Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Chaos on the Old Borderlands - 20 Questions, Part Two

Continuing the description of the Old Borderlands, here's the first four answers to Jeff Rients's famed 20 Questions.

5. Who's the Greatest Warrior in the Land?
Plenty of local wags would claim that title for themselves, but some other names come up often:
  • Lord Reiner Star-helm: A commander of a knightly order from the west. An experienced soldier, and a grim crusader against the enemies of the Realm, whoever they may be at the time. The shining Star-helm he wears is a relic of his ancestors.
  • Mighty Meg, Hobgoblin Champion: Her ancient, pitted greatsword has cleft many a goblin, orc, and man in twain in the petty wars and raids of Blackbriar Wood. She boasts of having twelve husbands, three wives, and the most fearsome pack of hunting hounds in the Borderlands. 
  • Lord Kromvinger: Tavern rumours among adventurers have it that the lord of the orc-legions to the east of Blackbriar still lives and commands their war-host, despite the grievous wounds suffered at the Battle of Leechford. 
  • Boyan, Barkeep of the Frozen Bear: When Kromvinger’s name is mentioned, the stories usually add that the barkeep of the Frozen Bear tavern was the mercenary responsible for Kromvinger’s wounds at Leechford. Even if that’s true, Boyan fights with a well-aimed mug instead of an axe these days.

6. Who's the Richest Person in the Land?
The legal ownership of much of the Borderlands is in dispute. The last obvious Castellano heir—the legal feudal lord of much of the local land—died during the War of Realmish Succession and subsequent orcish invasions almost sixty years ago. Since the Battle of Leechford pushed back the orcish advance and resettlement began, the claims have been tied up in suits and counter-suits and appeals all the way up to the High King’s Court, and are unlikely to be resolved any time soon. There are numerous theoretical heirs in the Borderlands now, each claiming to be, and who potentially could be, the wealthiest person in the local area.

Until that is resolved, though…
  • Lord Fasolimov: An early resettler of the Old Borderlands after the Battle of Leechford, Fasolimov has no legal claim to the land’s he’s recultivated but pays for the protection of it by hiring local mercenaries (and, politically, by helping out Bishop Tyrogenio). He tends to focus on cash crops like grapes and olives. Rumour is he’s still in a lot of debt, though.
  • Baron Liutward: Second son of an Elector Prince with court connections, plenty of rich friends back west, some hefty loans from his family and friends, and no clear idea of how to manage the land he’s been able to settle people on. He’s sure there’s no way he could fail to shape up these uncultured buffoons and ragged adventurers and reclaim his rightful (though distant) inheritance. 
  • Count Simeon: One of the earliest arrivals of the Castellano-heir claimants, Simeon’s frittered away his head start with gambling and failed sorties south and east to secure more land. He’s sure that the orcs, goblins and berzerkers are just one decisive defeat away from being driven off, if only he could raise the forces and find the trick to doing it.
  • Bishop Tyrogenio: The babyfaced and inexperienced representative of the Ecclesiastical Hierarch of the Eastern Marches has the most secure local legal claims to lands in the Old Borderlands, but is stretching his resources to clear it of bandits and raiders and fill it with settlers. Shipments of gold and supplies from the Hierarch to the Bishop are a common occurrence, and will be until the church’s local lands are self-sufficient. 

7. Where can we go to get some magical healing?
Depending on how recent skirmishes with raiders, bandits, and orcs have gone, and how plague-ridden the peasantry is, scruffy adventurers might be far down the list of who gets healed this week.
  • Abbess Ferrolinguetta: While she bickers with Tyrogenio about planning and tries to keep her temporary cloisters in order, the Abbess raises funds by offering healing prayers to various and sundry. 
  • The Hermit: The peasants swear by an old (or just hard-living?) man not to far from the Old Keep, but they give contradictory directions to his hermitage. 
  • Bishop Tyrogenio: Some Apollonian devotees are present to, at minimum, diagnose your problem, although experienced healers are rare this far east.
  • Master Fringuello: The guy does claim to be a doctor, too. 

8. Where can we go to get cures for the following conditions: poison, disease, curse, level drain, lycanthropy, polymorph, alignment change, death, undeath?
See questions 4 and 7, although lycanthropy is the kind of curse of Chaos that people tend to think is best solved by a merciful death.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Chaos on the Old Borderlands - 20 Questions, Part One

Continuing the description of the Old Borderlands, here's the first four answers to Jeff Rients's famed 20 Questions.

1. What's the deal with my cleric's religion?
Clerics from the Realm serve the church of Law, which resembles a sort of Roman state religion reconstructed around Stoic, Neoplatonic and somewhat gnostic philosophies. The church’s pantheon of gods above —the di superni—is headed by Sol Invictus, his consort Juno Augusta, Quirinius, Vulcan, Minerva, Bellona, and a host of lesser gods, messengers, and apotheosized mortals. It is common, in this decadent age, for the learned to either euhemerize the gods, or to treat them as personifications or metaphors for abstract spiritual sub-forces of Law. There are mystery cults or devotional societies which focus on a specific deity (like the ‘Soldier’s Guild’ of Mitra Bull-Slayer, or the Colleges of Apollo); on the opposite end of the spectrum, the Solist sect sees the other gods as avatars or emanations of Sol as ultimate supreme being (similar to Vaishnavism or Saivism).

Elfs (and some human clerics from the Republic of the Sea-Barons) worship other gods, such that even among the 'civilised' there are a bewildering array of names which receive orisons and devotion. Some say these are simply the gods of Law under different, older names, but generally the opinion in the Realm is that they’re at best unreal, and at worst demons of Chaos. Among their number are Isis (usually associated with Juno Augusta under the name ‘Juno Caelestis’), Rhea (also associated with Juno Augusta, though also with Persephone or as a god below herself), and obscurer figures such as One of Two Faces, Obsidian Butterfly, and Grandmother Who is Clad in Serpents.

Dwarfs have no priests known to outsiders, but in their shrines revere Vulcan. However, Dis Pater — the Father of Riches — and Persephone — the Favoured One — are held by the dwarfs in highest esteem, though other folk group them in with the di inferi.

The church of Law believes in the gods below — the di inferi — but see them as fearsome beings of Chaos to be shunned or propitiated, not worshipped. Among their number are the aforementioned Dis Pater and Persephone, and also Neptune, Orcus, Diana, Hecate, and Saturnus. The petty spirits of grove and stone that receive the traditional worship of goblins are usually grouped in with the gods below. Where the gods below end and the ranks of demons begin is a common topic of debate, though one of little practical value.

Orc clerics are often puritanical Solists, often with their own rituals and eschatological prophecies. The most prominent among these is that of the Iron Sun, which sees the current sun — the current aeon — as ending soon, to be reborn as a new world with a new political order.

2. Where can I buy some standard equipment?
Metal goods can be gotten from the hut of Narbio the blacksmith, in the employ of the Constable of the Fort. (Narbio also has a side-racket trading in various plant-based inhalants, and takes payment in kind.) More particular adventuring gear, including ropes, block and tackle and the like can be purchased from Rhondobart Feathercap, a dwarf merchant-house representative and local Grand Master of the Mercer’s Guild. He’ll buy from the PCs, and store and bank things for them for a fee. He also sells goods of guilds that do not have representatives in the fort. Sometimes availability fluctuates, depending on how the war goes and any local bandit, orc, or berzerker activity.

3. Where can I get some weird armour made?
The aforementioned Narbio can do custom barding, but you’re going to have to pony up. Better not be in a hurry, either.

4. Who's the Greatest Wizard in the Land?
Aside from ghost stories and the probably untrue tales of lurking hags and chaos-cultists:
  • The Sorceress of the Tower: The elven wizard who once accompanied the Castellano primogenitor in his adventures is still said to be somewhere in the vicinity, despite being nearly three hundred years old, but she is both an elf and a wizard and so doubly strange. Old locals say her tower is to the east of the Old Keep, but nobody’s exactly sure where.
  • Sardo the Younger: Conversely, everybody knows where to find Sardo—he’s got a sign and everything—but the wizard’s sales pitches and fashion sense tend to put people off. 
  • Master Fringuello: An odd and wild-browed man claiming to be the local representative of the Alchemist’s Guild. Despite his uncertain licensing, his demeanour is definitely the result of too many years of working in poorly-ventilated laboratories. 

Elderwold - The Preamble

Here's the preamble I read to new players in the face-to-face campaign I'm currently running. This campaign is reusing some of...