf ate the sun, cows turned to lions and ate everything. The armies of the righteous, the chosen who had died in battle, those whose hearts were lighter than a feather, and those who had gone into the east with the sun were mustered and they fought together against the undead legions of the underworlds. Gods, demons and giants fought to the death, then the fire came and the seas rose up. Everything was destroyed. This is known as the Gods War.

And the start of this Era

Except that it wasn’t the end of the Universe, just the end of that cycle. The Great Powers are beyond the Gods and out of their reach, while the The Tree of Life is indestructible – and life goes on. Some hid within the trunk of the great tree (Ethereal plane), others became as birds and flew to the topmost branches (Astral), others hid in the great mounds and wells around the roots (Elemental Planes). Many small groups survived to repopulate the world when it was healed.

Eventually they returned and the new Era started.


Note: Spells like Plane Shift, Shadow Walk, Create Demiplane and Planar Refuge made it possible to escape and wait out the apocalypse. Even some mid-level casters would have been able to escape, and presumably take their entourage with them. Each one is, potentially, a seed for the new tribe.

The Old Lords

Over the months I have made a number of posts based on building a bespoke pantheon for my game world. An earlier post, pretty much fixed the deities for The Temple of the Shrines – a group of deities who have been working their way along the trade routes of the world. This post does something similar for The Old Lords.

The Old Lords have been in my game world for ages and originally represented the remains of the Celtic Pantheon that I had used in my very first online game, called Galinia. Later, it changed slightly to include some North American deities, which let me add a slightly nomadic element while maintaining a nature loving clan/tribal based structure. Now I have reworked it to match my Gods Wars cosmology – and built it on a number of lesser or local deities, from Real World religions and mythologies.


The Church of the Old Lords

  • Overview: Rural, community based faith. (TN)
  • Domains: Animal, Artifice, Community, Plant, Protection, Travel
  • Symbol: Six-Fold Cross

The Church of The Old Lords is a relic of an earlier, simpler time and the faith that went with it.  The Church of The Old Lords promotes a simple rural philosophy that promotes concepts of community and respect based around village life. 

Tenets of the Faith

  • Respect the natural world.  Hunters, trappers, gatherers, miners, woodcutters etc – are expected to take the share considerately.  Don’t take the doe when she has a fawn.  Take a handful of berries and move on.  If you take a tree, plant three more …
  • Respect yourself and each other.  Be seen as a good member of the community.  Offer help when someone is struggling.  Don’t kick them when they are down.  Ask a fair price.
  • Respect property.  Theft, graffiti and general vandalism is disapproved of.   But so is mistreating you farm or herd animals, or neglecting your fields.
  • Respect your community.  Your village should be highest in your heart, but other followers are part of your community as well.  Be prepared to fight for, and defend, your community if you need to.

Church

There is no formal hierarchy to the church – it is a community religions.  Each village will have its own Wise-Woman or Elder-Man who guardian of the lore, tends the local shrine, knows the festivals and prayers, and is favoured by the gods.  But communities are more than villages, and there are shrines high up in the mountains, deep in the forests where shepherds and woodsmen tend to meet – and even just at the side of the road.

Shrines are often just a rock with the Six-Fold Cross onto it, and aren’t really places for religious gatherings, they are there as a reminder.  Most people glance at them and smile a silent prayer to their gods, other times might touch the shrines lightly.  Sometimes a minor offering might be placed by the shrine, often a small piece of food from a recent meal placed on the shrine, or a small amount of a drink spilled on the ground.

Clergy

Most clergy, known as Wide-Women or Elder-Men, are low level adepts, living as an integral part of their community.  Some are farmers, some are hunters, and others are mothers, warriors or shepherds.  It doesn’t matter quite what they do –  they are part of the community.

Occasionally a more outwardly focussed cleric will come along –  either with a desire to see the wider world, or to take the faith back to the rest of the people.  The Wise-Women and Elder-Men nod their heads wisely as they help the young ones prepare to leave.  But are just as ready to help welcome them back home again, once they have discovered the error of their ways.   Some never come back, of course.  But that might be because they have found another community to serve …

PC Clerics

All PC priests of The Old Lords are nature loving Clerics  (No Druids, Inquisitors, Oracles or other priestly class).  The clerics represent the whole pantheon at once, even though the separate deities are described individually, they do not have clergy of their own.

Holidays

The primary holidays are the Solstices and Equinoxes, which mark the turning of the seasons.  These help them know when to plant, when to harvest, when to bring the sheep back home, when not to take game, when to start preserving food for the winter – etc etc.

These holidays and festivals that are so important to the followers of The Old Lords, are still celebrated among Hann people everywhere, as traditions and as part of the folk-lore and traditions of the Hann People. 


Backstory

While they are not worshipped individually any more, and there are no priests dedicated to any of them – this is what the old lords looked like back in the day when they were seen as separate deities.

Lord Crow

  • The Protector. Patron of Chieftains and warriors. (NG) (M)
  • Domains = Protection, War.

Origins: Back in the days before the Gods War, Lord Crow was known as Hug served as messenger to a god.   When his god was slain in the Gods War, Lord Crow was showered in Shards of Immortality – and the familiar became a minor deity in his own right.

Appearance:  Lord Crow normally appears as a dark-skinned man with a hooked nose, dressed in black & silver studded leather armour and a black feathered cloak.  In battle he wields a great spear called Gung-Bol.

Teachings:  To be noble is to be strong of mind, to provide leadership to others and to protect your people from harm.  Lord Crow encourages tribal leaders and chieftains to maintain a warrior band, tasked with protecting the land and the people.

Church: Priests wear black robes, with white trim and serve as house priests and advisors to chieftains, rather than serving in a local temple.  There is no formal church hierarchy, and few formal churches dedicated to Lord Crow.

General:  Lord Crow was said to have three wives, the land deities Mawida, Rusina and Maria.  Many modern Theologians think Lord Crow is an aspect of the Hannite god Cawin. Lord Crow was seen as the major Deity within the pantheon.

Mawida

  • Maid of the Woods. Patron of Hunters, Trappers and Woodsmen. (TN) (F)
  • Domains = Community, Animal, Plant

Origins: Mawida grew as the forests grew, they have always been her home, and she knows no other.

Appearance:  A young woman with long hair worn loose, dressed demurely in a dark green dress.

Teachings:  Respect the forest, take what you need and leave the rest.

Church: Most villages have a female druid / wise woman who lives as part of the community.

General:  Mawida is one of Lord Crow’s wives and many modern theologians think that she is one aspect of the triple goddess, Maruma.  The Green Faith believe that she is a Nature Spirit, an aspect of Gaia the Earth Mother. Mawida was seen as a significant Deity within the pantheon.

Rusina 

  • Mistress of the Fields, Patron of Farmers. (TN) (F)
  • Domains = Community, Animal, Plant

Origins: Rusina has been here as long as she can remember, the fields and plains have always been her home, and she knows no other.

Appearance:  A chubby woman with her hair tied up in braids, dressed in a brown dress.

Teachings:  Respect the land, follow the seasons. Look after your crops and animals, and they will look after you..

Church: Most villages have a female druid / wise woman who lives as part of the community.

General:  Rusina is one of Lord Crow’s wives and many modern theologians think that she is one aspect of the triple goddess, Maruma.  The Green Faith believe that she is a Nature Spirit, an aspect of Gaia the Earth Mother. Rusina was seen as a significant Deity within the pantheon.

Maria

  • The Mountain Crone, patron herders. (TN) (F)
  • Domains = Community, Animal, Plant

Origins: Maria has been here as long as she can remember, the mountains have always been her home, and she knows no other.

Appearance:  An old woman with her hair tied up in a bun, dressed in a grey dress and cloak.

Teachings:  Respect the land, follow the seasons. Look after your animals, and they will look after you.

Church: Most villages have a female druid / wise woman who lives as part of the community.

General:  Maria is one of Lord Crow’s wives and many modern theologians think that she is one aspect of the triple goddess, Maruma.  The Green Faith believe that she is a Nature Spirit, Maria was seen as a significant Deity within the pantheon.

Conn

  • Patron of Crafters and Merchants. (LN) (M)
  • Domain =  Artifice, Community.

Origins: Conn was unknown before the God’s War, but is said to have lead a group of servants to safety in a mage’s personal demiplane. His people were a rag-tag bunch when they returned to the prime material.

Appearance:  A Halfling Craftsman, wearing a leather apron and carrying a small silver workers hammer.

Teachings: Work hard, perfect your skills, charge a fair price for you labour.

Church: No real Church, just a shared understanding of Conn’s Philosophies with shrines in workshops.

General:  Conn is one of two minor deities who played a small role in the pantheon.

Angelia

  • Patron of Travellers. (CG) (F)
  • Domain= Travel

Origins: Angelia was an immortal long before the Gods war, and when the war started she travelled away from the Prima Material, and just kept travelling. She took a number of followers with her – this is still known as “The Long Journey” among those who recognize her.

Appearance:  A half-elf dressed for the road.

Teachings: The journey is often more important than the destination.

Church:  No organized Church, but occasional roadside shrines.

General:  Most theologians think that Angelia and Way are aspects of the same deity, and followers of The Old Lords tend to respect followers of Way, as if she were an aspect of Angelia. Angelia is one of two minor deities who played a small role in the pantheon.