Sneak Preview – Tatterdemalion

This is a sneak preview of the Tatterdemalion. We thought players would be interested in seeing cultures and kingdoms as we work on them. As with all Sneak Previews, details may change over time.

Tatterdemalion

Introduction

The Tatterdemalion are not so much a kingdom, as a culture than coexists in a number of kingdoms. The Tatterdemalion (or, occasionally, Tatterfolk) are defined by their deep connection to Wayfare magic. This connection occasionally manifests for an individual or family as wanderlust, and this lends the Tatterdemalion a reputation as wanderers. The truth is that this magic also calls out to things that have been lost and tends to bring those things to the individuals or families that comprise the Tatterdemalion. They simply tend to find things, people, and stories that need to be found. The Tatterdemalion consider it their responsibility to return these things to where they belong, and the concept that everything and everyone has a place where they belong – their Accord – is important to their culture.

The Tatterdemalion are known for creating circles of pavilion tents, hung with patchwork banners to identify the family that lives there. Groups of these tents are called rings, and groups of these people are families or Kinrings. Not all Tatterfolk live in pavilion rings, particularly those that travel or live with other, non-Tatterdemalion, groups, but many do.

The Tatterfolk consider Arrogance to be the worst of the Hubris. They tend to talk softly, and many outsiders describe them as shy or reserved. Tatterdemalion who are too proud or talk too much of themselves – these traits are an indication that the individual is unsure or dissatisfied. Something that is in its rightful place is content and quiet. To the Tatterdemalion, people who seem disruptive are lost and need to find their Accord, or else they are in danger of becoming Hollow and losing their magics.

The Tatterdemalion can live off the land, but just as often they make money by selling goods to local folk around them. The Tatterdemalion are most often known for their candy creations: Tatterdemalion rings will often create and sell candies to folks nearby, or make these confections available to villages as they pass through. Tatterdemalion who are selling candies will walk with long staves covered in bells and tap these staves as they go out to sell their wares. There are even Tatterdfolk who practice a unique form of alchemy where they make magical candies rather than traditional elixirs. Candy comes in three forms; sticks of cinnamon or mint, sweet elixirs sealed in chewable wax, or pieces of toffee wrapped in paper.

Costuming

The Tatterdemalion tend to be a colorful folk, and they often adopt styles and pieces of clothing from the people around them. The defining look for them is a colorful piece of patchwork cloth; a series is mismatched squares sewn together into a single item. This is worn most often in the form of a long scarf. Some find other ways to decorate themselves in a patchwork pattern, going so far as to wear coats, shirts, pants, or cloaks with patchwork patterns.

The Tatterdemalion can be any race that has been adopted into a ring, but they are most often human. The Tatterdemalion often have one or more Grotesque that have awakened inside or near their pavilion ring.

Roleplaying

~ Be humble.

~ Listen more than you speak.

~ Lean closer and speak more clearly rather than speaking loudly.

~ Look for things that appear to be lost or haven’t found their place; especially other PCs.

~ Tatterdemalion who inspire large groups tend to do it with music rather than words.

~ You might assume that the quiet and shy Tatterdemalion make poor leaders and organizers but often the opposite is true; they don’t like hearing themselves speak so when they speak publicly they tend to be direct and to the point as much as possible.

~ You might find going through Gates more compelling, even if you don’t know what is on the other side. Especially if you don’t know what is on the other side.

~ Be wary of enchanters who only want your people to help with their Wayfare magic.

Religion

The Tatterdemalion don’t have a unified religion; each member is left to seek out their own answers and worship. Druids and Priests of the Sisters are most common among the Tatterdemalion, but any worship that doesn’t involve demons is tolerated. The Tatterdemalion do not allow demonology or the worship of Beleghast in their rings. The Tatterdemalion also have a higher representation of the Celestial Court than some other cultures. Some say it is because the Chosen look to the stars for inspiration, and the stars are one of the few constant aspects in the travels of the Tatterfolk.

Magic

The Tatterdemalion often encounter difficulties due to the Wayfare magic in their blood. The trouble comes in three forms.

First, items, people, and stories find their way to the Tatterdemalion whether they want them to or not. The Tatterdemalion consider it their duty to find the place where these things belong. This keeps them quite busy, and sometimes puts them at odds with individuals who consider themselves the legal owners of these things.

Second, the Tatterdemalion themselves are steeped in Wayfare magic and their participation in enchantments to create, control or destroy gates make those enchantments more powerful. This does not always end well for the Tatterdemalion that participate. In addition, this participation does not necessarily have to be willing, and there are stories of Tatterdemalion who are snatched away to be used as an unwilling participant in enchantments or rituals involving gates.

Finally, the presence of the Tatterdemalion sometimes attract lost spirits who then inhabit items or even forms near their pavilion circles. When these items become sentient it can cause trouble for the Tatterdemalion. Many families have gone so far as to set up effigies such as scarecrows or statues to protect against these spirits. It works most of the time, but sometimes the spirit inhabits the effigy itself and a new construct awakens as a living thing with a new personality no memory of any past.

Society

The Tatterdemalion are organized into families, groups that travel and tent together, and Kinrings, a loose groups of anywhere from three to twenty families of Tatterdemalion. Each family has a Kinfather or Kinmother, and decides itself what other official positions it needs for the family to function. Each Kinring has one Kinsword and one Kincrown. The Kinsword is responsible for maintaining a group of champions that can travel from family to family to protect the Tatterdemalion, enforce the laws and decisions of the Kinring, and deal with bandits and threats. The Kincrown acts as the de facto judge and leader of the Kinring.

The Tatterdemalion, with their disdain for arrogance, have a complicated and subtle history of deciding who will take positions of responsibility. No one runs for a position, as that would be considered arrogant and no Tatterdemalion would support it. When someone who holds a position must leave that position for whatever reason they pick their own successor. This positions pass on when needed. This process does not always go smoothly, however. When a position needs to be filled, or the Tatterdemalion feel a position needs to be changed, one of the family or Kinring starts a secret petition to essentially assign a worthy individual to a positon. In theory the Tatterdemalion in question doesn’t know this has happened until the Family Kinfather or Kinmother – or the Kincrown themselves – informs them of their new duties. In reality there are sometimes individuals who pursue a position by secretly discussing the appointment with an influential member of the family or Kinring who sponsors their appointment.

As one can imagine, this complicated process sometimes places individual Tatterdemalion in positions that they don’t really want. Because of this the families and kinrings teach a strong sense of obligation to the Tatterdemalion. Many Tatterdemalion are of the opinion that no one really wants a leadership position, or at least no one should want it. The Tatterdemalion recognize that there are those who might want to refuse an appointment, but they practice they teach members to have respect and obligation for appointed duties. Tatterdemalion can refuse an appointment, but only after a fortnight with that responsibility and/or after a replacement has taken the position. Refusing to hold the position for at least that long and to help find a replacement is considered dishonorable.

Regions

The Tatterdemalion are a wandering, scattered people who don’t hold regions per se, but they do have a few major Kinrings that are known throughout the land. There are also many smaller Kinrings of Tatterdemalion that wander as well.

Kinmother’s Halo – This Kinring is dedicated to healing the sick and the injured. You’ll often find them near where sickness has broken out, or just off the edges of a battlefield. They pride themselves on taking no part in any kind of conflict, but (as long as the participants are not evil or demon-ridden) are willing to aid any who have need. Here also are the master confectioners of the Tatterfolk – the best candies and potions tend to come from this ring.

The Five Coins – known for the bright yellow circles of patchwork on their clothing, this Kinring roams the world, bringing entertainment wherever they go. In each new location, they declare an evening of celebration, and for a small fee delight the local populace with sweets, songs, tales and acrobatics. They often perform plays or poems that tell of the news of the day, and are always on the lookout for new things to perform.

The Loop – This Kinring is a mobile training ground, dedicated to learning and perfecting the martial arts. Many a good Kinsword has come from this Kinring, and many a young one has come to this Kinring in order to hone their skills. Members of the Kinring are found to more often wear armor, and often mix suits of armor with brightly colored accents and clothing.

Weavering – The arts of patchwork must come from somewhere, and if you see an arrangement that’s new, odds are it’s someone from Weavering who invented it. Experts in any kind of textile, here live those who play with geometry, pattern, and cloth, to make wonderful and colorful creations. Among other things, it’s those of Weavering who know the patterns and colors of each ring, and who keep the records of the Tatterdemalion as a whole.

People

Each of the listed Kinrings have a Kincrown, and on rare occasions the Kincrowns meet for decisions and discussion that might affect all of the Tatterdemalion. Some well known Tatterdemalion include the following.

Lady Fallow – As Kincrown to The Loop, Lady Fallow is a very experienced and skilled warrior. She is cunning and there are times when kingdoms send representatives to seek her advice or her aid. Although she spends her time teaching within her Kinring, there are times when she is taken away on some quest or mission that has captured her interest or imagination.

The Interminable Beggar Prince, Ezekiel the Cad – No one has ever accused the Beggar Prince of being unobtrusive or discreet. The Beggar Prince loves to stick his nose in people’s business, and although his intention is usually good it can be disconcerting and cause some inconvenience to the people involved. Unlike many Tatterdemalion, Ezekiel travels from Kinring to Kinring and directs his pleas toward the villages and towns nearby where he is as likely to collect trinkets and rumors as he is coin. Some say he has a more fluid definition of what items are lost than most, but the items he acquires tend to fall into the hands of people who seem to need them.

The Coinmaster – The Kincrown to the Five Coins, this figure acts as a ring master and organizer of the many entertainers of the Five Coins. He accepts apprentices and assigns them to teachers, and is the central point of a lot of tales and rumors and information brought to him through the traveling troupes that belong to the Kinring of the Five Coins.

The Lady of Weft – Although not a Kincrown, the Lady of Weft is an ancient figure belonging to the Weavering. She is always willing to invite folk both from the Tatterdemalion and without to sit and knit or sew in her circle, where the men and women trade pleasantries. It is said that she has a keen insight about those who sit with her circle, and sometimes dreams about the past of those who share her yarn.

 

Sneak Preview – Khoros

This is a sneak preview of the land of Khoros. We thought players would be interested in seeing cultures and kingdoms as we work on them. As with all Sneak Previews, details may change over time.

Khoros

Introduction

The warrior folk of Khoros have been called, at times, barbarians, raiders, and savages. Though these northern folk are warriors, and have spent centuries raiding the southern lands, they have recently become embroiled in their own war that has distanced them from the past. The men and women of Khoros carve their fortresses from the ice of the glacier known as the Dragon’s Claw, and it is in those caves and chasms that they build their clanhouses. Once masters of the vales and forests of the land proper, the twisted servants and spawn of the Great Beast have driven the Khorosi north into the ice.

All folk of Khoros, regardless of gender, are expected to hunt, raid, and fight. The young learn these skills and arts early, for the land is harsh and everyone is needed. Where once these folk worried only about the harsh winters, natural beasts, and haunted spirits of the land, the ancient beast Wyrlok brought its children to the land almost twenty and four years ago and these powerful creatures, their spawn, and the cultists and dark priests that serve them have in that time waged a war that has brought the clans of Khoros to the brink of ruin.

The people of Khoros have a strong sense of honor and duty, which they call mettle. Mettle, to the Khorosi, means much more than tenacity; to them it is more akin to honor and the standing of their name among their peers. When a warrior asks if a rival is questioning their mettle, they are implying that there is grave insult being offered. The folk of Khoros will go to great lengths to protect their mettle. A man or woman with no mettle is not a man or woman at all, at least in the eyes of the Khorosi.

Because of their strong sense of mettle, the people of Khoros don’t like to enter into debt. “Better to raid than to borrow.” The people of Khoros don’t like to owe favors, and often seek to proactively pay back favors that do accumulate due to mistake or circumstance. People who have saved folk from Khoros often find that the Khorosi seek to pay them back twofold, sometimes with goods or services that are not asked for or necessary.

Mettle also leads to a sense of equality among the sexes; unions that are not mutually pursued are likened to a strange sort of debt and call into question mettle. Concepts such as arranged marriages or marrying for position are utterly foreign to the people of Khoros.

The largest threat to the people of Khoros are the children of Wyrlok. Something drew the attention of the Great Beast to Khoros, and the children of Wyrlok have proven to be dangerous and virtually indestructible foes. Around these beings have risen a cultish following and a host of terrible creatures that call the beast Wyrlok their god.

The war has taken a terrible toll. Led by the Children of Wyrlok, the servants of the Great Beast destroyed a number of clanhouses. The clans of Khoros were losing the ongoing war against the dark priests. Warriors and children sometimes disappeared in the night. The Khorosi were slowly driven from the valleys and forests of the land, and have found refuge in the northern glacier where the beasts cannot so easily stalk and where the Weald magic of the Wyrlok priests cannot as easily be brought to bear against the Khorosi.

In the 3015, at the height of a storm on Midwinter’s Eve, the clanlord Toric Forbearn fought with his back to the ice protecting his clanhouse. The wolf lord Kenninir, with its horde of weres and wolf shoathri, had descended upon the clanhouse to retaliate against raids made into their hunting territory. When the battle looked grim, Toric charged through the line with his sword Nightdrinker, and found the blade laid terrible wounds upon the Child of Wyrlok.

Years before, clan raiders had come before Toric’s father, clanlord Torev, and presented him with a blade of dark metal that was rumored to be of elven make. It was said that the blade was from a time before the elven lands had been emptied. The sword was strong and keen, and the clan kept it as one of its many trophies for many seasons. Torev named the blade Nightdrinker, and displayed it above his throne.

As Kenninir prowled towards the clanhouse and Toric prepared his war’shend, his armor, and his war paint, he heard the blade. The metal seemed to whisper in an unrecognizable tongue. He took up the blade, and carried it to battle. The blade was quiet as he slew the wolf shoathri that surged forward with the howls of Kenninir, but the cry of the blade rose as the clanlord attacked the Child of Wyrlok. The bite of the blade laid terrible wounds on that beast. The wolf lord staggered back in surprise, and Toric took the opportunity to end him. It had been the first time a child of Wyrlok had been slain in the north.

The wolf shoathri fell back; the hold of the wolf lord upon them was broken. Many fled, and many became Khorosi themselves. The werewolves fled into the storm. Seemingly sated, the sword went silent, and the clanlord Toric sent word of the victory to the other clans and clanlords of Khoros.

News of the destruction of one of the Children has spread, bringing new hope and ferocity to the Khorosi. The other Children have grown more cautious, it seems, in their war against the clans since the death of Kenninir. The clans of Khoros have gained a much needed reprieve, but for how long none can say.

The death of Kenninir has had another effect; many of the lycanthropes that once served Kennenir have abandoned the war. Seeking to distance themselves from their former masters, these werewolves have created their own clan and have been joined by some of the Wolf shoathri than once served the priests of Wyrlok. As the clan has uprooted the servitude to Wyrlok they have taken the name Nightharrow. While Clan Nightharrow seeks to stay free of the influence of the Great Beast, they are certainly not Khorosi. They maintain an uneasy existence, knowing they while the servants of Wyrlok are no longer their allies, are not truly free of the Great Beast. Their hold on their freedom is tenuous, and they know that the howls of the servants of Wyrlok can still drive them to frenzy and hunt other Gifted Races.

Costuming

The folk of Khoros certainly look the part of the barbarian image attributed to them. They are often seen in leather and fur, with only pieces of real metal armor. They also make clothes from wool or cloth they weave or take from raids. The warriors often have exposed skin which they decorate with war-paint.

The most iconic look for the people Khoros is the war’shend. This long battle skirt in many ways resembles a long kilt or the bottom half of a robe, long enough to extend to the ankles. Warriors tend to wear the war’shend as long as they can without tripping while fighting. The war’shend is usually of solid color and the bottom is decorated with runes or symbols of the clan. Sometimes it is decorated with pictograms depicting the warrior’s great kills or deeds. The war’shend is often made of leather, although some are wool or linen. The war’shend is often matched with a wide metal or leather girdle or war belt.

Shamans outside battle sometimes wear ceremonial war’shend that train behind them as they perform their duties. The long train that drags behind them represents the spirits that follow in their wake.

Although many of the southern kingdoms scoff at the warriors of Khoros and consider their reluctance to be fully armored as a lack of protection, that is not the case. The warriors of the Khoros are protected by the spirits of the beasts that they fight and kill. These spirits, called back to the leather and fur worn by the warriors, offer mystical wards that supplement the warrior’s pieces of metal and leather armor.

The clans of Khoros do have blacksmiths, and they do make weapons and use pieces of armor in their outfits. They are rarely sheathed in metal armor. Instead, the warriors need only cover a portion of their body in metal. So long as they are also wearing prominent leather and fur, and have some war paint on exposed skin, they can get away with one third the metal armor of normal warriors and still get credit for their armor prop.

The eastern most clans and their clanhouses have fewer shaman, and these warriors rely much more on mail armor and helms for protection. These clans favor wool clothing, and padded gambesons under long chain mail.

Roleplaying

~ A warrior with no mettle is no Khorosi.

~ If you are alive then your greatest battle is ahead of you.

~ Ancestors do not watch over the meek.

~ Complaining is not only a waste of energy, but it is a sign of weakness.

~ Books can be burned; tales passed from Skald to Skald live forever.

~ Better to die a hero than live a coward.

~ Mettle is a more important measure than clan or title or kingdom.

Religion

Shamanism is the most common religion among the clans of Khoros. There are some druids, but druidic circles tended to dwell outside the clans and the people of Khoros do not know the fate of those circles since the servants of Wyrlok have hunted the lands. There are some worshippers of the Woven Faith that have appeared to fight against the servants of the Great Beast, but they are few and far between and do not know the dangers present in the wilderness of Khoros.

Magic

Arcane practitioners are rare among the people of Khoros. The Khorosi do not value written works; they find that the telling is as important as the words and tales from paper are hollow to them. That is better left to skalds. The mages that do pursue magic tend to practice Primal or Weald magics. Other mages are rare and usually misunderstood.

Society

The people of Khoros are divided into clans, and the clans are comprised of many families. All members of a clan swear fealty to the clanlord directly. The Khoros have a simple system of leadership involving shamans, skalds, and the skorn.

The shamans form circles and provide advice to the clanlord on matters spiritual. Some shaman belong to families, though others are solitary and serve a clanlord directly.

The skalds keep the history, inspire the warriors, and advise on tactics. Each large family generally has a skald to carry the tales of that families deeds, and the skald usually has an apprentice. The clanlord also has a small number of skalds which learn the tales of each family and record the greatest deeds and knowledge in stone. The loss of a skald is seen as tragic if there is no apprentice to take the mantle for it is a loss of history for the family and the clan.

The skorn are heroes and battle leaders. Unlike berserkers, the skorn train warriors in time of peace and direct the warriors and berserkers from the front during battles.

Although there are many minor clans, the major clans of Khoros include the following:

Clan Draklor – This clan once dwelt in the Glimmering Forest, and now make their home in caverns in the glacier to the north. The clan has taken to collecting glowing ice and bark from the Glimmering Wood, and now the cavern glows with that light. The clan wears white war paint, and many have a wide horizontal stripe across their eyes and runic symbols on exposed flesh.

Clan Stormvald – This clan has built a clanhouse on the tip of the central cliffs of the Dragon’s Claw overlooking the Crystalwood. Clan Stormvald has many members that are not human, including Elves, Shoathri, and Eurvein. Clan Stormvald is known to throw criminals off the side of the glacier to execute them. The clan favors blue war paint, and spiral patterns.

Clan Kelvyr – This clan dwells in the easternmost heights of the Dragon’s Claw. They once guarded the pass to Winterwold, but now they have retreated north away from that pass. Clan Kelvyr has many warriors that forego the war’shend that other clans wear and instead favor woolen, leather and cloth clothing and wear chain mail and scale mail armor.

Clan Firelok – This clan has built clanhouses in the cliffs and mountains in southeastern Khoros, and is the only clan that does not dwell in the ice. Clan Firelok is known for its forges, and the clan produces more metals and metallic goods than the other clans. This clan is known for their elemental shamans and have a small number of mages who wield Primal magic.

Regions

All of northern Khoros is dominated by the great glacier called the Dragon’s Claw. The towering ice slowly forged southward around eight centuries ago, and has dominated the northern horizontal since. Most of the clans of Khoros have found or carved forts, chasms, or caves from the ice to protect themselves from the servants of the Great Beast.

The westernmost reaches of Khoros are dominated by the Glimmering Forest. Magic sometimes seems to infuse the trees and forests and ice at night in this place, making parts of the forest glow. All manner of creatures and even some Fey seem to be drawn to these lights, making the wood a dangerous place.

The central region of Khoros has rolling, forested hills crossed with vales and streams. The Crystalwood lies in the crevice of the Dragon’s Claw, while the Fangwood lies to the south. The Fangwood is home to a reclusive and oft dangerous folk that appear to be lizard like, which is odd since they thrive in both warm months and cold.

The eastern border of Khoros is the territory of Clan Kelvyr, who war with the folk of Winterwold. The clan left Winterwold during an internal war with that region and now calls themselves Khorosi. They used to guard the pass against intrusions from Winterwold, but they have been forced north into the ice. The clan is more than satisfied to let the servants of Wyrlok pass into Winterwold and hunt in that place.

People

Clanlord Toric Forbearn. The clanlord of clan Draklor, the mettle of Toric has grown greatly since the death of Kenninir. The halls of clan Draklor have been busy since the victory, as advisors from other clans seek favor to gain Toric’s participation in their own battles against the servants of Wyrlok.

Clanlord Glyrna Ashword. The clanlord of clan Firelok, the warrior and forgemaster Glyrna is one of the most skilled smiths and runeweavers in the north. While she is extremely skilled in battle, it is said that she carries with her runes carved and inscribed from the great forge Svanil, which lies in the heart of the clanlord’s forge.

Glainvir. Once the son of the clanlord of the destroyed Clan Bloodmire, now the clanlord of Clan Nightharrow. The left hand of Glainvir is said to be stained red with the blood of his father who he slew when the rage of Wyrlok first took him. His crimson hand forms a red claw when he hunts. Glainvir has thrown off his allegiance to the servants of Wyrlok, but he knows the willpower of his clanmates is tenuous at best, and the howls of the servants of the Great Beast can drive all of them to hunt and kill.

The Khorosi have seen many foes who serve Wyrlok in this war, but these foes are particularly well known. It is rumored that these are not the only creatures with the blood of the Great Beast that roam the land.

Bloodletter. This Child of Wyrlok appears as a terrible union of man and hyena. Clawed and able to tear opponents in two, this beast feeds on the dead and seems to derive spiritual as well as physical sustenance from the act. Its chilling war cry, a terrible sound like the giggling of a madman, can be heard in the darkness as it hunts.

Lady Rakkish. In her bestial state this Child of Wyrlok appears as a winged woman sharing the features of a gold and tan hunting cat. Her wings are tipped with razor sharp feathers. She is known to fight with claws or spear as suits her mood, but is most often seen with a great hunting bow. It is said she can pluck a feather from her wing and fire it as a wicked and deadly arrow to rain destruction on her foes.

The Beastmaster Bleakhorn. This dark Ghorvok is a powerful priest of Wyrlok, and a warrior as well. The priest is said to be a favorite of the Great Beast, and a powerful speaker in the circle of priests that advise the Children and servants of the Great Beast.

 

Sneak Preview – The Commonwealth of Blacktallow

This is a sneak preview of the Commonwealth of Blacktallow. We thought players would be interested in seeing cultures and kingdoms as we work on them. As with all Sneak Previews, details may change over time.

The Commonwealth of Blacktallow

Introduction

The hearty folk that call the Commonwealth of Blacktallow home are, for the most part, refined and well educated. The Queen and her house have always commissioned and subsidized schools in the towns and villages across the kingdom to teach the young citizenry both knowledge and etiquette. Even the most rural places of Blacktallow are visited by the order of wandering teachers called the Hickory Instructors to ensure that the citizenry is properly educated and the number of places that have not seen at least some kind of education are far and few between.

To live in the Commonwealth of Blacktallow is to know, in your heart, that men and women have risen above their base natures and embraced etiquette, society, and virtue. From the southern sea, to the northern peaks of the Highguard Mountains, the rolling hills and vales of the Commonwealth contain within them men and woman who understand what it is to be chivalrous and refined.

One would think that, in a kingdom that so values chivalry, women might be marginalized but nothing could be further from the truth. Upon the Queen’s command and example, all women choose their path. Some become Gentlewomen, refined members of society who act as keepers of home and hearth, or pursue scholarly lives. These women are often respected members of households or societies, often running families or groups while men toil at business or war. Other women become Lady Adventurers, and these women are welcome in business, expeditions, and even military pursuits. As one can imagine, the application of chivalry is quite different in practice towards the gentile Gentlewomen, as opposed to what is expected while addressing a Lady Adventurer.

The people of the Commonwealth of Blacktallow consider themselves champions of the weak. It is considered bad form to find yourself in the role of a bully, and those who do so are often challenged by more enlightened members of society. It is this instinct to protect the weak that gives the Commonwealths its reputation as a meddler in the affairs of other lands and kingdoms, and the lords and ladies are quite willing to give asylum or sanctuary to the downtrodden or oppressed. This leaves the Commonwealth with no shortage of enemies, but no kingdoms, it is said, hate one another to quite the same heights as the Commonwealth of Blacktallow and the dark kingdom of Vellingrim.

The nobles and upper class of the Commonwealth have long had a fascination with the occult, and it has been for generations popular to call upon Gloaming and to speak with spirits of the dead. Although this gives rise to no small number of charlatans and false soothsayers, those who can truly practice the magic of Gloaming find their services well sought after; until the news they give to one of the noble houses is grim or otherwise not to the liking of those receiving the magic. Those who truly use Gloaming magic are said to be quite powerful; their magic is said to manifest as an eerie green spirit flame called Balefire. Although Balefire can be found naturally in the countryside, especially near the approach of the Festival of the Dead, many mages capture it with special candles that hold this magical green flame. The country is named after the manipulation of Balefire and the populace’s art of burning black wax candles with Balefire to ward off evil spirits. The Gloaming mages who travel away from the Commonwealth of Blacktallow sometimes carry Balefire with them in lanterns to increase the potency of their Gloaming magic in other lands.

Although Gloaming magic and Balefire have long been popular and powerful in Blacktallow, recently the court has taken up the magic of Chimera because the Queen favors that magic. As a result, mages practicing the art of Chimera have recently been popular in high society, and this has created a polite but sometimes intense rivalry between the very different mages in the employ of the noble houses.

Upper Society is divided into great houses which control the House of Lords. A House is measured not only by its wealth, but also by how well off its servants are. Servants that are uncouth, ill dressed, or that lack a decent salary reflect poorly on the house and may affect its place in the House of Lords.

One large part of Chivalry is generosity, and the noble houses are known for their work with charities, both in their own kingdom and outside it.

The Queen has recently commissioned a royal navy so that has created many jobs and positions which bring opportunities for both wealth and titles. The kingdom has let its once great navy languish and pirates are a terrible problem. The Kingdom has competition and outright hostility from its neighbors who have long held superiority of the seas and who do not favor this new competition for the sea lanes in the southern seas.

Costuming

People from all walks of life in the commonwealth find coats, both long and short, to be both sensible and stylish. The short coat is considered modest and practical. The long coat is considered a sign of wealth, style, and sometimes even considered to have a sinister look. The folk from the commonwealth also favor a wide variety of hats. Bowlers tend to dominate high society for men, although the top hat is also worn, and a wide brimmed traveler’s hat is often worn by those who travel often to ward off bad weather.

Underneath this outerwear folk of Blacktallow favor loose fitting shirts with ruffles or collars, pants, and tall boots to ward off the rainy weather. The occasional highborn might wear an ascot as well, while the commonfolk and nobleperson alike will look to scarves when the weather gets cold.

The women of Blacktallow tend to fall into two distinct camps; The Lady Adventurer dresses in more practical clothing, favoring short coats, tall boots, and sturdy pants to engage in business, travel, or combat. The Gentlewoman instead embraces the older court styles, favoring long dresses with corsets and more ornate, stylish, and some would say less practical, dress. Both types of women are looked upon equally, though individuals might favor the style of one or the other. It is not uncommon for a woman to carry on as a Lady Adventurer in her youth, and retire to the life and dress of a Gentlewoman when she has earned her fortune and no longer has a need to be quite so active. There are also women who favor the Gentlewoman style because it throws others off as to how active that woman might be.

One of the defining characteristics of Blacktallow dress is the prominence of buttons and what it says about your character. Iron, Copper and Brass buttons are favored by the common folk, and the merchants who want to appear more earnest and hardworking. The Highborn, on the other hand, favor silver and gold buttons depending on their preference. Some merchants that deal with high end goods or strictly with money also favor silver or gold buttons so as to appear properly dressed. Many citizens of Blacktallow will maintain a set of “silvers,” which is to say silver buttoned clothing specifically meant for formal occasions, even if they do normally wear buttons befitting a more industrious labor.

There are also some true frontiers’ folk, such as Pale followers and the Blacktallow Rangers, who wear buttons of horn or even bone. This is not frowned on as protecting the wilds is seen as an honorable pursuit since the Queen overthrew Lady Elysia.

Although the Queen’s Guard wear heavy armor, some wealthy or well-connected warriors dress in heavy leather long coats treated with the magic of Balefire to protect them. Curing leather with Balefire makes it extremely strong, if the leather has a high enough quality and/or thickness, while leaving it flexible. Some warriors will supplement their leather with metal armor pieces like a breastplate, one or two pauldrons, gauntlets, and the like. Asymmetrical armor pieces are not uncommon.

Roleplaying

~ Practice etiquette above all else.

~ Do not be uncouth, even to your enemies. Especially towards your enemies.

~ Practice and demand chivalry.

~ Treat your station, whatever it might be, as a responsibility rather than a privilege.

~ Every job is an honorable and worthy pursuit if one seeks to master it.

~ Practice a healthy hatred for bullies.

~ Civilization sets us apart from animals.

~ Sometimes civility is more important than honesty.

~ Treat your enemies with respect, for you are often defined by those who oppose you.

Religion

The most common religion in the Commonwealth of Blacktallow is the Woven Faith. While all religions are welcome, and some rangers and huntsmen might certainly be Pale, the other religions are sometimes seen as too primitive by the populace to offer true guidance.

Magic

While all magics are practiced in the Commonwealth, occult teachings are the most common and captured the imagination of an otherwise very pragmatic citizenry. Recently, however, mages that practice and can demonstrate Chimera have grown in fashion since the Queen is a very strong caster of those magics.

Society

There is no more beloved figure in Blacktallow than Queen Saraesa Gracelyn. Only recently coronated, Queen Saraesa led the rebellion against the dark Queen Elysia, and drove that wicked Queen from the throne and into hiding.

The government of Blacktallow is divided into three groups, each with its own powers and responsibilities. The House of Royals is essentially the Queen (or King, when there is a male ruler) and the royal family. The Queen is ultimately responsible for military matters, diplomatic matters, and can initiate a vote of No Confidence in the House of Lords or the House of Commons. The House of Royals can also make emergency decisions for the good of the kingdom (such as declaring a state of emergency or a state of martial law) for one fortnight if needed, after which the continued action must be approved by the other Houses.

The House of Lords is responsible for creating and administering domestic law and includes representatives from almost every important noble house.

The House of Commons is an additional governing body made up of regionally elected common folk from each region.

The Great Houses have intricate politics and negotiations among themselves. They don’t always live up to the ideals of the Commonwealth, with some older houses maintaining a belief of superiority above newer money, while other houses are more concerned with power and are perhaps slightly less altruistic in those pursuits. The major houses that maintain a presence in the House of Lords currently include the following.

House Claersen – An older noble house, the Claersen make a lot of their money through trade with other kingdoms, and the house maintains the best mage’s guild for creating gates and using the magic of Wayfare.

House Jaminson – An older noble house, the Jaminsons are very rich with old money and act as patrons of artists and scholars. Several kings and queens have been from this house in the past before the shadow Queen took the throne.

House Ironwright – Miners, metalsmiths, and armorers from the west.

House Schoak – Scholars and politicians, they maintain the Hall of Records and include among their house a number of mages.

House Waverly – Considered new money, this family has seen its fortunes rise with the Queen’s renewed interest in maintaining a naval presence.

House Fenrill – This house maintains many rangers and huntsmen, and its fortunes include the sale and trade of furs and some rare woods. House Fenrill is notable as a house that mostly follows the Pale, and includes a number of elves as part of its extended name.

House Vermissian – Having a complicated history, this house willingly served as the right hand of the shadow Queen and was instrumental in her fall when they acted against her to establish Queen Saraessa on the throne.

House Hallow – A religious house, although the house has a macabre reputation as much of its actual money comes from its place in providing morticians and funeral halls. House Hallow also has some of the more powerful casters of Gloaming magic.

Even more than the eye of Vellingrim and its desire to destroy the Commonwealth, the biggest threat to Queen Saraesa Gracelyn’s fair reign is the former Queen Elysia. Although the rebellion and uprising successfully defeated her and those nobles loyal to her, even the sudden shift of House Vermissian was not enough to put an end to her as was planned. No one knows what happened to Queen Elysia, and since she was a powerful mage in her own right the crown would reward handsomely someone who could provide information that led to her capture or destruction.

Regions

The whole of the Commonwealth of Blacktallow is divided among land owners and gentry, with the crown owning the largest amounts of land. Each noble house owns and maintains one region of the Commonwealth, and the head of each house in the House of Lords holds the title of Earl or Countess.

The Commonwealth of Blacktallow has three small borders it must guard. The eastern border with Vellingrim is most heavily guarded, as that dark kingdom has made their hatred for Blacktallow known and would gladly bring fire and steel down on the Commonwealth. The southeastern border with Belaingarde is patrolled, but even though that land is chaotic, the Commonwealth has emissaries there and any military movement would more likely come from the sea. Finally, the ancient Pass of Empires to the west is guarded, but that narrow pass is well fortified by the Great Westgate and the Imperium has not moved against the east in almost a century.

People

Her Royal Majesty, Queen Saraesa Gracelyn. The Queen has no direct relatives or children, but she is still young and unattached. Unfortunately, she has shown no signs of pursuing marriage quite yet, political or otherwise.

Queen Elysia. The former Queen, her reputation is as dark as her rule. She married into her position when she wed the former King Vargas Jaminson, but his young death left her in the empty throne. She ruled the Blacktallow Kingdom for almost 30 years, but recently lost the throne to the uprising of the last bloodline of House Gracelyn, Saraesa who rallied the noble houses, ousted her, and turned the Kingdom into the Commonwealth it is today.

 

Sneak Preview – The Kingdom of Morgrave

This is a sneak preview of the Kingdom of Morgrave. We thought players would be interested in seeing cultures and kingdoms as we work on them. As with all Sneak Previews, details may change over time.

 

Morgrave

Introduction

Those who live in Morgrave are hardy and grim folk. The land itself has a dark reputation and a wicked history. Undead roam the land at night, and the folk of Morgrave need to be on a constant vigil against them. The noble houses of Morgrave constantly war against the undead that seek to take over the land.

Although the undead seem to fall into their own houses and the most powerful undead hold their own twisted version of court, three types of undead roam Morgrave.

Ghasts hunger for the flesh of the Gifted Races, and feed on flesh. They have ghouls as servants, and, although cunning, the ghouls lack the reasoning and power of their ghast masters. Ghasts and ghouls are said to be driven to frenzy by the exposed throats of their prey.

Spectres also roam the land. These powerful incorporeal creatures are difficult to damage without blessed silver weaponry, and they carry the chill of the grave and can call upon it to attack the living. They are served by haunts that roam the land and do the bidding of their masters.

Revenants are skeletal beings that retain a twisted intelligence. They can use both the skill of their previous life, as well as the skills practiced by the undead houses that they serve. These undead are served by lesser skeletons which are risen from fallen foes and crypts in the hills.

The worst of the undead come from the fallen house of Crowell, for that house was once a powerful and loyal noble house in service to the king. House Crowell fell to Malediction when an enemy of that house, as an act of revenge, fed the flesh of the Gifted races to the nobles of that house unbeknownst to the lords and ladies of that court. The house became tainted with Malediction and fell to darkness, becoming themselves ghasts and ghouls and turning on the rest of their countrymen and women.

The people of Morgrave have a particular concern about the food they consume. After the curse of House Crowell, the people of Morgrave, as a habit, take time to bless each meal. Each family has a short blessing they say over their food before they eat, and sprinkle food and drink with either blessed water to cleanse it or a bit of salt to purify it. It is to invite malediction to eat the flesh of the Gifted, and although these people cannot always check on the preparation of meals lest they be rude, they can take proper preparations to cleanse the food they eat.

The magic of gloaming takes many forms, and some members of the Gifted Races have, in the past, become either undead without the taint of Malediction, or twisted in some subtle way while retaining their free will. These folk are not welcome in Morgrave, and can only travel to that land in the escort of the knight of one of the major houses.

Although all the houses produce knights and lords that are constantly vigilant against the threat of the undead, House Wickford is known to produce the most skilled hunters of the undead. Largely forsaking magic in favor of rosewood bolts and blessed silver weapons, the House is perhaps the greatest weapon against the undead.

Although the folk of Morgrave fight a constant battle against the undead, the northern reaches of the kingdom are twisted and have fallen to darkness. This area is called the Bleak Reach, and it includes the northern depths of the Razorwold. It is said that the very branches of that cursed place hunger for the flesh of the living.

 

Costuming

People from Morgrave dress in typical European fantasy garb. Wools and cottons are common since there is large variation in temperature during the year. Cloaks, hooded mantles, tabards and surcoats are common. Warriors favor heavy armor to protect against undead roaming the night. Common folk dress in tunics, linen shirts, bodices, and tall boots with linen, wool and leather being common materials.

Morgrave is a dark land, and the creatures twisted with malediction that roam that land tear the throats of travelers and victims. The knights and warriors of Morgrave protect their necks by wearing armor that includes a gorget, or neck protector. In doing so they reduce their exposure to the attacks of undead, particularly ghasts and vampires, that are driven to frenzy by the throats of the living.

The tradition of protecting one’s throat has extended into the fashion of Morgrave even among those who do not wear armor. The people of Morgrave consider an exposed neck to be improper or even scandalous and wear tall collars, scarves, and other fashions to keep that flesh covered.

Roleplaying

~ Celebrate the days of the Spring and bask in the daylight of Midsummer’s Eve, and remember always that the Festival of the Dead is less than a year away.

~ Be vigilant for undead threats, and the magic of Necromancy.

~ Those tainted by undeath, gloaming, or Malediction will turn on you. Do not forget that.

~ Bless your food, and purify meals with holy water or salt.

~ Be loyal and steadfast, for those you argue with for petty reasons will be fighting on the morrow with you against the horde of the unliving and watching your back.

Religion

The most common religion in Morgrave is the Woven Faith. Many nobles and commonfolk of Morgrave find comfort in the divine purpose woven into the Tapestry, and they call on the Threadbearers for strength. Recently there has been a surge of druidism as archdruids have appeared in Morgrave seeking to cleanse ancient places that were perhaps once sacred to the Pale religion. Shamans are rare, though no religion is outlawed or forbidden in Morgrave.

Magic

While Magic is practiced in Morgrave, particularly among the noble houses, it is as rare in this land as in most other lands. The art is difficult to learn and practice. Those who can use magic are valued among most noble houses, although the Wickford house has few if any mages. The noble houses of Morgrave and its people are particularly vigilant against those who would practice Necromancer or deal in the foul art of Malediction. Any evidence of this art will bring inquiry, and evidence of this magic will bring swift and final justice.

Society

The king of Morgrave, His Royal Majesty Kevel Faircroft, is also the leader of the powerful Faircroft house. The house has dozens of branches, and many lords and ladies of Morgrave bear the Faircroft name and traced their lineage back for generations to show their relation to the royal line. The king is beloved of his people, and after the loss of the powerful House Crowell the people are particularly protective of their noble houses.

House Breck, House Serelle, and House Rake are all major houses and very influential in the royal court. Breck is known for its mines, and its iron and silver smiths that craft armor and weapons that are particular potent against the undead. That house also has a small number of runeweavers that bolster its heavily armored knights. House Serelle is perhaps the most devout of the houses, and boasts a larger number of priests that are trained to fight undead and heal those stricken or diseased by those foul things. House Rake guards the borders of Morgrave and the rangers of that house hunt down undead that crawl out of the Bleak Moor.

House Wickford, while influential, does not maintain a presence in the court. The lords and ladies of that house are less social, and spend their time relentlessly hunting the undead; particularly the creatures that consider themselves lords and ladies of the foul creatures that roam the night. In times of need there will be a representative of House Wickford at court to advise the Faircrofts. Since the nobles of House Wickford come to court only when there is some surge in undead activity or uprising their appearance is not generally embraced with joy, and can be cause for no small amount of gossip and conjecture.

Regions

The Bleak Reach encompasses the northern area of Morgrave, and this land is in the control of the undead houses that seek to consume all of the kingdom. The Bleak Reach extended well into the Razorwold, which seems to have a mind of its own and a hatred for the living.

The tears of Balaron’s Gaze flow down into western Morgrave, turning part of that area into a heated and ashen wasteland. No one travels there, for wraiths of fire roam that land. The lava to the north does not block the western road leading out of Morgrave, however.

The southern mountains are mined by House Breck. The short coastline and eastern areas are home to House Serelle. House Rake has the northwestern lands, where they guard the borders of the tears and Razorwold. The Wickfords have towers all over the land, and call only a small area around their towers to be ancestral land.

People

King Kevel Faircroft rules the land. His life and Queen is Ellesandra, who is from house Rake. The king and queen have three daughters and one son; Ferah, Lucia, Gertras, and Keven.

Count Demestrius Wickford leads the house. His wife died years ago to an undead attack. He has one daughter, Hanna, and one son, Larkos.

Baroness Marison Rake leads her house and lives by the sea. She has four children and numerous branches of her family as she is more apt to adopt those she favors in House Rake than some of the more traditional nobles.

Baron Nicolas Serelle is the ruler of his house, but some claim that High Priestess Tara Serelle holds as much power. Regardless of rumors, her advice is well regarded by all the houses.

Baroness Gertrude Breck leads her house. Her husband was killed in a mine collapse, though he was Breck by name only and married into the family from the Commonwealth of Blacktallow far to the southwest.

 

Sneak Preview – Map of Aerune circa 3016

While we’re hard at work on the Madrigal 3 campaign and rules, we thought the players might enjoy a sneak preview of the map of Aerune in the year 3016.

This is an early, incomplete, draft and we thought you might find the work in progress interesting, even though areas remain unmapped. Keep in mind that names, places, and details may change as the map is developed.

(Note that many map elements are exaggerated in size for artistic reasons.)

 

Aerune Map v4